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Despair, Courage and Triumph: The Life and Times of Frederick Douglas

Once I started reading Frederick Douglas for Kids: The Life and Times with 21 Activities, ($16.95, Chicago Review Press, Ages 9 and up) I couldn’t put the book down. (Even the Olympic Games could not distract me!) Douglas’ life story, as brilliantly and thoroughly told by author Nancy I. Sanders, is one of great risk and reward, despair and triumph.

Born as Frederick Augustine Washington Baily, the young slave boy from Baltimore, Maryland was taken from his mother, lived with his grandmother and then was sent into slavery at a young age.  Throughout the book we learn how he spoke out against the atrocities of slavery and took the most courageous risks through the Underground Railroad to become a free man. We also discover that his name was changed to protect his true identity. His life was one of many hardships and tragedies, yet he rose above it all to become a revered speaker against slavery, an author and a leader in the abolitionist and civil rights movements.

I really enjoyed every aspect of this book. In addition to the astounding life story of Douglas, there many excellent photographs and feature boxes with fascinating facts about other abolitionists and key figures of the era. The 21 activities in the book, such as forming a debate club, taking action in the current world slave market and making a carpet bag, are among the best I’ve seen in any of the Chicago Review Press books I’ve read.  In the back of the book are resources and a detailed index I found myself using often to cross-reference information.

Now that I’ve read this book, I am so much more knowledgeable about not only Douglas, but also slavery, the Civil War, civil rights and the abolitionist movement. Frederick Douglas will live on as one of the bravest and brightest Americans in history, and reading this book will inspire children to think about what they should stand up for – or against.  Simply put, Frederick Douglas for Kids: The Life and Times with 21 Activities an invaluable resource and a spectacular book that should be read by every American child (and parent too).

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Ladder To The Moon

0763645702-1Guest reviewer and kids’ book aficionado Lindy Michaels loved Ladder To The Moon (Candlewick, $16.99, ages 4-8) which was “beautifully written by Maya Soetoro-Nq and exquisitely illustrated by Yuyi Morales.” She hopes parents will consider adding this wonderful, moving book to their home libraries.  Find Lindy most days sharing her reading tips at BookStar on Ventura Blvd. in Studio City.

“One cool new evening, Suhaila asked her mama, “ ‘What was Grandma Annie like’?

‘She was like the moon,’ her mother replied. ‘Full, soft and curious. Your grandma would wrap her arms around the whole world if she could.’”

And so begins the hauntingly, beautiful tale of a little girl, who in her dreams visits her grandma Annie on the moon. What little Suhaila learns is the deep humanity her grandmother possessed while here on earth, her compassion and empathy for others less fortunate, the meaning of service, of helping the poor and the powerless and the needy.

If ever there was a time in our history a book like this was needed to tell our children, this is the time. For all the little ones lucky enough to still have grandmothers (and grandfathers, too), encourage them to talk to these elders and learn from their wisdom. And for those who, sadly, do not, share with your children memories of those who have passed, so that one day they will share those stories with their own children.

In the end… “Suhaila slid down moonbeams straight into her bed… Together, those of us left on Earth would plant seeds in soft soil. Grandma Annie would send tides to nourish them and weave a net of love around us all.”

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It wasn’t until I finished reading Ladder to the Moon that I noticed, on the jacket cover, that the author is President Obama’s half-sister and Grandma Annie, his mother, also. I am not surprised. If my mother still roamed this earth, I would share this book with her. I know how much she would love it, also. Perhaps my grandchildren will fall asleep one night and visit their grandma on the moon.

lindymichaelspicThe very versatile Lindy Michaels aims to inspire young minds through children’s literature. Lindy owned L.A.’s first children’s bookshop, OF BOOKS AND SUCH (1972-1987) where she did storytelling, taught drama to children, had art and poetry contests and the like. According to Lindy, “It was truly a ‘land of enchantment.” She also spent years lecturing on realism in children’s literature at colleges in the state. For close to five years Lindy has worked for Studio City Barnes and Noble (BookStar) in the children’s section and does storytelling every Saturday at 10:30 a.m.

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Celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. Day With Clifford

pbs_kids_logoleftbox-littleScholastic Media and PBS Kids invite families to celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. Day with Clifford the Big Red Dog!

In celebration of Martin Luther King Jr. National Day of Service, PBS KIDS and Scholastic Media will kick off “BE BIG WITH CLIFFORD: TEN DAYS, TEN WAYS,” featuring ten days of favorite Clifford episodes that will focus on each of Clifford’s ten Big Ideas. The ten days of programming will begin on Monday, January 18th, the Martin Luther King, Jr. Day of Service, and showcase important life lessons that help teach social and character building skills.

If you’re looking for any entertainment highlights this month, “BE BIG WITH CLIFFORD: TEN DAYS, TEN WAYS” will be a best bet for you and your family. It’s also great for parents of young children who may be unable to participate in a major volunteering project on MLK Day.

Click here now to see a clip.

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Let’s Celebrate Lincoln

Today I am celebrating the birthday of our nation’s 16th president, Abraham Lincoln, with a roundup of several noteworthy children’s books. It’s definitely worth noting that February 12th is also the 100th anniversary of the NAACP as well as Charles Darwin’s birthday.

9780060848194What Lincoln Said, by Sarah Thomson, illustrated by James E. Ransome is recommended for ages 6-9. From earning his first dollars to outlawing slavery, Honest Abe’s life was one of hard work and dedication. Along his journey, Lincoln’s quotes, such as “Leave nothing for tomorrow that can be done today,” and “If slavery is not wrong, nothing is wrong,” were as well known as the man himself. In this book we learn about Lincoln’s character through his words as well as his deeds.

0763637238medLincoln and His Boys, by Rosemary Wells, illustrated by P.J. Lynch, has a suggested age range of 8-12. Told through the eyes of Lincoln’s sons Willie and Tad, this engaging story about Lincoln’s rise in politics is both enlightening and endearing. Willie and Tad were the closest of the Lincoln boys and their experience being “first children” is probably not very different than what Malia and Sasha Obama will encounter in the White House today.

9780805082647 Lincoln and Douglass: An American Friendship by Nikki Giovanni, illustrated by Bryan Collier, for ages 5 and up, is a deftly crafted story bringing together two of history’s greatest statesmen. The book introduces young readers to a most unusual relationship of its time. The year is 1865 and the setting is Lincoln’s Inaugural Ball. From there the book details the path of Douglass, former slave, leader of the abolitionist movement and reformer and how it crossed fortuitously with that of Lincoln, our nation’s 16th president.

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Our 44th President

barack-obamaBarack Obama: Son of Promise, Child of Hope – by Nikki Grimes, illustrated by Bryan Collier (Simon & Schuster Books For Young Readers, $16.99, ages 5-10). Barry, as he was once known, always had hope. President Obama’s life story is recounted by a single mother whose hopes for her young son David are the same as any mother’s. We learn about Obama’s journey from Hawaii to Indonesia to Kenya, from New York to Chicago and ultimately Washington, D.C., meet his blended family and all the inspirational individuals he met along the way, and see how his path was molded from a very early age. Share this book with your children or let them enjoy it on their own. The artwork is thoughtful and the text simple, yet substantial. There are more reviews about American Presidents in our exclusive web only Presidents Day and Black History Month book roundup.

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