Ron’s Big Mission by Rose Blue and Corinne J. Naden, and illustrated by Don Tate, is a truly inspirational story. Ron McNair loved to go the library and look through books about airplanes and space. But he couldn’t check them out and take them home, because he was black, and this story takes place in the south during the time of segregation. Only white people could have a library card, and Ron thought this was unfair. One day he had enough. In protest of the unfair rules, he climbed up on the library’s front desk and refused to come down. They called the police! They called his mom! Finally the librarian gives him a card and Ron takes his books home. And Ron grew up to be an astronaut! When he tragically died in the Challenger accident, they dedicated his childhood hometown library to his memory.
Take a journey to prehistoric times with Tadpole Rex by Kurt Cyrus. Meet Rex, a feisty tadpole, born in a swamp that forms in a Tyrannosaurus’s footprint. Watch him as he slowly transforms into a ferocious frog! Rex attacks duckbills and nearly trips a triceratops, releasing his fiercesome “Ribbet!” as he jumps through the air. This book is especially good for boys, but children in general tend to be fascinated by the transformation from tadpole to frog (or caterpillar to butterfly). It’s also full of fun sounds to make, like the “bloop” of bubbles in primordial goo, the “fleep” of Rex’s growing appendages, and of course, the “stomp” of his dinosaur neighbors. The book may even lead to a conversation about frogs, and how amazing it is that they have been on earth countless more years than we have!
Matt Faulkner’s A Taste of Colored Water is an engaging story about an important issue. When Abbey Finch informs Jelly and LuLu that she saw a fountain of colored water in the big city, they decide they need to see it for themselves. It’s probably just one of Abbey’s crazy stories, but what if isn’t? Can you imagine a fountain of water all the colors of the rainbow? And probably the flavor of assorted fruits! So they decide to tag along the next time Uncle Jack has to drive to the city. But Jelly and Lulu live in the south during the civil rights movement. And the “colored” sign over their fountain of water, is just part of the unfair Jim Crow laws popular there at the time. It’s an unfortunate discovery for them to make. Being children, they wonder “what color does a person have to be to get a taste of colored water?”
You might be surprised how much you and your child can learn if you read Now & Ben: The Modern Inventions of Benjamin Franklin by Gene Barretta. It was shocking to me just how much we take for granted today that is owed to this founding father. We all know about his experiments with electricity, his role in the development of the U.S. Constitution, bifocals, etc. But did you know that Franklin organized the first public library, hospital, post office, and fire department? Did you know he was the creator of the first political cartoon? Did you know he suggested the idea of daylight saving time more than a hundred years before it was implemented? He was a truly inventive guy whose contributions continue to shape our society.
There’s probably no historical figure I find more admirable than Abraham Lincoln. That explains why I love Abe’s Honest Words by Doreen Rappaport, featuring illustrations by the fabulous Kadir Nelson. This is a lovely juvenile biography of our sixteenth president, who had the unenviable job of leading our country through, and out, of the Civil War. Rappaport treats us to Lincoln’s life story–his upbringing after the death of his mother, his love for reading and writing, his election and presidency, to his tragic assasination–insterspliced with his own words. The book is a touching tribute to the man who wrote “If slavery is not wrong, nothing is wrong. I cannot remember when I did not so think, and feel.”
John, Paul, George & Ben by Lane Smith tells the story of what some of our founding fathers were like before the birth of our nation, taking us back to when John Hancock, Paul Revere, George Washington, Ben Franklin, and Tom Jefferson were boys. John was quite bold, taking up the whole chalk board to write his name. Paul was always shouting since he suffered some hearing loss in a bell ringing club (that was “before fun was invented”). George was honest to a fault–when dad forgave him for chopping down the cherry tree, he readily confessed to leveling the whole orchard and a barn! Ben was very clever, constantly coming up with sayings, and Tom was independent (he probably refused to be included in the title). Read this as a fun way to teach your child about people who helped make our country free.