By Culture

Aug
26

Rain School

Written and Illustrated by James Rumford

Can you imagine going to school and your first task is making the building you will have your classes in?  This short but powerful book was written based on experiences that author, James Rumford, and his wife had while teaching school in the country of Chad in Africa. Rumford had seen many makeshift schools set up during the dry season and then washed away completely when the rainy season came.  The next year, the school would have to be built again from the ground up.

In “Rain School” readers get to see the school year through the eyes of a young scholar named Thomas who has his first year at just such a “rain school”. What is his first year of studies like?  He asks his brothers and sisters so many questions.  Will there be paper, pencils?  A desk?  Will he learn to read like his older friends and relatives?  The story of how Thomas helps to build the walls, the roof and mud desks sets the stage for the many things his dedicated and enthusiastic teacher shares with him and his class.  And the best part of this story?  The following year, when Thomas is an older student, he is able to help the younger ones do the very things that he learned the previous year.

This is a wonderful book for sharing how schools and schooling are different from country to country, around the world.



Rain School (Hardcover)

By (author): James Rumford

It is the first day of school in Chad, Africa. Children are filling the road.

"Will they give us a notebook?" Thomas asks.
"Will they give us a pencil?”
"Will I learn to read?"

But when he and the other children arrive at the schoolyard, they find no classroom, no desks. Just a teacher. "We will build our school," she says. "This is our first lesson."

James Rumford, who lived in Chad as a Peace Corps volunteer, fills these pages with the vibrant colors of Africa and the spare words of a poet to show how important learning is in a country where only a few children are able to go to school.

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Written and Illustrated by Grace Lin

Are you harvesting veggies from your garden or selecting something delicious from your local grocery store or farmer’s market?  Did you buy any ugly vegetables?

This short and cute book, written and illustrated by Grace Lin, tells the story of one family whose garden is really different then their neighbors.  While the little girls’ neighbors plant a rainbow of flowers, her mom insists on digging deep into the soil and planting things that look like weeds and grass.  And when they finally have fruit – boy, are they ugly!

Then the harvest day comes and the mom begins preparing a dish so delicious that it brings the neighbors running to her front door.  When they try the soup made from ugly vegetables, everyone can appreciate what’s been growing in that little girl’s backyard.

This book is a fun introduction to vegetables used in Chinese and Asian cooking such as Jeou Tsay (Chinese leeks), Kuu Gua (bitter melon) and Sheau Hwang Gua (bumpy Chinese cucumbers).  The book comes complete with an easy recipe for Ugly Vegetable Soup and is inspiring for it’s larger lesson about learning to appreciate the many gifts that come from our heritage and family background.



The Ugly Vegetables (Paperback)

By (author): Grace Lin

It's easy to appreciate a garden exploding with colorful flowers and fragrances, but what do you do with a patch of ugly vegetables? Author/illustrator Grace Lin recalls such a garden in this charming and eloquent story.

The neighbors' gardens look so much prettier and so much more inviting to the young gardener than the garden of "black-purple-green vines, fuzzy wrinkled leaves, prickly stems, and a few little yellow flowers" that she and her mother grow. Nevertheless, mother assures her that "these are better than flowers." Come harvest time, everyone agrees as those ugly Chinese vegetables become the tastiest, most aromatic soup they have ever known. As the neighborhood comes together to share flowers and ugly vegetable soup, the young gardener learns that regardless of appearances, everything has its own beauty and purpose.

THE UGLY VEGETABLES springs forth with the bright and cheerful colors of blooming flowers and bumpy, ugly vegetables. Grace Lin's colorful, playful illustrations pour forth with abundant treasures. Complete with a guide to the Chinese pronunciation of the vegetables and the recipe for ugly vegetable soup! Try it . . . you'll love it, too!
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Written by Michele Maria Surat, Illustrated by Vo-Dihn Mai

It can be really difficult to adjust to a new country and a new school.

Little Hoa knows this well.  Her family had to leave Vietnam and did not have enough money to pay for their mother’s passage to America.  The family is resettling in America and busy raising money so their mom can join them.  But the new life not been easy for Hoa who is also called called Ut at home, a loving term for he youngest daughter.   Her new school is completely different, the language is difficult and some kids are downright mean to her and her sisters.

However, when Ut gets into a fight with a boy in class who is taunting her, something exciting happens.  During their “time-out” the boy learns about Ut’s life and how her family is missing their mother.  In the sharing of their stories, the boy who had bullied her actually becomes an advocate and a friend.  He even plays a key role in helping Ut’s family be reunited in this short but moving story.

This beautiful book is fictional but based on real life teaching experiences of the author and is beautifully illustrated by Vietnamese artist, Vo-Dihn Mai. Can a new country and a new home become a beautiful place to live?   Ut’s story answers this question with a resounding yes!




Angel Child, Dragon Child (Hardcover)

By (author): Michele Maria Surat

Little Ut from Vietnam wins her schoolmates over with kindness and sensitivity.
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Written by Yoshiko Uchida

Years ago I stumbled across several volumes of books for young readers by Japanese American writer, Yoshiko Uchida.  I fell in love with her ability to tell a compelling story from the eyes of a young person and this is one of my favorite volumes by her – the Rooster Who Understood Japanese.

It’s about a little girl named Miyo and her neighborhood.  Although a handsome rooster lives next door and is the pride and joy of her elderly neighbors, it becomes a problem for another resident who threatens to call the police because of it’s early morning crowing. Miyo is afraid the beloved pet will have nowhere to go and will become someone’s meal.  So she takes on the mission of finding a home for this special bird – a rooster that understands Japanese.

Uchida has a gift for weaving realistic details into her stories in regard to prejudice and the difficulties faced by Japanese Americans in the USA during the 1950s – 1970’s. Her young heroines succeed by using grace, cleverness, persistence and patience and have a way of making their world a better place, despite the obstacles they are forced to overcome.

And the rooster?  There’s happy ending there, too.  But you have to read the book to find out how it all turns out.

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Written By Ronald Roy, Illustrated by Vo-Dinh Mai

Can a small boy in a tiny fishing village rescue a huge beached whale?  Is it an impossible task? Impossible or not, Yukio looks into the eyes of the whale and promises that he will bring 1,000 pails of water to keep it alive until the tide comes back in.

Illustrations by Vietnamese artist Vo-Dinh Mai appear as wonderful woodcut images on the inside book cover.  The interior pages are gentle black and white drawings that share the urgency of the story and the powerful desire of this young boy to make a difference.

A tale of compassion in action, woven together with the story of a young child, his father and grandfather come together in an inspiring book you will want to read over and over again.




A Thousand Pails of Water (Hardcover)

By (author): Ron Roy, Dinh Mai Vo

A small boy's infectious determination saves the life of a whale beached near an oriental whaling village.
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Retold/Written By Robert D. San Souci, Illustrated by Daniel San Souci

This is a beautiful Cinderella story, retold from an Ojibwa legend and set in the woodlands of the Northern Central United States.  In this story readers meet a small girl who is the youngest daughter of a warrior whose wife has died.  While the father is away, her older sisters are cruel and force her to do all their work.  Since she does all the family’s cooking over a wood fire, they tease her and call her “Sootface”.

One day the village’s daily life is interrupted by a remarkable announcement.  A nearby young medicine man I looking for a bride.   Handsome and powerful, this young warrior can even make himself invisible.  Only the woman who can see him and can answer a riddle about his bow and arrows will prove she is pure in heart and can share his life.  The rest of the story unfolds perfectly, accompanied by lovely illustrations with an eye to authentically portraying the details of clothing, shelter and other aspects of Ojibwa life.

A wonderful tale of how remaining true to one’s self eventually becomes it’s own meaningful reward.



Sootface (Paperback)

By (author): Robert D. San Souci

Once, an Ojibwa man whose wife had died raised three daughters alone. The two older girls were lazy and bad-tempered, and made their youngest sister do all the work. When the flames from the cooking fire singed her hair or burned her skin, they laughed and called her Sootface.



While she worked, Sootface dreamed that one day she would find a husband. Then a mighty warrior with the power to make himself invisible decides to marry. Only a woman with a kind and honest heart could see him, and be his bride.



Though her sisters ridicule her, Sootface sets off to try her luck, never looking back. Her courage and good nature bring her the husband she has longed for.
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Written by Valerie Petrillo

This book is a great way to learn about the culture and traditions of people who came to the US from China, Japan, Korea, the Philippines, India, Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia.  There is a series of 70 crafts exploring cooking, art, dance, folklore and holidays as well as language, history and outstanding historical figures.

Some of my favorites from this book are the Mehndi hand painting, the Japanese fish printing craft, ribbon dancing activities, origami, taiko drumming and even a snakes and ladders game from India and a “kick-the-can” game from the Philippines.  There are lots of wonderfully easy recipes for such goodies as rice balls, Banana Lassi (yogurt drink), Vietnamese beef noodle soup and Cambodian spring rolls plus lots of suggestions for sweets!  Lastly, there are also pages for learning basic phrases in several languages such as Mandarin and Hindi.

All in all, this book is a treasure of information as well as fun activities that can liven up the home or classroom at Chinese New Year or any time of year!

Highly recommended!




Hands-on activities, games, and crafts introduce children to the diversity of Asian American cultures and teach them about the people, experiences, and events that have shaped Asian American history. This book is broken down into sections covering American descendents from various Asian countries, including China, Japan, Korea, Philippines, India, Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia. Topics include the history of immigration from Asian countries, important events in U.S. history, sidebars on famous Asian Americans, language lessons, and activities that highlight arts, games, food, clothing, unique celebrations, and folklore. Kids can paint a calligraphy banner, practice Tai Chi, fold an origami dog or cat, build a Japanese rock garden, construct a Korean kite, cook bibingka, and create a chalk rangoli. A time line, glossary, and recommendations for Web sites, books, movies, and museums round out this multicultural guide.
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Written by Doreen Rappaport, Illustrated By Bryan Collier

What is it like to grow up feeling like a second-class citizen?

Doreen Rappaport’s book explains the climate of racism and prejudice that existed in the 1950’s when young Martin Luther King, Jr. was growing up.  She also describes his love of the Bible and hymns and how the “big words” that he found there gave him hope, comfort and a sense of peace.  His father was a minister and MLK grew up to become a minister as well, in part to share these important concepts and big words with others.

How do you return love for hatred?  How do you talk about the values of all of God’s children in the face of prejudice and intolerance?  This book tells that story in a realistic and memorable way.

One of my favorite aspects of this book is the use of many great MLK quotes to illustrate the text.  These “big words” are still as powerful today as they were decades ago.  This book is well worth picking up and sharing for MLK day or any time of the year to inspire kids (or adults) of all ages.





This picture-book biography is an excellent and accessible introduction for young readers to learn about one of the world's most influential leaders, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Doreen Rappaport weaves the immortal words of Dr. King into a captivating narrative to tell the story of his life. With stunning art by acclaimed illustrator Bryan Collier, Martin's Big Words is an unforgettable portrait of a man whose dream changed America-and the world-forever.
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Written by Christine King Farris, Illustrated By London Ladd

Almost everyone is familiar with MLK’s famous “I Have A Dream” speech given at the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom in August of 1963.  But what led up to that March and what went on during that day?  How did MLK write these important and inspirational words that motivated so many people during the struggle for civil rights and beyond?

The story of the March on Washington is told beautifully by MLK’s sister; Christine King Farris, who gives you a behind the scenes look at the events of that important day when so many people stood up for change that would be as powerful as it was positive.

Although this book was written especially for younger readers, it is highly recommended for anyone interested in the civil rights era or anyone who wishes to be inspired by MLK’s nonviolent means of achieving his vision of peace, justice and equality for all people.




Martin Luther King, Jr.'s, sister remembers the March on Washington.

From Dr. Martin Luther King's sister, the definitive tribute to the man, the march, and the speech that changed a nation.
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Written By Christine King Farris, Illustrated by Chris Soenpiet

This beautifully written and illustrated book takes you into the childhood of Martin Luther King as told by his sister, Christine King Farris.  Since most people know the most about MLK as an adult and a civil right leader, Christine wanted people to know about him as a boy and as her brother.  She shares wonderful details about their family life.  You get to meet his father, the minister; his mother, the wonderful musician and his Aunt Ada who often read to the children about a whole world full of interesting things.  She also shares how her brother Martin came to get a sense of the unequal treatment of people and slowly became aware that he might take part in making the world a more just and equitable place.

This is a marvelous book for sharing with kids as it helps them understand the person who came to be Martin Luther King, Jr.  Along with glorious illustrations by Chris Soenpiet, this book will inspire any child to feel they may grow up to do marvelous things in the world from their own humble beginnings.

And my favorite part of this book?  Christine takes the time to mention a hysterical prank that she and her brothers would play on passers-by.  It really made me laugh. By sharing these humorous little moments, the author helps to balance out the serious nature of MLK’s struggle for civil rights while telling an accurate tale of his childhood and personal history.

Highly recommended!




"Mother Dear, one day I'm going to turn this world upside down."
Long before he became a world-famous dreamer, Martin Luther King Jr. was a little boy who played jokes and practiced the piano and made friends without considering race. But growing up in the segregated south of the 1930s taught young Martin a bitter lesson -- little white children and little black children were not to play with one another. Martin decided then and there that something had to be done. And so he began the journey that would change the course of American history.
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Written by Angela Shelf Medearis, Illustrated by Daniel Minter

This is a wonderful folktale style story with glorious illustrations that seems to embody the very spirit of Kwanzaa.  The tale starts with a father who has lost his wife and must take care of his seven sons all by himself.  Although the sons have many blessings, it seems that all they can do is fight all day long.  However, when their father passes away, he has left them with a test.  If they turn seven spools of thread into gold in one day without fighting, they can have all that was his.

How will the boys accomplish this?  And what will be discovered when they learn to work together instead of fighting all day long?  Will they learn the seven principals of Kwanzaa during their struggle to turn thread into gold?  And will they find a way to benefit everyone in their village instead of just their own personal needs?  Pick up this beautifully illustrated book to discover how the boys solved this tough riddle and in the process, learned how to put the seven principles of Kwanzaa into action.

Without giving away more of the story, the book also mentions kente cloth and offers an easy-to-do hand weaving project (similar to those used in Africa) that is perfect for small hands or beginning crafters.  I’m off to try making a kente style belt today!

This is a beautiful book for so many reasons! Perfect for any home school or classroom library!

 

 




In an African village live seven brothers who make life miserable with their constant fighting. When their father dies, he leaves an unusual will: by sundown, the brothers must make gold out of seven spools of thread or they will be turned out as beggars.
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Written and Illustrated By Tomie DePaola

In the United States, Santa Claus brings presents to the children during the Christmas season.  In parts of Europe, children are visited by Saint Nick.  In  Italy, it’s Old Befana who brings gifts and goodies to the children.

But who is old Befana?  Is she a witch? A cranky old lady?  And why is she always sweeping?  Two things are certain, she’s on a search for the little Christ Child and she’s a big part of the special Christmas celebrations of this season in Italy.  Most often reenacted and celebrated on the feast of the Three Kings (January, 6th), Tomie Depaola tells her legend in a sweet and kind way, as if you were right there with her in a little Italian village long ago.

A touching and beautiful holiday story!



The Legend of Old Befana (Paperback)

By (author): Tomie dePaola

This is a delightful reading of the favorite Italian Christmas story about an eccentric old woman and her never-ending search for the Baby King.
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Written By Valerie Tripp. Illustrated by Jean-Paul Tibbles

It’s going to be a difficult Christmas for Josefina and her three sisters who live on a rancho (ranch) in rural New Mexico.  Her mother passed away before the last Christmas and although her lovely Tia (Aunt) Dolores is there for them, all the girls wonder if the celebration will ever be happy again.  And then there’s Niña – the doll that was supposed to be gifted to Josefina last year by her mom.  No one knows where she is so it seems that one more happy memory will be gone for Josefina this year.

Despite all that, the family becomes busy with Christmas preparations and the book shares the beautiful Las Posadas tradition (see explanation below) as well as details of wonderful traditional foods and crafts (like “colcha” embroidery) that are part of this season’s activities.  Will Josefina be able to play Mary in Las Posadas?  Will Niña ever come back?  Will Christmas be happy again?  Check out this beautiful book to see how so many little Christmas miracles can help bring the happiness and wonder back to the season for Josefina.

Las Posadas – Originally a Spanish custom, this tradition of reenacting Joseph and Mary’s search for an inn (posada) before the birth of Jesus is celebrated in Mexico and also in the US Southwest, with slight variations.

Suggested Reading Level –  Ages 8 and Up

 




Josefina hopes her family will have a happy Christmas, although she knows they will miss Mamá. When she and her sisters discover that the Christmas altar cloth Mamá embroidered has been damaged, they are heartbroken. But T'a Dolores finds a way to help the sisters' hearts begin to mend. As the villagers gather to celebrate the Christmas tradition called Las Posadas, Josefina finds that memories can bring comfort and courage. Christmas Eve is filled with surprises that make Josefina's heart sing.
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Written and Illustrated by Tomie DePaulo

What is the celebration of Las Posadas?  Originally a Spanish custom, this tradition of reenacting Joseph and Mary’s search for an inn (posada) before the birth of Jesus is celebrated in Mexico and also in the US Southwest, with slight variations.

Here Tomie dePaulo takes you into New Mexico near Santa Fe where the celebration happens in one night.  A young couple dress up like Joseph and Mary and walk a path lighted by beautiful luminaries (farolitos).  They ask to stay at several doorsteps in the main square and each time they are met by a devil who won’t allow them to come in. The crowd boos loudly.  But on the last attempt, they are met by kindness and the doors are thrown open and they enter the church.  DePaulo’s story shares these rich details and also a Christmas miracle when the two young people intended as Mary and Joseph cannot make it into town because of snow.  Will the celebration be ruined – or will something even more special happen?

Check out this beautiful book to find out!




Tomie dePaola's glorious paintings are as luminous as the farolitos that light up on the Plaza in Santa Fe for the procession of Las Posadas, the tradition in which Mary and Joseph go from door to door seeking shelter at the inn on Christmas Eve.This year Sister Angie, who is always in charge of the clebration, has to stay home with the flu, and Lupe and Roberto, who are to play Mary and Joseph, get caught in a snowstorm. But a man and a woman no one knows arrive in time to take their place in the procession and then mysteriously disappear at the end before they can be thanked.That night we witness a Christian miracle, for when Sister Angie goes to the cathedral and kneels before the statue of Mary and Jospeh, wet footprints from the snow lead up to the statue.
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Written by Cheryl Benner

What is Christmas like among the “plain” folk of Pennsylvania?  Although there’s no electricity and few modern devices, the holiday season is filled with fun, friendship and giving.

Did you know that students from the Amish schoolhouse are called “scholars”.  Find out if they exchange presents.  How they thank their teacher and postman at the holiday times?  What is a taffy pull – and does it sound like fun?  Nicely written and illustrated in black and white, each page allows a child to not only read about this community but also color and explore the pictures and images.

This is a simple and beautiful book – as much fun to read as it is to color!  Highly recommended for anyone who is interested in simpler holidays or getting back to “the reason for the season.”




p>Amish families -- with all their children, aunts, uncles, cousins, and grandparents -- celebrate Christmas in this holiday-happy coloring book. Full of surprises, yet faithful in their detail, these pictures show the many satisfying ways that Amish boys and girls keep Christmas. A delightful series: An Amish Farm Coloring Book An Amish Quilt Coloring Book An Amish Christmas Coloring Book
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Written by Deborah M. Chocolate

Illustration by Cal Massey

What happens when it’s Kwanzaa time?  This book tells the exciting story of this holiday from the perspective of a young boy.  Throughout the days of Kwanzaa, this family dresses in special ways, greet relatives and visitors, listen to stories about the family and from Africa and share wonderful activities that bring everyone together in a very meaningful way.

A beautifully written story, this book for young readers shares special moments in a family’s celebration plus the seven principles of Kwanzaa and a history of the holiday that will inspire any reader.

Highly recommended!



My First Kwanzaa Book (Paperback)

By (author): Deborah Chocolate, Deborah M. Newton Chocolate

During the last week of December, Kwanzaa is a time to dress up in African clothes and gather together with relatives from all over the country. Grandma brings special things to eat, Grandpa lights the candles, and everyone in the family celebrates their heritage.
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Written by Virginia Driving Hawk Sneve

Illustration by Ellen Beier

Little Virginia is making her way from her house to the school in the cold South Dakota winter. Like her siblings and many friends, she’s excited about gifts of new coats and warm winter wear that will soon arrive from the East.  What is Christmas like on a Lakota Reservation?  This lovely book shares a warm story that Virginia remembers from the holidays of her childhood, complete with a Christmas miracle of a wonderful new coat that perfectly met her needs.

Virginia Driving Hawk Sneve was born on the Rosebud Reservation and writes beautifully about Native American culture.  She has won the Spirit of Crazy Horse Award and the National Humanities Medal for her outstanding work for both children and adult readers.

Suggested Reading Level – Ages 5 and up

 



The Christmas Coat: Memories of My Sioux Childhood (Hardcover)

By (author): Virginia Driving Hawk Sneve

Virginia's coat is too small and hardly protects her from the frigid South Dakata winter. As Christmas approaches, all the children on the Sioux reservation look forward to receiving boxes full of clothing sent by congregations in the East. Virginia spots a beautiful gray fur coat but holds back tears as it is claimed by one of her classmates. Later, virginia can't believe what Mama brings home. Based on an event from the author's childhood, this picture book captures the true spirit of Christmas.
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Written and Illustrated By Paul Gobel

Paul Goebel’s story and illustrations take you into the wonderful world of the Plains with it’s canyons, cactuses, wild weather and beautiful Native American customs and introduces you to a girl who loves wild horses.

The Amazon.com review of this book sums up the subject matter beautifully:  “For most people, being swept away in a horse stampede during a raging thunderstorm would be a terrifying disaster. For the young Native American girl in Paul Goble’s 1979 Caldecott-winning masterpiece, The Girl Who Loved Wild Horses, it is a blessing. Although she loves her people, this girl has a much deeper, almost sacred connection to her equine friends. The storm gives her the opportunity to fulfill her dream–to live in a beautiful land among the wild horses she loves.  With brilliant, stylized illustrations and simple text, Paul Goble tells the story of a young woman who follows her heart, and the family that respects and accepts her uniqueness.”

A wonderful combination of a great story and stellar illustrations, this is a great book to share with young children or to read aloud.

Suggested Reading Level – Preschool-Grade 2




"There was a girl in the village who loved horses... She led the horses to drink at the river. She spoke softly and they followed. People noticed that she understood horses in a special way."
And so begins the story of a young Native American girl devoted to the care of her tribe's horses. With simple text and brilliant illustrations. Paul Goble tells how she eventually becomes one of them to forever run free.
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By Kate Waters

Everyone knows the stereotyped images of the First Thanksgiving – but what was it really like?  And what was it like from the perspective of the Native Americans who shared their bounty and knowledge with the “coat-men” who arrived and lived nearby.

This beautifully photographed book shares the hopes, dreams and daily tasks and adventures of a young boy of the Wampanoag tribe. Aside from an engaging story and photographs taken with the assistance and advice of the Wampanoag Indian Program at Plimouth Plantation, there is also a glossary of terms and additional information about the Wampanoag people, many of whose descendents still live in the area of Massachusetts and Rhode Island (United States). This is a wonderful “living history” book to share with kids of all ages.

Suggested Reading Level – Grades 2 – 5  

 




Chosen to become a special warrior prince in 1627, Tapenum prepares himself for the great honor by hunting, fishing, and sharing a day with friends and family, in a story that is complemented by photographs of Plymouth Plantation.
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Knots on a Counting Rope is the story of a Native American grandfather talking to his grandson, Boy-Strength-of-Blue-Horses, about how he was born and how he has grown. Boy-Strength-of-Blue-Horses was born frail and with no vision, but he has gotten stronger and now rides his own horse, Rainbow, and has trained her to race. The grandfather is a nurturing figure in the story who adores his grandson and has never held him back.

This is a sweet story about the love between a grandfather and his grandson who is blind, and how the grandson is richer and stronger because of this relationship

Suggested Reading Level – Preschool and up



Knots on a Counting Rope (Reading Rainbow Books) (Paperback)

By (author): Bill Martin Jr., John Archambault

In this poignant story, the counting rope is a metaphor for the passage of time and for a boy's emerging confidence in facing his blindness.

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