Walking in Someone Else’s Shoes: Recent Reads

Books have the ability to transport us to another time and place. They are time machines more effective than any converted car or police box. Picture books offer us an effective means to take an entire class on a journey outside their life experiences.

This last weekend I had the pleasure of attending Anderson Bookshop’s 13th Annual Children’s Literature Breakfast. One thing I love about this event is being introduced to books I have not yet discovered, including the four picture books described below.

The Soda Bottle School by Laura Kutner and Suzanne Slade

This nonfiction picture book is a must read for classes using elements of the maker movement or for Genius Hour projects that focus on solving community problems. It also speaks to the power of perseverence. I knew just what two classes in fifth grade needed this book from the moment I started it.

This book relates how the students at one Guetemalan school dealt with the need for more space. They gathered up plastic bottles and other trash from their village and from miles around to create eco-ladrillos (eco-bricks) to expand their school. They worked for 15 months to finish the project. It’s an inspiring read.

Friends for Freedom by Suzanne Slade

I enjoyed discovering this book about the friendship between Frederick Douglass and Susan B. Anthony. Slade traces their friendship as well as what would happen when they would arrive to speak at the same place. Anthony came to the assistance of the Douglass family when their home was burned. One thing I really appreciated as a reader was the depiction of their friendship’s struggle after the passage of the 15th Amendment to the United States Constitution but were able to reconcile.

With Bricks and Books by Suzanne Slade

This book would pair well with The Soda Bottle School. Booker T. Washington accepts a teaching job in this book in a community that does not yet have a school. After beginning classes in a shed, Washington purchases an abandoned plantation. He and the students spend long hours digging up clay and then creating bricks to build a new school building. They try using three different kilns to bake the bricks, but all of them break. When many want to give up, Washington sells his one possession of value to get one last kiln. Finally, they are able to build the school. By the time of Washington’s death, that school property would have over a hundred buildings.

You can find more about Suzanne Slade’s books on her website.

Walking Home to Rosie Lee by A. LaFaye

I find the Civil War fascinating, so I was pleased to read this historical fiction picture book. This story portrays what happened after slaves were emancipated at the end of the war. One boy goes on a long journey to try and find his mother from whom he was separated. He follows false leads and faces a number of obstacles during his search.

Check out A. LaFaye’s other books.

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