Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Last Nonfiction Wednesday of 2014 and Top 10 NF Picture Book Favorites of the Year

I'm excited that Alyson Beecher, at Kid Lit Frenzy, is continuing her Nonfiction Picture Book Challenge for the third year in a row.
I had to squeeze in a few more nonfiction picture books before the year's end:
Eye to Eye: How Animals See The World

I don't think I've ever rated a Steve Jenkins book less than 5 stars. This book is no exception. Fascinating look at animal eyes with stunning illustrations.
Born in the Wild: Baby Mammals and Their Parents

This book wins for the most adorable cover of a nonfiction picture book for 2014. Maybe ever! Giraffes are my favorite wild animal, so I might be partial, but I knew I had to read this as soon as I saw it. It's not only filled with more adorable illustrations, but interesting information about animal babies and parents. This will be a hit in the classroom!
Star Stuff: Carl Sagan and the Mysteries of the Cosmos

Kids might be inspired to become a scientist, or at least pursue their passions, through this biography of Carl Sagan. Great illustrations!
Behold the Beautiful Dung Beetle by Cheryl Bardoe, illustrated by Alan Marks
It amazes me what topics children's nonfiction writers find to write about. This one is all about dung beetles, and somehow, writer Cheryl Bardoe and illustrator Alan Marks made me want to read about them! They're fascinating! Lots of kids will want to read about them, too.
Stand There! She Shouted: The Invincible Photographer Julia Margaret Cameron

This is an interesting biography of a woman in the 1800s who, although she was known as "plain," sought beauty throughout her life, prompting her to become a photographer after the camera was invented. She lived a fascinating life - born in Calcutta to an English family, she enjoyed India when she was young, learning Hindi, English, and French, and playing with her sisters. When she was 3, she traveled to France with her mother to stay with her grandmother. Her life in France was filled with art, dancing, and music. Later, she resided in Cape Town, South Africa to recover from losing her sister on a sea journey. It was there that she met her husband, 20 years her senior, Charles Hay Cameron. They moved back to Calcutta where they had 6 children. England was their next destination. When her husband traveled, she missed him so much, her daughter and son-in-law gave her a camera. Her art was born. I was intrigued by her Bohemian style and the reputation she had for being a task master to her photography subjects, making them pose for hours and expecting them to do whatever she wanted in order to get a successful portrait. She became famous for her blurry, "soft focus" photographs that resulted from a mistake. She had the perseverance to work hard even after much criticism and failures in the photography world, eventually becoming successful and producing three thousand photographs in her career.
This was Katie's Christmas Eve picture book - every year I give the girls a Christmas picture book along with pajamas for their Christmas Eve gifts. They are the only presents we open on Christmas Eve. This year I found a gem - the true story of Gail Halvorsen ("Hal"), a young pilot in the US Army Air Corps who was assigned as a cargo pilot to the Berlin Airlift. His job was to fly supplies into a Soviet-blockaded Berlin during WW II. One day, he noticed a group of children who asked about things related to freedom. This changed Hal. These children seemed different - they weren't begging for food or treats, they were grateful for even the meager rations they were getting. He decided to do something about it. Hal hatched a plan to drop candy from the air. He told the kids he would wiggle the plane's wings in the air, signaling his approach. By December, the idea grew and the pilots had gathered eighteen tons of candy. That Christmas, candy parachutes dropped from the air, "tumbling to earth in a brilliant display of Christmas generosity and joy." Real photos of Hall and his crew accompany beautiful illustrations throughout the book. A CD is included with Tom Brokaw reading the book, and the back contains a short biography of Colonel Gail S. Halvorsen, instructions on how to make a candy parachute, and information on the Mormon Tabernacle Choir and Orchestra. I discovered that there was a documentary of this story on t.v. a couple weeks ago, so I recorded it. I'm looking forward to watching it.  Treat yourself to the book by watching this production starring Tom Brokaw:

 Okay, that's it for 2014!  Because of Alyson's challenge, I read 82 nonfiction picture books this year!   Now, the hard part...picking 2014 favorites.  Here we go (in no particular order)!

Handle with Care: An Unusual Butterfly Journey
Josephine: The Dazzling Life of Josephine Baker

Winter Bees & Other Poems of the Cold
Whew!  That was difficult - there were so many nonfiction picture books that I gave 5 stars to in 2014.  I'll probably second guess myself several times on this top 10 list, but before I do, I'm going to hit PUBLISH!  If you'd like to read what I said about each of these books, just search my blog with the titles.  Looking forward to reading more nonfiction in 2015!

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Slice of Life - Stories of the Staircase

I love participating in Slice of Life, started by Two Writing Teachers and writing a story, reflection, or musing at least once a week.
We are coming up on our 10 year mark of living in this house.  We moved back to this area in August of 2004 and built our home while living in a nearby apartment.  We moved in right after Christmas of that year after a doozy of a snowstorm.  I was thinking about all the things I love about this house and thought of our staircase.  It splits at the landing, with one set going into the kitchen, and the other set into the foyer.  It has been the location for many photos.  I thought I'd tell its stories.
The stairs were fun to play on even as they were being built:
The girls were young enough when we moved in to play dress up and pose on the stairs:
First day of school pictures were taken at the base of the stairs in the foyer:
It's a great place to sit and talk, eat, and drink during parties:
 We love to sit and play with Ben or cuddle with him on the stairs:

We had many pre-dance parties at our house when our girls entered high school, so the stairs were the perfect place to take group photos:


It was even fun to take pictures of parties from the top of the stairs:



 It became the place to take our group photos of Friends' Thanksgivings:


 One of my favorite Friends' Thanksgiving pictures was the two generations of Miami U. girls:

 All the cousins (and Uncle T.J.) gathered on the stairs in 2012:
The staircase is good for lounging, even all dressed up:

 New Year's Eve Party gatherings:

Ben likes to rest his back legs on a higher step than his front legs.  He also likes to sit up on the top step and look out the foyer window:

 Sometimes it's hard to choreograph an arrangement on the stairs.  Here, Tyler, the senior class president in 2010-11, tries to get the student council to get in their places for a photo.  He's not having much luck:

The staircase makes for a perfect grand entrance.  Libby ready for her senior prom:

Last, but not least, the stairs are fun to goof around on:

We have made a lot of memories in our house during the last 10 years and have made good use of those stairs!  I'm looking forward to what the future years bring!