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Maria Salvadore

Reading Rockets' children's literature expert, Maria Salvadore, brings you into her world as she explores the best ways to use kids' books both inside — and outside — of the classroom.

Fabulous February

February 20, 2009

February is a marvelous month. It's chockfull of all kinds of celebrations and holidays. And happily, there are lots of books for young readers to enhance and extend them.

There's African American History Month which can be celebrated by reading about distinguished leaders like Coretta Scott King. Stunning illustrations by award-winning Kadir Nelson add even more drama to the poetry of Ntozake Shange in Coretta Scott (Katherine Tegen/HarperCollins).

Another recent biography celebrates a less well known African American trailblazer, Edna Lewis. Edna was the child of an emancipated slave who grew up in Freetown, Virginia, where the seasons provided the taste of the kitchen — experiences that she took with her to become an early female and celebrated chef.

Her story is told in Bring Me Some Apples and I'll Make You a Pie by Robbin Gourley (Clarion), a lively book told in rhythmic language and jaunty illustrations. A photograph of the adult Edna Lewis and some of her tasty-sounding recipes takes this engaging book into the family kitchen as well as in a classroom (math activities come from cooking; other curriculum might include seasons and growing cycles, not to mention women's history and African American history).

And it's always time to celebrate families with Eloise Greenfield's Brothers and Sisters: Family Poems with realistic illustrations by Jan Spivey Gilchrist Amistad/HarperCollins).

And this February two famous men celebrated their 200th birthdays on February 12: Abraham Lincoln and Charles Darwin. There are lots of books about Lincoln and a few recent books for young readers about Darwin. What Darwin Saw: The Journey That Changed the World by Rosalyn Schanzer (National Geographic) is a rich look at Darwin's long journey and can be read on several levels because of its rich text an handsome illustrations.

Now all we need to finish out the February celebration is a snow day or two!

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"The things I want to know are in books. My best friend is the man who'll get me a book I [haven't] read." — Abraham Lincoln