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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.

Company on a snowy day

February 8, 2013

Blizzard [bliz-erd; a long, severe storm; often pleases children]

Stuck inside [stuhk in-sahyd; often bores children; frequently concerns parents and other adults]

If this is something that you confront, you may want to make sure that you've got some company, things to talk about, ideas that may be just plain fun. You may want to start with these books.

Words are fun and so is a new book about a man who grew up on a Connecticut farm but who didn't want to be a farmer. Instead, he became known for standardizing American spelling. Noah Webster and His Words by Jeri Chase Ferris (Houghton Mifflin) plays with language while introducing an early American with verve and humor.

Words and letters intrigued another early American who was not allowed to learn to read as a child. Ultimately, he worked — and walked — and ultimately quenched his thirst for education, to grow into an adult who shared his dream for education for African Americans. Fifty Cents and a Dream (Little Brown) poetically tells the story of young Booker T. Washington, illustrated by stunning collage and paint illustrations.

A later childhood episode is effectively presented in Desmond and the Very Mean Word by Archbishop Desmond Tutu and Douglas Abrams (Candlewick). Young Desmond learns how to handle taunts and meanness with a bit of counsel from an adult. A great deal of history about South Africa and insight into Desmond Tutu are implied, but the drama of the experience creates a satisfying story.

Susan B. Anthony was an activist who took the notice in the November 1, 1872 newspaper to heart: "Register [to vote] now!"" And she did — before American women had the right to do so! Heart on Fire: Susan B. Anthony Votes for President by Ann Malaspina (Whitman) dramatically tells the story of this event.

When bad weather is called for, stock up on the necessities — including books — and let it snow!

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