March 27 – It’s National Reading Month

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About the Holiday

National Reading Month is winding down, but that doesn’t mean you need to slow down on your reading! I hope you’ve enjoyed lots of new and old favorites this month and are inspired to keep discovering new books every day – like today’s book!

Follow Me Down to Nicodemus Town: Based on the History of the African American Pioneer Settlement

Written by A. LaFaye | Illustrated by Nicole Tadgell

 

In Dede Patton’s dreams she could see the wide-open prairie where she and her family could build a better life. To pay off their sharecropping debt, “Dede’s mama sewed dresses so fine, they practically got up and danced.” Her father made furniture after a long day in the fields, and Dede shined shoes at the train station on a box she had made herself. Even though they worked “from sun-climb to sun-slide,” they knew it would take years to make enough money if ever.

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Image copyright Nicole Tadgell, 2019, text copyright A. LaFaye, 2019. Courtesy of Albert Whitman & Company.

Then one day Dede noticed a sign “offering land for colored folks in Kansas.” In Kansas they could own a farm in a few years. A new town, Nicodemus, was going to be built only a short ways away. Learning about this opportunity Dede’s family worked harder than ever and their money grew. One day, Dede found that one of her customers had dropped his wallet. She ran after the train and handed it up to him through the window.

Soon after Dede received a letter from the man with ten dollars inside. This, along with the money Dede’s mama and papa had made, was enough to pay off their debt. “Dede’s shoe shine money would buy the seeds for planting.” They took the train to Kansas and then traveled to Nicodemus with other new settlers. Along the bank of the Solomon River, they dug a house they could call their own. Dede and Papa staked off their land. With winter coming, they made plans for the years ahead.

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Image copyright Nicole Tadgell, 2019, text copyright A. LaFaye, 2019. Courtesy of Albert Whitman & Company.

For supper, Dede hunted prairie dogs with her slingshot until they grew scarce. Looking for food, Dede and her papa went far out into the fields and met Shanka Sabe, a member of the Children of the Middle Waters tribe. “The white folks call them the Osage, but they say they’re the Ni-U-Kan-Ska.” He had noticed that the smoke coming from the Patton’s chimney had grown wispy and thought their food was growing thin too. He was bringing them rabbits.

When Spring came, Dede and Papa sowed seeds, and she and Mama began a garden. Spring also brought more people to Nicodemus. On Sundays, the Pattons rode into town, and Mama got orders for dresses from the other women. Once when Dede took the mail into town, she Mr. Zachary say his hotel was full. She mustered her courage and asked if any of his customers would like their shoes shined. From then she had “a job shining shoes at the St. Francis Hotel” that she went to after a day of helping Papa on the farm and Mama with the sewing.

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Image copyright Nicole Tadgell, 2019, text copyright A. LaFaye, 2019. Courtesy of Albert Whitman & Company.

In a few years the Patton’s farm was thriving and “they could prove their land claim.” Dede paid for the deed with her own shoe shine money. She made a frame for it from prairie grass, and the deed hung prominently in their home. On Sunday they held a party, and all the folks of Nicodemus as well as Shanka Sabe and his family turned out to enjoy the festivities and Mama’s pies. And that night they celebrated having a “home where they could tell stories, use the stars to guide them, and make plans for the things to come.”

An Author’s Note explaining more about the founding of Nicodemus, the Exodusters who settled the land in Kansas and other Midwestern states, and information on Nicodemus today follows the text.

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Image copyright Nicole Tadgell, 2019, text copyright A. LaFaye, 2019. Courtesy of Albert Whitman & Company.

A. LaFaye tells this fact-based story of resilience, hope, and freedom with charm and heart, following a girl and her family from the constraints of a sharecropper’s life to owning a home and farm of their own. Descriptions of the close-knit Patton family shine as LaFaye demonstrates the importance of each member’s contributions. Children will be especially fascinated by Dede’s role in helping secure the family’s future. LaFaye captures the dreams and community spirit of this important, yet little-known history of the African-American and Midwest experience through lyrical storytelling peppered with period words and phrases.

Through Nicole Tadgell’s softly washed illustrations of Dede and her family, readers see the hard work and perseverance that Dede, Mama, and Papa put into every day as they work to make money to pay off their debt. When they dance and cheer at receiving the last ten dollars they need to make the move, their joy radiates to readers. Details and dreamy pastel images of the vast, empty prairie, the nascent town, and the Patton’s home transports readers to the 1870s.

An excellent story about a transformative period in American history, Follow Me Down to Nicodemus Town is an enriching choice for home, classroom, and public library collections.

Ages 5 – 8

Albert Whitman & Company, 2019 | ISBN 978-0807525357

Discover more about A. LaFaye and her books on her website.

To learn more about Nicole Tadgell, her books, and her art, visit her website.

National Reading Month Activity

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Kansas State Bird Coloring Page

 

Enjoy the beauty of the Kansas prairie as you color this printable page of the Western Meadowlark, the state bird of Kansas, which was selected by children in 1925.

Kansas State Bird Coloring Page

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You can find Follow Me Down to Nicodemus Town at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

 

 

November 7 – It’s Picture Book Month

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About the Holiday

Today’s picture books are amazing! Offering glimpses into history, revelations in science, introductions to incredible people, fabulous reasons to laugh out loud, poignant moments for reflection, and much of the best art currently being produced anywhere, picture books defy their slim appearance with content that inspires and changes young lives. Reading a wide variety of books to children from birth on up is one of the most rewarding activities you can do. Make choosing the books to read a family affair! Kids love picking out their own books and sharing cozy and fun story times with you!

Pies from Nowhere: How Georgia Gilmore Sustained the Montgomery Bus Boycott

Written by Dee Romito | Illustrated by Laura Freeman

 

As a young girl living on a farm in Alabama, Georgia Freeman learned from her mother a lesson she took to heart: “Think twice before doing anything you might regret, and never, ever hate anyone.” When Georgia grew up and had children of her own, she was known for her delicious cooking. She even worked as a cook at the National Lunch Company, a restaurant in Montgomery, Alabama. At the time, segregation laws dictated that white customers sit on one side of the counter and black customers on the other.

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Image copyright Laura Freeman, 2018, text copyright Dee Romito, 2018. Courtesy of little bee books.

On December 1, 1955, Georgia heard a radio report that “an African American woman named Rosa Parks had been arrested for refusing to give up her seat on a bus to a white passenger.” The next day, the Black community in Montgomery was asked to boycott the buses in support of Rosa Parks and because of the poor treatment African Americans were forced to endure by the bus drivers. Georgia wanted to do even more to support the movement.

Soon after the boycott began, Georgia went to hear Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. speak at the Holt Street Baptist Church. “He talked about freedom. Unity. Equality.” And Justice. “Those were things Georgia believed in, and she was willing to fight for them.” Georgia decided to use her talent for cooking to help. She and a group of women got together and cooked. They made sandwiches and dinners and sold them at the boycott meetings and in their neighborhood, including to those walking to and from work instead of taking the bus.

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Image copyright Laura Freeman, 2018, text copyright Dee Romito, 2018. Courtesy of little bee books.

The money that Georgia made went to the “Montgomery Improvement Association, which helped fund the boycott.” This work by Georgia and the other women was dangerous. If anyone learned that they were involved in the boycott, they would lose their jobs, so all cooking and selling was done in secret. Georgia’s customers at local shops and businesses paid for her scrumptious pies in cash so that only Georgia knew who they were. Over time, Georgia’s group donated enough money  to pay for “gas for the carpool system that had been set up for the boycott” and even to buy station wagons to transport people around town. Whenever Georgia was asked where she got this money, she answered, “‘it came from nowhere.’”

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Image copyright Laura Freeman, 2018, text copyright Dee Romito, 2018. Courtesy of little bee books.

The bus system was losing money because of the boycott, “so the city did what it could to stop the protesters and their efforts.” Ninety people, including Dr. King, were arrested. Georgia was called to testify in court. She told of her experience in which after paying her fare, she was told to get off the bus and go to the back door to get on. Before she could reenter the bus, the driver shut the door on her and drove off. After that, she said, she no longer rode the bus.

Georgia knew supporting the boycott was the right thing to do, but when the National Lunch Company found out, they fired her. With six children to raise on her own, Georgia worried about what she would do. Dr. King encouraged her to open her own business. He helped her improve her kitchen, and soon Georgia’s house had long lines of people waiting to eat her meals and more waiting for deliveries. Georgia made hundreds of lunches every day. While she was feeding her community, Georgia “was also bringing the people of Montgomery together—black and white.” Georgia’s house was also used for secret meetings among civil rights leaders.

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Image copyright Laura Freeman, 2018, text copyright Dee Romito, 2018. Courtesy of little bee books.

On November 13, 1956—nearly a year after the boycott had begun, Georgia heard another radio report saying that the United States “Supreme Court had declared that segregation on buses was illegal! The boycotters had won.” This meant that people could sit anywhere they wanted. The Montgomery Bus Boycott was just a beginning. “There would be more battles to fight . . . so Georgia Gilmore kept right on cooking.”

An Author’s Note revealing more about the Montgomery Bus Boycott and Georgia Gilmore follows the text. Kids are also invited to make Georgia’s Homemade Pound Cake using the recipe on the back cover.

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Image copyright Laura Freeman, 2018, text copyright Dee Romito, 2018. Courtesy of little bee books.

Dee Romito’s inspiring biography delves into the crucial role individuals can make in supporting people and causes they believe in. By focusing on unsung historical hero Georgia Gilmore and using her own words and thoughts, Romito reveals how those with strong beliefs can use their talents and courage to fight for change behind the scenes and still make an important difference. Her conversational storytelling brings a personal touch to this biography, drawing young readers in to learn the details of this early battle in the Civil Rights movement—also begun by an act of a solitary person. Bookended by the radio reports that Georgia hears, the story is well-paced to show how Georgia’s contribution grows over nearly a year. This timely biography is made even more resonant perhaps in that Georgia’s cooking and selling of meals and baked goods is an activity that many children will recognized from their own involvement in bake sales and other food-related fund raisers. The open ending invites readers to learn more about the Civil Rights movement and Georgia Gilmore.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-pies-from-nowhere-cooking

Image copyright Laura Freeman, 2018, text copyright Dee Romito, 2018. Courtesy of little bee books.

Laura Freeman’s boldly colored, realistic artwork allows children to embrace the historical context of Romito’s biography through her expressive portraiture that introduces Georgia Gilmore, Rosa Parks, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and the members of Georgia’s Nowhere Club. A double-spread of the National Lunch Company’s segregated counter is visually striking as the divide comes at the book’s gutter, creating the side for white customers on the left and the side for black customers on the right. The injustice of this separation is expressed in the similar red clothing and dark hair of the woman on the right and the man on the left. Illustrations of crowds walking as buses go empty, attending the boycott strategy meetings, secretly buying pies, and filling Georgia’s home place readers at these scenes of the resistance movement. Freeman uses action, media coverage, and Georgia’s courtroom appearance to great effect. Knowledgeable readers will understand that making a positive difference continues across all generations.

Pies from Nowhere is a stunning book of empowerment for children and adults. The theme of using ones talents to make a difference is a timely lesson that kids will respond to. The book belongs in all classroom, school, and public libraries and is a top choice for home bookshelves as well.

Ages 6 – 9

little bee books, 2018 | ISBN 978-1499807202

Discover more about Dee Romito and her books on her website.

To learn more about Laura Freeman, her books, and her art, visit her website.

Picture Book Month Activity

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Books to Love, Books to Read Book Bag

 

True book lovers can’t go anywhere without a book (or two or three) to read along the way. As Picture Book Month begins, make this easy craft to turn a cloth bag into a kid-size book bag!

 

Supplies

  • Printable Templates: Books to Read Template | Books to Love Template
  • Small cloth bag, available from craft or sewing stores—Recyclable Idea: I used the bag that sheet sets now come in
  • Cloth trim or strong ribbon, available from craft or sewing stores—Recyclable Idea: I used the cloth handles from shopping bags provided from some clothing stores
  • Scraps of different colored and patterned cloth. Or use quilting squares, available at craft and sewing stores
  • Pen or pencil for tracing letters onto cloth
  • Scissors
  • Small sharp scissors (or cuticle scissors) for cutting out the center of the letters
  • Fabric glue
  • Thread (optional)
  • Needle (optional)

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Directions

  1. Print the sayings and cut out the letters
  2. Trace letters onto different kinds of cloth
  3. Cut out cloth letters
  4. Iron cloth bag if necessary
  5. Attach words “Books to Read” to one side of bag with fabric glue
  6. Attach words “Books to Love” to other side of bag with fabric glue
  7. Cut cloth trim or ribbon to desired length to create handles
  8. Glue (or sew) handles onto the inside edge of bag

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You can find Pies from Nowhere: How Georgia Gilmore Sustained the Montgomery Bus Boycott at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

Picture Book Review