‘Funny Farm: My Unexpected Life with 600 Rescue Animals’ by Laurie Zaleski is touching, charming, and humorous

Funny Farm by Laurie Zaleski

“Funny Farm: My Unexpected Life with 600 Rescue Animals” by Laurie Zaleski is not what I was expecting at all. We know from the first page, the Prologue, that it’s about how Zaleski rescues animals, but what is unexpected is that more than half the book is about her childhood, her parents’ abusive relationship, and how her mother left and raised them in a tiny, dilapidated house where she also took in animals of every size, shape, and need. This book is the best kind of nonfiction—it’s nonfiction that reads like a novel, and it’s hard to put down. We want to know more about Zaleski’s family and how they will survive in the shack where they end up after leaving their very nice suburban home. We also want to know how Zaleski ends up with a farm and over 600 animals.

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Two picture books that share uplifting memorials of 9/11

While most adults were alive and watching as the horror of 9/11 flashed before us on a television screen, there is a new generation of people, some young adults, who were not alive when the US was attacked on that infamous day. I remember that I was in my first year teaching fifth grade. When we heard what had happened, I turned on the television and we watched in horror as the second plane flew into the second tower. I remember telling my students that this was an event that would change the world, and that it was an event that they would never forget.

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‘Life Glows On: Reconnecting With Your Creativity to Make the Rest of Your Life the Best of Your Life’ by Claire Cook is perfect for jump-starting your creative juices

Life Glows On by Claire Cook

a”Life Glows On: Reconnecting With Your Creativity to Make the Rest of Your Life the Best of Your Life” is yet another terrific piece of non-fiction by popular and prolific women’s lit author Claire Cook. It’s one that happily invites re-reading — several times — to thoroughly dig into Cook’s many thoughtful ideas about creativity. In her first nonfiction book, “Never Too Late: Your Roadmap to Reinvention,” Cook shares her story of reinvention. And regarding her subsequent nonfiction book, “Shine On: How to Grow Awesome Instead of Old,” I said, “….we are fortunate enough to be served double and triple helpings of good and wise advice, humor-filled entertainment, lovely and touching memories of events from the author’s very full life, and dollops of her unique ability to communicate ideas for helping “forty-to-forever” women face the challenges and vagaries of advancing age. And to become more awesome to boot.”

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Picture books and beginning chapter books: Biographies about important people and events

Reading biographies about important people—those who live near and far—is crucial for young minds to learn that at heart, we are all alike, and also to learn about people whose actions can inspire the rest of us to be better and think about how our actions can affect others.

Some American heroes include Dr. Fauci, the physician and scientist who led the fight against COVID-19 during the pandemic; Shirley Chisholm, the first Black woman in Congress; and Hallie Morse Daggett, the first female fire guard in the US. All of these people serve as inspiration to others to fight for what they believe in as well as to help others. There are also quiet heroes, people whose names aren’t familiar in most households. Frieda Caplan was a woman who changed the way we eat, and Nicholas WInton saved the lives of children in the Holocaust. These people, and others, are featured in these children’s books which should all be considered for classroom and library shelves.

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National Geographic Kids hits a home run with summer reads kids will LOVE

Ask any teacher what they want kids to do over the summer and most will reply: read. Of course we teachers all want kids to be outside, enjoying the summer weather and swimming and playing, but we also want them reading. Learning to enjoy reading, and reading for the sake of enjoyment, is a pastime that will have lifelong benefits. A person who reads is an informed person who is better able to analyze what is fact and what is fiction.

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Incredibly — ‘Better, Not Bitter: Living On Purpose in the Pursuit of Racial Justice’ by Yusef Salaam an inspiring read

Better Not Bitter by Yusef Salaam

The set of blazing emotions provoked by Yusef Salaam’s memoir, “Better, Not Bitter: Living On Purpose in the Pursuit of Racial Justice,” includes strong doses of disgust, shame, anger — and inspiration. In 1989, five teenagers, all Black or Hispanic, were convicted in the notorious case of a young White female jogger who had been raped, beaten, tortured, and left for dead in Central Park. Salaam was one of those five teenagers.

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‘Poppy in the Wild’ by Teresa J. Rhyne a story of love and determination

Poppy in the Wild by Theresa Rhyne

The title of the story, “Poppy in the Wild: A Lost Dog, Fifteen Hundred Acres of Wilderness, and the Dogged Determination that Brought Her Home” by Teresa J. Rhyne is a bit misleading. It’s not really just the story of a beagle from China who escapes from her foster family and gets lost in a California wilderness area. It’s also the story of Teresa (I feel as if we are on a first name basis) and her love for animals. 

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Three Mothers: Unappreciated, Unnoticed, Unknown

The Three Mothers by Anna Malaika Tubbs

Their names were Berdis Baldwin, Louise Little, and Alberta King. The percentage of Americans who might recognize those three names is approximately zero. But their lives, struggles, and accomplishments are every bit as important as those of the people we generally acknowledge as American heroes. And that is why Anna Malaika Tubbs’ detailed account of their lives is so significant and timely. Her study, “The Three Mothers,” shines a brilliant light on the influence these three women exerted in the lives of their sons — James Baldwin, Malcolm X, and Martin Luther King, Jr.

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‘I Just Wanted To Save My Family,’ a memoir by Stéphan Pélissier

I Just Wanted to Save My Family by Stéphan Pélissier

Stéphan Pélissier’s memoir, “I Just Wanted to Save My Family,” enlightens us by aiming an unforgivingly bright beam on the injustices engendered by the network of dark systems and practices that define governments and authoritarian figures all over the world. Unfettered nationalism. Corrupt populism. Cruel tyrannies. Stubborn bureaucracies and the frustrating red tape that characterizes them. Pélissier came face to face with all those dark realities because he dared to attempt to save his Syrian in-laws from the terrors of the government of Bashar al-Assad. The narrator/protagonist/attorney simply wanted to bring his wife’s family to France, his home.

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Three important nonfiction picture books teach about wildlife and conservation

Nonfiction picture books for children are an essential way of emphasizing the importance of reading informational text to learn about the world around us. Most children are fascinated by animals and the environment they see every time they venture outdoors, whether it’s a city environment, like the cougar encounters in “Cougar Crossing: How Hollywood’s Celebrity Cougar Helped Build a Bridge for City Wildlife” or a coastal environment such as those in “Chase the Moon, Tiny Turtle” and “Beneath the Waves.” These three picture books span a wide reader audience from the simply rhyming story of turtles hatching and trying to reach the sea to the much more complex National Geographic Kids book about myriad creatures who live on, under, and near the ocean. Continue reading

‘A Dog’s Day: I Am Sammy, Trusted Guide’ by Catherine Stier is one in a early chapter book series about working dogs

“A Dog’s Day” is a new series by Catherine Stier for early chapter book readers about working dogs and their various different jobs. In “A Dog’s Day: I Am Sammy, Trusted Guide,” readers learn about guide dogs and what they do. Sammy, the working dog, tells his story in first person narration and we learn about his training and how important it is that guide dogs be able to practice something called “intelligent disobedience.” That’s an important concept for children to learn, and they also learn that it’s important not to bother working dogs or ask to pet them because they shouldn’t be distracted. The story is told in an engaging manner and Sammy’s adventures are exciting enough to keep the readers interested. The illustrations by Francesca Rosa add visual interest for young readers making the jump from picture books and early readers to short chapter books. Continue reading