My Heart Glow: The Birth of American Sign Language

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My Heart Glow: Alice Cogswell, Thomas Gallaudet, and the Birth of American Sign Language

by Emily McCully

A warm retelling of how one small deaf girl’s need opened up the first school for the deaf in America. Picturebook.

Ages 5-10

Recommended

Available from public libraries

Reviewer: Doreen

 

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Helen Keller

When checking out nonfiction books on a famous life like this one, there are so many options, that it can be overwhelming. Disappointing, too, if you order books without seeing them, and they turn out to be dull. So here are a variety of books for a variety of ages on Helen Keller.

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Hand in Hand: based on the real-life story of Helen Keller and Martha Washington, by Jean Little

The author develops this historical fiction novel based on the real relationship that Helen had as a girl with Martha, the cook’s daughter, who was her first friend.  Chapter book, ages 7-10.

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Annie and Helen, by Deborah Hopkinson and Raul Colon

A picture book that begins with Helen’s inability to communicate and ends with the joy of her first letter written home by herself. A thorough and clear explanation of Annie’s methods, with large illustrations for children, and real excerpts from Annie Sullivan’s journal at the time. Picture book, ages 5-10.

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Helen Keller and the Big Storm, by Patricia Lakin, easy reader

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Helen Keller’s Best Friend Belle, by Holly M. Barry,  picturebook

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Helen’s Big World: The Life of Helen Keller,  by Doreen Rappaport

This picture book is similar in style to Annie and Helen, but covers Helen’s whole life from babyhood to death. The large pictures make it attractive to children, and the text is very clear, interesting and informative. Quotes sprinkled throughout are from Helen’s journal this time, instead of Annie’s. Well-done. Picturebook, ages 5-10.

The Private World of Tasha Tudor

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by Tasha Tudor and Richard Brown

Best known for her children’s artwork from half a century ago, this book gives a photographic look and biography into Tasha’s later life as an elderly lady in America who was convinced she should have lived 150 years ago.

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Her story and pictures will inspire adult readers who love the idea of being self-sufficient, working with pioneer-time tools, corgis, or true English-style cottage gardens.

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Ages 16 and up

Available from public libraries

Reviewer: Doreen

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Misty of Chincoteague

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By Marguerite Henry

Here is an adventure for horse-loving children that will introduce you to a wild horse band on two real islands off the coast of North America. The story focuses on the efforts of a brother and sister to get a pony of their own, and speculates a little on the history and legend of how the first wild ponies got to North America. The children’s success in the story may seem a little too-good-to-be-true, but the author assures her readers at the beginning that though the order of the events in the book may have been shuffled, the events did truly happen!

Bonus: There are many more “horse” books written by this author. It is too bad that public libraries don’t seem to carry many of others.

Recommended for horse-adventure lovers

Chapter Book or Unabridged Audio Book

Available from public libraries

Ages 6-12

Reviewer: Doreen

Leonardo’s Horse

leonardo's horse

By Jean Fritz

Nonfiction/biography doesn’t get much better than this! Enjoy this picture book that tells a true story that begins in the late 1400’s with young Leonardo daVinci in Italy, and ends in current-day Michigan in Frederick Meijers Gardens!  Here is a story that satisfies an interest in not only the artistry behind this 24 foot bronze horse, but also tells the actual process of how such a big statue is made. Overall, a wonderful depiction of Leonardo’s times and creativity.

Below: a peek inside the book

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Ages 6 and up

Picturebook

Nonfiction

Available from: public libraries

Recommended

Reviewer: Doreen

 

Alexander the Great

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by Jane Bingham

A real chapter book, it still includes colourful illustrations on every page. Very interestingly told narrative. Not told from a Christian worldview but great for adventure-lovers or if (you) your child needs to brush up on that period of time.

Part of the USBorne Famous Lives series.

History, nonfiction, 64 pages

Ages 6-12

Available from: Hamilton Public Library

Recommended

Reviewer: Doreen

The Boy on Fairfield Street: How Ted Geisel Grew up to Become Dr. Seuss

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By Kathleen Krull

A fascinating, warm telling of Ted Geisel’s childhood, school years, and how he became “Dr. Seuss” in his early twenties. Both the story-telling and wonderful pictures make it an enjoyable interesting read for those who wonder about the creative mind behind the creatures that walk, leap, fly, swim and creep across the pages of his books!

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Biography, Picturebook

Ages 5 and up

Available from: Hamilton Public Library

Recommended

Reviewer: Doreen

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First We Have Coffee and Then We Talk

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By Margaret Jensen

Looking for a warm, encouraging book to read over coffee? This is a book I have gladly shared with friends over the years. Although there is hardship woven through many of the true tales of this immigrant preacher’s family (from Scandinavia to America in the early 1900’s), there is much joy and wisdom to be learned from “Mama” who doesn’t live with the easiest of husbands, yet lives out the truth that the secret to a happy life is a thankful heart, no matter the circumstances, and who wields a rod and a pepper shaker, yet in whose tongue is the law of kindness. An easy-to-read biography with an uplifting reminder of God’s faithfulness.

Please Note: This book can also be found in the four part volume, The Sun is Shining on the Other Side, where you will find more about the family: there is a section on Papa, one daughter, and her children. Papa’s stories shed light on just how difficult and unreasonable Papa really was, but of all the stories, none shine with the warmth of Mama’s section, so I especially recommend the single volume First We Have Coffee and Then We Talk.

Biography

Ages: Adult

Paperback

Recommended

Reviewer: Doreen

Carnation, Lily, Lily, Rose: The Story of a Painting

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By Hugh Brewster

If you have ever seen a print of this classic painting, you will remember it (see the book cover above). The lanterns seem to glow with a light all their own on, and the year and a half that John Singer Sargent put into trying to capture the warm colours of twilight were well-spent! Carnation, Lily, Lily, Rose chronicles that year and a half through the eyes of a young girl who was really there, who posed for the great painter. The author, Hugh Brewster, gives a personal, true look at a historical figure, while weaving through it a little girl’s story of disappointment and jealousy which fade with time.

The book and pages themselves are attractive as the publishers did an excellent job, using many of Sargent’s own paintings throughout the story, as well as some old photographs of relevant times and places (without making the book look tedious or encyclopedia-ish).

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Readers will definitely gain an appreciation for the massive amount of time and thought that goes into a great work of art, and perhaps be inspired to pick up a paintbrush themselves… The author, Brewster, is rightly praised for his “experience at bringing historical subjects to life for young readers,” and I am excited to look into his other books as recommended on the back cover. I wish all art appreciation books were so wonderful!

Non-fiction, Biography, History

Harcover, picture book, 42 pages

Ages: approximately 7 -12

Recommended

Reviewer: Doreen

The Kite that Bridged Two Nations

By Alexis O’Neill

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If your kids like kite-flying, bridge-building, or just a challenge, this real-life story will intrigue. The author has chosen an interesting moment in history: the contest to span the Niagara River in order to get the first line across for a bridge. There is little known about the boy who won the contest, but using the facts she has—along with empathy for boys and kite-flying—she has created a wonderfully-told story. The colour illustrations help bring the reader back to a different period in time, giving the feel of harder, plainer times, among hard-working people.

Picturebook, Nonfiction

Available from Hamilton Public Library

Ages 5-12

Recommended

Reviewer: Doreen