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Informational Books

Walt Whitman: Words for America by Barbara Kerley



Kerley, Barbara. Walt Whitman: Words for America. 2004. Ill. by Brian Selznick. New York, New York: Scholastic Press. ISBN: 0-4399-35791-8


This beautifully illustrated biography about American poet Walt Whitman focuses on Whitman as a proud American patriot as he writes poetry about the country he loves and voluntarily cares for wounded soldiers during and after the Civil War. We watch Whitman’s early life as a young printer’s apprentice and follow him on his American travels which inspire his first novel, Leaves of Grass. In his older age, Whitman is unable to enlist in the army during the Civil War, however, Whitman volunteers to take care of the young injured soldiers which inspires him to publish his final work, titled Drum-Taps.  


The beautiful illustrations in this book carry the story asBarbara Kerley discusses Walt Whitman and his love for words and writing in his life, while also focusing on the inspirations for his writing. Brian Selznick, a celebrated author and illustrator, brings the story to life in beautifully detailed and colorful full page illustrations. Several lines in each text are echoed in the illustrations as we learn about Whitman’s childhood and love of words and writing, to his traveling within the United States, to his final days. Within the book Kerley also implants a connection between Whitman’s writing and his life, inserting Whitman’s own poetry into the text which echo the imagery.


“With a lyricism and an ardor that echoes Whitman’s own, Kerley writes of his passion for both language and for “rambling”…. Selznick’s versatile illustrations encompass a stark realism…and surreal whimsy…. Their enthusiasm is convincing and contagious.”  Publishers Weekly, starred review

“Splendid.”  Horn Book

“Vibrant.”  New York Times


Awards won:  From the Barbara Kerley website:

Sibert Honor Book
California Book Award
Best Book Award — Oppenheim Toy Portfolio
ALA Notable Book
Best Children’s Books — Publishers Weekly
Best Illustrated Books — New York Times
100 Titles for Reading and Sharing — New York Public Library
Nominated for Young Reader Awards in Kentucky, New Mexico, and Tennessee

Related books: The Dinosaurs of Waterhouse Hawkins by Barbara Kerley, Poetry for Young People: Walt Whitman by Jonathan Levin


Barbara Kerley Teacher’s Guide:

PBS Walt Whitman Civil War  Lesson Plan Guide:

ELA Teacher’s Guide to Poems by Walt Whitman:



Hitler Youth: Growing Up in Hitler’s Shadow by Susan Campbell Bartoletti



Bartoletti, Susan Campbell. Hitler Youth: Growing up in Hitler’s Shadow. 2005. New York, New York: Scholastic Press. ISBN 0-439-35379-3


In this social history book, author Susan Campbell Bartoletti documents the stories from the young people of the Hitler Youth and how they became a large support and influence for the National Socialist or Nazi party from the years 1933-1945. The stories of the youth of Germany are told from accounts of various positions in the party, from those youth who proudly served the Nazi Party, those who felt pressured to do so, to those who rebelled against it, despite risking their own lives while doing so. Critical accounts from those who experienced the Nazi Regime firsthand take center stage in this riveting book.


In Hitler Youth, Susan Campbell Bartoletti searches for real accounts from the youth who had firsthand experiences of life within the Nazi regime. Images displayed throughout the book show black and white photographs of those whose stories are being revealed, or of images of groups or individuals of Hitler Youth. We also see photographs of war scenes, destroyed buildings, scenery and maps from the time period. We first learn about each youth, look at their young faces, and then as the book continues, we unravel their stories, one by one. In the end, we read about their legacy. Bartoletti helps the reader understand exactly how such a large organization grew and became so successful in it’s mission with the influence of persuasion, brainwashing (through school lessons), lies, and through fear of isolation, imprisonment, or death.


“Essential for WWII collections as well as teaching units on conformity, peer pressure and resistance. Superb.” – Kirkus Review

“Yes, the Hitler youth is mentioned in most young adult nonfiction on the subject, but to see through this lens creates a completely different book! Bartoletti is quickly becoming a nonfiction writer who tops lists with her engaging writing, viewpoint, obvious dedication to research and knowledge of how important pictures are to the telling for this audience.” – Children’s Literature, Susie Wilde


Awards won: Newbery Honor, Sibert Honor, Orbis PIctus Honor, Parent’s Gold Choice Award, Sydney Taylor Notable, Pennsylvania Carolyn Field Award

Related books: They Called Themselves the KKK: The Birth of an American Terrorist Group, Hitler Youth by Michael H. Kater


Teaching books website:

Facing History, Life For German Youth in the 1930’s:


Actual Size by Steve Jenkins



Jenkins, Steve. Actual Size. 2004. Boston, Massachusetts: Houghton Mifflin Company. ISBN-10: 0547512910 ISBN-13: 978-0547512914


This non-fiction picture book displays the actual size of various insects and animals. Two page illustrations display the animal’s actual sizes and contain listings of measurements and weight. Of the many animals that Jenkins displays in this book are a bear, a saltwater crocodile, and a goliath beetle.


Steve Jenkins creates this fun book as an eye opening view of the sizes of different animals that children might never see up close. At the end of the book, Jenkins also features basic information about the animal or insect discussed, including weight and eating habits. Jenkins also features animal parts which would be too big to include in the book, such as the gorilla’s hand, in which students can view and compare their own hand print to. The large scale images invite the reader to touch, compare, imagine and even use their critical thinking skills. This book is a great book to build upon in a science or math lesson plan.

d. REVIEWS from Steve Jenkins’ website:

Jenkins’ artwork is gorgeous (a gatefold of a frog in midleap is particularly memorable)…An unusual, unusually effective tool for connecting children to nature’s astonishing variety. – Booklist, starred review

Jenkins’s imaginative paper collages work their usual magic in transcending their medium to capture the spirit and detail of their subjects. – The Bulletin, starred review

This beautiful book is an enticing way to introduce children to the glorious diversity of our natural world or to illustrate to budding scientists the importance of comparison, measurement, observation, and record keeping. A thoroughly engaging read aloud and a must-have for any collection. – School Library Journal


Awards won: Orbis Pictus Honor Book, CHILD Magazine Best Book of the Year, A Booklist Editor’s Choice, A New York Public Library’s 100 Titles for Reading and Sharing, Chicago Public Library Best-of-the-Best, Editor’s Choice Top of the List Winnder 2004 Youth Nonfiction, The Children’s Literature Choice List, 2005

Related books: Biggest, Strongest, Fastest by Steve Jenkins, Prehistoric Actual Size by Steven Jenkins


Read Write Think:

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Children’s Books Teacher’s Guide:

Washington Childrens’ Choice Picture Book Award Nominees, page 3:



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This entry was posted on July 17, 2013 by .
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