Take a Picture of Me, James VanDerZee!

September 26, 2017

by Andrea J Loney
Illustrated by Keith Mallett


This picture book biography tells the life of James VanDerZee, a young boy who saved up his money to buy his first camera and who used his hard work and gentle spirit to grow a photography business in Harlem.

This book is great to show entrepreneurial spirit, grit, and perseverance.  It also explores the theme of following your dream.


Helen Thayer’s Arctic Adventure

April 6, 2016

Helen Thayer’s Arctic Adventure: A Woman and a Dog Walk to the North Pole

by Sally Isaacs, illustrated by Iva Sasheva

Use this when teaching:

  • Biographies
  • Women’s History Month (March)
  • Compare/Contrast — Compare the adventures of Helen Thayer from this book to Betty Skelton in the book Daredevil
  • Setting and achieving goals
  • Inspiration for creating Hopes and Dreams.
    • Helen Thayer had a specific goal in mind: she wanted to trek to the magnetic North Pole.  Nothing was going to get in her way.  She trained; she studied; she prepared.  She worked toward her Hope and Dream of becoming the first woman to travel alone to the magnetic North Pole.
  • Problem Solving
    • Many things did not go as planned for Helen Thayer on her trek to the magnetic north pole.  She had to think on her feet to solve many problems only using the supplies she packed along with her.
  • Theme: Perseverance

Polar Dream Classroom Guide


Whose Hands Are These? A Community Helper Guessing Book

March 16, 2016

Whose Hands Are These? A Community Helper Guessing Book
by Miranda Paul; illustrated by Luciana Navarro Powell

Click for more information on this title

Blurb from the catalog: Rhyming text offers readers clues for matching busy hands to the correct community helper including cooks, farmers, scientists, mechanics, physicians, and teachers.

Who doesn’t love a guessing book?!  Use this book for two skills: learning about community helpers and practicing rhyming words.  Readers get clues about the community helpers, with an extra bonus that the community helper rhymes with the text right before the statement “These hands belong to…”

A perfect addition to the Kindergarten Community Helpers Social Studies unit!

Pair this book with the Community Helpers app ($1.99 in the app store) and our Community Helpers books found on our school’s My Capstone Library.

Why are there Stripes on the American Flag?

March 16, 2016

Why Are There Stripes on the American Flag
By Martha E. H. Rustad; Illustrated by Kyle Poling

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Blurb from the catalog: Discusses the history of the flag of the United States and the importance of showing respect to the flag as a symbol of the nation.

The third chapter of this nonfiction picture book is all about the Pledge of Allegiance.  Do you have students who are struggling to understand what the Pledge is and what it means?  Read this book to help young students understand some of the tougher words and the meaning of the Pledge.

This book is a perfect read aloud for the Kindergarten and 1st grade Social Studies units on American Symbols.

Other books in this series (that we will soon have in the library—they are being processed now):

  • Why is the Statue of Liberty Green?
  • What’s Inside the Lincoln Memorial

Other books in this series that are available from the public library:

  • Can We Ring the Liberty Bell?
  • Can You Sing the Star Spangled Banner?
  • Is a Bald Eagle Really Bald?


Impact: The Story of the September 11 Terrorist Attacks

February 24, 2016

Impact: The Story of the September 11 Terrorist Attacks

Most appropriate for 4th grade and up, this narrative nonfiction book tells about the terror of September 11, 2001 from multiple perspectives. Chapters unfold as the reader meets a passenger on Flight 93 (the plane that crashed in Pennsylvania), an air traffic controller at Washington D.C.’s Dulles airport, a worker in the south tower of the World Trade Center, a worker who happened to be in the elevator of the north tower of the World Trade Center, NYPD firefighters responding to the call for help, the medial relations person from the Pentagon, and a Fox News reporter.  All of their stories weave together to describe the heartbreak that happened on September 11.

This book is a great resource for lessons about generating questions related to text.  Students often have many questions about what happened that day; this book could be the catalyst to teach a reading comprehension strategy while teaching about the emotions and events from September 11, 2001.

According to Capstone, this book is perfect for Common Core standards about narrative nonfiction and exploring multiple accounts of an event.

Resources to use in follow up lessons:

Follow up your learning about September 11 with the poetry book September 12th or the narrative nonfiction picture book 14 Cows for America.

Cover imageDescription of September 12th: Conveys the sense of hope and comfort found in the routine of everyday activities following the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001

Cover imageDescription of 14 Cows for America: Presents an illustrated tale of a gift of fourteen cows given by the Maasai people of Kenya to the U.S. as a gesture of comfort and friendship in the wake of the attacks of September 11, 2001.

Capstone Press: A Primary Source History Series

February 23, 2016

Primary Source History

Capstone Publishing has an excellent new nonfiction series showing how researchers incorporate primary sources into their writing.

Quoted on the Table of Contents of each book: “Primary sources are newspaper articles, photographs, speeches, or other documents that were created during an event.  They are great ways to see how people spoke and felt during that time.  You’ll find primary sources…throughout this book.  Within the text [of the book], primary source quotations are colored red and set in italic type.”

With instruction, students begin to see how nonfiction authors incorporate primary sources into their writing.  Lessons can surround how the primary sources add to the understanding of new information and feel of nonfiction writing.

Primary Source History books in the Lowell library:

  • Slavery in the United States
  • Dust Bowl
  • Westward Expansion
  • U.S. Independence
  • Gold Rush
  • American Revolution
  • War of 1812
  • U.S.  Civil War

These topics touch fourth and fifth grade social studies standards.
Meets the Common Core State Standards for analyzing multiple accounts of an event.

Ellis Island: An Interactive History Adventure

January 6, 2016

Ellis Island: An Interactive History Adventure

by Michael Burgan

Book blurb from the catalog: Presents an interactive history adventure in which the reader can learn about life for an immigrant arriving at Ellis Island in the 1900s. Offers three story paths, thirty-two choices, and nineteen endings. Also includes a timeline, a glossary, and further resources.

After reading the introduction that gives background information on Ellis Island and immigration, readers use the information that they have learned to try and survive being an immigrant going through Ellis Island.

It is a GREAT read aloud for 3rd grade during the immigration social studies unit.

Nonfiction Choose Your Own Adventure books are great books to use for mentor texts when teaching the reading strategies of

  • compare/contrast (there are always multiple paths students can take within one scenario) and
  • determining importance (using the information that was in the introduction chapter to help them survive the different scenarios).