Nonfiction Wednesday: The School the Aztec Eagles Built & Growing Peace

kidlit-frenzyNonfiction Wednesday is hosted by Alyson Beecher @ Kidlit Frenzy

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After the bombing of Pearl Harbor, Mexico pledged its support to the United States and the war effort.  In retaliation, German U-boats torpedoes two Mexican oil tankers.  Mexico’s small peace time army limited its ability to defend itself or participate in military actions, but its president assembled the country’s best pilots and formed Air Fighter Squadron 201 – the Aztec Eagles.  These pilots and their support crews were sent to the U.S. to train for fighting missions as part of the Allied forces engaged in military operations across the Pacific area under the command of General MacArthur.

The Aztec Eagles carried out many brave and successful missions in the Philippines, and returned to Mexico as celebrated war heroes.  But one of them, Sargent Angel Bocanegra, had left his mark even before he had left  Mexico for his training.  Bocanegra, a teacher, had been trying unsuccessfully to raise funds for a proper school for the children of his village.  When the Mexican president had asked the departing soldiers if they had any requests to make, Bocanegra had boldly stepped forward to ask for a school.  By the time the Aztec Eagles returned home after the war, this school had been built in their honor, and Bocanegra could return to his first passion: teaching.

Dorinda Makanaonalani Nicholson tells this  little known story in The School The Aztec Eagles Built: A Tribute to Mexico’s World War II Air Fighters.  I loved the many photographs throughout the book, which help tell this remarkable story.


Ricard Sobol’s Growing Peace: A Story of Farming, Music, and Religious Harmony is just the sort of book we need right now: a book about how people of many faiths can come together and create a community based on economic cooperation and religious harmony.  

J.J.Keki, a Ugandan coffee farmer and aspiring musician, was visiting New York City, the World Trade Center specifically, on the morning of September 11th., 2001.  Deeply affected by what he experienced, he returned home with a mission and an idea.

When he met with his neighbors, J.J. brought a message of cooperation and sharing.  What was the one thing they all had in common? Coffee.  His idea was that they form a cooperative for farming and selling their coffee.  If they worked together they might get a better price and also spread a hopeful message.  They could show the world that people of different religions could work and live together peacefully.

The Peace Kawomera coffee cooperative, has grown from 250 members in 2005 to 1,ooo members as of 2016.  Religious differences in the cooperative are honored and respected, and members work together for the collective good of their community and its children. The success J.J.’s mission gives us all hope.  Richard Sobol is an award-winning photojournalist, his stunning photographs are such an important part of J.J.’s story.

Nonfiction Wednesday:The First Step & The Great Gift

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Join the Nonfiction Picture Book Challenge 2016 hosted by Alyson Beecher @ Kid Lit Frenzy.

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The march toward justice is a long, twisting journey. Three steps forward, one step back.  One step forward, three back. Laws change and the march moves forward.  People resist change, and the march slows to a standstill, waiting for a better time.  Then, at last, ideas have changed enough and people have changed enough.  Finally, the march cannot be stopped.

I read this passage, from Susan E. Goodman’s picture book The First Step: How one Girl Put Segregation on Trial, with a sad sense of deja vu, because this is where we seem to be as a nation at this very moment, once again.  Sarah Roberts fought for the right to attend her neighborhood school in 1847 and lost;   and then came a better time, so that Linda Brown could fight the same fight in 1950, and win – the march moved forward.  It is important for us to read this story with our students now to remind ourselves that the fight for social justice is one that we can never step away from: there is always resistance to change, but we must move forward.

E.B. Lewis’ beautiful paintings set the scene for these parallel stories:

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Another timely book, is Their Great Gift: Courage, Sacrifice, and Hope in a New Land by John Coy, with photographs by Wing Young Huie:

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This is a sparely written but eloquent photo essay into the sacrifices people make for their families in bringing them into the United States in search of a better life.

They kept going day after day

so we’d have choices they didn’t have.

We read this in class today, in order to reflect upon what we are as a nation of immigrants many of  whom sacrificed their presents for their children’s futures.  Each photograph told such a rich story, and allowed for deep conversations.

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Nonfiction Wednesday: Ask The Experts Series


Alyson Beecher hosts Kid Lit Frenzy.  Follow the link to Alyson’s blog to read about more nonfiction books you need to read!

I discovered this series of nonfiction books last summer, and ordered a bunch of them for our non fiction genre study…a great move on my part!

Each topic (and there are many covered in this series, from medicine to space and government) is broken into smaller easy to digest segments, with  photographs other visual elements (all those non fiction features we want to teach our kids about!) to augment learning.

World Economy: What's the Future?Planet Under Pressure: Too Many People on Earth?

Aside from presenting information in an engaging way, the series also incorporates a section entitled “the debate” which presents two views on issues raised in each topic.  Our kids need practice (and exposure) in this kind of thinking, i.e. there are differing points of view about everything from economic issues to global warming, and that these points of view should be read about and considered.

The “For More Information” page at the end of the book is also a wonderful resource for kids to extend their learning.

Ask The Experts is a wonderful series – I look forward to purchasing more of these books!



Nonfiction Wednesday:- Prairie Dog Song:The Key to Saving North America’s Grasslands



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Prairie Dog Song is a stunning new non-fiction picture book that tells the story of the green and gold grasses that once were so abundant in North America, and then almost vanished entirely.  The jacket copy sums up this amazing rescue operation (which is still in progress):

For thousands of years, green and gold grasses covered North America from Canada to Mexico. The prairie and desert grasslands were home to a variety of animals, from small prairie dogs to huge bison. But in the nineteenth century, ranching and farming took hold in the grasslands, and over time many of the animals and plants vanished.

Then, in the late 1980s, scientists discovered a region in Mexico where green and gold grasses still waved and prairie dogs still barked. The scientists understood the importance of this grassland ecosystem and the prairie dogs’ key role in it. Could they now preserve the area and bring back its lost animals and plants?

Through a brilliant combination of song, text, and glorious illustrations:


the authors and illustrator have created a wonderful resource through which to learn more about the prairie that was and the prairie that is slowly but surely recovering.

Nonfiction Picture Book Wednesday: September 17th., 2014



   Alyson Beecher hosts this non fiction picture book round-up @  KidLit Frenzy.

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All Different Now: Juneteenth, the First Day of Freedom is Angela Johnson’s beautiful story of Juneteenth – the day the promise of the Emancipation Proclamation finally came to slaves of Galveston, Texas – June 19th., 1865. Told through the experience of one little girl who woke a slave and went to bed knowing that both she and her people were now, truly,  “forever free”.  E.B. Lewis’ beautiful illustrations make this book a real treasure to read and share.

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I teach the War of 1812 in my Social Studies curriculum – and this event always captures the attention of my sixth graders.  Jane Sutcliffe has written an arresting narrative of that day in The White House Is Burning: August 24, 1814, drawn from the first person accounts of those who were there – First Lady Dolley Madison, a British officer, and a nine-year-old slave. Paintings, political cartoons, and maps give this book lots of visual interest, as well, making this a wonderful text with which to teach history as well as the use of primary source documents.