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Posts Tagged «biography»

Brown Girl Dreaming

Friday, January 9th, 2015

 

ypl_woodson_Brown_Girl_Dreamingby Jacqueline Woodson, 336 pages, Grades 4-7

 

Jacqueline grew up in the 1960s living some of the time at her grandparents’ home in the south and later with her mother in New York City. Historic accounts of the civil rights movement run through her stories as these events impact her and her siblings’ lives. Jacqueline’s childhood is not easy; her mother leaves her father when she is still the baby of the family, living in the south makes her acutely aware of the racial divide in this country, and following her genius sister just a year behind in school makes her feel like a disappointment sometimes, but Jacqueline and her siblings are surrounded by people who love them and this lifts her spirit and warms her heart.  Jacqueline’s favorite gift growing up is a notebook, but it takes her some time to understand that writing will really be her occupation; people in those days thought of writing as a hobby. Jacqueline Woodson is an acclaimed author today, and this is her memoir in verse.

 

If you enjoy reading memoirs about the civil rights movement you might also like: Claudette Colvin: Twice Toward Justice, by Phillip M. Hoose, or  Warriors Don’t Cry: a Searing Memoir of the Battle to Integrate Little Rock’s Central High School, by Melba Beals.

 

Zeitoun

Saturday, November 16th, 2013

Zeitoun_loresby David Eggers, 337 pages, adult biography

Zeitoun is the biography of a man living in New Orleans at the time of Hurricane Katrina.  His full name is Abdulrahman Zeitoun, but everyone calls him Zeitoun for short.  He and his wife Kathy have been living in New Orleans for years raising their four kids and running their business, so when the threats of the hurricane come in at first they think the reports are exaggerated and that they will remain in the city and ride it out.  Eventually, though, they decide that Kathy will leave with the children for a few days, just to be safe.  Zeitoun wants to remain behind so that he can watch after all the different properties they own, and try to minimize the damage.

The hurricane, of course, does more damage than anyone can imagine and Zeitoun uses his canoe to row around the city helping those he can and keeping an eye on his property.  At least he does this until the Homeland Security police scoop him up and unlawfully throw him into a prison.  He is not given a call, or a lawyer and his family does not even know where he is. This frustrating and harrowing story reads like an adventure even though it is a true account of this family’s ordeal.

If you enjoy biographical adventure stories you might also like:  Into The Wild, by Krakauer, or Three Cups of Tea, by Mortenson, Between a Rock and a Hard Place, by Ralston.

 

Click here to see if the book is in the library.

 

Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass

Friday, March 29th, 2013

by Russell Freedman, 119 pages, Grades 5-9

“‘He was the architect of his own fortune, a self-made man,’ Douglass wrote of Lincoln.  He had ‘ascended high but with hard hands and honest work build the ladder on which he climbed’ –  words that Douglass, as he was aware, could easily have applied to himself” (Freedman 103).

 

Frederick Douglass and Abraham Lincoln had a lot in common:  they both grew up poor and uneducated, they both taught themselves because they greatly desired knowledge, and they both wanted to end the practice of slavery in the United States.  They were also very different men: Douglass was born a slave, Lincoln was born free, Douglass had to spend the first part of his life tortured and enslaved, and though Lincoln’s family was poor and he had to work hard he was never tortured.  Douglass and Lincoln also had different approaches to the problem of slavery, but they respected one another greatly even when they did not agree.

 

Freedman’s book is not only interesting, but also an easy read; you feel compelled to continue reading every word as though it were a suspenseful novel keeping you on the edge of your seat.

 

If you enjoy nonfiction, you might also like other books by Russell Freedman like:  The War to End All Wars, Who Was First:  Discovering the Americas, or The Voice that Challenged a Nation: Marion Anderson and the Struggle for Equal Rights.  

 

Click here to see if the book is in the library.

 

Outcasts United

Friday, March 29th, 2013

by Warren St. John, 226 pages, Grades 7 and up

This is a book of many true stories beginning with Luma Mufleh.  She is a Jordanian exchange student and avid soccer player, who decided to remain in the United States after completing her education at Smith University in Massachusetts.  She made her way to the suburbs of Atlanta Georgia and stumbled upon a very interesting city called Clarkston.  

The U.S. government had been relocating refugees since the 1980s and this little town had become extremely cosmopolitan.  People fleeing wars in their homelands of Bosnia, Afghanistan, Liberia, Ethiopia and many other countries all ended up thrown together in the town of Clarkston.  Mufleh was drawn to the place when she noticed their grocery store carried food she missed from home, but the thing that really grabbed her attention was the groups of young boys playing soccer on every available field she saw.  All of them were playing in bare feet, but they showed more passion for the game than any of the kids she was coaching in the suburbs.  She decided to bring a soccer program to Clarkston.  Mufleh coaches three teams of boys called the Fugees; this book is a collection of their stories and the teams’ stories.  

To watch a video about the team go to: http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=ItUYQhQ_CHg#!

 

 

The Other Wes Moore

Sunday, October 28th, 2012

the_other_wes_moore_bookcoverby Wes Moore, 239 pages, Adult Biography

READMONT BOOK OF 2012-13!

The author Wes Moore had a challenging childhood.  His father died when he was very young, his mom had to work multiple jobs to support their family after his death, and they had to live in neighborhoods plagued with drugs and gangs.  

Moore survived his turbulent youth, however, and went on to become a decorated war veteran, college graduate, and Rhodes scholar.  It was when he was in South Africa on his Rhodes fellowship that his mother told him about another young man, about his age, and from his home town, who had just been arrested for robbing a jewelry store; the robbers had killed a security guard. This young man’s name was also Wes Moore, and this Wes Moore was convicted to a life sentence in prison.  

The shock that there could be another person, with his identical name, growing up in a very similar situation who ended up in such a different place made the author want to understand the other Wes Moore, and how their lives had diverged so significantly.  This is the biography and autobiography of the two Wes Moores.

If you enjoy reading biographies of contemporary people, you might also enjoy The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind, by William Kamkwamba, or Steve Jobs: The Man Who Thought Different, by Karen Blumenthal, or Aung San Suu Kyi, by Sherry O'Keefe.

 

Click here to see if the book is in the library.

The Poet Slave of Cuba

Friday, September 24th, 2010

poet slaveBy Margarita Engle, Art by Sean Qualls    p. 183  – Grades 7-12 – biography

Trapped as a slave in a wealthy home in Cuba, Juan Francisco Manzano lived his life in fear of the cruel punishments of his masters.  This sad and harrowing story was uncovered because the young slave,  Manzano, wrote vivid poetry that describes his time as a slave.   In Cuba poetry is like television; many people perform poetry for others and stories are often carried across the country because people repeat the poems they have heard.  It is for this reason that the author, Margarita Engle, was inspired to write this biography in verse, paying tribute to Manzano’s work.  While enslaved Manzano could not stop creating poems in his head; sometimes his owners praised him for his creativity and other times he was severely punished.  The poems were part of Manzano and came to him as naturally as breathing; no punishment, no matter how harsh, could stop him from being himself.

Connections:  For other serious stories in verse try Aleutian Sparrow or Out of the Dust, both by Karen Hesse.  For stories about people escaping oppression try 5,000 Miles to Freedom: Ellen and William Craft’s Flight From Slavery, by Judith Bloom Fradin and Dennis Brindell Fradin, or The Year of Impossible Goodbyes, by Sook Nyul Choi.

Claudette Colvin: Twice Toward Justice

Friday, January 29th, 2010

claudette-colvin-twice-toward-justice-phillip-hoose-book-cover-artby Phillip Hoose   p. 104  Grades 6-8

I bet you know who Rosa Parks is and what she’s famous for, but have you ever  heard of Claudette Colvin?  She was a fifteen year old girl who refused to give up her seat on a Montgomery, Alabama bus nine months before Rosa Parks became famous for the same thing.

On March 2, 1955, fifteen year-old Claudette Colvin courageously refused to give up her seat on the bus to a white woman.  Two white police officers came onto the bus and ordered her to give up her seat.  When she refused, stating that it was her Constitutional right to sit there, they dragged  her off the bus, shoved her into a police car and handcuffed her.  On the way to the police station, they called her names and made disparaging comments about her as Claudette sat terrified in the backseat next to one of the officers.  She was charged with violating the segregation  law, disturbing the peace, and assaulting the policemen who had pulled her off the bus.

Why is it that Rosa Parks became the symbol of the Montgomery bus boycott and  is considered one of the people who started the Civil Rights Movement, but most of us have never heard of Claudette Colvin?  At first she was a heroine to the Black community for standing up to the unfair practice of segregated seating, but then she became viewed as a troublemaker, and even her classmates shunned her.   Leaders of the Civil Rights Movement felt it was too risky to have a teenager represent them.   Hurt and isolated, Claudette still summoned the courage to testify at the trial that ended bus segregation in Montgomery.

Connections:  Other good nonfiction books about teenagers active in the Civil Rights Movement include Marching for Freedom : Walk Together, Children, and Don’t You Grow Weary by Elizabeth Partridge, Warriors Don’t Cry by Melba Pattillo Beals, and Freedom’s Children : Young Civil Rights Activists Tell Their Own Stories by Ellen Levine.

The Trouble Begins at 8: A Life of Mark Twain in the Wild, Wild West

Friday, November 13th, 2009

trouble beginsby Sid Fleischman.  p. 224  Grades 5-9

Like his famous character Tom Sawyer, Samuel Clemens (a.k.a. Mark Twain) sought adventure and often found trouble in his early life.  His experiences in the small town of Hannibal, Missouri on the banks of the Mississippi River, getting lost in a cave and painting a fence, would become Tom’s experiences.  He worked a printing press, became a steamboat captain and took the stagecoach out West to earn his fortune during the Gold Rush. While he eventually struck gold, it wasn’t from digging in the hills.

Connections:  Other books by this author that help illuminate an individual or a time period in history include:  Escape! The Story of the Great Houdini, The Entertainer and the Dybbuk, Jim Ugly, Bandit’s Moon, and The Whipping Boy.

Lang Lang: Playing with Flying Fingers

Sunday, August 23rd, 2009

lang langby Lang Lang with Michael French.  p. 215  Grades 5-8

Would you think that watching Tom and Jerry cartoons could inspire you to become one of the world’s greatest pianists?  Well, that’s what happened to famous pianist Lang Lang.  When he was three years old, he loved watching cartoons, especially Tom and Jerry.  In one cartoon episode, Tom, the cat, is dressed up in a tuxedo and playing a concert piano.  He awakens little Jerry, the mouse, who has been sleeping on the strings, and then the mischief begins with Jerry jumping out of the piano and onto the keys.   The cartoon made young Lang Lang realize how much fun playing the piano could be, and in his imagination, he was Tom one minute and Jerry the next.  By the time he was five years old, he was winning major competitions.   His memoir not only tells of his passion for music, but also of the very long hours of practice and work.  He was born in Shenyang, China to poor parents.  His father was determined that Lang Lang would be a famous pianist and put tremendous pressure on his son to excel.  At times heartbreaking, this memoir is a must read for any aspiring musician.

Connections:  You might also enjoy these music biographies:  John Lennon:  All I Want Is the Truth; The Voice that Changed a Nation: Marian Anderson and the Struggle for Equal Rights; Lives of the Musicians:  Good Times, Bad Times (And What the Neighbors Thought); and Johann Sebastian Bach:  And the Art of Baroque Music.   To see a video of Lang Lang performing, check out this link.  We apologize for the brief commercial.