July 15, 2016

Fiction Friday: Chapter 6 {Picture Book Edition}

Welcome back to another lovely installment of Fiction Friday. 


This week I'm featuring some of the picture books off the 2016-2017 Bluebonnet Nominees List.

All the books are either biography or literary non-fiction, so it's no surprise that I enjoyed them all. I found this year's selections to be well written, beautifully illustrated, and filled with captivating stories.

Mesmerized: How Ben Franklin Solved A Mystery

that Baffled All of France

Written by Mara Rockliff, Illustrated by Iacopo Bruno

In this book, readers learn the steps in the scientific method, gain an understanding of the placebo effect, discover where the word mesmerized comes from, and hear an exciting story about Ben Franklin. Seriously, this book has it all!

Mesmerized follows the story of Dr. Mesmer, a doctor from Vienna and his quick rise to fame. Back in the 1770s, Dr. Mesmer was astonishing Europe with his new medical treatments. He claimed the discovery of a new invisible force - a new type of magnetism that was healing people instantly. He would wave his iron wand and make people feel better. It was strange. It was uncanny. And it sounded too good to be true to King Louis.  So, he called in Ben Franklin. Using the scientific method, Ben set out to learn more about this strange and remarkable new discovery and uncover the secrets of Dr. Mesmer and his magic wand.

This was a lively and fun read! The story grabs the reader from the beginning and the illustrations are the perfect accompaniment to the text. It would be a great book to read as an introduction to the scientific method or you could use it for just about any reading strategy. Recommended for grades 2-5, this is must-have for your teacher shelf.

The Amazing Age of John Roy Lynch

Written by Chris Barton, Illustrated by Don Tate

The Amazing Age of John Roy Lynch is a biography of a truly remarkable man whom I bet you have never heard of.  I certainly hadn't. John Roy Lynch began his life as a slave and ended up a elected to the U.S. Congress! 

After living his first sixteen years as a slave in Mississippi, John Roy set out to create a new life for himself after the Emancipation Proclamation.  He was a skilled reader, writer, and orator who held many odd jobs along the way including working as waiter, photographer, and Justice of the Peace. Ten years after leaving slavery and at the ripe old age of 24, he was elected to the Mississippi State House of Representatives. He even became the Speaker of the House.  Like I said, he was a truly remarkable man.

Having never heard about John Roy Lynch, I was engrossed in the history surrounding his story. His political success and accomplishments in the years following the Civil War were absolutely incredible for anyone, let alone a former slave. Barton does an incredible job of keeping it real with the history and directly addresses the anger the South felt after the war and the violence that followed.  The comic-like illustrations help soften the text while keeping true to the story and the history. 

I have to admit, this book left me with tons of questions about this time period and an thirst for more knowledge about this era in our country's history. I felt like I missed a huge chunk of American history, but this expertly crafted book has opened my eyes.

If you teach U.S. History, then you need this book!  Although ideal for grades 2-5, the story is inspiring and worthy of all ages.  I can't wait to blow my students away with this powerful story.

A Fine Dessert

by Emily Jenkins & Sophie Blackall

Did you know that blackberry fool is one of the oldest desserts in Western culture, dating back to the 16th century?  Me either. In fact, I didn't even know that blackberry fool was a classic dessert made from blackberries (duh!), sugar, vanilla, and heavy cream. It sounds absolutely divine!

In this beautifully illustrated picture book, Jenkins take us on the history of this "fine dessert." Although the ingredients have stayed the same, the methods of creating and the historical context of the creations have changed from 1710 to 1810 to 1910 to 2010.

The concept behind this book is very cool.

Unfortunately, this picture book has caused quite a stir for being racially insensitive.

When I read what others had to say and looked back at the book, I understood.  I found myself viewing the book in a whole new light. In fact, the author, Emily Jenkins, has publicly apologized saying, "I have come to understand that my book, while intended to be inclusive and truthful and hopeful, is racially insensitive. I own that and am very sorry." (School Library Journal, Nov. 2015)

That being said, the book is out there.  And, if you are like me and teach in Texas, it is one of our Bluebonnet nominees this year, so it can't be ignored. Luckily, as teachers we have an opportunity to facilitate great conversations in our classrooms around this book. 

Teachers could use this as an opening to model critical thinking and looking at historical biases within a text. The pages set in 1810 offer a great opportunity to take a closer look at the time period and ask ourselves as readers some poignant questions:

  • Would that have really happened? Why or why not?  
  • Is this a honest portrayal of the life of slave during that time?  
  • If not, why does the book portray the story in that light?  
  • What other messages might the author be trying to show?   
  • Do you agree or disagree with this author's choices?  
  • What does this make you think about when reading future texts about slavery?
  • How has this changed you as a reader?  

By asking these tough questions we have the chance to broaden our student's thinking, awaken the critical reader inside, and encourage them to look at the same piece of text through a variety of perspectives. We have an opportunity change the way they approach reading a historical text.

This book is generally recommended for younger children, aged 4-8, however, I think it is more suitable in upper elementary or even middle school classrooms as simple text that would yield deep thinking and ignite classroom discussions.


I just love discovering new picture books! Especially ones that can be used in the classroom as mentor texts, comprehension lessons, pure enjoyment etc, etc, etc. Great literature can be used and incorporated so many different ways.

Have you read any of the books above?  Do any of these titles fit your classroom reading needs? I would love to know how you plan on using these books in the classroom. Please share your thoughts, comments, and recommendations below.

Now, it's your turn to link up with some new discoveries or old. 
Don't forget to click through all the links below for more great children's literature recommendations.

When linking up, please remember to grab the Fiction Friday button and link back to my blog. Also, please choose an image of a book you blogged about for the link.

Thank you and happy reading!

1 comment:

  1. I LOVE these books you've described - especially the one involving Ben Franklin. I'm going to put these on my list of books to get for BTS which isn't until after Labor Day for me (thankfully).


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