Allison's Book Bag

Posts Tagged ‘Sharon Robinson

The remaining four Golden Sower picture book nominees are about sports heroes. Three of them are about males, with two of them written by their family members. Normally, I like to organize books alphabetically by author, but this time I’m putting the Catching the Moon first because it’s the exception in being about a female athlete.

CATCHING THE MOON by Crystal Hubbard

Crystal Hubbard has always enjoyed writing, which led her to work at a newspaper. Journalism gave her the skill to do the research required to write biographical children’s books, while the deadlines gave her the discipline to work through writer’s block. In working for a newspaper, Hubbard also became familiar with publishers and the books they produce.

Hubbard has also always loves sports, but grew up with chronic asthma, which made gym class a nightmare for her. In her early twenties, she started taking a medication that controlled her asthma and allowed her to become more active. Finally, she was able to do all the things that had made her wheeze when as a kid.  Once she started participating in sports, she became interested in watching them and then in writing about them.

When her first child was born in 1996, Hubbard started going to the Burlington Public Library weekly, checking out twenty or thirty books a week, and reading all of those books to her son. When she came across a reference to a female Negro League baseball player, she decided she wanted to tell that story to her son. That was the inspiration for her first children’s book, Catching The Moon: The Story of a Young Girl’s Baseball Dream.

When her first daughter was born in 2001, Hubbard left her newspaper job to become a full-time mom. She also gave herself a two-year deadline to sell one of her manuscripts to a publishing house. Two days after her two-year deadline, she sold her first adult fiction novel. The day after that, she sold her first picture book.

“It’s important for me to tell the stories of the African-American and female heroes I select because they are ordinary people who do extraordinary things, and their stories too often go untold.”
Crystal Hubbard, Twenty-Eight Days Later

Catching the Moon by Crystal Hubbard is about Marcenia “Toni Stone” Lyle Alberga, who became the first female member of an all-male professional team. So many sports books are about boys that I enjoyed reading one about a girl with a passion for baseball. Although Catching the Moon doesn’t have anything to do with intercultural communication, it is about diversity in that it tells of how Marcenia broke baseball gender’s barrier. So while it didn’t help me with my research paper, it did pique my interest in reading more about the status of women in professional team sports.

My rating? Read it: Borrow from your library or a friend. It’s worth your time.

How would you rate this book?

SALT IN HIS SHOES by Deloris Jordan

Deloris Jordan is the mother of former Chicago Bulls basketball legend Michael Jordan. She is also the co-author of two picture books, including Salt in His Shoes. Although I have long heard of Michael Jordan, despite not being a basketball player, I hadn’t ever read anything about him. This biography was a treat to read, because it shows it an interesting way how important family, faith, persistence, and belief in dreams were to his success. For example, did you know that Michael often lost due to not being tall enough? The title Salt in His Shoes actually comes from advice his mom gave him, when he complained about being too short. There are several other fun stories too. So again while Salt in His Shoes didn’t help me with my research paper, I’m glad to have read it. Now I’ll have some facts to show off to my sports-loving student readers!

“I dedicate this book to the many children who are inclined to say ‘I can’t’ or “I wish I had talent’ or ‘I wish I were gifted.’ To them I say, ‘You are gifted. You are talented. God has a plan for each of you; just believe in yourself and follow your dreams.’ “
–Deloris Jordan, dedication to Salt in His Shoes

My rating? Read it: Borrow from your library or a friend. It’s worth your time.

How would you rate this book?

MAJOR TAYLOR CHAMPION CYCLIST by Lesa Cline-Ransome

Lena Cline-Ransom grew up in Massachusetts and considers herself lucky to have grown up with a mother who loved to read. Each week her mom would take Ransome with her to their local library to stock up on books. Her mom also gave her a diary as a gift, which Ransome first filled with details of her life and then eventually started also adding stories. Through her mom, Ransome realized that reading and writing could become a wonderful escape. In my case, my dad gave me books and my grandmother gave me my first diary. Otherwise, I also feel blessed to have grown up with family who similarly fostered the love of reading and writing for me.

By the time Ransome reached middle school, she decided that she wanted to be a journalist. Unfortunately, after attending a summer workshop for teens interested in journalism, Ransome discovered she was too shy to conduct interviews, hated working under tight deadlines and did not enjoy factual writing. Myself, I also thought in high school about becoming a journalist. This seemed to be how one should start of a writing career. My dad advised me against it, feeling that I had a more creative bent. I suspect that if I had pursued journalism, I would have disliked it for all the reasons Ransome did.

After she married, Ransome became interested in writing children’s books. Her husband was working on illustrating his first book. Together, they studied picture books—he looked at the art and she read the stories. When her husband encouraged her to hand at writing a picture book, she dismissed his suggestion until reading a passage about legendary pitcher Satchel Paige. Although not a baseball fan, Satchel was such a complex character, she felt drawn to his story:  He was a team player who had few friends and traveled alone.  He loved to put on a show but was never punctual.  He loved his family but preferred being on the road.  Today Ransome is an established biographer.

“I write biographies because I am fascinated by the lives of others. I enjoy discovering how a person’s childhood impacts their adult lives. I especially love finding the most interesting parts of a person’s life, piecing them together and creating a new story for a new group of readers.”
–Lesa Cline-Ransom, Just Wondering 

Her book Major Taylor Champion Cyclist is an African-American bicycle racer who won the 1899 World Championship title. The first half of Major Taylor is about how he became the fastest cyclist in his neighborhood, won his first race in Indianapolis, and then aspired to become the best in the world. The second half delves into the discriminatory challenges taking place off the track, including being unable to race in some cities. While Major Taylor is another picture book suitable for discussing diversity, I preferred Catching the Moon and Salt in His Shoes due to their lighter tone and due to their written being from the perspective of a young person.

My rating? Leave it: Don’t even take it off the shelves. Not recommended.

How would you rate this book?

TESTING THE ICE by Sharon Robinson

Sharon Robinson is the daughter of baseball legend Jackie Robinson. In addition to her writing career, Ms. Robinson is an educational consultant for Major League Baseball. In this capacity, she oversees educational programs designed to empower students with strategies to help them face obstacles in their lives. The programs deliver their message by examining the values demonstrated in the lives of Jackie Robinson and other baseball stars.

She’s also the author of several books about her father, including Testing the Ice. The first few pages set up a conflict, which is that her father would never enter the water. After a nine-page interruption, which describes her father’s historical entry into Major League Baseball, the story returns to the original conflict. Although much of Testing the Ice is written from Robinson’s viewpoint, like Major Cyclist it has a mature tone. Both of these biographies are also much denser and longer than the first two livelier biographies. Should you wish to read more about Jackie Robinson, check out Questions and Answers with his daughter.

My rating? Leave it: Don’t even take it off the shelves. Not recommended.

How would you rate this book?

This past month, I introduced nominated Golden Sower picture books to my reading club. They picked six out of eight for us to read. For your information, my reading club is for grades two and three. About eight students belong. The nominees are listed below in order of preference by students. The write-up includes their reactions and some sketches. Enjoy!

My students equally loved the following two nominees.

I Need My Monster by Amanda Noll

What if you needed a monster to go to sleep? What kind of monster would you want to visit you? What kind of monster would you hate to have visit you?

Gabe is a monster who lives under Ethan’s bed. Gabe’s ragged breathing and claw-scratching helps Ethan to get to sleep each night. My students liked Gabe because:

  • He is big
  • He has long spiky tail
  • He is scary
  • He is cool!

One student liked how Ethan could knock on his bedroom floor without getting caught by a monster. Instead, the knock invited Gabe to come visit.

Then one night, Gabe headed out on a fishing trip. In his place, other monsters come to visit Ethan. Some students liked this part because:

  • They like monsters
  • The monsters were scary
  • They love to watch scary stuff
  • Jake’s long claws could be bad

The rest of my students disliked this part because the visiting monsters were:

  • slobbery
  • fat
  • ugly
  • goofy

Willoughby and the Lion by Gregory Foley

If you could wish for anything, what would you ask for? Willoughby lives in a new house that feels too big and too lonely. Then he meets an enchanted lion who can grant him anything in the world.

My students liked the wishes because they are fun. Some of their favorite wishes were:

  • the fast shoes, because they help Willoughby be really, really fast
  • the fast shoes, because they are faster than Sonic speed; they’re toast
  • the rollercoaster, because Willoughby gets to ride in it all he wants
  • the coin that said true friend, because Willoughby and the lion are friends

The hardest part about reviewing books is how subjective the whole process is. What I might love, you might hate. Case in point: One of my students LOVED everything about Willoughby and the Lion. Another HATED everything about it–saying there was nothing fun about it and it was boring.

As for the rest of my students, they all agreed on the saddest part. I can’t tell you though, because it would spoil the end. Let me leave you instead with a question at the heart of the book: What is the most wonderful thing in the world?

PS If you really must know, take a peek at the next line.

The saddest part of the book is when:

  • the lion disappears
  • the lion went away
  • the lion went home

My students felt mixed about following two nominees.

Otis by Loren Long

Have you ever felt neglected or outdated? Otis is a special tractor who one day meets a special calf. In fact, the two become great friends. But when Otis is replaced with the big yellow tractor, he’s cast away behind the barn until the little calf gets stuck in Mud Pond.

Most of my students liked the two main characters: Otis the red tractor and the little calf who lives in the next stall.

They liked when:

  • Otis and the little calf become friends
  • Otis circles about the pond, because he gets the calf out
  • Otis tells the calf to “follow me” and then saves her from the mud.

They didn’t like that:

  • the farmer buys a big yellow tractor and puts Otis put in storage
  • Otis stops hanging out with his friend and having fun
  • the little calf running away and getting stuck in the mud

Although most of my students liked Otis by Loren Long, a few had these negative comments:

  • The calf was ugly.
  • The book was boring.
  • It was boring when Otis and the calf just sat on the mountains

Dewey: There’s a Cat in the Library! by Vicky Myron 

Have you ever adopted a cat? Based on a true story, this is a tale of how librarian Vicki Myron finds a young kitten abandoned in the Spencer Library return box. She nurses him back to health, decides he will be their library cat, and names him Dewey Readmore Books. When Dewey discovers the littlest library visitors–who like to chase him, pull his tail, and squeeze him extra tight–Dewey begins to wonder if he’s cut out to be a library cat.


Most of my students liked Dewey. They called him nice and cute. Of course, in every group, someone has to voice an opposing viewpoint. And so I had one student who hated Dewey, calling him ugly and stupid. Obviously, you can’t please everyone!

Their favorite scenes described when Dewey

  • turns up at the library
  • given a place to live
  • tries to make friends with a new girl
  • curls up with the new girl

My students didn’t like that kids turned Dewey upside down. It caused him to scramble. It was mean! Basically, they didn’t like any scenes where kids (even toddlers) were treating Dewey rough and hurting him.

My students didn’t particularly for the following two nominees.

Ms. McCaw Learns to Draw by Kaethe Zemach

What did you struggle most with in school? Dudley Ellington tries but just isn’t any good in anything at school. Fortunately, he has Mrs. McCaw has a teacher. She shows patience. He thinks she knows everything. Then one day, the tables are turned when he learns she doesn’t know how to draw.

I felt surprised by the thing that my students most disliked about this book. They felt it wrong that Mrs. McCaw couldn’t draw. After all, teachers know everything. Besides, art is taught in school. They also didn’t like that a student taught her to draw. Should teachers know how to do everything?

As for what my students enjoyed:

  • when Mrs. McCraw drew a good face
  • how it was drawing time the whole rest of the period

Ironically, this is the only for which my students didn’t create any artwork!

Testing the Ice by Sharon Robinson

Do you like baseball? Who is your favorite star from history? Sharon Robinson, the daughter of baseball player Jackie Robinson, wanted to teach kids about her father, so she wrote a children’s book about him.

As a whole, my reading group didn’t like this book. Mostly, the boys thought it dull. One boy did like One boy liked the scene when Jackie Robinson went out on the ice and tested it.

As for the girls, they simply don’t like baseball. 🙂 Yet the girls managed to find a few high points:

  • the trophy room–because I like trophies
  • the soda fountain–because I like soda

Hmm, interests sure can dictate tastes in books. Have you ever rejected a book based on your dislike of its topic?

These nominees didn’t make it onto our reading list:

  • Spot the Plot: A Riddle Book of Book Riddles by Patrick Lewis
  • The Circus Ship by Chris Van Dusen.

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