Some very popular titles from some of America's most popular children's book authors -- Jean Fritz, Paula Danziger, Tomie dePaola, Jan Brett, Tony Johnston, and Patricia Polacco included -- are now available in paperback! Paperbacks make great holiday gifts -- or they make buying class sets of books an affordable possibility.
Plymouth Rock and Native Americans -- two popular topics of discussion and learning at this time of year in elementary school classrooms... That makes this time of year a perfect time to introduce two new titles from PaperStar Books -- Jean Fritz's Who's That Stepping on Plymouth Rock? and Joseph Bruchac's The Earth Under Sky Bear's Feet.
And if you're thinking ahead, some great winter and holiday titles have just been released by PaperStar (an imprint of Putnam Children's Books) -- including Jan Brett's The Wild Christmas Reindeer; Tomie dePaola's Jingle the Christmas Clown and The Friendly Beasts (An Old English Christmas Carol); Patricia Polacco's Uncle Vova's Tree; and Astrid Lindgren's Christmas in the Stable.
Jean Fritz's children's books are lastingly popular. Her stories blend historical facts and information with engaging context and her inimitable sense of humor. Who's That Stepping on Plymouth Rock? is a perfect example of the Fritz catalog of children's books. In Who's That Stepping..., Fritz traces Plymouth Rock to its humble beginnings. She records the debate by Plymouth's citizens of the precise importance of the rock, and she tracks the rock's comings and goings as it is lifted and moved, dropped and broken, whittled away at and revered.
Along the way, students learn interesting facts about the history of Plymouth Rock, including many facts they probably didn't know. (Did you know the Pilgrims weren't called "Pilgrims" by early settlers? They were called "First Comers.") And students will meet some of the people who played a role in the rock's history. They meet the Alden and the Winslow families, for example. And they meet Elder Thomas Faunce, who -- at age 95, as one of the last connections to the actual First Comers -- speaks on behalf of the rock's importance.
Of course, the rock wasn't important to everybody! Its supposed significance didn't matter a whit to the seafaring men who wanted to build a wharf over it in 1741.
"The people of Plymouth should have saved their breath to cool their porridge," says Fritz of the debate. The wharf was built as planned.
So, did the First Comers actually step foot on the rock? Fritz gives considerable discussion to the possibilities, however un-confirmable they are.
"Still, no one could say for certain that the story wasn't true," she says, "and everyone agreed that some of the First Comers must have stood, sat or leaned on the rock at one time or another. After all, it was the only big rock on the shore..."
In 1774, some of Plymouth's citizens made the first attempt to move the rock. But, alas, the rock was split in two during the effort.
"The liberty men studied the rock," Fritz writes. "The top part of the rock alone was an impressive size. And, after all, if any stepping had been done, they said, it had been done on the top."
So it was that the top of Plymouth Rock was moved to a place in Meeting House Square.
Fritz chronicles the rock's subsequent moves, another break, and the eventual reunion of its top and bottom sections. We also learn about several structures built over the years to house the solid piece of history.
Among Fritz's other titles now available in PaperStar paperbacks are George Washington's Breakfast and Shh! We're Writing the Constitution, both illustrated by Tomie dePaola, and What's the Big Idea, Ben Franklin?
The Earth Under Sky Bear's Feet is a collection of poems and stories pulled together by award-winning Native American storyteller Joseph Bruchac.
Bruchac, an American Book Award recipient, has written many popular PaperStar titles, including Thirteen Moons on Turtle's Back, A Boy Called Slow, and Fox Song.
Together, the collection of tales in The Earth Under Sky Bear's Feet demonstrates a common thread among many tribes of the Americas: "Native peoples of North America all share an awareness of the world around them," writes Bruchac in an "Author's Note" at the end of the book. "Native children have always been taught [that] there can be as much to see in the living night as in the more familiar light of day."
Bruchac opens this book with a story told him as a young child in the Northeastern corner of North America. The traditional Mohawk tale tells how the star pattern known as the Big Dipper is "actually a great bear circling the night." Each subsequent song or story in The Earth Under Sky Bear's Feet offers a view of what Big Bear might see as it circles above and as the seasons change.
Among the memorable stories is "The Seven Mateinnu," a Lenape tale of seven wise men who tire of being asked for advice. They transform themselves into seven stones, but find before long that they still must listen to people in need of help. A couple transformations later, it seems that people must always be looking inside themselves and to others for advice and guidance.
Why is it that some stars make patterns and others seem to be just scattered randomly across the sky? Students will read one possible explanation in another brief story, a Pueblo tale called "The Scattered Stars."
Throughout the book, Thomas Locker's illustrations capture all the colors and richness of the night.
The Earth Under Sky Bear's Feet is a wonderful collection to share at this time of year, around Earth Day, or anytime!
The PaperStar books mentioned in this story are available in bookstores everywhere. If you are unable to locate a particular book, ask your bookseller to order a copy of it for you, or contact PaperStar Books, Penguin Putnam Inc., 345 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014.