Art, Books, Current Events, Reviews

Looking Up To Beautiful Spacious Skies: Inspiring Reads

I spent the morning, like many of you (especially those here in the United States) watching the Presidential Inauguration. And like many, I heaved a huge sigh of relief, exhaling all that anxiety I never knew I had inside, and feeling hope as well as joy. It certainly made me think that today we all stood together, united, looking up to beautiful spacious skies!

President Biden’s words – “We will lead not merely by the example of our power but by the power of our example.” – stuck a chord in me. And listening to Amanda Garmon’s powerful poem The Hill We Climb was emotional and inspiring, like lots of delightful icing on the most wonderful cake.

With all those thoughts in mind, I plan to bring you a few books each day for the rest of this week: books that will hopefully inform, inspire, and incite positive action.

Today’s post includes books I have read recently featuring people who are a part of our nation’s stories, from its inception to current times. I will attempt to include a listing of previous books I have featured as well as I can recall! And each of these people certainly led by the power of their example.

Note: except where specifically mentioned, all books reviewed today are either my own or borrowed from my excellent local libraries.

This post contains affiliate links, that at no additional cost to you, I may earn a small commission. Thank you for your support. Please see the full disclosure for more information. I only recommend products I definitely would (or have already) use myself.

The Books: Part One: The People

Looking Up To Beautiful Spacious Skies

A Ben of All Trades

Book Info

Title: A Ben of All Trades: The Most Inventive Boyhood of Benjamin Franklin
Author: Michael J. Rosen
Illustrator: Matt Tavares 
Length: 32 pages
Genre: Children’s Nonfiction/Biographies (5 – 9 years)
Publisher: Candlewick (March 17, 2020)

My Thoughts

A stunningly beautiful book that shows readers a whole new facet (whole new facets, rather) of a towering historical figure, Benjamin Franklin. The book focuses on his childhood, and shows readers how young Ben tried his hand at various trades, failed to get interested in each one, and kept moving on to another while always desiring for a life at sea.

While his father was against his going out to sea because of having lost another loved one, at the same time, he allowed Ben to explore until finally young Franklin discovered a love for printing as an apprentice at his brother’s press. Each failed (or discarded) venture proved to be a valuable learning experience, and made him the totally wondrous polymath he eventually became. And he did fulfil his lifelong dream later!

Backmatter includes both author and illustrator notes that give an insight into the hows and whys of what went into the book and the making of it, as well as a short note on Benjamin Franklin along with additional reading resources for the curios reader.

In short, a book with stunning pencil sketched, digitally painted, detailed, expressive and historically accurate illustrations that are frame worthy as well as a narrative that will allow readers a sneak peek into young Ben’s life at that point in history.

Get It Here

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For Spacious Skies: Katharine Lee Bates and the Inspiration for “America the Beautiful”

Book Info
for spacious skies

Title: For Spacious Skies: Katharine Lee Bates and the Inspiration for “American the Beautiful” (She Made History)
Author: Nancy Churnin 
Illustrator: Olga Baumert
Length: 32 pages
Genre: Children’s Nonfiction/Biographies (4 – 9 years)
Publisher: Albert Whitman & Company (April 1, 2020)

My Thoughts

For Spacious Skies is a book that is as beautiful as the song that inspired it — both in its telling and in the flowing yet detailed artwork. I love when I feel inspired by the art to either try my hand at something similar or to frame it up for decor!

Katherine Lee Bates was certainly not just the woman who wrote this song; she was so much more. And the book shows wonderfully just how much more. Nancy Churnin’s expertly woven narrative takes readers on a journey through Bates life, and show what inspired her to write these words that stir every heart even today. I loved learning that Bates wrote back to every single person who sent her a thank you note for writing this song (and she received many, many such notes)!!

Olga Baumert’s flowing illustrations, both people and landscapes, are filled with color, detail, and movement; and lend historical context to the narrative thus providing a perfect complement.

Backmatter includes a must-read author’s note, a timeline, and sources, as well as the verses to the song. So yes, For Spacious Skies is indeed a beautiful and inspirational read.

Get It Here

 Book Depository || BookShop || IndieBound

Joey: The Story of Joe Biden

Book Info

Title: Joey: The Story of Joe Biden
Author: Jill Biden, Kathleen Krull
Illustrator: Amy June Bates 
Length: 48 pages
Genre: Children’s Nonfiction/Biographies (4 – 8 years, and up)
Publisher: Simon Schuster/Paula Wiseman Books (June 30th 2020)

My Thoughts

I read this book shortly after I read ‘Kamala Harris: Rooted in Justice.‘ And with Kathleen Krull (I loved The Only Woman in the Photo) as the co-author, I knew I had to read this. But with the Cybils reading keeping me busy, reviewing this one ended up in the back-burners. So here it is now.

I totally loved Amy June Bates’ water-color(?) illustrations that lend wonderful atmosphere to the story and perfectly complement Jill Biden’s laudatory (expected, of course) and straightforward narrative.

The book takes readers on a journey of our 46th President’s life, from his early childhood where he learned to overcome stuttering, to being class president at college, briefly touching on his achievements as an adult and ending with announcing his run for Presidency in 2019. [maybe a future update to the book with his win and the inauguration itself will be available at a later date??]

Messages of family, perseverance, central motto of “give me the ball,” honesty, and service shine through effortlessly across the book. Backmatter includes photos, a timeline, a bibliography, sources, and Bidenisms!

Get It Here

Book Depository || BookShop || IndieBound


The Story of Alexander Hamilton: A Biography Book for New Readers

Book Info

Title: The Story of Alexander Hamilton: A Biography Book for New Readers
Author: Christine Platt 
Illustrator: Raquel Martin 
Length: 64 pages
Genre: Children’s Nonfiction/Biographies (6 – 8 years, and up)
Publisher: Rockridge Press (May 19, 2020)

My Thoughts

I admit to being more curious and enthralled by this founding father of our nation after seeing the musical. While I certainly was always inspired and awed by all that our founding fathers accomplished, including Hamilton, the musical did add to the awesomeness.

Setting those thoughts aside, this book does what it is supposed to, and does it very well. Chapters are divided by important time-ranges/events in his life, starting with his early years, moving to America, becoming a war hero, and playing a crucial part in the forming of a new nation, and eventually a founding father. The final chapter includes a quiz for readers (were you paying attention?!).

Sprinkled throughout the book are additional useful and fun asides, titled

  • ‘Jump in the Think-Tank’ that poses discussion questions and the like,
  • ‘Myths & Facts’ highlighting, well, the myths and facts around the topics in that chapter
  • ‘Where’ which are maps that provide help with regards to locations mentioned in the chapter
  • ‘When’ timeline footnote at the end of the chapter highlighting the events that occurred

Backmatter includes a glossary, a bibliography, and additional think-tank questions and resources.

Publisher provided e-review copy: Copyright line: Excerpt from The Story of Alexander Hamilton: A Biography Book for New Readers (The Story Of: A Biography Series for New Readers), by Christine Platt, published by Rockridge Press. Copyright © 2020 by Callisto Media. All rights reserved.

Get It Here

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Kamala Harris

Book Info
kamala -- Looking Up To Beautiful Spacious Skies: Inspiring Reads

Title: Kamala Harris: Rooted in Justice
Author: Nikki Grimes
Illustrator: Laura Freeman
Length: 40 pages
Genre: Children’s Nonfiction/Biographies (4 – 8 years, and up)
Publisher: Atheneum Books for Young Readers (August 25, 2020)

Read my review here.

Get It Here

 Book Depository ||  IndieBound || Bookshop

The Next President

Book Info
the next president

Title: The Next President: The Unexpected Beginnings and Unwritten Future of America’s Presidents
Author: Kate Messner
Illustrator: Adam Rex
Length: 48 pages
Genre: Children’s Nonfiction/Biographies, Government (8 – 12 years, and up!)
Publisher: Chronicle Books (March 24, 2020)

Read my review here.

Get It Here

 Book Depository ||  IndieBound || Bookshop

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Looking Up To Beautiful Spacious Skies: Inspiring Reads

And Now, the End of This Post

Dear reader, have you read any of these books? If not, urge to get them for yourself, or for the young readers you know, and inspire and inform yourselves and others around you

32 thoughts on “Looking Up To Beautiful Spacious Skies: Inspiring Reads

  1. Great picks! I was not very educated on our government/influencers when I was a child. Great to see books like this that I can read to my children.

  2. I would love to read some of these. I have to say I don’t know a whole lot about Kamala Harris, and would like to know more. All good books to choose from!

  3. Now that he is the president of US. I would love to know more about Joe Biden. It is the first time for me to see a children’s book featuring a politician. Very interesting.

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