Books on Monday: Wilma Unlimited

By Leslie Lindsay

You know how your kids can teach you things…like that plaid and polka-dots really do go together? And bunnies are actually good for the compost pile? And if you really want to make something work, all you have to do is think about it for awhile?

Having school-aged children has made me more aware of the world around, and has re-opened my eyes to some things I had either forgotten about or never really knew much about in the first place.

When my 4th grade daugher came home–not in tears, but clearly upset–that she didn’t get “her” [biography] pick for black history month, I cocked my head in concern and offered sympathy. “I really wanted Barak Obama or George Washington Carver or Rosa Parks…Oprah…anyone but who I got.”

“Well, who did you get?”


I cringed.  She was not thrilled. “But Wilma is the world’s fastest woman!” I exclaimed. “And I bet she’s a lot like you: fast, determined, bright.”

My 4th grader shook her head. She didn’t believe me. So, we headed to the public library and just for fun, I told her I wanted to see what we could find on

Wilma Rudolph. Ta-da! Several books were on the shelves just begging for us to peak inside.

The one I loved the best, WILMA UNLIMITED by Kathleen Krull, an author known for her unconventional approach to biography and illustrated by Caldecott medal award winning artist David Diaz told the story of Wilma’s hard-knock life beautifully (think: Laura Hillenbrand [UNHINGED] style of writing for children).

What you may not know is this:

Wilma Rudolph is a survivor. She nearly died as a toddler first of scarlet fever and then polio. Doctors claimed she would never walk, let alone win three gold medals at  the Olympics.

She is the twentieh (!) child born to her parents. Two more followed, for a total of 22 children in all.

Wilma won a scholarship to Tenessee State University and was the only one in her family to attend college. 

Later, she became a second grade teacher and high school coach.

But she was more than ‘just running.‘ She started a company called Wilma Unlimited which give her opportunities to travel, lecture, and support causes she believed in.

She didn’t stop there. The nonprofit Wilma Rudolph Foundation was established to nurture young athletes and to teach them that they, too can succeed despite all odds against them.

Now that is something to be proud of. Go, Wilma!

For more information:

[B&W running image retrieved from Wikipedia on 2.20.15, cover image retrieved from on 2.20.15, illustration image from]



Books on Monday: THE CASE FOR LOVING

By Leslie LindsayThe Case for Loving

Whether you think of Valentine’s Day as a Hallmark Holiday, Singles awareness Day, or a true depiction of a saint who did the right thing, the fact is: we just celebrated a weekend full of wine, chocolate, and love, be it romantic or platonic, black or white, gay or straight. today just happens to be President’s Day…and Barak Obama just happens to be of mixed-race.

When I came across this book, THE CASE FOR LOVING by Selina Alko and Sena Qualls, a bi-racial couple (Arthur A. Levine, an Imprint of Scholastic, February 2015), I knew I needed to share it. It’s not only about love, but about black history, a wonderful marriage of the cultural themes present in the month of February.

Imagine not being able to marry the person you love. It may not be for the obvious reasons, but because they are a race different from your own. Once upon a time in the not so distant past, there was a law that forbade interracial marriage. This is the story of Richard and Mildred Loving. He had red hair and a fair complexion. She was the color of caramel and had some Cherokee blood coarsing through her veins. They lived in Central Point, Virginia in 1958.

At that time, marriage between people of different races was against the law in Virgina and sixteen other states! It wasn’t fair. Sure, one hundred years earlier, slavery divided America along color lines. But slavery had ended. Still yet, old–false–beliefs sustained. If someone wanted to marry someone of a different skin color–one unlike your own–you could go to jail.

Still, Mildred and Richard wanted to married and they sure didn’t want to go to prison for falling in love with the ‘wrong’ person.

What ensues might be predictable. Neighbors were upset, the police got involved. Lawyers were hired. And now it was 1966…the times were a-changin’. Radical new ideas like equal rights for people of all colors were replacing old, fearful ways of thinking. The Loving’s case went all the way to the Supreme Court!

On June 12, 1967 when the case of Loving vs. Virginia went to court, Richard and Mildred stayed home with their three children. They feared they wouldn’t win. But they did!

I found this book to be so very timely and moving, the mixed-media illustrations a testament to interracial marriage, and talking point for older children (8+ years) and their parents.

If you read it:

  • Ask your children if they know any bi-racial children at school, on sports teams, or clubs? Do you know of any bi-racial adults in your life? Share your experiences.
  • Have a discussion about love. Do you think there should be boundaries on who we love and why we love? Why and why not?
  • Talk about freedom. Is love a freedom we have?
  • Talk about other races and ethnic backgrounds. What do these cultures bring to one another? How might it be challenging to merge cultures? (food, language, traditions?) How might it be a way to expand one’s knowledge base and create a greater sense of community?

For more information:

  • Check out Wikipedia on the 1967 Loving vs. Virgina case
  • Head over to the publisher’s website where you can learn more about THE CASE OF LOVING (2015) as well as teacher activities, resources and tools.
  • Read the NYTimes Sunday Book Review of THE CASE OF LOVING
  • Check out the author’s FB page and give them a “like” or post to their wall with a hearty “thanks!”

[Cover image retrieved from on 2.15.15. Interior illustration retrieved from on 2.15.15]

BookS on MondaY: WITH BOOKS & BRICKS: How Booker T. Washington Built a School

By Leslie Lindsay

With Books and Bricks: How Booker T. Washington Built a SchoolFebruary may be the month of love and groundhogs, President’s and the Chinese New Year, but it is also Black History Month. Step back in time when black Americans were recently freed from slavery in this children’s biography picture book, WITH BOOKS & BRICKS by award-winning author Suzanne Slade (Albert Whitman & Company, November 2014) and illustrated with loose pencil and watercolor by Nicole Tadgell. You will be in for an education on hard work, perseverance, and the power to make a difference.

Booker T. Washington wanted to go to school. But he was a black slave in America and that meant he couldn’t. Day after brutal day of hauling water to the fields, corn to the mill, and rocks from the yard, he was given another task: to haul his master’s daughter’s school books to school. He peeked inside. He liked what he saw. He was intrigued by the strange lines on the blackboard that made up letters. And those letter made up words. He taught himself to read. He did all of this as a young slave.

When he was nine years old (in 1865), the Civil War had ended and he was free to go to school. Only back then, all the schools were for whites. Instead, he had to go to work in a coal mine to support his family. Instead of hauling rocks and corn and water, he was shoveling coal. But he dreamed of school. He overheard fellow workers talking about a school for blacks. But it was in Virgina–500 miles away!

Determined, he walked and begged rides. When he was sixteen, Booker finally was able to go to school. He loved learning and wanted to share his love with others. Folks in Alabama asked him to come teach their black students. And so he did.

Booker T. WashingtonBut there was no school building. He scoured the land looking for something suitable for teaching children…an old shack on a farm would have to do. The roof leaked. It was too small for the interested students. Still, they made do.

Booker wanted better. He and his students dug and dug the rich Alabama soil looking for sticky red clay until at last they found it. Thousands upon thousands of bricks were shaped by the hands of Booker and his students. Kilns were built. The broke down. Piles of bricks were ruined.

But they didn’t give up.

Eventually, a brick building was erected…and then a dining hall, a chapel, and dorm. With the help of students, tables, chairs, and beds from scraps were constructed. According to Booker, “My plan was not to teach [students] to work in the old way, but to show them how to make the forces of nature–air, water, steam, electricity, horse-power–assist them in their labor.” These hardworking students went on to become teachers, business leaders and more.

Now, if that isn’t a test of persistence and perseverance, then I don’t  know what is!

If you read the book:

  • Talk about the definition(s) of persistence and perseverance. I think of it as, “You try and try, even if you want to give up and cry.” Can you think of some personal examples of a time you (parent) persevered? How about a time your child(ren) did? [Sports, school, a hobby, project, scouts].
  • Do you think it would have been easier for Booker to just work in the coal mine day after day and forget about his dream to be a student and eventually a teacher? Why or why not?
  • How might education be different today if it weren’t for Booker T. Washington?
  • Booker believed his students needed to learn “new” trade skills to get ahead in life/education. What skills do you think are important in today’s culture. [For example, some school districts are no longer teacher cursive handwriting and replacing with more computer-based learning and typing. Do you agree?]
  • Study the illustrations in the book. Do you think Nicole Tadgell did a good job depicting Booker’s work ethics? Do you feel the illustrations make the book “come alive?”
  • What other black Americans have made a difference in our lives? Examples: Wilma Rudolph, George Washington Carver, Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King Jr., Barak Obama…others?

For more information:

Check out the author’s webpage

Peek into the illustrator’s portfolio

Jump into Booker’s history

[Image of Booker T. Washington retrieved from on 2.7.15. Cover image retrieved from on 2.7.15. No compensation has been given for this post]

BookS on MondaY: We All Live in the Forbidden City

By Leslie Lindsay

You thought the New Year celebrations were swept under the rug–along with tinsel and wrapping paper–somewhere around the first week of January, but you would be wrong. At least partially.  Another opportunity to celebrate–and perhaps renew your resolutions–is right around the corner.

February 19th is an important date in Chinese culture and commences the Year of the Sheep [Goat/Ram].

According to the Chinese Zodiac, this is an affable year. Folks born under this sign are considered calm, gentle, polite, well-liked, and kind-hearted. But wait–back the Zodiac train up–what exactly does this mean?!

This is ChinaI had the same question myself. Our family carpools to and from elementary school with two cute-as-a-button Chinese-American sisters. They were chattering about birthdays and ‘their animal.’ Behind dark lashes and specs, they were calculating the animal totem of me and my daughters. I’m a horse, it turns out. My oldest is a rooster and my youngest a dog.

How, I wanted to know were they doing this?! The girls apparently attend ‘Chinese School’ on the weekends and have learned much of these traditions and cultures there–including calculating anyone’s birth sign. “Then later, we go to our grandma’s house and she helps us understand things.” I nodded and asked more. From what I could glean from the girls, the Chinese Zodiac is based on a twelve-year cycle, each year is related to the qualities of an animal (horse, ox, dog, pig, rooster, etc.), it’s all calculated based on the Chinese Lunar Calendar. It was devised during the Han Dynasty (202 BCE-220 CE).

Zodiac aside, I talked up their mom a kind, devoted, nurturing mother of four and gleaned a little more on the basis of the Chinese New Year. “[It] was a big holiday for my side. I remembered skipping school on Chinese New Year during my childhood.” She tells me her mother would clean the house top to bottom and both parents would cook all day long–and there would be plenty of food for several days. Traditionally, foods ranged from homemade dumplings (see recipe below), to delicious desserts like mango pudding, moon cakes, and almond jelly, often served with tea.

It sounds a little like tradtional celebrations, but the similarities don’t end there. “Everything must be neatly arranged and absolutely no arguments or fights that day. My mom and dad would first pay respect to relatives who have already passed [away] and then we would all feast on a big lunch followed by dinner shortly.”

That’s right–two ornate and filling meals on Chinese New Year was common, “basically, it was a day to sit around and eat and enjoy the peace and harmony.” All members of the family were expected to wear red, preferrably head-to-toe, “then mom and dad would give us a red envelope with cash in it.” Children with Dragon

So, what’s with the color red? Seems the color symbolizes good fortune and joy and can be seen in abundance at celebratory events. Red is strictly forbidden at funerals. Yet, the names of the dead were often penned in red and it was seen as offensive to use crimson ink to pen Chinese names other than in context with official seals.

But how about today? I asked my friend and she was happy to share, “Now, our family just go to grandmas place and have Chinese New Year dinner together. Not much of the traditional foods [anymore], sometimes just carry-out  from a Chinese restaurant. We still do the nice greetings/wishes to each other and gives out red envelop with money. And of course a very good meal to start off a new year!”

Want to make your own traditional Chinese Dumplings and celebrate the Year of the Sheep? You’re in luck! Let us know how it goes [leave a comment on the blog]…and you can WIN a copy of this FABULOUS book for children and adults alike with fantastic drawings, gate-fold center and more.Forbidden City Post a photo of your dumplings to China Institute’s Facebook page at The chef of the yummiest looking batch will receive a free copy of their We All Live in the Forbidden City books!

Make Your Own New Year Dumplings!

Recipe provided by China Institute

Dumplings, called jiaozi in Mandarin, have been popular in China for hundreds of years. They’re especially popular on Chinese New Year.

This year, Chinese New Year starts on February 19. We will be moving from the Year of the Horse to the Year of the Sheep. What better way to celebrate than to make your own dumplings! The recipe below is for a traditional pork and chive filling, but the great thing about dumplings is that you can make all sorts of different fillings.Dumpling Dough


Dumpling (jiaozi) Dough:

3 cups all-purpose flour

1 1/4 cups cold water

1/4 teaspoon salt

Pork & Chive Filling:

1 cup ground pork (can also use beef)

1 Tablespoon soy sauce

1 teaspoon salt

1 Tablespoon Chinese rice wine or dry sherry

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground white pepper

3 Tablespoon sesame oil

1/2 green onion, finely minced

1 1/2 cups finely shredded Napa cabbage

4 Tablespoons shredded bamboo shoots

2 slices fresh ginger, finely minced

1 clove garlic, peeled and finely minced


Stir the salt into the flour. Slowly stir in the cold water, adding as much as is necessary to create a smooth dough. Don’t add more water than is necessary. Knead the dough into a smooth ball. Cover the dough and let it rest for at least 30 minutes.

While the dough is resting, prepare the filling ingredients. Add the soy sauce, salt, rice wine, and white pepper to the meat, stirring in one direction. Add the remaining ingredients, stirring in the same direction, and mix well.

Now, prepare the dough for the dumplings. First knead the dough until it forms a smooth ball. Divide the dough into 60 pieces. Roll each piece out into a circle about 3-inches in diameter to create the dumpling wrappers.

Place a portion (about 1 Tablespoon) of the filling into the middle of each dumpling wrapper. Wet the edges of the dumpling with water. Fold the dough over the filling into a half moon shape and pinch the edges to seal. Continue with the remainder of the dumpling wrappers.

To cook the dumplings, bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add half the dumplings, giving them a gentle stir so they don’t stick together. Bring the water to a boil, and add 1/2 cup of cold water. Cover and repeat. When the dumplings come to a boil for a third time, they are ready. Drain and remove. If you want, they can be pan-fried at this point. Repeat this process for the second half of dumplings.

More info: China Institute’s We All Live in the Forbidden City program includes children’s books and educational workshops that celebrate Chinese cultural history in ways that are accessible and fun for kids.This is the Greatest Place! uses lift-flaps to teach young readers how nature’s influence can be seen around us, and how people and animals can live together in harmony.In the Forbidden City is a large format book that comes with a magnifying glass so kids can look closely at highly detailed line drawings conveying the grandeur of it’s buildings, gardens, and courtyards. The books have received much praise, including reviews in Publishers Weekly, School Library Journal, Kirkusand Foreword, since releasing last fall. Press info at

[images courtesy of The China Institute/PRbytheBook]

Books On Monday: Ferris & His Wheel

By Leslie Lindsay

What a darling–and educational–book! Just ten months before the 1893 World’s Fair, Chicago had yet to unveil a star attraction. Paris had the Eiffel Tower, what was Chicago going to do? Drawings and ideas filtered in to fair organizers, but all of the big ideas weren’t much different than what Paris boasted. What to do, what to do…

When engineer George Ferris, Jr. proposed the massive circular structure, folks laughed. It would never work, they said. But he struck out to prove them wrong. Throughout some obtacles (quicksand in Chicago??!), he eventually succeeded in delivering his dream to world’s fair–and to the world. Ferris wheels are now considered the most recognizable feature at a fair or carnival.

Bringing the story to life are the rich, lucious renderings of Gilbert Ford, as well as the small inset boxes sharing insights into the Ferris’s life as well as structural components of the Ferris wheel.

My daughters (8 and 10 years), loved reading this book as a family. Might it be because we live in Chicagoland or because I have a carnival lover on one hand and a future inventer on the other? Or maybe it’s just a darn good book.

If you read it:

  • Be sure to read the insets/captions, too. It makes for a fun reading (and family experience) if you have another member of your family/reading partner/peer chime in with these smaller-font sidebars.
  • Flip to the last page of the book and hop onto some suggested websites, discuss the official 1893 portrait of Mr. Ferris. How have styles changed? How have they stayed the same?
  • Pay special attention the the drawings. Talk about them. Explore emotions and style. For younger kids, play “Eye Spy” with the illustrations. “I spy with my little eye, a woman holding a parasol.”
  • Read more on the artist, Gilbert Ford in the behind-the-scenes page from Amazon   and also on his website.
    [image rerivetd from on 1.30.15]
    Mr. Ferris and His Wheel

  • My kids wanted to know how much .50 in 1893 would equate to in today’s money. Maybe yours do, too. Check out this site from The History Channel for more information on the fair, 1893 in general, and money.
  • Learn more about the author, Kathryn Gibbs Davis
  • Parents and adults may enjoy DEVIL IN THE WHITE CITY: by Erik Larson