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Review – Honda The Boy Who Dreamed of Cars

Posted by shelburns on 1st December 2008

Another Lee & Low book; thank you Hannah!

Title:  Honda The Boy Who Dreamed of Cars

Author:  Mark Weston

Illustrator: Katie Yamasaki

Review copy provided by: publisher – Lee & Low Books

About the Book:  One day in 1914 when Soichiro Honda was seven years old, an astonishing, moving dust cloud appeared in his small Japanese town. The cause was a leaky, noisy automobile—the first the boy had ever seen. At that moment Honda fell in love with cars, and a dream took hold. He would one day make them himself.

It took Honda many years to reach his goal. Along the way he became an expert mechanic and manufacturer of car parts. After World War II he developed a motorized bicycle, the forerunner of his innovative motorcycles. Eventually Honda began manufacturing cars, first race cars and then consumer cars. Constantly seeking ways to make his products better than his competitors’, Honda grew into a global industry leader.

Soichiro Honda had an inventive mind and a passion for new ideas, and he never gave up on his dream. A legendary figure in the world of manufacturing, Honda is a dynamic symbol of lifelong determination, creativity, and the power of a dream.

My Review:  Another great biography about someone I didn’t know.  I can see young boys picking this book up and just being enthralled because of the cars, motorcycles, motors, etc.  I love how the author, Mark Weston, not only told the story of Soichiro Honda, but also did some teaching through this book.  He took the time to explain car parts to the reader.  For example:

“He learned how to fix every part of a car.  He rebuilt carburetors, which mix air with gasoline, and he replaced the spark plugs that ignite this combustible mixture to power the engine and get a car going.  He adjusted brakes, patched tires, and put in new water pumps.  He even fixed transmissions, the gears that turn cars’ wheels and allow cars to speed up and slow down.”

Honda had to work hard to reach his goals, and this book does a great job of showing that.  It is a great message for children.  Even though he was not a good student, he worked hard and even almost quit his job because all he wanted to do was know how a car works and make one himself.  It’s a good thing he stuck it out with that job, because that is where he got his start.  The garage owner saw Honda’s dedication and began to teach him basic repairs.  This is a great book to share with students about starting at the bottom, persevering, and working your way up to where you want to be through hard work and dedication.  I could see teachers and students using this book to study inventors.  Again, Lee & Low gives readers another good multi-cultural title about a man that many have probably heard of, but know little about.

More info about the book:


ISBN 98-1-60060-246-7

32 pages

Ages 6-11

Published: September 2008

Click here for a booktalk with the creators of Honda.


Posted in Biography, Book Reviews, Non-Fiction Monday | 5 Comments »

Review – An Apple for Harriet Tubman

Posted by shelburns on 24th November 2008

Last week was a great week for us here at school.  Our librarian received a $10,000 Title I book order!  It was so much fun going through all of the books.  This is one of them, that I thought was really neat.

Title:  An Apple for Harriet Tubman

Author:  Glennette Tilley Turner

Illustrator:  Susan Keeter

Review Copy Provided by:  Willbern Elementary Library

Summary from Book Jacket:  In her master’s orchard, young Harriet Tubman spent long hours picking the juicy apples she loved but was forbidden to eat.  When she was grown, she made her escape from slavery to the North.  Then, repeatedly risking her life, she returned to lead many other enslaved African-Americans to freedom. 

Many people know about Harriet Tubman’s courage and daring.  But few know about her love for apples and the freedom they symbolized.

Glennette Tilley Turner learned this previously untold story from Harriet Tubman’s own great-niece.

My Review:  This is a sweet biographical story that gives insight inot a part of Tubman’s life that readers may not have known about.  Turner uses great vocabulary to aid in the readers’ understanding of the Underground Railroad.  For example, Tubman was the “conductor” (leader) and the slaves were the “passengers.”  The language is simple enough for even the young reader to understand.  There is a great message of never giving up on your goals.  That is expressed in Tubman’s dialogue.  “One day I’m going to be free and I’m going to have all the apples I want.”  This would be a great book to use during Black History month, a study of slavery, the Underground Railroad, famous African American women, or famous women in history.  Teachers in grades K-5 could find a use for An Apple for Harriet Tubman.  The illustrations by Susan Keeter add so much to the story.  They appear to be watercolors.  I really enjoyed seeing another part of Tubman that I did not know existed.

Posted in Biography, Book Reviews, Non-Fiction Monday | 11 Comments »

Review – The Last Black King of the Kentucky Derby

Posted by shelburns on 17th November 2008

I was thrilled to receive a package in the mail last week from Lee & Low Books; thank you Hannah!  Inside were 4 beautiful hardcover picture books for me to review. I thought I would share the first one here for Nonfiction Monday.

Title:  The Last Black King of the Kentucky Derby

Author:  Crystal Hubbard

Illustrator:  Robert McGuire

Review copy provided by:  Lee & Low Books

Synopsis from book jacket:  Born into an African American sharecropping family in 1880s Kentucky, Jimmy Winkfield grew up loving horses.  The large, powerful animals inspired little Jimmy to think big.  Looking beyond his family’s farm, he longed for a life riding on action-packed racetracks around the world.

Like his hero, the great Isaac Murphy, Jimmy “Wink” Winkfield would stop at nothing to make it as a jockey.  Though his path to success was wrought with obstacles both on the track and off, Wink faced each challenge with passion and a steadfast spirit.  Along the way he carved out a lasting legacy as one of history’s finest horsemen and the last African American ever to win the Kentucky Derby.

My review:  I have to admit that when I got this book, I hadn’t heard of Jimmy Winkfield, slaves being jockeys, or African Americans running in the Kentucky Derby.  Now I have, and I’m glad.  This was such an interesting read.  Being a horse lover, I was drawn to this one, even though I am not particularly fond of running horses.  I was just intrigued by this story because it has so much history in it.  The author, Crystal Hubbard, tells Wink’s story so well.  Wink had a dream and he didn’t stop until he had achieved that dream.  Hubbard uses her writing to showcase that dream. 

“When Wink saw the jockeys sitting proudly in the winner’s circle dressed in their fine colored silks, he knew he wanted to be there one day himself.”

“He had gone from exercise rider and stable hand to jockey in less than a year.  This race could be his big break.”

“As punishment he received a year’s suspension from racing.  Wink was devastated but determined not to give up on his dream.”

The story chronicles Wink’s life from childhood to retirement.  Through racial tension, suspension, and blacks being forced out of racing, Wink persevered and made a name for himself.  There is an afterword at the end of the book that tells more about this fabulous man.  I enjoyed learning about a part of history that I didn’t even know existed, and am certain that children, young adults, and other adults will as well.   His daughter sums it up with a quote at the end:

“He was a survivor.  His determination not to give up was amazing.  He lived a good life.” – Liliane Winkfield Casey



Posted in Biography, Book Reviews, Picture Books | 9 Comments »