Often educators’ creativity spills over into a book, blog, app or other work. We’re happy to showcase members’ talents.
My Life With Rosie
Angela Sadler Williamson, associate professor at Rio Hondo College and member of the Rio Hondo College Faculty Association, published My Life With Rosie: A Bond Between Cousins last year. Voted the best children’s book on Black history by Mothering magazine, it shares a different side of Rosa Parks only known to her family — the Williamson family.
Parks spent most of her adult life living in Detroit after leaving Montgomery, Alabama, in 1957, and Cousin Rosie, as she’s known, formed many special relationships with young people, especially her young cousin, Carolyn Williamson Green (the author’s aunt). The book helps continue Parks’ legacy and philosophy on activism by teaching young readers how to become change agents in their community. On Amazon.
In 2017, Williamson made the award-winning documentary My Life With Rosie, which examines Parks and Green’s relationship and Green’s quest to continue her cousin’s activism. On Amazon Prime.
Bruce Olav Solheim, Citrus College Faculty Association, wrote Ali’s Bees in 2017. Ali, whose parents were killed in a terrorist attack in Iraq, has been sent to East Los Angeles to live with his beekeeper grandfather. Ali struggles with grief and post-traumatic stress disorder, but enjoys working with the bees and decides to do his science project on them. His work draws in Lupe, a classmate with problems of her own, and Jenks, a bully who cares for his disabled father. The three form an unlikely connection as they try to overcome their differences and challenges. Available on Amazon.
Solheim, a disabled U.S. Army vet who teaches history and is a former Fulbright scholar, has written a play based on the book and is offering the streamplay (with live, remote actors and 3D virtual-world settings) free to middle and high school students. Check out a prerecorded version seen in February by students in grades 6-8 at Edgewood Academy in La Puente. To view it or the trailer, go to youtube.com and search for “Ali’s Bees.” To request the streamplay, contact email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Dealing With Bullies
In Bullies and Peeps, Meg is a misfit at school, preferring nature to people. One day, her only friend joins a girl group led by Hannah, the most popular girl in the class. The group bullies Meg, though she finds a welcome distraction in a goose sitting on a nest of eggs in the school courtyard. No one is prepared for what happens after the eggs hatch. Written by J.D. Suhre, a third grade teacher and United Educators of San Francisco member, the book is meant for children ages 8-12. Available on Amazon.
Family Stories of Courage
CTA/NEA-Retired member Raquel Ramsey has co-written Taking Flight: The Nadine Ramsey Story, about a courageous woman who helped clear the flight path for today’s female combat and commercial aviators. In October 1944, Nadine Ramsey (the author’s future sister-in-law) was 33 and flying the cutting-edge P-51 Mustang to the war in Europe. Taking Flight is the inspiring story of a girl from Depression-era Kansas who overcame tremendous challenges and defied convention to become an elite pilot — one of the few American women to fly fighter aircraft during World War II.
Raquel Ramsey taught for 24 years in Beverly Hills Unified School District. In 2016, she was co-executive producer of Never Surrender: The Ed Ramsey Story, a documentary about her late husband, who in 1942 led the final horse-mounted cavalry charge in U.S. Army history. After the fall of Bataan, Ed Ramsey became a member of the Filipino resistance, commanding over 40,000 Filipino guerrilla troops against Japan.
Love Comes in Every Shade
As our country grapples with its difficult past, two educators offer a timely book to combat stereotypes and celebrate the skin tones of Black and brown people with Brown: The Many Shades of Love. Penned by elementary school teacher Nancy Johnson James, a San Leandro Teachers Association member, and illustrated by art teacher Constance Moore, an Alameda Education Association member, the picture book takes a look at the narrative around skin tone in a loving and lovely ode to the color brown. A boy describes the colors of his family’s skin — the clear, dark chocolate brown of his mama, the autumn leaf brown of his father — and celebrates his own gingerbread hue. As many children engage in tough discussions pertaining to racial differences in the early grades, the inviting language in this work is sure to pique the interest of young readers. Available at Amazon and cameronbooks.com.
Teacher Saves World
Teacher Saves World is a new podcast from wife-husband team Laurie and Matt Jones. Its goal is “education for teachers and parents that are trying to save the world, one teenager at a time,” with episodes that explore issues such as the most important year of high school and top concerns for hybrid classrooms. Both Joneses are 20-year educators and members of Tulare Joint Union High School Teachers Association.
Woman on the move
High school librarian and Grossmont Education Association member Laura Preble has won awards for her young adult series, Queen Geek Social Club. Her newest novel is the darkly witty Anna Incognito (2020), and while it deals with adult themes, it features a teen character pivotal to the story.
Protagonist Anna Colin Beck suffers from OCD and lives a regimented life at home, doing everything she can to avoid subjecting herself to the torments of a germ-infested world. A chance meeting in a laundromat changes her life, and she finds herself on a solo cross-country trip determined to stop a wedding. Though she’s planned extensively for all contingencies, there are some twists and turns — on a trip, in life — you just can’t prepare for. Available for purchase here.
Mocha: A Loyal and Loving Cat…
Mocha’s family moves to a new neighborhood, but she leaves them and heads back to her old house. Why? In this true story, told from Mocha’s point of view, a one-of-a-kind cat becomes not only companion but caregiver to her new owner. Her unconditional love and support during an especially difficult time makes a lasting impact on her owner’s life.
Third grade teacher Dana Russell, a member of Menlo Park Education Association, based the 2019 book on her former cat, who helped her process her grief after the sudden death of her husband. “I’m hoping it may be helpful for any child going through a tough time,” Russell says. “With the powerful love of a pet, sometimes we can get through the worst circumstances, as the book emphasizes.” Mocha is illustrated by middle school art teacher and MPEA member Anna Herzlinger Kogan. On Amazon.
Making a Scene
Mike Kimmel spent 11 years working on The Tonight Show With Jay Leno. The actor and ESL and drama teacher, a member of Burbank Teachers Association, has long felt the need for practical, effective training tools for child and teen actors. So, he’s written several instructional books to meet the need, including Monologues for Teens (2018), named Performing Arts Book of the Year by the Independent Author Network, and Monologues for Kids and Tweens (2019). The family-friendly books contain positive imagery and subtle life lessons. Available at Amazon and mikekimmelauthor.com.
Shoes Off, Mommy? / ¿Me descalzo, mami?
Little Ali loves to take her shoes off and go barefoot — she feels most free without her shoes. With her mom’s support she discovers modern dance, her true calling, where she can be herself — barefoot and free!
Alison Rose is an elementary dance educator and United Teachers Los Angeles member. Shoes Off, Mommy? (2017), illustrated by Kathleen Vaslett-Carr, is based on Rose’s own personal narrative and is best for ages 5-8. It’s available in English and a Spanish and English bilingual version on Amazon.
Krishna Dalal, a math coach and member of the San Rafael Teachers Association, is the author of two award-winning picture books that are ideal for students ages 6-10.
Found All Around (2014) explores found poetry, where words are taken from existing texts (newspapers, menus, books, etc.), reordered and turned into poems. The how-to book includes creative found poems and illustrates the origin and process of each. Perfect for hesitant and proficient poets alike.
“Hey, that’s me!”
As a stay-at-home mom and then a reading specialist, PHELICIA LANG struggled to find books for her children and students with characters that looked like them and reflected them in a positive way. The Antioch Education Association member created Me on the Page (meonthepage.com), to produce and promote “what is true, healthy, and good … so our children see themselves on the page.” The Tay Early Reader series is the first out and is available on the site, as well as Amazon and Barnes & Noble. Next up: a series for girls. “My greatest joy comes when I hear children say, ‘Hey, that’s me!’” after reading one of her books, Lang says. “Encouraging the kids to dream big dreams and be kind is the message I want to impart to them.”
Harvesting Friends/Cosechando Amigos
California Faculty Association member Kathleen Contreras is a bilingual educator and author of children’s books, including the new picture book Harvesting Friends/Cosechando Amigos (grades pre-K–3). In the book, young Lupe and Antonio learn that planting and tending a garden not only yield great veggies, but can grow community as well. A few simple recipes are included.