Book Reviews


Alma and How She Got Her Name by Juana Martinez-Neal

My Children’s Librarian co-worker brought this lovely book to my attention when it was named a Caldecott Honor book this past winter. And it would fit right in to a family history storytime.

The title character thinks her name is too long and complains to her father. He sits her down to explain all her names and the family and friends that each one represents. Leaving her with a strong foundation in the past to take into her future. Like Tell me a Tattoo Story, it’s a parent sharing the family stories and relating them to a curious child in a way that the children can relate to and keep forever.

And it’s fun to talk about names and where they com from. To be fair, mine was one of the most popular at the time of my birth but my middle name is a strong older name to pair it with. Sometimes there are names passed down, sometimes names created. Those stories of why are worth adding to our files and keeping alive.

Thank you to Ms. Mari for bringing it to my attention!

Happy hunting,

Jess

I went looking for an ARC (Advanced Reading Copy) of this title after catching an exchange between @CleverTitleTK (Fight on #resistancegenealogy!) and the author. @weiss_squad and @PRHLibrary came through for me!

Cover ImageFamily secrets, DNA, nature and nurture…

As a memoirist Shapiro has written extensively on her family and relationships which no doubt made the results of her DNA test all the more disconcerting. In Inheritance she presents a heartfelt chronicle of the discovery of a non-Jewish 1st cousin in her results, the research to discover her surprise biological paternal family, and the initial correspondence with her genetic father, all alongside her anguish over what that meant for her relationships with her social father and mother—both deceased.

For me this was a bit close to home and I will admit to putting it down briefly as her pain and confusion came off the page. As a genealogist this isn’t a particularly new story to me but, given recent revelations in my own family, it was a timely and emotional read. As the popularity of commercial DNA tests grows it is obvious that stories like this will continue to come to light and Dani Shapiro offers here a thoughtful examination of her feelings, motivations, and fears that can be of comfort to people with similar stories.

Happy reading and hunting!

Jess

its-all-relative-9781476734491_hrToday’s the release day for A. J. Jacob’s latest, It’s All Relative: Adventures Up and Down the World’s Family Tree. This is a fun and easy read about genealogy and the notion of families in general. In it Jacobs (The Know-It-All and The Year of Living Biblically) works on his own family tree, meditates on the nature of family, and plots to host the world’s largest family reunion culminating in the Global Family Reunion in June of 2015. It includes big topics—privacy, scandal, DNA and “non-paternal events,” tradition and tribalism, and embracing failure—all handled with humor and care. It made me laugh and groan, but it’s also very hopeful for our global family.

Happy hunting (and reading),

Jess

 

TattooStoryMcGheeWheelerThis post is only tangentially related to my time at #FGS2016, in that it was something I was reminded I wanted to write about while I attended an excellent session on genealogy programming for youths on Wednesday. If you haven’t already done so, check out the blog Growing Little Leaves by Emily Kowalski Schroeder. 

Families come in all sizes, shapes, colors, and… levels of ink?

Tell Me a Tattoo Story by Alison McGhee and illustrated by Eliza Wheeler, appealed to me on so many levels. The genealogist in me sees a fabulous way to share personal and family stories with children, the rebel in me loves the tattoos all by themselves, and the artist in me just adores the amazing details in this fabulous short picture book about a little boy who always wants his very inked father to tell him the stories of his tattoos—all of which have important meaning for milestones or important people in his life. Tattoos can be a fabulous family conversation starter and often carry with them important and heartfelt stories.

And thank you again, Ms. Cassie for pointing it out!

Happy hunting (and reading),

Jess

The Matchbox Diary by Paul Fleishman and illustrator Bagram IbatoullineSo, one of my genealogy related projects this month was a preschool storytime for work which meant I had to track down great books to interest kids in talking about their families and their stories. My fabulous find for the year was The Matchbox Diary by Paul Fleishman and illustrator Bagram Ibatoulline. It’s wonderful!

This picture book begins with a great-grandfather asking his great-granddaughter to pick anything in a memory filled room and he would tell her a story. She picks an old cigar box and so begins the diary he started as a child in Italy before he could read or write and continued as his family immigrated to the United States. The story is hard and beautiful, the art work amazing and detailed. It’s a perfect book to share to talk about the immigrant experience and family stories. It is a bit long for a storytime but my fabulous children’s librarian reminded me that you can skip around with this age group, so a few properly placed paperclips made it just right.

For my craft portion of the day I gave them all  plain boxes to decorate and keep their memories in. They decorated with markers, puffy letters, and assorted bits o’stuff we keep in the closet—in other words glue stick fun!

Other great picture book picks:

  • The Arrival by Shaun Tan—a wordless fantastic masterpiece about the immigrant experience.
  • Grandpa Green by Lane Smith—a great-grandfather’s life story in topiary.
  • All Kinds of Family by Mary Ann Hoberman and illustrated by Marc Boutavant—on the broad concept of family.

Do you know of other good family history related reads for kids? Please pass them on!

Happy hunting,

Jess

One of the joys of working in a library is getting to see all the new materials come in. And one of my friends at work brought this lovely book to my attention. Thank you, Mariya! 

Dear Photograph by Taylor Jones, based on his popular Tumblr blog, is a fabulous collection of photographs taken at the original scene of older sentimental photos. Submissions include families on porches, historic moments (such as snapshot from the sidelines of Kennedy campaigning for president), wedding shots, and shots of  lost friends, as well as old black and white shots of peoples ancestors sitting in front of the family home that has come down the generations.

The genealogist in me absolutely fell for this! This is such a fabulous way to tell a story, show change in our special places and bring history to life. It can be a pilgrimage to go back to the site of the original photo, to hear the stories surrounding the site and the photo, remembering the people involved and creating the new image with whatever remains.

I really would like to do a few of these… maybe placing some of the original subjects (like my brother and I) along the side of the original picture of us as children? Or maybe with his children in our place? I’ll let you know what I decide. Either way, I highly suggest this book and blog!

Happy hunting!

Jess

I was thrilled to find a new picture book by Caldecott Honor illustrator Lane Smith (It’s a Book) that had a fabulous family history theme just in time for Family History Month. In Grandpa Green, a little boy tells the story of his great grandfather’s life against the backdrop of a topiary garden of memories. The grandson walks through the garden picking up items his grandfather has forgotten while he tells the story of the man born before cell phones and computers who wanted to be a horticulturalist but instead went to war, met his wife in Paris, had lots of kids, grandkids, and one great grandson—the narrator. Each section of text is accompanied by a corresponding illustration of the grandfather’s garden where his memories live on. The detail in the topiary garden is amazing and the story is moving. It’s a well-constructed book with something for children and adults. And it would be a great conversation starter when talking about family history with a child. Recommended for ages 5 and up.