Today, I am reviewing two books written by award-winning author, Leslie Kimmelman. If you enjoy reading picture books based on historical events, check out Hot Dog! Eleanor Roosevelt Throws a Picnic. Much can be learned from this informative story. Sam and Charlie (and Sam Too) Return! is a rare find. This book is part of an early chapter book series that has Jewish characters.
Hot Dog! Eleanor Roosevelt Throws a Picnic
Many children find history to be a boring topic. Picture books such as Hot Dog! Eleanor Roosevelt Throws a Picnic may change this mindset. Any child looking at the amusing cover depicting 3 adults in front of a tray of hot dogs will never guess that the book includes historical facts. Victor Juhasz’s charming illustrations enhance Leslie Kimmelman’s selection of carefully selected words.
She skillfully takes a little known event and introduces kids to a wide variety of facts. Young readers will instantly relate to the former First Lady, Eleanor Roosevelt’s, love for hotdogs. As they begin to wonder how Eleanor will find time to enjoy hot dogs in the White House, Leslie introduces readers to tidbits of pre World War II history and also focuses on Eleanor’s role as First Lady. One of her duties was to plan fancy dinner parties for visiting dignitaries.
When King George VI and Queen Elizabeth decided to travel to America, Eleanor faced a special challenge. It was the first time that a British king or queen would be visiting the US since the American Revolution. In honor of this occasion, Eleanor chose an all-American menu that included roasted hot dogs. This controversial decision generated a negative letter writing campaign that chastised the First Lady’s menu choices. Eleanor was not concerned by the public outcry. In her daily newspaper column, she reassured the public that the country’s pride would not be jeopardized.
The king and queen graciously tasted their first hot dogs and enjoyed the American style picnic and entertainment. To commemorate this unique event, a 50-year anniversary picnic was held at Hyde Park, New York. The original menu was served to the guests. Queen Elizabeth was unable to attend, but transmitted her positive sentiments. “The memory of the picnic was a source of strength and comfort to the king and me through the dark days of the Second World War, which followed so soon after our visit.”
The book concludes with an Author’s Note. It highlights some key historical facts that will help younger readers better understand Eleanor and Franklin, the Depression, and relationship between the two countries.
In the Author’s Note, Leslie mentions the collection of letters housed at the research library at Hyde Park. However, she does not include any other sources that she consulted at the Hyde Park library or elsewhere. Additionally, children who are searching for more information on this topic or related areas are not provided a list of age appropriate resources.
Sam and Charlie (and Sam Too) Return!
I have not read the first book in this series. I was told that the books could be read independently. The three named characters are Jewish. Charlie is a girl who lives next door to her best friend Sam, a boy. Charlie’s little sister is named Sam Too. A third book will be released in 2015.
It is a delight to see an early chapter book that includes Jewish children. Jewish children can relate directly to the holiday experiences. This enhances pride in their Jewish heritage. Non-Jewish children can learn some important facts about Jewish customs and traditions. However, it is unclear whether a non-Jewish audience will gravitate toward such a book, especially since the book does not include a glossary of Jewish words or a brief explanation of Jewish customs.
This early chapter book has 5 chapters. The chapters focus on the three characters’ friendship and Jewish holidays. In the first chapter, Charlie and Sam work together to shovel driveways. After playing in the snow, the duo share hot cocoa with Sam Too.
In the next two chapters, the story highlights two Jewish holidays- Tu B’Shevat and Passover. After a tree has fallen in their backyard, the trio agrees to plant a new tree. A short dialogue educates readers about the minor Jewish festival of Tu B’Shevat, The third chapter showcases the celebration of Passover- the preparation, the Passover Seder, and the ritual of finding the afikomen.
The fourth chapter shifts back to a general topic. The main characters are interacting with a boy named Jason. Even though he is unable to talk, they all play together.
In the final chapter, the 3 characters celebrate Chanukah by playing dreidel, watching the candles burn, and eating latkes.
The simple colorful drawings provide excellent visual clues that will help beginning readers decipher the age appropriate text. Reading Sam and Charlie (and Sam Too) Return! will enable Jewish and non-Jewish readers to gain a better appreciation for Jewish traditions.
Recent Book awards
- Sydney Taylor Award Notable Book 2011 for The Little Red Hen and the Passover Matzah
- CELI Book Award for Children’s Literature, finalist, 2010, for Mind Your Manners, Alice Roosevelt
- Bank Street College of Education Best Children’s Books of the Year, 2010, for Mind Your Manners, Alice Roosevelt
- Bank Street College of Education Best Children’s Books of the Year, 2006, for Emma and Bo: In the Doghouse
In exchange for an honest interview and review, Leslie sent me a copy of Hot Dog! Eleanor Roosevelt Throws a Picnic and Sam and Charlie (and Sam Too) Return!.
Anyone who leaves a comment on this blog by Sunday, August 31 will be eligible for a book giveaway.Leslie Kimmelman will send the randomly selected winner an autographed copy of Hot Dog! Eleanor Roosevelt Throws a Picnic.
Sandra Bornstein is the author of MAY THIS BE THE BEST YEAR OF YOUR LIFE. It is available on Amazon. Sandra’s memoir highlights her living and teaching adventure in Bangalore, India. She is a licensed Colorado teacher who has taught K-12 students in the United States and abroad as well as college level courses. Sandra is married and has four adult sons. The memoir was a finalist in the Travel category for the 2013 Next Generation Indie Book Awards, the 2013 International Book Awards, the 2013 National Indie Book Excellence Awards, the 2013 USA Best Book Awards, and received an Honorable Mention award in the Multicultural Non-Fiction category for the 2013 Global ebook Awards.