Book Review: Exclamation Mark by Amy Krouse Rosenthal and Tom Lichtenheld

exclamationmarkPair self-actualization with punctuation and you can’t go wrong, right? Right!

I absolutely loved this coming of age story for the punctuation mark, exclamation mark, who doesn’t quite fit in with his family full of periods. He sticks out–literally–except when he is sleeping. He tries to hide what makes him different but it just doesn’t work. He even contemplates running away. Then out of nowhere this other strange looking thing appears–a question mark who knows its purpose–and starts asking the exclamation mark a plethora of questions. After it asks the 17th question, “What do you want to be when you grow up?”, exclamation mark screams as only he can, “STOP!” And then…it happens, the exclamation mark realizes his exclamatory gift! He starts to try it out. He shares it with others.  “It was like he broke free from a life sentence,” said the narrator. This is one of many clever instances of word play in the book. And thus the story ends, happily.  It goes off to “make his mark.”

This is an excellent choice for a mini lesson during grammar and writing time when teaching punctuation marks and the affect different ones have on sentences. Of course, there are many other ways to use this book in addition to reading it for the fun of it.  I’d love to read sequels with the other punctuation marks. The sky is the limit!


Molly Bannaky by Alice McGill

Molly Bannaky by Alice McGill

mollybannaky_bcIn 18th century England, Molly Walsh is dairy maid accused of stealing milk from the lord of the manor. Molly is not the culprit. The obstinate cow she milks each morning kicks over the frothy pail most mornings. The harsh lord turns 17 year old Molly over to the authorities to face the penalty–certain death–she escapes because of a loophole in the law. Her ability to read the Bible prevents her from being executed for her “theft,” but recompense must be made. Molly’s sentence is seven years of labor in the New World where her American story begins.

Exhibiting true grit, determination, and sheer will–all the qualities of a frontier person–Molly forges a life for herself in this new land after working off her debt using the mule and the parcel of land given to newly freed debtors. In need of assistance to work her land, she navigates the peculiar institution–slavery–that provides human labor for purchase. Uncomfortable and unfamiliar with the act of buying a person, Molly does choose to purchase the African male whom she notices as a “tall, regal man who dared to look into the eyes of every bidder.” Instead of owner/slave, Molly and Bannaky develop a friendship, allowed during a time before slavery becomes an entrenched institution. It is Molly’s intention to set him free after the work is done. They later marry and start a family in a community that accepts their union. Molly Walsh becomes Molly Bannaky.

I was pleasantly surprised to discover that their oldest daughter had a son with her husband–an African man– whom she names Benjamin Banneker, the famous scientist and mathematician. This puts Molly’s story into perspective.  She and Bannaky pass down their determination and persistence to their grandson. This story is so uniquely American.

Illustrator Chris Soenpiet is just as much the storyteller as author Alice McGill. His visually stunning depictions of Molly’s journey brings the story alive.  The detailed drawings are historically authentic–the tobacco leaves, the livestock. On first sight, the cover is arresting–Molly’s visage–communicating that she has a complex and multifaceted story to tell.

This book is a great choice for a lesson on the differences between indentured servitude and slavery in North America.