DUTCH GIRL: #AudreyHepburn and WWII by Robert Matzen — book review

Audrey Hepburn fans, are you ready for this?

I hereby give DUTCH GIRL –Audrey Hepburn and World War II

by bestselling biographer Robert Matzen five stars.

Disclaimer: I received this wonderful arc of DUTCH GIRL from the publicist. On a whim, I contacted Mr. Matzen, as I have read every Audrey bio from Barry Paris (“Hepburn’s definitive biographer,” as Matzen puts it, and I fully agree.), Spoto, Maychick, –the list goes on, including her sons’ books: AUDREY HEPBURN, AN ELEGANT SPIRIT (Sean Ferrer) and AUDREY AT HOME: MEMORIES OF MY MOTHER’S KITCHEN (Luca Dotti). In fact, I even read Cornelius Ryan’s A BRIDGE TOO FAR, about the WWII Battle of Arnhem, in an attempt to “unite the dots” as Dotti writes in his heartfelt Foreword of Matzen’s book.

Do you know how thrilled I was to get this book?

And I was not disappointed.

DUTCH GIRL is a moving, fascinating, factual account of young Audrey’s life during the Nazi occupation of the Netherlands. To those who usually gravitate to novels or Audrey movies, I say take this non-fiction detour.

No, it’s not Breakfast At Tiffany’s –but I will note that Holly Golightly and Audrey are very much alike in their scrappy determination to survive and succeed. No, it is not My Fair Lady, although I would be willing to bet Audrey could relate to Eliza Doolittle’s frustration in re-learning speech patterns to reinvent herself. In a way, the war years depicted in DUTCH GIRL were Audrey’s acting teachers. Most definitely they are key to understanding her passion and determination as UNICEF ambassador.

DUTCH GIRL follows two other Matzen books that delve into WWII connections of classic Hollywood stars: Mission: Jimmy Stewart and the Fight for Europe; and Fireball: Carole Lombard and the Mystery of Flight 3 — GoodKnight Books. I am amazed at the compilation of original sources, diaries, and interviews that offer incredible insight into the life of this young girl who became Audrey Hepburn.

“a riveting and gut-wrenching story of a remarkable human being.”

I was part way through the book when we left for vacation and I took it with me because I couldn’t put it down. When I was done, my husband read it. In his words, it’s “a riveting and gut-wrenching story of a remarkable human being.”

In DUTCH GIRL, I not only found those missing pieces left out of previous biographies, I found myself rethinking my perspective on WWII. Gone was the notion that such a war could be boiled down to good vs. bad –although in the case of the world vs. Hitler, this is apt. In Audrey’s world, however, the lines of war were not as clear. Audrey’s experience, like so many others in war, was families torn apart, trapped in fear, chaos, and a deprivation that no one ever asked for–and yet finding a way to keep going. Her experiences are as relevant today as they were over 75 years ago.

So, yes, my friends, I recommend this book.

Brief unsolicited plug: DUTCH GIRL is available for pre-order now and releases next month–on April 15th.

Read it. Share it. Talk about it.

This year, May 5th would have marked Audrey’s 90th birthday. In my mind, I can think of no better tribute to her spirit than the release of Robert Matzen’s DUTCH GIRL.


True or false: TWO TRUTHS AND A LIE is full of Writing Prompts

A book review AND teaching idea for busy teachers…

As a former very-busy teacher, like YOU, I know every minute counts in your school day. So here’s how to mine this cool #kidlit book for awesome WRITING PROMPTS or quick writes, for any grades 1-12 (I’m serious here.):


by Ammi-Joan Paquette and Laurie Ann Thompson

Illus. by Lisa K. Weber

Walden Pond Press / Harper Collins

Starred review ALA Booklist

You may think this crazy-cool MG non-fiction book is too old or young for your class, but THINK AGAIN! Each chapter can be used independently. For upper grades, read the three too-amazing-to-be-true stories about the natural world and have students guess which is the lie. For younger grades, or if you have limited time–ha did I just say that?–I highly recommend you use the side bar in each chapter (with nine Truths and one Lie) as a read-aloud and again challenge students to guess which is the lie.  

Writing Applications: Great for quick writes, Critical Thinking, Persuasive writing, Opinion pieces, or informative/explanatory writing–from 1st grade on up–in which Ss state their opinion and must back it up. People, this is #STEM + #Writing + hooking reluctant readers. 

If you like this suggestion, I’ll be back next month with another one.


Writing with upper grades at the International School in Curitiba, Brazil.

True fact: In addition to writing #kidlit, I’m a credentialed, fingerprinted, English/Theater teacher with decades of classroom experience. I love prep (Yeah, I know. Go ahead and judge.), creating engaging lesson plans, the first day of school, motivating students of all ages, and I’m betting you do too.

THANK YOU for all you do!

3 NEW Picture Book Pairings

These picture book pairings are for busy PreK-2 Teachers and Librarians:

I’m sure you’ll agree that pairing picture books on a similar topic is a fabulous way to introduce new genres to students. With the school year winding down, and your summer book lists growing, here are three pairings of new and upcoming picture books for your TBR stacks:

Topic–Education for all 


by award-winning author Patricia Newman

Illustrated by Mehrdokht Amini

(Lightswitch Learning/ May 2018)  

Neema wants to go to school, but Mama cannot afford the uniform or supplies. Neema saves her money and dreams big dreams, until one day hope skips down the street… Back matter includes primary source interviews from students in Kenya.

Lyrical and lovely, Neema’s Reason to Smile reminds us that education is the greatest gift we can give a child, and that with enough love and determination, dreams sometimes do come true. Moving, important, and inspiring.

Katherine Applegate, Newbery Medal Winning Children’s Author

Pair this with…


By Baptiste and Miranda Paul 

Illustrated by Isabel Muñoz

(Little Bee Books/ Simon & Schuster / May 2018)

This well-researched picture book is also both fiction and non-fiction. The book follows thirteen students from different countries as they head to school via very diverse ways. Sidebars add details about each country.

Publishers Weekly: The accounts…based on the commutes of actual children, are told in vivid first-person narratives...Images made to resemble snapshots show each child in class and ready to learn, but readers will grasp the subtle message about how profoundly different a universal experience can be. 


Topic–Women and girls in #STEM/ #STEAM


By Jim Averbeck

Illustrated by Yasmeen Ismail

(Margaret K. McElderry Books/ June 2018)

Sophia quickly learns her new pet comes with two giraffe-sized problems in this enterprising sequel to One Word from Sophia, which was named one of the Best Picture Books of 2015 by Kirkus Reviews.

Starred Review from KIRKUS: Sophia proves she’s not only a gifted linguist and negotiator (One Word from Sophia, 2015), but a brilliant engineer, as well… Fun, clever, and empowering, this is the rare case of a sequel that outshines its predecessor

Pair this with…

COUNTING ON KATHERINE–How Katherine Johnson Saved Apollo 13

By Helaine Becker

Illustrated by Dow Phumiruk

(Henry Holt BYR / June 2018)

This is an important picture book biography of mathematician Katherine Johnson, who worked for NASA during the space race, and whose notoriety increased after the film, Hidden Figures.

Starred review from KIRKUS“A picture-book biography of a humble genius who excelled in a career once out of reach for most African-Americans. An excellent biography that will inspire young readers, especially girls, to do what they love.”


Topic–Getting Ready for Kindergarten


By Mike Ornstein

Illustrated by Kevin M. Barry

(Sleeping Bear Press/ July 2018)

The bus driver is a pirate! Arrrr you ready for this fun read? Using humor and pirate-speak, Kindergarrrten Bus addresses some of the concerns and anxiety that many children feel on their first day of school or at the start of any new undertaking.

Pair this with…


By Erin Dealey

Illustrated by Joseph Cowman

(Sleeping Bear Press/ August 2017)

Full disclosure: I wrote this one, which is why I feel qualified to suggest you consider it as a non-fiction pairing, with A to Z information about what to expect in Kindergarten. 

 School Library Journal: PreS-K—The alphabet frames this collection of activities for kindergarten, highlighting 26 (and more) words and challenges for youngsters anticipating the highlights of a school day. As rhyming verse introduces each activity, a sidebar lists Countdown and Challenge activities for more adventurous readers and their parents… this well-organized book will encourage readers to practice new words, learn through hands-on creativity, and face new challenges.  

Leave a reply and let me know what you think. Or use the comment section to add your own new pairing suggestions.

Happy End of the School Year, my friends.

You’re almost there…


Happy Summer Reading! 

Getting started: Picture Book writing for Student Authors.

Dear Wonderful Teachers:


On Monday, I talked to a class of Student Authors who are writing their own picture books, and weren’t sure how to get started. It reminded me of the Picture Book Unit that was always a hit with my students.

Have you ever tried this?

  1. Pair up Kinders or first graders with your Student Authors.
  2. Student Authors interview their buddies using a Children’s Book interview worksheet (see below) to gather ideas about their characters and story. 
  3. Student Authors write books starring their new buddies. 
  4. Meet back with the buddies for a Book Party and have Student Authors read and present their finished books.

But let’s back up here.

Some students will have ideas right away.  

Most have NO IDEA where to start. 

Here’s the interview sheet I use: 

In Section I, the Student author gathers information about the characters.

I. Main Characters

  1. Name/ Nicknames:                                                                                                                     
  2. Best Friends                                                            
  3. Who do you live with? Mom ? Dad ? Grandparents? Aunt or Uncle? Guardian
  4. Sisters & Brothers? (Older or younger? )
  5. I share a bedroom with: (This might be a great conflict!)
  6. Do you have any pets? (What kind? Names? Who is your favorite?)
  7. **What kind of pet would you LIKE to have?**What would you name it?


Section II helps the Student author brainstorm about possible settings. 

  1. Where do you live? Where would you like to live?
  2. What does your dream home look like? (Color? Two-story? Ranch? Apartment?)
  3. If you could go ANYWHERE in the world, where would you go? (Be sure to ask for details.) Why? Who lives there? What would you do?


Section III gives the Student author ideas about the story itself. What situation will or protagonist find himself/herself in? 

  1. Favorite food:
  2. Least favorite food:
  3. Favorite book: (Be sure to ask about the main character, what happens, etc.)
  4. Favorite toy/ Least favorite toy:
  5. What would you like to be when you grow up? (What do they do?)
  6. Favorite t.v. program? (Ask for details if you aren’t familiar with it.)
  7. If you could do anything–or be anyone– in the whole world, what would you do? Who would you be?
  8. If you were a Mom or Dad, what would you tell your kids?
  9. What kind of rules do you have at home?
  10. The best thing about Kindergarten/First grade is:
  11. The worst thing about Kindergarten is:


Section IV provides details to help the Student author illustrate the book. 

Describe the child you are interviewing–or draw a quick sketch/stick figure. Be sure to note:

  1. Hair: ( color; style, length, curly?)
  2. Height: (Average? Tallest kid in the class? Shortest?)
  3. Personality: (Quiet? Shy? ENERGETIC ? Confident? Mischievous? )


Section IV E may generate other ideas for the book–plus it’s fun to ask the Kinders/first graders these questions. ; ) 

Have him/her answer these questions:

  1. I have freckles. Yes   No              
  2. I wear earrings. Yes   No              
  3. I lost a tooth. Yes                 No               *Did the Tooth Fairy come? What happened?
  4. I like to climb. Yes               No              
  5. I like to laugh. Yes                No              
  6. I like school. Yes                 No              
  7. I like recess!!!!! Yes               No              
  8. I like to dance. Yes                 No              
  9. I like to take baths. Yes               No              __________________________________________________
  1. My favorite color is: .
  2. My favorite ice cream flavor is:
  3. My favorite song is:
  4. My favorite game is:
  5. I am good at: (sport? art? activity?)
  6. My birthday is: (Date, if possible)
  7. This is what I’d like to do on my next birthday:

Added perks of this unit: 

  1. The cross-age element is just as amazing for the big kids as their buddies. 
  2. Middle grade and high school Teachers and Student Authors have an excuse to read, read, READ the amazing picture books that are out there! Bring in as many as you can. Have a read-a-thon. Have Student authors analyze their favorites and use them as mentor texts. Ready, set–GO.
  3. Your Student Authors will actually complete this assignment. WHO COULD DISAPPOINT THEIR BUDDY?  

I can’t recommend this cross-age activity enough!

If you try it, give me a tweet @ErinDealey or leave a comment below.

*If you would like a pdf of this interview worksheet, let me know. 

Go for it, my friends.

Raising writers = Raising readers.

PS If you’re using DECK THE WALLS for your annual holiday program,


I would love to see video or photos!  

Kindergarten #tbt Show and Tell –part 17

Our final #tbt Show & Tell is from

Nancy Castaldo.

This adorable kindergartner grew up to be an educator, SCBWI Regional Advisor, and #kidlit author of nonfiction books for children, including TWO 2017 releases:

SNIFFER DOGS: How Dogs (and Their Noses) Save the World

(HMH Books for Young Readers)

“An exemplary presentation of information in a lively, engaging way—readers will be left feeling awe for their canine companions and enthusiasm for their abilities.”
Kirkus, STARRED review

BEASTLY BRAINS: How Animals think, Talk, and Feel

(HMH Books for Young Readers)

“This eye-opening, cogent, and well-structured volume will enlighten students to both the richness of the animal kingdom and the nature of intelligence itself.”
 Booklist, STARRED review

It’s no wonder Nancy’s kindergarten memory is about nature walks!

“This is me getting off the school bus on my very first day of kindergarten. The best thing about kindergarten for me was not mandatory nap time (Nap? There’s too much to see, learn, and do!) , but going on the nature walks outside with my teacher. I can remember filing down the long path into the woods near my elementary school and loving every minute – even when we reached the old, abandoned house and all took off running back to the school. If it was up to me we would have stayed and explored!”

As parents and teachers, sometimes we forget that there are lessons to be learned everywhere and time spent exploring the outdoors is never wasted. 

Who knows?

Maybe the young explorer in your backyard will grow up to write non-fiction picture books for the next generation.

To learn more about Nancy Castaldo and her books go to NancyCastaldo.com or follow her on Twitter at @NCastaldoAuthor.

And look what’s coming next:


(Release date: April 2018/ HMH Books for Young Readers)

Castaldo details the successful efforts of scientists to bring threatened animals back from the brink of extinction. This book is sure to interest animal lovers and reluctant nonfiction readers alike.


My sincere thanks to Nancy for sharing her Show & Tell and her wonderful books!

 Thank you, Thank you

to all who have hopped aboard our #Kindergarten blog series bus.

( CLICK THIS LINK to meet the other kindergartners.)

And thanks to all for your kind words about K IS FOR KINDERGARTEN!

Here’s a new review:

“The alphabet frames this collection of activities for kindergarten, highlighting 26 (and more) words and challenges for youngsters anticipating the highlights of a school day. As rhyming verse introduces each activity, a sidebar lists Countdown and Challenge activities for more adventurous readers and their parents. ..VERDICT: …this well-organized book will encourage readers to practice new words, learn through hands-on creativity, and face new challenges.” —School Library Journal 

Happy Reading–and exploring!