Summary: This is the tale of an old, old man and an old, old woman who both go to the home of the tongue-cut sparrow. the old, old man's kindness is rSummary: This is the tale of an old, old man and an old, old woman who both go to the home of the tongue-cut sparrow. the old, old man's kindness is rewarded, while the old, old, woman's greediness is dealt with more severely.
Response: I have wanted to read this story for years and I am so glad I finally got to it! It is a delightful, classic folktale, and it would be perfect to use in a discussion of folktale elements (the undefined characters who are only known as the "old, old" man and woman, the way kindness is rewarded and greediness is punished). It reminded me of "The Talking Eggs" and would work well in a compare-and-contrast discussion, too. The artwork appears to be very traditional, and the old, old woman in particular is displayed with almost demon-like ugliness.
Summary: This novel tells the story of Moon Shadow's decision to leave the Middle Kingdom and come live in turn-of-the-century San Francisco with hisSummary: This novel tells the story of Moon Shadow's decision to leave the Middle Kingdom and come live in turn-of-the-century San Francisco with his father. It chronicles his life in America, first in the Tang people's part of the city (what white people call Chinatown), and then living alone with his father among the "demons," as he considers white people.
Response: I have never read a Laurence Yep book, and I am so glad I finally did. I will definitely read more. Aside from how much I enjoyed the narrative elements, I enjoyed the perspective-shift that Yep provided me as a white reader. He not only chooses a character who can provide me with a new perspective, but he uses language conventions in such a way as to jar me out of my usual position. For example, he refers to China and the Chinese people by the names they themselves would use (the Middle Kingdom, the T'ang people), and his main character constantly refers to white people as demons. He also italicizes all the American words in the book, a convention that usually highlights the "foreign" words in a story. The cumulative effect of this was to make me feel like the outsider, in a way, because from Moon Shadow's point of view, my familiar world is his foreign world. many writers of immigrant stories convey that very well, but I really enjoyed how Yep accomplished this goal in a very specific way. It is the same reason that I enjoyed the reading experience, as well as the information, in A to Zen, where the book is not only about Japan, but is laid out in a Japanese book format.
Summary: Antonia tells the story of how she longs for a little sister and finally gets her wish when she travels with her parents to China to bring heSummary: Antonia tells the story of how she longs for a little sister and finally gets her wish when she travels with her parents to China to bring her new sister home.
Response: This is a very sweet story told from the perspective of a little girl who longs to be a big sister. I think it would ring very true to litter girls with the same wish. This story also gently reminds us that there are many ways to be a sibling when we learn that Antonia will meet her mei-mei by going to China with her parents to adopt her and bring her home. Antonia feels the same surprise any child might feel when they meet their baby sibling - the baby can't walk, or talk, or play at all yet - so the story is a wonderful way for adopted and non-adopted children to both learn about a different experience and relate tot he main character at the same time. I also like that this story reminds me of the complexity of categorizing literature; this is one of many versions of what it means to be Asian-American, or to be an Asian-American literary work. While Antonia is from China, her name comes from her Italian nonna (grandmother) and her family is brought together by adoption across cultural lines. A teacher could use it to teach many points, or just to enjoy a sweet family story with lovely and peaceful water color illustrations. As a parent, I also loved Ed Young's note of explanation at the back of the book and how he came to write the story of adopting his first child and how, when he saw the story through her eyes, he knew how he wanted to tell it.
Summary: This novel tells the story of Tree Ear, a young orphan in 12th century Korea. Tree Ear goes to work for the master potter, Min, and he learnsSummary: This novel tells the story of Tree Ear, a young orphan in 12th century Korea. Tree Ear goes to work for the master potter, Min, and he learns the craft of pottery making as he finds new family and a new place in his village.
Response: I have never read a book set in Korea, and I love historical fiction, so this was a wonderful historical fiction reading experience. I enjoyed all the details of life in 12th century Korea, and I thought the author did a good job of making all Tree Ear's experiences accessible to modern kids; many aspects of Tree Ear's feelings and reactions will feel familiar to kids even though his circumstances are very different. I read this book more as a teacher than as a reader, as I thought it would be a strong example for teaching the genre of historical fiction; the factual notes at the back of the book support this goal, and there is much that could be done with information reading and maps to support the novel. I also saw many ecological messages in this story, in the way resources were used, the way nothing was wasted, the way the villagers relied on their natural surroundings and therefore lived in better balance with them. I think Tree Ear's reverence for the punnus vase is a good sybol for this message; he describes its harmony and symmetry, the balance between earth and sky, the way the art form reflects the natural world. As we all turn to a more green way of living on the earth in our time, I think kids will be interested to learn how most people through history have lived in better balance, and historical fiction (this book in particular) can help develop this awareness.
Summary: This is a good biography of Ida B. Wells-Barnett for older elementary school and middle school students. It goes into deeper detail about herSummary: This is a good biography of Ida B. Wells-Barnett for older elementary school and middle school students. It goes into deeper detail about her life as a journalist and about the many incidents of lynching she revealed and fought.
Response: This is a good and very detailed biography for the older student who is very interested in the life and work of Ida B. Wells-Barnett. A teacher could also use this text to teach about life for African-Americans in the years after the Civil War and how conditions changed and gradually worsened for black people in the south (and the north). This may help modern day students to better understand how our country came to the Civil Rights movement. This text also emphasizes the power of journalism and the written word as weapons against injustice, and a teacher could use this work to teach this point as well.
Summary: This is an elementary school biography of Ida B. Wells-Barnett, and African-American woman, journalist, and anti-lynching activist.
Response:Summary: This is an elementary school biography of Ida B. Wells-Barnett, and African-American woman, journalist, and anti-lynching activist.
Response: This is a good primary grade biography; it tells the general outline of her life with a grade-level-appropriate amount of details. It defines difficult terms (such as lynching) well, making it meaningful to younger audiences. There are some good non-fiction text features, such as chapters, photographs with captions, a timeline, and a glossary.
Summary: This novel of poems tells of the events and the influences of the life of George Washington Carver. The poems reflect the different places CaSummary: This novel of poems tells of the events and the influences of the life of George Washington Carver. The poems reflect the different places Carver lived and work as well as the different people who knew him; they are accompanied by photos and artifacts from his life.
Response: I would not have thought of telling a biography through poetry, but Carver comes across as such a quiet, reflective, inner person, that the poems become the perfect way to learn about him. I felt I was able to understand all the influences on him, of the people who taught and supported him, to better understand how he became such a multi-faceted inventor and artist. At the same time, he came through as very real, a little quirky and very serious about his passion for his work. Nelson is an amazing writer and poet who seemed able to represent the voices of a variety of people who lived long ago and who knew an extraordinary person.
Summary: This novel of poems tells us about Lonnie Collins Motion, who lives with a foster parents after his parents were killed in a fire. He is sepaSummary: This novel of poems tells us about Lonnie Collins Motion, who lives with a foster parents after his parents were killed in a fire. He is separated from his sister and is struggling to live with his memories of what he lost while he tries to move forward.
Response: I cannot imagine Lonnie's story told any other way - the poems were a perfect way to meet Lonnie and hear his story. The poems were both his outlet and his frustration; they represented a grown-up who understood him as best she could, but even who at times could not possibly know what he needed. Lonnie tries out different styles of poetry just as he tries to find different voices with which to express his emotions and just as he tries to fit in with his friends and find God for his sister's sake. The poems capture both his interior emotional life, so they reveal his character, just as they express the events of the story, so it is a novel with a different way of expressing a typical plot structure. I found all of the voices to be so believable; Woodson does not make this a kids-against-the grown-ups situation, but rather there is a range of kid-behavior and grown-up behavior that feels very authentic. While this book is not particularly culturally specific (Lonnie is mostly himself rather than a symbol for a particular cultural experience), Woodson's beautiful and thoughtful writing and character development provide readers with a character and story that don't feed into stereotypes, which itself is a powerful statement.
Summary: 10-year old Bud Caldwell is on his own in depression era Michigan, and this novel tells the story of his search for his father. He uses his cSummary: 10-year old Bud Caldwell is on his own in depression era Michigan, and this novel tells the story of his search for his father. He uses his courage and intelligence to track down the man he thinks is his father and eventually finds a place to call home.
Response: I love the way Christopher Paul Curtis can capture the voice of a 10-year-old boy and he also captured the voice (from as best as I can tell) of 1936. I enjoyed getting to know Bud and all the people he met along the way who helped him find a home, but I prefer the story of "The Watsons Go to Birmingham - 1963." I enjoyed reading another work by this author, but of the two, I found the other novel more compelling. I did enjoy, in "Bud, Not Buddy" the snapshot of this era and of this part of the African-American experience; I don't think I have read a story of the Depression that focused on African-Americans.
Summary: This book of poems celebrates laughter and joy and each child's right to feel unique and special.
Response: The language dances and celebrateSummary: This book of poems celebrates laughter and joy and each child's right to feel unique and special.
Response: The language dances and celebrates, and the poems just capture the feeling that it is the small moments that are memorable and special. I particularly liked the poems that celebrated the children's names or physical appearances; I felt they caught what kids might feel about defending an unusual name and explaining why their name or physical features are to be rejoiced in and not uncomfortable with. The book is illustrated with beautiful photographs of children in motion and in reflective moments. The contemporary and very natural feel of them is a lovely way to combat some of the more "long-ago-and-far-away" feeling or stereotypical representations of other illustrations of African-American children.
Summary: This is a sea-going story of a young boy on a whaling ship who finally captures the great whale Cetus, who has escaped the capture of many saSummary: This is a sea-going story of a young boy on a whaling ship who finally captures the great whale Cetus, who has escaped the capture of many sailors before.
Response: I really enjoyed this story - I am not usually drawn to stories of ships and sea adventures, and I enjoyed trying something outside my usual interests. The language is delightful - there is a wonderful rhythm to it and a real energy in the structure. The illustrations wonderful as well; with the feeling of old woodcuts they capture the age in which the story takes place.