Summary: Parvana and her family live in Kabul under Taliban rule in the 1990's. When her father is arrested, Parvana must disguise herself as a boy inSummary: Parvana and her family live in Kabul under Taliban rule in the 1990's. When her father is arrested, Parvana must disguise herself as a boy in order to earn money and take care of her family.
Response: This book is powerful in its story and its writing, and it will sit with me for a long time. In some ways, this book reads like other books for young readers that discuss difficult topics, but there are startling moments in this book that struck me deeply. Perhaps because it is not historical, but rather contemporary, and I felt like this was something I was supposed to know about, it struck me how many details I hadn't realized before. I know generally about the Taliban's rules for women, but hearing what it was like for one family to live under them was a totally different experience for me. To realize that the women in Parvana's family could not go outside, even to do necessary errands let alone for freedom, health and exercise, made me appreciate what a privilege just going outside is.
I am not sure what age group this important book is for: on the one hand, I would recommend it to my 3rd grade daughter, but perhaps to read together; even though she could read it by herself, I am not sure she should. For 4th and 5th readers, this would be a powerful read aloud and shared experience, but even for older kids, I would want to read it in small groups and support them through the text, both with background information and for the emotional content.
Knowing more about Deborah Ellis also makes me want to support her work by recommending her books and buying them, when possible, so I can "vote with my dollars" in support of her work.
Summary: Samir injures his knee and is sent to a Jewish hospital for surgery. While there, he meets the other kids in Room 6, all of whom are Jewish aSummary: Samir injures his knee and is sent to a Jewish hospital for surgery. While there, he meets the other kids in Room 6, all of whom are Jewish and all of whom he gets to know.
Response: This is a quiet and thoughtful novel, expressing the memories, hopes, and fears of a young Palestinian boy, and it is not a voice I have ever read before. The writing is respectful and honest, and it feels different from other young adult novels i have read, perhaps because it is not only about a life so different from mine, but because it is also translated into English. I feel like I really got to know Samir as he really got to know Yonatan, and I feel like I was privileged to be let in on their growing friendship.
Summary: This informational book is written in an ABC format, with simple explanations and beautiful, contemporary photographs.
Response: the more I leSummary: This informational book is written in an ABC format, with simple explanations and beautiful, contemporary photographs.
Response: the more I learn about using informational books with young children, the more I value excellent photography and contemporary images - this book has both. Photography provides an accuracy of image that is critical, especially when teaching about a topic or place (in this case Pakistan) that has been misunderstood and misrepresented in many mainstream images. It also reinforces the fact that this information is current and contemporary, not historical ("long ago and far away"). With the information being brief explanations for each letter of the alphabet, this book would be good for younger readers or as an introduction to a lesson or unit for older readers. For children from Pakistan, this book could provide a wonderful mirror, and for children just learning about this country, it would provide an excellent window, with some facts probably feeling brand new and some feeling like something they could relate to.
Summary: Larnel befriends his elderly neighbor, Mrs. Katz, by bringing her a kitten and helping her to care for the pet. He learns about her husband aSummary: Larnel befriends his elderly neighbor, Mrs. Katz, by bringing her a kitten and helping her to care for the pet. He learns about her husband and celebrates Passover with her, and they come to feel like part of each other's families.
Response: I love Patricia Polacco, and the more I read of her books, the more respect I have for the stories she tells and the way she is trying to bring people together. I read this minutes after having finished Deborah Ellis' "Three Wishes, " and the two books stand in powerful contrast to each other, figuring into my response. First of all, one is a picture book for young children, and the other is information, reflecting the voices of children. "Mrs. Katz" is about people coming together, people whose outward differences might have kept them apart. "Three Wishes" is sadly about people whose differences, both superficial and substantial, have kept them more divided than most people, and many of the children express no desire to get to know anyone on the other side. The sadness I felt while reading "Three Wishes" was somewhat cheered by reading about the relationship that develops between Mrs. Katz and Larnel.
As with "Mr. Lincoln's Way" and other Patricia Polacco books, the story ends with a note on how lasting this friendship became - Larnel and Mrs. Katz remain connected to each other throughout their lives, and Larnel brings his wife and children to visit their "bubee" and honor her life. Polacco reminds us that momentary connections can change our lives for the better, that a shared experience between two people can be more powerful than the stereotypes that divide us. I wish that many of the children in "Three Wishes" would have the chance to meet each other and have the shared experience that Mrs. Katz and Larnel did.
Summary: Patricia Polacco traces part of her family's history by following this special quilt through generations of weddings and babies.
Response: I hSummary: Patricia Polacco traces part of her family's history by following this special quilt through generations of weddings and babies.
Response: I hadn't planned to read this book, but last week my daughter was tracing her family's time line of immigration to America; while she and I were working on it together, she suddenly realized that the research she was doing on her family and the family tree she was creating reminded her of "The Keeping Quilt" except, as she told me, that that was told like a story while hers was told in a time line. She ran to her room to get the book, and flipped through the pages, showing me how the family came to America and the quilt followed them through the generations. I could tell from her reaction that she had made a meaningful connection and that this story she already loved had just become more meaningful for her. It is exactly the effect good literature can have on us all, and it was beautiful to me to watch her, someone who already loves to read, connect so deeply with a book. Then, as we were reading "The Keeping Quilt" together, I thought of another book about a quilt passing through generations of women in a family, and I made a connection to "Show Way" by Jacquleine Woodsen. Stella had also read it when I did a few weeks ago, and it was fun to share that connection too, for us both to realize the similarities and differences in the roles played by the quilts in these two beautiful books.
Summary: This is a delightfully illustrated book of poems about motion, traveling, and being still.
Response: I had read "19 Varieties of Gazelle" by NSummary: This is a delightfully illustrated book of poems about motion, traveling, and being still.
Response: I had read "19 Varieties of Gazelle" by Naomi Shihab Nye for the class last term and, while I fell "new" to reading poetry, I instantly loved those poems. I felt similarly about this book, although it is, in some ways, the opposite of "19 Vaireties": that one is written for older readers, and it is very clearly about her own cultural background, many of the poems about her relatives in Paletine; this book, "Come With Me," is a picture book of shorter poems for younger readers and they are culturally neutral, more about the motion of words than about any one cultural background. A teacher could use this book in a poetry unit or could pull out individual poems to compliment other themes of travel, journeys, maps, or motion.