Summary: This book features 12 famous places in Australia, highlighting both natural and built formations.
Response: After reading Lynne's response to...moreSummary: This book features 12 famous places in Australia, highlighting both natural and built formations.
Response: After reading Lynne's response to my review of "Big Rain Coming," I decided to use my informational reading to learn more about Australia. While this book didn't provide the overall background knowledge I was looking for, I was pleasantly surprised to find myself learning many wonderful interesting facts. Because this book focuses on famous places, the authors begin by defining the terminology of famous places, which I found very interesting, and I appreciated the concise organization and ongoing use of new terms. As an informational text, it is well organized with key vocabulary words in bold print, maps, diagrams, photographs, and "Zoom In" text boxes with fun trivia facts. I had never given much thought to what makes a famous place famous, and I can see using this book to either teach about Australia or to teach about informational texts and research skills. While I didn't find the explicit information I was looking for about Australia's Aboriginal people, I did feel that a respect for them was simply embedded in the text when the authors discussed famous locations in Indigenous areas. For example, instead of referring to them as a homogeneous group of Aboriginals, they use the individual names of different groups of indigenous people, and they explain how the the National government has worked to restore ownership of Uluru and Kata Tjuta rock formations to the Anangu people since traditional law better protects the sacred site.
Summary: In this comic-book inspired story, Traction Man loses his sidekick, Scrubbing Brush, and tries out a new sidekick, Turbo Dog.
Response: My kid...moreSummary: In this comic-book inspired story, Traction Man loses his sidekick, Scrubbing Brush, and tries out a new sidekick, Turbo Dog.
Response: My kids have been talking about this book and were thrilled to find out I was going to read it for "homework." It was as delightful to read this story as it was to have it so highly recommended by them. My daughter, who doesn't seem the least interested in comics and superheroes, loves this book, and so does my son. It is so fun to read it and share it with them and to know they were so pleased to share it with me. It is clever and delightful, and I really enjoyed it.(less)
Summary: Sosu lives in a village in Ghana right on the shore of a lagoon. Though Sosu's legs aren't strong enough to walk on, he saves the village whe...moreSummary: Sosu lives in a village in Ghana right on the shore of a lagoon. Though Sosu's legs aren't strong enough to walk on, he saves the village when it is threatened by a devastating storm.
Response: The story has beautiful figurative language describing the village, the storm, the sounds of the drum. The illustrations look like watercolors, and they convey the motion of the villagers running to save their neighbors from the storm and the emotions on Sosu's face as he faces this dire situation. Sosu's loving family has always supported him even though his legs keep him from doing what all the other children do, and in the end, the whole village works to celebrate Sosu and provide him with a new wheelchair. This boo would pair well with "Kami and the Yaks": both are about children with disabilities who "save the day" and both are set in other countries. My one request of the author (or of the American publishers) would be to explain when this story is set. Because it depicts a tradional, rural village, the American reader doesn't know if this is contemporary or not; it looks like it could be "long ago and far away" until the very end when we learn that news crews came with cameras to interview Sosu. While children in Ghana know that even today many people live in villages that look like Sosu's, children here may look at the illustrations and assume this story took place a long time ago. I think it would make a powerful impact on contemporary American children to know that some children live in villages like this right now. (less)
Summary: This short, lovely story shows everyone in an Australian village waiting for a big storm.
Response: This is one of the most beautiful picture...moreSummary: This short, lovely story shows everyone in an Australian village waiting for a big storm.
Response: This is one of the most beautiful picture books I have ever seen. The simplicity of the text sits beautifully on the gorgeous illustrations. The are style is new to me, although it reminds me of the colorful animal statues from Oxaca, Mexico, in its bright, bold colors and the many small dots over patches of solid color. The figures of people are all black, long and thin and indistinct, but they convey such motion, energy, stillness and anticipation. Along the bottom of every page runs the Rainbow Serpent, which is explained in the small front-note as being a symbol of Creation in the Australian Aboriginal Dreamtime belief system; even without knowing the symbolism, the continuous figure is beautiful, but the explanation adds to our understanding. I would love to read more about the Dreamtime and the symbolism of the Rainbow Serpent, and use them along with this story. Even without any background knowledge, this lovely book should be shared with students. Its simple text makes it perfect for younger readers, both as a read-aloud and as a text to practice print skills. It could also be used with older students to study how simple writing can be powerful and poetic. I can also see using this book with other brightly illustrated books like Faith Ringgold's to highlight the art of the illustrations; kids could follow up by doing their own illustrations using black for outlines and bright colors.(less)
Summary: This book, written by Ryan's uncle, chronicles the experiences of Ryan who, at the age of six, learned that many children in the world don't...moreSummary: This book, written by Ryan's uncle, chronicles the experiences of Ryan who, at the age of six, learned that many children in the world don't have safe drinking water. He starts off planning to ask his parents to give him $70 for a well and ends up with a foundation and speaking engagements world-wide on behalf of safe water issues.
Response: It is impossible to stress how important this book is. It is well written, beautifully illustrated with photographs, and powerful at many levels. By focusing on two individual children, the author sheds light on a number of issues including safe water, activism, war, poverty, and the ridiculous amount of red tape these people had to fight through just to save the life of one incredible child. This book should be read aloud or in small groups - there will have many chances for discussion, and kids will need support to process the emotionally difficult parts of the story as well as to navigate the content information that may be unfamiliar. Kid-friendly, but honest and accurate, this book will hopefully be a powerful way for children in America (and Canada) to learn about how very different childhood can be right now, in other places in the world. For many American children, growing up middle class and in relative privilege, this book will provide a much-needed window; whereas fiction can do so too, this book offers current information, not only on what life is like for many other children, but on what they can actually do to help. I would also want to share other examples of helping and activism, though, to stress that it is not always the case that the developing world needs the developed world to step in and save the day; a book like "One Hen" would show an example of people in Ghana using resources to make changes in their own lives in contrast with this story where Ryan, in Canada, reaches out to help Jimmy, in Uganda. (less)
Summary: A little girl discovers that, while her mom is pregnant, she will put the new baby up for adoption.
Response: This beautifully written story p...moreSummary: A little girl discovers that, while her mom is pregnant, she will put the new baby up for adoption.
Response: This beautifully written story portrays a different view of adoption - while many books are written for the child who has been adopted, this book is written for the children whose parents chose not to raise their siblings. Written by a social worker who has worked in adoption issues, this book gives parents and children some strategies to approach this difficult issue, and it ultimately shows how the siblings can still be in each others' lives even if they don't grow up in the same home.(less)
Summary: Chloe has a special relationship with her Uncle Bobby, and she worries that will change when he gets married.
Response: I found this book on T...moreSummary: Chloe has a special relationship with her Uncle Bobby, and she worries that will change when he gets married.
Response: I found this book on The Rainbow List - had I not, I my have dismissed it as an "authentic" and respectful book about two gay men. It is the first book in this course where I have read an animal story, since I had been trying to avoid cute animal versions of other people's cultures. This book, however, shows darling guinea pigs doing people things; in fact, Bobby's "friend" Jamie has a name that makes it hard to tell his gender and, since he is a guinea pig, it is hard to tell anything from the illustrations, too. It is not until halfway through the book that we learn Jamie is a "he" and we see him wearing a tuxedo for the wedding. I figure these details are designed to down-play the gender issue; whereas "Molly's Family" is explicitly about a same-sex couple, "Uncle Bobby's Wedding" seems to be more about the wedding and Chloe's relationship with her uncle than about the same-sex couple. Both books are important as the concept of same-sex marriage should both be a topic for picture books (culturally specific) and less-featured detail of a story about loving family relationships (culturally-neutral).
Summary: When Molly's kindergarten class gets ready for Open School Night, Molly discovers that her classmates don't understand how she can have a Mom...moreSummary: When Molly's kindergarten class gets ready for Open School Night, Molly discovers that her classmates don't understand how she can have a Mommy and a Mama Lu.
Response: This is a perfect example of a book that has merit from a multicultural perspective if not from a literary perspective. Written in picture book form, geared towards very young children, and told in straightforward and kind tones, this book presents the concept of families with two mothers as well as presenting other less-traditional families. While the book is told in narrative form, its strength lies in the window and mirror Molly provides; for children who don't know any two-mom families, this book expresses their curiosity and doubt, being honest to the self-centered nature of children this age (if a family doesn't look like mine, it must not be possible). If a child lives in a two-mom family, he or she may have experience with trying to "explain" their family to other children, and the book describes Molly's trying to figure out how to explain something she just knows to be true - that of course she can have a Mommy and Mama Lu. The teacher serves to guide the children through their discussion and the book ultimately celebrates all families.
Summary: In this story, a boy and his father are homeless and describe what it is like to live in the airport.
Response: This book is a very good way t...moreSummary: In this story, a boy and his father are homeless and describe what it is like to live in the airport.
Response: This book is a very good way to introduce the concept of homelessness to young children. Although it is probably no longer possible for this family to live in an airport, the idea that being homeless presents specific challenges is clearly told. Also clearly portrayed is the loving relationship between father and son and the way they face their challenges together. This book would pair well with "December," also by Eve Bunting.
Summary: Joey Pigza feels wired, and it makes it hard for him to succeed in school. When Joey has one accident too many, he has to work with his teach...moreSummary: Joey Pigza feels wired, and it makes it hard for him to succeed in school. When Joey has one accident too many, he has to work with his teachers, his mom, and himself to learn to make better decisions.
Response: I loved this book. I could not believe how much Jack Gantos put me inside Joey's head - his emotions, his intentions, and his energy level. I felt as exhausted and wired reading each sentence as Joey seemed to feel by telling it. I knew from the beginning that Joey had a big, kind heart, and I was so glad when one of the mom's told him so. I felt myself cheering for Joey, and I was so glad when the adults in his life not only showed good intentions but actually knew what he needed. I could also appreciate how complex his situation was, and I could appreciate the struggles of his teachers and mom to understand why he truly could not get his own behavior under control. Despite the fact that I could feel how much everyone cared for him, it wasn't working to give him reminders - he could not do it. Joey not only has a disability, but he has his own preconceived notions of what other "special education" kids might be like. Jack Gantos not only gives insight into how Joey feels inside, but how he regards other kids from the outside. Joey grows by not only finding out what's "messed up" about himself, but by discovering what is wrong with and what isn't wrong with other kids, both those whose disabilities are visible and those whose aren't. By asking his readers to get to know Joey, Gantos also helps young readers hear Joey's thoughts on the other kids, which may be similar to their own, and they, along with Joey, can challenge their ideas of what those other kids might be like. Gantos writes so respectfully, sincerely, humorously, and deeply that this book is one of the most well-developed stories I have read.(less)
Summary: Gilly Hopkins, who has lived in several foster homes, finds herself moving in with yet another foster family. She doesn't feel at all that th...moreSummary: Gilly Hopkins, who has lived in several foster homes, finds herself moving in with yet another foster family. She doesn't feel at all that this is the right home for her, and she harbors dreams of going back to live with her mother.
Response: I had a very mixed response to the book. On the one hand, it is a very well-told, hard-edged story that respectfully explores the feelings of a girl who has had a difficult time. Gilly has grown so distrustful of forming attachments, that she tries really hard to push people away before they can begin to get close. Katherine Paterson has a great deal of respect for Gilly, and Gilly comes across as very real - neither the tough-as-nails orphan or the lovable, misunderstood imp. Likewise, the new foster "family" starts out as three people for whom Gilly feels only contempt, and both the reader and Gilly get to know them in all their complexities throughout the novel. On the other hand, Gilly is such a tough character, that I had a hard time picturing how I would introduce her to my students or my children. Perhaps Gilly is someone older kids would be ready to meet. Gilly is so mean and unpleasant at times that, although the portrayal is realistic, I almost felt like I would hesitate to introduce her to kids just the same way Mrs. Trotter hesitates to introduce her to W.E. Perhaps, like Mrs. Trotter and Ms. Harris, I need to give Gilly a chance - a chance that I would be willing to take with older readers who would not be put off by (or be only to happy to follow) Gilly's initial example of behavior, but who would be willing to wait to find out how Gilly might turn out. From a multicultural literature perspective, Gilly represents a less-than-visible member of society by being a foster child. Telling Gilly's story is presenting us with a picture of a non-traditional, but ultimately loving picture of a family. Her story also gives voice to children who might otherwise remain unheard. The story also presents Gilly with a blind, African-American next-door neighbor, a developmentally-disabled foster brother, and an African-American teacher. Gilly is forced to confront some of her own preconceived notions and get to know each of these people on their own merits, and each relationship ultimately helps her grow stronger.
Summary: Sarah feels caught between her older sister and her mentally retarded younger brother and feels at odds with growing up. When her brother get...moreSummary: Sarah feels caught between her older sister and her mentally retarded younger brother and feels at odds with growing up. When her brother gets lost in the woods near her house, she realizes just how important he, and the rest of her family, are to her.
Response: This was a book I have heard of for a long time, and i was glad to have a chance to finally read it. While some elements of the story feel a little dated, the character development is strong and we get to know Sarah, her brother and her aunt as the book moves forward. Betsy Byars sensitive portrayal of all the characters is very lovely; not only is Charlie portrayed respectfully and fully, but all the characters are given depth and dimension that allow us to feel as though we learn more about teach of them and the relationships between the characters.
Summary: This is a delightfully illustrated book of poems about motion, traveling, and being still.
Response: I had read "19 Varieties of Gazelle" by N...moreSummary: 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.