The path to peace is never easy--it's full of anger, turmoil and resistance. Hiawatha starts telling his tell by recounting how his family was killedThe path to peace is never easy--it's full of anger, turmoil and resistance. Hiawatha starts telling his tell by recounting how his family was killed in battle. Afterward, he could only think of taking revenge. But one morning, a man paddled across the water in a white stone canoe. The Peacemaker said to Hiawatha, in a halting voice,
"I-I-I know of your pain. I know of your loss. I carry a message of healing. I h-h-have come to tell you of the Great Law: Fighting among our people must stop. We must come together as one body, one mind, and one heart. Peace, power and righteousness shall be the new way."
Robbie Robertson, who is of Mohawk and Cayuga heritage, first heard this story as a young boy visiting his relatives at Six Nations of the Grand River in southern Ontario, Canada. In his author's note, he recounts the day they journeyed through "the bush" to a longhouse and heard a respected Elder tell the story of the Great Peacemaker and his disciple, Hiawatha. Now Robertson, with the aid of his son, comes full circle to becomes the storyteller.
Young readers, especially in 4th through 7th grades, will grasp the difficulties Hiawatha faced, first battling his own rage and anger at his enemies, and later as he brought the Peacemaker's message to warring tribes. Healing can only be achieved by forgiveness and trust. Hiawatha was passionate and convincing delivering his message to the Seneca and others:
"We will all perish if we continue this violence. A change must come, and the time is now. Alone, we will be broken," I said, "but together we are more powerful than the greatest warrior."
Students will be able to see how this transformed the Iroquois nations to form the united league that eventually became the Six Nations Iroquois Confederacy. I think it would be fascinating for students to also apply these themes to conflicts we face today, whether in our local communities or in world politics.
David Shannon's illustrations are powerful, evocative and stunning. Although you may know him for his humorous No, David!, his picture book The Rough-Face Girl (with Rafe Martin) remains one of my all-time favorite folktales. In Hiawatha and the Peacemaker, he conveys both the heroic and mythological nature of the two main figures--but he also lets readers feel the anguish that results from the conflict and the power struggles. I found this interview with David Shannon at TeachingBooks very interesting....more
My students are loving this, and I can absolutely see why. Fast paced, exciting, edge-do-your seat. Multifaceted character that kids can relate to. HeMy students are loving this, and I can absolutely see why. Fast paced, exciting, edge-do-your seat. Multifaceted character that kids can relate to. Her mixed racial identity works into the story very well. While it might seem a bit predictable to adults (or reminiscent of other stories), it will feel fresh and exciting to kids....more
Tonatiuh blends his signature style artwork with Posada's calaveras to help young readers understand both Posada's printmaking process and also his poTonatiuh blends his signature style artwork with Posada's calaveras to help young readers understand both Posada's printmaking process and also his political messages in behind these iconic images.
My students will certainly recognize La Catrina, but few will be know about Mexican artist José Guadalupe Posada (called Don Lupe Posada), who created this and many other calaveras, skeletons prominent in Día de Muertos (Day of the Dead) celebrations. As a young man, Posada learned the printmaking techniques of lithography, engraving and etching. Students will be very interested to learn about these processes and see how he used them to create his images.
Tonatiuh also helps students think about the Don Lupe's ideas, the things he might have wanted his audience to think about when they saw his drawings. At school, we have talked about an author's message but we talk less often about an artist's message. Tonatiuh introduces this in a thoughtful way that invites students into thinking this way--without being heavy-handed.
For several spreads, Tonatiuh reproduces some of Posada's classic images, making them look like they are old-fashioned broadsides. Tonaituh invites students' own questioning by sharing his own questions.
Tonatiuh's illustrations are influenced by pre-Columbian Mixtec figures, especially those from codices. I think it's fascinating how he's combining powerful visual images from two different Mexican traditions. This is a must-have book for all school libraries, one that 3rd through 5th graders will especially like reading and discussing. ...more
In Auggie & Me, Palacio delves into three secondary characters from Wonder: Julian, Christopher and Charlotte. This is definitely NOT a sequel--thIn Auggie & Me, Palacio delves into three secondary characters from Wonder: Julian, Christopher and Charlotte. This is definitely NOT a sequel--the action takes place before and during the same time as Wonder. It does not tell the story of what happens to Auggie after Wonder finishes. But it is a companion novel (or rather three short books) best read after Wonder, "an expansion of Auggie's world," as Palacio writes in her introduction.
The three characters at the center of these short books were all impacted by Auggie, but these are their stories. We get to understand Julian, how his nightmares affected the way he reacted to Auggie, how his mother kept making excuses for him as opposed to helping him take responsibility for his actions. Palacio doesn't justify or defend Julian's actions, but she helps readers see inside him. And she lets Julian, who was so awful to Auggie in Wonder, go through his own transformation.
Charlotte's story, in Shingaling, shone the most brightly for me, perhaps because her insecurities resonated with me, or perhaps because her friendship struggles were separate from Auggie's and so more fully developed as a standalone story. But most likely, it's because of the way that Charlotte learns to overcome her worries, her social anxieties and her own inner-judgments to become friends with two girls she didn't know at all before 5th grade started.
Families and teachers will enjoy reading Auggie and Me aloud precisely for the way it leads to conversations, just like Wonder did. There are times that reading Julian's voice may be difficult, with his casual cruelty and naive declaration that he didn't mean to hurt anyone. And Charlotte sounds a lot like an insecure kid at times. But these voice rang true to me, and they let readers see inside other kids.
In the end, Auggie and Me helps create empathy, leads to conversations about kindness and trust, makes way for small steps toward accepting others for who they are....more
Krull tells young readers about the lives of 20 scientists, presenting quick biographical sketches told with verve and humor. She focuses on a diverseKrull tells young readers about the lives of 20 scientists, presenting quick biographical sketches told with verve and humor. She focuses on a diverse range of scientists, including six women, from around the world. An entertaining look at what these men and women were like as human beings, in the laboratory and out of it....more
With short entries, Thimmesh shares how women created ingenious inventions ranging from eminently helpful like Liquid Paper or the windshield wiper, tWith short entries, Thimmesh shares how women created ingenious inventions ranging from eminently helpful like Liquid Paper or the windshield wiper, to technically complex like the “space bumper” that protects NASA spacecraft and astronauts. The book ends with suggestions and resources to help young women start inventing on their own. ...more
When a vaguely familiar teenage boy shows up at Ellie’s house, she is confused until she realizes that her grandfather has discovered a way to regenerWhen a vaguely familiar teenage boy shows up at Ellie’s house, she is confused until she realizes that her grandfather has discovered a way to regenerate himself. But now he needs Ellie’s help regaining access to his laboratory. Young readers love the relationship between Ellie and her grandfather, but they also feel her growing excitement for scientific discoveries....more
Love this story of friendship and family. I wonder if kids will get confused trying to follow the flashbacks. But the heart and self-discovery is whatLove this story of friendship and family. I wonder if kids will get confused trying to follow the flashbacks. But the heart and self-discovery is what will stay with kids....more
I am stunned how few books there are about women's soccer, especially considering how well the United States national team has played in the Olympics.I am stunned how few books there are about women's soccer, especially considering how well the United States national team has played in the Olympics. The US women's national soccer team has won the Olympics in 2004, 2008 and 2012--garnering lots of press in the process. This book, originally published in Iceland, is a good choice for kids interested in reading more in-depth about the American team.
Written with a classic sports journalism style, this follows the ups and downs of the US women's national team from 1991 to the present. It follows a clear sequence, noting the difference between World Cup games and the Olympics. The writing is more complex, but clear structure and text features help readers.
"Vast tensions surrounded the 1999 World Cup final between the United States and China. Both teams played cautiously and failed to create proper opportunities for scoring. After 90 minutes, the game went into extra time, and fans of the U.S. team were justifiably anxious."
The games' final scores and opponents are clearly shown on each page, and captions identify each player and their stats. I love how this takes in-depth sports writing and focuses on women who excel in the world arena. This would be a great read-aloud for kids in 3rd and 4th grade, or perfect for 5th and 6th graders. ...more
High-impact photos will draw kids immediately to this book, and they will like reading the plentiful short facts on topics ranging from stats and chamHigh-impact photos will draw kids immediately to this book, and they will like reading the plentiful short facts on topics ranging from stats and championships, to diagrams of a soccer pitch and basic formations. The writing is clear and the use of headings and subheadings is excellent. However, the text is better for older readers, with more complex vocabulary and smaller font size. This text is an excellent example of elaborating to fully describe the role of a defender.
"Defenders (also called fullbacks) are the basis for any winning team. They are the muscle that helps protect the goalie... Defenders also need to excel at tackling, or intercepting the ball. Sometimes, a defender called a sweeper stays by the goal to provide an extra line of defense."
Best of all, Everything Soccer uses examples from women's and men's professional teams from around the world -- as well as kids in action. In the spread below, the referee is a woman holding up a red card, the professionals are from Brazil and North Korea. My only complaint is that there are no captions identifying players or teams....more
I find that my students particularly respond to books that touch their hearts, that talk honestly about how kids can survive through difficult times,I find that my students particularly respond to books that touch their hearts, that talk honestly about how kids can survive through difficult times, about how we can keep hold of hope even though everything seems like it's about to crumble around us. I can't wait to share Crenshaw, Katherine Applegate's newest novel, with my students and friends.
Jackson knows that his parents are worried about having enough money for rent. And he's noticed that lately, the cupboards seem pretty bare. But he's a no-nonsense kind of guy, entering 5th grade--the kind of kid who likes to learn all about the facts, not get lost in make believe stories. That's why he's seriously perplexed when he sees a giant cat surfboarding at the beach.
"Maybe I'd gotten sunstroke at the beach... Maybe I was asleep, stuck in the middle of a long, weird, totally annoying dream... Maybe I was just hungry. Hunger can make you feel pretty weird. Even pretty crazy."
Applegate draws readers into Jackson's story, blending humor with small moments that place you right in Jackson's world. For example, instead of just telling us that Jackson is hungry, she shows us how he plays a game with his little sister called Cerealball: "a good trick for when you're hungry and there's nothing much to eat."
Jackson is resilient and smart -- and that's why he's so perplexed that this giant imaginary cat has come to visit him again. But it's also why we, as readers, can relate so easily to him. He wants his parents to realize that they can tell him what's going on, but he's also shaken by the uncertainty. Will they have to move? Will they have to live in their van again? Will he have to change schools?
Applegate helps kids see the impact of worrying, something that kids can relate to all too well. She shows them how a friend can help, how talking with your family can help. But she does more than this. Applegate creates a voice for kids struggling with hunger and homelessness. She says, in effect, I see you, I know you, I care about you. And she helps all of us say the same thing.
When students perform in front of their class at school, we talk about how the audience holds their heart in their hands. I feel the same way about authors who write the books that we read as kids. They hold our hearts in their hands as they take us on a journey. ...more
Oh, how I love this book. We start with Jack, who's dreading writing his own poems, forced to keep a poetry journal for his teacher. But as we get toOh, how I love this book. We start with Jack, who's dreading writing his own poems, forced to keep a poetry journal for his teacher. But as we get to know Jack and as he gets to know different poems, we start to see a fuller picture of a boy, his dog and his feelings. Check out the terrific reader's theater through TeachingBooks, starring Sharon Creech, Walter Dead Myers, Avi and Sarah Weeks....more
Maathai's political activism shines through in this biography, in her determination to reverse environmental damage caused by large, colonial plantatiMaathai's political activism shines through in this biography, in her determination to reverse environmental damage caused by large, colonial plantations and empower local villagers--especially women--to improve their local conditions. Prévot begins by introducing young readers to Maathai's legacy:
"It's almost as if Wangari Maathai is still alive, since the trees she planted still grow. Those who care about the earth as Wangari did can almost hear her speaking... Wangari encouraged many village women. She dug holes with them in the red soil--holes in which to plant hope for today and forests for tomorrow."
As Prévot tells Maathai's story, he emphasizes how her childhood and her education shaped Wangari, especially, in a time when very few African women went to school or learned to read.
This biography allows students to develop a deeper understanding of the political, economic and social structures Maathai stood up against. I love being able to share with students the value of reading more than one book on a subject, seeing how different authors draw out different details. I would start by reading Seeds of Change, by Jen Cullerton Johnson, and watching a short video. If you build background knowledge, students can then dig into statements such as this:
"The government officials who built their fortunes by razing forests try to stop Wangari. Who is this woman who confronts them with a confident voice in a country where women are supposed to listen and lower their eyes in men's presence?"
The illustrations are striking and stylized, lush and vibrant. I especially noticed how Fronty varies the rich, saturated background colors on each spread, adding to the emotions.
This is truly an outstanding picture book biography. Prévot finishes with a detailed timeline of Maathai's life, illustrated with several photographs. This background material is both easy to access, written in short chunks, but also detailed to give a rich picture of her struggles and achievements....more
Tiger Boy, by Mitali Perkins, is perfect for a family read-aloud--the 4th graders at Malcolm X School in Berkeley are giving it huge thumbs up and I hTiger Boy, by Mitali Perkins, is perfect for a family read-aloud--the 4th graders at Malcolm X School in Berkeley are giving it huge thumbs up and I heartily agree. If you have an animal-lover, or you're looking for a book set in India or Bangladesh, or you're looking for a book with a courageous kid who stands up for what's right -- definitely seek out Tiger Boy.
When a tiger cub escapes from a reserve in the Sundarbans, a delta region straddling the India-Bengladesh border, many of the residents on a nearby island try to find it. Some are worried that its mother will set out looking for it, possibly hurting or killing people in the process. Others have been hired by a wealthy man to capture it for trade on the black market.
Neel is determined to help with the search--protecting the tiger cub is as important to him and he isn't afraid to stand up to greedy Gupta or his hired men. Neel's parents want him to focus on his studies and prepare for his exams. While Neel loves learning and languages, he finds math frustrating and confusing. And how can he concentrate knowing that the tiger cub needs his help?
Mitali Perkins draws in readers, as they feel how much Neel wants to use his special knowledge of his island to help find the tiger. As the CCBC review so clearly puts it,
"The sense of urgency that propels Neel and Rupa’s hunt for the cub creates the perfect amount of tension in an engaging story wonderfully grounded in Neel’s point of view and his experiences in his family and community. Their effort to save the cub helps Neel understand how furthering his education is one means of helping protect the place he lives."
I especially love how Perkins balances the relationship between Neel and his sister Rupta. Perkins both respects the traditional role that women have in this Bengali village, but she also shows Rupta playing an active role.
I have found that my students are not picking this up on their own, even when I recommend it. That's why I think it would make a terrific read-aloud. Parents (or teachers) can encourage kids to give something a try that might be different from the usual books they read. It would make a great book to read this summer or in the fall--see if it leads kids to wanting to learn more about protecting the tigers in the Sunderbans....more