SUMMARY Harriet, a young girl, wants to be a writer. So she keeps a journal in which she writes all kinds of nasty (but true) things about her friendsSUMMARY Harriet, a young girl, wants to be a writer. So she keeps a journal in which she writes all kinds of nasty (but true) things about her friends and everyone she knows. When they get hold of the journal, she is ostracized. Eventually, her parents push her to refocus her energy on something productive like editing the school paper, and her friends eventually get over it when Harriet apologizes.
EVALUATION I don’t know if the conflict ever gets resolved in this book for me, and though I’ve read it more times than I can count, I am still sure as the day I was born that Harriet is going to do the same thing again. I think that may be why there’s a part of me that knows that Harriet is a real, well-rounded character, and I can’t give up on her because she’s human, and she’s liable to make the same mistake twice or three times, but eventually she’ll get it. She lives in a world in which kids can make mistakes and learn from them. Parents don’t allow that sort of thing any more. When I read this as a 7-year-old, I too wanted to hide in a dumbwaiter. Does that mean I wanted to break into people’s houses and spy on them and write it down in a notebook, too? Yes! I still have a notebook that I carry around with me, and sometimes I write down things I find interesting. Things such as what the Amish guy I always see at Wal Mart has in his shopping cart. Or how many words people spell wrong in their PowerPoint presentations, and how many words they mispronounce when they read out loud. I’m that girl, and Harriet was one of my heroes. I don’t think books that are this honest about the thought processes of girls should ever go away. It’s like the Mrs. Dalloway of chapter books for kids. Except the two main lessons Harriet learns are these: 1. Sometimes you have to lie. and 2. Then you have to clean up your own mess. If that’s terrible, then fine. It’s the truth. And the truth hurts.
SUMMARY This collection of short stories touches on themes like the value of diversity, the get-nowhere-fast of stalemates, the value of individuality,SUMMARY This collection of short stories touches on themes like the value of diversity, the get-nowhere-fast of stalemates, the value of individuality, and confronting fears. There are two kinds of Sneetches in The Sneetches: those who have stars on their bellies, and those who do not. When a man comes along with a star-on / star-off machine, the Sneetches get all mixed up and the resolution is that all sneetches are equal. In The Zax, two Zaxes (a north-going one and a south-going one) meet, and neither one will budge an inch to the east or west, so the world ignores them and cities and roads are built around them while they stand where they are forever. This teaches the value of compromise. In Too Many Daves, a woman has 23 sons, all named Dave. Humorously, when she calls one, they all come running, and she is left wishing that she'd named them all differently. This teaches the value in everyone being different. And in What Was I Scared Of?, a boy is afraid of a pair of pale green pants with nobody inside them, but he finds out that the pants are just as afraid of him and they become pals. This teaches children to confront their fears and to not be afraid of someone just because they happen to be different than them.
EVALUATION Of all the Dr. Seuss books, this one is my favorite. Its commentary is more subtle than some of the other books, but I think that the message—that diversity is valuable—is such an important one. My nephew loves Too Many Daves, and I think that there are many opportunities to extend this book into classroom activities, or family activities. The language is fun and flamboyant, and it is a joy to read aloud. Because it deals with imaginary creatures and impossibilities, it inspires Wonderment, and that is important for the very young, and maybe for the old as well.
SUMMARY This is an anthology of 25 culturally rich creation stories, from all over the world, accompanied by 42 color paintings by Barry Moser, a wondeSUMMARY This is an anthology of 25 culturally rich creation stories, from all over the world, accompanied by 42 color paintings by Barry Moser, a wonderful introduction placing the stories in an authentic context, and a brief exposition at the end of each story offering insights into the culture of the people from which it came. They are told in a simple voice, complimenting the simplicity of the Oral Tradition. The language is quiet and powerful. "Time was, there were no people on earth." starts the Eskimo story of The Pea-Pod Man: Raven the Creator. And it goes on to tell how the first man grew on a vine, and of the Raven's gift to man - how he made a woman from clay with watercress for hair, who came to life with a flap of the Raven's wings. This sacred story ends on a satisfying note, with "The world prospered." With uncomplicated language and straightforward prose, all of the stories are delightful and thought-provoking for children, adding to the old conversation of Where We Came From.
EVALUATION Hamilton’s collection is culturally rich, and her retellings of these old stories are accompanied with insightful comments. After the telling of the Maidu Indian story, Turtle Dives to the Bottom of the Sea: Earth Starter the Creator, Hamilton offers, “Creation myths do not always give reasons for the way people are or the manner in which things happen.” She goes on to say that sometimes we do not know the importance of people or events, or why something happens. It simply happens, and we have to “accept that [it:] does without explanation.” Some might not like the way women are portrayed (often the cause of trouble, or there to be man’s helper or companion), but Hamilton’s treatment is true to the traditional stories, and I don’t think she has anything for which to apologize here.
SUMMARY This is the story of how Ida’s little sister, who can’t hardly be two years old, is snatched up by goblins and taken away to Outside, Over TherSUMMARY This is the story of how Ida’s little sister, who can’t hardly be two years old, is snatched up by goblins and taken away to Outside, Over There to be a goblin’s bride. They leave an ice changeling in her place, and when she melts, Ida realizes what has happened. However, Ida’s father is at sea, and her mother is pining away for missing him, so Ida climbs out her window backward to Outside, Over There, and rescues her sister from the goblins, who, without their hooded cloaks, look exactly like babies.
This is a story about fear and responsibility. Once again, Sendak challenges that scary place inside us all, and shines his light on it, revealing the truth.
EVALUATION Many people think that children shouldn’t read this book, and I disagree. It is a beautiful story, both in words and in pictures. Sendak’s story here is charming, and the lessons of confronting fears and realizing responsibility, having courage and being brave are all important for children. Overcoming the goblins that exist in the shadows in our minds, especially as young children, only happens when we are exposed to literature and stories that show us the way, and this book is the map that shows us how to get Outside, Over There, and the guide that tells us how to Overcome.
We cannot shield children from having experiences with confronting fears and having adventures. Children interpret things through a different lens—the lens of Wonderment. This book inspires that enchanting feeling, and we have to let that inspiration and fascination grow.
This is the story of a little boy who just knows he has a monster in his closet. The monster is a Nightmare, and when tOh! to be four years old again!
This is the story of a little boy who just knows he has a monster in his closet. The monster is a Nightmare, and when the little boy has had enough, he wages war with him, donning his soldier hat and a cork pop gun for protection. When he turns out the light, he is prepared for battle, but when he turns on the light to find the Nightmare sitting at the foot of his bed, something unexpected happens. Instead of running away when he's shot with the cork pop gun, the monster cries and cries. Ultimately the little boy, who sees that there was nothing to be afraid of in the first place, befriends the big Nightmare, and they become some sort of unusual roommates.
This story reminds me of the Dr. Seuss story, "What Was I Scared Of?" in which a pair of pale green pants with nobody inside them haunts the narrator until the narrator finds that the pants are as afraid of him as he is of the pants. This is a common trope in literature, and Mayer's treatment of it is wonderful and enchanting. It is an inspiration for Wonderment. Deconstructionists might say that the story has unintended homosexual undertones, and some people are offended by the pseudo-violence, but I think that children take the story at face value, and enjoy finding out that the little boy had nothing to fear. These criticisms are examples of ad-hoc backward applications of contemporary sensititivities, and therefore, for the same reasons that I would not keep children from reading Huckleberry Finn or Tom Sawyer stories, this one would stay on the shelf. Mayer's illustrations are whimsical and brilliant, even if they are in only white, turquoise, and orange, and I think that children will continue to enjoy this one for a long time coming.
I found this book at the goodwill for $2, so I picked it up because honestly, it's full of - and I mean FULL of the most fantastic pictures of pre-airI found this book at the goodwill for $2, so I picked it up because honestly, it's full of - and I mean FULL of the most fantastic pictures of pre-airplane flying machines, diagrams and plans for flying machines, blueprints, drawings of hot air balloons and things that look like hot air balloons, and more. And I was going to cut them up and make a gift for my cousin, who owns a restaurant near a small town airport.
But then I started flipping through its pages, and I became fascinated because this is the story of flight.
Weiss presents it with a flair for words, and makes it exciting. He starts with a Persian king who is "carried aloft by his team of hungry eagles," in a flying chair. He shows us Icarus, and why flapping wings don’t work. He moves us through legends and the legendary, myth and factual information, presenting us with easily understood descriptions of such things as aerodynamics, kites, the different types of airplanes, and answers questions like “What Keeps It Up?”
We see the evolution of flight from legendary flying machines, 18th century diagrams of contraptions sure to kill its passengers, to the dreams of flying shared by Leonardo Da Vinci, Otto Lilienthal, and the Wright Brothers. He even gives directions for making a model plane with a whittled propeller.
Young children will love this book because it provides satisfying answers to tough questions. Adults will love this book for the same reason. Anyone with a love for the dark and demented Victorian age and a nice old scientific blueprint for an invention will also find thrills in these pages.
With the illustrations all in black and white with sky blue highlights and spot color, the pages resemble a sky, and we fly through them, fascinated as men have always been with the thought of jumping off of something high and like a bird, flying away. This is that story—the story of the men who knew that that dream could be realized.
SUMMARY In this book, someone hoping to learn the basics of zine-making can find lots of information. There are pages and pages artfully crafted with aSUMMARY In this book, someone hoping to learn the basics of zine-making can find lots of information. There are pages and pages artfully crafted with a vintage typewriter and lots of pens and markers by more than 20 contributors that presume to inform young zinesters. There is a section on the 200 year history of zines, another section about how to make your own zine. There are lists of ideas for young people who can't think of their own ideas. There are suggestions on how to use the copy machine brilliantly, and alternative ways to print the zine. Then there are sections about binding and collating, and distribution. The book leaves the reader with a list of resources, zine libraries, and a glossary of terms.
EVALUATION I’m glad I didn’t purchase this book. While it provides limited useful information (mainly as a strictly inorganic how-to instruction manual for people who don’t get the trial-and-error, organic process that zine-making is), it is sorely lacking in describing the spirit or the art, and it focuses way too much on the comic strips. Coming from the creators of one of the longest running and better known zines out there, I had higher expectations. I’m no zine connoisseur but I buy my fair share (even contributed to several), and I published a 6-issue zine called Lunch with a Ladybug in high school and and sold it in the cafeteria. I now publish chapbooks of poetry and a literary journal (all hand-bound), and I appreciate the zinesters even more. One of my favorites is a double zine (read one, flip it over, read the other one—they meet in the middle) called Risk Oblivious Youth / Chick Pea. At the end of the first side (in this case, Risk Oblivious Youth, because which is the first side could potentially be a chicken/egg debate), there is advice for those who are feeling blue. Number two on the list says that I should borrow fish identification books from the library because “reading something so methodical and orderly about a part of nature so hidden to us really [takes:] the edge off.” I should take this book back and get a book on how to identify fish. Or flowers. Or something. I can show some kids how to make a zine myself.
SUMMARY Here is a collection of poems—one for every letter of the Spanish alphabet—that represent the heart and soul of the sun-drenched central MexicaSUMMARY Here is a collection of poems—one for every letter of the Spanish alphabet—that represent the heart and soul of the sun-drenched central Mexican countryside. We explore, both through poems represented in Spanish and English, and in the illustrations in the style of Diego Rivera, the orchards, fields, meadows, homes, and families of the farm workers, as well as César Chávez. The poetry is clean and colorful, the paintings are warm and full of wonder, from A “(Árboles) Z (Zanahoria).
EVALUATION This book strays away from the A-is-for-agua predictability of most ABC books that fuse Spanish and English. This book is exceptional, in three ways: 1. The poetry is simple and written in a contemporary idiom with rich, flavorful language. 2. The illustrations are authentic and painted in a modern style similar to Diego Rivera, which is important here because of the authenticity that it lends to the cultural flavor of laborers, given the political and social implications. 3. The book does not provide oversimplification, which makes it authentic for the young and old to enjoy. I adored this as soon as I picked it up, and I will continue to share it with my nephew as I teach him conversational Spanish throughout his young life. I think that this book is a wonderful gift, and I am tempted to purchase an extra one just to frame some of the art work. I am a new fan of Simón Silva, for sure. This is one to treasure, for its Spanish-English, for its illustrations, for its bold, sunbleached beauty. ¡Fantastico!
This is the story of an "old, old, old, old road" - a path really, and those who have come down it since time immemorable. We trace its roots in a revThis is the story of an "old, old, old, old road" - a path really, and those who have come down it since time immemorable. We trace its roots in a reverse chronology as we turn the pages to reveal the surreal illustrations - paintings done in a dreamy, soft glow. So who came down that old road? The narrator's great grandparents, and before them, there were soldiers, and before them there were Pioneers. The book goes back and back, before and before and before through Indians and Buffalo, Wooly Mammoths, fish, and before them the sea, the ice, all the way back to the mysteries of "the making place." The illustrations and text provide a trip back through time, but grounded in place, making this book a delightful journey that ends where it really begins. The illustration of all of the different footprints of the ages is profound and beautiful, and the book ends on a quiet note of the sublime.
George Ella Lyon has a way with words. Though she's sparing with them, she chooses just the right ones, and I think young and old alike can relish them. This is an amazing book for reading aloud, as young people are fascinated with recursive questions like "And what was before that? And what was before that?" And this book takes joy in answering just one. This is one that settles in under the skin, amazes and inspires awe on the first read, and then on subsequent reads, it humbles, makes you feel small, like you are a part of a journey that is so much larger than you are that it is beyond comprehension - another mystery of "the making place" and its questions. There is something eternal here, and children are fascinated with things like this. Because of its simplicity, this is a book that young readers will treasure, and since there are so many more questions that it can inspire (What is a salt-lick? How big was a mammoth? What tribes of Indians came down the road that we live on?), it is a book that we can use as a tool to inspire wonderment. ...more
**spoiler alert** SUMMARY Shabanu is the youngest in a family of “desert people” blessed only with daughters in male-dominated Cholistan, Pakistan. Thi**spoiler alert** SUMMARY Shabanu is the youngest in a family of “desert people” blessed only with daughters in male-dominated Cholistan, Pakistan. This is a bildungsroman, depicting the time in which Shabanu comes of age. She loves her life in the desert with her family. Her chore every day is to take care of the camels. She is especially fond of Guluband, a camel who dances and wears glass bracelets. In a land where the little water they have dwindles each day, Shabanu goes one last time to the fair with her father to sell camels—where only men and children go. After the fair, the family begins to plan her sister’s wedding to the brother of the man Shabanu is promised to marry the next year. However, her whole world gets turned upside down when things do not go as planned and Hamir, her sister’s betrothed, dies. In the family feud that ensues, it is decided that Shabanu’s sister will marry Murad, the man Shabanu was to marry, and that Shabanu will become the fourth wife of a wealthy landowner who has fallen in love with her. The book ends abruptly with Shabanu beginning her menstrual cycle, the signal that she has come of age and that it is time to plan her wedding.
EVALUATION This is am important piece of young adult literature because it feel honest, which is a quality more of the available multicultural literature needs. This book thwarts the stereotypical aspects we so often find, and instead shows Shabanu’s Pakistani people, her desert nomadic culture, and the families who live it as a proud, hardworking, family-oriented people who have strong emotions, dreams, and aspirations. While this book may not be suitable for those with reading comprehension issues, as it is full to the brim with unfamiliar names, concepts, and ideas (but for which there is a glossary at the beginning of the book, so it might be a good tool to use for teaching active reading strategies). I feel that this book would be appropriate from 4th through 12th grade, with differentiated instruction. It is full of real, believable characters based on real people known to the author during time spent in Cholistan.
Mona’s sitti, or grandmother, lives all the way on the other side of the great, big world, and there are many things dividing them—physical things likMona’s sitti, or grandmother, lives all the way on the other side of the great, big world, and there are many things dividing them—physical things like oceans and land and “fish and cities” and “clotheslines /and trucks” and “a million trees,” just to name a few. But there are also other things that separate—like language. Mona and her Sitti don’t even speak the same language. But when Mona goes to visit her Sitti, they are able to communicate through Mona’s father, and Mona likens the sound of her Sitti’s voice to the “whistles of birds.” In fact, she said her Sitti “had a thousand rivers in her voice,” and Nancy Carpenter’s illustration of this was beautiful, with Arabic letters gracefully looking as if they were birds in the sky. When Mona gets home, she writes to the president of the United States, that her grandmother on the other side of the world has a lemon tree that whispers secrets, that people there care about trees. She writes that she wishes the president luck in his very hard job, but that she votes for peace. This is an incredible story, with an incredible message. It shows young people everywhere that there are people with real personalities and granddaughters who love them in the places that we might not think about positively. Through Carpenter’s paintings, we see the closeness that exists even when there is distance and barriers. Maps and old wallpaper backgrounds with rich paintings full of movement, and tiny pieces of collage give these illustrations life and three dimensions. It is almost as if the pictures could tell their own story. There are mountains hanging in the sheets on the clotheslines that separate them. There are worlds in the desert sand in which she plays marbles with her cousins. Some of the paintings are half-filled in, half sketches. Everything seems to spring from the page in many directions, and everything is full of movement. In this way, the illustrations mimic the story, mimic the real people in the story.
America is graced by the strength, bravery, and cunning of many girl heroines, but we seldom hear their stories. This collection introduces many of thAmerica is graced by the strength, bravery, and cunning of many girl heroines, but we seldom hear their stories. This collection introduces many of them; there are stories from the Chippewa, Anglo Americans, African Americans, Pueblo, Tewa, Mexican American, Miwok, Eskimo, and Hawaiian. Each story, accompanied by a well-researched introduction, is told with the rhythm and cadence one would expect from a storyteller sitting round a campfire. Probably my favorite of these, because of my fondness for river lore, is the story of Sal Fink, the daughter of Mike Fink. According to San Souci, the stories of Sal Fink, “thrilled American[s:]… from the 1820s through the 1840s" and give us a glimpse of what it was like before the advent of the steam boat. This story tells some of the feats she was credited for, and of how she defeated pirates who had captured her single-handedly. It was said that her victory cry could be heard from the "headwaters of the Ohio to the mouth of the Mississippi." The prints of Brian Pinkney's engravings are full of life and motion, and the whimsy of the style does well to support the strength and beauty of the stories.
This is an invaluable collection for the classroom for many reasons. First, there are representations from so many diverse cultural groups, and without pretense. Second, the stories focus on women, who are highly unrepresented in the mainstream canon, especially in folklore and tall tales. Further, these stories are told with accuracy, in an incredibly engaging voice, and each of them have an introduction that puts the story in cultural and historical context. San Souci's source notes and bibliography provide an extensive wealth of information, which also makes this book suitable as a jumping off point for students to possibly make a project of finding another tall tale or legend and making a classroom book of the tall tales that interest them, or that are geographically or culturally specific to them.
This is the story of Robert Lawson's family: his mother and father, and his grandparents, as he remembers hearing it as a small boy. This is the storyThis is the story of Robert Lawson's family: his mother and father, and his grandparents, as he remembers hearing it as a small boy. This is the story of his mother's father, who was a Scotch sea captain, and a parrot who ate most of a panama hat. This is the story of his mother's mother, a little Dutch girl from New Jersey, and how she met his mother's father on a trip into New York City, and how they married and moved to Minnesota. This is the story of his mother, who remembered hungry Indians and noisy lumberjacks from her childhood, going to school at a convent. She was quiet and gentle. This is the story of his father's father, an Englishman in Alabama who fought the Indians in the Seminole War, and then became a preacher so he could fight Satan after the war was over. This is the story of his father's mother, who married his father's father because he had a strong voice. And this is the story of his father, who fought the Yankees in the Civil War, then moved to New York City where he met Robert's mother. Ultimately, the story that he tells is the story of all Americans - the strong, good people who didn't make big marks on the map, those who didn't get mentioned in the history books, and those whose memories stay alive through the people who remember them.
USAGE: Family Histories Have students fill out a preliminary survey about their families, and have them interview their parents and grandparents for simple stories that they can put into a family history book. Have students pick out two adjectives for the title of their Family History (proud, plain, ordinary, brave, wonderful, etc.) and help them publish it into a book format. This helps students with concepts of print, layout, prewriting, writing process, interview and research, et ...more
In this wordless picture book, a boy draws pictures in the condensation on the windows of his school bus on the way to the Empire State Building on aIn this wordless picture book, a boy draws pictures in the condensation on the windows of his school bus on the way to the Empire State Building on a field trip. It is foggy when they get there, and there is nothing to see from the observation deck. However, a cloud steals the boy’s hat and scarf, and entertains him while he is there. But then the cloud gets an idea. He takes the boy back to Sector 7 with him, a subway terminal of sorts in the air, where clouds are given their shapes and destinations. Unsatisfied with the normal shapes and sizes of the cirrus and nimbus and other variables, the boy designs some others of his own on the backs of the clouds’ assignment sheets. This causes quite a stir among the clouds, and they soon get in line to be redesigned by the talented boy. He gives them fish shapes and octopus shapes, star shapes and curlicue shapes. But when the people who work at the terminal see what is going on, they send the boy back to the Empire State Building, and we see that the landscape of the sky has been changed forever.
Teachers can use this book as a tool to explore concepts of visual literacy by having students split up into groups of 4-5, take turns telling each other orally what is happening in the book. Each group will prepare a written narrative to go along with the story, and then present their interpretations to the rest of the class. This will reinforce the idea of interpreting visual Literacies, and also the concept that there is more than one way to tell the same story. This would be a good exercise to use to introduce concepts of Oral traditions in literature, because students would be able to grasp the idea that stories change over time and through each storyteller. ...more
This is the picture book version of the story based on the true adventure of Dr. Greg Mortenson, who was injured on a mountain in Pakistan, and who waThis is the picture book version of the story based on the true adventure of Dr. Greg Mortenson, who was injured on a mountain in Pakistan, and who was helped to recover by the people of a poor village in the mountains. When he was well enough to leave, he asked how he could repay the people, and was told to “listen to the wind” to find his answer. He did, and he was inspired to go back to the village and build a school. He has built many schools now all over Pakistan for children who live in villages too poor to have afforded one. This is a heart-touching story of love and humanity, and one that is illustrated by Susan Roth’s beautiful collages, which were inspired by handmade papers and the people from the land in which Dr. Mortenson found help and refuge. These people use and reuse every scrap of everything in their world, and so Roth’s collages have an even deeper meaning.
The story is very simplified, which makes this version of the story suitable for the youngest of readers / listeners, and it stays away from heavy descriptions about the significance of education for the children in the mountains of Pakistan. The book almost glosses over the poverty by highlighting the richness of making do instead of the bleakness of doing without, but it’s a glass half-full or half-empty choice, and I think that Mortenson was correct in saving the heavier things for the version for middle readers. There is also a version written for adults, which makes this book a great choice for family reading—a version for every age group.
People who can see colors cannot possibly appreciate the taste, smell, sound, and feel of them as well as Thomas can. Thomas is blind, but in this colPeople who can see colors cannot possibly appreciate the taste, smell, sound, and feel of them as well as Thomas can. Thomas is blind, but in this color book, he shows that he knows the personalities of all the colors—and probably better than some sighted people. The book is black as night—but as we learn how Thomas sees color, we also get an impression of how there are different qualities to darkness, there are different aspects of black. Faría’s illustrations are all shiny embossing on the smooth, matte black paper, and so is the Braille translation that appears above the white text on each left-hand page. To Thomas, “Brown crunches under his feet like fall leaves. Sometimes it smells like chocolate, and other times it stinks.” The illustration of Brown is a scattering of leaves, at different angles. What’s genius here is that we can not only see the illustrations, but we can feel them. Both sighted and blind children can read the book, as it is written in both Braille and English (or Braille and Spanish), and it helps to bridge the gap between their very different worlds.
This book takes us on a journey with the written word—from its roots in the need for communicating with people far away and keeping a record of what wThis book takes us on a journey with the written word—from its roots in the need for communicating with people far away and keeping a record of what was said through its modern iterations. Robb discusses the different types of written language, the development from pictographic to phonemic representations. He shows the developments between the Sinaitic, Phoenician, Early Greek, Classical Greek, and Roman alphabets, and even discusses what kinds of differences might have existed in the phonic sounds of the words made with them.
He gives thorough, but easy-to-read and entertaining backstory to the reasoning behind why the letters look like they do. For example, the letter A was originally a picture of an Ox, and its Semitic name, aelph, sounds a lot like alpha, which is what the Greeks called it. Robb explains that when we turn the A upside down, it still retains the horns of the ox after which it was named.
Every letter of our alphabet has a backstory, and Robb delivers them all, with fantastic, whimsical illustrations by Anne Smith. When he’s not telling the stories of each letter, he discusses things like the development of spacing between words, why we read from left to right, the development of consonants and vowels, the order of the letters in the alphabet, the development of papyrus and paper, styles of letters (serif, sans serif, boldface, italics), and the invention of the printing press.
A timeline and list of resources categorized by age group make this book a complete volume for children and adults alike who are interested in knowing a little more about why we write the way we do.
SUMMARY This is the story of Eleanor Roosevelt. She would have described herself as a plain, ordinary woman, but she was many things even if she was orSUMMARY This is the story of Eleanor Roosevelt. She would have described herself as a plain, ordinary woman, but she was many things even if she was ordinary. She was a humanitarian above all else, and she was a political activist, and advocate of human rights. The story illustrates her childhood and family life with her grandmother after being orphaned, her marriage to Franklin D. Roosevelt, her 16 years as First Lady, and her Good Works as a woman role model who wore many hats in the public eye.
EVALUATION Freedman’s easy prose style gives us an objective view of Eleanor Roosevelt. He shows us her wit and wisdom, and also illustrates aspects of her personality that made people view her as a “meddlesome busybody, a do-gooder woman who did not know her place” (111). He does not assume to know what she was thinking, but rather shows us by giving us direct quotes in her own words. Some might say she was a pessimist, but Freedman shows us that she knew how to make the best of every situation. He puts all of the myriad images in the text in context, uses direct, clear description of events, people, and places, and embraces an almost-conversational tone. This is important for young people because they do not feel burdened with the text. They feel free to be connected to and engaged by it.
CLASSROOM USAGE: HEROES & HEROINES Tell students that Eleanor Roosevelt is my Heroine. Ask students to define the term Hero/Heroine, and as a class make a mind map of qualities heroes/heroines possess. Journal about heroic qualities of Mrs. Roosevelt, then provide stacks of teacher-selected Freedman biographies and other biographies suitable for assignment, and ask students to work in groups to make a booklet/brochure/poster/documentary/other product illustrating their group’s heroes and heroines to be presented to the class.
I grew up in Eastern Ohio in the 80s and 90s, just 40 minutes from the Fort Pitt Tunnel, and I can almost swear I know these people. Chbosky's book miI grew up in Eastern Ohio in the 80s and 90s, just 40 minutes from the Fort Pitt Tunnel, and I can almost swear I know these people. Chbosky's book might be a little too culturally specific to Western PA/Eastern OH for some people, because for the life of me, that is the only reason I can think of for why people are complaining about this book. (Even though some of the biggest whiners are fans of Twilight and Harry Potter, so I should just keep my mouth shut and consider the source).
Anyway. There are so many passages in this book that hit the nail on the proverbial head. From going into the city on weekends (my friends and I didn't hit the golf courses so much as the cemeteries, but it's still capturing the same kinds of moments), to that first glimpse of fresh air coming out of the mountain on the other side of the tunnel, to wandering around knowing there's not much to do no matter where you go, this book is pure nostalgia. And he even got the soundtrack right.
"We accept the love we think we deserve" and "Not everyone has a sob story" and "Patrick actually used to be popular before Sam bought him some good music" are some phrases that have that elusive literary TRUTH we're always talking about.
And that part about the mix tapes? Where Charlie thinks that he'd like to think he'll still have his mix tapes when he's older and remember where he was when he listened to them?
I'm the girl with the mix tapes that still does that from time to time. I'm 31 years old. And this book, while it may not be for everyone, is a book with which I can identify.
If you don't agree, I'm not offended. I've always been the kid that buys the popular kid the good music.
Only this isn't high school, and I don't have to convince anybody of anything.
SUMMARY Mrs. Olinski comes back to teaching after a tragic car accident in which she was crippled and lost her husband, and she’s set to the task of chSUMMARY Mrs. Olinski comes back to teaching after a tragic car accident in which she was crippled and lost her husband, and she’s set to the task of choosing a class academic team. The four students she chooses come to be known as The Souls, and each of them and Mrs. Olinski is challenged and changed for the better through the experience, as they come to be a local phenomenon. They’re the first group of 6th graders to ever win the Academic Bowl, but that’s not the real significance to the story. . The real story is how they won the heart of Mrs. Olinski, and what happens as they all go on proverbial journeys, intertwining where they came from and where they’re all going, and how it all revolves around High Tea.
EVALUATION Through multi-voiced narrative, flipping back and forth between the five quirky main characters, Konigsburg’s story tells the same story recursively, from different points of view, and so we understand it in several different lights. However, even though the characters were quirky, and Konigsburg did not rely on stereotypes, there was still an unbelievable quality to them. I think that the book can be inspiring and motivating to a young kid who might not be the most athletic or the most talented in sports or other extra-curriculars, because this book shows that the underdogs with the unusual families or the off-beat personalities can still find a forum in which to shine. It also shows young people (and teachers, too) how to have a healthy, personable, appropriate relationship/friendship with a teacher, and how those relationships foster whole communities of learning. This is a real root-for-the-underdog kind of book, and it is written in a style I very much enjoy, and rewarding for its message of the importance of kindness and of friends, but there were some small failures in addressing believability—some of it was just a little too incredible to assign literary truth.
Edward is a fortunate, adored china rabbit, but he does not know how to love. The little girl who loves him loses him when he is tossed overboard by sEdward is a fortunate, adored china rabbit, but he does not know how to love. The little girl who loves him loses him when he is tossed overboard by some bullies on a cruise ship, and Edward has time to think about himself and his plight at the bottom of the ocean until he is rescued by a fisherman. He lives with the fisherman and the fisherman’s wife for a while, until he is thrown away by their daughter, and then he continues his adventure on the road with a hobo, finds himself being forced into employment as a scarecrow, and then becomes the doll of a sick little girl. When the girl dies, her brother runs away, taking Edward with him, and after Edward is broken by an angry man, he ends up in a doll repair shop, where his journey comes back around full circle, and he is an older, more broken (but wiser for it) rabbit, who knows how to love and has the scars to prove it.
This is an endearing, enchanting, wistful story, and one that every child should have read aloud to him. The language is lyrical and poetic, and the story marvelous.
Sendak takes two almost forgotten nursery rhymes, and reinterprets them visually to depict homelessness, poverty, and other social issues. This is theSendak takes two almost forgotten nursery rhymes, and reinterprets them visually to depict homelessness, poverty, and other social issues. This is the story of a baby who is kidnapped by rats, and the card game in which he is won back from them, so that his family from “the dumps” can get him back to shanty town after buying him some bread, which is a better idea, naturally, than knocking him in the head.
EVALUATION Though some people think that this book is inappropriate for children, I think that Sendak has once again proven that young children have the wherewithal to be exposed to the unusual, the grim, the things that happen in the shadowy places that most adults like to ignore. These are things that children are actually very inquisitive about. In this book, Sendak treats homelessness and poverty with respect, depicting an actual sense of community in the dump. At the same time, he shows children houses that don’t have walls, and the people who live in them who might as soon knock someone in the head as feed him. However, Sendak’s visual reinterpretation of the nursery rhymes show Jack and Guy as if they were just like “other folk.” Both of my nephews love this book. One of them is five months old, and one is three years old. Dallak, who is five months old, and who doesn’t understand the concept that the pictures can’t escape the pages, likes to touch the pictures. Drake, who is three years old, likes to ask questions. “What kind house, Ninny?” and “What this says right here?” and “Why moon has him big mouth OOOOOO?” are just some of the ones he asks. I think this book is an absolute treasure, and introduces children to social issues with honesty and integrity.
This is the story of the Baudelaire children: Violet, who likes to invent things; Klaus, who likes to read; and Sunny, who likes to bite. As the bookThis is the story of the Baudelaire children: Violet, who likes to invent things; Klaus, who likes to read; and Sunny, who likes to bite. As the book begins, their house is burned down by mysterious means, which leaves them orphaned, but with a trust fund. Oh, and there are adventures! The uprooted children are sent to live with Count Olaf, who is a miserable, horrible, awful distant relative. Olaf treats them as if they were his servants, making them do difficult chores while he sits and schemes about how he is going to get his hands on the children's money. He sets up a dramatic theatrical production, in which he will marry Violet, but he plans to make the marriage real and not just a farce. When the children find out about his plan, he says he will kill Sunny if they don't go along with it. Ultimately the children escape, and Mr. Poe sends them to live with another of their dismal, strange, and distant relatives.
While this series is a delightful alternative to the poorly-written Harry Potter books, the self-conscious narrator tends to be a little pedantic, and while that adds to the book's intentionally quirky style, this may not be the series for everyone. I think that though it may be a delight for the average and above average reader, a struggling reader might feel as if he's being talked down to, and I do not think a child should feel chastised by the literature he reads. Also, this is a fantasy set in Brazil about three rich young orphans who are all of above average intelligence, and who have the worst possible circumstances and luck, but who prevail in the face of danger and tragedy. The book appeals to my preferences for the dark and strange, the slightly off-kilter, the maudlin and macabre. This book is a must-read for children who love Edward Gorey (Gashleycrumb Tinies) and Maurice Sendak (especially Outside, Over There and Where the Wild Things Are). ...more
Alphabeasts is not your run-of-the-mill ABC Picture Book. Edwards takes us on a trip through an imagined menagerie of unusual animals doing unusual thAlphabeasts is not your run-of-the-mill ABC Picture Book. Edwards takes us on a trip through an imagined menagerie of unusual animals doing unusual things in paintings that are strikingly reminiscent of works of art you might find in a museum. In its high-quality color pages, children and adults of all ages find a poetic journey through a Victorian mansion filled with an alligator who has just wakened from dreaming, a bat slurping ice cream, a cat who looks into a mirror and sees himself as a tiger, a duck guarding a collection of toys, an Ibis “arranging some pears,” a kingfisher in a tackle box, a Mandrill waiting on the telephone to ring, a Narwhal wearing a shawl, an octopus changing the lights in a chandelier, a daydreaming Rhino, and a letter-writing Xenosaur, among others.
Each of the paintings in the book depict these fantastic creatures in wonderfully furnished rooms complete with unusual, ornate wallpapers and intricately detailed objects. For example, the depiction of “E is for Elephant, / on the right track” is of an elephant dressed for the circus in full regalia, playing with a toy steam engine train set on a well-worn hardwood floor in a room with art nouveaux wainscoting, stained glass windows, and art nouveaux-style ornate floral-patterned wall paper. The detail in the elephant’s wrinkled skin is enough for long study, but the amazing thing is that each of the twenty-six pictures are equally dazzling. The alphabet comes to life under Edwards’ care.
SUMMARY Coraline moves into an apartment in a delightful, old pink mansion with her parents, who are distracted by writing a book about gardening, evenSUMMARY Coraline moves into an apartment in a delightful, old pink mansion with her parents, who are distracted by writing a book about gardening, even though neither of them appear to have a green thumb. Actually, Coraline is blessed with parents who do not appear to have any talents at anything domestic—her mother often forgets dinner, and neither of them pay much attention to her at all.
Then she finds the door.
At first examination, the small door in the parlor opened up to a brick wall. However, Coraline soon finds that is not always the case. In fact, sometimes the door opens up into a secret tunnel that takes her to her other house and her other mother and father. And although these other parents have buttons instead of eyes, they seem to love her unabashedly, paying her bunches of attention, and feeding her elaborate dinners that she could never get at her real house. Even her bedroom is wondrous at her other parents’ house, and wonders never cease—that is, until she finds out that her other mother intends to sew buttons into her eyes and keep her there forever. When she escapes from her other mother, and returns to her real parents, they have disappeared without even a note. And when Coraline’s worst fears come true—that the other mother has taken her real parents back into the other house beyond the tunnel, she goes back through the tunnel. With the help of the black cat and the other world version of her eccentric neighbors, Coraline must save her parents as well as the souls of the children the other mother has trapped before her, and escape back into her real world before the one in which they are trapped all comes crumbling down.
Jonas lives in a Community where everything is the Same. At the ceremony celebrating the year he and other children his age turn 12, everyone is givenJonas lives in a Community where everything is the Same. At the ceremony celebrating the year he and other children his age turn 12, everyone is given a job assignment except him. He is chosen to become the next Receiver, which is the most highly regarded position in the community. What Jonas finds, though, bursts the illusion of the happy, peaceful Community in which he grew up. His job is to be the Receiver of Memory, but what that means is that he has to carry the burden of the memory of human suffering, pain, war, and struggle - as well as happiness, love, emotion, sexuality, sickness, individuality, and success. The discovery of colors and emotions becomes too much for Jonas to bear alone, and after a time, he and the Giver (the old receiver) make a plan to save a newchild (a baby), and change the Community forever.
The novel is multi-genre. It draws on characteristics of science fiction, fantasy, mystery, and suspense. It deals with many themes pertinent to tweens and teens: the economics of peace and happiness, the economics of politics and security, freedom, individuality, identity, the importance of diversity, law v. morality, mortality, coming-of-age, family and filial responsibility, facing the unpleasant idea that friends drift apart and go their separate ways, and finding oneself. Allegorically, the book warns of the dangers of expecting everyone to be the same and achieve the same things at the same times, especially when we know that people have different learning styles and paces.
This book would be an excellent tool for introducing concepts like allegory, universal themes, literary truths, genre studies, and writing process. ...more
SUMMARY In the mid-1930’s, Billie Jo finds that her life begins to fill with tragedy, and she keeps a free-verse journal, documenting the miserable cirSUMMARY In the mid-1930’s, Billie Jo finds that her life begins to fill with tragedy, and she keeps a free-verse journal, documenting the miserable circumstances facing her family in the face of the Dust Bowl in Oklahoma. When she loses her mother and her baby brother, and her hands are burned badly, she feels she has lost everything, and she’ll never fulfill her dream of becoming a pianist. Everyone else is leaving Oklahoma for the world beyond the dusty prairie, and all Billie Jo has left is her father, a bunch of heartache, and her strong will to survive. When everything is as empty as the prairie, she shows two simple emotions—courage and love—and then the weather changes, bringing back the rains that will heal both that tragic landscape and her heart.
USAGE: Read, React, Research, Respond Students will read Out of the Dust and then explore research techniques. First, they will explore the historical references within the text to select reasons that might have illustrated man’s contributions to the Dust Bowl. Then, they will use teacher-selected primary and secondary source materials to research and explore these ideas and events. They will then prepare a brochure that illustrates the causes of the Dust Bowl, the effects of the Dust Bowl, and a timeline of important events of the mid 1930’s. Students will employ poetry, exposition, visual Literacies, non-fiction, and other styles of writing to complete this assignment. They will learn how to provide MLA-Style in-text citations as well as compose a list of references. They will demonstrate paraphrasing, summarizing, quoting, and delivering information in different ways.
**spoiler alert** This book is absolutely charming. How could a book about a boy in a wolf suit be anything but?
SUMMARY One night, “Max wears his wolf**spoiler alert** This book is absolutely charming. How could a book about a boy in a wolf suit be anything but?
SUMMARY One night, “Max wears his wolf suit and makes mischief.” He chases his dog with a fork, tells his mother he is going to “eat [her:] up,” and is sent to his room without supper. There, a forest grows, and an ocean “tumble[s:] by,” and with it a private boat that takes Max to Where the Wild Things Are. Max is the Wildest Thing of all, and so they make him their King. After a Wild Rumpus celebration, Max sends the Wild Things off to bed without their supper, and finds that he is homesick. He gives up being King of the Wild Things, they say their terrible good-byes, and he sails his boat back home to his bedroom, where his supper is waiting for him, still hot.
CLASSROOM USAGE: Defining Inspiration Students will explore concepts of inspiration by first looking up definitions of the word on the web and in dictionaries and in the glossaries of art books. Then they will examine the illustrations in Where the Wild Things Are and make connections between the characteristics of Sendak’s Wild Things and real-world animals or objects. Examples include scales like fishes, fur like Yaks, teeth like zippers, horns like bulls, claws like badgers, tails like raccoons, tails like lions, stripes like sweaters. Let students be as associative as they wish when coming up with comparisons, and then let them make up some on their own. For example, a child might say she thinks leaves like trees should be on a Wild Thing, or quills like a porcupine. Another might think a Wild Thing should have legs like a checker board. Let them let their imaginations run wild. Then provide them with the tools and supplies to make their Wild Things come to life: paper plates, glue, scissors, yarn, fun fur, felt, beads, string, fabric remnants, leaves, flower petals, construction paper, paint, etc. Have each child present his/her Wild Thing and describe the inspiration behind it.
SUMMARY Mickey wakes up in the middle of the night in a dream. He hears bumps and thumps, and he screams “QUIET DOWN THERE!” before falling out of bed,SUMMARY Mickey wakes up in the middle of the night in a dream. He hears bumps and thumps, and he screams “QUIET DOWN THERE!” before falling out of bed, down past the moon and his parents bedroom, down through the floor and into a dreamscape of pots and pans and mixing bowls and sugar and baking supplies reminiscent of a city skyline at night, in the Night Kitchen. There, he finds himself getting mixed into a giant cake batter by giant Night Kitchen Chefs, who mistake him for ingredients. Mickey quickly kneads himself out of this mess, molding the rising dough into a WWII style prop plane, in which he flies up and over the Night Kitchen, to the Milky Way, where he dives into a giant milk bottle where he gets some milk for the chefs, and saves the day before he slides down the side and back into his own comfortable bed. And this is why we have cake every morning.
EVALUATION: Though this book has been banned in the past, and librarians by the scores have used black magic markers to censor Mickey’s nakedness, my 3-year-old nephew loves this book. Why adults find the story unsettling, I’ll never know. Lots of children like to be naked. This is a whimsical adventure, sparse of exposition, told through illustration with charm and beauty, in which Sendak let his imagination and dreams take him places children only seem to get back to, and in its magic, it tells a porquoi tale—the tale of why we have cake in the morning. I don’t know about Mickey, or Sendak either, for that matter, but I think maybe if more people had cake in the morning, less people would be afraid of naked little boys and happier, to boot. There is nothing mysterious about why this is a good story for young children—they are fascinated with the limits of imagination—and we should never discourage that.
SUMMARY Nye’s compilation of poetry from 100+ poets and paintings of 19 artists seeks to dispel the stereotypical idea that western literature has giveSUMMARY Nye’s compilation of poetry from 100+ poets and paintings of 19 artists seeks to dispel the stereotypical idea that western literature has given young people of the people who live in the Middle East and of their lives there. Through this simple poetry and art, we get a full picture of the richness and diversity of life there, dispelling the stereotypical notions that all Middle Easterners live, dress, and eat the same ways, and value the same things, or that Arabs are the people who “ride out of the desert on horseback” (vii). The book is divided into parts: “A Galaxy of Seeds,” “Pick a Sky and Name It,” and “There was in Our House a River.” Themes explored include: childhood, friendship, family, identity, education, history, growing up, spirituality, the world, loss, love, and poverty v. wealth. Poems are mostly written in free verse, but there are some examples of metrical poetry. The artwork mostly reflects the abstract style of most Middle Eastern artists. Nye’s personal, conversational introduction is a fine way to get into the book, because, as she explains, she never really identified with A Thousand and One Nights, either. But there are no magic carpets or genies in lamps hiding in these pages. What’s in store for the young reader who picks up this book is surprising because it’s so familiar. How could this be a book about the Middle East? It can because it’s not—it’s a book about people and feelings and homes and simple things like love.
EVALUATION One of the things that I often struggle with about poetry and children is that we tend to introduce poetry to children with the attitude of sink or swim. While I have to say, “Bravo!” to Nye’s collection here, it still must be said that the poetry is still a bit dense for the younger readers, and that I feel this is more appropriate for middle and high school readers unless careful guidance is offered. It is a wonderful read, without relying on the stereotypical. .