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 Mexica...moreSUMMARY 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!
SUMMARY This collection of short stories touches on themes like the value of diversity, the get-nowhere-fast of stalemates, the value of individuality,...moreSUMMARY 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.
Willie loved the outdoors. In fact, he loved the outdoors so much, that when the other boys his age tired of playing sports, Willie stayed outside, wa...moreWillie loved the outdoors. In fact, he loved the outdoors so much, that when the other boys his age tired of playing sports, Willie stayed outside, wandering around alone, enjoying nature, watching everything. He spent time taking naps by the river, wandering through the woods, listening to the sounds of the wild world. As he grew older, he had to hurry in order to accomplish all of the things he wanted to do in a day, and still make time for himself. Just like he loved to listen to the sounds of nature, he found he loved to listen to his teacher read poetry aloud, and he finally made the connection that he could write his own poems—about the ordinary things he loved: “plums, wheelbarrows, and weeds, / fire engines, children, and trees.” And he decided to write his poems without meter or rhyme. Since poetry didn’t make ends meet, he decided to go to the university to study medicine, and made friends with Ezra Pound, H.D., and Charles Demuth, and the four of them often hung around talking about art, literature, and music. After he graduated, he returned to his home town, and put out his shingle—he started his own practice, visiting patients in their homes in the morning, seeing patients in his office in the afternoons. He was the busiest man in town, but the poems still came to him, and he would write his ideas down on scraps of paper and prescription pads, so that he could climb the stairs to his attic at night, when everyone else in town slept, and turn his notes and ideas into poems.
Melissa Sweet’s collage and mixed media art both inspire and are inspired—and actually contribute to the story, highlighting wonderful turns of phrase from Williams’ poetry. The simple, eloquent way in which Bryant tells the story of William Carlos Williams’ life is quiet and effortless, and the way that Carlos’ observations sneak in are priceless. This is the best way I can think of for young people to get their feet wet with Williams, and I can only say that I wish it were there for me when I was small.
SUMMARY Nye’s compilation of poetry from 100+ poets and paintings of 19 artists seeks to dispel the stereotypical idea that western literature has give...moreSUMMARY 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. .
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 cir...moreSUMMARY 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.
A young girl's family is moving away from the only home she has ever known in the prairie. She thinks that her younger sibling - still an infant - won...moreA young girl's family is moving away from the only home she has ever known in the prairie. She thinks that her younger sibling - still an infant - won't be affected because he "doesn't know about the slough / where the pipits feed. / Where the geese sky-talk in the spring." In fact, he "hasn't even seen winter." She thinks about living with the new people who have bought their family's farm, or living in a tree, or even moving in with her Uncle Bly and eating pie for breakfast. She imagines herself living in the barn, "listening / to the rain on the tin roof / the wind rattling the windows" but ultimately, her mother convinces her that she has to come with them, if only to remind the baby what he knew first. She collects her memories of songs and the softness of cows' ears, and some mementos of her home - a bag of prairie dirt, a twig from her father's cottonwood tree - and she knows that it's so she can remember these things, too. Moser’s beautiful, moody engravings tell more of the subtextual story, and delineate time and setting.
USAGE: The benchmarks we could hit using this book as a tool are uncountable. Just in standards about the writing process, this book could provide inspiration for many wonderful classroom experiences. Students will learn concepts of prose and poesy by discovery with a learning center dedicated to rearranging the poetry of MacLachlan’s book into prose and then back again. After this exploration, a discussion about how to decide on a structure for a particular piece of writing could lead to the students bringing in their own what-they-knew-first mementos, from which they could write their own What I Knew First poem or memoir. Afterward, they could publish them as a class.
For a long time, I thought that the reason young people hate poetry is because it's presented to them as such a lowbrow thing to start with, and by th...moreFor a long time, I thought that the reason young people hate poetry is because it's presented to them as such a lowbrow thing to start with, and by the time they're in junior high or high school, they either have four spiral notebooks full of the deep dark abyss of their souls, or they discount it altogether, opting for prose books (hopefully the Lois Lowry kind or the classics rather than the Stephenie Meyer kind, but I'm getting way off the subject).
When I opened this book, I was relieved. Someone out there decided that enough was enough, and wrote a collection that's readable for children (I think I would give this book to a child as young as fourth grade if he or she was an avid reader), but actually has poetic and literary merits.
I'll have more to say about this later, but right now I'm just glad to have found this one.
SUMMARY A novel told in beautiful free verse, this is the story of Rosa, a slave healer, who tells us the story of her experience during revolutionary times in Cuba. We witness, in her words, her struggles through learning to be a healer, the Ten Years War, The Little War, and The War of Independence. This is the story of struggle and survival, the story of hiding and the story of waiting and of hoping, but ultimately the story of healing. The brief introduction, timeline, and author’s note only add to the gravity of the story of this slave girl who has a gift for healing the rebel soldiers, and even the enemy. This is the story of the stark, brilliant humanity of a little girl whose spirit shines, even through the veil of the death and misery around her. She says she “can’t understand / why dark northern soldiers / and light ones / are separated / into different brigades.” She describes loss, a “strange victory” and a peace that didn’t end up being “the paradise / [she:] imagined” and one can hardly help but to get caught up in the tangle of words and wisdom that spill from the pages.
EVALUATION Like Karen Hesse’s Out of the Dust, this historical novel is frighteningly engrossing. Engle has the gift of the storyteller, and she uses it well here. The novel is poignant and beautiful, with a quiet, sublime quality. The poetry is contemporary and breathtaking, and it feels easy and light, even though the subjects are mostly dark and grim. Rosa and her story are illustrated through such sensual language that we fall in love with the landscape of a Cuba where even the wind “is an evil wind.” There is bare honesty here, and truth. It is a raw story, without stereotypical elements, and the commentary—that freedom is not something that can be won, and that nothing of value comes without struggle—rings clear and loud, even though the delivery is sometimes subtle and sometimes shocking. This is a book for young and old, one that belongs in every classroom and library, and one that is useful across curriculums and cultures. Bravo.