This is a book I had heard mentioned often, but had never read. I had no idea what to expect. I was delighted when I found out that it was a historica...moreThis is a book I had heard mentioned often, but had never read. I had no idea what to expect. I was delighted when I found out that it was a historical fiction novel, as this is one of my favorite genres. What was so intriguing about this book was that it was a riches-to-rags type of story, rather than the other way around. I also was fascinated by the subject matter, as I knew little about the crop laborers in California during the Great Depression. I had read books (many of them children or young adult books) on the era and had learned much from watching the History Channel, but somehow my knowledge had been centered on Oklahoma and other states in the Great Plains or Midwest regions. I knew that many people flocked to California, in search of jobs and a better life, yet I didn’t recall much about the plight of the (predominantly Mexican and Mexican-American) farm workers. In this book, Pam Muñoz Ryan managed to educate while providing a masterfully told, highly enjoyable tale of a thirteen-year-old girl’s journey from opulence and indulgence (in her native Mexico) to poverty, humility, and maturity (in California).(less)
I liked the concept of the book: the idea of using illustrations and simple text to tell a story of a newly immigrated Swedish family in America. The...moreI liked the concept of the book: the idea of using illustrations and simple text to tell a story of a newly immigrated Swedish family in America. The illustrations really capture the feel of a back-and-white silent movie. Each picture is like a carefully chosen film "shot." However, something about the story bothered me. I can not put my finger on what exactly, but the emphasis seems to be on the "movie style" of the book, and not on the story of the family. The author and illustrator talk about this silent-movie style, but I found myself wanting to know why the author chose certain the story elements; what were his ispirations for the story, itself, not the style.(less)
Ms. Woodson and Mr. Lewis team-up once again to produce another wonderful piece of historical fiction. The sense of love and longing are palpable in t...moreMs. Woodson and Mr. Lewis team-up once again to produce another wonderful piece of historical fiction. The sense of love and longing are palpable in the poetic text and the soft, beautiful illustrations. You can sense how the little girl tries so hard to be patient while she and her grandmother wait for her mother to come home from her new job in Chicago. Even though the story takes place during World War II, students will still be able to identify with the little girl and the idea of missing a loved-one who is far away from home.(less)
Tracing back to her great-grandmother’s great-grandmother, Jacqueline Woodson (the author) explains to her daughter the significance of the art of qui...moreTracing back to her great-grandmother’s great-grandmother, Jacqueline Woodson (the author) explains to her daughter the significance of the art of quilt making in their family. Based on the real history of her family, the author weaves together a story of the fortitude of the women that came before her. By including her daughter to this line of females, she shows that the strength of such women will continue on to future generations. The author’s poetic phrases echo the story-telling traditions of slave songs and lullabies, carrying on the details of how each woman endured hardships, even after each woman has passed from this world. The illustrator’s multimedia art works well with the author’s words to convey the histories of these women. All together the poetry and art make for a very pleasurable and satisfying piece of historical fiction.
This book could be used in conjunction with various units of study. One way would be to have students study the history of quilts and their significance. Each set of students could take a different group of people who has lived in the United States, for example: Quakers, Amish, African-Americans, Jews of Eastern European decent, communities in the Appalachian Mountains, Pioneers, Mexican-Americans, or any other groups that would be interesting and relevant. Students could find out what materials were used, whether or not these traditions were passed on from cultures in other countries, what patterns were used, the significance of these patterns, and weather or not their quilt-making art is still around today. Students could look at the social, economic, and historical significances to each cultural group. Then presentations can be made allowing students to finally discuss and write about how similarities and differences among the cultures in their making and using quilts.
The subject of quilts can also be extended to math. In a geometry unit, the idea of tessellations—shapes and how they can fit together to form pictures and patterns—can be taught in a relevant, interesting manner. Students can learn/review geometric shapes, looking specifically at the shapes of quilt pieces. Students can study what shapes made up certain pattern. Often many smaller pieces made up a larger shape or picture. Sometimes a quilt block simply involved cutting a piece of fabric into a certain unique form such as a boy, girl, house, or other significant shape and using a sewing style known as appliqué. The teacher can teach how quilt-makers need to be able to measure, estimate, multiply and divide, and use fractions in order to figure out how much fabric and thread would be needed. The importance of uniformity among quilt pieces and blocks, as well as with stitching, would be stressed. Depending on the level of the students, angle measurement could also be taught in conjunction with the unit. As a final project, Students could make their own quilt. This could be done in groups, encouraging them to work together—just as quilt-makers often have done in the past—to make a quilt using everything that they have learned. This may not be a full-size quilt, but it should give the students a chance to practice and demonstrate knowledge of the use of math in making a quilt. The students can either sew the quilt or make a paper or mixed media version of a quilt, as long as it involves the steps of designing it, cutting out pieces, and physically applying them to a flat surface. This unit would give students a tangible way to learn about a significant, historic way people used geometry and tessellations to make functional art.
This is an inspiring story for girls everywhere. Although some of the story was fictionalized, Amelia Earhart and Eleanor Roosevelt really did meet an...moreThis is an inspiring story for girls everywhere. Although some of the story was fictionalized, Amelia Earhart and Eleanor Roosevelt really did meet and correspond with one another. On April 20, 1933, Ms. Earhart and her husband really did sit down to dine with the amazing new First Lady. Though the language might seem a bit stinted, the simple text structure makes this subject-matter approachable and inviting to younger students. The gorgeous, graphite and colored pencil drawings capture the vivacity of these women and the simple beauty of the era in which they lived. The illustrations enhance the text, giving it greater depth than the words themselves bring forth. After the book is shared in class as a read-aloud, even students who cannot fully read will want to pour over the story, reliving it through the beautifully detailed pictures.
In Angels in the Dust the author effectively conveys the “Dust Bowl” of the Great Depression as a menacing antagonist against Annie’s family and their...moreIn Angels in the Dust the author effectively conveys the “Dust Bowl” of the Great Depression as a menacing antagonist against Annie’s family and their small farm town in Oklahoma. Based on the author’s research and interviews with people who lived during this era, she tells of the dust that got into every single open space it could. Even when precautions were made to close up every crack in the house, it “[s:]till came to call like an unwanted visitor” (unmarked page). It choked the life out plants and people, alike, literally. Like many good stories, a hero must try to fight the villain in any way possible. Here our hero comes in the form of a preteen girl named Annie. Through determination and a strong spirit, Annie does her best, if not to run the beast out of town, then at least to keep it from winning.
This is one of those books I found just by seeing it on the shelf and not through the computer catalogue, nor by the suggestion of another person. I am glad I happened to pick it up. I absolutely loved this book and highly recommend it!
This book would be a great read-aloud or a wonderful book to include in a study of the Dust Bowl and how it affected the farm communities during the Great Depression. Through Angels in the Dust, primary and middle-elementary grade level students are given an approachable, interesting story by which to learn about this era. The story is also told from the point of view of a young girl, allowing students access into her world, and how she lived during such harsh conditions. This book could be used as a jumping off point to start a study of the era. In such a study, 3rd to 5th grade students could research the agricultural, environmental, industrial, economic, and political impacts this had on local and global levels. Students could explain the effects these had on future generations, and how we do things today. (less)
This book was recommended to me by a librarian in the youth department at my local library. She had praised it—and the author—very highly. The book di...moreThis book was recommended to me by a librarian in the youth department at my local library. She had praised it—and the author—very highly. The book did not disappoint. Through humor and great story-telling, Richard Peck succeeds in enlightening us, the reader, while entertaining us at the same time. The Chicago World’s Columbian Exposition of 1893 provides the backdrop for a coming-of-age story of the main character, thirteen-year-old Rosie Beckett. Not only was it an event of historical significance to Chicago and the rest of the United States, but an important time of change in the lives of the Beckett family, as well. Cleverly Mr. Peck weaves historical figures who were present at the event into the adventures of Rosie, her older sister, younger brother, eccentric grandfather and uptight aunt. Although the Beckett family is fictitious and the encounters perhaps a bit fantastic, it is possible they could have occurred—a key element to good historical fiction.
Another element to note is the author’s command of language. He effectively uses language to tell us about the characters through their speech, as well as by vividly describing the scenes in this story. Mr. Peck uses dialect and colloquial terminology to show us the distinctions between country folk and city people. This is important to the storyline because one of the main issues is how these members of the Beckett family come from Christian County—a very rural area a little bit south-west of the author’s hometown of Decatur, IL—travel all the way to the big city of Chicago to visit their city-dwelling aunt. The aunt’s speech has a more educated, formal style. These speech differences tell us so much about the characters, their experiences, and outlooks.
The other way the author uses language to great effect is through imagery. He sets up each scene with descriptions that make us feel as if were actually there. Of course the author was not actually there himself; however his thorough research is evident. Through his attention to detail, he captures the wonder and excitement that must have been exuding from the “The Great White City.” From the miraculous new way of travel (the elevated platform trains), to the glorious white neo-classical buildings, and the immensity of Ferris’s wheel, we can feel the palpable exhilaration of this great, historical event of the Chicago World’s Columbian Exposition of 1893.
This would be a fabulous book to include in a study of state history. The book is most suitable for 5th through 9th grade, but could be used as a read aloud in a 4th grade class. This event was important in proving to the rest of United States that Chicago was not just a port town in the middle of an expansive prairie, but a realm of education and enlightenment. A teacher can use this book to start students in a study of the historical contributions of the Chicago World’s Columbian Exposition of 1993, not just for Chicago, but on a national and global level, as well. Students can study the architecture of buildings built for this event. Although many of the buildings have since crumbled, some have remained, having been restored and refurbished. These include what are now known as The Field Museum, and The Science and Industry Museum. Many important people were involved the event such as Buffalo Bill Cody, Lillian Russell, Scott Joplin, Susan B. Anthony, Mrs. Potter Palmer (Palmer House) , and the Field family (Marshall Field’s). For others, the event served as inspiration for great works including the architectural designs of Frank Lloyd Wright, L. Frank Baum’s land of OZ, and Antonin Dvorak’s New World Symphony. George Ferris’s immense wheel would inspire many smaller wheels that would become known as “Ferris wheels) in traveling carnivals—also inspired by this huge fair. Many products originating from this World’s Fair can be studied by students, as well. Some of the ones listed by the author on page 139 were: “hamburgers, carbonated drinks, Cream of Wheat, and Juicy Fruit gum.” Students can study all of these people and products that came to be American icons and the extent to which this event affected the United States culturally, industrially, and economically.
Dark Sons is such an intriguing read! This story is told through poetry through the eyes of two teenage boys dealing with similar issues of being aban...moreDark Sons is such an intriguing read! This story is told through poetry through the eyes of two teenage boys dealing with similar issues of being abandoned by their fathers and having to deal with the love they have for their younger stepbrothers. What is so intriguing though is that one boy is of modern times, the other is Ishmael, the biblical son of Abraham. Through alternating stories, Nikki Grimes lets us see the possible perspectives of two boys separated by thousands of years, who could have dealt with very similar issues.(less)