I loved this children's picture book about a Jewish immigrant boy in NYC in 1938. It can be read as historical fiction, as a multi-cultural book, as aI loved this children's picture book about a Jewish immigrant boy in NYC in 1938. It can be read as historical fiction, as a multi-cultural book, as a holiday-themed book (both Hanukkah and Christmas are mentioned), or as part of a character-education lesson plan. Make sure to read the book from the very front; even before the title page, these pages contain information that is essential to the background of the story. The eight blessings are not numbered; I thought of creating visual aids representing each of the eight blessings. I love how the blessings include both physical things like bread as well as actions like someone giving him a friendly hand. This book shows the power of compassion, the power of a simple act of kindness. It's inspiring and moving, and I want to read it to my class immediately!...more
This book is a great example of the fact that picture books just shouldn't be used for preschoolers. So many are appropriate for older children, especThis book is a great example of the fact that picture books just shouldn't be used for preschoolers. So many are appropriate for older children, especially this one. On the simplest level, this book shows forest creatures ignoring the Terrible Things that come to take other animals away. They're content to let it happen as long as it isn't happening to THEM. Of course, eventually there are no animals left: the Terrible Things have taken away EVERYONE. The unstated lesson is the importance of speaking up for others. Even young children who do not yet know about the Holocaust could understand that, but this is especially powerful as an allegory for what happened under the Nazi regime, as "good people" looked the other way as their neighbors were arrested, imprisoned, and killed. How can this happen in a civilized nation? It happens when people refuse to stand up for others, and that's what this story powerfully depicts. the simple black and white illustrations add to the grimness of the story.
One of the parts that really touched me was the added detail of how the animals respond each time the Terrible Things take away another of their fellow forest dwellers; instead of thinking the Terrible Things were evil, they BLAME the ones who were captured, saying that there was something wrong with THEM and saying things were better now that they were gone! This added detail could lead to discussions of victim-blaming and excuse-making in which the fearful identify with the powerful against the exploited.
This book is a lovely retelling of the Old Testament story. There are a couple minor parts to the story that differ from the book of Esther in the BibThis book is a lovely retelling of the Old Testament story. There are a couple minor parts to the story that differ from the book of Esther in the Bible such as Mordecai's dragon dream and WHEN Mordecai actually saved the king's life. I have always loved this story! Hamaan is such a petulant bully - "He won't bow down to me!" - and he has the ability to have all the Jews killed! And then lovely Esther bravely intercedes for her people. So powerful!
The illustrations are softly colorful and enhance the legendary feel of the tale. The one of Esther and Mordecai embracing is especially poignant. ...more
A powerful legend that tells the story of Abraham and Isaac from the point of view of the ram. There is an interesting contrast between the patient, qA powerful legend that tells the story of Abraham and Isaac from the point of view of the ram. There is an interesting contrast between the patient, quiet waiting of the ram in the beginning (remniscent of "they also serve who only stand and wait") and then his headlong, determined rush to get to the mountain and save the child. The evil one attempts to stop him several times, like Satan tempting Christ in the desert, but he won't be stopped. This folk tale references Rosh Hashanah which is a teaching opportunity for children not familiar with that Jewish holiday. As a Christian, I see in the white ram such a wonderful picture of Christ's dedication to come to MY rescue and how His sacrifice saved me!...more
This book contains 365 short pages summing up modern culture in music, literature, film, sports, ideas/trends, personality, and "pop." One page for eaThis book contains 365 short pages summing up modern culture in music, literature, film, sports, ideas/trends, personality, and "pop." One page for each item allows for only a brief view so the focus is sharp and succinct. I was pleased to see that I was familiar with most of them (Yay! Does that mean I'm one of the culturati or only capable of conversing with them?), but there were several that it helped to have more fleshing out of the vague impressions I had. A couple people I hadn't heard of included Rod Laver and Brian Eno. This reminded me of E. D. Hirsch and his works on Cultural Literacy.
I'm glad I found this at a thrift store and would like to read more in the series. It presents a great overview for someone not ready for an indepth read but wanting to be conversant with some major influences of the 20th century. (The book was published in 2009 so it is not totally current, but that doesn't change what is presented here, imo.)...more
This was an often interesting read, though the world he moves in is far from mine (and made me feel VERY out of it; many things he referenced I had noThis was an often interesting read, though the world he moves in is far from mine (and made me feel VERY out of it; many things he referenced I had no knowledge of or interest in and he described them as incredibly important. I guess maybe so if you move in his social/business circles). I liked that he considered many different sides and angles of the situation; an unfortunate by-product of that seems to be that there was no true consensus found. Is shaming good or bad? Sometimes being shamed helped change a person for the better; sometimes being shamed destroyed someone. One of the things that made me angriest was how defense lawyers shame victims or witnesses. Shame on THEM. A few things jumped out at me: 1) the way our fear of social media is turning us into bland people who don't dare express anything controversial for fear of reprisals, 2) the "misapprehension . . . that Twitter was a safe place to tell the truth about yourself to strangers. That truth telling had really proven to be an idealistic experiment gone wrong", and 3) the fact that feedback loops on the internet end up isolating yourself from anyone who thinks differently from you, essentially putting you in an echo chamber where you get congratulated by people who already think as you do.
I think there are certainly situations where people SHOULD feel shame. I also believe that people should experience forgiveness and restoration. ...more
This book was totally NOT what we were expecting as an ABC book, but it was a lot of fun. My 8-year-old daughter and I laughed and looked at the pictuThis book was totally NOT what we were expecting as an ABC book, but it was a lot of fun. My 8-year-old daughter and I laughed and looked at the pictures. I especially liked that there was a list at the back showing a real photo of all the things shown in the book and telling what it was and where it was from and when it was made. Unique and interesting, though I do prefer more traditional ABC books that match a pictured item with each letter. ...more
The topic was interesting (especially since I had just been reading about Benjamin Bannaker!) and the pictures are exquisite, but I found the writingThe topic was interesting (especially since I had just been reading about Benjamin Bannaker!) and the pictures are exquisite, but I found the writing itself lacking. For example, the cow spilled the milk, and the book says, "Before the sun set that day, Molly stood before the court." MAYBE that's true, but it seems a bit far fetched. I noticed the same thing when Molly gains her freedom and looks across acres and acres of available land only to find her property before sunset that very same day. I found myself having to add in explanations as I read to my students. The story also ended very suddenly and anti-climatically, also confusedly as Molly tells her grandson that his grandfather had been a prince in Africa (the first time that is mentioned in the story). The biographical information on the last page was very informative.
I think this is a great book to read in an elementary classroom for those studying the American colonies or African-American history. ...more
I was surprised reading this book at finding many different poems that I hadn't seen in other children's anthologies. However, much of the book seemedI was surprised reading this book at finding many different poems that I hadn't seen in other children's anthologies. However, much of the book seemed quite advanced and complex, not really what I was expecting in a book of poetry for children. While I am glad to have it as a resource, it would not be my first choice for young readers, though there are many wonderful poems in it. ...more
I always love literature that ties in with fairy tales. These poems use familiar stories as a jumping place to criticize how our culture views women,I always love literature that ties in with fairy tales. These poems use familiar stories as a jumping place to criticize how our culture views women, especially women's bodies. A lot of the poems references anorexia. I would not recommend this to young teens because of some of the topics. I wouldn't have related to many of the poems in this book as a teen - they're too angry and angst-y and interested in sex - but several of them I did find very powerful. One that made me laugh was "Big Bad Spa Treatment," while "Gingerbread" was very moving. "Nature Lesson" was incredibly applicable to my own experience in social circles where girls were sometimes expected to go swimming in a t-shirt and culottes in order to stay suitably covered so as not to cause men to lust. "The Little Mermaid" was chilling and sad about how far some women deny themselves in order to have a guy. I found the symbolism of "The Wicked Queen's Legacy" powerful, with every mirror whispering a message of condemnation.
This haiku made me smile: Art History Lesson [i]Rubenesque[/i]: the word for masterpiece curves. Screw you, unsalted rice cakes.
And I loved what she had to say in an author's note at the end of the book: "The girl sitting quietly in class or waiting for the bus or roaming the mall doesn't want anyone to know, or doesn't know how to tell anyone, that she is locked in a tower. Maybe she's a prisoner of a story she's heard all her life -- that fairest means best, or that bruises prove she is worthy of love. But here's a great thing about stories: they can be retold . . . The more I explored the darkness, the more I realized that the forest only looks impenetrable. My advice? Retell your own stories. Keep pushing your way through the trees, and I promise that, eventually, you will come to a clearing. And then you can dance."
Kept me fascinated, interested in the characters as we swung back and forth between today's world and fifteen years ago. I didn't know what kind of stKept me fascinated, interested in the characters as we swung back and forth between today's world and fifteen years ago. I didn't know what kind of story I was reading: a realistic thriller or a fantasy novel. Just when the author had me convinced that the supernatural world was real (in the book), she'd offer an earth-bound explanation and make me think that the world of faerie was nothing but an invention of superstitious or manipulative minds. The story was both poignant and creepy and a really enjoyable way to while away an evening or two. (Warning: objectionable elements and language.) ...more
I was afraid, when I first heard of this book, that it would glamorize and encourage teen suicide. Now that I've read it, I'm nJust a couple thoughts:
I was afraid, when I first heard of this book, that it would glamorize and encourage teen suicide. Now that I've read it, I'm not sure that it wouldn't.
I like the messages of the book: that our actions can deeply impact others in ways we never intended and that we all should care more for each other. But I also didn't like how passive Hannah was. She didn't open up to people, she pushed people away, and then she blamed them for not seeing past her façade. The thing is, how can we expect people to treat us with dignity if at the same time we're telling them to ignore what we're saying? At one point she tells Clay to go away, two or three times, but then sulks because he DOES. That's not really fair. And while many people bullied and used her, I disliked how the book is basically saying, "YOU people MADE me kill myself." No one was holding a gun to her head or holding her hostage. They were cruel and evil to her, sure, but SHE made the choice.
It was a little confusing reading the two different POVs presented in alternate paragraphs. Your mind is hearing one voice and you have to switch to another person's perspective which gets tiring, even though the italics clue you in as to who is speaking.
(Caution: there are some curse words and some sexual situations in this book.)