Carmen Agra Deedy’s 14 Cows For American is the true heart-wrenching story of Wilson Kimeli Naiyomah, an African medical student studying in New York...moreCarmen Agra Deedy’s 14 Cows For American is the true heart-wrenching story of Wilson Kimeli Naiyomah, an African medical student studying in New York when the twin towers burned on 911. He returns to his Maasai tribe and retells the story in the hopes that the elders will bless the cow he worked so hard to purchase for his mother but now decides to give to America. As Kimeli Naiyomah explains, his tribe taught him that, ”to heal the pain in someone’s heart, you give something that is close to your own heart.” To the nomadic Maasai tribe a cow means, “life”. Without their cows they would starve to death. The tribe hears the story and decides one by one to also give, until 14 cows in all are offered. An American diplomat is sent to receive the gift. When he and his wife arrive they are given a ceremony with full traditional garb, dance and the experience of a sacred ritual. They are moved to tears and so was I!
Upon reading this picture storybook one can tell why it won a Bluestem Award nomination and Parent's Choice Award. Thomas Gonzalez’s illustrations are simply beautiful. The bold bright colors would be appealing to any child. The wide horizontal shaped design of the book with illustrations across two pages emphasizes the landscape and openness of nature and the heavens, the setting for this story. The text is just as beautiful as the illustrations. Each support each other so the reader feels the depth of the emotions felt by the tribe that day and the magnitude of their gift. The story ends with, “because there is no nation to powerful it cannot be wounded, nor a people so small they cannot offer mighty comfort”. The text is accompanied by a drawing of the main character’s eye with the reflection of the twin towers burning in the richness of his beautiful black eyes. I know at this point, I have lost all control!
I was left with questions at the end of the book like did they really send the cows and if so, here where are they now? All of my questions were answered in the epilogue along with a website for further information.
This text would lend itself to discussion in numerous ways for students 9 and up. A discussion about 911 and how it impacted to world would be appropriate. I would also suggest using this book as a mentor text to discuss visual literacy elements with children second grade and up. Discussions about how illustrations and text and how they support each other for understanding and mood and tone of a text would be in order. (less)
Show Way by Jacqueline Woodson is the story of the author’s heroic ancestors starting with slavery, marching in the civil rights movement and ending w...moreShow Way by Jacqueline Woodson is the story of the author’s heroic ancestors starting with slavery, marching in the civil rights movement and ending with the present day passing of traditions to her daughter. It depicts the life of Soonie, an African American slave and the generations of relatives who were sold away from their family as children. Soonie used her talent for stitching picture “crossroads” and “paths” on patches (used as pictorial maps) that would ‘’show the way” to freedom for escaping slaves. The overall theme is one of strength, bravery, love and hope. The mood is often dark (as is the subject matter of slavery) with unbelievable adversity and heartbreak overcome. I believe the author’s message is that we enjoy the benefits of the struggles that previous generations endured.
The author uses authentic speech and cadence to add to the authenticity of the story with sentences separated in poem format. The reader can feel the love for their children, as each generation “loved that baby up”. This book serves to document and give value to the lives that previously were told in oral form from generation to generation in African American history. Most strikingly is the loss of Mathis May’s daughter’s name in history “born free that same year”.
The illustrations by Hudson Talbott enhance and support the text beautifully. The book cover design depicting Soonie holding a candle to light the way in contrast with the dark cut away makes the reader want to go inside. Talbot uses many artistic elements to impact the reader including, water color, three-dimensional materials (like fabric and needle and thread) as well as darkness contrasting color. Happier times are bright and whimsical, dark times are dark and bordered with authentic pictures in chaos and shaped to form quilt patches. The illustrations beg to you to stop and ponder before turning the page. I read the book but also watched the Reading Rainbow DVD of the narration by Diane Carroll. This was well worth the viewing. The DVD did not concentrate on the use of quilts to aid in the escape of slaves but rather on documenting family history.
The text would be suited for children third grade and up. Younger children might have difficulty with the depiction of children being sold away from their families at such young ages, despite the fact that it is historically true. Although the book represents dark times in our history the sense of hope and perseverance would be an uplifting message to discuss. In addition, the use of this book as a representation of illustrations adding to the mood of the text is also a possibility. (less)
OH NO! (OR HOW MY SCIENCE PROJECT DESTROYED THE WORLD) is a very entertaining fantasy picture book written by Ma...moreReview pertains to hardcover ediction.
OH NO! (OR HOW MY SCIENCE PROJECT DESTROYED THE WORLD) is a very entertaining fantasy picture book written by Mac Barnett and illustrated by Dan Santat. The format is old-fashioned Japanese monster movie with elements of a modern day graphic novel. The book opens with the action already in motion. Our protagonist is walking; the speech balloon reads, “I knew it.” The destruction behind her indicates something terrible has happened and she might have some knowledge of the cause. The next page answers the question for the reader. She built a robot for a science experiment and something has definitely gone wrong! The robot is destroying the city (hence the Japanese Godzilla reference). She realizes that are some things robots should not have; “a super claw or the power to control dogs’ minds”. She should have given it an off button! She runs home to her lab to see what she can do to fix the situation and creates a monster-sized frog. But, OH NO, the cycle starts again!
Barnett’s limited text adds to the urgency of the situation, almost a news headline flashing across Times Square’s Teleprompters. The simple text and well-drawn illustrations compliment each other very well. At first I didn’t understand why there were white lines going down the page in uniformed segments. I realized later that this was to add to the old 8MM movie theme of the illustrations. Santat does an excellent job of adding details to draw the reader in and help complete the story. The motion of the drawings and bright colors add to the story nicely. There are also some Japanese translations (credited to Antoine Revoy) on the first page that add to the intrigue of the illustrations.
The story line is in keeping with low fantasy texts. The details are plausible and yet there are elements of fantasy where the reader needs to suspend belief. Barnett and Santat do a great job of maintaining a sense of logic and order in this created situation so the story is believable and enjoyable.
This text is suggested for K-3rd grade (School Library Journal review). I believe that rating is accurate but to truly understand the Japanese monster movie theme to its fullest a reader will need to have background knowledge of that movie genre. Adults will enjoy reading it to younger children and will understand the full meaning behind the illustrations. Classroom applications include discussions about visual literacy components or what just what the reader enjoyed about the book. I also see the text being used for older children as a stepping-stone into fantasy writing. For example, “what would you invent and what unforeseen thing could go wrong.” (less)
Hair For My Mama is a heartwarming story written by Kelly A. Tinkham and illustrated by Amy June Bates. This realistic fiction picture book is the sto...moreHair For My Mama is a heartwarming story written by Kelly A. Tinkham and illustrated by Amy June Bates. This realistic fiction picture book is the story of eight-year-old Marcus as he attempts to find hair for his mother after her cancer treatments cause her to loose it. Each year Marcus’ family takes a portrait in October with the changing colors of nature as the backdrop. Eight year olds take comfort and security in routines and traditions. Marcus feels the unsettling affects of his mother’s illness when she doesn’t want to be in the picture. With the innocence of a young child, Marcus thinks if he gives his own hair to her she will get better (or at least feel well enough to be in the picture). “But without hair, you won’t get better! Who will be my mama if you go away?” All ends well for Marcus and his family when months later we discover her cancer is in remission.
Tinkham’s first person narrative captures the emotions from the point of view of a young child when she writes, “Inside my heart felt tighter than the knots Papa made when he tied my shoes.” What young child could not relate to that? We learn from the back cover that Tinkham is a cancer survivor and the idea for this book came out of her own experience with her children while going through cancer treatments. She writes with the authenticity that only first hand experience can bring. Thankfully, like Marcus’ mother she also had a happy ending. Bates’ blue and brown watercolor illustrations work well with Tinkham’s words to set the mood of pain and angst as the family experience this life-changing event.
Well-written realistic fiction provides an opportunity for people experiencing the same situation to see their lives mirrored in literature. It offers validation and comfort in the words that let them know they are not alone. For young children it is an opportunity for dialogue on a subject that might be too difficult to discuss otherwise. Novelist suggests an age range of Pre-kindergarten to 3rd grade and a Lexile reading level of 530. I can see this text being read aloud in a classroom setting where one of the students is going through the same situation. A discussion about what that child needs in the way of comfort can be discussed. Perhaps that child just simply needs understanding that they are going through a rough time in their life. Sometimes children simply do not want to discuss their feelings and the classroom might serve as a place where they can forget. I also see this text being used by social workers and parents to open up a dialogue into what children are thinking and felling. It should be noted that while this story worked out well, not all cancer situations do. Therefore, when choosing the appropriate text one should consider it’s content. (less)
Review was completed with the hardcover 2006 edition.
Even the title, Moses; When Harriet Tubman Led her People to Freedom causes the reader to pause a...moreReview was completed with the hardcover 2006 edition.
Even the title, Moses; When Harriet Tubman Led her People to Freedom causes the reader to pause and think of an extraordinary person empowered by his or her belief in God. This historic fictional picture book, written by Carole Boston Weatherford and illustrated by Kadir Nelson conveys Harriet Tubman’s struggle to free as many African American slaves as possible. We have read many stories about Harriet Tubman before but this one has a new twist. The author brings to life the incredible faith and trust Harriet had in God to guide her to safety and this story doesn’t disappoint.
The text is lyrical and poetic in third person narrative and dialogue between Harriet and God (in different typeset). “Lord, I’m going to hold steady on to You.” And God whispers back in the breeze, “I’m going to see you through, child.”
It has her conversation with God that brings her to freedom and greatness. She is free but misses her family so she returns to guide them even though she risks once again becoming enslaved. She returns nineteen more times to the south to free more than 300 slaves. The simple text works well with the beautiful illustrations. The reader can see how Nelson would win the Coretta Scott Award. With muted earthy blues and browns Nelson’s illustrations becomes an additional character all on its own.
The age range for this text is 5-8 years (determined on the front flap) and the Lexile level is 660 (according to Novelist Plus). The foreword blurb and author’s note at the end give needed background information for the young reader. This would be an excellent read aloud for K-3. Older children 5th grade and up might be able to write a poem from the point of the view of one of the slaves traveling with Harriet as she brings them to freedom. (less)
Heroes often intrigue me, especially when they can be viewed as a role model of overcoming adversity and returning to fight for the rights of others i...moreHeroes often intrigue me, especially when they can be viewed as a role model of overcoming adversity and returning to fight for the rights of others in their culture. Gina Capaldi wrote about such a hero in her book; A Boy Named Beckoning; The True Story of Dr. Carlos Montezuma, Native American Hero. “Wassaja” (Montezuma’s Yawapati name which means “beckoning”) was ripped from his family when Pima Indians destroyed his village at the age of five. Wassaja would have been sold into slavery if it weren’t for an Italian immigrant named, Carlo Gentile. Gentile, a photographer, was traveling through the southwest looking for “adventure, art and gold”. He bought Wassaja for 30 silver dollars. Being a devout Christian, Gentile baptizes Wassaja and changes his name to Carlos after himself and Montezuma after the ancient ruins near the land Wassaji grew up on. The two traveled across America, taking pictures and experiencing what the American landscape had to offer. Unfortunately, after settling in Chicago Gentile’s art studio burns to the ground and along with it his fortune. He is forced to leave Carlos with a preacher’s family while he earns more money. During his time with the preacher’s family Carlos excels academically. He finishes high school at an early age and graduates from the University of Chicago at seventeen. After five years he graduates from the Chicago Medical College and becomes a doctor. He is “beckoned” to help Native Americans forced to leave their land and relocate to reservations where he finds them living in squalor and fear without hope of a better life. Montezuma fights for the rights of Native American people until his death of tuberculosis in 1923 (one year before Native Americans win the right to citizenship).
Capaldi’s beautiful gouache illustrations across both landscape pages add to the emotion of the story but the photographs (some actually taken by Gentile) add to the authenticity of this true retelling. The author’s prologue and note at the end give additional information. I did enjoy this book and feel the story is well worth sharing with students. However, Debbie Reese who writes the American Indians in Children's Literature (AICL) blog that analyses representations of Native Americans in literature feels that Capaldi misrepresents Montezuma and Native Americans in her text. She feels the author uses an authentic picture showing a Native American boy in jeans but Capaldi’s painted illustration depicts Native Americans with bare feet and wearing breechcloths. Furthermore, she feels Capaldi takes too much liberty in interpreting Montezuma’s letters when gathering information for the book.
Booklist places this text as 2-3rd grade and I agree. Lessons should include a discussion bout the misrepresentations Ms. Reese brings to light in her blog found at http://americanindiansinchildrenslite...
This text would also be a good mentor text for children 5th grade and up when discussion the use of multiple medias as Capaldi did when she used real photographs mixed with drawings. The photographs were a visual documentation of Montezuma during the period of time discussed chronologically. The paintings depicted significant episodes in Montezuma’s life and represented the action described in the text. Older children can use this format to write their own life stories using the multimedia format used in Capaldi’s book as a guide. (less)
Dark Emperor & Other Poems of the Night, what an intriguing title! Joyce Sidman’s poetry and Rick Allen’s illustrations capture the reader’s atten...moreDark Emperor & Other Poems of the Night, what an intriguing title! Joyce Sidman’s poetry and Rick Allen’s illustrations capture the reader’s attention from the front cover and every page there after. As the title indicates each poem eloquently describes the nocturnal creatures we daytime creatures don’t often pay attention to (snail, owl, eft and even a tree).
Sidman chose her words wisely to convey the beauty of the night. The twelve poems starting with sunset and ending with sunrise are written in various poetry forms, some in rhyming couplets and others in free verse.
“The night’s a sea of dappled dark, the night’s a feast of sound and spark, the night’s a wild, enchanted park. Welcome to the night!”
The poetry is written on the left page of this landscape-style book. Illustrations are wisely placed on the right page along with additional interesting information about that creature. I especially enjoyed Night-Spider’s Advice. Sidman captured the voice of the wise orb spider, “Use what you have. Rest when you need to. Dawn will come soon enough. Someone has to remake the world each night. It might as well be you.” I learned from the additional information that most orb spiders eat their damaged webs. There is a helpful glossary of terms at the end of the book. It is clear how this book won the ALA Notable Book for 2011. However, I feel there should be an author’s note that gives additional information about what poetic form each poem is. I feel this was a missed opportunity to inform readers new to poetry with her beautiful examples.
Allen’s gouache illustrations are so well drawn the reader can almost feel the texture of the owl’s fur or the bark of the trees. Each illustration was colorful but set in heavy dark trimmed outline contrasting the dappled blue night.
Novelist Plus suggests a Lexile reading rate of 1020 (6th grade) and a grade level of K-3rd grade. The classroom uses of this text are numerous. It could be read aloud to younger children and the term nocturnal discussed. In addition, the habitat of the creatures discussed can be drawn as a response to reading. Students could use this text as a culminating study of poetry forms. After reading each poem aloud a discussion of it’s form can be discussed and the class as a whole can determine what form it portrays. Additional lessons can be found on the author’s webpage http://www.joycesidman.com/darkempero...
Students’ interested in the poetry and science facts might also enjoy, Song of the Water Boatman & Other Pond Poems also by Sidman but illustrated by Beckie Prange. (less)