Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Holocaust Literature Cluster

Sixth Grade Curriculum Goal

Competency Goal 7
The learner will assess connections between historical events and contemporary issues.

7.01 Identify historical events such as invasions, conquests, and migrations and evaluate their relationship to current issues.
7.02 Examine the causes of key historical events in selected areas of South America and Europe and analyze the short- and long-range effects on political, economic, and social institutions.

Polacco, Patricia. The Butterfly. Illustrated by Patricia Polacco. Philomel Books, 2000.

Genre: Historical Fiction, Multicultural, Picture Book

Annotation: This book is during the Nazi occupation of France. Monique is a young girl whose mother hides a Jewish family in an effort to help them escape to freedom. Monique meets the family’s younger daughter and befriends her.

“Then they heard loud yelling and glass breaking. They both wheeled and looked. To their horror they saw Monsieur Marks being dragged from his shop by the Nazi soldiers.” (p. 7)
“Servine motioned Monique to follow her. They both tiptoed down the stairs and crpt into the day room. There Monique saw the rug pulled back and what looked like a door in the floor.” (p. 13)

Distinctive Features: The illustrations look to be done in watercolor and pencil and are both single and double page spreads. They do a wonderful job of representing the mood of the characters throughout the story through color schemes and facial expression. This book also includes an author’s note at the end of the book giving more information about the French underground and resistance. It also states that the young girl in the book, Monique, is actually Polacco’s aunt. Polacco writes from her own experiences which gives the book a personal touch and makes it more real to the reader. This would be a wonderful book to start a lesson on the Holocaust with. It is written in third person and is on a second to third grade reading level.

Volavková, Hana. I Never Saw Another Butterfly. Schocken Books, Inc., 1993.

Genre: Poetry, Multicultural

Annotation: This book is complied of poems, drawings, and diary entries from children who lived at the Terezin concentration camp in Prague from 1942-1944.

“Last night I had a beautiful dream. I dreamed that I was at home, I saw quite clearly our flat and street. Now I am disappointed and out of sorts, because I awoke in the bunk instead of my own bed.” (p. 22)
“You shiny new doorknobs,
you pretty painted walls in the bright ward,
can you make up for the stench of excrement?
Can you appease the hunger
of those who are ashamed of their underwear,
and brought here to die,
day by day?” (p. 32)

Distinctive Features: This book begins with a note from the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum along with an informational foreword about Terezin and the Holocaust. It also includes an epilogue and afterword with further information. The poems and illustrations are works from the actual children who stayed at Terezin during the Holocaust. Poetry and drawing was used as therapy to help them cope with their situation. Some illustrations are done in watercolor while others are colored pencil. They used any type of paper they could get a hold of. This book would be good to introduce to students to the Holocaust. It is ideal to use in the sixth grade curriculum.

Leitner, Isabella. The Big Lie: A True Story. Illustrated by Judy Pedersen. Scholastic, Inc., 1992.

Genre: Historical Fiction, Novel, Multicultural, Biography

Annotation: The author, a Jewish girl from Hungary, describes her personal experiences with the Holocaust during World War II. She survived the Nazi death camp in Auschwitz, Germany.

“When the cattle car doors were opened, more Nazis with guns and dogs waited for us. Strange-looking men shouted us out of the train. All personal belongings were left behind. My beautiful camel’s hair coat, which I had guarded so carefully, was left on the cattle car floor.” (p. 41)
“Quickly, Chicha left the column and ran toward what looked like a deserted house off the road. Regina followed Chicha, and I followed Regina. None of us looked back. We all though Cipi was behind us.” (pg.60)

Distinctive Features: This book is set in Kisvarda, Hungary and is the author’s personal account of the events of the Holocaust during World War II, including her experience in the Auschwitz death camp. The illustrations in the text are done in charcoal, giving them more of a gloomy look. This matches the mood of the story, which is written in first person from the perspective of the author, Isabella Leitner. An afterward is included at the end of this book giving more information about the Holocaust. This book would be good for students to read when discussing the events of the Holocaust. It is written on a second grade reading level.

Vander Zee, Ruth. Erika’s Story. Illustrated by Roberto Innocenti. Creative Editions, 2003.

Genre: Historical Fiction, Multicultural, Biography, Picture Book

Annotation: This book takes place during World War II. It is the account of one woman who was thrown from a train that was headed to a Nazi death camp and raised by someone who risked their life to save her.

“While she wrapped me tightly in a warm blanket, did she whisper my name? Did she cover my face with kisses and tell me that she loved me? Did she cry? Did she pray?” (p. 7)
“She threw me from the train onto a little patch of grass just past a railway crossing. People standing there, waiting for the train to pass, saw me hurled from that cattle car. On her way to death, my mother threw me to life” (p.11)

Distinctive Features: This is a true account of one woman’s account with the Holocaust. The book begins with the author’s note, which explains how she came to know the woman in her story. The illustrations are very unique in that they are black and white throughout the book when the woman’s experiences with the Holocaust are being discussed. There is one item in each illustration, however, that is in color. It is the Star of David, and when the girl is thrown from the train it is her pink blanket, which she is wrapped in. The last illustration is in color, which I believe to symbolize her freedom. This story is written in first person from the point of view of the woman who was thrown from the train as a baby by her mother. It is written on a second to third grade reading level.

Hesse, Karen. The Cats in Krasinski Square. Illustrated by Wendy Watson. Scholastic Press, 2004.

Genre: Historical Fiction, Multicultural, Picture Book

Annotation: A young girl and her Jewish family have escaped the Ghetto in Warsaw, Poland and live as Polish. They sneak food through openings in the wall of the Ghetto at Krasinski Square where many cats live. They use the cats to distract the Gestapo’s dogs at the train station from finding the Jews smuggling food into the Ghetto.

“The cats come from the cracks in the Wall, the dark corners, the openings in the rubble. And I know what I must do.”(p.15)
“The station explodes into chaos as frenzied dogs turn their wild hunger on the cats, who flee in every direction, slipping through cracks, into dark corners, between openings.” (p. 23)

Distinctive Features: The illustrations were done using pencil, ink, and watercolor on Strathmore drawing paper. They also include both single and double page spreads. The end of the book includes an author’s note as well as a historical note giving more information about Warsaw, Poland and the ghetto that was located there. This book is written in first person from the perspective of a young girl who escaped the Ghetto in Warsaw and now lives acting as a Polish person. This is a good picture book to use with students when talking about the Holocaust. It is written on a second grade reading level.

Russo, Marisabina. Always Remember Me: How One Family Survived World War II. Illustrated by Marisabina Russo. Anthem Books for Young Readers, 2005.

Genre: Historical Fiction, Multicultural, Picture Book

Annotation: In this book, a grandmother describes her ‘two lives’ to her young granddaughter with the use of two photo albums. The first album depicts her life before she came to America, during the Holocaust. The second depicts her life in America back together with her family.

“Before we left, my grandmother gave me a necklace with a gold heart. ‘When you wear this, always remember me,’ she said, ‘and may luck follow you wherever you go.’” (p. 5)
“Oma stops talking. She looks at me with faraway eyes, and for a moment I think she has made a mistake. This can’t be a story about being lucky. I now that a concentration camp was a place where Jewish people were hurt and often killed.” (p. 28)

Distinctive Features: This book is a true story of one family’s history, which deals greatly with the events of the Holocaust. The illustrations in this book are done in gouache and wonderfully depict the moods of this story. The color schemes go along with each part of the story; they are darker and gloomier when talking about the events of the Holocaust that the family endured. This book also includes an afterword, giving more information about the rise of Hitler and the Holocaust. It is told in first person from the point of view of the young granddaughter, who is also the author, Marisabina Russo.

Friday, April 25, 2008

No Hay Posada

Title: Becoming Naomi León
Author: Ryan, Pam Muñoz
Publisher and Date: Scholastic Inc., 2004
Genre: Novel, Realistic Fiction, Multicultural
Age Range: 4th-6th grades

Summary: Naomi lives with her great-grandmother, Gram, and younger brother Owen in Avacado Acres Trailer Rancho in Lemon Tree, California. She has been raised by Gram ever since her mother Terri Lynn, aka Skyla, dropped them off with her so she could go find herself. Naomi loves making lists, one of the things she was best at according to Gram. A few of her lists were: Things I Am Good At, Regular and Everyday Worries, Unusual Names and Superb Spanish Words. One day Skyla shows up at Lemon Tree with her boyfriend Clive. They want to take Naomi with them to Las Vegas so Clive's daughter Sapphire would have an older sister, a.k.a. babysitter. Skyla doesn't want Owen though because of his physical deformity. To stop Skyla from taking Naomi to Las Vegas, Gram gets temporary guardianship papers and sets off for Oaxaca City, Mexico with their neighbors in Avacado Acres for La Noche de los Rábanos and to try and find Naomi and Owen's father, Santiago. They have a wonderful time participating in the festival, and Naomi get to carve a lion for the carving contest and meet her father. After the festival Naomi, Owen, Gram, and the neighbors go back up to California for the court hearing. There Naomi is brave like her father told her to be and tells the judge about Skyla and how she doesn't want to live with her. In the end, Gram gets custody of the children and Naomi has grown to be strong as a lion with a greater knowledge of her Mexican culture.

Response: I absolutely loved this book! Hispanic cultures are fascinating and they are my favorite to study. I loved the Mexican cultural markers used throughout the book; they gave a great insight to the culture itself and the people that are part of it. I strongly disliked Skyla and Clive, as I would hope anyone would. The only thing I saw them as were irresponsible moochers, trying to make some quick money by trying to take Naomi.

I chose the title 'No Hay Posada' for my blog because of the cultural tradition of las posadas. In the book, Naomi learns about and celebrates part of her Mexican culture by participating in las posadas (in chapter 15). The people of the town celebrate this from December 16 to the 24. On this night described in the book, the town gathers together and goes from house to house asking for a place to sleep just as Mary and Joseph from the Bible did. The person inside their house tells them there is no room, no hay posada, and then comes out to join the rest of the group as they continue on to the next home. When they have gone around to all the houses, the people gathered at the inn where they had begun. I found lyrics to the song they sing as they go door to door. They're in Español as well as English for those of us who aren't fluent. :)

    Listed here are the criteria for good multicultural literature from the Temple text.
  • Do the author and illustrator present authentic perspecitves?
  • Is the culture portrayed multidimensionally?
  • Are the cultural details naturally integrated?
  • Are details accurate and is the interpertation current?
  • Is language used authentically?
  • Is the collection balanced?

I believe that every criteria is met in Becoming Naomi León. I think Ryan presents a most authentic insider perspective of the Mexican culture by having the story written from the point of view of Naomi, who is experiencing some of it for the first time herself. There is not any stereotyping of the culture because Naomi loves and embraces the language and culture of her father and other relatives. The culture is multidimensional in the book by showing a variety of characters from that culture who aren't all the same or do the same things, but who share common traditions and beliefs. The details about Mexican culture that arise in the book do not cut the flow of the story, but go right along with it. Like I mentioned earlier, it is a learning experience for Naomi. This allows the reader to learn right along with Naomi without stopping the story to say, "This is a piñata, etc.". I believe the details to also be accurate to the story, along with correct interpretations of the little Spanish that is used in the book. I like the incorporation of Spanish in this book, and think it is a great way to help other children to pick up on a few words, possibly encouraging them to learn more. The words and phrases used throughout the book were authentic, especially during the time they spent in Oaxaca, Mexico. Although this particular book does not consist of a collection of books about Mexican culture, but it is indeed one I want to have in my classroom.

Some of the cultural markers that I was able to pick up on were: Noche de Rábanos 23/12/07, language, food (mole p.157, pan dulce p.167, buñuelos), huaraches, sense of family, las posadas, piñata. Each of these markers were introduced as the story went along without interrupting the story line.

One of my favorites from this list is, of course, the food. I love to eat especially foods from different cultures. I haven't had mole before, but in a Spanish class I had last summer there was a Mexican girl in there who would always gush about it with our instructor and I've been dying to try some ever since. The link I attached to the mole has many different recipes for it. If anyone has had it before and can give me a good recipe, I'd be much obliged. I am a sucker for sweets, so the next two foods I listed I could eat up in a heartbeat. I linked them to recipes as well.

I was very excited to find a youtube video link to la noche de los rábanos, where the people carve radishes and visit with one another by talking, dancing, etc. I loved the fact that the video is also from this past December! It would be so much fun to visit Oaxaca City during this time and participate in the festivities and see the creative carvings. Another video I found was of the fireworks during the night of the radishes.

Another big part of Mexican culture is family. One's family is usually very tightly knit, and creates a tremendous sense of belonging. I think it also stands true for most Hispanic cultures. Families I have met and had a chance to spend time with in Venezuela have been so welcoming and simply love on you. They are more than willing to offer anything they have to you in order to make you comfortable. Good 'ol southern hospitality cannot even begin to compare.

Teaching Ideas: Using the back of the book for directions/supply needs, students could create their own soap carving to display. After completing their carving, they can write a story about why they created what they did and how they saw it in the soap. Here is a class who has done this activity and posted it online.

As a way for the students to experience the culture, you could use any one of the recipes to share with the class and talk about the significance of the food. A piñata could even be incorporated, but I wouldn't suggest using one made of clay.

Monday, April 21, 2008

First Day in Grapes

Author: Pérez, L. King
Illustrator: Casilla, Robert
Publisher and Date: Lee & Low Books, Inc., 2002
Genre: Multicultural
Age Range: 1st-3rd grades

Summary: This is about a boy named Chico, and his family who are migrant workers and move from one migrant camp to the next. Chico doesn't like going to school because the kids pick on him there and call him names; he wants to be a race car driver. When he gets to school he makes friends with John Evans and likes his new third grade teacher, Ms. Andrews, who can hit a home run. Ms. Andrews is an encouragement to Chico and makes him feel good about his school work, especially in math. At lunch the mean 4th grade boys make fun of the tortilla his mother made for him. Chico stood up to the boys because his mamá wanted him to be strong and have courage. Chico used his math skills to ask the boys addition problems that they weren't able to answer. He stood up for himself without fighting to the kids everyone else was scared of.

Response: The reason I chose to read this book was because of the biographical book I read earlier on Hugo Chavez and how he fought for the rights of migrant workers. This book was not as much about migrant workers as it was about a boy's first day at a new school, which every child can relate to! Like a lot of children, Chico was nervous about going to school because the other children there always seemed to pick on him. Unfortunately there are always students that are picked on by the 'cool kids' in class, and there is not always something done about it. I think this would open up the eyes of many students to see that each person has something they are good at, no matter where they came from, the language they speak, or the color of their skin.

I also liked how the illustrations portrayed the emotions of the characters in the book. I feel like I was able to understand how Chico felt from him being upset about going to school to making new friends and even standing up for himself. The colors used were vibrant and reminded me of a Mexican culture where they love to use lots of color! The illustrations were were done in watercolor, colored pencil, and pastel.

Teaching Ideas: This would be a good book to use on bullying. It can set an example for children on how you can stand up to and approach your bully without fighting or calling them names. It also emphasizes how each student is unique and that they deserve the same respect as anyone else.

Another element of the book that could be used to incorporate more of the culture aspect would be to make tortillas as a class or even bring some in and be able to hand out a recipe for them. This could be used as the snack for the day (and they are delicious if you roll them up with peanut butter!). I doubt the peanut butter is a Mexican tradition, so maybe cheese might be more appropriate to use. Be sure to definitely check for peanut allergies before doing it.

Chicken Sunday

Author and Illustrator: Polacco, Patricia
Publisher and Date:
Genre: Multicultural, Picture Book
Age Range: 1st-3rd Grades

From the Author Study Literary Critique on Chicken Sunday:

Chicken Sunday is a true story about Polacco’s childhood. It is about her relationship with her neighbors, Stewart and Winston, and their gramma, Eula Mae Walker. On some Sundays, little Polacco would go to the Baptist church with the three of them and have lunch afterward. The children decide to get a hat for Miss Eula but don’t have enough money so they go to Mr. Kodinski’s shop to ask if they could work to pay off the difference. They make Mr. Kodinski Pysanky eggs to show him they didn’t throw eggs at him and learn about his life (he is Jewish). They get the hat for Miss Eula and she loves it.

The genre of Chicken Sunday would be a multicultural and nonfiction picture book. It gives Multicultural literature are works reflecting the multitude of cultural groups within the United States (Temple Text). The reader is given an example of another culture within the society, showing that there is more than one way that people live. This gives some insight to various traditions or customs that they would not necessarily encounter on a daily basis. The story is also one that is true and has actually happened in the past. The characters in it are not just created within the author’s mind, but rather are actual people. This gives the book a strong validity and gives the story more authenticity.

While going through the qualities of outstanding children’s literature in our Temple text, I could not find one that Chicken Sunday, or any other of Polacco’s works that I have read, did not fit. This book most definitely expands awareness. Temple says, “They broaden children’s understanding of the world and their capacity for empathy”. If her literature does not do that, I do not know what does. Because she writes from her personal experiences, she allows the reader to share that with her and to become empathetic towards the ones she writes about. As I stated earlier, Polacco’s works contain lessons within them without being too obvious or pushy with them. The truth in her books gives them their quality, integrity, and originality. The characters are true to life and certainly believable because, in most of her work, they are people with whom she has had real life experiences. I have not come across one of her stories that makes me think that I had heard it somewhere before. Polacco is creative in how she presents the stories in her books, each one of them containing a different setting and subject.

The characters in Chicken Sunday appealed to me the most and seemed to be the book’s strongest point. I think everyone has a Miss Eula in their life that they can relate to. A kind-hearted gramma with a singing voice that was slow like thunder and sweet like rain. I know many women in my home church who love to spoil the students in the college and youth groups, and boy can they sing. Another character I was intrigued by and wished there would have been more focus on was Mr. Kodinski. It never came right out and said Mr. Kodinski was Jewish, but there were hints when Miss Eula said how hard of a life he’d had, the eggs, and especially the number tattoo on his forearm. Ever since elementary school I have been fascinated by the Holocaust. I remember a couple times when a survivor of the Holocaust would come in to give a speech about what they had been through. I also remember seeing a number tattooed on their arm similar to the one Mr. Kodinski had on his. It always amazed me how other human beings could be treated so poorly because of their beliefs and physical appearance. It upset me that Mr. Kodinski was being discriminated against even still when the bigger boys threw eggs at the backdoor to his hat shop. I did like, however, how the three children befriended him and helped him to feel more accepted. I also found it very interesting that Polacco’s second husband was in fact a survivor of the Holocaust.

There are endless classroom connections with Chicken Sunday. The biggest one would definitely be on teaching an awareness of other cultures. If there were students in the classroom that were Jewish, they could share some of their customs and beliefs if they are willing to. By having other students in the class with similar backgrounds to the characters in the book, it would allow them to make stronger connections to the book and also allow the other students in the class to relate to the book more. African Americans are another minority in the book, which was the ethnic background of three of the main characters in Chicken Sunday. From the Sunday meal at the beginning with fried chicken and collard greens to the end with the illustration of the choir, it is easy to see that there is a completely different culture within the United States. Students need to be able to recognize the diversity and know that other people are not any less of a person because of the way they live.

On Purim

Author: Fishman, Cathy Goldberg
Illustrator: Hall, Melanie H.
Publisher and Date: Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2000
Genre: Multicultural, Picture Book
Age Range: 1st-4th grades

Summary: This book tells about a family as they celebrate the traditions of Purim by dressing up in costumes and wearing masks. They also read about Esther in the Bible and how she saved the Jewish people. In the book they tell the story of how Esther saved the lives of many Jewish people when she married King Ahasuerus and convinced him not to have the Jews killed like the king's chief advisor, Haman, wanted. After the story the grandmother makes hamantashen, a pastry shaped like the hat Haman wore. They then make shalach manot, gift baskets, for each other with hamantashen, candy, and fruit inside. The family also goes to a carnival and parade for Purim to celebrate. On the evening before the 14th of Adar, they dress in their costumes and go to synagogue. In the synagogue, the family gives tzedakah, or charity, and listen as the Rabbi chants from the Megillah.

Response: I really enjoyed this book because I was able to learn something myself from this! I have never heard of the Jewish holiday of Purim, and thought it was really interesting. Every part of what they do to celebrate this holiday has its own significance to the original story of Esther saving her people from the hand of Haman (boo! boo!). See, in the story they make noise with their groggers and say "boo! boo!" at the mention of Haman's name, who tried to get rid of the Jews in Persia. The grogger reminds me of a noisemaker you see people playing with on New Years.

The illustrations are done in collagraph and mixed media. I love the use of color in the illustrations for this book. It portrays the holiday as the happy and victorious time that it truly is for the Jewish people. The only 'dark' illustration is on the page about Haman. Here deeper purples and more black is included to portray this man's disdain toward the Jews.

Teaching Ideas: Even though not all students in each classroom will be Jewish or would celebrate Purim, this is a good book to bring it to show the different traditions of other cultures and religions. I think it would be better to use in addition to a study of holidays in other cultures or religions to show the students how different some people live.

Also, if the children (a.k.a. parents) are alright with experiencing part of this culture, you could make Hamantashen as a class with the recipe I found below!