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!

Sunday, April 20, 2008

...I never saw another butterfly...

Children's Drawings and Poems from Terezin Concentration Camp 1942-1944

Edited by: Volavková, Hana
Publisher and Date: Schocken Books, Inc., 1993
Genre: Poetry, Multicultural
Age Range: 4th-6th grades

First of all, before I begin blogging on my 'favorite' poem from this collection, let me just say that it is so difficult to pick just one. All of the poems (and drawings, diary entries) included in this book are from children who lived in a concentration camp who were given art and writing lessons as a sort of therapy to get them through the hard times. What these children wrote really touched my heart, and I highly recommend that you go to the library and at least check it out.

The Garden

A little garden,
Fragrant and full of roses.
The path is narrow
And a little boy walks along it.

A little boy, a sweet boy,
Like that growing blossom.
When the blossom comes to bloom,
The little boy will be no more.

-Franta Bass

Franta (Frantisek) Bass was born in Brno on September 4, 1930. He was deported to Terezin concentration camp on December 2, 1941, and died in Auschwitz on October 28, 1944. He was fourteen years old.

After reading through the Elements of Poetry as talked about in our Temple text, the only one I could find to fit with this poem was the element of images. In the foreward to this collection of poems, it talks about how almost overnight gardens were planted, street signs put up, curtains put in newly painted rooms, a school house was created from a hospital, etc. in order to impress the inspectors that came from the Red Cross. This poem gives the imagery of a simple rose garden. I am no expert on roses and how long they take to bloom, but I am guessing it isn't a long period of time. That is what is so sad about this poem... it is heartbreaking to know that they exterminated young children.

I think that every poem in this collection could be classified as a narrative poem. Each child's poem tells a story, whether it be about their life and experiences in Terezin, or something sillier and more carefree that would help them forget their life and experiences in Terezin... or at least block them out for a little while. I didn't find any of these poems to have any pattern to them such as rhyme or a specific form such as a Haiku. I would think of them all as free verse because it "makes its impressions with an intensity of insight or feeling". (Temple p.270)

One of my favorite things about this collection of poetry are the catalogs of drawings and poetry at the back. If a drawing or poem had been signed by the child it provided extra information about them such as their birth date and date of death if they had passed away. One child, Helga Weissová, has drawings as well as a couple diary entries included in this collection. Her diary entries told some about what had happened the particular day she had written it, which reflected some of what was mentioned in the foreward. Her artwork was also really well done. There is a site link posted below with more information about her. Helga and her mother survived the war and returned to Prague where she remains as an artist.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Junie B., First Grader: Cheater Pants

Author: Park, Barbara
Illustrator: Brunkus, Denise
Publisher and Date: Random House, 2003
Genre: Realistic Fiction, Novel
Age Range: 1st-3rd grades

Summary: In this book, Junie B. learns that cheating isn't just when you copy someone's answers on a test. Junie B. forgets her homework one day and copies May's 'A+ homework' so she won't get in trouble. She thinks she lucked out when Mr. Scary asks them to stand up and read what they wrote for homework. Only, Junie B. doesn't read from her paper when it is her turn. She gets caught and Mr. Scary sends a note home to her parents explaining what she did. The next day in class, the desks are arranged in groups and Mr. Scary has them write a cinquain. After writing their poem, the class was given a spelling test and Junie B. copied 'would' off of Herb's paper. They both felt bad about it and confessed what they'd done to Mr. Scary the next day.

Response: I really enjoyed this book and think it would be a great series to keep in my classroom. The thing that stuck out to me the most was the language used by Junie B. and her classmates. It wasn't perfect English all the time, but it reminded me so much of how first graders communicate with each other.

My senior year in high school I had an internship with a first grade class at my old elementary school. That class was great to work with and I really enjoyed spending time with them during the lessons. This book in a way reminded me of that class and how much I really want to start teaching is first grade after I graduate from Appalachian.

The illustrations were very fitting to the characters themselves. The first illustration shows Junie B. and May sitting at their desks in the classroom. By May's expression the reader can see, before the book even begins, that May thinks she is a great student and better than her peers in Room One.

I also liked how there were students like José in the classroom that could incorporate language from their culture into the cinquain poem they were writing. In any classroom today you will surely find students from various cultures. Students will have to learn how to interact with them if they don't know already, and treat these students just like anyone else like José's friends treat him in this book. Having a variety of cultures in the classroom would open up doors to learning about the student's cultures and maybe even having them teach the class a little about it.

Teaching Ideas: This book contains a good message about cheating, no matter what day the students may read it throughout the year. It shows them that it is wrong and how you can get in trouble for it. The students could learn from Junie B. and Herb's mistake and see that they did the right thing by telling the teacher what they did. Being honest in your schoolwork is always the best and is a true reflection of what you have learned.

For a language arts lesson, students could be given the rules of a cinquain again and be asked to write their own cinquain about whatever they would like.

Cinquain Links:

Thursday, April 17, 2008

My Dad's a Birdman

Author: Almond, David
Illustrator: Dunbar, Polly
Publisher and Date: Candlewick Press, 2007
Genre: Illustrated Novel
Age Range: 3rd-5th

Summary: This lighthearted story is about a Father named Jackie and his daughter, Lizzie who live together. Lizzie's mam is no longer living. One day Jackie joins the Great Human Bird Competition that Mr. Poop is announcing and makes his own bird wings in order to participate. He even goes so far as to eat bugs! Lizzie stays home from school and ends up signing up for the competition as well. Auntie Doreen visits and thinks all of it is crazy and even brings Mr. Mint by to try and straighten the two of them out. Mr. Mint joins the competition as well, despite the flying dumplings thanks to Auntie Doreen. At the competition everyone who participates falls right into the water instead of flying but they all have a wonderful time and dance together at the end.

Response: My favorite part of the book were the illustrations. They were done in pencil, watercolor and collage. One of my favorites is a two page spread on pages 82 and 83 where Jackie and Lizzie were dancing in their living room with the bird wings on as the moonlight shone into the room. Their outline is in pencil and they are colored in with watercolor. The wings are the collage and I absolutely love them and love how the whole picture comes together. Another one of my favorites is the two page spread on pages 58 and 59 where Jackie and Lizzie have made a 'nest' and are sitting in it holding an imaginary egg between the two of them. Again i like their wings, but also in the nest is a piece of newspaper! The nest is a whole assorment of items and little paper clippings, but I really like the piece of small newspaper that is included.

As far as the actual story line, I did not enjoy it as much as I thought I would. I might be able to appreciate it more if I read some more of Almond's work, but I just was not impressed. I did not like at the beginning where it seemed like Lizzie was taking care of her (what seemed to be) deranged father while he ate bugs and worms, refusing real food.

I think this is a great novel to get children reading as a transition to larger chapter books and novels. I really liked how the chapter 'titles' were the first few words of the beginning sentences of each chapter. This lets you get right into the reading and allows it to flow better instead of having each chapter be its own separate story.

Teaching Ideas: This book could be incorporated into a science lesson on birds and what allows them to fly. Students could also discuss why people can't fly (except for on an airplane or helicopter!). In learning about birds, the purpose of a nest could be discussed and students could take a short trip outside to gather materials they think would make a good nest. When back inside, students could create their own birds nest and make an egg out of play-doh or clay to put inside it.
For language arts and art, students could draw a picture of an outfit they would create to make them fly. After drawing the picture, they could write a story about how they made it and what it would do to help them fly.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone

Author: Rowling, J.K.
Illustrator: Grandpré, Mary
Publisher and Date: Scholastic, Inc., 1997
Genre: Fantasy, Novel
Age Range: 4th-6th

Summary: Harry Potter is a young boy who lives with his Aunt, Uncle, and cousin Dudley Dursley on Privet Lane. His parents were killed by the infamous you-know-who (Voldemort) when Harry was just a baby, and the Dursley's were the only family he had left so he was left to live with them in the muggle (human) world. Harry is overshadowed by his cousin Dudley all through their youth, up until Harry's 11th birthday when he receives numerous letters from Hogwarts, despite his Uncle's attempts to destroy them, inviting him to come to school for the next term. Hagrid comes to rescue harry from the hut on the rock at midnight on his 11th birthday and they stop by Gringots to get Harry's money (and something from a secret safe for Hagrid) before they go shopping for Harry's school supplies in Diagon Alley.

On the way to Hogwarts, Harry meets Ron Weasley and Hermione Granger who become two of his best friends at Hogwarts, and they are all sorted into the House of Gryffindor. Draco Malfoy, on the other hand, is someone Harry learns to hate rather quickly. Draco thinks he is better than Harry, or anyone at all for that matter, and constantly teases and taunts Potter and his friends. Harry and his friends befriend Hagrid and have many adventures while they are at Hogwarts, despite Malfoy's attempts to ruin it for them. While getting caught flying on his broom when he wasn't supposed to, Harry lands a spot on Gryffindor's Quidditch team as the new Seeker and the youngest player in centuries. When challenged by Malfoy to a wizard's duel, Harry, Ron, and Hermione find Fluffy in the forbidden corridor on the third floor. On Halloween when a troll was wandering the halls of Hogwarts, Harry and Ron go to warn Hermione who has been in the girls' room crying, and end up saving her life. One night, while using his invisibility cloak, Harry finds the Mirror of Erised which shows him his family. Harry and his friends find out about the sorcerer's stone and that Nicolas Flamel is the only one who has one, which is guarded at Hogwart's by Fluffy and other spells from Professors at the school. Hagrid brings a dragon egg home from a bar one night which Harry and Hermione sneak up on top of Hogwarts for Ron's brother's friends to take with them since dragons are illegal at Hogwarts. Harry, Hermione, Neville, and Malfoy get detention for being out the night they got rid of the dragon and have to go into the forbidden forest to find a unicorn that has been hurt. There the group meets who they later find out to be Professor Quirrell, drinking the unicorn's blood in order to keep his other 'face' alive for just a while longer. At the end, Harry, Ron, and Hermione save the school from Professor Quirrell, and ultimately from Voldemort taking over. From the spells they learn, they are able to work together to get past Fluffy, Devil's Snare, the flying Keys, a life-size game of chess, a knocked-out troll, a line of bottles, and to the sorcerer's stone itself which the Mirror of Erised showed to Harry. Dumbledor comes to Harry's rescue in time, not allowing Voldemort to do enough damage to Harry to kill him, and Harry becomes the hero of the school and even more famous. The book ends with all of the students going back home, some to the muggle world, for the summer where Harry is looking forward to the fact that Dudley doesn't know he isn't supposed to use his magic away from Hogwarts.

Response: I had always heard how much better the books were than the movies and wasn't sure if I'd really ever think the same. After reading the first book I want to read entire series, which I'll probably get started on this summer. The description in the book is incredible and I loved every minute of it!

I think the power of love is such a strong theme in Harry Potter. The reader knows all throughout the book that Harry's parents had cared for him and did love him because they didn't just send him to live with the Dursleys, they were killed by Voldemort and that was the last option for the time being. His parents were well off and had money for Harry when he did get to Hogwarts, so their love for him is shown in this way as well. However, it isn't until the end of the book when you see the true power of the love Harry's mother had for him. When Voldemort knew Harry had the stone and tried to escape with it, he screamed at Quirrell to 'SEIZE HIM' and 'KILL HIM' but the moment Quirrell touched Harry's skin, his began to blister in pain. Dumbledore explains why this happened on page 299. He says to Harry, "Your mother died to save you. If there is one thing Voldemort cannot understand, it is love. He didnt' realize that love as powerful as your mother's for you leaves its own mark. Not a scar, no visible sign...to have been loved so deeply, even though the person who loved us is gone, will give us some protection forever. It is in your very skin. Quirrell, full of hatred, greed, and ambition, sharing his soul with Voldemort, could not touch you for this reason. It was agony to tocuh a person makred by something so good."

There are all sorts of rule-breaking and rebellious characters in this book. The first that come to mind are the Weasley twins, two of Ron's older brothers. They loved to find secret passageways at Hogwarts and joked with their mother about sending her a toilet seat from school (which they actually did send to Harry at the end). Harry had numerous times when he was breaking the rules. He flew on the broom his first time without Professor McGonagall there, was a first year who played on the Quidditch team, had his own broom, snuck out many times with the use of his invisibility cloak, went to save Hermione with Ron while the troll was loose, and even went to the forbidden chamber on the third floor in order to save the school from who he thought to be Voldemort. Hagrid and got his own dragon, fully aware of the fact that they were illegal and used his magic when he came to get Harry in the muggle world.

Teaching Ideas: This book could be used in a language arts lesson in a couple of ways. Since the characters use different spells to open doors, make things float, change something into something else, etc. students could create their own spell. Have them write down what hte spell is and write a story about what situation they would use it and what it would do. They could also draw a picture to go along with it.
In using the Mirror of Erised, Harry saw his family because that was the deepest desire of his heart. Give students a "mirror" printout and have them draw what they would see in their Mirror of Erised. In addititon to the picture, students will also write a short story explaining why they would see what they drew.

For a science lesson, students could learn about owls and dissect owl pellets. If actual owl pellets are not available for the students to use, take them to www.kidwings.com where they can virtually dissect an owl pellet. This might be a little easier on some students anyway! On the site it has different bone parts labeled and will say the name of them when you click on it. As you pick bones out and drag them up to the matching picture, it builds the animal the owl has eaten.

Mirror of Erised

The Mirror of Erised in Harry Potter shows the one who looks in ‘the deepest, most desperate desire of their heart. Harry was able to see his family, whom he had never met and at the end it showed him finding the Sorcerer’s Stone. If I were to look into the Mirror of Erised, I would see myself in Venezuela, like in the picture below. The deepest, most desperate desire of my heart is to serve the Lord in missions. I love the children and being able to play with them and talk with them the most. I can’t wait to travel all over to do this, but especially to more remote and poor areas like the communities I have been to in Maracaibo, Venezuela.

Saturday, April 5, 2008


Author: Giovanni, Nikki
Illustrator: Collier, Bryan
Publisher and Date: Henry Holt & Company, Inc., 2006
Genre: Biography, Picture Book
Age-Range: 4th-6th
Awards: Caldecott Honor, Coretta Scott King Honor

Summary: This is a story about Rosa Parks, the African-American woman who refused to give up her seat in the neutral section on a public bus. Even after the police were called she still refused to get up from her seat, tired of always putting the white people first. The 25 women of Alabama State College’s Women’s Political Council met that night to make signs in support of Mrs. Parks. The Women’s Political Council gathered together with the NAACP and all the churches, to hear Martin Luther King, Jr. speak on their behalf. Dr. King encouraged them to walk instead of taking the buses until ‘justice runs down like water’. Almost a year after Mrs. Park’s arrest, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that segregation on buses was illegal.

Response: I really enjoyed this book about Rosa Parks. I have heard her story many times, but I liked how it included other information about her life outside of the bus boycott. It talks about her occupation and family life some, which allows people to relate to her more in that aspect.
The illustrations in the book were beautifully done. In the illustrator’s note, Collier talks about the reason why he chose certain colors for the book. The yellow and dark hues were used because of the heat Collier had experienced when he went to Montgomery to research the story. He paints Mrs. Parks as if she is ‘a radiant chandelier’, emphasizing the fact that she was the light that lit the path to equal rights, so to speak. I also like the use of collage in the illustrations in addition to the watercolor; it reminds me of Jenkins’ paper collages.

Teaching Ideas: This fits in well in studies of our nation’s history and changes that have occurred over the years. Diversity in our country and civil rights are also topics related to the book that could be used as class discussion. The topic of bullying could also be tied in to the story, showing students how they can stand up for themselves without being violent in their actions.

Harvesting Hope: The Story of Cesar Chavez

Author: Krull, Kathleen
Illustrator: Morales, Yuyi
Publisher and Date: Harcourt Books, 2003
Genre: Biography, Picture Book
Age Range: 3rd-6th
Awards: ALA Pura Belpré Honor Book

Summary: This biography is of Cesar Chavez. He came from a ranch in Arizona and loved to spend time with his family. When a drought came in 1937 his family was forced to give up their ranch and move to California to look for work. Chavez and his family worked someone else's farm in hopes of saving up money to buy their ranch back, but that dream quickly faded. After 8th grade, Chavez dropped out of school to work in the fields full-time in order to put food on the table. Migrant workers were mistreated by the landowners, sometimes being murdered for complaining of the poor conditions. In his early twenties, Chavez dedicated his life to fighting for a change in the conditions of migrant workers. He taught that truth was a better weapon than violence, something he had learned from his mother when he was young. He organized a march from Delano, CA to Sacramento, CA to ask for help for La Causa (The Cause) from the government. When the march reached Sacramento, it was 10,000 people strong. Chavez won the fight and signed the first contract for farm workers in American history.

Response: The illustrations in this book are vibrant and absolutely beautiful. On the first page spread, the people looked as though there was glow from a campfire in front of them, even though there was no actual fire depicted in the illustration. I think the illustrations match Chavez and his culture almost exactly. His family was from Mexico, and in Hispanic cultures they use lots of vibrant colors in art and even to paint their houses with. I really enjoyed this aspect of the illustrations.

There wasn't one specific emotion I felt throughout the book while reading it. It was more like i felt the emotions of the people in the book as the story progressed. Their faces show how the emotions they are feeling, especially their eyes. I did feel angry, however when Chavez was in school and the teacher hung a sign around his neck saying, "I am a clown. I speak Spanish." because he broke the rule one time about speaking English at all times. I don't like it at all when students are singled out by their teachers. It is not appropriate, especially when you hang a sign around the poor child's neck. There are so many other ways the situation could have been handled that would have gotten the teacher's point across without embarrassing him. I have been singled out before by teachers and it really doesn't benefit anyone. It just leaves the student feeling dumb or embarrassed, which is unnecessary especially if you want the student to be successful.

One quote from the book that stood out to me was the rallying cry of the marchers, " Se Puede", which means, "Yes, It Can Be Done". It is very encouraging and gave the United Farm Workers hope and confidence in their cause and in themselves. The marchers' cry can be inspiration for so many others as well. It encourages one to keep pressing on until they reach their goal. It leaves no room for giving up, only a path to move forward.

Teaching Ideas: In a study of heroes in American history, students could study people (like Cesar Chavez) who made an incredible difference in the lives of many people. Each student could choose a person they don't know much about and read their biography. Organize a "Live Museum" for the students to participate in. They will dress up and act like the hero they have chosen and present the museum to parents, other teachers, etc.

Websites on Cesar Chavez:

Patient, compassionate, courageous, stubborn.
Friend of migrant farm workers.
Lover of truth, justice, and peace.
Who feels uncertainty, perseverance, and accomplishment.
Who finds happiness in fighting for what he believes in.
Who needs to make the voice of migrant workers heard.
Who gives hope to those who have none.
Who fears losing the battle and
Who would like to see a change in working conditions.
Who enjoys helping others, hunger strikes, and the support of his family.
Who likes to wear the pride of his people when fighting for La Causa.
Resident of California.

Actual Size

Author/Illustrator: Jenkins, Steve
Publisher and Date: Houghton Mifflin Books, 2004
Genre: Informational, Picture Book
Age Range: K-3rd

Summary: This informational book shows the actual size of a variety of animals. In the back of the book, Jenkins includes a full body picture (not at actual size) of each animal with a more elaborate description of each one. Animals range from the dwarf goby (world's smallest fish) to siberian tigers (largest of all cats).

Response: I am a very visual person and being able to compare the actual size of the animals in this book to my hands, eyes, teeth, etc. is so great! I remember looking through so many books and magazines about different animals and seeing pictures of them but I never knew what they looked like in real life until I went to the zoo and saw them in person. With this book, children can see how big an elephant's foot is, how big a giant squid's eye is, etc. without ever leaving their home or school! Don't get me wrong, zoo trips are amazing... but there isn't always an opportunity for those.

Jenkins is one of my favorite children's book illustrators. He makes collages of each illustration using cut and torn pieces of paper. On his website he goes through the process of making his books. There is also a video about how his book Move! was made. The paper he uses adds a lot of texture to the picture, especially if he uses torn edges. When reading through this book I find myself fascinated at the detail of the animals Jenkins illustrated. He doesn't leave out one razor sharp four inch tooth or any long, thin whiskers.

Teaching Ideas: This book would be great for use in a science lesson in the study of different types of animals. It could even be followed by a trip to the local zoo! After reading the book, students could find facts on their favorite animal that wasn't mentioned in the book and make their own 'actual size' animal with construction paper. These could be collected and made into a bulletin board entitled 'We're Actual Size!'.

My Impression of Nonfiction Texts:
I truly enjoy reading nonfiction books. To me they are among the most interesting books I have read. Fiction books produce great stories as well, but it easier to relate to books about something that has really happened or that is about a place you have visited. As for children, some informational texts might not appeal to them but for the most part I think they would enjoy them because of the real photographs or if it shows the actual size of something, such as animals.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Ice Cream Larry

Author: Pinkwater, Daniel
Illustrator: Pinkwater, Jill
Publisher and Date: Marshall Cavendish, 1999
Genre: Picture Book
Age Range: K-2nd

Summary: This is about a polar bear named Larry who spends the night in an ice-cream shop named Cohen’s Cones. Mrs. Cohen is the owner of the ice-cream shop and let Larry sleep in the freezer because he said he was warm and she thought he wouldn’t eat any of the ice cream. Larry eats two hundred and fifty pounds of ice cream, but says that he does not feel sick. Mildred’s father pays for the ice cream Larry ate, as well as the almond crunch cones that Larry and Mildred got as they left the ice-cream shop. A man by the name of I. Berg comes to the hotel where Mildred and her family live, and asked for Larry. Mr. Berg is the owner of Iceberg Ice-Cream Company and meets with Larry, Mildred, and her father about Larry coming with him to Baltimore, Maryland where his ice cream factory is. Larry goes to visit the factory, and wouldn’t talk about what he did while he was there to Mildred or her parents. Larry and Mr. Berg continued meeting with one another, looking at sheets of paper and talking. One day Mr. Berg comes to the hotel with a large plastic foam box full of ice creams bars, each with a picture of Larry on the wrapper. They were called Larry Bars and came in vanilla, chocolate, strawberry, blueberry, artic almond, bearberry, polar pineapple, and codfish. Mr. Berg also had posters made and a billboard, all of which had Larry on them with their new slogan, “I do not feel sick!” written on them. Larry became a celebrity and the spokesbear for the Iceberg Ice-Cream Company. In return for his work, Larry received a new walk-in freezer in his room and fifty Larry Bars each day.

Response: I really enjoyed this book and actually was able to use it for another class in relation to a health lesson. It is somewhat obvious that I related it with nutrition, but I really like how easy it has been for me to find books like these that will go across so many other subjects. Relating the book to another subject can help the students relate to it better because they have already learned the material, or they will be able to relate to the material more after having read the book.

I liked how simple and lighthearted the story was. The illustrations are simplistic as well and the colors used by Pinkwater are vibrant and cheerful. Using a bright color scheme allows for a younger reader to stay interested in the book since what they mostly look at is the pictures.

Teaching Ideas: Have students to participate in a “Live Pyramid”. On the floor, mark a pyramid out on the floor using duct tape, dividing the pyramid into the food groups as displayed on the My Pyramid. Give each student a different photograph of a food out of the ones discussed in class earlier in the lesson. Examples of those foods may be: grapes, beans, fish, bread, milk, ice cream, celery, pork, etc. Students will then place themselves, one by one, into the food group where they think they belong and explain why they chose that food group. Encourage other students in the class to help one another place themselves in the correct group.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Cendrillon: A Caribbean Cinderella

Author: San Souci, Robert D.
Illustrator: Pinkney, Brian
Publisher and Date: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 1998
Genre: Picture Book, Traditional Tale, Multicultural
Age Range: K-3

Summary: In this Caribbean version of Cinderella, the story is told from the godmother's perspective. Cendrillon's mother passes away after giving birth to her. Her father married again, but this lady did not have any other daughters. Together they had one other girl whose name was Vitaline. Madame (her step mother) of course works Cendrillon like she is a servant girl and favors her own daughter over her. Cendrillon's godmother helps her get to the ball, changing breadfruit into a carriage, agoutis into horses, lizards into footmen, and a a manicou into a coachman. She meets Paul (Monsier Thibault's son) and danced with him until she had to return home by midnight. Paul came searching for her after the ball with the slipper she left behind and found her after her sister Vitaline tried it on without success. Cendrillon and Paul were married soon after he found her.

Response: I really liked this version of Cinderella as well! I think I'm a sucker for any type of fairytale, no matter what culture or story it tells! I thought it was so clever to tell the story from the perspective of the godmother, who was a poor washerwoman who scrubbed other people's sheets and shirts. There wasn't anything 'magical' about her except for the mahogany wand her mother left her when she passed away. Three taps of it could change one thing to another but the magic was to be used to help someone you love.

The illustrations fit the book so well! They were created with scratchboard, luma dyes, gouache, and oil paints. I feel like Pinkney was able to create a very beachy feeling throughout the book. The use of vibrant colors in the clothing of the people reflected the culture. All of the curves in the illustrations and the beach elements such as palm trees and the ocean create an excitement and really allow the pictures to flow to one another.

Teaching Ideas: This story would be good as a multicultural lesson. After reading or discussing the traditional Cinderella tale, students could compare it to this one. A list of traditions or things that are specific to the Caribbean culture could be listed for the students for them to notice the differences in culture between the stories. Students could also create a Venn Diagram to show similarities and differences in the two stories.

The Way Meat Loves Salt: A Cinderella Tale from the Jewish Tradition

Author: Jaffe, Nina
Illustrator: August, Louise
Publisher and Date: Henry Holt and Company, Inc., 1998
Genre: Picture Book, Traditional Tale, Multicultural
Age Range: K-3

Summary: In this Cinderella tale, Mireleh, the youngest daughter of three has a special place in her fathers heart. She, however, is sent away from her home by her father after telling him she loves him the way meat loves salt. She meets a stranger in the countryside who gives her a magic stick (it gives her anything she wishes for after tapping it on the ground three times) with the instruction to go to the home of Rabbi Yitskhok ben Levi. The Rabbi and his family take her in because of their conviction to help those in need. The next day the Rabbi and his family leave for a wedding feast which Mireleh desires to go to. She uses the stick to get a dress, pearls, and slippers for the wedding feast. She arrived in time for the celebration and catches the eye of the Rabbi's son. She left early to beat the family back home, her shoe getting stuck in the tar the son leaves outside the door in order that he might speak with her. He goes around the town trying to find the girl that fits the slipper, and Mireleh asks to let her try it when he returns home. They marry when he finds out it is her the slipper belongs to.

Response: I really enjoyed this version of the Cinderella story. It was pretty different from what I would have expected. I like how Elijah the Prophet was incorporated as the 'fairy godmother' of Mireleh. Elijah was very special to the culture in that he lead the people away from worshiping different gods. In the same way he was able to lead Mireleh to a Rabbi and his family that would take her in and which lead her to her "prince". I was glad that there wasn't an evil step-mother or any evil step-sisters in the story. It made the story more enjoyable even though it was the father who drove his youngest daughter out of their home.

The illustrations were beautiful and wonderfully done. The book says that they were prepared as linocuts painted in full-color oils on rice paper. The people are simply drawn and each illustration has vibrant colors. In the spread where Elijah is speaking to Mireleh you sense a more mystifying tone being set. I think each illustration is fitting to the story line and the media used along with the simplistic style creates a more traditional tone for the book.

Teaching Ideas: This story would be wonderful to use in a multicultural lesson. First, students could read the traditional story of Cinderella followed by this story. Facts about the Jewish culture could be stated on a handout or poster for everyone to see and students could compare the two stories and pick out the culturally specific traditions and items within the story.

Cultural Research on Cinderella Stories

The Way Meat Loves Salt: A Cinderella Tale from the Jewish Tradition

Setting: Lublin, Poland

Characters: Reyzeleh (the eldest daughter), Khaveleh (the middle daughter), Mireleh (the youngest daughter), the rabbi, the mother, the stranger, Rabbi Yitskhok ben Levi, Rabbi Yitshok's wife, and Rabbi Yitshok's son. The characters were a little different than the traditional Cinderella story in that the other sisters weren't her step sisters and they along with her mother weren't out to get her. In this story the father sends Mireleh away from their home after she tells him that she loves him the way meat loves salt. Also the 'fairy godmother' was actually the Prophet Elijah which is very important in the Jewish culture. He helped to lead the Jewish people away from worshiping different gods. He also is special in that he never died, but was taken up to Heaven in a chariot of fire and will come again at the time of the Messiah.

Cultural Markers: As I mentioned with the characters, Elijah is an important prophet in the Jewish culture and it is fitting that he would come to the aid of Mireleh so that she would wander away from her religion after being cast out of her home. Mireleh and Rabbi Yitskhok's son's wedding is significant as well. The ceremony takes place under a chuppah, or huppah, which is the marriage canopy. It symbolizes the home that is to be built and shared by the couple. It is also open on all four sides as a symbol of hospitality. The bride and groom wear no jewelry under the chuppah because their commitment to each other is based on who they are, not on material possessions. The breaking of the glass is also significant. It is an expression of the sadness at the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem, identifying the couple with the spiritual destiny of the Jewish people. The breaking of the glass symbolizes the end of the ceremony, after which people give shouts of "Mazel Tov" along with a reception from the guests as the couple leaves the chuppah together. The song at the end of the book, Mazel Tov is used at the end of the wedding. The actual title of the song is a Hebrew and Yiddish greeting meaning 'congratulations' or 'may God be with you'.

Cendrillon: A Caribbean Cinderella

Setting: Island in the Caribbean Sea

Characters: Narrator (a washerwoman & Cendrillon's godmother), Cendrillon's mother, Cendrillon, Monsieur (Cendrillon's father), Madame Prospèrine (the woman Monsieur remarried), and Vitaline (Monsier & Madame's daughter). This take on Cinderella is told from the perspective of the 'fairy godmother'. Cendrillon's mother passes away soon after she was born and her father did re-marry. The woman he married did not have any daughters, but together they had their own daughter, Vitaline. Madame laughed Cendrillon because of her 'peasant's way of speaking' and her worn clothing, while she was dressed in satin and velvet (her grandfather had come from France). Madame worked Cendrillon like a servant girl, obviously favoring her own daughter. It is similar to the traditional Cinderella in that she goes to a ball and meets a boy that is like a prince.

Cultural Markers: The items used by the godmother for the coach, horses, etc. for Cendrillon to get to the ball are plants/animals specific to the region. She uses fruit à pain (breadfruit) for the coach to ride in, six agoutis (similar to a guinea pig) for the horses, five brown field lizards became the footmen, and a manicou as the coachman. The French Creole language also stuck out as a culturally specific aspect of the book. The colonization of the Caribbean is where the influence came from. French is the official language of Haiti as well as other islands in the Caribbean. French is spoken more widely by the upper class, while Haitian Creole is more widely spoken. In the back of the book the author included a glossary of the words and phrases he used from the French Creole language.

I POEM for Two Voices
(click Cinderella!)

The Bremen Town Musicians

Author/Illustrator: Johnson, David
Publisher and Date: Rabbit Ears Productions, Inc., 1997
Genre: Picture Book, Traditional tale
Age Range: K-2nd

Summary: This version is retold from the Grimm tale. It is about an old donkey, a dog, a cat, and a rooster who are no longer wanted by their owners. One by one they join each other in heading to the town of Bremen to become musicians. The donkey sang, his voice resembling something between a snare drum and a saxophone, the dog sang bass, the cat sang harmony which sounded something like a violin or a rusted hinge, and the rooster sang in a voice sounding like something between a musical saw or a bagpipe. Once all together they came upon a house full of thieves who were eating a meal together. The animals come up with a plan to serenade the thieves for some food. As they begin to sing, they crash through a window into the parlor of the house which scares the thieves and they run out of the house. The thieves attempt to return to their house to reclaim it. One thief went back to check it out, but when he entered he startled the animals who attacked him. He went back and told his other thief friends how awful it was and they gave up their careers as thieves and moved to Venice to form a singing group. The animals remained at the house, where the practiced their songs each day.

Response: I thought this book was absolutely adorable. It somewhat reminded me of The Wizard of Oz when Dorothy, the Scarecrow, the Tin Woodman, and the Cowardly Lion are all on their way to Emerald City to see the Wizard of Oz. Each character has their own unique quality (or singing ability!) that contributes to the group. In the book, they never reach Bremen Town which I think could be represented by Emerald City or even the Wizard. The Wicked Witch of the West I think could be portrayed by the thieves in the house that the animals come across. The Wicked Witch did all she could to keep the friends from getting to Emerald City, but they did make it. In the book, the animals' last stop is the house and the reader never knows if they actually reach Bremen Town where they wanted to go be musicians.

I really enjoyed the illustrations in this book. They look a little kooky as you can tell by the book cover. Their eyes are different sizes and colors and they just look so frazzled. Its no wonder their owners did not want them any longer. I couldn't find what media were used for the illustrations, but it reminded me of those blow pens I used to get when I was a kid. It was basically just a marker that was designed so you could blow one end of it and dots of color would sprinkle onto the page in no particular order. The would come with stencils and such so you could make different designs with them. It looks similar to airbrushing.

Teaching Ideas: This book would be wonderful as a music lesson. Students could be grouped together in fours (or however many the amount of students would allow) to compose their own "Bremen Town Melody" to play for the rest of the class. Each student could pick out their own instrument to play and could describe what kind of animal it would represent.
For a Language Arts lesson, students could write a short ending to the story and draw and simple picture to show what would happen if they animals in this book had continued on to Bremen Town. A bulletin board could be put together of their work to display their creative writings.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Puss in Cowboy Boots

Author: Huling, Jan
Illustrator: Huling, Phil
Publisher and Date: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2002
Genre: Traditional Literature, Picture Book
Age Range: 1st-3rd grades

Summary: This version of Puss in Boots is in a Western setting. The rodeo clown father passes away, leaving his sons three items. The youngest son get stuck with the cat and isn't too happy about it. The cat tells the son to get him some boots and a sack, and so he does just that figuring he had nothing to lose. Puss catches animals and takes them to Mr. Patoot, the most powerful oilman in the state of Texas, to impress him. One day Puss and Rancher Dan (the youngest son) go to the creek by the road to swim. Puss calls out to Mr. Patoot as he drives by to help because Dan is drowning and has no clothes. Dan is rescued and rides with Mr. Patoot and his daughter in the country side. Puss goes ahead of them bribing the cowboys with their cattle and workers at the oil rigs with bar-be-que to tell Mr. Patoot that it all belongs to Dan. Puss also convinces the Ogre to turn into a mouse and gobbles him up in order to tell Mr. Patoot that the ranch house belonged to Dan as well. Mr. Patoot is very impressed with all of his estate as well as his daughter, Rosie-May. They had a big shindig with bar-be-que, fireworks, and music and Rosie-May promised to be Dan's bride. Puss was content in his work and enjoyed his sardines and sweet cream.

Response: I loved this Western style of the traditional story. The main idea of the story stayed in-line with the traditional version, but the details made it so much more modern. I like how the Hulings were able to take the story and adapt it to a Texan point of view where everything is 'bigger'. With the illustrations the people seem really tall. The same is with the animals, especially the cat. I've never seen a cat quite that large, especially on the page where Puss is sitting down at the feet of the Ogre.
I really enjoyed the simplicity of the watercolor illustrations. I think it goes along with the theme very well in that people out in the Southwest part of the United States are thought of to be cowboys and ranchers, sometimes rather simple minded. Thats not to be a cut down on their intelligence, but just the fact that they tend to be more laid back and very personable people. The color scheme in the whole book more or less consists of warm colors like yellows, reds, oranges, and browns. These colors are also related to the West and desert type areas because the climate is hot and humid.

Teaching Ideas: Use this story in comparison to the traditional version of Puss in Boots. Make a Venn Diagram to compare the two and have the students participate in organizing the information on it. Also, students could create their own version of Puss in Boots or another traditional tale, adapting it to a different culture or make it specific to them.

From Jan Huling:

Hi Dani -

Thank you so much for choosing to write about "Puss", you made my day! I love the Fred Marcellino version, too, and used to read it to my son all the time. Now I collect Puss in Boots and have versions from Russia, China, Greece, Spain, even a teeny tiny one I found in Paris! It's a great story, one I tried to make a little sweeter (by having Puss bribe the field hands
instead of threatening them) and funnier (by using broad Texan stereotypes, hopefully not in a mean way).
Of course I adore the illustrations, Phil and I had exactly the same vision of what Puss should look like.

I hope you'll keep yer eyes peeled for my next book, "Ol' Bloo's Boogie-Woogie Band and Blues Ensemble" which is supposed to be out this fall from Peachtree Publishers. It's another southern fried take on a classic fairy tale, the Brementown Musicians which is a really, really funny story in the first place. Phil's not illustrating this one (too much strain on a very happy marriage!) and I haven't seen anything yet, so I'm just keeping my fingers crossed.

By the way, I'd never heard of a Venn Diagram, but yours is a beauty!

Thanks again!

Puss in Boots

Author: Perrault, Charles
Illustrator: Marcellino, Fred
Publisher and Date: Michael di Capua Books, 1990
Genre: Traditional Literature, Picture Book
Age Range: 1st-3rd Grades
Awards: Caldecott Honor Book 1991

Summary: In this traditional tale a cat is left to the youngest of three sons after the passing of the father. The son considers killing the cat to eat and use it's fur to make a muff. The cat did not like this idea and convinced its owner to get him a pair of boots and a sack. The cat catches animals in the sack and takes them to the King to impress him. One day as the King was riding in his carriage, he rode by the river where the cat and his owner (Marquis of Carabas) were going for a swim. The cat tells the King his owner is drowning and is without clothes so the King has Marquis of Carabas rescued and clothed and he rides with the King. Puss goes ahead of the carriage and threatens peasants mowing a meadow and some harvesters into telling the King when he came by that Marquis of Carabas owned the land and crops. Puss also tricks the Ogre into turning into a mouse and eating him so that Marquis of Carabas could claim his castle as well. The King is impressed by Marquis of Carabas' large estate and takes the Kings daughter as his wife while Puss lives in luxury.

Response: I had never read the tale of Puss in Boots before. All I knew was from Shrek 2 and I am not a big fan of the Shrek movies, so even my knowledge of that was rather limited. I am not really sure what I expected from the story but I feel like the story turned out to be very different from what I might have anticipated. I was kind of confused at the beginning as to why the miller's youngest son was not shocked that the cat could talk.

I loved how Marcellino portrayed the characters in his illustrations. One of my favorite spreads in the book is the very first opening pages. This is where the youngest son is talking about killing his cat to eat it and make a muff out of the fur. The cat is sitting behind the son on the well and the expression on its face is so funny! I can honestly say it made me laugh. Its as if you can tell the cat is trying to come up with a clever plan so he won't be dinner for his owner. I think Marcellino also does a good job with keeping the illustrations relative to the time period, especially with the clothing styles.

Teaching Ideas: Use this book in comparison to another version of the same tale. Introduce Venn Diagrams and have the children participate in deciding which parts go along with this book and which go along with the next which is in the blog above this. [Pictures of Venn Diagram are also above.]

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Small Steps

Author: Sachar, Louis
Publisher and Date: Delacorte Press, 2006
Genre: Novel
Age Range: 4th-6th grades

Summary: Two years after leaving Camp Green Lake, Armpit is back home in Austin, Texas. He and his disabled neighbor, Ginny, are good friends and an encouragement to each other. Armpit is trying to turn his life around and is doing a good job as he digs for Raincreek Irrigation and Landscaping under a man named Jack Dunlevy. X-ray, his friend from Camp Green Lake, gets him back into a mess of trouble when he thinks they can make some fast money by buying and re-selling Kaira DeLeon concert tickets. Armpit and Ginny go to Kaira's concert with counterfeit tickets and Ginny has a seizure when they get caught. The two end up meeting Kaira and watching the show from backstage. Kaira takes a liking to Armpit and has him flown out to another concert where he is framed by her agents and almost killed by her step-father and manager, El Genius. Kaira survives the attack, the evidence to frame Armpit is used against Kaira's step father, and Kaira continues to write her music.

Response: I loved this book! It's setting was completely different from Holes, but I like how a couple of the characters carried over into this new adventure. I like how Armpit is straightening his life out, but still manages to step into some trouble with his mischievous friend X-ray.
Armpit's relationships with two people really stuck out to me. The first was with him and his 10-year-old disabled neighbor. Armpit was able to be himself around Ginny, and they really encouraged one another. Ginny did not judge him because of his record and staying at Camp Green Lake and Armpit did not judge her because of her disability and stutter.
The other relationship I liked was that between Armpit and Kaira. It reminds me of relationships my friends and I had with boys in elementary school. It was awkward and you acted goofy but it made you all excited at the same time. Their relationship with one another was innocent and adventurous. It was innocent in that they were both young and didn't know what relationships were about. They were just having fun. The adventurous part comes in where Kaira is a superstar and Armpit is a kid with a record. They ran off together at the country club and she flew him out to meet her for another one of her concerts. Their relationship spurred those working for Kaira to frame Armpit when he really didn't do anything that time.

Teaching Ideas: This book teaches that you should not judge others because of their past or how they appear. People with disabilities still have feelings and can communicate, they may just do it differently. It takes me back to Because of Winn-Dixie where Gloria Dump tells Opal not to judge other people because of their past but to look at what they're doing now.
I think it also teaches a good lesson on gambling and counterfeiting. It is not wise to invest in something just for some quick money. I think that is a growing problem in today's society and children should learn from the mistakes of others early on so they will not have to repeat them.