Thursday, January 31, 2008

The Wall: Growing up Behind the Iron Curtain

Author/Illustrator: Sís, Peter
Publisher and Date: Francis Foster Books 2007
Genre: Autobiography, Multicultural
Age Range: 3rd - 6th grades
Awards:Caldecott Honor Book 2008

Summary: The wall is a simple autobiography about growing up in a communist Czechoslovakia. The basic story told along the bottom of each page talks of his love for drawing, and how he grew up through that. The stories and facts throughout give a time line of the rise and fall of the Berlin Wall. Sís' personal journal entries give his insight to the events as they unfold.

Response: I absolutely loved this book! I enjoyed the illustrations with such detail and simple use of color. I also enjoy the many layers to this book. At first I thought it was just going to be a simple picture book, but I was able to learn from it myself.
My dad worked at a post somewhere along the Berlin Wall with the Army. He has told me some of what went on when he was over there so I was able to relate to some of the time line of events in the book. I've also read a lot about that even in school and I find it interesting how opposite the two sides of the city became when it was divided. The people on the Eastern side were in such desperation from being separated from their families and being trapped in by the Wall.
My favorite illustration in this book is the two page spread where the boy is using his dreams to fly and escape. He is up so high that he can see both sides of the divided city. On one side Sís uses warm colors and positive vocabulary such as liberty, joy, and virtue. The opposite side of the wall is accompanied by a gloomy blue-grey color with words such as suspicion, envy, and stupidity. I believe the mood of each side was portrayed very well.

Teaching Ideas: This book could easily be incorporated in history lesson in a range of grades. The simple story line and pictures could keep early readers captivated while the details and historical facts could capture an older audience. Students could discuss similarities and differences in a Democratic and Communist government system.
Time periods could also be discussed and how they were different in different countries. Western styles such as long hair, fashion, and music greatly influenced the rest of the world in the midst of the fighting.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Moses: When Harriet Tubman Led Her People to Freedom

Author: Weatherford, Carol Boston
Illustrator: Nelson, Kadir
Publisher and Date: Hyperion Books for Children 2006
Genre: Picture Book, Historical Fiction, Multicultural
Age Range: K-3
Awards: Caldecott Honor Book, Coretta Scott King Book Award for Illustration

Summary:This book gives the reader an idea of what the life of Harriet Tubman was like. In the foreword it describes slavery for any readers who may not know, and in the author's note it gives more of Harriet's story. The story takes you throught the journey of an African American female slave who escapes to freedom with guidance from God. Once free, she returns back to the south, risking her capture, to help lead other slaves to freedom.

Response: I really enjoyed reading this book with its beautifully detailed illustrations. I liked how the author put a lot of emphasis on Harriet's faith and how she trusted God to lead her. Through that I think it can teach children to have faith, if not in God then in themselves and also to believe in themselves. Something that stood out to me was Weatherford's use of font sizes and colors to distinguish between the narrative text, Harriet's words/thoughts, and God's words to Harriet. I think by making God's words lighter and in some cases in a curved form, it gave the impression that God was speaking to her heart and not in an actual audible sense.

Teaching Ideas: The first thing that came to mind was to use this book during Black History Month. Harriet Tubman had such a strong impact on the issue of slavery in the south and could be used as an example of how to have faith and persevere. There is also a big historical reference included in the book as well. You could compare the similarities of Moses and Harriet Tubman as well as the differences.

What Do You Do With a Tail Like This?

Author/Illustrator: Steve Jenkins and Robin Page
Publisher and Date: Houghton Mifflin Company 2003
Genre: Picture Book, Informational
Age Range: K-2
Awards: Caldecott Honor Book

Summary:This picture book introduces the reader to a variety of animals. Each animal has a unique characteristic that is specific to the nose, ears, tail, eyes, feet, or mouth. These characteristics are directly related to their every day lives and to survival. A tthe back of the book, more detailed information is given on each of the animals mentioned throughout the book.

Response: I really enjoyed the paper collage technique used for the pictures of the animals. The varied directions of the etext also caught my attention. It guided your eyes toward the animal it was describing and in some cases followed the shape of the animal. I think children would enjoy it because it isn't your typical right to left text all the way through. the extra cacutal information at the back is helpful for learning more about an animal the reader may have found interest in.

Teaching Ideas: This book could be tied in to a lesson about the five senses. You could encourage students to find ways the animals and humans use the same senses. For example a bat uses his ears to hear the echoes of the sounds he makes and the bush baby has larger eyes to see at night while ours are smaller in relation to our bodies because people are not nocturnal. To get children up and moving around the classroom, you could create an activity where each child can act out an animal from the book, acting out the characteristic they read about.