Saturday, March 15, 2008

Swamp Angel

Author: Isaacs, Anne
Illustrator: Zelinksy, Paul O.
Publisher and Date: Dutton Children's Books, 1994
Genre: Traditional Literature, Picture Book
Age Range: 1st - 4th grades
Awards: Caldecott Honor 1995

Angelica Longrider, also known as Swamp Angel, was a large girl from birth. She came to the recuse of many people in Tennessee when they needed help. One summer she wrestled with a bear named Thudering Tarnation in order to help with the winter supplies of the settlers in Tennessee. After Angel managed to kill the bear, all the people in Tennessee were fed and the leftovers were stored up just in time for winter.

Response: What I liked most and noticed first about the book were the illustrations. They are oil paintings on cherry, maple, and birch veneers. Zelinsky was creative with it and came up with a style that fit the story of Swamp Angel. It takes place in Tennessee where the people are settling the area. It makes me picture open fields surrounded by woods with a line of log houses, so it makes sense to me for the pictures to be painted on wood.
The big bear constellation is explained by Swamp Angel throwing the bear up so high into the sky. The reader later learns that the bear crashed into a pile of stars, making an impression in them. Ursa Major is the true name of it and the Big Dipper is part of it.
I really liked how the Great Smoky Mountains came about according to this story. I think it is something children in this area especially would be able to relate to well. A lot of people visit them frequently or have even lived there so they would know what they look like, having been there.
At the end, Swamp Angel takes Thundering Tarnation's pelt out to Montana as a bear rug in front of her cabin. The place where she moved the pelt is known as the Shortgrass Prarie. I haven't learned anything about the Shortgrass Prairie before, so I Googled it and found all sorts of interesting sites, one of which I linked below. I think it is good to include unfamiliar items in a book to spark a students' interest in it and get them to find out more information about it.

Teaching Ideas: This story could be incorporated into a Language Arts and Geography Lesson. Students could create their own tall tale to explain why something is the way it is. (for example - how Grandfather's Mountain came to be; the face in the mountain) They could also look up different types of land throughout the United States, focusing first on the Shortgrass Prairie. Sites like the one I just linked could be used by the students to gather information on the types of animals and plants that are found there.

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