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.