Monday, April 21, 2008

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.

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