Tuesday, November 16, 2010

The Misfits

James Howe

The Misfits is a novel written by James Howe. The target audience of this book is fifth to seventh grade students.
-“ A fast, funny, tender story that will touch readers.” (School Library Journal)
-“A timely, sensitive, laugh-out-loud must read.” (Voice of Youth Advocates)
Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars
The Misfits is the story of a group of social “outcasts” and their struggle within the social norms of school. The gang of five (made up of Skeezie, Joe, Colin, Bobby, and Addie) want to change their school for the better and decide to form a political party in their school election called the Freedom Party. The gang wants the school’s only African American student to be the president of the party. The Freedom party is broken up due to not having permission by the school and they reassemble to form the No-Name Party that has a central focus around no name-calling in school. Unfortunately the No-Name Party looses in the school election but based on their efforts the schools adopts a no name-calling day. This book is more than just a school election race. It focuses on interpersonal relationships and the struggles that students face through bullying and name-calling.
This book really speaks out as an anti-bullying message. It is an issue that is faced within schools on a daily basis and it can have last effects on students whether it is physically or psychologically. Students should be exposed to a novel like The Misfits because I feel it is important to have students understand and know what the effects of bullying are. Having students being exposed to a narrator who tells the story through a victim’s eye can really open up the minds of students and let the see into their world. When bullying takes place, many students do not understand the repercussions it may have on someone and the effects may be long lasting. Bullying should not be tolerated in schools even if it name-calling. The physical abuse sometimes does not out weigh the verbal abuse that goes on in the hallways and classrooms of schools and it is extremely detrimental to self-esteem. Even though this book is aimed at fifth through seventh graders, an anti bullying message should be expressed to students no matter the age. Visit this anti-bullying website for parents, students, and educators to find out more information: http://www.stopbullyingnow.hrsa.gov/kids/ and http://www.antibullying.net/
The Misfits can also be considered a controversial book. Joe is a character in the book that is confused about his sexuality. This can be a touchy subject to talk about within a classroom but it is something that students might be able to relate to if they too are confused about their sexual orientation and it should be known that it is something that occurs within other people as well. Joe is afraid to talking about his confusion and does not know how to feel. There is also a list generated in the book of names that Joe is called such as queer, fag, faggot, and gay. These terms might not be familiar with all students but a simple explanation can keep from a classroom discussion getting out of hand. Teachers can explain how these words can be hurtful and damaging when used. Exposing students to this can help them cope with the idea that they might be confused as well and that is okay. Schools should be a safe environment where students should not feel afraid and teachers should be open to their students if they are confiding in a struggle. Even though this book does have some controversy in it, it should not be banned from classrooms. There are a lot of great life lessons and messages to be discussed within a classroom that students should be exposed to.
“Sticks and stones may break our bones, but names will break our spirit”

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Multicultural Picture Books


My America is written Jan Spivey Gilchrist and illustrations by Gilchrist and Ashley Bryan. The target audience of this picture book is first or second grade students.
Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars
Summary: This multicultural book highlights that America is made up of many different types of people, not everyone is the same race or ethnicity and that is what makes the United States unique and open to opportunity.
This picture book is different than most picture books that I have come across, especially ones dealing with multicultural issues. The text of this book is composed of a poem. All of the text is an on going poem that stretches through out the pages. The poem speaks to the readers as well, asking them questions such as “have you seen my country?”, “have you seen my land?”, “have you seen my people?”, etc. This idea of questioning helps readers stop and think about their surroundings and what their aspects of their world are made up of. Diversity is a huge idea within schools in this new and ever changing day and age where it is more crucial than ever to explain to students that everyone does have different backgrounds but everyone still is excepted. It is okay to be different and everyone as a whole is who makes up communities.
To go along with the beautiful poem of the text, the illustrations are incredibly detailed. They are vibrant and full of color and complement the text well. The illustrations do a good job to showing different genders and races of people. As students read along with the book, they want and should be able to identify with the people within it to make it more personable and meaningful. The poem as a whole is also written all together in the back of the book on the last page to more completely represent the poem since it is broken down by page within the story. This makes it easy to photocopy to potentially pass out to the class to use with an activity.
This book is a great introduction into different writing activities. Students can do any number of activities such as writing their own poems on culture, identity, ethnic backgrounds, or gender. Writing does not even need to be a poem. Students can write in any format relating it back to any of the possibilities related above.
Visit this website for multicultural lesson plans and resources: http://www.cloudnet.com/~edrbsass/edmulticult.htm





The Skin You Live In is a multicultural picture book written by Michael Tyler and illustrated by David Lee Csicsko. This book was originally intended to be used within the Chicago Children’s Museum located at Navy Pier in Chicago, IL. The Chicago Children’s museum is a lively learning experience that allows children to take adventures with their families and friends and explore the cultural diversity that is present in Chicago. For more information visit: www.ChiChildrensMuseum.org
The target audience for this picture book is preschool through second grade students of all different races and backgrounds.
Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars
Summary: This book points out that one’s skin is something that is unique to every person but it is also something that everyone has is common. Skin protects us, keeps us warm, radiates, and allows us to be who we are! No matter the skin color, everyone has something in common.
This book would be great for any early elementary school classroom. It simply explains that skin color should not matter who you are and even though the color may be different it serves the same purpose for everyone. It is similar but different at the same time and this book really hits home with this message, especially at the end of the book. This is great for younger students because schools are becoming more and more diverse and not all students may understand why they look different from one another. Stressing that is not a bad thing and that there are similarities help students understand that it okay to be different from one another and not to be scared of being different. The book is unique with it’s rhyming; sing songy lyrics that grace the pages. According to T&J, the lyrical flow of the text makes it a great read aloud to students and helps push the story along.
Other picture books that are similar to The Skin You Live In or would complement nicely in a text set would be Mem Fox’s Whoever You Are, We are Different, We Are The Same by Bobbi Kates, The Colors of Us  by Karen Katz, and What I like About Me by Allia Zobel Nolan. All these are great multicultural books that can be used in a classroom and expose students to different aspects of multiculturalism. Check out amazon.com or other book websites that provide reviews to find out more information.




A Rainbow of Friends is written and illustrated by P.K. Hallinan. This multicultural picture book appeals to students in preschool, kindergarten, or first grade.
Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars
Summary: A Rainbow of Friends highlights the different attributes that friends can have such as clothing, skin color, ethnicity, and gender. Even though all children are different and can appear different, it does not mean that they cannot be friends!
“Still, each friend is given a shore of our hearts so no one feels different, unloved, or apart”.
This would be an idea picture book for kindergarteners. Kindergarten is the first opportunity for most students to start to make friends and be exposed to different types of other children who may be different from them appearance wise. Especially with schools becoming more culturally diverse, I believe that as teachers it is our responsibility to expose students to different cultural aspects early so they can gain an understanding and promote a level of respect towards one another. A Rainbow of Friends is full of great quotes about acceptance such as “An though we may wander a bit wide or far, our friends still accept us the way that we are” and “ Our goals can be reached with the greatest success by trusting that others are doing their best”. The words of this book are inspiring and motivating, urging students to be accepting and know that is it okay to be different and that everyone can be accepted.
(This is a website for a lesson plan that goes along with A Rainbow of Friends! http://makeworksheets.com/samples/lessonplans/daily.html)

Not only do books similar to this promote awareness but they can also be linked to prevention. Bullying is another big issue within schools right now and being aware of cultural differences, whether it is physical appearance or ethnic backgrounds, students gain and understand that could reduce bullying. Bullying usually results when students are unfamiliar with something or feel threatened by others and if students are aware of differences and know how to accept them, it could do wonders in the school. Once again if this starts at an early age, like kindergarten, it is something that students can take with them all through out their academic careers.
Click here to visit a bullying prevention website for both children and adults.
The illustrations do a great job at showing diversity. There are different genders and races of children represented through out the book all interacting with one another. Visually, this sends a positive message that everyone can play games, talk, sing, and do a variety of activities together. The illustrations are also vibrant and eye catching which helps draw the readers in and to become more involved with the story. The children throughout the book are also drawn and young, kindergarten aged children that relates to the audience for this picture book.
This a fantastic classroom must have for primary grade teachers or parents!  
 

The Woodson Experience


I have never read anything books by author Jacqueline Woodson until our Reading and Responding to Children’s Literature class. To be honest, I never even had heard of her. But overall, I am definitely happy that I have been exposed to her work and writing style. It is unique and not quite like anything that I have ever read and I feel that her voice really speaks through the text. I felt a lot of different emotions while I was reading her work as well. I felt sadness, happiness, and anger. The events of her work really move the reader and provoke emotion, something that a great writer can do. It is just one thing to write words on a page but to really bring out emotion and getting readers to think is a gift that not every author has.
Many of her books deal with the same themes and ideas. After having our class discussion I discovered that her books deal with African American characters within an urban setting. Many of them are faced with a struggle such as family issues or interpersonal and also tend to be heavy, weighing a lot on the main characters. However, these are great issues to expose students to within a classroom because it is reality and could happen to anymore. Something traumatic could have happened to any one of the students in a classroom so they may be able to relate to the experiences that the characters are feeling in the books.
Because of the intensity of the issues that she writes with, her work can be seen as controversial. I do not have a problem with controversial work as long as it is taught in a way that students will be able to understand and take away something. I would not object to using Woodson’s work within my classroom. I believe it would be great exposure for students and she also writes from an African American point of view. This can help students gain an insight to how people from other races portray aspects of our world and their reactions to it. It definitely gives a different perspective that many students are not used to.
Jacqueline Woodson writes picture books and novels. Check out her work at her website: http://www.jacquelinewoodson.com/

My Many Colored Days


My Many Colored Days is written by the one and only Dr. Seuss and with illustrations by Steve Johnson and Lou Fancher. The target audience of this picture book is kindergarten through second grade students.
Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars
Summary: This fun rhyming book highlights the different emotions people can feel on any given day and explains that it is okay to feel different emotions such as happiness, sadness, anger, and many more. Ultimately, you are still always you and it is natural to feel different feelings.
This is a traditional Dr. Seuss book with the clever rhyming and catchy phrases and an underlying message that speaks to the reader. But overall it shies away from the made up fantasy worlds typically seen from Dr. Seuss with the crazy characters and made up words. This book highlights more on issues that a reader can really relate to on a daily basis, specifically emotions. I think it really speaks to younger students that it is okay to different emotions. It is normal to feel sad, happy, and angry just as the books shows. It is all part of life and students need to understand how to cope. This book displays the different emotions through the illustrations as well. For example, when the book talks about being sad and blue, the illustrations are blue and darker colored to show that that’s might how people feel. The overall message is really important as well. Even though people go through different feelings in the end you are still you. Students might feel timid and scared that they feel a certain way but it is important to explain that you are still you. Another great aspect about the illustrations is that they are also illustrated with animals as well as pictures of people. The animals are kid friendly and are related to the emotions as well, which also helps students relate and understand the story better.
Student can do an activity along with this book by creating their own drawing or painting of how they are feeling. They can represent their feelings with different colors, symbols, and ideas that allow them to be creative and express their feelings. Students sometimes need to be exposed to different outlets to express their emotions and art can be a fantastic way. 
Dr. Seuss

Visit http://www.seussville.com to get recourses, book ideas, and information on anything Dr. Seuss related!

Leo The Late Bloomer


Leo the Late Bloomer is written by Robert Kraus and illustrated by Jose Aruego. The target audience of this picture book is first and second grade boys and girls.
Rating: 4.5 out of 5 Stars
Summary: Leo the Late Bloomer is the story of a tiger that is not developing like all the other tiger’s and his father is concerned. This mother is reassuring and says that everyone develops at their own pace. Leo eventually blooms just as his other animal friend have.
This is a fantastic story to use in a classroom to talk about difference and development with students at an early age. Many students go through periods where they feel they might not be as athletic, artistic, or less skilled in academic subjects as their peers and this book talks about how it is okay to feel that way because everyone develops at their own rate. There is a lot of differentiation of skills within a classroom and using this picture book can be a great way to convey that message to students. Sometimes students cannot understand why they are not like their peers but this book really speaks that it is okay to be different. Today there are a lot of problems with bullying and students being picked on for being different. This book can be tied into an anti-bullying message also in that even though everyone can develop differently, everyone makes it eventually.
The illustrations are really well done too. They were created from watercolors and the images are extremely vibrant and eye catching not to mention kid friendly. They clearly depict that is happening with the story and goes nicely along with the text on each page. The other “developing” animals are always shown happy and having a good time with friends while Leo is always shown unhappy with a frown on his face until he reaches that point where he blooms. This can relate to students in that this is exactly how they may be feeling and they can see it in a visual way, especially for learners who are more visual instead of auditory.
Leo The Late Bloomer also comes with an option of an audio CD that may be a different approach to having students listen to the story. Students can use it to read to themselves with a CD player possibly at a station within the classroom or if possible all students can have a copy of the book and listen along with the CD as a class.
Click here for a lesson plan over Leo The Late Bloomer.
Visit this link to see different ways to help children with self confidence: http://www.squidoo.com/confidentchildren

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Locomotion: Jacqueline Woodson


 Locomotion is written by author Jacqueline Woodson. This novel is aimed at students who are in middle school, grades 6-8. Woodson tends to focus on a lot of family related issues within an urban setting where black students are the main characters or there is an interracial mix. Her work could be seen as controversial since it deals with different issues such as death and suffering, which some feel students should not be exposed to within schools. I personally believe her writing is fantastic and controversy should not over shadow what she has to offer as great literacy to sink into within a classroom.
Rating: 4.5 out of 5 Stars
Summary: Lonnie is a nine-year-old boy who has lost his parents in a house fire. Separated from his younger sister and in foster care, Lonnie searches to fit in and come to terms with the tragedy that has stricken his family. This book captures the thoughts and feelings from Lonnie’s perspective through poetry. This novel is sectioned out into many different kinds of poems, short and long, that really give the reader and insight not only to Lonnie’s feelings but also exposing them to the genre of poetry and ways it can be used.
I really enjoyed reading this book. At first, I was a little skeptical because I am not a fan of poetry. I was proven wrong as the poetry beautifully depicts what Lonnie is going though. There is a lot of sadness in this book. Lonnie is constantly struggling to understand and come to terms with the loss of his parents while he is separated from his sister. A major theme of this book is acceptance. Lonnie wants to be accepted at school, within his foster home, by his sister’s foster parents, and also he personally needs to start to accept his situation and the death. Religion is also strongly referenced. Ms. Edna his caregiver is constantly praying and talking to God and Lonnie’s sister Lili also tells him that he needs to find God and gives him a Bible. Religion is a touchy subject within schools so I think it is important for teachers be careful when they go about focusing on this topic within the book.
Since Lonnie is experiencing a lot of different emotions and sometimes people can use writing as an outlet. This book is a great example how poetry can be used as an escape and a way to get feelings out. This is a good message to convey to students. Poetry and writing is not just factual or for a academic purpose, writing can be an outlet and way to express something that cannot be said aloud or understood. This also can be used to expose students to different types of poetry and Locomotion would be a great book to include within a poetry unit. Poems such as haiku’s and free verse are included along with many more. The writing is descriptive and precise that they would serve as wonderful examples.
Finally, this book also provides a different perspective. It is told from the viewpoint of an African American boy. In children’s or young adult literature, it is not as common to have a viewpoint from a minority group.  I think it is great way to include diversity and get students to understand how and what the world is like through someone else’s eyes. Some of the language is even written how a nine-year-old boy would spell and even pronounce certain words.
Overall this is a quick, easy read but sends a powerful message. It is also a little outside the box in that it is a entire novel of poems but it still is just as meaningful as a personal narrative or a typically written novel. This is a great book to change up the reading selection and give students a different taste from many different standpoints. 

Jacqueline Woodson is an award winning author and has been recognized for her outstanding work. Get information on Woodson herself, other books, and the sequel to Locomotion; Peace, Locomtion here.

The Giver


The Giver is written by Lois Lowry and is the winner of the John Newberry Medal. The Giver is a highly controversial science fiction novel, but is a great literary piece of be taught in the classroom.
Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars *****
Lois Lowry
Summary: Jonas lives in an artificial world where choices are limited and the citizens always follow the rules. It is a society that does not encourage diversity. There is one track, and everyone follows it, sheltering people from life’s real issues and the pain or happiness that can be felt along with it. There are no color or opportunities to go outside of what is deemed as “normal”. When Jonas meets The Giver his whole world is changed since he has the insight to a world of limitless feelings, experiences, and ideas.
The Giver is a fantastic book to teach in a classroom. This should be a book that is taught in an older middle school classroom (seventh or eighth grade). There are a lot of heavy issues such a pain, suffering, and death that can be graphic and descriptive. There is also a lot of depth to this story so students need to be at an appropriate level to think more outside the box and understand the different aspects that are incorporated into the text. This book uses very vivid imagery and descriptions to create depth and complexity. Lowry does a fantastic job at creating this artificial world that is so much different from the world that we live in today. 

I never had the experience to read The Giver when I was in school but I am glad I have had the experience to read it. It has a lot of major themes such as power, choice, pain, fear, and lack of diversity. These are all themes that students can relate to and discuss. This book can be great to parallel our society and compare and contrast the differences. How would our society be if it were similar to the society in The Giver? How would the society in the book be different it people were allow to speak about their feelings and be able to show pain and suffering? There are so many different aspects this book can take on and lead to great discussions.
I personally cannot imagine living in a society where there are no choices or variety. I think this book really speaks to students in that they should value and embrace diversity and be able to appreciate the fact that they do have the freedom to do pretty much whatever they want. Even though The Giver has a fictional plot and society, there are places in the world where freedom and diversity is limited. It is important ideas to pass down to students who may be more sheltered and less understand about the power of freedom and choice.
This book takes on a lot of typical characteristics of science fiction. It revolves around a future, artificial world and other elements such as a strong plot, well-developed characters, and themes. The plot is something that kept me intrigued with this book. I was constantly worrying about what was going to happen and what Jonas was going to do next. I think a really important element to plot is making readers want more and to continue on reading. One thing that is frustrating about this book though is the ending. It really leaves you hanging and unsure of what exactly happened to Jonas. At the same time, maybe this is just another reason why this book is so brilliant. It leaves lingering questions opened to interpretation that can spark amazing class discussions.

How Do Dinosaurs Say Good Night?


How Do Dinosaurs Say Good Night? is written and illustrated by Jane Yolen and Mark Teague. This target audience for this picture book is kindergarten and first grade boys and girls. Author Jane Yolen is an award winning writer and illustrator Mark Teague has received much recognition for his beautiful illustrations.
Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars ****
Summary: This picture book references ten different dinosaurs and the possible situations that could arise when trying to put them to bed!
This is a wonderful picture book to have available in the classroom for new and beginning readers for an independent read or for a read class read aloud. There are so many directions the book can go.
This book is great for a beginning reader because the language is simple and patterned. There is a lot of repetition that occurs that help give the reader a sense of predictability and familiarity. Repetition is key factor in learning to read. The rhythm and rhyme scheme of the text also helps young readers as well (Fox, 1988).
This book can also be used as a read aloud. The text and illustrations are large enough for students to see while the teacher is reading. The illustrations also incorporate a lot of humor that would be great for drawing in readers. The dinosaurs and other aspects of the illustrations accurately depict what the text says. If How Do Dinosaurs Say Goodnight? is being read aloud, specific subjects can also be referenced. In kindergarten a lot of students start to develop and learn about routine. This book deals a lot with what proper bedtime behavior and routines consist of and can easily be taught to students. Not only do students get a visual representation of behavior, the story can also make way to a discussion of what proper bedtime behavior is and what types of things students do before they go to bed. Teachers and students can design charts of webs about appropriate behaviors and rituals.

Another angle this can be looked at is through science. Dinosaurs are a unit that most children enjoy in elementary school and books can be a great resource to learn about them. This book specific touches on ten different types of dinosaurs. Each name of the dinosaur is incorporated into the illustrations and they are also clearly represented physically through detailed pictures. Using this book to talk about dinosaurs seems to be a more appropriate unit for a first grade classroom.
As a small side note, this book does a great job showing diversity. Different mom’s and dad’s are shown throughout the illustrations representing different cultures of people. This can help a book speak to students more when they can identify with people who are similar to them and share the same qualities.
Jane Yolen
Jane Yolen has written a whole series of books based off of dinosaurs such as How Do Dinosaurs Eat Food?, How Do Dinosaurs Clean Their Room?,  and many other topics. Visit her website: http://janeyolen.com/

The Man Who Walked Between The Towers


The Man Who Walked Between The Towers is written and illustrated by Mordicai Gerstein. It is the winner of the Caldecott Medal for it’s outstanding illustrations. The target audience of this picture book is aimed at first through fourth grade students.
Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars ****
Summary: This is the true story of Philippe Petit who walked a tight rope between the World Trade Centers in New York City, August 7, 1974. The author speaks about the great feat of the trick and how the memory of the stunt will live on forever just as memories of the World Trade Centers will as well.
One great thing about this book is that it is a true story and not very often do we find teachers using nonfictional, true events within the reading curriculum of the class. Explaining to students that this is a true story can be a great way to draw them into the reading and give them a different type of experience through a picture book. The pictures themselves can tell the story alone but the text is also written beautifully. It is not too wordy for young children but not too simple for an older audience, not to mention the text compliments the illustrations well. I think that children would be intrigued by this story from the standpoint of that this an almost unimaginable trick that fascinates the mind.
Read about the real Philippe Petit here: http://longliveirony.com/Petit.html
Watch a pictorial of photographs from the historical day: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6ddpV1GvF7E
 I feel this book can be used in two different ways within a classroom. First, teachers can design great lessons surrounding the physics that went into this extreme act. It takes a lot of understanding of the laws of physics to pull off what Petit did. Discussions can be formulated around ideas such as balance, gravity, and mass. The second way this book can be incorporated into a classroom is to talk about the history of the World Trade Centers and the events that book place before September 11, 2001. This can be linked to history as students can be exposed to the history that led up to their destruction on that fatal Tuesday morning. Young children in school now are either too young to remember 9/11 or were not even alive to experience what that day was like. It is an important part of our countries recent history and will never be forgotten. Students should be exposed to the WTC and their meaning should be explained within our history. The book does not reference the terrorist acts, the author only briefly acknowledged the towers are now gone. Students may be wondering what happened to them and leaving hanging questions that should be answered since it is a significant event.
Philippe Petit

Leonardo the Terrible Monster


Leonardo the Terrible Monster is written and illustrated by popular children’s book author Mo Willems. This book is targeted at kindergarten and first grade students. The humor incorporated into the text and the silliness within the illustrations will capture the hearts of young readers.
Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars *****
Summary: Leonardo is not a very scary monster but longs to be just as scary as his fellow monsters. He sets out to find a suitable suspect to scare but instead of wanting to be scary he just wants to be a good friend to a little lonely boy Sam.
The two major themes of this book, friendship and acceptance, are great ideas to discuss within a younger classroom such as kindergarten and first grade. This book tells the simple story of what it means to be a friend and how to go about accepting people who may seem to be an outcast. Kindergarten and first grade are the first years where students come together in a setting to start to form friendships. It is important to enforce the ideas behind friendship at an early age so students are properly exposed to what it means to have a friendship and accepting others. This heartwarming tale is classroom must have!
This book can easily fit into a unit about friendship and can further lead into classroom discussions about what I means to be a good friend through charts or lists. It can also be geared in another direction such as conflict resolution and how to manage problems within a circle of friends.
Visit Mo Willems Website to see more hilarious and useful books for the classroom. Willems makes it easy to incorporate a sense of humor into the classroom with still making it possible to connect to an important concept. Click Here!

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Hunwick's Egg


Well-known and respected children’s book author Mem Fox writes the creative story of Hunwick’s Egg, illustrated by Pamela Lofts. The target audience of this book is first through third grade students. Students will enjoy reading and seeing the illustrations based off of Australian wildlife.
Rating: 4/5 out of 5 Stars
Summary: Hunwick is a bandicoot, native to Australia, and he finds a mysterious egg one day after a storm. The egg did not have a home to Hunwick decides to take care for the lost egg and befriend it. Time goes by and the egg does not hatch. The other animals begin to worry if it will ever hatch and have their doubts. But, Hunwick is not worried about the egg hatching and chooses to love and cherish it just the way it is.
Hunwick’s Egg is a classic tale of friendship and companionship. Mem Fox is an incredible children’s book author who does not disappoint in this story. The story takes in the idea of friendship through diverse wildlife that children’s books do not usually incorporate such as a bandicoot, an emu, and a cockatoo. Most young readers are most likely unfamiliar with such animals and it is great exposure to different type of animals than typical animals found in the United States. The illustrations are extremely detailed and give readers a visual representation of the Australian wildlife represented. Not only will the pictures draw a reader in but also the suspense of whether or not the egg will hatch or what will come of the friendship between the egg and Hunwick keeps the reader guessing and predicting what will come next.
This book has a lot of great elements for young or new readers. It can be used for a read aloud in the classroom or can be an independent read. The repetition of the text helps give readers a sense of familiarity and comfort as they read along. The illustrations also provide contextual clues for readers if they ever find themselves struggling with a page or series of words. Students can also relate to the text in what it is like to make a friend and dealing with what other people’s opinions are. The overall vocabulary is not complex though students might have a hard time understand the animals in the story if they have not been exposed to such animals before. A pre-reading activity to build schema about Australian wildlife and animals may be appropriate before reading this book.
I would use this book in my future classroom. I believe it sends a great message about friendship and what it means to have a caring and nurturing friendship. I would use this book for a read aloud and have it available for an independent read within a classroom library. It can tie into a unit on friendship but also it can be used to explore different ecosystems such as the Australian desert.

Side note about author Mem Fox: She is a world-renowned literacy specialist and educator. She has written many children’s books but also book on how to teach literacy. Fox travels around the world giving presentations and speaking about children’s literacy and other related issues (Wikipedia). Visit her website at: http://www.memfox.net/welcome.html to view other books, hear her read aloud, and find out more information on children's literature. She has also been recognized with several awards for her writing and work within the children's literacy field.

A Mother for Choco


A Mother for Choco is written and illustrated by Keiko Kasza. The target audience of this book is preschool and kindergarten aged students. Both boys and girls would enjoy this heartwarming tale about a small bird searching for his mother.
Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars *****
Summary: Choco is a small yellow bird that is upset because he does not have a mother to take care of him. He sets out of find his mother by asking different animals if they are his mother. Choco becomes discouraged when he cannot find anyone until Mrs. Bear finds him upset in an apple orchard. She brings him home to join her and her other children, who happen to be different as well. Mrs. Bear’s family is made up of her, a pig, an alligator, a hippo, and the newest addition Choco the bird.
I found this book to be fantastic and tackles the complex idea of adoption/foster care. This can be a hard idea to explain to young children or students and a book is sometimes an easy way to make a point with young readers. Adoption and foster care is a common situation for children to be in and it is important to know that families can be made up of people of different races, cultures, and backgrounds. A family does not have to be made up of a mom and a dad and their children they gave birth to. Family can mean many different things and A Mother for Choco is a great example on how to explain the idea of differing families. 

I would use this book in a preschool or kindergarten classroom within a unit on family. Not only is this a great story, the illustrations also accurately depict the storyline with vibrant colors and detail, which can be appealing to readers. This would be a prefect read aloud book that could lead into a discussion on different types of family and the ideas behind adoption and foster care. It is important to expose children to different situations families can be apart of. Students in a class could possibly be in a situation and could elaborate on how they feel and what the experience is like for them. The book uses animals that are kid friendly and appealing to younger readers. This also doubles as an example of different types of races and people. The animals are all differing like how people differ within the human race and even in families.
Below is a video link to A Mother for Choco being read aloud: 
Visit author Keiko Kasza's website to see other children's books and information. 

Monday, October 11, 2010

The Higher Power of Lucky


The Higher Power of Lucky is written by Susan Patron with illustrations by Matt Phelan. This book was the winner of the Newbery Medal and is an ALA Notable Children’s Book. The target audience of this novel is fourth through sixth grade students (The Higher Power of Lucky).
Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars ****
Susan Patron

Summary: Lucky lives in a small town of Hard Pan, California with her guardian Brigitte. She is an adventurous girl who tires to makes the most out of her small town (population of 43) but she is on the search to find her higher power, something that will help her triumph through struggle. The story revolves around the central idea of finding a higher power and her friends that help her along the way.
There are a lot of ideas and themes surrounding The Higher Power of Lucky. It deals with a lot of different ideas that students can relate to such as death, absence of family, and hope. Lucky is constantly struggling with idea of her mother’s death. Students in a classroom might be able to relate to this idea if someone in their family has passed or for students who are unfamiliar with death can get an idea of what some of the struggles and emotions people go through when someone close to them dies. The absence of family is something that students experience unfortunately, and they may be able to connect to this book through that as well. As situation, if they are not family with absence of family, students can understand the ways people feel when they do not have a “normal” family to support them. It also focuses on that families are all different and even if they are not a typical family with a mom and a dad, people can still love each other and lead a satisfying life.
The literary elements really come alive throughout this story as well. The story is told from first person limited. The voice of Lucky through the narration really allows the reader to get inside Lucky’s head and really understand her thoughts and feelings and she is dealing with them. Her voice is also so strong and pronounced that the reader almost feels like they know Lucky or can have a connection with her throughout. The imagery is also very strong in The Higher Power of Lucky. The way that aspects of the setting and characters are so vividly described readers can easily depict an image in their mind that sticks during the entire book.
This book can be used in the classroom in different ways. It is a great book to read as a class read, an independent read, or as a read aloud. This is a prime example of writing a successful narrative. Students can understand the parts of a narrative like using “I” and letting the reader into their inner thoughts and ideas. Students can also see examples of literary elements discussed above. It can also be used to talk about the themes above as well. It is a versatile book that I would consider using in my classroom. I would only use it with older students though because it is a longer novel that would require a more skilled reader and it also deals with topics such as death, which would be more appropriate for an older student to handle/understand.

Controversial Books


Controversial Books
Sylvester and the Magic Pebble is written and illustrated by author William Steig. It is the winner of the Caldecott medal. It is thought of as a controversial children’s book but is still a popular story among school-aged children. It was selected as one of the 100 Best Books of the Century by the National Education Association (Amazon.com). The target audience of this book is first and second grade students.
Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars
Summary: Sylvester is an avid pebble collector and one day he finds a very unusual pebble with magic powers. The pebble grants the wishes that Sylvester makes but he makes a terrible wish to turn into a rock to hide from a lion and cannot fix the problem. Will he ever turn back? The ending is clever and suprising.
Sylvester and the Magic Pebble is considered to be a controversial book. The police in the story are represented as pigs in the story. All the characters are animals (Sylvester’s family are donkeys) but the police were specifically chosen to be pigs. People sometimes refer to cops as “pigs” because pigs are generally people who are disliked and police are usually not liked by too many people, especially in a bad situation. In return, police officers do not like the term “pigs” When the book was first published in 1969, schools and libraries banned Sylvester and the Magic Pebble because the cops were depicted as pigs and that upset a lot of people. Controversial books evoke a certain reaction from readers and can make people feel uncomfortable. Whether or not Steig was trying to make a statement or not is up for interpretation based on the opinion of the reader (http://www.best-childrens-books.com/sylvester-and-the-magic-pebble.html).

Controversy aside, Sylvester and the Magic Pebble has a larger underlying theme of appreciation of family and being careful what you wish for, sometimes all you need is family. This would be a great book to use for a family unit and understanding the dynamic of family or understanding how to appreciate family. The only issue is that not all students come from a family orientated home where there is an aspect of family dynamic. But, at the same time, it is appropriate for students who do not have a perfect home life to understand what the meaning of family is or what the meaning of family is to other students in the classroom.




Smoky Night is written by Eve Bunting and illustrated by David Diaz. The target audience of this book is second and third grade students. Smoky Night was the winner of the Caldecott Award, an American Library Association Notable Children’s Book, and winner of the Parent’s Choice Award (Amazon.com).
-Rating: 5 out of 5 *****
Eve Bunting
-Summary: Smoky Night is viewed as a controversial children’s picture book because it talks about rioting and how children think about or question riots. Some people question whether or not it is too violent or complex of an idea for young students to be learning about in schools. This book is the tale of a child and his mother who live in a neighborhood prone to riots until their apartment building is set fire and they come together with people that they least expect.
When Smoky Night was first published it sent many parents, teachers, and librarians into an uproar over whether or not rioting was an appropriate subject for students to be reading and learning about at a young age. Rioting deals with a lot of violence and emotion and sometimes it is too big of an issue for children to even understand. Eve Bunting wrote this book from a standpoint that rioting is a reality and a truth of the world that why shouldn’t students be exposed to it? She wrote her book from a perspective that is easy for young children to understand what a riot is and how it affects people. The book is not graphic but issues of looting and violence are discussed (http://www.readingrockets.org/books/interviews/bunting/transcript).
David Diaz is the man responsible for the incredible illustrations of Smoky Night that earned the Caldecott. The illustrations are a mixture between pictures that are hand drawn with vibrant colors and collages of real life objects pertaining to the story. It is very creative and different than other children’s picture books and gives the story a sense of reality. This is a great example of mixed media in art classes and can be used as a reference.
Even though this book as viewed as controversial, I would use this book in my classroom. It explains the very intense topic of rioting not only in a gentler way but a way that students will understand. Rioting is such a complex topic and so are the ideas behind why riots occur and I cannot think of a better way to explain and lay the basic knowledge of what a riot is. There is also a central theme of being able to accept people and acknowledge cultural difference, since that is large factor contributing to riots. People can reach out to people they do not know or do not like and still be able to come together. I truly believe that is something that should be talked about in the classroom and understood by students especially since bullying is a huge issue in schools today and schools are constantly becoming more diverse. 

Fairy Tales


Fairy Tales
Thumbelina is a picture book written by Hans Christian Andersen and illustrated by Arlene Granston. The target audience for this fairy tale is preschool through second grade girls even though some boys may enjoy the story of Thumbelina.
Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars ****
Summary: Thumbelina is the story of a tiny girl named Thumbelina who is taken away from her mother by a toad. She is very beautiful and has a wonderful singing voice; all the animals love her. Some of the animals want to marry her but she does not feel the same way about them until she finds her fairy prince charming, who happens to be small and delicate just like her. Thumbelina and her new profound love marry and live happily ever after.
Thumbelina contains elements that are typically found in fairy tales that contribute to the storyline and overall layout of the story. This is a great example of what goes into creating fairy tale and can be used an example in the classroom to model fairy tales. Magical elements are found throughout the story such as the animals being able to talk and that Thumbelina herself is so tiny all the creatures and her surroundings are much larger than her. None of those are very realistic or would even happen in the real world. There is also a triumph over evil. Thumbelina suffers in the wildness by herself until she comes into contact with some of her animal friends but even the animals are not always nice and respectful compared to Thumbelina who sings and helps the animals. Eventually she triumphs over all the struggle and finds a spouse and place to live that she truly enjoys and makes her happy. The good overshadowing the evil is a common idea found in many, if not all, fairy tales. The characters in Thumbelina are also easily identifiable and simple that young readers can easily understand and follow along. The plot is also simple to understand as well.
Not only can fairy tales be used as examples to explain the genre but they can also be incorporated into a classroom curriculum in other ways. Thumbelina would be an example of a book that can be used in a science lesson. Many animals and elements of nature are found throughout the book such as toads, fish, insects, and birds. They are all shown in their environments and represented with great detail through the illustrations. Other aspects of nature of represented such as bodies of water, flowers, and trees. The seasons are mentioned as well and are tied into what animals do during the winter to keep warm and find food. Instead of reading a non-fiction book with facts, students can see such topics of science represented through a fictional story specifically targeted for a younger audience. I like the idea of using Thumbelina in my classroom but my only apprehension is that it is more geared towards a female audience and boys in the class might not enjoy or be open to reading a story about a tiny, delicate girl. This would be an option for an independent read or for a book club with a group of girls. 
Thumbelina




The McElderry Book of Aesop’s Fables is written Michael Morpurgo and illustrated by Emma Chichester Clark. The target audience of this book is kindergarten through second grade boys and girls.
Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars ****
Summary: The McElderry Book of Aesop’s Fables is a book of fables that touch on themes such as kindness, friendship, truth, and leaning lessons of life in a child-friendly way. The fables range from four to five pages or only two to three easy-read pages that can be easily read aloud or enjoyed by independent readers. Most of the stories include animals and the focus on the relationships between the characters. The themes of each story are clearly identified at the end.
Fables are usually great examples of fairy tales and unimaginable ideas and where lessons of life are learned. The McElderry Book of Aesop’s Fables uses talking animals, clear cut themes and easily defined characters that allow readers to understand the message and following along. This book is a great classroom resource for teachers to have and utilize not only for a fairy tale/fable unit but to also explain ideas and life lessons through literature and examples. Some of the stories that are included in the book are The Lion and the Mouse, The Hare and the Tortoise, and The Goose that Laid the Golden Egg. The stories are short enough to keep student attention while getting an important point across.
The illustrations in this story are beautiful but also targeted towards a young audience with simple pictures and friendly looking animals. The illustrations were created through watercolors. They do a great job at depicting the story so children who do not know how to read can understand the story of if read aloud to a class, the pictures can be shown to help students visualize better what is going on in the fable.
Below is two summaries of stories found in The McElderry Book of Aesop’s Fables:
The Lion and the Mouse is a simple story about a field mouse and a lion. The mouse awakes a sleeping lion from a nap and the lion is not happy. The mouse begs for forgiveness and promises to repay him someday in the future. The lion does not believe a tiny field mouse could possible help such a large, lively lion. One day the lion is caught in a trap set by hunters and the mouse chews the net to set the lion free. The lion realizes that anything is possible and thanks the mouse. The theme is kindness is more important than strength.
The fable of The Town Mouse and the Country Mouse revolves around the theme of it is better to be happy with what you need rather than to risk everything for more. The town mouse goes to visit the country mouse. The country mouse has always wanted to go to a big city, like where the town mouse lives. He decides to bring the country mouse to a big city where they explore the different places that a city has to offer. Suddenly they encounter a house cat where they are chased. Once they find safety, a dog comes and the country mouse is terrified. She decides that the city life is too much for her and she is perfectly happy living in the country where she feels safe.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

On Earth


On Earth is both written and illustrated by G. Brian Karas. The target audience is second through fourth grade boys and girls. On Earth is the winner of the Young Reader Award and is an Ala Notable Children’s book.
-Rating: 4 out of 5 ****
-Summary: On Earth focuses on concepts such as seasonal change, days of the year, rotation, axis, and other common themes related to the planet Earth. 

What I really love about this book is how simple the author makes complex ideas behind the solar system and the planets. Especially for younger students, these concepts are hard to understand but this book appeals to all types of students. The illustrations specifically do a great job at getting the points across. There are diagrams that are labeled appropriately and simplistically to allow even young readers to understand them.
This book would be great book for a science lesson on Earth/space related topics. It could also be a good way to introduce the solar system starting with the planet Earth, which is most familiar to school children. On Earth takes complicated topics such as the seasons changing, the cycle of how the Earth moves through out the year, the rotation of Earth, and many more and makes it simpler for students to understand through simple text and helpful illustrations. Ideas such as the rotation of the Earth and orbit are hard topics for young students to understand since it is not something you can see or feel on a daily basis. Students who are visual learners might be able to understand certain ideas through the illustrations provided in the book since everyday learners cannot witness Earth from space. This would be a book I would love to have in my classroom to use in a science unit.

Sector 7


Sector 7 is a wordless picture book written and illustrated by Caldecott winning author David Wiesner. This book is a Caldecott honors book. The target audience of the book is boys and girls from preschool through late elementary school.
David Wiesner
-Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars *****
-Summary: A boy travels to the Empire State Building on a school fieldtrip but the building is entirely covered with clouds. The boy makes friends with one of the clouds and together they adventure to Sector 7 in the sky where clouds are formed and come to life.
I absolutely love David Wiesner and his book and Sector 7 is no exception, this book is great! The illustrations are so lively they seem to jump off the page at you. The amount of detail is incredible and so realistic. Without any words, it leaves the interpretation of the story up to the reader, which makes it appealing to a large audience. The idea behind the story is about clouds and how they are made. Who hasn’t looked up into the sky before and tried to imagine what the clouds could be? That is the central idea this story is getting at. After reading this book you can’t really look at clouds the same way anymore. Even though there are not any words, there are enough pictures in sequential order that the reader is still fully capable to figuring out what the story is about and how it is progressing. It is an easy read but capable of having complexity depending on how you view the pictures and interoperate the story.
Wordless picture books are a great tool for the classroom. Wordless picture books give readers a chance to use their imaginations and make up their own text to a story line that goes along with the illustrations. I am definitely going to utilize wordless picture books, such as Sector 7 in my classroom. I want to give my students an opportunity to use their own minds instead of always having an author spell out what exactly is or should be going on in the story. I have used this book with second grade students before and they loved being able to make up their own version of the story by looking at the pictures. The two boys I worked with both had different ideas of what the story is about and it was so interesting to hear their ideas and how much they can differ from student to student. In my future classroom the activity I would do to go along wit this book would be a writing activity where students are required to make up their own storyline. It can be used in a variety of different ways. Student can practice writing dialogue by creating their own conversations between characters or they can practice using descriptive words and creative writing by incorporative a lot of imagery and adjectives in their writing. Using wordless picture books can also be used with any grade in elementary school. From first through fifth or sixth grade a variety of writing styles and difficulty can be put to use through wordless picture books. Any age student can fall in love with the illustrations and let their minds wander. As an adult reader I was fascinated by this book and found myself being creative as I went a lot with the story. This book could also be used with a science until talking about how clouds are made and the ideas behind the water cycle. Even though this book has a fictional way of creating clouds, it can still be used in reference to how real clouds are made. I highly recommend this book for any classroom. 

The House in the Night


The House in the Night is by Susan Marie Swanson and illustrated by Beth Krommes. The target audience of this book is preschool through first grade boys and girls. This book was the winner of the 2009 Randolph Caldecott Medal.
Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars ****
Summary: This story is about a child who becomes involved with a bedtime story. It is ambiguous whether or not the child is a boy or a girl making it appealing to both sexes.
This is a simple story that is hard not to love. The book was inspired by “This is the key to the kingdom” and other Oxford Nursery Rhymes making it easy to use in a poetry or creative writing unit in school. In my classroom I would use this book to talk about poetry specifically. This book is essentially one big poem with few words per page. It uses a lot of repetition such as Here is the key to the house/In the house burns a light/ In that light rests a bed/ On that bed waits a book. The last part of every sentence is incorporated into the beginning of the next. This is an unusual and creative way of writing that students can be exposed to in a simple way. There is a certain cadence to the story within the text that is often also found in poetry too. The text flows well from one page to the next making a smooth transition from one part of the story to the next. The book is simple enough to use within a first grade curriculum. This would be an easy way to introduce poetry.
The only apprehension I would have about using this in a classroom setting is that it should really be used with younger kids. This book is too easy and might come off as boring for older students so make sure this book is used with a younger audience for it to have a full effect and be the most useful within a classroom! This book is typically seen as a bedtime story but it can also be a useful classroom tool. 
The illustrations of The House in the Night are beautiful. They were created with watercolor and scratchboard. The detail is unbelievable and really helps bring the story to life. They are mostly composed of black and white but yellow is found within the pages highlighting important attribute of the pictures. The ideas behind the illustrations are very simple to go along with the simple text but the amount of detail makes the pictures complex and imaginative. The illustrations are mostly why I am so drawn to this book. It really continues the uniqueness of the book beyond its uncharacteristic text of a children’s picture book. To me, this book is really one of a kind. I have never come across a picture book with poetry incorporated into its text the way it is constructed by Susan Marie Swanson. 

Monday, September 27, 2010

Focus: The Literary Elements

Children's Author Steven Kellogg


How do the literary elements bring “an existence” to stories?
In Steven Kellogg’s Jack and the Beanstalk, many of the literary elements come into play to bring the story alive. First off, the illustrations are absolutely amazing but there is more depth than just the illustrations that bring Jack and his adventure alive. The story is told in third person limited. The reader only gets an insight to Jack and his feelings. This is really captured when Jack is sent to bed without any supper. “So Jack went upstairs to his little room in the attic, and sad and sorry he was to be sure, as much for his mother’s sake as for the loss of is supper”. The story is already formulating through the narrator and letting the reader have an insight to Jack’s feelings. The plot is also important to the story as well.
Plot is what makes the story move along and progress. In Jack and the Beanstalk the progression of the plot is vital to the story. Jack adventures between his life on the farm and the dreamland where he encounters the ogres. He goes in between worlds moving the story along as we keeps going back to take objects out of the ogre’s house until he is caught, which is the climax of the story. The plot creates a sense of tension as well. The reader feels apprehension not knowing whether or not Jack is going to get caught by the fierce ogre, suspense is felt up until that moment when he finally is.
A final literary element that comes into play to help bring the story alive and give a sense of existence is symbol or extended metaphor. Jack and the Beanstalk is more than just a story being told, there is a deeper meaning that the reader is supposed to understand and take away after finishing the book. The story has a few underlying themes and the first one being courage by defeating the large ogre in the end. Jack is obviously outsized by the ogre but seizes to conquer him anyways. The background of the story is that the ogre had taken all of his prized possessions from Jack’s father. Knowing this, the idea of right versus wrong and karma are emphasized. It is wrong to steal from other people making the ogre the bad person and Jack the good person, or hero, to recover his father’s possessions and in the end Jack gets what he wants and him and his mother live a life of wealth.

All of these elements tie together to make Jack and the Beanstalk more than just words on a page; they have meaning and form a well-designed story.