Friday, December 11, 2009

Final Summary

This class has been such a gift to me this semester.
  • It gave me the chance to read for pleasure.
  • Going to the CRL every week to pick out books was often the highlight of my day.
  • I got to look at children's literature in a critical way.
  • I was given all sorts of good ideas for my future classroom.
  • I got the opportunity to reconnect with some of my favorite children's books.
  • I got to discover a lot of new, wonderful books.
I would for sure take this class again if I could, and I truly feel inspired to use books in my future classroom.

Skeleton Hiccups by Margery Cuyler and illustrated by S.D. Schindler

Okay I am very sorry, but I did not like this book at all and I do not know why! Or maybe that's not even it. I liked the book, I just don't know what to say about it. It was a likable, silly story, but that was it. There was not a lot of substance to it really- which is funny because it is about a skeleton haha! I really think that students would like this book as a read aloud because on every page it says "hic hic hic" and I could see students wanting to read along with that. This book would be very good to use in a series around the Halloween season. The ending would also be very amusing to students. "Then ghost got smart. Hic, hic, hic. Found a mirror. Hic, hic, hic. Held it up. Hic, hic, hic. Skeleton screamed! The hiccups left. They jumped away. Hurray!"

I would recommend this book be on a shelf in your classroom for students to enjoy. Ages 3 to 6.

Year of Impossible Goodbyes by Sook Nyui Choi

I really do not know where to start with this book. It is probably important to point out that I read So Far From the Bamboo Grove first so I am partial to it. That does not mean that I did not like this book. For sure it was just as heart wrenching at times as the other book in this paired text set, but it had just as much hope mixed in. One thing about this book that was not as strong for me was that it was not a true story, though it could have easily been the story of any child in Korea at the time. One thing that I really did like about this book though, was that it did not end when Japan surrendered. It goes on to talk about how the Russians came into Korea next. It is almost as if the nightmare just kept going for this family. What I liked about that though is, I had no idea that that happened. I am a little ashamed to admit that I learned about a major world history event in a fictional children's novel, but it is true none the less. This is why these kind of text sets are such a good idea in the classroom! You learn about history in a way that you never really thought you could. Plus, this would be far more interesting for students than simply reading about all this in a textbook. Even the best textbooks cant rival the novel for the human spirit and the connection the reader needs to feel something for the topic in question. This is why these kinds of text sets are such a good idea. I would absolutely use this kind of thing in my classroom.

Moi and Marie Antoinette by Lynn Cullen and illustrated by Amy Young

This book made me realize that I would really like to know more about Marie Antoinette. She is such a famous historical character, but I feel like everything that I know about her is hearsay. Like that whole, "let them eat cake" thing, totally false, but that is what people know about her. Perhaps I will have to look into some more literature on her. At any rate, I liked this book for several reasons. The first being that it is told from the point of view of her puppy- and I love puppies ( a shocking revelation I know.) The other reason is because of the historical content. It is about history and a famous historical character, but it is told in a way that is easy to relate to. As I have said before, animals are such a good way to relate things to children. In this case, we see the life of Marie Antoinette through the eyes of her beloved pet Pug, who the author named Sebastian. Interestingly, Marie was only aloud to bring a few personal possessions with her into her new life in France, and her Pug was one of them. I feel like this fact would make this figure relatable to students because many students will have dogs and many more will have some kind of pet. The other thing that is kind of nice here is that because it is from the puppy's point of view, it is pretty simple even though very complicated things were going on in actuality. One thing that I did not like about this book was that it was actually pretty sad. Fitting I guess because her life wasn't exactly happy, but I was sad for Sebastian. In the story as Marie became more of a queen she quit having time for her puppy so he became lonely. Silly? Maybe. My boyfriend laughed at me when he looked over at me reading this book and found me very distraught. Still though, to me, every dog anywhere could by my Louie so I relate to them maybe a little more than I should. Anyway, the ending is happy, because Marie's daughter finds Sebastian and adopts him as her own and he is happy and loved again. At the very end of the book, the author has an actual short biography of Marie Antoinette, who was actually called Antonia or Antoinette by her family. I liked this because some of the facts from the book were not quite true. For example, her marriage was not happy at all, and in the story it seems like it was pretty okay.

This book would be wonderful of course for introducing genre to students. This is historical, it is a biography, and a fiction book all rolled into one. I think that students would enjoy learning about Marie Antoinette this way. Ages 4 to 8.

The Pillow War by Matt Novak

First of all, I just want to say that these tiny little images make me sad :-( This one however makes me particularly sad because now you cant see the detail that I can on the cover art. The first thing that I noticed while reading this book were the illustrations and I don't necessarily mean that in a good way. They were awesome as far as details go, but at the same time, the kids look downright creepy! What it is I think is that they look like little adults with these big, round, shiny faces. I dunno. They were a little bit distracting for me while I was reading actually. That having been said though, I do appreciate Matt Novak's obvious attention for details in the illustrations. Some of the scenes he probably could have gotten away with not quite as much, but he went for it anyway. I really like that in the illustrations of all the children everywhere having one giant pillow fight, no two children look the same and they all have different pajamas on.

The story was really only okay for me, though it was entertaining. A brother and sister are getting ready for bed and they begin to argue over who their dog will sleep with. This starts a pillow fight that escalates to encompass the neighborhood and then pretty soon, the whole world is engaged in one massive pillow war (hence the title). It goes on and on until the little brother gets hurt, and his big sister calls off the whole thing. She carries him home and tells him that they will take turns with the dog. Funny thing is though, in the end they cant find the dog because, preferring to sleep alone, he is curled up on a pillow in the closet. I suppose that the lesson here is not as hidden as some of the other books that I have reviewed lately. It's all fun and games until someone gets hurt. Okay, this isn't really a lesson, but it is in there. The lesson here is about taking care of your siblings and it is also about being able to admit you are sorry. It is also about learning to share. In fact, this would be a good book to read to your students about sharing always an important thing to learn about.

This book is ages 3 to 6 :-)

Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs by Judi Barrett and illustrated by Ron Barrett

I honestly can't believe that it has taken me this long to talk about his book! It was one of my absolute favorites when I was younger. Did I see the movie though, you say? Absolutely not. Why? Because they totally ruined it! i could tell just from the trailer that only a few things were kept the same from the original telling, which is highly disappointing because it was fine just on its own. When I was little I always thought about how cool it would be to live in a place where food rained from the sky. Then when I got a little bit older, but not quite old enough to outgrow the book, I realized that if it truly rained food it would not be suitable to eat because of all the nasty things in the atmosphere. Another fanciful idea struck down by knowledge and science for that matter. I still enjoyed the book though. I think that the illustrations were one of the best parts. It is funny because what I enjoyed so much about those illustrations is still what I hold as the gold standard for a good illustration today, and that is attention to detail. Each illustration in this book was done with a careful eye, and nothing was left out. Not to be too general here, but my other favorite part of this book was the story. Not only is it amusing, but there are lessons to be learned. This is the story of a town where the weather does not consist of rain and snow, but of hot dogs and hamburgers and other foods. Life was good in the obviously fictional town of Chewandswallow until there is the hurricane equivalent of food dumped on the city. The residents are forced to flee for their lives, lest they be squished by a giant pancake or run over by an enormous rolling doughnut. What lesson can be learned from this silly story? There are two actually. The first is this: too much of a good thing is a bad thing. The townspeople had been glad to get their food for free from the sky, but when the weather spins out of control they are forced to leave, ergo too much=bad. The other lesson comes from a part of the book that I did not mention. The story begins by a grandfather telling his grandchildren this story of the town Chewandswallow. This celebrates not only the entertainment value of books and the importance of reading and sharing them together, but it also highlights the tradition of the oral story.

Even if you don't choose to look deep enough for that, you will still enjoy this book. I suggest this book for all ages.

You can watch the trailer for Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs here:
It is totally different, but it could still be entertaining.

Mouse TV by Matt Novak

I chose this book because I thought that it was going to be cute and I was right. This was a very cute book! It was another that after I read it once I thought it was just for entertainment's sake, but after thinking about it I discovered that there was more value to it than that. The story starts with a large mouse family who likes to watch TV. The problem is that they can never agree on what it is that they should watch. The dad mouse wants to watch action, mama wants to watch a comedy and so on. It goes through all the different genres of TV show that you could possibly want to watch. Than one day, the TV is broken and the mouse family is a little lost at first. Then they start to entertain themselves in other ways. I liked this because, even though I do enjoy turning on the tube at the end of a long day, I feel like there is too much emphasis on it these day, especially with our youth. This book could be used for a bunch of different things. It could be a topic starter to get to know students. You could have them talk about what kind of TV they like to watch and then maybe they could get into groups and put together a skit that would show what their genre was. This would be good for planning and writing skills, as well as using imaginations to come up with props and everything. this book could also be used as the jumping off point to talk about what we could do with our time besides watch TV. Two of my favorite things about this book though? One, the mouse family was all together when they were deciding how to spend their time and two, they decide to read a book. One thing though about the book that was interesting to me. We know from the beginning of the book that the dad mouse likes action/adventure, and what kind of story finally gets read at the end of the book? An action/adventure story is read by the dad. I don't know what this means really but it felt significant to me that the dad is the only one whose genre was addressed.

All in all, I really enjoyed this book and more than that, it could truly be useful in the classroom. Ages 3 to 6.

An Edward Lear Alphabet by Vladimir Radunsky

This was an odd book and I cant really decide if I liked it or not. On one hand I am certain that students would like it given the nonsensical rhymes. On the other though is that the rhymes are just that, nonsense. I think I would have liked it better if the words were all real. For example, "N was once a little needle, Needly, Tweedly, Threedly, Needly Wisky wheedly little needle." Now to be fair, tweed is a word, but tweedly is not. I guess what I am trying to say is that this book would have been more successful for me personally if he had used it to teach students about the alphabet and rhyming words. It would have been more meaningful. The other thing that bothered me a little about this book were some of the letter examples. Some of them students would not know, though they could figure it out from the illustration- one possible upside to this book could be that it would help teach students to look at illustrations for text clues. One letter though that they probably wouldn't know or couldn't get unless they already knew it, would be U. "U was once a little urn, urny, burny, turny, urny, bubbly burny little urn." Okay so not only would you have to explain to students that an urn holds the remains of a person who was cremated after they died, you would have to explain cremation. No thank you. The idea of cremation is a little disturbing to me know as an adult, I really don't know how I would have felt about it elementary school, but it would have been similar. Also, could we look at the rhyming words here? "Bubbly burny?" Gross! So as far as alphabet books go, you could do better for sure.

Still, it would not be all bad to have in a classroom. As I mentioned above, students could use this book to learn about checking illustrations to figure out text meanings. In addition, students would probably enjoy the rhymes in a read aloud setting. Plus, even though the rhyming words aren't really words, they could still be used for pronunciation of letters.

The ages for this are tricky because on one hand, ages 3 to 6 is a range in which students could be learning the alphabet, but on the other hand, some of the words are uncommon at best and there is the whole urn debacle. Use your best judgement on this one I guess.

Titanicat by Marty Crisp and illustrated by Robert Papp

The first thing I want to talk about with this book are the illustrations. Each one appears to have been hand painted on canvas before it was made into an illustration for the book. One word. Wow. I can't even imagine how long it would have taken to do all of these paintings. They really add something to the book as well, they set a mood. The fact that they are done in such a realistic fashion helps to make the reader feel that this story could have actually happened. In addition the quality of the illustrations make it easy to envision yourself in the book. The illustrations also set a more serious tone to the book, which is fitting considering the topic is the Titanic. Really though, I just cant say enough good things about them, they are beautiful and very realistic. It just occurred to me too that they were a very good choice on the author's part. Just think of how ridiculous this book would have been and how different the tone if the illustrations had been cartoons instead.

In addition to having fabulous illustrations, this book had a wonderful story. One of my favorite things about it was that it was a point of view I have never seen before in a story about the Titanic. In fact, the actual ship's name isn't even used until the very end- though you knew they were talking about the Titanic the whole time because of the title of the book, and the views that you get in the illustrations. I almost wish they had titled the book something else so that when you got to the end and they told you that the ship was the Titanic you could actually be surprised. At any rate, the story is based around the old sea myth that every ship must have a cat and it is bad luck not to. At first, the ship does have a resident cat, and four kittens. It is Jim's job to take care of them. He carries the kittens around in a box everywhere he goes and the cat follows. Then on the day that the Titanic is supposed to set sail, Jim sees the cat carrying her kittens off the ship one by one. As they are pulling up the gangplanks, Jim realizes that she forgot one kitten and he jumps on to the dock to return it to her. In doing so, Jim misses his ride to America. Days later, Jim realizes that the cat saved his life, after hearing news of the Titanic sinking.

I feel like animals are a good way to help relate hard topics to children, and the Titanic is certainly a hard topic to discuss given that it was such a tragedy. If you wanted to have this as part of a history unit, this book might be a good way to start it out. There are also many other books out there that have animals and the Titanic as their theme. Even if you don't have a unit on the Titanic, this would still be a good book for your classroom shelf because the story is a good one and it introduces history. Ages 5 to 9.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Goldie Locks Has Chicken Pox by Erin Dealey and illustrated by Hanako Wakiyama

I loved this book! It was so cute, and it even had a moral in it. Okay, so it took me a little thinking to get to it, but I did and here it is: do unto others as you would have them do unto you! This is the lesson that Goldie's brother must learn as he torments his older sister while she is sick and in doing so ends up with the chicken pox himself. One of my favorite things about this book was how it incorporated different fairytales and different fairytale characters into this story. For example, the three bears from Goldie Locks and the Three Bears are mentioned and little red riding hood. More than that though, there are characters from rhymes. "Jack be nimble! Jack be quick! Come and see! My sister's sick!" It reminded me of the Shrek movies and how they managed to squeeze nearly every fairytale and folktale in to it, and they did it in such a clever way! One of the other things that I liked about this book was that the illustrations look vintage. They look like they belong in a book with cardboard covers and a shiny gold binding. Even the furniture and the dress looks like this book was written in the forties. Last thing that I really liked about this book is that it flowed so nicely. This is due in part to the fact that the words all rhyme, but still it was nice to read, like the verbal equivalent of looking at an aesthetically pleasing painting.

This book could come in useful in the classroom in a number of ways. The first having to do with the lesson that I mentioned above. It makes for an important life lesson as well as an important thing for students to remember in the classroom. It could also be used when talking about siblings and how we should be nice to them. This book could be used to help explain the chicken pox to students, perhaps when a peer is out with them. In addition, it could be used to begin a genre discussion. You could read this book to your students first and then begin talking about different fairytales and folktales. Or it could be read half way through your genre unit and you could make a game of seeing how many different stories within this story the students can identify. Useful and entertaining- I would have this in my classroom.

Ages 5 to 6 :-)

Lucy Dove written by Janice Del Negro and illustrated by Leonid Gore

I chose this book off the shelf because of the title mostly, which turns out to be a name. Anyway, as odd as it seems for a reason to choose a book, I liked the name. The actual book itself though, I have mixed feelings about. It started off well enough, talking about a superstitious laird. I thought to myself that this was going to be a sort of legend, and it was. The only problem though was that every time the author started to get some lyricism going, the whole thing would fall apart. There were parts that seemed like they were going to rhyme and then the author decided at the last minute that she didn't want a rhyming book after all. This left me feeling unsatisfied after reading most pages. The other thing that I didn't like about it as far as a children's book is concerned is that it included some phrases like, "When wishes were horses and beggars could ride, in stone castle by the sea there lived a rich laird." Now you could certainly use this book in a mini-lesson to introduce something like abstract thought and detail into student writing. However, this is a concept that some college students out there do not understand, so expecting it out of an elementary student seems like a little much. Maybe I am underestimating the depth of the young child's mind, but I know that if someone had asked me in elementary school to discern meaning from that statement I would have drawn a complete blank. I feel that most other students would to, and that is too bad really because, even though it might be meaningless to some, it is beautiful writing. Maybe it is not that I didn't like this book, it is that I feel it should be read as a read aloud so that parts of it could be deconstructed and explained, bigger words could be given definition and explained.

One thing that I did like about this book was that the heroine was a little old woman. This rarely happens in stories. Stereotypically and more often than not in stories the one who saves the day or the one who has enough courage and gumption to do what needs to be done ends up being a man. It isn't that I am sexist against men or anything like that, but I am a fan of the male in a story being the silly one and the woman being the one who gets to stand up and do what needs to be done- even if it is just sewing a pair of supposed "lucky" pants.

This book was recommended for students 8 to 11 and I think that sounds about right. Again though, a read aloud might be the best option here. Also, keep in mind your audience because some of the illustrations are a little creepy.

Don't Mention Pirates by Sarah McConnell

The first time reading this book through I thought that it was just a cute book about a little girl and her family. Upon looking deeper though I saw some things below the surface. For example, Scarlet, the main character, knows that she and her family are pirates, even though no one will admit it. She also knows in her heart that she is a pirate and she wont let anyone ruin that for her. This definitely speaks to listening to your heart and holding on to what you know to be true, even when people are telling you that you're wrong about it. This could almost be about a gay child coming out to his or her parents and having them accept their child in the end for who they are. The lesson here would be: be who you are, even if people think it is wrong. The other lesson that I saw here was that this is a very different family. They live in a house that is shaped like a pirate ship for starters. I feel like the family in this book could be used as an example for students who have different kinds of families or live in other kinds of houses. The lesson being that everyone comes from different kinds of families and everyone has different backgrounds that they need to be proud of.

Other than that, I would say that this was a fun book about being together as a family and coming to accept what you are. In this case, it was pirates. I picked this book because I just love reading stories about pirates to children. Why? Because they love pirates! This has always been my experience at any rate, and when you read a book to a child that you know they are going to love, it makes the experience that much more meaningful.

The library and I contend that this book would be appropriate for pre-school through second grade.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

The Big Elephant in the Room by Lane Smith

I picked this book off the shelf first because for whatever reason I thought it was going to be about politics- donkeys on the cover and its about a big elephant, I dunno. Anyway, I thought that it would be interesting to see politics from a children's book point of view. This was however, not about politics. In the end though I was okay with this because it ended up being something just as interesting. We have all heard this phrase "the big elephant in the room". It refers to something that is very obvious that nobody mentions, but everybody knows. For example, an elephant in the room would be a bad smell. It is obvious, everyone smells it, but nobody wants to mention it. Or it could be a topic of discussion that everyone knows about, but nobody brings up to talk about like a divorce or something like that. At any rate, it is a common phrase. What this book has done though is make the phrase into something that children can understand, and it does it in a funny way. It starts off with one of the friends asking, "Can we talk about the big elephant in the room?" And the other friend says "The big elephant? As in the BIG problem? I was expecting this! Because I ate all the crunchy-nut ice cream?!" He goes on asking if other things are the proverbial "elephant in the room" and finally the other friend says "No! No! No! I don't care about any of those things...I was just asking about the big elephant in the room!" Then they both look into the living room and an actual elephant is sitting on the sofa, "Oh, that big elephant! That's Stanley."

It was a very amusing ending to the story, but the more I think about it the more I wonder if it would be confusing. Maybe it would only be a good, funny ending if you already understood what the phrase meant, because the joke comes in that he wasn't being metaphorical when he asked about the elephant, he was being literal. That could also be a little confusing for younger students who didn't understand the phrase to begin with. On the other hand though, this could be a good introduction to phrases and being metaphorical versus being literal in general and in writing. Another good mini-lesson idea!

Ages 4 to 8 sayith the library and I say yay!

I Want A Dog by Dayal Kaur Khalsa

My original attraction to this book was the front cover because it is a re-imagining of a famous painting by Georges Seurat, Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte. If I weren't going to be a teacher, I would have been an art history major, which is why this particular cover art appealed to me so much. Interesting thing though is that it is not the only major work of art featured in this book. Another is a famous Japanese block print entitled The Wave at Kanagawa.

Now on to the literary portion of this blog. All in all, this was a cute story with a good moral, but I didn't like it that much. I feel awful saying that but for some reason it just did not jump off the page for me in the same way that other books I have reviewed did. It wasn't that I did not relate to it because you could replace the main character's name with mine for most of the book and the shoe would fit. This was me last year: Meaghan wanted a dog more than anything else in the world. She thought about dogs all the time. She talked about dogs; she read books about dogs...It seemed as if everyone in the world had a dog except Meaghan. So what was it about this book that didn't click? I really don't know. Maybe it was the illustrations. They are detailed but sort of blocky. More than likely though it was how the book ended. I wanted May (the real main character) to get a dog in the end, and she did, but not in the way I thought she would. The author simply says In a couple of years, May did get a real dog of her own. Meanwhile, though, May and all her friends, kept practicing. I wanted her to get her dog right away.

This made for a morally sound story though. This book taught about not only the responsibilities that come with having a dog, but it also taught about more abstract concepts. For example, not giving up, which could be applied to more than just begging your parents for a dog. It taught about hard work when May saved up to buy a puppy. It taught about patience in that May did not get her puppy right away but she continued to show her parents what a good owner she would be. It also shows May gaining a good idea of how she will take care of her dog, and show her parents that she can be responsible by taking her roller skate for walks and such.

The library says all ages, and I agree! These lessons know no age limit.

Love That Dog by Sharon Creech

Love That Dog? How about Love That Book? That was corny but it had to be done. Yes, I did love this book. It was charming and simple, yet deep in its own right. It introduces the idea that children of all ages, or anyone, for that matter can write poetry. Which is important for children to realize. This book would be so perfect to help introduce that to students because it shows an average little boy writing poetry that his teacher loves. I think that praise from the teacher is a good example for students to see, because even though Jack thinks his poetry is silly, his teacher wants to put it up on the board. It is also a good way to approach teaching poetry to students. Putting everybody's poetry up on the board for everyone to see, leaving off names if the student so desires. I thought that it was interesting that Jack didn't want his name on his poetry just because it is not uncommon for people to write poetry anonymously. It can be such a personal thing for people, as it clearly ended up being for Jack once he became more comfortable with the emotions that were coming up about his dog and the blue car. All in all I guess my favorite part about this book was that it brought poetry down from its seemingly lofty position and bestowed it upon us mere mortals and made it seem reachable.

Now that having been said, I really enjoyed this one but I have some issues. One thought was that it bothers me in the beginning that Jack thinks that anyone could write poetry, you just have to organize it right. This is just not true. The form is not what makes poetry, it is the rhythm and the rhyme and I feel like Jack's teacher should have make a better example of that. Though, I get it, this was written from a child's perspective and he wouldn't say that, but it bugged me. Also, I don't know if some of the verse was as a child would have written it, I don't really have a good example of it, some of it was just a little too adult like. This was brought up in class, and I have spent some time thinking about this; the seemingly quick transformation of Jack into a poet. I cant decided if I think this is realistic or not. If given enough stimulation and encouragement I think it is possible that Jack started to make the transition into thinking of himself as a poet. On the other hand though, it is not always that way, students could digress easily. I know of a student who takes it in turns to feel incredibly confident and very lowly. Maybe that would have made it a little more believable.

I would totally recommend this book for a classroom, even if you are not teaching a poetry unit. For just everyday reading, students would benefit from the reading of something that is classified as a chapter book, even though it is not very long. It would help their confidence in their reading. It could also get students thinking about writing poetry of their own. Not to mention that whole making poetry accessible thing.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

It's About Dogs by Tony Johnston and illustrated by Ted Rand

Okay so here is a smidge more bias showing, I picked this book out because theme was dogs, and I love dogs! The first thing that came to mind when I saw this book, aside from being excited about the subject, was what a great book for a student that didn't think they would like poetry but loves dogs. This would be one of those books that you could use as a platform for students who weren't sure about reading where you use the subject to entice your students. I know that when I was little I would have been all over this. Anyway, as the title would suggest, all of the poems are about dogs. They are not uniform though and I liked that about it. For example, some of the poems are only two lines and others go on for several stanzas. They are also about all different kinds of dogs in different situations. One of my favorites was this:

At The Pound

Eyes bore


down to the



what we cannot


to know...

It was very sad, its true, but I liked it because like some of the other poems that I have read in this unit, it was not wordy but the picture was there. Reading it, I could just see those big, brown soulful eyes staring up at me. It's like I am there walking along that hallway with the cages, I can hear the dogs barking. Makes me want to give my puppy a big squeeze.

The library suggests ages 6 to 9 but really I think that these poems could be enjoyed by younger students too, even if they were just read to them. I believe that poetry is good for young students, even if they cant read it on their own yet, because it teaches about rhythm and rhyme. Plus it just sounds good to the ears, and even little ones know that.

A Rumpus of Rhymes by Bobbi Katz and illustrated by Susan Estelle Kwas

This would be such a fun book to do with younger students, it would be particularly nice in a big book setting so that all of the students could see it to participate. The really neat thing about this book of poetry is that it incorporates sounds. There are lots of action words that you would find in comic books, for example lots of EEEK! and WHACK! SMACK! THUD! I just think that little ones would have a blast making the sounds along with you while you read out loud. The other really neat thing about this book is that there seems to be a poem for every season and occasion. There is a Halloween poem, a winter poem, one about the Fourth of July and one about going to the barber. This book could also potentially be a way to incorporate instruments into your book time. For example, you could use drums or tambourines and other different types of noise makers to stand in for the different noises. I really think that so far this is my favorite of all the poetry books I have looked at. Couldn't be cuter and there are so many things to do with it!

The library says that this would be good for ages 7-10, but really I think that this one could be good for all ages. I mean, who doesn't like to make loud noises when they are supposed to just be sitting and listening?

Whatever Happened to Humpty Dumpty? by David T. Greenberg and illustrated by S. D. Schindler

The other part of this book's title is "And Other Surprising Sequels to Mother Goose Rhymes". That was important to share because it really explains the book, as does the front cover, I feel. These are almost re-imaginings of these classic rhymes because they include the original and then go on to say more about them. Or they include a short passage from the original rhyme and build on it. One interesting thing for me was that I did not know some of the Mother Goose rhymes in here, or at least not all of them. I was surprised to find some of them a little gruesome actually. My favorite rhyme in this book was both funny and a little grotesque. It is a re-imagining of Three Blind Mice.
Three blind mice, see how they run!
They all ran after the farmer's wife,
who cut off their tail with a carving knife!
Have you ever seen such a sight in your life?
As three blind mice?
The rest of the tale goes on to explain that the farmer's wife cut off the tails because they are useful around the house. It also says that she decided mouse tails weren't enough so she started cutting the tails off of all kinds of things and then...
And then one day she tried to chop
the tail off the end of a whale
but he swallowed her up instead
and that is the end of her tale.
Soo... I guess she got hers. What made this one funny though were the illustrations. They are something that would probably go right over the top of a child's head (not unlike most of the humor in Shrek) but adults would catch on. The farmers wife who decides that mouse tails are helpful around the house is none other than Martha Stuart.

Another thing that this book, and that rhyme in particular, made me think of was how grotesque children's stories used to be. I mean look at the original telling of the Grimm's Fairy Tales- totally messed up! I guess you have to consider the times though. When those were made up, nothing was being psycho-analyzed and nobody thought about "oh what will this do to my children's emotional state?" Can you imagine what the press would do to someone if they came out with all those stories today? If rhymes like Three Blind Mice weren't hailed as classics, would we think the same about them? Just a thought.

Anywho, this one is for all ages. I would watch out for any kind of sensitive material though. For example, the one where Mother Goose and her gander get sucked up by a 747 while out for a leisurely fly. Some kids might laugh, others might be horrified so you just have to know your class.

Is It Far to Zanzibar? by Nikki Grimes and illustrated by Betsy Lewin

This book was unique in a way because it used some language native to the area of Zanzibar. This was neat because, not only could you use it to help teach students about different cultures, but you could use it to teach about languages. Anyway, this whole book is poems about Zanzibar and, I assume, a family that lives there. Some of the poems rhyme and some of them do not, it is nice how they switched that up. One of my favorites was called Rainy Season, it goes like this:
Aiii! The raindrops streak our faces.
All at once, the shower chases
creatures from their hiding places.
Five goats, four ewes,
Three snakes, two gnus
And one field mouse
squeeze inside my house.
To be honest I don't know why I liked this one in particular, but I did. I think perhaps it was visual without over doing it. Sometime in poetry, the similes and metaphors can swallow the message and the scene. Here though, with just saying that the storm chases, you can picture the kind of storm it is. I personally see the rain sweeping over a wide open plain, kind of like how it does over the water in the summer time, and the animals are all scurrying for cover.
I like this book for all ages really because I feel like all students would benefit from the knowledge of another country and another language that is so different from ours. The poems are generally short, but all tell a little about the country and what life is like there.

Don't Forget Your Etiquette written by David Greenberg and Illustrated by Nadine Bernard Westcott

This is the first book of poetry that I have looked at that is aimed at the little ones out there, and I must say that I enjoyed it. One thing that I am going to have to get used to as far as children's poetry is concerned is that it seems to have a different purpose from adult poetry. Children's poetry, from what I have so far gleaned is much more lighthearted and more story based. Whereas most adult poetry I have come into contact with is about emotions and matters of the heart and generally heavier topics. I have also noticed that adult poetry tends to be a little bit abstract in that you have to think about the meaning that the author is wanting to convey. And in my opinion, I can only take rhyming poems seriously if they are for the little ones. Of course this just could be because I have a general dislike for a certain someone that I knew who's poetry always rhymed- hey bias is bound to come out somewhere! At any rate, this particular book of poetry was centered around that idea of etiquette for children, only it isn't real etiquette. Instead, it is silly backward etiquette written by a woman named Miss Information (very clever).

The Etiquette of Kissing
With emperors and empresses
you only kiss their cheeks.
With giant thrashing octupi
you only kiss their beaks.
At diplomatic parties
you just kiss fingertips.
With fierce komodo dragons
you only kiss their lips.
Principals and teachers
require slurpy smooches
kind of like the type
you get from friendly pooches.
This poem goes on, but I thought this was a good place to stop because frankly this last stanza made me wrinkle my nose. This whole book is based on sarcasm, and we would know that, but what if there was a child out there reading this who didn't understand that? Sarcasm after all is a bit abstract. I wouldn't want students coming into my class the first day thinking that I would expect a big wet kiss! This sort of thing happens in other places too, for example in lines where it talks about the etiquette of sitting and it says: "You must not breathe, so hold your breath even if this causes death." Perhaps I am not giving children enough credit here, but I just feel like some of them might not get this and it would be disturbing to them.
All in all though I thought this was an amusing book and I think that given the possibility for misinterpretation, I would recommend this one for older grades. The library suggests 6 and up but I think that I may raise it a little to 8 and up, I really don't know why but I feel strongly about it. Maybe it could be used in a mini-lesson to discuss sarcasm.

Monday, November 23, 2009

So Far From the Bamboo Grove by Yoko Kawashima Watkins

All kinds of emotions are present both in this book and in me when I think about this book. Personally, I have never read any books specifically about war. They just aren't really my genre because when I read I want to have drama but more in a things-are-bad-but-not-in-a-life-and-death-kinda-way. That does not mean though that I didn't enjoy this book. Well, maybe enjoy isn't the right word. To me "enjoy" would seem to imply that this was a happy book, if that makes any sense. And even though it had its moments, by and large, this book wasn't about happy. It was about hope and the human spirit and condition. It was about family and surviving all obstacles together. Some parts of this were just painful to read. I know that it is something that came up in discussion a lot and it was mentioned in nearly every ones blog, but the part where the baby was thrown out the window of the train. Okay. It isn't that I don't understand why this was done, they couldn't leave the body behind for all kinds of reasons. It feels though like this is one scene in particular that outlines the true horrors of war. In a very literal sense, everything that is true and pure about the world, like a child, is thrown out the window during war. The other children in this story are another example of this though as well, they don't have to die to be horribly scarred by the events of war. This is something that is evident in every war ever fought, right up to today. It is always the people and the children, the civilians, who are hurt most by war. Despite all of the hardship that Yoko and her family endure, I am glad that there was a semi-happy ending when her brother comes and meets up with them. Honestly, it reminded me of seeing my brother for the first time after he came back fighting in Iraq.

This kind of paired text set is a wonderful idea and I would certainly consider using it in my classroom. I might even use it for some other kind of lesson besides history. These books are particularly good though because they focus on an aspect of history that is not discussed very often. It might also be interesting to do a paired text set dealing with the Holocaust. One book from the point of view of a Jewish child and one from the view point of a German child. Or a German soldier and an American or English soldier. This kind of thing really helps students to understand that there are two sides to every story.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Anticipation Set Response for Year of Impossible Goodbyes by Sook Nyul Choi

A couple of things can be told about this book from simply looking at it. First of all, the title is very revealing. It implies that, not unlike in So Far From the Bamboo Grove, a major theme here is going to be loss. Not just loss of family and friends, but loss of places too. For example, homes and villages. It could also be a goodbye to everything that is comfortable and familiar to the main characters. Also, loss of life, both in a metaphorical and literal sense. Metaphorical in that so much will be given up and sacrificed that ones identity could eventually be lost. Literally speaks for itself really, because this is a story about war, death seems inevitable. Something that can be told from the cover of the book is that the main character is Japanese, because of the flag behind her. Also, there is barbed wire strung across the girl in the illustration, signifying to me that a theme could be loss of freedom. This could refer to the main character herself or the entire nation.

One thing that I would pose to students before starting this book is how the above themes could fit into the theme of this book. I would also have them consider the following quote, because hope has everything to do with both books we are reading.

Hope is that thing with feathers that perches in the soul and sings the tune without the words and never stops... at all. ~Emily Dickinson

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Skippyjon Jones Lost in Spice by Judy Schachner

Okay so I picked this book because I saw by flipping through it that it had little bits of Spanish in it, which I thought was pretty cool. Here is the thing though, this book was a little hard to follow. See, Skippyjon Jones is a kitten who thinks he is a dog, more specifically a red Chihuahua. He also loves outer space. And here is where things get off. Skippy walks into his closet and is immediately sent into orbit, where he almost collides with a comet filled with Chihuahuas. These Chimichangos as they are now referred to as inform him that they are going to build a pipeline to carry chili polvo from Mars to Earth. From here he meets aliens, discovers he is lost and has a tug-of-war with a green martian that looks just like him but with one eye. This hurtles him back through space and through his closet door where he lands with a KA-BOOM in his bed. And the Spanish that I thought was so neat? Turns out that it was neat and used correctly, but it really just made the story harder to follow, and I have a feeling that if you didn't know the words you would be lost too. Where there weren't Spanish words, the author added "-ito" to the end of words, like astronaut-ito. This was cute and all, but a little insulting to the language. Like how people say that they can speak Spanish and then they just add an "o" to the end of everything. I'm not even a native speaker and that irritates me. Plus, can you imagine how confusing that would be to a student learning to read. I know of a student who would start out on this book and give up when he realized that the words weren't English. To make the Spanish a little better, I think that I would have included a glossary in the back of the book.

On the other hand. If taught correctly, this could be a wonderful tool to introduce a different language to your students. It does have just small words so you could have students look them up. Or you could use it as a mini-lesson and keep a running list on the board of Spanish words while you read it aloud. Then have the students hypothesize what the words meant by the other words around the ones in Spanish. This would help them with words that they don't know in English as well. Another good thing about this book were the illustrations. They were done in pastel and they are wonderful. They are vibrant and bold and very colorful. There is lots of movement and variation. Sometimes there is no horizon line, sometimes there are more than one illustration on a page and in one case, the book flips vertical. Wonderfully executed.

The library recommends this book for ages 3 to 5 and here finally I do not agree. I think that with everything that goes on and the language change, this book would be better left to older students. Perhaps third grade and up instead. I just feel like a child that young would be thrown for a loop with this one, especially if they did not have a solid grasp on their reading.

*Just so ya know! This book is part of a series about Skippyjon Jones*

Tallyho, Pinkerton! by Steven Kellogg

Another wonderful Pinkerton book. More so than the other book that I reviewed, this story adds a bit of non-fiction to the mix. In several other books the little girl comes home and shares some facts that she has learned in school that day. This time, she shares information about mammals. This leads to the rest of the story, during which the little girl's homework requires her to find some different mammals and birds. As they go through the book, actual names of birds and mammals are given as well as illustrations of them so that students could maybe find them on their own. One interesting thing that happens in this book is that, while they are searching in the woods for animals, they happen upon a group of hunters. Two things that were particularly interesting here were how they were portrayed and the fact that they actually shoot at things. The hunters are shown as being mean and a little ignorant. They are snarling and wanting to shoot at any and everything that moves. I have to wonder if this is showing a bias of the author? Perhaps Steven Kellogg looks down upon hunters and their activities. Also, there are a few illustrations in which the hunters are actually shooting up into a tree, and they shoot down Pinkerton in a hot air balloon. This might actually be kind of scary for students just because it really looks like they may have hit Pinkerton. They don't, but it still looks like it would have been a definite near miss. Also, i am always surprised when guns and bullets are shown in children's books. Granted the guns featured in this book look very old fashioned, but a gun is a gun. The saving grace for me though I suppose is showing the people using the guns in a negative light.

Once again, the illustrations were very detailed, and I loved them! The age range remains the same, 4 to 8 and beyond.

A Rose for Pinkerton by Steven Kellogg

I rediscovered Steven Kellogg the other day in my block a class and quickly remembered Pinkerton. I think that I will for sure have to purchase all Pinkerton books for my own personal collection because I just love them. Yes there is a bias at play here, I love dogs. That really isn't the only reason though. These books are very entertaining and funny! That giant Great Dane puppy is always getting himself into some kind of mess. In this story, Pinkerton's owner decides that he must be lonely, so she goes to find him a friend. Finally, she comes upon a kitten named Rose. Instead of becoming friends though, Rose soon takes over as the resident dog while Pinkerton begins to act like a kitten. When Pinkerton's owners go to find out why this has happened, they unintentionally cause chaos at The International Pet Show. Pinkerton heads right for the kittens, while Rose heads for a parade of poodles who are none too pleased to see her. In the end, Pinkerton saves Rose from the herd of angry poodles and their masters and they become friends, resuming their roles as puppy and kitten.

One very interesting thing that I noticed about this book is that there is no father present in any of the books. It is only Pinkerton, Rose, the little girl and her mother. Every now and then, the grandma comes to stay with them, but there is never a father. It doesn't take away from the story at all, but it is interesting that Kellogg chose to show a non-traditional family. I like that he chose not to show a "normal" family in this series. As we discussed during our unit on controversial books, what is normal for one child isn't whats normal for another. Showing only one kind of family, alienates students and families so it is important to read books like these to your class. This way, they can see that you can live with just one parent and its okay.

One last note, even if the text wasn't as entertaining as it is, the illustrations would be enough for me to pick up these books. They are so detailed and intricate. One of my favorite things that Kellogg does in his illustrations is that whenever there is text within texts (in books or on signs) he always takes the time to write little titles on the books. In some other books, illustrators simply put squiggly lines where the titles are supposed to be. Ages for this book? The library says 4-8 and I would agree but add that really anybody would enjoy these.

Hush Hush by Becca Fitzpatrick

Okay I set out to read what I am certain would have been a wonderful Eve Bunting novel this week, but I just couldn't. Not when Hush Hush had just come out on Thursday. In true book nerd fashion, I went out and bought this book the day after it came out because I have had my eye on it for several months now. I finished all 391 pages in a single evening, and to be honest I wish that I would have read it slower so that it would have lasted longer. This would have been impossible though as the action was just that fast paced. In this story we have Nora, an average teen with her fair share of emotional baggage and a best friend named Vee. Then there is Patch, a senior transfer student with a mysterious past and a love of dingy pool halls. The only thing Nora (and us) knows about him is that he seems to know just a little too much about her personal life and he has an enormous V shaped scar on his back. SPOILER: We come to find out as the book progresses that the scar on Patch's back is actually from when he was cast out of Heaven for falling in love with a human woman. For his love, he "fell" and has his wings ripped off (yikes I know!) After a long time wandering the earth miserable and alone, he discovers that he has two options. He can either take the life of a human and become human OR save a life and become their guardian angel. That person? Nora, naturally. If that wasn't complicated enough, Patch isn't the only one who may have it out for Nora. I cant tell you what happens in the end, but if you have been following my blog you know about my affinity for forbidden love, and could probably guess what Patch decides to do and why :-)

This book was suspenseful and wonderfully written. The emotions are real and artfully described. Like most of the other novels I have reviewed, Hush Hush falls into the Twilight category for age. In other words, if you would encourage your students to read the fourth book in the Twilight series then this would be no problem. Is there kissing? Yes. Semi-adult emotions? Yes. Nothing explicit though.

Also! If you read this and enjoy it. I would HIGHLY recommend The Mortal Instruments series by Cassandra Clare.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

St. Patrick's Day in the Morning by Eve Bunting and illustrated by Jan Brett

Like so many others, this book is started on the title and dedication pages. It sets up the tone of the book by first showing a small town at night, or at least before dawn and then it shows a sash, a flute and a hat. It makes you wonder what these things have in common. The story is about Jamie, a young Irish boy who is told that he is too young march in the St. Patrick's Day parade. So in an effort to prove them wrong, Jamie wakes up early and with his dog Nell, he walks the entire parade route. All the way, he is wearing his brother's sash, his father's hat and his mother's raincoat and playing a flute. Whenever something negative is said to him, his motto is "what do they know?"This is another one of those stories where another situation could be put in place of the one in the story. I mean, you could replace walking in the parade for making the dance team. Say a little girl is told she could never do it, but she tries out anyway and proves everyone wrong. When told the right way I feel like this story could be relatable to any child. Who among us has never been told that we couldn't do something, and like Jamie set out to prove yourself? It also sends a message to young children that they can do anything that they set their minds to. It's really an inspirational story.

I like how the illustrations are kept simple in this story. They are pen and ink and they look almost like etchings. There are only two colors used throughout in various tones are green and yellow, naturally for St. Patrick's Day. The age here is 5-8 and I saw absolutely. This would be a good book to have in the classroom, either to tie in with St. Patty's Day or just for the inspirational message.

Red Fox Running by Eve Bunting and illustrated by Wendell Minor

When I first chose Eve Bunting as the focus of my project, I did not know why but she sounded familiar. As it turns out, it was this book. We probably read it in first or second grade, I think that it might have even been a big book. This is another of those books that I am glad to have gotten the chance to go back over. When I was little, my focus was art, and as such all I noticed in this book were the amazing illustrations. And while really I cant be blamed, I was missing out on a wonderful story. I think that what I like most about it is that it is written like a poem. It isn't wordy but it paints a detailed picture of what is happening in the story.
"Red fox running,
running through the snow,
white sky above,
and white earth below."
And now I'm afraid that I must go back to the illustrations because they really are just that awesome. It seems as though they are done in watercolor because of the way that the paint is dark in places but never quite opaque. They are also very detailed. Eve Bunting must have liked them a lot too as there are seven pages with text and twenty pages dedicated to illustration. It is almost as if the illustrations existed first, and Eve Bunting came in and wrote a description.
This book is recommended for ages 4-8 but really it could go a little older to introduce a poetry unit to students. I would absolutely buy this one.

Swan in Love by Eve Bunting and illustrated by Jo Ellen MsAllister Stammen

Okay, this is one of those books. Those books that you could read over and over again that I will for sure have to buy. It is about a swan who falls in love with a swan shaped boat named Dora. Through all the ridicule that he receives from his fellow pond-dwellers he loves her. The swan doesn't even leave her side when the winter comes then, and not to ruin it, when she is sunk, the swan dies with her. Now this is not just the romantic in me (I loved this book so much I made my boyfriend read it, when he had finished he looked up at me and said "yea you would like this book hunny") though it does tug at my heart strings to read a story of undying love. No, this story spoke to me on an entirely different level. On the surface this book is about a swan and his Dora, but below that lies a controversial issue. The swans in this story could easily be swapped for a modern day homosexual couple. Everyone tries to tell them that their love is wrong, but it makes no difference to them. In the same way, you could insert a multi-racial couple, again people would likely frown on this union, but it doesn't matter. It is summed up nicely in several quotes that must be shared.
"The other swans muttered among themselves. "He makes us look stupid. Doesn't he know she's not one of us?" Swan knew. He knew that it didn't matter. The fish laughed their silvery laughs. "Swans in love. Doesn't he know she's different?" Swan knew. He knew that difference makes no difference to love."
"The frogs who lived in the thin lake reeds croaked, "This is wrong, wrong, wrong!" Swan heard. He knew that love was never wrong."
"Sometimes at night an opossum tiptoed down drink the lake water. "It would be wiser if you gave your love to another swan," she said. Swan listened politely. He knew that love wasn't always wise. "
*Sigh* Beautiful story, beautiful illustrations. Just read it.

Ducky by Eve Bunting and illustrated by David Wisniewski

I just loved this book! I feel like first off, I should share that it is a true story. In 1992, a crate containing 29,000 plastic bathtub toys was washed off the deck of its ship en route to Tacoma, Washington from China. The result? 29,000 plastic bathtub toys went bouncing across the ocean. This story follows one rubber duck in particular as it is tossed around in the waves, and finally lands on the shores of Alaska where he is picked up by a little boy. With the boy the rubber duck, now named Ducky, is able to fulfill his duty as a bathtub duck. I thought that this was a really cute way to inform students of something that happened, a historical event if you will. The fact that she personified the duck was perfect. What better way to tell a story to young children than through a rubber duck? I guarantee that if a rubber duck had taught me history when I was younger, I would have retained so much more :-)
Once again, the story in this book begins on the title and dedication pages. You see the crate being lowered on t the deck of the ship and then the ship heading out into the sea with storm clouds behind it. I am thinking that perhaps this is something that Eve Bunting requests of her illustrators because it seems to be a theme. Here again, it sets up a mood of anticipation for the story. In addition, the illustrations were really neat. Instead of just drawing the scenes, the artist used paper that he cut out. It's really pretty impressive.
The library recommends this book for students 4-8 and that sound about right. None of the language is too tricky and the story would be appealing to those age ranges. I would totally buy this book.

Hurry! Hurry! by Eve Bunting and illustrated by Jeff Mack

You've heard that a picture is worth a thousand words? Well that really describes this book well, being that it is a book of few words. Funny as it sounds, the lack of words really doesn't impede the story at all. Don't get me wrong, its simple but strong. The story begins on the cover pages, where you see a rooster rushing out of a barn flapping his wings. On the first page with text, the rooster yells "Hurry! Hurry!" to the goats. Then the goat goes and tells the next animal and so on, until at the very last we finally learn what was so important. The hen had laid an egg, and the chick was about to hatch. Once I thought about it, it really flowed. I thought that also this book could be used to breach the topic of a new baby in the family for students. All the barnyard animals are so happy to meet the new baby chick, and that would be a good message that could carry over to new brothers and/or sisters.

I really enjoyed the illustrations in this book. They were bright and colorful and just happy. They set the mood that whatever the animals are hurrying toward is something joyous. I also liked how the story started on the title and dedication pages. In this particular story it helped set up the feeling of anticipation for the rest of the story.
Ye olde library has recommended this book for students 3-5 and I think that sounds about right. Any older than that and I think that the student would perhaps be insulted that you had so few words for them to read.

A/I/P Eve Bunting

Eve Bunting was born December 19, 1928 in a small village in Norther Ireland called Maghera. She grew up surrounded by the love of reading, her father would read her poetry and her mother opened up a small library out of their home. She was also always surrounded by traditional Irish folktales, many of which have found their way into her books. When she was young, she was sent to boarding school. Unlike most kids who are sent away to school, Eve was happy where she was. She made many friends who became as close as family to her. Later on in college, she met a man named Ed, who she would go on to marry. She and Ed moved to Belfast for a time, but later decided to leave the area with their three kids. Ed's brother suggested that the coupld move to the United States, and so they did. The Buntings settled in Pasadena California. It wasn't until they had moved to the U.S. that Eve began writing. She took a writing class at a local community college that inspired her. Just three short years later, in 1972, Eve had her first book published. It called The Two Giants. In this book, we see the first of Eve's Irish heritage shining through, something that will become a common theme throughout her career. From that time on, Eve was an author. To date she has written well over 200 books and novels for children of all ages, pre-school to teen. Eve prides herself on writing something for every child, "I like to write for every child," Eve has said. "For every age, for every interest. That is why I have such a variety of books -- from pre-school, through the middle grades and beyond." These days, Eve and Ed live in Los Angeles, where, thankfully, she continues to write.

The Misfits by James Howe

I must say that after having read this book, I have no idea where the controversy is exactly. Is it that it deals with death a couple of times? Is it the inter-racial dating? The gay characters? Or is it because it touches on the topic of bullying in schools? I'm going to go with all of the above. Funny thing is though that some of the topics have become less taboo and some of them have become more. Death is something that will always be hard, but by and large people are not stunned to read about it anymore. That does not mean that parents want their kids reading about it though. Especially when it is dealt with in such a reasonable way as it is in this book. The inter-racial couple, Addie and DuShawn? It would have been very looked down upon at one point, but now? Not so much. It really isn't so unusual to see a couple walking down the street, one Black one White. Bullying is something that parents may still frown upon their children reading about. Simply because it is one of the uglier sides of childhood that so many parents would rather not address, not unlike death. Probably the biggest stitch in people's sides about The Misfits is that there is not one, but two gay characters. To add to this, Joe's parents fully accept him, and so do his friends. The only people who do not understand and ridicule are the other students who do not know Joe, or Colin for that matter. This would be more of an issue now because of course with the issue of gay marriage coming to the forefront these days. It seems that the line between anti and pro has been clearly drawn. As such, it would follow that when it comes to literature that deals with homosexuality, the line would be equally as hard. It should not be this way though. Children need exposure to all people in all walks of life so that they can grow up to be well rounded adults. Further more, this is an important read because it shows homosexuals being accepted, not shunned. This would be an important thing for students to see, along with the eventual acceptance of those who were labeled as Addie and Bobby were. I for sure agree with everything that the book has to say, and the lessons that it has to teach. I did have some beef though with the ending.

I support that the No-Name Party lost, because I feel like it really wasn't about winning or losing in the end. It was more about getting the message out there, and clearly it was accepted. However, the fairy tale ending of everyone living happily ever after at the dance does not sit well. I will be the first to admit that I am a romantic, but this was just silly. Everyone ends up with who they want to be with? At 12? Eh, not so much. I would have rather had the No-Name Party win and have them not end up with anyone but each other, if James Howe was going for a balancing act. That aside though, I would for sure read this in my classroom, perhaps even have a unit on it. One thing that I would do to set it up though, would be to talk with the parents about it before we read it, not in a note but in person. This way we can more appropriately discuss our points of view.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Your Thoughts...

I really wish that I could go back through elementary school and do it all over again. I want there to be a huge block in my day that is given over exclusively to reading whatever I want, and going to the library and picking out a stack of books. Even though it is impossible to go back in time, this class has really given me a chance to at least go back again and enjoy reading as I did back then. I have been given a chance to revisit classics and favorites and I have enjoyed every minute of it. As an added bonus I have been able to discover new books and new genres that I had never seen or thought about before. I have also been given a chance to look at how I can use reading and books in my classroom. I think that this has honestly been my favorite class so far this semester, first because I get to read awesome children's books. And second because I got the choice of which books I would read. This is one thing that I will for sure carry with me as I go into the teaching field. I will remember how good it felt to be able to choose what I wanted to read.
I don't know if I have really been able to make up my mind about what makes a good children's book. I think though that perhaps, there is no such thing as a bad children's book, but there is such a thing as an inappropriate book. A good book for one student may be too adult or too advanced for others. It does not make it bad, it just makes it not the right book for everyone.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

The Giver by Lois Lowry

I havent really thought about The Giver since I first read it in middle school. That is through no fault of the book though. I really didnt like the book back then simply because I hated every book I was made to read in school. I do remember though that it was very touching, I may have cried at the end when he decided to take Gabe with him and escape. That having been said, I am sure thinking about it now. I had no idea really what I was missing out on while I was just going through the motions back in fifth grade and I am really glad that I have been given the opportunity to go back and revisit this book. That having been said, I have to say that despite not being awake the first time through, I am so much more disturbed this time around that I was last time and a little creeped out to be honest. Really I do not remember having it ever occur to me that being "released" meant dying. Actually, it seems a little silly, but even as I read it this time I guess that I figured people who were released got to go off into the real world. That is until we really talked about it in class, and of course when Jonas begins to suspect what it means. The idea of this though, that because you do not fit into their perfect world, you must not be worthy of living. It reminds of the holocaust actually. Think about it, Hitler thought that anyone who did not fit into his view of what a perfect society was, they shouldn't be allowed to exist. It wasn't just Jewish people either, it was homosexuals and gypsies and a whole bunch of other people who were persecuted just because they didn't fit into his view. Something else that I thought about was just what it must be like to live in a world without color. I don't just think its because I have an art specialization that I simply cant picture this, it is as a person that the thought depresses me. Very much like in the move Pleasentville, before it was turned up side down, it was boring. Think about experiencing it for the first time like Jonas did with the apple. On another semi-related note, why an apple in the first place? I think I smell a Biblical reference here. Apples are the forbidden fruit, just as seeing things in color is forbidden in Jonas' world. I don't think it is any wonder the first forbidden object and the first flash of taboo color is the original forbidden fruit.

There is just so much to talk about with this book that I don't even know what else to say about it. It makes my head spin. To sum up though, would I read this in my classroom? Absolutely. There is just so much to discuss here and so much to understand that I don't know how I could not.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Ruined by Paula Morris

Interesting thing, the copy of the book that I have doesn't say "a ghost story", instead it just says "a novel". I feel like this is more fitting because when I think of a ghost story, I think of something scary, but this was not scary. Which was okay because I wasn't really looking for a scary story when I picked this up. So if that is what you are going for here, guess again. I think that one of the most interesting parts about this book was hearing the main character's descriptions of things that I have seen in New Orleans. Granted it was a very long time ago, but hearing her discuss Lafayette Cemetery and the French Quarter brought back foggy memories. It even dug up memories of Mardi Gras beads and king's cake (I do miss that cake). It was also an interesting history lesson in a way, not all of it was true of course. If anything though really, it made me want to learn more about the area that I frequented when I was very little. This having been said, I was a little disappointed with this book. I feel like the only character that got any dimension to her was the ghost. I would have also really appreciated the love story developing up a little bit, but every time Anton comes up, Rebeca becomes distracted by the ghost. I almost got tired of hearing about her. I also feel like she didn't respond normally to the ghost. I know if I figured out I had met a ghost, I would probably stay away from her, but she decides to go back into the cemetery in the dead of night and find her again. Pure insanity. That is just me though. In the end, it was plenty entertaining and after it got going, it was a very quick read that kept you curious until the end. It also had a twist in the end that I enjoyed, even though I really should have seen it coming.

This book would be enjoyed by a fifth or sixth grade girl probably, maybe younger. It was very entertaining and its content was not elicit in any way as it can be when you get up into the teen books. I would recommend this book to students.

Daddy, Papa and Me by Leslea Newman and illustrated by carol Thompson

Just as in Leslea Newman's other book, Mommy, Mama and Me, it is a short easy read aimed at younger students. The message there is the same here and that is that even though this family has two daddies it is still a good family. One thing that I noticed here that I didn't so much in the other book though is that it messes with gender perceptions a little. For example, there is a scene where the little boy's daddy is showing him how to sew. On another page daddy brews a pot of tea and papa sets up a tea party for the little boy and his bear. I just have to point this out because it seemed a little odd to me. Meaning that I had to wonder if this book were about a family with a mom and a dad, would the dad have been brewing tea, or would it have been the mom? Or are those pictures there because we have a preconceived notion that gay men all sew and brew tea? Or is it me that has the preconceived notion of a man in a heterosexual marriage? The only thing I really know is that in every other book I have read with families in it, the dad was an average lawn mowing, sports watching Joe. Just something to think about.

Again ages 2 to 3 and I feel like it is an appropriate age.

Molly's Family by Nancy Garden and pictures by Sharon Wooding

Along with Gloria Goes to Gay Pride, this is probably the most informative of the books, and also one of the most helpful. This book could not only be read for discussion but to help students understand a classmate's family. It also shows an example of discrimination and how it could be dealt with in the classroom. Or I should say, it gives an example of discrimination in the classroom. I was actually a little upset with how the teacher handled or didn't handle it when Tommy teased Molly about having two mommies. The teacher didn't chastise Tommy for it, she didn't tell him that it was okay to have two mommies, just like its okay to have only a mommy or only a daddy. I fee like I would have turned this into a teachable moment for the whole class. If there wouldn't have been time just then, I would have taken time out to explain to the students that families come in all different shapes and sizes. No one family is right or wrong they are just different, and different is okay. I did like the pictures however. They added to the story by making a visualization of what was going on. I liked how it showed Molly's family and her life with her two mommies so that students could make the connection that it looked like their room, or hey they have puppy. Also, I like how it takes place in a classroom. Another way that it is relatable for children.

Ages 4 to 8 sound good, and do I even need to say it? Yes it could get complicated to have a book like this in your classroom, but it will be worth it in the end.