Sunday, May 3, 2009

The First Part Last

Johnson, Angela. 2003. THE FIRST PART LAST. New York: Simon & Schuster Books For Young Readers. ISBN 0689849222

THE FIRST PART LAST is the journey of a couple who are both sixteen years old and discovers they are pregnant. Bobby is the narrator of the book and is like any other New York teen wanting to hang out with his friends, eat pizza, and spend time with his girlfriend. This shocking news makes Bobby and his girlfriend, Nia, face some hard decisions which will change their lives forever.

As I began to read this novel I was slightly confused by the chapters because each chapter alternates from being told in the present then to the past. So at the beginning it is hard to keep track of the characters and story but by the time I was to the last five chapters I saw the incredible vision of the author when laying out the novel. This is the most obvious difference in Angela Johnson’s writing compared to other authors of this genre. Johnson also has a way with words when explaining what the character is thinking, “If we give up our baby up, we could get on with it. Go to college. Go on spring break. Go to parties. Come home on breaks with dirty laundry like my brothers did, and eat everything in the cabinets and fridge.”

The main character Bobby could not exemplify a more modern day teenager that young adult readers could relate to. As the readers reads the chapters from the past Bobby is immature and is unsure about himself and the decisions he has to make. Once the baby is born he gains self confidence in himself and his ability to be a father. The other character that makes this book is the baby, Feather. She came into this world when her parents were still not decided what they were going to do with her and then eventually helped her father become a man. Nia, the girlfriend and mom, is not talked about extensively throughout the story until late in the book.

I had mixed feelings about this book because it was somewhat hard to follow with the past and present going on at the same time. I also struggled with relating to the characters but at the same time I could understand the decision that they were going to make. It was not until the last 30 pages when the story unfolded that I truly understood the characters and the story plot. When I finished the book I have a sense of peace knowing that Bobby was going to make it work with Feather and there were reasons above Nia that was keeping her away. “I can tell you how it feels sitting in the window with Feather pointing out the creek that rolls past our backyard.”

*Children’s Literature- “The entire novel attempts to teach about life, growth, and maturity. Johnson does a good job of showing the impact that having a child can have on life.”
*School Library Journal- “Told in alternating passages of "Now" and "Then," the back-story that has brought Bobby to this point falls steadily but deliberately into place, with the revelation of why Bobby is a single father arriving only near the very end. In spite of its brevity, the story is complex and satisfying.”
*Kirkus Reviews- “It's the tale of one young man and his choices, which many young readers will appreciate and enjoy.”
*Winner of the 2004 Coretta Scott King Award
*Winner of the 2004 Michael L. Printz Award

*Read other novels by Angela Johnson:
-HEAVEN. ISBN 9780689822902
-ONE OF THREE. ISBN 9780531070611
-THE ROLLING STORE. ISBN 9780531300152
*Students write a response to the novel.
*Conduct an author study on Angela Johnson: where she is from, how did she get into writing, and what awards have her books won.

Joey Pigza Loses Control

Gantos, Jack. 2000. JOEY PIGZA LOSES CONTROL. Canada: Douglas & McIntyre Ltd. ISBN 03743999891

JOEY PIGZA LOSES CONTROL is about a boy named Joey, who is hyperactive and is taking medication for the problem, and he is going to live with his father for summer. His mother is apprehensive about this visit because she knows that Carter, Joey’s dad, is a grown up version of Joey with his own problems that need to be handled. Throughout the summer Joey gains the affection of his father by being the star player of the baseball team but this new found relationship tests Joey on what he believes in. The last half of the book is Joey without his medication and the trouble he gets himself into.

According to the textbook definition of contemporary realistic fiction a book should feel current, and could happen it today’s world. This could not be a better definition for JOEY PIGZA LOSES CONTROL because the book deals with issues of divorce, attention deficit disorder, medication, family struggles, and young children. The main character Joey goes through an emotional battle throughout this book that many young kids can identify with. At the start of the novel Joey is hoping that he can bring his parents back together once his dad sees how well behaved he is now that he is on medication. He tries so hard to get the love and respect from his father that he makes decision that he knows is wrong but will please his dad. Carter, Joey’s fathers, is a complex character that is hyperactive, an alcoholic, possible abusive, and delusional. I love the fact that Carter has his life changing moment at a park called Storybook Land in front of the Humpty Dumpty exhibit. Gantos uses this illustration to show how child like and immature Carter is at this point in his life. “I didn’t want to be a pathetic broken egg with everyone trying and failing to put me back together again.”

Most of the book takes place in Carter’s home or locations around his small town, storybook land, the golf course, mall, baseball fields, and the sporting goods store. The baseball fields are where the climax of the story takes place when Joey has finally had enough of Carter’s yelling and high expectations. “Don’t disappoint me, Joey. Don’t be a Humpty Dumpty on me and crack up.” Another very interesting scene that takes place in the story is at the mall when Joey’s medication has worn off and the reader sees first hand how different Joey is when he doesn’t have medicine. As Joey is walking around the mall he finds a few mannequins that look like “perfect” kids and there is nothing more that Joey wants then besides to be normal. So he dresses up in beach outfits and goes and stands next to the mannequins waiting for someone to spy him and think he is perfect too.

Ganots writing is simple, clear and believable. There are times when the book is quite funny, such as Joey covering himself in shaving cream to try to scare his grandmother. Other times the mood of the book is dark, sad, and depressing. Although this story could happen in the real world I was sad to read an unhappy ending for Joey and his father. I guess the reader can be satisfied in the fact that Joey at least finds out where he was from and who he is going to be in his future. My honest impression of the book is that is gives readers a real life look at a modern day family of divorce but you will end the book disappointed.

*Publishers Weekly- “Like its predecessor, this high-voltage, honest novel mixes humor, pain, fear and courage with deceptive ease. Struggling to please everyone even as he sees himself hurtling toward disaster, Joey emerges as a sympathetic hero, and his heart of gold never loses its shine.”
*Children’s Literature- “Gantos' writing excellence shows in the way he allows the reader to draw conclusions, while Joey only experiences situations. Gantos still gives us what we love best about Joey—neither medicine nor a bad situation can take away his comic responses. This artist has created a satisfying follow-up.”
*Kirkus Reviews- “As if Joey didn't get into enough trouble in his unforgettable debut, Joey Pigza Swallowed the Key (1998), Gantos has him wig out again in this sad, scary, blackly funny sequel. His hyperactivity under control thanks to new meds, Joey is looking forward to a six-week stay with his father Carter, hoping for some bonding. Unfortunately, his mother's warning: ". . . he can be, you know, wired like you, only he's bigger." understates the case.”
*Newberry Honor Book

*Read the other books from Jack Gantos about Joey Pigza:
-WHAT WOULD JOEY DO? ISBN 9780060544034
-I AM NOT JOEY PIGZA. ISBN 9780374399412
*Allow students to listen to one of the novels on an audio book.
*Discuss with students the many conflict that Joey faced in the story, and have students write in their journal a time when they faced conflict and how did they resolve it.
*Students can take online quiz about their comprehension of the book:

Thursday, April 30, 2009

The Golden Compass

Pullman, Philip. 1995. THE GOLDEN COMPASS. Great Britain: Scholastic Children’s Books. ISBN 0679879242

Lyra Belacqua lives at the Jordan College where the scholars have raised her since she was a little girl, with her daemon Pantalaimon. Being the curious young girl that Lyra is she decides to eavesdrop on the scholars who are meeting with her uncle, Lord Asriel, who has just returned from the North. During this meeting she learns about a magical and mysterious world in the North and how the missing children of the country might be apart of this world. Lyra soon finds herself on an amazing adventure where she meets gyptians, witches, armored bears and a camp where experiments are being conducted on children.

The characters of THE GOLDEN COMPASS truly make this book come alive and keep the readers engage throughout the story. Lyra, the main character, who is young in age proves herself as the heroine of the story. Her side kick or daemon, Pantalaimon is another key character to the story. In this world each human has a daemon that stays by their side throughout their lives and can read and feel their emotions. As a child the daemon can change into different shapes of animals depending on what the child needs. Pantalaimon turns into a moth when Lyra needs to spy on someone, or a cat to fight off attackers, or an ermine to keep Lyra warm. Mrs. Coulter the villain of the story is described as “…beautiful and young. Her sleek black hair framed her checks, and her daemon was a golden monkey.” Throughout the novel we learn that Mrs. Coulter is behind the disappearance of the children and is running the experiments on the children. My other favorite character in the story is the armored bear Iorek Byrnison who protects Lyra on the adventure and takes back his kingdom after a deathly fight.

The true adventure of this story begins when Lyra runs away from Mrs. Coulter and begins living among the gyptians. Soon after meeting the lord of the western gyptians they decide to take Lyra on the journey to find the missing children who have been reportedly taken to the North. Along their journey they stop at several villages but the one that is described in the most detail is the land of the bears, Svalbard. “Vast building… carved all over with representations of warfare, showing bears victorious and Skraelings surrendering, showing Tartars chained and slaving in the fire mines, gifts and tributes to the king of the bears, Iofur Raknison.” What is also unique about the setting of most of the book is once Lyra begins to travel North the weather is freezing. There are many times the author explains the type of dress she is wearing to give the reader a good sense of how cold the land is.

Philip Pullman’s style of writing in this book is high fantasy. There are made up creatures, cities, pets, and tools to tell the future. As Lyra is leaving Jordan College to live with Mrs. Coulter the head master gives her an alethiometer, which is an instrument that tells the owner the truth of their questions. “It was very like a clock, or a compass, for there were hands pointing to places around the dial, but instead of hours or the points of the compass there were several little pictures… there was an anchor, an hourglass surmounted by a skull, a chameleon, a bull, a beehive… thirty six altogether.” This tool helped Lyra to find a lost boy, save the armored bear, and escape her kidnappers. This example of the authors’ imagination is one of many the reader will discover while reading the book. My personal favorite example of his imagination is the daemons that each human has throughout their lives. Other examples of the daemons in the book are: dog, raven, snow leopard, squirrel, goose, and monkey.

*Publishers Weekly- “As always, Pullman is a master at combining impeccable characterizations and seamless plotting, maintaining a crackling pace to create scene upon scene of almost unbearable tension. This glittering gem will leave readers of all ages eagerly awaiting the next installment of Lyra's adventures.”
*Children’s’ Literature- “This is a complex fascinating fantasy, the first volume of his "Dark Materials Trilogy." The heroine is Lyra Belacqua who lives with the scholars of Jordan College. Headstrong and independent, she is caught in a web in which science and politics are entangled. Why are hideous experiments being performed on children? Alliances with Gyptians, witch clans, battles with trained mercenaries and armored bears keep the reader on edge.”
*School Library Journal- “This is a captivating fantasy, filled with excitement, suspense, and unusual characters. The armored bears are wonderful and more interesting than most of the humans. There is some fine descriptive writing, filled with the kind of details that encourage suspension of disbelief. The story line moves along at a rapid clip, but flags when it delves into philosophical matters.”

*Have students journal what animal they think their daemon would be and why.
*Discuss with students some of the themes that this book illustrates like good vs. evil, courage, trust, and fear.
*Complete a character analysis about four characters in the book: Lyra, Mrs. Coulter, Lord Asriel and Iorek Byrnison.
*Read other books by Phillip Pullam:
- THE SUBTLE KNIFE. ISBN 9780375846724

Monday, April 13, 2009

The Witch of Blackbird Pond

Speare, Elizabeth George. 1958. THE WITCH OF BLACKBIRD POND. New York, New York: Houghton Mifflin Company. ISBN 0395913675

THE WITCH OF BLACKBIRD POND is about a young girl from Barbados who is traveling to Connecticut to live with her Aunt, Uncle and two cousins. As she is aboard the ship she becomes friends with the captain’s son who informs her on the life of New England, and the witch trails and accusations. One afternoon Kit jumps into the water to save a young girls dolls and is quickly told that only witch’s are suppose to swim; this is the first time that Kit realizes her life is going to be very different in American. After many weeks of hard work, punishment, and frustration Kit stumbles upon a place where she can find comfort and friendship, Blackbird Pond. By the pond is an old house where widow, Hannah Tupper, lives who has also been accused of witchcraft. Although Hannah become a dear friend her friendship leads to a horrible accusation, trial, and heartbreak for Kit.

THE WTICH OF BLACKBIRD POND is by far one of my favorite historical fiction books that I have ever read. Elizabeth George Speare writes a story about a character who is likeable yet struggling so hard to fit into the world that she doesn’t know anything about. The first example of this is seen on the ship when she jumps into the water and is able to swim. “A true witch will always float. The innocent ones just sink like a stone.” This quote is from Nat as he tries to explain to Kit about the water trials and witch accusations. Throughout the story Kit is constantly getting herself and others in trouble, but the reader is always pulling for her hoping that everything works out. This theme of courage and perseverance is seen throughout the novel and what each character. I also enjoyed learning about the smaller characters in the story and how each one impacted Kit in different ways. Hannah is probably the most interesting, because she has had such a hard life yet she is loving, caring, and nurturing.

Wethersfield, Connecticut as described by Kit as, “a narrow sandy stretch of shoreline, a few plies sunk in the river with rough planking platforms.” Her uncles’ house, “looked solid and respectable.” The only place that Kit finds comfort and beauty is that of Blackbird Pond. The other scenes of the story take place in town, on the Dolphin or in the fields. The scenes in town all seem to be awful events, such as meeting, the Town House where the trail was held, and the time when Nat was sentenced to the stocks. Although these events are bad memories for Kit they allow the reader to understand what the times were like back then and how different it is today.

*School Library Journal- “The setting is the Colony of Connecticut in 1687 amid the political and religious conflicts of that day. Sixteen-year-old Kit Tyler unexpectedly arrives at her aunt and uncle's doorstep and is unprepared for the new world which awaits her… Unprepared for the religious intolerance and rigidity of the Puritan community, she is constantly astounding her aunt, uncle, and cousins with her dress, behavior, and ideas. She takes comfort in her secret friendship with the widow, Hannah Tupper, who has been expelled from Massachusetts because she is a Quaker and suspected of being a witch. When a deathly sickness strikes the village, first Hannah and then Kit are accused of being witches. Through these conflicts and experiences, Kit comes to know and accept herself. She learns not to make hasty judgments about people, and that there are always two sides to every conflict. There are several minor plots as well, including three romances, which help to bring this time and place to life.”
*Newberry Award Winner

*Have students respond in their journal about the time period and setting of the story and discuss with the class the difference between then and now.
*Students will create a timeline of major events that lead to the Salem Witch Trials, and label a map of the locations of the events that took place in the book: Connecticut, Barbados, and England.
*Read other stories by Elizabeth George Speare.
- SIGN OF THE BEAVER ISBN 9780440479000

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

The River Between Us

Peck, Richard. 2003. THE RIVER BETWEEN US. New York, New York: Dial Books. ISBN 0803727356

THE RIVER BETWEEN US is about two different stories of a family set in very different times. Although, the first story is only told in the first and last chapter, it helps you understand how much the times have changes and what eventually happens with the characters. The majority of the story is set in 1861 in Tower Rock, Illinois with the Pruitt family. Tilly Pruitt and her twin brother Noah are very normal fifteen year olds except for the fact that the Civil War is about to begin and Noah is learning how to be solider. Tilly’s sister Cass also has an unusual quality about herself; she can look into the past and present to see how people are going to die.

One evening a riverboat from New Orleans came into the harbor with two very unique women who were about to change this town and the Pruitt family forever. Delphine Duval and Calinda, who may or may not be a slave, are not like the other women in this town; Delphine wears corsets, bonnets, gloves in the summer and knows how to get her way with men. During their stay with the Pruitt family, the Civil War heats up which eventually calls Noah away to be with the rest of the soldiers. Over the next few months the adventures of war, love and death become the main characters in the story.

Richard Peck’s develops a handful of characters in this story that all struggle with finding themselves and dealing with the consequences of the Civil War. Tilly the main character begins the story as a timid and shy young girl that is holding her family together. She is there to comfort her sister Cass, watch over her brother Noah, and attend to a mother who is so fearful she is about to lose the only man still in her life. The other strong character in the book is Delphine Duval from New Orleans. The author paints a very visual picture of the first time the two characters meets and how shocked Tilly was to see this woman from the South. “Heavens, I’d never seen such skirts- rustling taffeta stretched wide over hoops… She must be from New Orleans. No town between here and there could have produced her.”

It was also such a surprise to find out the real secret Delphine had been hiding about her past at the end of the story. As the readers is finding out more about this strange yet beautiful woman you know that something is not right but Peck does a brilliant job of revealing a past that no reader would have guessed. The other character that brings a lot of mystery to this story is Calinda, who wore a tignon on her head, sold pralines to make extra money, and took care of Delphine and the rest of the Pruitt family.

Much of this story setting is in the small town of Tower Rock but the scenes in Cairo, Illinois with the soldier tents and hospital paints the true picture of the Civil War. When Tilly and Delphine stepped off the train in Cairo they could already smell the rotten food, diseases from the troops, and the many soldiers who were already dead. Camp Defiance was described as, “A tent city inside, row and row of whiten tents, close as teeth. The first ones were raised over wooden floors.” What was also interesting to read was the techniques these two women used to nursed so many soldiers back to health. They brought quilts, built a bonfire for warmth and washing clothes; hand washed the weak, and cooked them meals.

Peck’s style of writing in the book is in the first person, through the voice of Tilly. He also uses the French dialect of New Orleans in his character of Delphine. Some examples of the dialect used by this character are: enchantee madame, bonjour, tante blanche, papa, and maman. The last few pages of the book are notes from Richard Peck that describes facts and true stories from this period in time.

My overall opinion of the book, THE RIVER BETWEEN US was that is was ok. I had a few problems at the beginning understanding the story in 1916 and how those characters were relating to the characters in the story in 1861. I also felt like the author jumped around a lot in terms of Civil War events and who was on what side. My favorite part in the book is the last few chapters when Tilly and Delphine go to save Noah and all the secrets are revealed, but this point in the story started and then abruptly ended. Also, I am not sure how the Cass character and her visions really affected the story and what significance it had. The book has some good characters and good themes but I wish some of the story would have been elaborated and other parts deleted.

*Publisher Weekly- “In our Best Books citation, PW wrote, "The author crafts his characters impeccably and threads together their fates in surprising ways that shed light on the complicated events of the Civil War."
*Children’s Literature- “The strength of the two characters and the relationship they establish transcends the horrors of war and the prejudices of gender and race, and highlight lesser known historical facts and make them real.”
*Kirkus Reviews- “Peck writes beautifully, bringing history alive through Tilly's marvelous voice and deftly handling themes of family, race, war, and history. A rich tale full of magic, mystery, and surprise.”
*2004 Winner of the Scott O’Dell Award for Historical Fiction

*Read other historical fiction novels about the Civil War.
-RIFLES FOR WATIE ISBN 9780064470308
*Complete the Literature Circle Questions based on the book.
*Have students create a timeline of historical events that happened during the Civil War: Lincoln inaugurated, Battle of Shiloh, Battle of Gettysburg, Lee Surrenders, etc.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Catherine, Called Birdy

Cushman, Karen. 1994. CATHERINE, CALLED BIRDY. New York, New York. Clarion: Houghton Mifflin Company. ISBN 0395681863

CATHERINE, CALLED BIRDY is about a young girl growing up in England during the year 1290. Her brother, Edward who taught her to read and write, convinces her to write in a journal each day so that she might learn from her childish ways. Each journal entry tells of a different adventures Catherine goes through, including, visiting her brother at the abbey, staying with a duchess in her castle, traveling to a fair, and warding off many suitors who wish to marry her. Throughout the entries the readers are able to see the many struggles that her family members are going through as well as what her daily life is like. The biggest obstacle she faces is learning to be a lady so her father can find a suitable person for her to marry. By the end of September Catherine finally agrees to marry a man she refers to as Shaggy Beard and discovers that this life of being married might not be as bad as she thought.

CATHERINE, CALLED BIRDY is an outstanding book for young readers to discover what life was like in the 1200’s. The main character Catherine is a modern day feminist who believes that women should be able to be crusader or a monk and never get married if they wish. The author paints a picture of 14 year old Catherine that many readers could identify with her struggles including arguing with her parents and siblings, hardships with friendship, and daydreaming about their life as an adult. On one account Catherine uses an old wives tale to try to determine who her future husband would be, “Last night I tucked a pin into a onion and put it under my pillow so I would dream of my future husband.” She is a very likable and funny character. What I also like about the book is that we only learn about the characters from the perspective of Catherine’s eyes. The reader never gets to met them or hear their side of the story, we just learn what Catherine wants us to know.

This story is what I picture most young girls going through in this time period. They work extremely hard doing household duties, and are learning the many rules of becoming a lady. “A silent woman is admired more than a noisy one, maids should be mild and meek, swift to hear and slow to speak.” Many girls are raised to be proper and delicate so their family’s can benefit when they get married be gaining more land or animals. Throughout the book the reader also witnesses the many festivals people had and the unique food and entertainment that was there. “We had oceans of fish and acres of dried apples, and musicians and jugglers and tumblers…”

The setting of the story is in 1290 on a medieval English manor. Although most of the story does take place at Catherine’s home the author paints the picture of what most villages were like during that time. There were churches, cottages, an alehouse, and a blacksmith. What is also interesting to read is how people got their entertainment during this time. One of Catherine’s journal entries describes a time where her and her friend go to a neighboring village to watch the hanging of two thieves. Another time Catherine goes to the Bartlemas Fair where she buys beads, a wooden whistle, and bone rattle, parchment paper and watches a dancing bear do silly tricks.

My favorite part of the entire book that also summarizes so much of Catherine’s personality is when she fights with her mother about going skating on a frozen pond. When her mother won’t allow it Catherine decides to make a list of all the things girls are not allowed to, “go on crusade, be horse trainers, be monks, laugh very loud, wear breeches, drink in ale house, cut their hair, piss in the fire to make it hiss, wear nothing, be alone, get sunburned, run, marry whom they will, and glide on the ice.”

*Publishers Weekly- “The period has rarely been presented for young people with such authenticity; the exotic details will intrigue readers while they relate more closely to Birdy’s yen for independence and her sensibilities toward the downtrodden. Her tenacity and ebullient naivete are extraordinary; at once comic and thought-provoking, this first novel is a delight."
*Children’s Literature- “Cushman brings the Middle Ages alive with a revealing, humorous and riveting story of a young girl who devises clever schemes to escape marrying all the repulsive men her father would give her to. In the end Catherine marries, but the ending is also a beginning of a possible new life. All of this is revealed in Catherine's diary that details her fourteenth year growing up in a medieval English manor.”
*Booklist- “The diary format helps portray the tedium of life in the Middle Ages, the never-ending sewing, cooking, and other chores; the dirt and the illness; and, worse, the lowly role of women in medieval life. But this diary style also inhibits the ability of the characters to come alive. Birdy's is the only real voice. Fortunately, it's a sprightly voice, complete with its own brand of cursing ("God's thumbs!"), that moves the action.”
* Newbery Honor Book and Horn Book Fanfare award.

*Have students compare and contrast Catherine’s life to their own life.
*Allow students to create their own journals where they document their feelings and activities throughout the day.
*Read other Karen Cushman novels.
-RODZINA. ISBN 9780440419938

Monday, March 23, 2009

Team Moon: How 400,000 People Landed Apollo 11 On The Moon

Thimmesh, Catherine. 2006. TEAM MOON: HOW 400,000 PEOPLE LANDED APOLLO 11 ON THE MOON. New York. New York: Houghton Mifflin Company. ISBN 0618507574

TEAM MOON: HOW 400,000 PEOPLE LANDED APOLLO 11 ON THE MOON is an exceptional book that tells a story that most people know the ending to but has never heard in this much details of how the adventures of three astronauts began. It all began in May of 1961 when President John F. Kennedy stated, “I believe this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade it out, of landing a man on the Moon and returning him safely to Earth.” From this simple statement thousands of people around the United States began to make this dream become a reality. The first pieces of items that had to be created and built were the actual spacecrafts that would fly in outer space and land on the moon. Theses two spacecrafts were later named the Eagle and Columbia, both smaller than a compact sized car. On July 16, 1969 Apollo 11 with astronauts Neil Armstrong, Michael Collins, and Buzz Aldrin blasted off into space. Once Columbia was in the air there were 8 challenges that both the astronauts and team crew had to work through together to make this mission a success. Apollo 11 will always be remembered as the first mission to have men land on the moon but it should also be remembered for bring so many people together to accomplish the same goal.

What an outstanding book and beautiful pictures of the entire process of Apollo 11 in 1969. Throughout the book the reader gets to see pictures of the people behind the scenes, the actual spacecrafts, walking on the moon, and the descent back to Earth. Along with the actual story of Apollo 11 there are 11 additional pages in the back of the book that outline the people in the book, sources, chapter notes, additional sources, acknowledgments, further exploration into the Apollo missions, index and glossary. These are all great tools to use to teach students about the items that a well written non-fiction book should have. The only organization tool that this book doesn’t have is a table of contents at the beginning but the book does have sub-headings on most pages.

Catherine Thimmesh has done her research on Apollo 11 and the inter-workings of NASA. A reader would know this by examining the two page list of references and sources she used to make the book. You also see this as you read through the book and come across direct quotes from people who lived through this amazing time. These quotes give the book a clear and lively feeling as you read each page. She has also captioned all the pictures throughout the book allowing readers to know exactly where and how these pictures were taken. These pictures allow the reader to really feel like they are walking in the moon with Neil Armstrong. They also go perfectly with the text that is also on that page.

*Publishers Weekly- “This behind-the-scenes look at the first Apollo moon landing has the feel of a public television documentary in its breadth and detail…. the author maintains a conversational tone, and tackles and explains tough topics such as "cluster interference" in parachute deployment and a bit of the chemistry behind developing the astronauts' dramatic photographs, many of which illustrate the story.”
*Children’s Literature- “For those who really want to know more, there is an excellent list of sources, chapter notes, and a list of places. mainly web sites. where one can find additional information. In addition, there is a fairly extensive index and glossary. All in all, Thimmesh's book is an excellent choice for anyone interested in the story of America's effort to put a man on the moon.”
*School Library Journal- “Drawn from personal interviews and oral histories as well as a wide array of published sources, this stirring, authoritative tribute to the collective effort that left "...footprints, crisp and clear, pressed purposefully and magnificently into the lunar dust" belongs in every collection.”
*Kirkus Review- “For me, that was the time in history and the event to participate in above all others." That comment, from one of the 400,000 involved in the team effort to put men on the moon in 1969, sums up the essence of this dramatic account of the work of people behind the scenes in the Apollo program. Illustrated with striking black-and-white photos, the white text on a black…. background of each page underscores the risk of this venture into the unknown. The authors emphasizes the paper-and-pencil calculations, the endless testing and checking, and elaborate recordkeeping that supported this work, and the sense of personal responsibility each participant felt. This beautiful and well-documented tribute will introduce a new generation to that triumphant time.”
*Winner of the 2007 Robert F. Siebert Informational Book Award
*NCTE Orbis Picture Honor Book

*Incorporate book into a Social Studies lesson where students can write their own informational paper on Apollo 11.
* Discuss with the students the other Apollo mission from Apollo 1 to Apollo 17, and create a chart with their lift off date and major accomplishments.
* Read other books about Apollo missions:

What Do You Do With A Tail Like This?

Jenkins, S., & Page, R. 2003. WHAT DO YOU DO WITH A TAIL LIKE THIS? New York, New York: Houghton Mifflin Company. ISBN 0618256288

WHAT DO YOU DO WITH A TAIL LIKE THIS examines how different animals uses their noses, ears, tails, eyes, mouths, and feet. On the first page you see five different types of noses and the reader is asked. “What do you do with a nose like this?” As you flip to the next page the animals’ noses are identified and explained how each animal uses the same body part for many different things. An elephant uses his nose to give himself a bath, where a platypus digs in the mud with his nose. As you read about the each body part you discover things you never knew about your favorite animals and some new animals. It ends with a four page picture dictionary of each animal that is described in the book.

Steve Jenkins and Robin Page have created a fun, interactive informational book with WHAT DO YOU DO WITH A TAIL LIKE THIS? What is unique about this book is the picture dictionary at the end of the book giving many facts and detail about each animal. I think that most students when they read a book are interested in learning more about the subject but don’t want to do to research, but Jenkins has done that for them. This book is a one stop shop when learning about the difference of thirty different animals. I also appreciate that the authors used familiar and non-familiar animals in this book. Students will be able to use their prior knowledge and gain new information while reading this book.

The information of the book and the drawings of the animals all seem to be accurate. One indicator of the accurate of the book is that it is a Caldecott Honor Book. By getting this award I know that many librarians and other professionals have read and appreciated the illustrations. The only negative aspect I have is that there is no bibliography to cite where the authors got the information from. If students wanted to learn more about the book or animals they would have no way to see where the authors found the information.

This book has a much defined pattern to it. You first try to guess the animals, and then you discover the animals and how it uses its parts. This would be a great book to use in a kindergarten class because the students would be able to pick up the pattern quickly and after several read alouds say the words with you. The picture dictionary would also be a good teaching lesson from this book.

WHAT DO YOU DO WITH A TAIL LIKE THIS has a simple design throughout the book. There are only two items on each page of the book: pictures of animals and the text. The text font is easy to read and large enough to see but it is arranged in a unique way. For example, the lizard tail information is spread across two pages and is somewhat vertical. For students still struggling with the idea that font is read from left to right and top to bottom, this would be a difficult book to read.
What is wonderful about the book is the cut-paper collages that make the illustrations. Each animal is so detailed in terms of its mouth, eyes, and surroundings that you really feel like you are looking at the real thing. Yet they are simple enough to where a young child could make a similar illustration using cut-paper. I also think that authors had a theme in terms of the color of each animals and where they placed them in the book. The sections on tails all have bright colored animals on the page, and the ears sections have more dull color animals. The illustrations of this book are wonderful which makes me understand why it was given the Caldecott Honor Award in 2004.

* School Library Journal- “Jenkins… has created yet another eye-opening book. Children will learn that lizards can completely break off their tails as a defense and that it will grow back. And, they’ll find out crickets’ ears are on their knees.”
* Booklist- “Jenkins handsome paper-cut collages are both lovely and anatomically informative, and their white backgrounds help emphasize the particular feature, be in the bush baby’s lustrous, liquid brown eyes or the skunk’s fuzzy tail. This is a striking, thoughtfully created book with intriguing facts made more memorable through dynamic art.”
* Kirkus- “Not only does Jenkins again display a genius for creating paper-cut collage wildlife portraits with astonishingly realistic skin, fur, and feathers, but here on alternate spreads he zooms in for equally lifelike close-ups of ears, eyes, noses, mouths, feet, and tails.
*Randolph Caldecott Medal Honor Book 2004

* Discuss the picture dictionary in the back of the book and have students pick one animal from each section to create their own picture dictionary. Students can draw animals and list three facts about each one.
* In a science lesson go into further details about what makes animals different from each other, weather it is their environment, how they reproduce, or diet habits.
* Read other books by Steve Jenkins:
- ACTUAL SIZE. ISBN 9780618375943

Sunday, March 22, 2009

The Boy On Fairfield Street

Krull, Kathleen. 2004. THE BOY ON FAIRFIELD STREET: HOW TED GEISEL GREW UP TO BECOME DR. SEUSS. by Steve Johnson and Lou Fancher. New York: Random House. ISBN 0375822984

THE BOY ON FAIRFIELD STREET is a look at the life of Ted Geisel growing up before he was known as Dr. Seuss in Springfield, Massachusetts. Ted grew up in a cozy home with his father and mother, and sister Marnie. From a very young age Ted Geisel loved to visit the zoo, where his father worked, and listen to silly stories at bedtime that his mother would create. Once he entered school most of the students and teachers didn’t understand his passion of drawing and doodling but this rejection never stopped him. He surprised many by attending Dartmouth College and writing for the school’s humor magazine, JACK-O-LANTERN. While attending Oxford University Ted Geisel got him first encouraging words about his drawings which led him to leave school and pursue his passion of funny drawings and articles. By the age of twenty-two Ted Geisel “future looked bright.” Additional pages are included that completes Ted Geisel life “Beyond Fairfield Street” and a complete bibliography on works written and illustrated by Dr. Seuss.

THE BOY ON FAIRFIELD STREET is a wonderful biography of one of the most loved children’s author and illustrator, Dr. Seuss. Kathleen Krull gives the reader an insight on how Ted Geisel grew up and where he got most of his inspiration from. The words used to tell this biography are very simple yet descriptive, “..stubborn bears and chattering monkeys, prowling lions and wild wolves.” I also like that Krull digs deep into Ted Geisel life and shows that he struggled with prejudice, injustice, and bullying growing up as a child.

The accuracy of the information used in the book all seems to be valid. Krull does include a short bibliography of websites she used for this book that I went and researched out. Most of the websites are still active and contain the same information if not more that Krull uses in this book. There are also suggestions for further reading that include other biographies of Ted Geisel’s life. One of my favorite things about this book is the illustrations from Dr. Seuss books on each page of Krull’s book. It gives the book a childlike feeling and a sense of nostalgia. Krull includes a list at the end of the book that tells readers which book of Dr. Seuss that illustration came from.

The layout of this picture book biography is in sequential order of the Ted Geisel life. It begins with him as a little boy and then by the ending he is a full grown man. Although you could open up the book and begin reading from any page, I would say that to get the most benefit from this book a reader would need to start from the beginning page. The organization of events is very clear and easy to follow as you read through the book. There are no subheading or table of contents in this book, but be looking at the pictures of Ted Geisel you can easily determine what part of his life you are reading about: young, school aged, or adult. For example, if you flipped to page 11 you would see Ted Geisel reading in bed with his mother and toy dog. Then turning to page 31 Ted is sitting on a bench with a coat and tie on writing in a journal as he speaks to a young woman.

The cover of the book in my opinion targets older readers because of the style of the illustration and font used. Most picture books have a bright, fun colorful picture on the front that would grab a child’s eye, but this cover is simple and somewhat deceiving. Just looking at the picture you would think this is a story about a young by and the animals in his neighborhood not about the life of Dr. Seuss. The text is also very simple yet easy to read.

The illustrations by Steve Johnson and Lou Fancher are both accurate and detailed. As you look over the book a second and third time you see things in the picture you didn’t see the first time. On page 27, Ted Geisel is sitting at his desk in the Dartmouth magazine room and when looking closer at his desk you see that he has drawn pictures on his desk of funny animals. The illustrations also reflect the text very well, which allows you understand what phase of life Ted Geisel is in. Once again I also think that adding Dr. Seuss original art on each page gives the book a fun, childlike feeling as you read it.

* Kirkus Reviews- “Some of these original images are absolutely haunting; the magic of his name will make this a huge hit, but it's the lively writing that puts the hat on the cat.”
* School Library Journal- “Johnson and Fancher's lovely, full-page illustrations are supplemented by samples of Dr. Seuss's artwork, including scenes from The Cat and the Hat and The 500 Hats of Bartholomew Cubbins. A complete list of Seuss's titles, in chronological order, rounds out the title…. Krull's work is a terrific look at the boyhood of one of the most beloved author/illustrators of the 20th century.”
* Publishers Weekly- “A four-page addendum, presented in a smaller font, chronicles the highlights of Dr. Seuss's publishing career and provides intriguing tidbits about the creation of some of his beloved books. Johnson and Fancher's (New York's Bravest) representational, nostalgic paintings effectively evoke both the period and Geisel's appealingly puckish personality.”
* Children’s Literature- “Kids who doodle when they are supposed to be doing something else will find redemption in the story of Ted Geisel's childhood. Geisel's doodles weren't appreciated when he was a child either…. Overall, the book is a perfect reminder to teachers of how powerfully early experiences can shape our lives as adults and to kids that a favorite author was once a child himself.”

* Read other biographies from Kathleen Krull:
- ISAAC NEWTON ISBN 9780142408209
* Read ROAD TO OZ: TWISTS, TURNS, BUMPS, AND TRIUMPHS IN THE LIFE OF L. FRANK BAUM by Kathleen Krull. ISBN 9780375832161. Then compare and contrast the lives of famous authors L. Frank Baum and Ted Geisel.
* Make a timeline of Ted Geisel life and when his books were published.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Out of the Dust

Hesse, Karen. 1997. OUT OF THE DUST. New York: Scholastic Inc. ISBN 0590371258

OUT OF THE DUST is about a young girl named Billie Jo Kelby who keeps a journal over two years about her family struggles living in Oklahoma. From the beginning Billie Jo seems to do everything wrong and is always getting in people way including her mother and father. The one thing that she does really well and makes her happier than anything in the world is playing the piano. After a horrible accident of a pail of kerosene and the stove, Billie Jo’s mom is severely burned and later dies from giving birth to a baby boy who also dies. During the accident Billie Jo also gets burned but mainly on her hands which make it very painful to play the piano and therefore taking away her only passion. Over the next year Billie Jo and her father don’t have much of a relationship because Billie Jo blames herself for her mothers death and her father doesn’t really know to raise a child be himself. After Billie Jo gets her dream of leaving the dust in Oklahoma she realizes that she really wanted something else and it is back in Oklahoma.

Karen Hesse is an amazing story teller and a beautiful poet. As you are reading through the book you are so engrossed with the story that you forget that each chapter is a poem combined to make this story. The language Hesse uses to describe the setting and emotions of Billie Jo is perfect. You could close your eyes and picture the house, school building, and characters in the story. Also, how she describes Billie Jo on the second page is funny yet awkward. “.. always getting in Ma’s way with my pointy elbows, my fidgety legs.”

There are also several times when the lines of the poem are different from this rest of the book, which makes me think she wanted those poems to stand out. One of those poems is titled ‘On Stage” and this signified the first time Billie Jo got to play the piano in front of an audience. “It’s the best I’ve ever felt, playing hot piano..”

The topic of this book is Oklahoma’s Dust Bowl during the Great Depression and the story of this young girl growing up. Since there are so many topics covered in the book I think students of all ages could enjoy this book. It is also a book that students could share with their parents and grandparents who lived through these times.

OUT OF THE DUST received the 1998 Newberry Award and the Scott O’Dell Award for Historical Fiction.

*Publishers Weekly- “This intimate novel, written in stanza form, poetically conveys the heat, dust and wind of Oklahoma along with the discontent of narrator Billy Jo, a talented pianist growing up during the Depression.”
*Children’s Literature- “The always-inventive author of A Time of Angels has done it again. She's found a new approach to telling a compelling historical tale. In this "novel" she renders the story of a young girl struggling to survive the dust bowl through first person narrative poems.”
*The ALAN Review- “Please read this book. You will agree with me (and with the committee which selected it for the 1997 Newbery Medal) that it is a distinguished novel, richly meriting as wide a readership as possible among teens, among adults. It is very good.”

*Read other books by Karen Hesse. COME ON, RAIN! ISBN 9780590331258
*Discuss the events of the Great Depression and research its affect on people throughout the United States.
*Students can write about objects or people that make them happy and why.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Danitra Brown Leaves Town

Grimes, Nikki. 2002. DANITRA BROWN LEAVES TOWN. by Floyd Cooper. New York, New York: HarperCollins Publishers. ISBN 0688131557

DANITRA BROWN LEAVES TOWN is about two young girls who are best friends that ended up being apart for the summer. As Danitra leaves town her friend Zuri says some hurtful things because she sad that is will be spending the whole summer by yourself. To Zuri’s surprise she finds a friend in a neighborhood girl and receives a letter from Danitra saying that she misses her friend. Throughout the summer the two girls write each other letters about their daily adventures of having a childhood summer, including block parties, Fourth of July, and hand ball games. By the end of the summer both girls reunite with more confidence in themselves and a stronger friendship.

Nikki Grimes book is a true tell of friendship that is told innocently through two young girls. Any age child will be able to understand the emotions that these girls go through throughout the summer, including anger, jealously, happiness, and excited. What is so unique about this book is that each page has a title just like any other poem would have, but they are weaved together to create a story. The choice of words Grimes uses on each page reflects the emotions that the characters are feeling. The block party has lines saying, “In a blink I became/ a hip-swinging/ head- bobbing/ foot-stomping/ fancy- dancing/ fool.” As you read those lines you want to start moving your head and snapping your fingers.

Besides the emotion behind each page the language used is wonderful. There are examples of similes, such as: “And the sky! I’ve never seen one so blue- black, like a thick overcoat.” I also enjoy how instead of simply stating something, Grimes choose such imaginative words. For example, instead of just saying she closed her eyes and went to bed, Grimes writes, “At midnight, I stretched my arms out to slip the darkness on.” There is also humor in the poem, “Now my mother taught me to use my head for more then a hat rack.”

The illustrations by Floyd Cooper also deserve praises for the use of colors to show emotions within the characters. The illustration that pertains to the poem “The Bad Good-Bye” is especially touching, showing the hurt on Zuri’s face as her best friend explains that she is leaving for the summer. I also liked how the illustrations are not perfectly crisp in terms of objects. It makes you look harder as if you are peering into the windows of these girls life. This book would be appealing to any age child as they would be able to look at the pictures and understand the story that is taking place.

*School Library Journal- “Gr 3-5-Grimes and Cooper return with another story told through poems about Danitra Brown and Zuri Jackson….All in all, however, Cooper's photo-realist artwork in soft hues against glowing backdrops is a lovely complement to the girls' many moods.”
*Publishers Weekly- “The final picture of Danitra and Zuri hugging is accompanied by a poem that's sure to ring true with other friends "A good hello/is knowing/when we're far apart,/at heart/we're still together,/and being glad/you're home again/cause that is ten times better/."
*Kirkus Reviews- “Grimes's poems read and flow well, and Cooper's paintings simply burst with energy and expressiveness. How nice for Zuri and for young readers that Danitra has returned.”

*Read the first book about Danitra Brown by Nikki Grimes. MEET DANITRA BROWN ISBN 9780688154714
*Follow up with other books about Danitra. DANITRA BROWN CLASS CLOWN ISBN 9780688172909
* Learn more about Nikki Grimes and her many awards she has received for her books, such as the Coretta Scott King Award Honor Book.
* Have students write a letter to one of their friends about their favorite summer activity.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Fireflies at Midnight

Singer, Marilyn. 2003. FIREFLIES AT MIDNIGHT. by Ken Robbins. New York: Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing. ISBN 0689824920

FIREFLIES AT MIDNIGHT by Marilyn Singer, is a poetry book that highlights 13 different animals throughout the day. You first read about the robin that is awake at Dawn and is wishing everyone a good morning. As we approach noon we read about the horse who loves to canter in the fields except in the summer months of June and July. Once the sun goes down the fireflies begin to flash their tails as they fly around searching for their summer romance. The words and phrases used by Singer makes readers want to go outside and find each animal throughout the day.

On each page Singer arranges the poems differently to reflect the animal characteristics she is describing. The Monarch Butterfly lines look as if they are flying off the page, and the Frog has lines that jump out from the rest. Although every poem doesn’t rhyme, they all seem to read very smoothly and eloquent. The otter poem does have rhyming lines that really let you imagine the otter eating lunch and playing in the pond. “Next the catch-a-quick munch/ or the leisure lunch.” The best part about this book is how each poem makes you feel so different and emotional involved in the character. While you are reading about the Red Elf you too seem frustrated that he can’t cross over the road to get to the pond. With the Ants you see the team work that all of them have to do to make objects move. My favorite line in the book really reflects that hard work attitude. “One and one and one and one/ is the best way/ to get things done.”

The layout of the book helps readers to understand the difference in poetry picture books verse a regular picture book. The left side of the page is white except for the black font of the words. Each animal name is larger, and in a different font from this rest of the poem, helping students to remember each animal. On the right sides of the pages are the amazing illustrations of the animals.

The illustrations by Ken Robbins are so real like that you think he took pictures of each animal in their natural habitat. He also uses colors that reflect the time of day each animal represents. The robin has a bright sky in its background, and the bats have a pitch dark sky only illuminated by houses in the background. The frog page is amazing with pink flowers in the pink and the moon reflecting in the water.

A 1st grade class that I read this book to had several comments about the poems and illustration. Listed below are their comments:
- “I really liked the poem about the Red Fox because I had never that animal before.”
-“The pictures were my favorite part. They looked like real pictures.”
-“I liked the poem about the Frog because it had rhyming words.”
- “My favorite part was the illustrations because there was a lot of details and pretty colors.”

*School Library Journal- “The vividly realized photo treatments are at once hyperrealistic and dreamlike, reinforcing the feeling of moments frozen in time.”
*Kirkus Review- “Singer once again captures the intrinsic character of each animal's nature or movement through innovative poetic devices: swooping rhymes describing the playful otter, a rollicking rhythm for a poem about a horse, and a strong two-beat meter for a monarch butterfly that reflects the beating pattern of its wings. She divides the 14 poems evenly between rhyming and non-rhyming works, and all of them employ unusual rhyme schemes or structures.”
*Publisher’s Weekly- “Ken Robbins's photorealistic art brings each animal into an up-close, often soft focus.”

*As a science activity have students research one of the animals in the story and create a collage of pictures and facts to share with the class.
*Read PLEASE DON”T SQUEEZE YOUR BOA, NOAH! by Marilyn Singer. ISBN 0805032770
- Compare and Contrast the different animals Singer uses in each book.
- In FIREFLIES AT MIDNIGHT, frogs, ants, bats, horses
-PLEASE DON’T SQEEZE YOUR BOA, NOAH has snakes, cats, guppy, mouse
*Have students create their own poem about an animal answering the questions: who, what, where, when, why

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Bubba The Cowboy Prince: A Fractured Texas Tale

Ketteman, Helen. 1997. BUBBA THE COWBOY PRINCE. by James Warhola. New York: Scholastic Press. ISBN 0590255061

BUBBA THE COWBOY PRINCE is a fractured Texas tale that is based on the classic Cinderella story. Bubba is a rancher who lives with his evil Stepdaddy and two brothers, Dwayne and Milton on a Texas farm. Each day Bubba works from sunup to sundown while his two brother watch on demanding him to do all the chores around the farm but he never complains. One day a beautiful woman named Miz Lurleen who lives down the road decides that she is going to throw a ball in order to find her a husband. As the day approaches for the ball, Bubba helps his two brothers get ready for the ball leaving him no time to get ready himself. Once his family leaves Bubba decides to go on a ride to clear his mind but what he finds is a fairy God Cow coming to save him. When he arrives at the ball Miz Lurleen finds her a cowboy prince that she has been looking for in Bubba.

Helen Ketteman story of BUBBA THE COWBOY PRINCE is a great change to the traditional Cinderella story that also brings the larger than life Texas culture to the story. Her writing is very simple yet engaging that makes you want to read more. I also enjoyed the vocabulary she used to make the story more realistic within the Texas culture: cowpatties, steer, stockyards, Stetson hat, etc. The story is also written in a way that both girls and boys would like this book and relate to characters in the story. It is also nice to see a boy as the main character that is not prince charming or coming to save a troubled girl.

The illustrations by James Warhola are outstanding and really make this story come to life. The drawings are extremely detailed and he uses lots of bright colors within each page. The animals on each page really represent the other main characters in this story. Also, if you look closely you will see the fairly God Cow lurking on all the pages, sometimes in the barn, over Miz Lurleen fire place and behind the cactus. The illustrations are just wonderful!

*Children’s Literature- “The paintings are brightly colored and fanciful, with wonderful perplexed expressions on the rest of the cattle when the fairy godcow shows up. Great fun and a wonderful twist on the Cinderella story.”
*Publisher’s Weekly- “Just the ticket for buckaroos lookin’fer a good read.”
*School Library Journal- “This is a fun-filled story….”

*Have students complete a story map of the characters, setting, problem and solution for the story.
*Read other versions of the Cinderella story with the students and compare and contrast the different version.
-Sanderson, Ruth. CINDERELLA. ISBN 0316779652
by Ed Young. ISBN 039920900

Monday, February 16, 2009

The Greatest of All: A Japanese Folktale

Kimmel, Eric A. 1991. THE GREATEST OF ALL: JAPANESE FOLKTALE. by Giora Carmi. New York: Holiday House, Inc. ISBN 082340885

Eric Kimmel retells an old Japanese folktale called THE GREATEST OF ALL which is based on THE WEDDING MOUSE. As a young mouse comes to her father to ask if she can get married the father begins his journey to find the perfect mate for his daughter. Since the mouse lives in the emperors’ palace the mouse father believes that his daughter deserves to marry the greatest of all in the country. After speaking with the emperor, the sun, cloud, wind and wall the father finally meets the perfect match for his daughter.

This old folktale is a great story about realizing the best thing for you is not always what you expect. As Father Mouse hears from his daughter that she wants to marry a field mouse the pride of the father gets in the way of his daughters wishes. Throughout the adventure of Father Mouse he comes to realize that even who he thinks is most powerful has objects that are greater then him. For example, the sun must hide his face when the clouds appear. As father mouse encounters each great object the same rhyme is said by each, “I am sorry, Father Mouse I cannot marry Chuko. There is one who is greater than I.”

The illustrations by Giora Carmi use traditional Japanese clothing for the mouse’s and bright colors of red, yellows and blues. There is also a personal touch with the sun, cloud, wind and wall giving them faces to make them feel real. I also enjoyed how the illustrator would give a small preview of the picture on the page before. This will allow students to predict what they think is going to happen next.

*Publisher’s Weekly- “Warm colors and distinctive texture mark Carmi's illustrations, which include effective renderings of the anthropomorphic natural elements.”
*Children’s Literature- “Superb details abound in the full-page sketches providing the particulars on ancient Japanese architecture, costume, and design.”

* Have students read the original folktale of THE WEDDING MOUSE in Yochiko Uchida’s collection of stories, and compare and contrast that version to Eric Kimmel’s version. THE DANCING KETTLE by Yochiko Uchida’s ISBN-13 9780887390142
* Read other book about the Japanese culture from Eric Kimmel: SWORD OF THE SAMURAI: ADVENTURE STORIES FROM JAPAN. IBN 0152019852 THREE SAMURAI CATS ISBN 0439692563
*Learn more about Haiku poems like the one the emperor wrote on the wedding day.

And the Green Grass Grew All Around

Schwartz, Alvin. 1992. AND THE GREEN GRASS GREW ALL AROUND: FOLK POETRY FROM EVERYONE. by Susan G. Truesdell. USA: HarperCollins Publishers. ISBN 0060227583

Alvin Schwartz book AND THE GREEN GRASS GREW ALL AROUND is a collection of rhymes, riddles, folk poems and songs that both children and adults will enjoy. The book is broken down into chapters by subjects like food, school, and rise and shine. Whether you are just learning these riddles or remembering them from your childhood anyone will smile when reading this book.

Alvin Schwartz book’s is easy to read as well as fun to read with the entire family. The book is broken down into chapters which make it simple to find your favorite riddle or rhyme in the book. There is also a very helpful section that details the riddles and the origin of where they come from. Also, sheet music is included in the chapters so readers could sing the riddles to the correct hymn. What I like about this book is that it brings back memories from when you are a child singing these rhymes and riddles on the playground and you have a complete collection of all of them in one book. The only negative is that it is hard to tell when a riddle ends and a new one begins because there are three or four on some pages.

Sue Trusedell illustrations are just perfect for this book. They are simple black and white pictures yet very detail in terms of the facial expressions and props to go along with the riddles. She also makes them very funny which kids will like and want to keep reading to see what the next character is going to do. The illustrations will also help younger children who are not able to read yet understand what the words are saying.

* Children’s Literature- “Perhaps the best collection of folk rhymes I have seen, this award-winning compilation covers many childhood favorites, such as "Do your ears hang low? Do they wobble to and fro?" and "Here comes the bride/Big, fat, and wide."
* The Horn Book Magazine- “Full of vigorous, swinging rhythms and funny, often nasty, sentiments, the pages are filled with well known rhymes as well as new discoveries.”
* School Library Journal- “A marvelous book that is sure to become a classic…”

* In one work station write out the lines to several rhymes and riddles on sentence strips and have the students put them in the correct order and then write the riddle in a poetry folder.
* On a recorder have the music to Turkey in the Straw and let students sing the different rhymes that go along with the hymn. Have the words to:
-Do your Ears Hang Low, page 6
-The Cow kicked Nelly in the Belly, page 76
-Did you ever go Fishing on a Bright Summer Day, page 124
-Have the students create their own lyrics
* Have a writing workshop to compare and contrasts two different poems.

Monday, February 9, 2009

A Caldecott Celebration

Marcus, Leonard. 2008. A CALDECOTT CELEBRATION: SEVEN ARTIST AND THEIR PATHS TO THE CALDECOTT MEDAL. New York: Walker Publishing Company. ISBN 9780802797032

Leonard Marcus’s book on the Caldecott Medal gives a brief look on seven amazing illustrators that have won this prestigious award oven the past seven decades. The Randolph Caldecott medal is given to children’s book illustrators that have demonstrated exceptional drawings from the previous year. In this book Marcus focuses on Robert McCloskey, Marcia Brown, Maurice Sendak, William Steig, Chris Van Allsburg, David Wiesner, and Mordicai Gerstein. Each author explains the inspiration they had behind writing and drawing each story as well as a short biography about themselves.

This is a wonderful book that is both informational and interesting to read. You get to step behind the scenes with the authors on their path to making an award winning book. The illustrations from the book show the first steps in creating the drawing from the book and explains how the author created the figures. Some used real life subject and others used plastic animals. This book is a great resource for children 3rd-5th grade wanting to learn more about how illustrations are made. The one draw back for children is that it is a little lengthy and written to a more adult audience.

* School Library Journal- “Teachers, librarians, and parents will find a source of inspiration here.”
* Starred Review in Booklist- “It is hard to image any issue that he has overlooked, and the resulting book is, in a word, 'indispensable.”
* Starred Review in Horn Book- “…For anyone associated with children's books or, indeed, for anyone interested in our social and intellectual history, this is an enthralling and richly rewarding read."

* Gather the 7 books by the credited authors and conduct a group read aloud on each book. Then discuss book ideas and describe the illustrations.
* In one of the center station display books and have student do a Venn Digram about 2 of the illustrators.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Big Jabe

Nolen, Jerdine. 2000. BIG JABE. Lothrop, Lee & Shepard Book, New York, NY. Illustrator: Kadir Nelson. ISBN 0688136621

The story begins with a young boy listening to one of Momma Mary stories where she speaks about slavery on Plenty Plantation and how one man named Jabe changed the lives of so many. Jabe story begins when a young slave girl named Addy finds him floating in a basket down the river. After planting a very special tree down by the river, Jabe begins to work on the plantation just like any other slave. Jabe though is not an ordinary man, he is stronger, bigger and works harder then 10 men combined and some how lets his people escape slavery.

Big Jabe is a story that is inspiring to read. The author Jerdine Nolen takes a very familiar tall tale and relates it to slavery and freedom that every generation can relate too. The setting of this story is on the Plenty Plantation which reflects what a working plantation in that time would look and feel like. You also get a real sense as to the way slaves were treated on cotton farms. The strength of this book to use in an elementary classroom is that there are many teachable aspects: tall tales, slavery, plantations or farms, and freedom.

The illustrations by Kadir Nelson are breathtaking. Mr. Nelson is able to represent every emotion a person can feel by drawing them into his pictures. The reader can also see how strong Jabe was compared to normal men by the illustration of Jabe carrying loads of cotton bags. The ways colors are used also create the mood and feelings of the slaves on the plantation. Whether it is blues and green or gray and brown the reader can understand the emotions of the characters in the book.

* Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books- “Nelson's illustrations evoke a sense of bucolic beauty…”
* Publishers Weekly- “….use superhuman elements to distill all-too-human truths, and empower the audience to confront an unbearable history and come away with hope.”
* School Library Journal- “Nolen's writing draws readers into the narrative and presents the magical aspects matter-of-factly.”

* Lead conversation with students about what they know about slavery and freedom. Other books on slavery by same illustrator: MOSES WHEN HARRIET TUBMAN LED HER PEOPLE TO FREEDOM by Carole Boston Weatherford. ISBN 97807868517592
* Series on Tall Tales and their characters: AMERICAN TALL TALES by Mary Pope Osborne and illustrations by Michael McCurdy. ISBN 9780679800897
* Have students write about different character and what made them special.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

The Man Who Walked Between The Towers

Gerstein, Mordicai. 2003. THE MAN WHO WALKED BETWEEN THE TOWERS. Roaring Brook Press. ISBN 0761317910

Philippe Petit is a young French man who is skilled at many things like dancing, juggling, riding a unicycle and tight roping. While watching the World Trade Center towers in New York being built, Philippe has an idea to walk along a rope between the towers over 200 stories high. In the middle of the night Philippe and several friends sneak into the towers and begin to construct the cable rope. After several small mistakes Philippe finally ties the cable and begins the very high and long walk.

Mordicai Gerstein’s Caldecott Medal book is both entertaining and educational. Based on a true story of Philippe Petit who loves to entertain children and adults with his unique talents we watch him conquer the World Trade Center which is also a very pivotal character in this picture book. Once deciding that Philippe wants to take the risk of walking between the towers the reader goes on an exciting adventure to see if Philippe can walk the cable and what will be the consequence of his actions. The writing of the book is very simple and straightforward but you want to turn the page to see what happens next. The illustrations that Mr. Gersteain drew are extremely detailed and help create the mood of the book. What I love is the reaction on the people’s faces as they see Philippe walking across the New York style. Also, on the last several pages you are able to open the page to get an additional illustration that makes reading this book even more exciting. The illustrations also give you a true sense of the New York atmosphere and setting.

* Kirkus Reviews- “Readers of all ages will return to this again and again for its history, adventure, humor, and breathtaking homage to extraordinary buildings and a remarkable man.” * School Library Journal- “Gorgeous oil-and-ink paintings capture the aerialist's spirited feat and breathtaking perspectives high above Manhattan harbor.”
* Publishers Weekly- “Gerstein's dramatic paintings include some perspectives bound to take any reader's breath away.”

* Read other books on Philippe Petit: MAN ON A WIRE by Philippe Petit. ISBN 9781602393325. Also a movie the students could watch.
* Create a timeline about Philippe Petit’s life with illustrations.
* Other books for children on tight rope walking: MIRETTE ON THE HIGH WIRE by Emily Arnold McCully. ISBN 9780698114432. HAROLD’S CIRCUS by Crockett Johnson. ISBN 9780064430241.
* Have students brainstorm if they could set a world record what would it be and how did it feel after you set the record. Example, I ate 500 hotdogs in 2 minutes and afterwards I didn’t feel very well but I was very excited.