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