Monday, May 5, 2008


by Cynthia Kadohata

I know that as I go through life, I will not understand all that happens in the world or even in my own life. The evaucation and interment of Japanese Americans fits this case of not understanding. However, after thinking about this a little while, I believe that I can relate this to a certain situation of today. Instead of the issue being Pearl Harbor and the Japanese, it is the case of September 11 and Muslims. I know many Americans who looked at Muslims in America with skepticism and a hate to some degree. I do not think that any people group should be judged in this way. Thank goodness America has not treated the Muslims the way that Japanese Americans were treated in 1944. I was suprised as I read these internment camps were called America's concretation camps, and the U.S. did not realize they were doing the exact same thing as the Nazis! This broke and angered my heart as I realized the extravagent injustice the 120,00 Japanese Americans faced as they were placed in these internment camps.
Something else I had troube understanding was that even though America was in war with Germany and Italy at the time, this order of relocation did not apply to German Americans and Italian Americans. Why is this?
As I have read Weedflower, I have tried to place myself in Sumiko and her family's situation. However, I do not think that I can even begin to feel the sorrow and loss that they faced.
Sumiko reminds me of many twelve year old girls as she dreams, imagines, and longs to be accepted by other girls her age. I believe that we all can connect with Sumiko when her grandfather says that her head is divided in half: the half that likes to work and the half that likes to daydream. As Sumiko daydreams and anticipates Marsha's upcoming party, I was excited for her. When she was told to leave by Marsha's mother, I wanted to scream "NO! NO!"
My heart broke for Sumiko. I can only imagine the hurt that she must have felt. Students can connect with Sumiko here, for surely they have looked foward to an event, maybe a party or dance. They can then imagine what Sumiko must have felt as she was told to leave and embarrassed in front of her classmates! This is also a great way for students to understand that all peoples desire friendship and realize that what happened to Sumiko is a great example of social injustice. She was not allowed into the party because she was Japanese. Is this fair?
Students can also learn about Japanese traditions, customs, and religion through Sumiko's family. I found the bath ritual very interesting! Sumiko starts a fire under the bathtub to get the water warm. The order of the family bathing is in order of age, which starts with the men. Before anyone can take a bath, they must wash themselves off with a sponge, soap, and a bucket of water. Sumiko and her auntie are the last two to get a bath and in order to save water, the bath water is not changed every time! The bathtub water is Sumiko's job as well as grading flowers, which her uncle says that only she can do because of her gentle and quick hands. Sumiko is a very hard worker and seems to enjoy what she does. She loves being on the flower farm. She knows that her family are very dependent on the flowers and she seems to cherish them. When Sumiko is in the internment camp, her demeanor greatly changes. She often speaks of the "ultimate boredom" and how lazy she has become because there is no work to do. I can only imagine how much she misses her home and life on the beautiful flower farm. In fact, in the relocation camp, Mrs. Ono receives a letter from the new owner of her house telling her that she will take care of her dog until her release. Sumiko says that reading a letter seeing the sky. "It gave her so much hope , it seemed like a miracle." I also can not imagine selling all my possessions...what about setting afire all that may "look" American? Sumiko and her family had to burn anything that was Japanese including the picture of Sumiko's parents. I wanted to cry when Baba was sold because Tak-Tak's heart was broken. Tak-Tak loved Baba. Sumiko sat with him in the hay for an hour, until his sobs turned to whimpers. When they went inside they found their beds had been sold. Is there any possible way that we can begin to imagine what they are facing? I do not think so.
Students can learn a bit about the Buddhist religion through Sumiko's family. For example, Buddhists believe that you suffer in this life so you can learn and be a better person in the next life. Also, even though Buddhists do not believe in Jesus Christ, they celebrate Christmas by getting a tree and giving gifts.
Tak-Tak carrying pet crickets for good luck introduces an interesting concept in Japanese culture.
The Japanes Americans must have felt much like the Aleutians in that they felt unwanted wherever they were taken. On the way from the racetrack to Poston, they had to ride on a train in almost complete darkness because the Japanese were told to pull down the blinds. When Sumiko drew one up, she found people throwing rocks at the train and she did not understand what they did wrong. Sumiko realizes that they are not wanted in California, the racetrack, and now they are not wanted even at Poston because the internment camp is on an Indian reservation.
I would also challenge students to place themselves in the poistion of Sumiko and Tak-Tak as they step off the train in a whole new area, not knowing what to expect. They must have been very fearful in the dust storm, when the bus had to stop and was surrounded by brown dust. When they arrive in Poston, Tak-Tak says, "What's that? It feels weird in the air." He did not understand what hot was because they had never experienced a hotness like this. Sumiko says that it was like the heat from the fire was always blowing around instead of staying in one spot. Poston is the Colorado Relocation Center which contains 3 camps and will hold more that 17,000 Japanese Americans. There was 14 barracks to a block and each barrack was 20 feet by 100 feet. This area would hold four families. They Japanese tried to make the best of their life here, making clubs such as the sewing clubs, starting recreation groups and tournaments and planting gardens. This also reminds me of how the Aleutians made the best of their situation in the camps by storytelling, worshiping, and dancing.
The ending of Chapter 15 gives us a glimpse into Sumiko's character; "For Sumiko, her whole life, from the day she was born, had been a lesson in how to change your lot by accepting it and learning from it." Sumiko has had a trying life-her parents dying when she was young, doing her best to be a hard worker on the farm, trying to take care of her younger brother Tak-Tak, and now being torn away from her beautiful flower farm. Sumiko has dreams, much like all of us, and her dream is to go to college and get her business degree so she could run her flower shop. However, now she feels as if her dream is gone. Her dreams have been crushed because she has been torn away the farm she loves, from the life she shared with her family in California. In the middle of the desert, it is hard for Sumiko to imagine her dream ever coming true.
How would we feel if our dreams were made to dissapear due to circumstances beyond our control?
Sumiko learned how to make the best of her life in camp. She found joy in gardening, and this gave her something to look foward to each day. She tried her best to help Mr. Moto grow flowers and beans. She made shade for the flowers with cheesecloth and put organic matter around the flowers, just like Bull told her to. When her flowers blossemed, they were the colors of the rainbow! I can only imagine the joy that Sumiko felt as she was able to experience a little bit of home in the middle of the desert. When Sumiko and Mr. Moto won third place in the competition, I was very excited for them! Sumiko had even prepared a speech in case they won first place.
Sumiko's friendship with Frank reminded me of the friendship with Vera and Alfred in Aleutian Sparrow. Both pairs have feelings for each other that go beyond friendship. Both have to comfort each other and encourage each other through difficuilt times. However, while Vera and Alfred are both Aleutians, Sumiko and Frank are not of the same ethnic group. While Sumiko is Japanese, Frank is a Mohave Indian. Sumiko is even a bit afraid for other Japanese to know about her friendship. When Frank does come to camp, Sumiko fights for him, hitting a boy in the face with a piece of wood when he was trying to beat Frank. She believes that because she had protected Frank, she felt like he was now officially and defintley her friend. Students can be asked about their friendhships. Do they have friends who are willing to do what Sumiko did for Frank? Will their friends defend them and sacrifice for them? Why is this such an important part of being a good friend? Friendship can also be related to India in Winn Dixie. She became friends with those who were not just like her didn't she? She befriended Otis, Miss Fannie, Gloria Dump, Amanda, and the Dunlap boys. While they were not all exactly like, they develped trughful friendships. Students should understand that it is wonderful and rewarding to make friends with those who are not exactly like they are!
Students can also be asked to write about whether they think that Sumiko and Frank will continue to be friends. Even though Sumiko is leaving, will they write each other? Will Sumiko wear the bracelet Frank gave her every day? Where will Frank put the samuri that Frank gave her. The teacher may even want to ask the students to make pretend letters that Sumiko and Frank may have written to each other.
Weedflower is truly a wonderful historical fiction book. Students are able to place themselves in this time period through the eyes of Sumiko. They can realize the sorrow that the Japanese faced. The facts from the past become living, breathing drama, significant beyond thier own time. Students are able to perceive past events and issues as they were experienced by the people at the time. Therefore, this is a great historical fiction novel, which should be read by all elementary school students during the teaching of WWII.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Becoming You

Becoming Naomi Leon
Written by Pam Munoz Ryan
Scholastic, Inc. 2004
Multicultural Literature, 3-5

Summary: Namoi Soledad Leon Outlaw lives with her great-grandmother and younger brother in their tralier "Baby Beluga" at the Avocado Acres Trailer Rancho. Naomi shares all her struggles, fears, feelings, and doubts as she faces the suprises and the worries of each day. She stuggles with feeling accepted at school, for she is teased at school by boys who make fun of her last name, and she does not feel accepted by the girls, because Naomi feels that she is too different from them to be accepted. She has "a mop of unruly brown hair, brown eyes, and milky brown skin." Her father is from Mexico and her mother is from America. Naomi's life changes drastically when her mother suddenly appears in her life. She has never met her mother, who has changed her name and has been in and out of rehab centers and "halfway houses" due to drinking. Her mother wants Naomi to move to California with her and her boyfriend, Clive, but Naomi takes a stand againist her, telling her no. Her mother, Skyla, then slaps her sharply across the face. To get away from Skyla and Clive, Gram, Naomi, Owen, Fabiola, and Bernardo (their friends and neighbors) traveled to Oaxoca, Mexico to stay with Fabiola's sister, husband, daughter, and her son. Naomi enjoys her life here very much and has her heart set on finding her father, who she desperatly wants to meet, for he can help Gram as she seeks legal custody of Naomi and Owen. Naomi finally gets to meet him at the Festival of the Radishes (La Noche de los Rabanos). He holds her and Owen, crying over the time lost. He spends much time with them over the next few days before they must return to California for the court day. On this day, Naomi remembers to be brave like her Father told her, and she tells the judge why she does not want to live with her mother; why she belongs with Gram and Owen. The judge grants Gram custody of the children. Naomi's life will never be the same, and she has overcome her doubts, fears, and worries. Through these trials of her life, she has become Naomi the Lion, a girl strong enough to become who she is meant to be.

Response: When I first began reading this book, I was not sure what the plot or the theme of the story was or what this book would be teaching students. As the story progressed, I fell in love with the characters Naomi and Owen. I respected Gram and her faithfulness and love that she has for her great-grandchildren as if they are her own.

Naomi faces situations in school that all girls her age encounter: teasing, acceptance by other girls, and finding who she is. However, Naomi faces other issues that will give students different perspectives. Such as what it is like to look different and not feel accepted by others at school. Students should come to the realization that even though we may look different, all have a desire to be accepted and loved. Everyone is special and unique! Naomi living with her grandmother will also open a door for students to see a new perspective and to connect with Naomi. The desires and dreams that Naomi has for meeting her parents are experienced by children who may live with a grandparent and have probably never even been thought about by children who live with their parents.

The character of Owen can teach students so much! Even though Owen is different and teased at school, he always looks on the bright side! He is always positive! For example, when Owen is teased at school, people calling him retard and pulling the tape off of Owen's chest, he falls down to the ground. When he gets back up, he smiles and says to Naomi, "I fell down on purpose. They didn't mean it, they were just teasing." Owen is very, very smart, but he was born with a few birth defects. One leg is shorter than the other, making him walk with a bit of a hobble. Owen does not let this stop him from making the best of life. Owen is also not afraid to be himself. He always wears tape across his chest, for he greatly likes tape. It does not matter who makes fun of him or who tells him to stop wearing tape, he continues to wear his tape. Even when Owen goes to the doctor because of his impairments, he is happy because he gets to see the doctors who have become his friends. Owen also greatly cares for his older sister, Naomi. When he is sad, he does all that he can to cheer her up and reassure her. In Mexico, he and Ruben do their best to help her find their father by working as a team, calling all the Santigo's in the phonebook. When they thought that they could not find him, Owen said, "It's oaky, Naomi. It's oaky." Owen is always himself, caring for others, looking on the positive side, and He does not care what others think or say about him!

This book qualifies as a great multicultural book, because it introduces students to new perspectives and allows students to understand and empathize with people who are different from themselves. The universality of Naomi's experiences allows students to find connections across cultures. Naomi demonstrates many differences in that she is a minority student in her school, lives with her grandmother, and has a younger brother who needs special medical attention. Many differnt views of the Mexican culture and ways of life are introduced, for when Naomi goes to Mexico, the book focuses on the Mexican culture.

Pam Munoz Ryan presents cultural details authentically and multidimensionally. This means that specific details have been illuminated and reflected upon. Some of these specific cultural markers include the description of the layout and houses in Mexico. I was suprised when Naomi said, "the size and conditon of some of the houses made Baby Beluga look like a mansion." (page 171). Naomi also describes the city as being on a mesa, or a tabletop. Many spanish words and concepts are introduced through the book, and they are all integrated naturally! For example, Spanish words and meanings are included whenever possible! When they first arrive, Bernardo tells them that "barrio" means neighborhood. The details of the city also help to create a sense of the culture. The streets in town are narrow and bumpy because the ground is set with stones in cement. The many walls that divide each house creates a vivid picture of the town. The houses are small, maybe just a little bigger than Baby Beluga. Houses contain gardens, clothlines for drying laundry, and small trees growing out of brownish grass. Important cultural holidays and celebrations are also integrated very well into the book. Celebrations such as Las Pasados and La Noche de los Rabones are explained in great detail. The emotions and wonder that Naomi feels are also expressed. During the celebration of Las Pasados, Naomi begins crying for the sorrow and joy that the celebrations leads her to feel.

Ryan also includes an insider perspective (writes as a member of the culture) for the culture is explained to Naomi through Fabiola, Bernardo, Graciela, and Ruben. They explain the importance of Las Pasados and La Noche de los Rabones. The family also explains small details fo the culture such as how to shop in the market, or el mercado, and the concept that men do make the wood carvings and the women paint them. Naomi remembers the mobile that hung over her head when she was a baby that her Father made for her. At her great-aunt's Tereasa's house, Naomi gets to see the many animals and wood creations that her father has made. She believes that she is a carver, just like her father, for she is constantly carving soap.

Teaching Ideas: Naomi greatly enjoys to carve soap. She is proud of what she creates! Teachers can use this as a way to encourage students to seek out actvities that they enjoy. Students can also be encouraged to try new activties such as sewing, cross-stitching, art, sports, learning a musical instrument, dance, and so many others! Teacher can even help students as they try to soap carve as a class.

Students will enjoy looking at slides and pictures of the celebration of Noche do Rabones (Night of the Radishes). This will better help them become more knowledable about the celebration how so many creations and figures can be made from radishes!

Students can also look at pictures of Oaxaca, Mexico in order to better understand what the city would look like. They could then compare the images that they found the descriptions in the book.

Naomi makes lists on just about everything and anything! Students may enjoy also doing this. They can be given about 2 days to create at least three lists on anything that they would like! Their lists could be about anything from "The funny things my dog does" to "The funny things my little sister says." Naomi does make a list of "Things I Am Good At." This should be done by each student, for this will encourage them and give them a chance to share about themselves with their classmates.

Becoming Naomi Leoni is a book to use to introduce students to the Mexican culture as well as allow them to see different perspectives through Naomi!

Sunday, April 20, 2008


The Great Frog Race and Other Poems
Written by Kristine O’Connell George
Illustrated by Kate Kiesler
Clarion Books, 1997
Poetry, Picture book K-5

Spring Wind

Smelling of lavender,
softly fluttering the curtains,
she looked inside,
then floated in
for tea.

She sat in the wing chair,
Long elegant fingers
tracing linen lilacs.

After tea
she whispered her thanks,
lifted her silk skirts,
and rustled away.

This poem gives the simple character of wind a new description for wind is given the quality of a human which is personification. The image created by this poem is very vivid! I can just imagine sitting by the window, feeling the wind and smelling the smell of lavender while drinking tea. The wind is given person qualities, for the poem says that the wind looks, sat, has elegant fingers, whispers, and lifts her skirts. While younger children may not like this poem because it does not contain humor and contains visual imagery, older students would be able to appreciate the imagery and unique description of the wind.

Little Dog Poems
By Kristine O’Connell George
Illustrated by June Otani
Clarion Books, 1999
Poetry, K-3

Cold Nose

Little Dog’s cold nose
is better than any
alarm clock.


Little Dog barks
to call me
to witness
the triumph-
one cornered beetle.


Little Dog tugs
an enormous pillow
all the way across the room
to sit beside the fire
with me.


No one will ever guess
that the lump under my blanket is
Little Dog.

These poems are very precious and are great for younger children because they contain humor and familiar experiences with pets. The fact that these poems are told from a narrative point-of-view makes them appeal to younger children. The images created with the narrative poems are easy for students to create. They can just imagine Little Dog as he is waking the little girl up in the morning, as he is barking at a beetle, and pulling the pillow across the room to sit beside his friend.


Hopscotch Love: A Family Treasury of Love Poems
Written by Nikki Grimes
Lothrop, Lee, & Shepard Books, 1999
Poetry, K-2

Christmas Valentine

I asked Mama
What she wanted
For Christmas
“Honey,” she said
“All I want is you.”
But I’m way too big
To fit under the tree
So, when she
Wasn’t looking
I snuck into
Her sewing room
For scraps of velvet,
Gold ribbon, and lace.
And got my tracing paper
From out of my desk
And grabbed the glue.
Then two days later
I gave Mama
Her very first
Christmas valentine.
I’d pasted my picture
Smack in the middle.
And I could swear a little tear
Ran down her cheek
When I said,
“Merry Christmas, Mama.”

This poem is so sweet and I believe that students could relate to this poem because all children enjoying creating masterpieces for their loved ones.
Nikki Grime’s collection of poems are truly unique and as she says, “Most of my material derives from a lifelong discipline of observing people around me, both young and old.”
The image that this poem creates is one of love and determination. Readers can just imagine the young child creating the Christmas Valentine with a determined look on his/her face. Readers can also imagine the tear that falls down the Mother’s face. The form of the poem affects the look of the poem, the readers’ progress through them, and the emphasis given to some of the words. The form of this poem is similar to that of a list, which leads students to have to read one line at a time, making it easier for students who may be beginner readers. I also believe that this poem offers insight, leading students to say, “Yes! That’s it!” Readers can see how special and meaningful it is to make a card or note for someone who they deeply care about.

The Mirror of Erised from Harry Potter

The Mirror was Erised is a mirror that is unlike any other mirror. When someone looks into this mirror, they see the desires of their heart. When Harry looked into the mirror of Erised, he saw his parents smiling and waving to him. This is what he had always desired, for his parents had died when he was just a baby.

If I were to look into the mirror of Erised, I believe that I would see quite a few different things. First and foremost, I beleive that I would see a cross, because my desire is to live my faith in Jesus Christ-to live each day to praise him and fall more in love with Him. Yes, many times a day I fail at this, but this is truly the desire of my heart. I would also see the word "Love", because I hope to love all those around me. My family, friends, classmates, and above all, the Lord. But the word "Love" also represents my desire to fall in love someday and be married.
I believe that I would also see children from all around the world smiling and waving at me, for I have a strong desire to adopt children from all around the world who may not have a loving home. Or if I can not adopt, I hope that I can travel to where hurting children are and just love on them!

Harry Potter and the Sorcer's Stone

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone
Written by J.K. Rowling
Scholastic Inc., 1998
Fantasy, 3-5

Summary: Harry Potter is an extraordinary child. As a child, he survived the attack of Voldemort, the most evil wizard of all time. Voldemort killed Harry’s parents but did not kill Harry, for his mother’s love saved Harry because she sacrificed her life for Harry to live. Harry was taken to live with his Aunt and Uncle Dursley and their son Dudley. Harry’s aunts and uncles are Muggles, which are ordinary humans with no magical powers. As Harry grows up, he has no idea that he has any magical powers, even though strange things seem to happen at times. For example, when he was at the zoo with the Dursley’s, a snake opened his eyes and winked at Harry, who had asked the snake if he got tired of people tapping on the glass and ever wanted to return to his hometown. Before Harry knew it, the snake was gliding across the floor, the glass of the cage not even broken. Harry was mistreated by his family. He had to live in the cupboard and was at times treated like he was not even there. Dudley and his friends would bully and tease Harry. When Harry began to get letters in abundance, his uncle would not let Harry look at them. The letters eventually would overflow from the windows and doors of the house, and still Harry would not get to read his letters. Uncle Vernon tried to run away from the letters but wherever they went, the letters followed them. Soon Hagrid found Harry. Hagrid is a giant and is the groundskeeper of Hogwarts,which is the school of witchcraft and wizardy. He is surprised and a bit mad that Harry did not know anything about the letters or even that he was a wizard! The letters that have been following Harry informed Harry that he had been informed he was accepted at the school. Harry then left Hagrid to get books, wands, supplies, and an owl for school. On the way to school he makes a new friend named Ron Weasely. Harry was amazed that Hogwarts was a magnificent castle. Harry and Ron were placed in the same house, the Gryffindor house. Here they met Hermione, who would become a great friend. Harry soon realized that Draco Malfoy was a bully, for he continued to tease Harry, Ron, and Hermione. Harry also realized that one of his professors, Snape, was set on humiliating Harry to show how he disliked Harry. Harry soon became the “Seeker” of the Quidditch team. This was an honor, for first-years were never Seekers. They must be very fast and speedy on the broomstick , which Harry was. For Christmas, Dumbledore, the headmaster of the university, gave Harry an indivisibility cloak that was his Father’s. Soon Harry and Ron found a forbidden hallway on accident and find that a three-headed dog is there, guarding something. Harry also found the Mirror of Erised. When he looked into this mirror, he could see his parents smiling and waving at him. When he goes back, Dumbledore is there, and he tells Harry that he must not come back, for the mirror will start to control him. The mirror shows one his most desperate desire of their hearts. Soon, Harry, Ron, and Hermione found what the three headed dog was hiding-the sorcer’s stone which is a stone that makes stone and allow someone to live an everlasting life. Harry, Ron, and Hermione were given detention and had to go with Hagrid into the forbidden forest to find what was hunting the unicorns. Harry finds a bleeding unicorn and sees a hooded figure eating the unicorn. The hooded figure then came swiftly toward Harry and the scar on his forehead was unbearable, for the hooded figure was Voldermort. When Harry awoke, he was knew he had to save the sorcer’s stone, for if Voldermort got the stone, he could rise back to power, which would be dark and evil. Harry, Hermione, and Ron work together to overcome the many different chambers and spells that they must get through to get to the stone. When Harry arrives to the last chamber, he finds Quirrel there, who was helping Voldermort. The Mirror of Erised was also there and when Harry looked in it, he felt the stone being slid into his pocket. Just as Voldermort was trying to kill Harry, Dumbldore came and saved him. The stone was then destroyed forever. Harry’s bravery and courage had stopped Voldermort from rising to power again. Harry, Ron, and Hermione then have to go back home for the summer break and Harry can’t wait to use what he has learned on his cousin Dudley.

Response: When I first began reading Harry Potter, I was not excited. I went into reading this book with some hesitation, for I had trouble imagining a book that contained witches and wizards to be excellent, as reviews and peers have told me. However, after reading the first book of the series, I felt very differently about Harry Potter. This book is more than just witches and wizards, it is about sacrifice, friendship, acceptance, and courage. Harry Potter can teach many lessons to children through his character. Even though Harry was not accepted by his peers or the Durselys, but he did not lose confidence in himself. The way that the Durselys treated Harry was horrifying. I felt compassion for Harry and wanted to see him succeed. Harry is a character who all students can relate to-he has to convince himself that he is a wizard as well as the readers. He, like the students are surprised and amazed at this magical world. Even though Harry is a wizard, he deals with issues that all students must face: friendships, homework, bullies, and standing up for what you believe in.

For me, the theme of friendship is dominant throughout the book. When Harry first meets Ron, he is very open to Harry and asks him all sorts of questions. Harry answers his questions patiently and even shares many of his sweets with Ron. Ron and Harry soon become great friends. They also become good friends with Hermione. When they hear that she is upset and might be in danger because of the troll, they set off to find her even though they were not supposed to. The two boys rescue Hermione from the troll and she tells the professors that it was her fault, because she thought that she could overcome the troll herself. Really, she was in the bathroom crying because Ron had hurt her feelings. Nonetheless, she took the blame and from that point on, Hermione, Ron, and Harry became close friends. They share secrets and fears with each other-Harry tells them that he believes that Snape does not like him. During the Quidditch match, Harry’s broom becomes to get out of his control, and Hermione looks over at Snape and thinks that he is putting a type of curse on Harry’s broom. Hermione sneaks over to him and sets fire to his robe, breaking the spell on Harry’s broom. Harry, Ron, and Hermione work as a team to help Hagrid get rid of his pet dragon, who is causing quite a bit of trouble and to solve the mystery of the Sorcerer’s stone. I believe that Ron demonstrates a true act of friendship, for he is willing to give himself over to the white chess queen. This was an act of sacrifice, for this had to be done in order for Harry to be able to advance to the next chamber. Ron was stuck hard in the head with the stone arm of the queen and knocked out. Harry and Hermione work together to solve the problem of which potion to drink in order to get through the flames. Hermione throws her arms around Harry, telling him to be careful, thanking him for his friendship and bravery.

Indeed, Harry Potter fits the characteristics of high fantasy because he is a hero who is compassionate, courageous, humane and who accomplishes good deeds. Harry becomes deeply involved in the struggle between good and evil, where eventually the entire “good” world was at stake. Harry is a hero who overcomes evil due to his pure heart and bravery.

Teaching Ideas: Students from all ages learn or gain insight from reading Harry Potter. For example, Ashley Rhodes, who is 20 years old, says, “Harry was the first fictional character I could relate to, which is why these books changed my life.” Daniel Boyce, age 12, says, “I think one of the best, most long-lasting ways it has affected my life is that it has taught me how to enjoy reading.” Students can be asked to write an essay or a paragraph about what they have learned or gained from reading Harry Potter. Other ideas include making a brochure about Hogwarts School in which they introduce professors, the different houses, or what the environment around the school looks like. Students can also do a character sketch where they describe each character, and discuss which character they believe they are most like or can relate to. Students can also make models of clay, pictures, or paintings of the many different characters that are introduced by this book. For example, students can make a model of what they believe the three-headed dog, the centaurs in the forest, the troll, unicorn, or Norbeck the Dragon. Students could also make a model of the type of wand that they would like to have, and decorate it any way that they would like!

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Hottest, Coldest, Highest, Deepest

Hottest, Coldest, Highest, Deepest
Written and Illustrated by Steve Jenkins
Houghton Mifflin Company, 1998
Picture Book, Informational Text 2-5

Wow! The facts presented in this book are absolutely amazing and can teach any age! Readers are taken to places in the world that they can imagine what life is like here. In the beginning of the book, Steve Jenkins says, "There are deserts that haven't seen rain for thousands of years, and jungles where it pours every day. There are places so cold that even in the summer it's below freezing and spots where its often hot enough to cook an egg on the ground. There are mountains many miles high and ocean trenches that are even deeper. You can find rivers thousands of miles long and waterfalls thousands of feet high." I believe that this is a great way to attract reader's attention! They will want to learn more and find out where these places are!

This book made me feel so small! In learning about these amazing natural wonders on Earth, I can not help be reminded of the great God who created this beautiful and breathtaking creation.

I was reminded of a time when I went with my family to vacation in Wyoming. We went atop Mount Washburn and I could see mountains all around me for as far as my eyes could see. To the distance in the right, I could see rain and lightening falling from the clouds. To the left, I could see patches of sunlight shining through the clouds, pouring light on certain spots on the mountains, making the mountains look a bit like a quilt. Behind me, the mountain peaks were white with snow. I remember being speechless and in awe of this beaty. I do not understand how anyone could see somthing as beatiful and wonderful as this and not believe in God as Creator and Savior.
After I read this book, I felt much the same way! I was in awe of these amazing wonders of the Earth.

Did you know that the Nile River is 4,145 miles long-the longest river in the world and that the Mississippi River is the fourth longest with 3,710 miles?

Did you know that Lake Baikal in Russia in the world's largest and deepest lake? In one spot it is 5,134 feet deep, which is 3,884 feet higher than the Empire State Building!

Did you know that the hottest spot on the planet is Al Aziziyah, Libya, in the Sahara where a temperature of 136F has been recorded? Or that the coldest place on the planet is Vostok, Antarctia where a recording of 129F has been recorded?

Did you know that the wettest place on Earth is Tutenendo, Colombia, where an average of 463 inches of rain falls a year, comparted to 72 inches being the height of a adult man?

The driest place in the world is the Atacama Desert in Chile where no rain has fallen for the last 400 years!

The windest spot on Earth is atop Mount Washington, in New Hampshire where the wind speed has reached 231 miles per hour compared to 150 mph being a severe hurricane wind.

The world's highest waterfall is Angel Falls, in Venezuela. It is 3212 feet high! Niagara Falls is only 180 feet tall! Wow!

What an amazing book that students will enjoy reading. They will be amazed by these interesting facts and enjoy the cut-paper collages made by Steve Jenkins.

Henry's Freedom Box

Henry's Freedom Box: A True Story of the Underground Railroad
Written by Ellen Levine Illustrated by Kadir Nelson
Scholastic Inc. ,2007
Picture Book, Biography K-5

Summary: Henry Brown grows up as a slave, not sure how old he is, for slaves were not allowed to know their birthdays. Growing up, Henry was able to live with his mother, brothers, and sisters, who all worked for the same master. One day his master called Henry to his bedroom and told him that he was giving Henry to his son. Henry then worked at in a tobacco factory, where he was beat if he made a mistake. One day, Henry met a slave girl in town named Nancy. Months later, Henry asked Nancy to be his wife. They had three children and were able to live together even though they had different masters. Still, Nancy was worried that their children would be sold. One day, Henry's friend James told him that his wife and children had been sold. Henry was devastated. At lunch, Henry rushed to the center of town where he saw his children and wife disappear down the road. Henry tried his best to be happy, but he just could not find a reason to sing like he used to. One day, when Henry was watching a little bird, he wondered what it would be like to be free. He then knew the answer as he lifted a crate! Henry went to Dr. Smith and his friend James who sealed him inside the crate. Dr. Smith addressed the crate to Philadephia, where slaves are free. Henry was then placed on the baggage car of a train. Hours passed and Henry was lifted and thrown down, and turned upside down. Soon he was on a ship and his crate was turned upright for two men to sit on! Still, he did not make a noise. Soon, Henry heard knocking on his crate and someone saying,"Henry, are you all right?" When he stood out of the crate, four men smiled at him, saying "Welcome to Philadephia."

Response: Wow! I did not know about Henry "Box" Brown and this is a wonderful story! I believe that this book conveys the devastation and harshness and cruelity of slavery in the aspect of families of being torn apart. I can not even begin to feel the loss and sorrow that one must have felt due to this separation.
I believe that this book does a great job creating a main character, Henry, and developing him so that children care about him and want to learn more. The fact that the book begins when he is a young child provides a way for children to relate. Henry introduces the idea of children and slavery. Henry is developed so that he is an authentic, believable human being. The illustrations make Henry and his situation seem so real! The illustrator, Kadir Nelson says that he wishes to share essential human truths in his artwork. In Nelson's interview, he says that he also wishes for everyone to understand the different emotions we have and connect them to the characters as well as ourselves. This is very true in the story of Henry. As a young boy, the emotions that are expressed are worry and sadness as he is a slave child being separted from his mother. Actually, a character does not smile at all until Henry meets Nancy, his wife. One very close-up painting of Henry shows emotion of concentration and determination, as he is working and trying not to think about his wife and children being sold. This determination is also displayed as he carries out his plan to be sent North in a crate. Henry smiles when he arrives safe and unharmed to Philadephia! The paintings are doube spread and cover each page. The text is integrated into the painting, which contain much detail.
This biography also reflects careful research about Henry Brown, for the book includes a bibliography that lists sources and an author's note that provides more information about slavery in the mid-1800s as well as information about the Underground Railoroad.

Teaching Ideas: Students can read on their own about Henry Brown and see how this compares to the story. Did they learn anyting new? When I did more research, I found out that Henry's wife Nancy and children were sold to another slave owner who sent them to North Carolina. As Nancy was shackled to other adult slaves, and with their children loaded in a wagon, Henry walked hand-in-hand with her for a few miles. This is heartbreaking!
Students may also learn that the name of the man who helped him was Dr. Samuel Smith and that Henry spent at least two hours on his head and almost lost consciousness. His trip was between 24-27 hours. Students can just imagine staying in a crate for this long amount of time!

Students can also read Henry Brown's narrative as they are researching more about this hero.

The Underground Railroad is a major part of Henry Brown's story. Students need to understand what the Underground Railroad was-that it was not really a railroad underground. The national geographic website provides an interactive underground railroad journey for students as they travel to freedom. Harriet Tubman is the leader on the journey. Students are taken to different towns, travel through swamps and over mountains, and meet those who provided safe house for slaves such as Thomas Garrett, William Still, Frederick Douglas, and Susan B. Anothony. Students finally make it to Canada and are free!! The teacher can also read the book Moses: When Harriet Tubman Led Her People To Freedom. This book provides insight into Harriet Tubman's life and her sacrifice and bravery.



Determined, courageous, filled with sorrow and hope.

Husband of another slave named Nancy and father of three wonderful children.

Lover of my family and the hope for freedom and equality.

Who feels worry, fear, love, and hope all at the same time.

Who finds happiness in the laughter of my children, the kiss of my wife, the thought of being free.

Who needs to feel my family's love to get through each day and the joy of being together.

Who gives all I can to a job I do not enjoy but must twist tobacco, for it is my duty as a slave.

Who fears the possibility that my family may be sold, that we will be separated, never to share a life love and laughter.

Who would like to see slavery abolished, where slaves will no longer be slaves, but free people with equal rights to life and opportunties.

Who enjoys giggling with my children, teasing my best friend James, and playing my banjo.

Who likes to wear overalls and a soft shirt when I play and dance with my children.

Resident of Richmond, Virginia, of the United States.

"Box" Brown

Saturday, April 5, 2008


A Caldecott Honor Book and Coretta Scott King Award
Written by Nikki Giovanni
Illustrated by Bryan Collier
First Scholastic, 2005
Pictuer Book, Biography K-5

Summary: The setting is Montgomery, Alabama in the year 1955. Rosa Parks works in the alternation department in the town of Montgomery. She is the best seamstress in the town, for she is so graceful with the needle and thread. One day, she got off of work early and headed on home. She payed the bus driver a dime and then got off the bus to enter the back of the bus to enter from the back door. Because the section for blacks was all full, she sat in the neutral section which is where blacks and whites could sit. When the bus became full, the bus driver decided that Mrs. Parks needed to get up to allow the whites to sit down. Mrs. Parks did not get up, even when James Blake, the driver, threated to call the police. She did not want to give into what was wrong. Mrs. Parks was arrested. Jo Ann Robinson, who was a professor at the colored university and the president of the Women's Political Council, called a meeting of twenty-five women who worked all through the night to make posters that read "No Riders Today; Support Mrs. Parks-Stay Off the Buses; Walk on Monday. Martin Luther King, Jr. became their spokesperson, telling all African Americans to stay off the buses. People sent coats and shoes from all over the U.S. so that citizens of Montgomery could walk. Almost a year after the arrest of Rosa Parks, on November 13, 1956, the Supreme Court ruled that segregration on buses, like segregation in schools, was illegal.

Response: This book does a great job of conveying the courageous act and heroism of Rosa Parks. Her bravery and sacrifice started a great movement that truly made a difference. The tone of the author is one that praises Mrs. Parks and ridicules the way that the colored people were being treated. For example, he says, "as was the evil custom, she then got off the bus and went to the back door to enter the bus from the rear." The author also does a great job of conoveying Mrs. Parks as someone that they can relate to. She is introduced as an ordinary, simple lady who is a seamstress in a small town. This demonstrates to students that small, ordinary people can do big, great things.

This book is an excellent biography for students, for Rosa Parks is an individual who has contributed in a very positive way to society and her story will be of interest to young readers. Mrs. Parks is conveyed as an authentic and believable, and students learn about her through her actions and interactions with others, through her thoughts and feelings, and through the things that others say about them. It seems that Rosa Parks is loved by many people, for when she was arrested, Jo Ann Robinson exclaimed, "Not Mrs. Parks!" Immediately, a meeting was called and a protest started. Mrs. Parks is also conveyed as a gentle, caring lady. She does not scream at the bus driver or police, she just answers them quietly and takes upon the sacrifice of being arrested to help her people gain the rights that they deserve.

The illustrations convey much detail about the setting and the character of Rosa Parks. The illustrator did this on purpose;"In my paintings it looks as if light is emanting from her. To me, she is like a radiant chandlier, an elegant light that illuminates all our many pathways." Collier also paints a few of his paintings with a yellow, sometimes darkish, hue due to the intense heat of Montgomery and as a foreshadow of the storm to come. The many detail of the backgrounds including characters and environment will captivate student's attention while the enriching text is being read.

Teaching Ideas: Well, first of all, students can be shown a picture of what the true Rosa Parks looked like. The paintings do a great job of conveying Rosa Park's appearance during the year 1955. Students can also read an interview with Rosa Parks where they learn that her mother and grandparents inspired her to stand up for equal rights. Her grandparents grew up in slavery, for they were born before the emancipation. Mrs. Parks tells her story and it is exactly like the Rosa book! Indeed, the book reflects careful research. Mrs Parks says, "As I look back on those days, it's just like a dream. The only thing that bothered me was that we waited so long to make this protest and to let it be known wherever we go that all of us should be free and equal and have all opportunities that others should have." This is a quote that demonstrates the determination of Rosa Parks and strong belief that all should be equal.

Students can even be given advice from Mrs. Parks through the interview. She says, "The advice I would give any young person is, first of all, to rid themselves of prejudice against other people and to be concerned about what they can do to help others. And of course, to get a good education, and take advantage of the opportunities that they have. "

Another interview with Mrs. Parks where she states that she felt no fear, only a challenge to stand up for what is right.

Students can also learn more about who Jo Ann Robinson was, for she also played an important role in this protest. Students can also see video footage and hear parts of Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I have a dream" speech.

Rosa is a great book in which students can learn from and even apply her courage and bravery to their own lives.

Informational Texts

Growing up, my little brother and I always loved animals! We absolutely loved spending time together looking at informational books that taught us all kinds of interesting facts about animals. I remember enjoying looking at the photographs of the different animals. My brother and I spent many hours pouring over Zoobooks! Therefore, I have a very positive look on informational texts. I believe that they are a great way to teach and introduce children to many different kinds of information. For example, my preschool friend who is four years old greatly enjoys learning about dinosaurs. She always has a new informational text about dinosaurs and she willingly shares with me the new information that she has learned! At four years old, she knows all the different names of the dinosaurs in her book and what they eat. She is amazing! Children enjoy learning and informational texts provide a visual as students learn new facts.

Friday, March 28, 2008

The Egyptian Cinderella

The Egyptian Cinderella
Written by Shirley Climo
Illustrated by Ruth Heller
Crowell Books, 1989
Picture Book, Traditional Literature 2-5

Summary: In the land of Egypt there lived a young maiden named Rhodopis. She did not look like any of the other Egyptian girls because she had green eyes instead of brown and thin, straight hair instead of thick, dark hair, and her skin was sun burnt pink instead of copper. The other servant girls teased Rhodopis and ordered her about cruelly, so she found friends in the animals such as the birds, a monkey, and a hippotamus who she sang to.
Sometimes she would dance for her animal friends. One evening her master awoke to see her dancing. He decided that she had a special gift and deserved to no longer be barefoot. He gave her a pair of beautiful slippers made of rose-red gold that sparkled like fireflies.
When the other servant girls went to see the Pharaoh, Rhodopis had to stay behind. While she was working on the chores, a falcon flew by and snatched one of her slippers. The falcon took the slipper to the Pharaoh, dropping it in his lap. He thinks that it is the will of the gods to find the girl whose foot would fit in the slipper. During his search, he could not find a woman whose foot was small enough to fit in the slipper. When he finally arrives with his chariot and army to the home of Rhodopis, she hides in the river reeds. The Pharaoh sees her and has her try on the slipper which fits! She also pulls the other slipper from her tunic. When the other servants declared that she is not even Egyptian, the Pharaoh says that her eyes are as green as the Nile, her hair as feathery as papyrus, and her skin the pink of a lotus flower.

Response: This story is different from other Cinderella stories in a few ways. One is that Rhodopis did not have sisters who were cruel to her. The servant girls were cruel to her. There was also not any magic included in this story. Most Cinderella stories include a bit of magic. The fact that this story is fact and fable makes this very interesting! This is similar to other Cinderella stories because the “prince” was trying to find the lady whose foot fit into a slipper and that she was an unlikely choice because she was not a royal subject but a servant girl. I enjoyed reading this Cinderella story, for it is very unique.

Teaching Ideas: Students can be given a geography lesson with this book. The real Rhodopis that this story was based upon, was taken from her home in Greece and taken across the sea to Egypt. Students can see the route that was taken. The history of Egypt as well as religion, families, education, work, art and education can be researched and discussed with students. This information could be compared to the life portrayed in The Egyptian Cinderella.

Students can also discuss Egyptians and their fashion of clothing. How is it different from the way that we dress?

Students will also find the Nile River can be discussed in more detail. The Nile provides the Egyptian people many resources such as food and water supply.
The author states that this is one of the world’s oldest Cinderella stories. It was first recorded by the Roman historian Strabo in the first century B.C. This is an interesting concept for students to learn. Also the fact that Rhodopis is a real person is even more interesting! She was a Greek slave girl who married the Pharaoh Amasis in 570-526 B.C.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

The Rough-Faced Girl

The Rough-Faced Girl
An IRA Teacher’s Choice Book, An ABC Children’s Bookseller’s Choice, Winner of the Georgia Children’s Storybook Award, Winner of Nebraska’s Golden Sower Award
Written by Rafe Martin
Illustrated by David Shannon
Puffin Books, 1992
Picture Book, Traditional Literature 3-5

Summary: The setting of this story is set along the shore of Lake Ontario in an Indian village. Here a poor man lived with three daughters. The oldest two daughters were cruel and hateful to their youngest sister. They made her feed the flames of the fire, which burned her arms, face, and hair, leaving scars. Her sisters called her the rough-faced girl. One day the sisters decided that they wanted new beads, moccasins, and buckskin dresses because they wanted to marry the Indivisible Being, who lives in a wigwam painted with sun, moon, stars, plants, trees, and animals. He is said to be very great, powerful, and handsome. However, no one could see him, expect his sister, who lived there. When the evil sisters met the sister, she asked them what his bow was made of. Of course, they gave the wrong answer because they have never seen the Invisible Being. Rough-faced girl asked her father if she could have beads, a new dress, and some moccasins. He could not afford anything more, but he gave her some broken shells and worn, cracked moccasins. When she wore her new clothes, the people made fun of her, calling her ugly. But she had courage in herself and she kept walking through the village. She met the sister of the Indivisible Being beside the lakeshore and the sister looked past the outward appearance into Rough-Faced girl’s heart, which is beautiful and kind. When the sister asked her what the Indivisible Being's bow was made of, she replied that it was the great curve of the rainbow and that the runner of his sled is the Milky Way that spreads across the sky. Rough-Faced girl was then taken to the wigwam, where she met the Indivisible Being. She was given the finest of buckskin robes and a necklace of perfect shells. She was told to bathe in the lake and when she came out of the waters, her skin grew smooth again and her hair beautiful and glossy. This was the way the Indivisible Being and his sister had seen her from the start. She then married the Indivisible Being and they lived together in “great gladness and never parted.”

Response: This Algonquin Cinderella story is a great way to convey the message of true beauty. Though Rough-Face girl’s sisters were beautiful on the outside, they were ugly and cruel on the inside. They thought too much of themselves to see the beauty of the rainbows, stars, and sky around them. Because they thought so highly of themselves, they were unable to see the Indivisible Being. In contrast, the Rough-Face did not allow her scars and lack of outward beauty to stop her from seeing the beauty around her or change her kind heart into a heart like her sisters’. She was able to see the Indivisible Being, due to her unselfish, caring heart.
I also like how Rough-Face girl was confident in herself and courageous even when others made fun of her and called her ugly. She seemed to push this away and follow what her heart was telling her.
The illustrations are breathtaking and do a great job of conveying the tone and mood of the story. When the sisters are making Rough-Face girl feed the fire, the colors used in this painting conveys the cruel and evil hearts of the sisters. I believe that they almost look a bit scary! When Rough-Face girl is walking through the forest, the scenery is painted in vibrant colors and much detail. This painting includes a rainbow, waterfall, puffy white clouds, a stream with a deer drinking from it, and birds flying through the air.

Teaching Ideas: The teacher should be sure that students understand the meaning behind this story; beauty is found in the heart. This is what makes us beautiful, not fancy clothes or outward beauty. The differences between Rough-Face girl and her sisters can be listed to be sure that students understand. This could be done as a class or in groups.
This story was originally a Mi'kmaq story, which is a Indian tribe considered to be in the Algonquin branch of Indians. However, Martin seems to have revised the story from the original so that the ending is a bit more romatic than the original story.
The culture of this Indian group can be discussed as teacher shares different facts with students.
For instance, the Mi'kmaq Indians do not call their houses teepees, they call their houses wigwams. The clothing the Indians wear in the book reflect the true style of clothes that Indians wear. They wear breechclothes and leggings. The canoe that Rough-Faced girl and the Indivisible Being ride in at the end of the book also reflect the importance of the canoe to the Indians, which is handcrafted with birch bark. The Mi'kmaq people group also needed to use sleds to help them travel in the winter. In the book, the Indivisbile Being's sled's is the Milky Way. This reflects the idea that nature was very important to the Indians and a key part to their culture.
This Cinderella story is a great way to reflect Indian culture and the truth that beauty comes from the inside; who you are in your heart.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Mufaro's Beautiful Daughter: An African Tale

Mufaro’s Beautiful Daughter: An African Tale
Caldecott Honor Book
Written and Illustrated by John Steptoe
Scholastic, Inc. 1987
Picture Book, Traditional Literature K-3

Summary: In a small Africa village, there lives two beautiful sisters whose names are Manyara and Nyasha. Manyara was always in a bad temper. She teased her sister and was very jealous of her, for everyone talks about how kind Nyasha is. Nyasha did always seem to be in good spirits, for she sang to her garden and to the little snake she named Nyoka. One morning, a messenger came from the city saying that the Great King wanted a wife. The father planned to leave the next morning, but Manyara did not want to wait. She left that night on her own. On her way, she passed a little boy who asked for some food, but she said that she did not have any food, yelling for the boy to get out of the way. She then met an older woman who gave her advice, but Manyara scolded her.
The next morning, Nyasha and her father searched for Manyara. When they found her footprints leading to the city, they decided to follow her path. When Nyasha met the young boy, she gave him the yam that she had packed for lunch. When she met the older lady, she smiled, taking her advice and gave her a small pouch filled with sunflower seeds. As Nyasha approached the city gate, she met Manyara who was screaming. She said that she saw a snake with five heads who knew all her faults and that she displeased him. Nyasha bravely climbed the steps and opened the door. On the seat of the great chief’s stool lay the little garden snake. Nyasha laughed with relief and joy, exclaiming, “My little friend, why are you here?” The garden snake then changed shape, becoming the king! He said that he was the hungry little boy in the forest and the old woman who you gave sunflower seeds. He told Nyahsa that she was the most beautiful and worthy daughter in the land. He asked her to be his wife. Villagers from all around were invited to the celebration. Manyara finally became happy for her sister, and she became a servant in her sister, the queen’s household.

Response: This is now one of my favorite Cinderella stories! The fact that Nyasha is beautiful for her character and spirit is a truth that everyone should live by. How we treat others is important and truly makes a difference in our beauty and how we are perceived by others. Nyahsa and Manyara are opposites. Nyasha represents kindness and compassion, while Manyara represents selfishness and jealousy. In the end, Nyasha is chosen by the king because of her inner beauty. What an important message!
I believe that the illustrations also demonstrate the differences in the two sisters. While Manyara’s facial expressions show madness and hatefulness, Nyasha’s facial expression are gentle and caring. The African culture is also demonstrated through the illustrations. The clothing, environment, and animals are convey how this way of life is different from American life. The text and illustrations are also integrated very well. Most of the illustrations are double spread, where the text is barely noticed. The double spread also provides many details for viewers to take in.

Teaching Ideas: The beginning of the book talks about the origins and history of this meaningful story. The details of the illustrations were inspired by the ruins of an ancient city found in Zimbabwe.The flora and fauna of that region also inspired the illustrations. For students to better understand the location of Zimbabwe, the teacher could show a map.Students can also read Zimbabwe facts and Exploring Zimbabwe in pairs and then create a small poster of the information they have found. They could include the information that Zimbabwe lies on a high plateau and the terrian of this county consists of grassland and mountains. Students can then compare this information to the illustrations in the book. Do the illustrations match the description of the land and the animals that live there?

Other interesting facts about South Africa can be shared with students. Did you know that summers begin in September and last through April? Or that there is a vast array of wildlife? In Kruger National Park there are 500 different types of birds and 147 different types of mammels?

Other facts that should be shared with students: Zimbabwe occupies part of the great plateau of southern Africa. English is the official language of Zimbabwe. The most important Bantu languages are Shona and Ndebele. The names of the characters of the book are from the Shona language: Mufaro(the father) means “happy man”; Nyasha means “mercy”; Manyara means “ashamed”; and Nyoka means “snake.” Students would enjoy learning this before reading the book. Teacher could challenge students to think about why the characters may be given this name. As a class or a in groups, students can make character sketches.

This Cinderella story is a great one to use to contrast and compare Cinderella stories around the world. In comparing this to a story such as The Rough Faced Girl by Rafe Martin, several similarties and differences are apparent. One similarity is that the Cinderella's are chosen due to their inner beauty, not their outer beauty. They both treated others with kindness and had confidence in themselves. The magic person in both stories is the prince! Both girls are also teased by their sisters. Differences include the setting and culture of the two stories.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

The Three Little Javelinas

The Three Little Javelinas
Written by Susan Lowell
Illustrated by Jim Harris
Northland Publishing Co, 1992
Picture Book, Traditional Literature 3-5

Summary: This is a southwester adaptation of the familiar folk tale “the three little pigs.” A javelina is a cousin of a pig. They are very hairy with bony legs. One day the three little javelinas trotted away to seek their fortunes. The first javelina decided that he was going to build his house of tumbleweed. When the coyote came, he blew the house away but the javelina escaped! He came to his brother’s home, who had built his house of saguaros ribs which come from giant cactus plants. When coyote came, he huffed and puffed and blew their house down but the two little javelinas escaped into the desert. The third javelina made her house of adobe bricks which are mud and straw. She welcomed her two brothers into her home. When the coyote came, he could not blow the house down. He decided that he would try to get into the house through the stove pipe. The third javelina had lit a fire inside her wood stove. The coyote let out a long howl as he climbed out of the stove pipe. To this day, when you hear a coyote yelping in the desert, he is remembering this incident with the three little javelinas.

Response and Teaching Ideas: I greatly enjoyed this adaptation of the three little pigs. It is very humorous and insightful. I also like how the third javelina who builds a strong, sturdy house is a girl! The encounter with the Native American woman and the Spanish speaking man allows the teacher to discuss these different cultures with her students. The illustrations are also full of detail. The environment of the desert is described and illustrated specifically-such as dust storms, cactuses, intense heat, “palo verde trees with green trunks and yellow flowers,” snakes, hawks, mountains, and coyotes. These are just a few concepts that are introduced to students. The teacher can expand on these descriptions to teach students about climate, animals, and life in the desert.
Students will also enjoy comparing this book to another version of the three little pigs. One example could be comparing it to “The Three Little Rabbits.” These two books follow the same plot but have different characters. The settings are different-one in the desert and the other in the forest. The trickster is also different-one is a coyote and the other is a fox. The animals also build homes out of different materials which came from the environment. Similarities also exist between the two stories. Both stories begin with “once upon a time,” both end happily, both contain a trickster who gets himself into trouble, and both stories are about siblings going out on their own.

Venn Diagram

VennDiagram: This is a fun way to compare the story of The Three Little Rabbits and The Three Little Javelinas. The labels are velcroed on the back. The phrases and animals will either be velcroed on the javelina square, the rabbits square, or the similarties square. An example that would go on the javelinas page would be that the trickster was a coyote. On the rabbits page, the trickster was the fox. The phrase, "begins with once upon a time" belongs on the similarties square.

I believe that this would be a fun and enjoyable activity for students.

The Three Little Rabbits

The Three Little Rabbits: A Balkan Folktale
Retold and Illustrated by Ivan Gantschev
Translated by J. Alison James
North-South Books, 2002
Picture Books, Traditional Literature K-2

Summary: Once upon a time there lived three little rabbits. When they were grown up, their father sent them out to see the world. He told them to build a safe rabbit hole to hide in from the fox. The rabbits were excited to be on their own, and two rabbits decided not to follow his father’s orders. The first rabbit built a nest of branches, hay, and moss. When he smelt the fox, he knew that he was not safe, for he had nowhere to hide. When the fox asked him to come out and play, the rabbit ran from the fox as fast as he could. The second rabbit also thought that building a nest would take too long. He built a jut make of branches, moss, and leaves. When the fox came, he also realized he did not have a safe place to hide and he ran as fast as he could from the fox while the fox searched his hut. The third rabbit dug a nice, deep burrow. When the fox came, she had a safe place to retreat. The fox eventually got stuck digging through the ground to try to reach the rabbit. Rabbit made fox promise that he would no longer chase his brothers. Then rabbit pushed the fox out of her burrow. The other two rabbits took time to dig their own safe, warm burrows.

Response: I like this book even more than the traditional three little pigs story. While the stories share the same plot, I enjoyed the characters of the three little rabbits more. This may be because rabbits were my favorite animal growing up. I also like the fact that the rabbits did not get eaten like the first two pigs who did not build a sturdy house. I also like the fact that the rabbits learned from the third rabbit and dug a burrow. Students can learn about animal habitats through this story.

Teaching Ideas: Students would enjoy comparing this story with the story of the three little pigs or a similar story such as the three little javelinas. The teacher could create a model of a venn diagram to demonstrate similarities and differences in the stories. Some differences include the settings, the materials used to build homes, and the animal that was chasing the rabbits and javelinas. The javelinas also have a conversation with people while the rabbits do not. The javelinas were sent into the world to seek their fortunes while the rabbits were sent into the world to see the world. Similarities include the fact that there are three animals and a trickster who ends up being the one being tricked! Both stories explain a concept that is true. For example, The Three Little Rabbits explain why rabbits hide in their burrows. The Three Little Javelinas explains why the coyote yelps so-he is remembering when he was burnt in the fireplace of the javelina’s home. Both stories begin with “once upon a time” and end happily.

Bridge to Terabithia

Bridge to Terabithia
1977 Newberry Award
Written by: Katherine Paterson
Published by HarperCollins, 1977
Realistic Fiction, 3-5

Summary: Jessie Aarons lives in rural Virginia with his father, mother, and four sisters. Every morning during the summer he milks Bessie the cow and run laps around the cow pasture. He wants to be the fastest boy in the fifth grade. However, on the first day of school, he is not the fastest in the fifth grade. A girl, Leslie Burke and also a new student, wins all the races against the boys. After this, Jessie tries to avoid Leslie at all costs, until he realizes that her family has moved into the house on the other side of the cow pasture. During music class one day at school, Jessie realized that there was no need for him to be avoiding Leslie. He smiled at her and she smiled back. Jessie takes up for her when students tease her for not having a television. Their friendship flourished from this point on. Together they created a world that is only for them in the land of Terabithia which is between their homes and across the creek. To cross the creek, they swing across on an “enchanted rope” hanging on a tree. This is the only way they can enter “the kingdom.” This was their secret world. When Christmas time came, Jessie was so excited about giving Leslie her Christmas present, a puppy. She named him P.T. and he became the prince of Terabithia. Each day, they would retreat to their kingdom, until the rains came. The creek was starting to get so high that they could not safely cross the creek. Leslie never seemed to be afraid, while Jessie was always a bit afraid. One day, Jessie goes on a trip to Washington with his teacher. When he comes home, his parents tell him that Leslie drowned in the creek. Jessie is filled with an array of emotions. He is shocked, scared, and angry at Leslie for leaving him. On the day that Leslie’s parents leave to return to their home in Pennsylvania, Jessie build a bridge to their land of Terabithia. When his little sister May-Belle comes to see what he is doing, Jessie puts flowers in her hair and leads her across the bridge saying, “All the Terebithians are standing on tiptoe to see you. There is a rumor going around that the beautiful girl arriving today might be the queen they’ve been waiting for.”

Response: Bridge to Terabithia evoked many different emotions in my heart. The friendship that Leslie and Jessie created was truly unique and beautiful. They taught each other the true meanings of friendship: accepting one another just as they are, the importance of being dependable, honesty, trust, and teamwork. Leslie led Jessie to view the world in a different way; “It was up to him to pay back to the world in beauty and caring what Leslie had loaned him in vision and strength.”
I also seemed to feel a bit of sympathy for Jessie, for he seemed to dread going home at times. He did not seem to have a close relationship with his family. He is even afraid for them to find out about his talent for art. Leslie accepts Jessie and his desire to paint and draw and leads him to realize the importance of being himself.
I did not like the way that God is depicted in this book, for I do not believe that the reverence that is due God is present here. God seems to be depicted as an powerful, wrathful God but not a loving, personal God. When Leslie goes to church with Jessie, she says that is beautiful that Jesus would die for the people that wanted to kill him when he did nothing wrong. She says that she does not believe it, but still thinks it is beautiful. May Belle tells Leslie that if she does not believe in the bible, “God’ll damn you to hell when you die.” Once again, this makes God seem to be an angry God when in fact, He is a loving and merciful God. This book does not seem to tell the whole story of the cross and I do not believe that this is fair.
The fact that Leslie died brings sorrow to the reader as they imagine the pain that Jessie is going through as the copes with losing his best friend.

Teaching Ideas: This book could be used to prompt discussion or used as writing prompts. Students can be asked to recall the magic worlds they have created growing up. How were they created? What was magic or special about his place? Who was there with you? Students can also be taught important truths about friendship through Jessie and Leslie such as acceptance, honesty, teamwork, and trust.
Through Jessie, students will also realize what it may be like to lose a best friend or someone very close to them. They will realize the sorrow that will be experienced but also that they must give to the world what this person gave to them.

What Will I Do Without You?

What Will I Do Without You?
Written by: Sally Grindley
Illustrated by: Penny Dann
Published by Kingfisher, 1999
Picture Book, Animal Fantasy K-2

Summary: When Jefferson Bear has to leave his friend, Figgy Twosocks the fox(his two front brown legs look like they have white socks on them), Figgy is very sad. She does not understand why Jefferson Bear has to go into hibernation. When winter arrives, Jefferson Bear hugs Figgy tightly and disappears into his cave. The snow soon arrives and Figgy wants to play with Jefferson Bear and she misses him greatly! She tries to play with her brothers, but they tease her, throwing snowballs. When Figgy builds a snow bear to remind her of Jefferson Bear, her brothers throw snowballs at the snowbear. Hoptail the squirrel brightens Figgy’s spirits when he asks Figgy to help her find the places she hid her nuts in the fall. They became great friends, playing the snow together each day. Hoptail even helped Figgy rebuild the snow bear, which they went to see at the end of each day. As the winter snow melts away, the spring season appears and Jefferson Bear emerges from his hibernation. He is very happy to meet Hoptail and can’t wait to about what all Figgy did without him during the hibernation.

Response: This book is absolutely adorable! The characters of Figgy, Jefferson Bear, and Hoptail are smiley and snuggly. I believe that students would greatly enjoy this book, for I greatly enjoyed reading it and looking at the inviting illustrations. The book cover will no doubt catch student’s attention. Snowflakes surround the picture of Jefferson Bear and Figgy. The bear is smiling while fox is not. They will wonder why fox is frowning! The illustrations support the text. They convey what Figgy is feeling as well as convey her playful character. The text will hold students attention while the text is read, for they are very detailed.
This is a good book to read at “circle time” with kindergarten or first grade students. Some students can relate to Figgy when she is being teased by her brothers! Students will also realize how fun and exciting it is to make a new friend.

Teaching Ideas: Students can be taught about hibernation, bears, foxes, and the season of winter. While this book may not give detail information about these facts, this book may serve as an introduction to these concepts. Also, through Figgy, students can learn about importance of making new friends! It is fun and exciting to play with others and learn about their interests.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

The Tale of Despereaux

The Tale of Despereaux: the story of a mouse, a princess, some soup, and a spool of thread
2004 Newberry Award Winner
Written by Kate DiCamillo
Illustrated by Timothy Basil Ering
Candlewick Press, 2003
Animal Fantasy, 3-5

Summary: Despereaux is not like any other mouse in the castle. He is much smaller with very large ears. He also has no desire to be like other mice. His brothers and sisters try to teach him how to be a mouse, but he just does not conform to their ways. Instead of eating the paper of a book, he reads it. He also breaks the rules for every mouse, for he not only allow humans to see him, he speaks to them! When the king is playing his guitar for the princess, Despereaux believes that the sound is sweeter than honey. Soon, he finds himself at the foot of the king. Despereaux falls in love with Princess Pea tells her his name and also says, “I honor you,” because this is what happens in the book that he reads about a knight in a shining armor. Soon Despereaux was found by his brother and taken to the Mouse Council, who took him to the dungeon, where mouse do not come out of alive due to the rats. There is a certain rat that lives in the darkness who longed to live in the light. His name is Chiaroscuro, also called Roscuro. When he leaves the dungeon, he causes trouble because he falls into the queen’s soup, which kills her. Roscuro then longs to have revenge on the princess because she gives him a hateful look. The king then outlaws soup for the whole kingdom. Everyone in the kingdom is to give their spoons and kettles to be taken to the dungeon. When an attendant came to a certain house collecting spoons and kettles, he brings a girl named Miggery Sow back to the castle with him. She has had a hard life, for when her mother died her father sold her for a red tablecloth, a handful of cigarettes, and a hen. Her “uncle” mistreated her, making her do all the chores and not caring about what she wanted. When she comes to the castle, she has a hard time finding a job in which she could do without trouble. She gets the job of taking the jailor in the dungeon’s food. While he is eating, she talks to him. She tells him that she longs to be a princess. Roscuro hears her and decides that this is his chance to seek revenge on the princess. He tells Miggery Sow an awful plan. Meanwhile, Despereaux hides under a napkin, listening to this horrible plan. He realizes that he is to be the knight in shining armor to rescue the princess. That night, Roscuro and Miggery Sow lead the princess into the darkness of the dungeon with a knife. Princess is patient and tries to be kind. In the dungeon, when Roscuro tries to trick Miggery Sow into putting the princess in chains, she begins crying. The princess is caring and asks Miggery Sow what is wrong. She also holds her hand while she cries. About this time, Despereaux finds them in the darkness of the dungeon. He is armed with a sewing needle to protect himself from the rats. Roscuro begins crying because he realizes that he just wanted some light of his own. The princess promises him that if will lead them out of the mazes of the dungeon, she will allow him in the light of castle. In the end, Miggery Sow meets her father again, who treats her like a princess for the wrong he treated her. Roscuro was allowed free access to the whole castle. Despereaux and Princess Pea became the greatest friends who shared many adventures.

Response: This book was very unlike anything I have ever read. The characters are very unique with different types of personality traits. Despereaux was my favorite character because followed his heart. He was very courageous and brave in the face of danger in the dungeon. He also risked so much for love. The fact that he fell in love with the princess is so sweet. I also like how DiCamillo talks to the reader during the story. This is similar to what it would be like if she was telling the story. Also, I like how she addresses issues of everyday life. This includes issues the issues of love, forgiveness, bravery, and friendship.

Teaching Ideas: Teachers can have students make character logs of the different characters in which they compare and contrast the different characters of the story. Students can also discuss different issues the character face as well the difference between light and darkness as it is discussed in the book. Also, students can discuss how the author portrays love and forgiveness. Students can also compare the way that castle life is portrayed in this tale and the vision that other stories portray castle life-for example, Cinderella.
Students will greatly enjoy reading this unique fairy tale.

Venn Diagram

Venn Diagram: The above is an example of what could be used with students when comparing The Three Little Rabbits and The Three Little Javelinas. The animals (rabbits and javelinas), trees, cactuses, and phrases have velcro on the back. Students will draw a phrase or animal from the teacher and place it in the correct place on the diagram. For example, the phrase "the trickster was a fox" should be velcroed onto the three little rabbits felt square. The phrase "beings with once upon a time" should be velcroed onto similarties squre.
I believe that this will be a fun activity for students!

Swamp Angel

Swamp Angel
1995 Caldecott Honor Book
Written by: Anne Isaacs Illustrated by: Paul O. Zelinsky
Published by Puffin Books, 1994
Picture Book, Traditional Literature K-5

Summary: When Angelica Longrider was born, no one in Tenessee knew that she would grow up to be the “Swamp Angel.” By the time she was two years old, she could build her own log cabin. The title “swamp angel” came about when she rescued a wagon train, lifting the wagons and people out of the water like “they were twigs in a puddle.” When a competition arose to catch the mean-spirited bear, Thundering Taranation, Angel was the champion. The bear sure did put up a fight, but Angel fought right back. Not only did she throw him in the sky and lasso him down with a tornado, she drank up a whole lake when the bear pinned her on the bottom. They wrestled for five days when they fell asleep wrestling. Their snoring was so loud that they knocked down a whole forest. When the bear awoke and was eating honey, Angel’s snoring made a tree fall on bear and killed him. As a celebration, Angel served Tennessee bear meat cooked in all kinds of ways! She also dragged his pelt from Tennessee to Montana, which is now called Shortgrass Prairie.

Response: What a fun, imaginative book! Students will greatly enjoy laughing with this book and looking at the beautiful pictures. This tall tale is certainly an exaggerated account of the story of Swamp Angel. Isaacs used Swamp Angel to detail why the Great Smoky Mountains are given this title; because Angel and bear created so much dust while they were wrestling across the Tennessee hills. (Shortgrass prairie in Montana?) The fact that this story is about a woman adds balance to the realm of traditional literature because the hero is a woman. She overcomes the bear because she did not give up. She also used her power of being taller to help others.
The illustrations are amazing. They are painted in oils on cherry, maple, and birch veneers. This gives the illustrations a unique look and are very detailed! Students will enjoy taking in the many details of each page! There are so many different details to take in-different characters, backgrounds, animals, and activities. On one page, thundering Tarnation’s claws are clawing down from the top of the page. He also appears two other times in two different settings on these pages. In another double spread of pages, Angel is drawn doing about five different activities. For example, in one picture, she is building a log cabin, pouring water on a burning log cabin, knitting a quilt with mountain lions playing on the yarn, and Angel flying her dog with the geese on top of the mountain. However, if you were to just glance at this illustration, you would miss the eagle sitting in the tree, the beautiful colors and texture of the sky full of fluffy clouds. You will also miss the man playing his fiddle in the shadows and a squirrel dancing. On each page, there are so many details to take in! The illustrations will no doubt keep student’s attention as the text is being read aloud. The borders around the illustrations also enhance the pictures, for they are almost like a picture frame.
The illustrations also do a great job of conveying perspective. Students can see without a doubt how tall Angel is. The small people, houses, mountains, waterfalls, rivers, and animals convey her size because we know the true size of these landforms and people.

Teaching Ideas: Landforms of Tennessee can be introduced, such as the Great Smoky Mountains. This can be compared to the mountains and landforms of Montana, which is where Angel drug Bear’s pelt and created the “shortgrass prairie.” Tornadoes can also be talked about, for Angel uses a tornado to rope the bear.
The character of Angel can be analyzed by students, for she keeps on trying, keeps wrestling the bear, not giving up. She also uses her power of being tall to help others. Teacher can tell students that they have all been given special gifts that they can use to help others. For example, some may have a gift to be patient, encouraging, or caring. Some students may have the gift of leadership or even the ability to make other laugh. We all have special ways that we can help each other, in the way that Angel helped the people of Tennessee.