Friday, February 29, 2008

Baseball Saved Us

Baseball Saved Us
Written by Ken Mochizuki
Illustrated by Dom Lee
1993 Parents Choice Award
Lee & Low Books, 1993 K-3
Picture Book, Historical Fiction
The setting is 1942 in a Japanese American internment camp. The story is told through the eyes of a young boy. He, like many children, did not understand why the Japanese had to sell their possessions and leave thier homes. His father told him it is because the government does not think that Japanese Americans can be trusted because of the war with Japan. The little boy says the camp was hot during the day and cold at night, full of dust storms, no privacy, and no work for children or adults to do. However, the camp worked together to build a baseball field. The men flooded the area with water to pack down the dust and made it hard. Blechers were built and Mothers sewed uniforms. Soon, there were baseball games all the time. The young boy wants so much to be good at baseball, but he usually strikes out and plays second base, because this is where his teammates say is the easiest. When the championship game came, it was up to the young boy to bring his teamates to home plate to win the game. When he glanced at the man in the tower, the guard who was always watching them, he became angry. He hit a home run!!
After the war, he was not treated fairly. No one would eat lunch with him at school or even talk to him. But the other boys saw that he was better in baseball, and they started calling his Shorty but they "smiled when they said it." When it was time for a game, Shorty realized that there was no one else on the team like him. People in the crowd called him "Jap" and he became very nervous. When it was his turn to bat, he thought the pitcher's glare was similiar to the guard's glare at the camp. Shorty hit another home run and was lifted up onto the shoulders of his teammates.
I enjoyed the book being told through the eyes of a child. It helped me realize that children did not have any idea why this was happening to them. I am reminded of how dependent and innocent children are and it breaks my heart that they had to face this sorrow and harsh treatment. The illustrations do a great job of conveying the scenery and feelings of this time. I can not imagine how long the illustrations must have taken, for the illustrations were made by applying encaustic beeswax on paper, then scratching out images, and finally adding oil paint for color. The colors used are mostly all different shades of brown. This conveys the feel of the desert but also the gloominess experienced at the intertnment camps. The Japanese do not smile, they have very serious expressions on their faces. This communicates the sad and anger of the Japanese Americans. Actually, the only page which contains a bright color is when Shorty hits a home run on the school baseball team after the war. When the crowd was chanting him, calling his a "Jap", he hit a home run, showing that he was victorious and overcame their chants and ridicule. The last page also contains a light blue sky when his teamates are jumping and celebrating with him.
Baseball Saved Us is a great way to teach younger students about the effects of WWII. They will be able to understand the way that the Japanese Americans were treated during this time, for the facts from the past become living , breathing drama through the eyes of Shorty. Students will be able to see first hand the great amount of social injustice the Americans treated the Japanese Americans with. By reading this book, they will understand the definition of social injustice.
It is also a great book for boys and girls to read who like sports. Shorty was not satsified with his baseball playing in the beginning, so he praticed and praticed. His practice helped him become a strong and focused baseball player. This teaches that practice really does benefit.
Students can also place themselves in Shorty's poistion as he goes back to school after the war. "How would they feel if no one ate lunch with you or wouldn't even talk to you because you were different from your classmates?" Students need to understand what this may have felt like and make sure that they are not treating anyone this way-injustly. Students can realize that we all experience loss, love, friendship...even though our outward appearance may be different. Students can be asked, "How can you relate to Shorty? What do you have in common?"
Students are taken back to the time of WWII and placed in the an intertment camp through Baseball Saved Us. They are able to develp a sense of historical understanding, and perceive past events and issues as they were experienced by the people at the time.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Thank you, Mr. Falker

Thank you, Mr. Falker
Patricia Polacco
Philomel Books, 1998
Picture Book, Realistic Fiction
Summary: This is a true story about Patricia and her struggles with dyslexia during her school years. This is the story she tells of her teacher, who she claims "changed everything for her."
Her real teacher's name was Mr. Felker and she says in her book dedication: "You will forever be my hero."
The young girl in the story is named Trisha. Ever since she can remember, her family has read to her. She loves stories and is very excited when she goes into kindergarten. She can't wait to learn to read! However, by first grade, Trisha was not learning to read like the other children. While they could read aloud to the class by themselves, the teacher has to help Trisha with every word. She began to feel different and dumb. Her grandmother encouraged her and reminde her that she is smart, quick and dear. When her grandmother passed away, school started to get harder. Not long after, her Mom got a new teaching job in California and they moved from Michigan to California.
At the new school, Trisha was teased by other kids because she could not read or give the right answers in class. She never wanted to go to school! But in the fifth grade, Trisha's life was changed by the new teacher Mr. Falker. He encouraged her with her drawings, telling her that she is brilliant. When other students laughed at her, he stopped them, rebuking them. However, this did not stop them from teasing her when Mr. Falker was not around. During recess, she would hide in the dark under the inside stairwell so they could not call her names.
One day Mr. Falker asked Trisha to stay after school to help wash the blackboards. He asked her to write the letter or number that he shouted out with the sponge. He told her they were playing a game. When Trisha realized that the letters and numbers did not look the way they were supposed to, she tried to run. Mr. Falker grabbed her by the arm and said, "You poor baby. You think you're dumb, don't you? How awful for you to be so lonely and afraid." Mr. Falker promised her that she would be able to read and indeed she did! She worked every day afterschool with Mr. Falker and the reading specialist. Three or four months into the special help with her teachers, Trisha could read a whole paragraph that made sense! She was so happy that she cried tears of joy.
Response: This book made me realize what a great impact teachers can have on students! Mr. Falker made quite an impact on Trisha's life all because he cared for her. He stood up for her when the other children teased her and he took the time to provide extra help for her after school. I want to be this kind of teacher-one who cares deeply about my students and will try my best to help them in any way possible.
This book also helped me realize that something should be done in the schools about bullying. When a teacher realizes that a student is being bullied or teased, she/he should try to put an end to this the best way she can. For example, maybe she can talk to the bully or provide postive attention to this student, since this is what they are seeking in the first place-attention.
Teaching Ideas: This is a great book to use to teach students about disorders such as dyslexia. Students can also be introduced to other learning diabilities, such as ADHD or ADD. Students should realize that this can affect the way that their other classmates learn. Therefore, they need to be patient with one another and help each other when the time is appropriate.
Teacher can also have students place themselves in the place of Trisha when she was being teased. She would cry, not want to go to school, and hide in the dark staircase during recess. How would they feel if they were treated in this way? Teacher can stress that they need to be very careful about how they treat others. Are they treating others with kindness, using kind words and including all friends/classmates in activties or games?

Friday, February 22, 2008

Pink and Say

Pink and Say
Patricia Polacco
Philomel Books, 1994
Picture Book, Historical Fiction, Multicultural 2-5

Summary: This is a true story that has been told down through the generations in Patricia's family. This story occured during the Civil War and is based on Particia's great-great grandfather's experience.

The book starts with a young boy who is laying in the field, wounded. His name is Shelden Curtis (Say) and he has been fighting in this war for a year and just wants to go home. Then a black lad comes to his aid, giving him some water to drink. The African American soldier, Pinkus Aylee, carries Say to safety. Say unable to walk and he says, "I remember branches snapping back in my face and mouths full of dirt as we hit the ground to keep from being seen."

Pink carries Say to his own home, where his momma, Moe Moe Baby nurses Say back to health. Pink's family are all fighting in the war, even his father. Pink tells Say that when he has healed that they have to leave because they are putting Moe Moe Baby in great danger. While Say is healing, he becomes part of Pink and Moe Moe Baby's family. Pink shared with Say how this master had taught him to read, even though it was againist the law. That night, when Moe Moe Baby was reading from the Bible, Say says that he wishes he could read. Pink says that he will teach him.

When Pink and Say tell Moe Moe Baby that they are going to have to go back to war, she is very sad. Despite her sadness, she comforts Say when he tells her that is a coward because he was running away from his unit when he was shot.

The next morning marauders came to the house and Moe Moe Baby told Pink and Say to get in the root cellar and ran out the door. The marauders searched the house and then let out a war whoop with a rifle shot on their way out. When Pink and Say ran out from the cellar, they found Moe Moe Baby dead.

When they buried her under the willow tree, they set out but soon realized they were being followed by Confederate troops. When they caught up to Pink and Say, they were caught captive and taken to Andersonville which is one of the worst Confederate camps. Pink and Say held on to each other's hands until they were wrenched apart.

Say was released from the prison some months later, weighing no more than 78 pounds. He settled in Michigan, married, and fathered seven children. However, Pinkus Aylee never returned home. It was told that he was hanged within hours after he was taken into Andersonville.

Response: Pink and Say was a very heart breaking book. The fact that it was a true story makes it even more heart breaking! The Civil War was defintley a brutal and harsh time, and this book proves this. I liked the friendship that developed between Pink and Say, for they developed a true friendship. Even though Pink did not know Say in the beginning, he was willing to help him, carrying him through dangerous territories to his own home where he shared all he had with Say.

Teaching Ideas: This is a great way for students to learn about the Civil War. However, I do not think that this book should be read to a grade lower than third due to the graphic information and pictures that may be disturbing to some children. Studedents can learn basic facts such as the fact that the North was againist the South. The North was called the Union, which is who Pink and Say were fighting for. They are againist slavery, while the South is for slavery. The concept of slavery can also be introduced to students. They should realize that Pink was a slave before the war. African American soldiers were discriminated greatly againist but were also very brave and couragous. Pink tells Say that his company could not have guns at first. They had to use sticks, hammers, and sledges. When they were given a weapon, it was muskets from the Mexican War. This is an example of discrimination againist the African Americans.
The Union solider is also important for students to understand. The Union soldier was fighting in the war to defend his home and put down the rebellion of the Southern States. In contrast to the Union Soldier, the Confederate soldier was in rebellion againist the government. Students need to understand that the Confederacy wanted to seperate from the Union and this is one of the reasons they were fighting.
Abraham Lincoln and his role as president can also be taught to students. The African Americans believed in Lincoln because they thought that he wanted slaves to be free. The Confederates did not like Lincoln because they wanted slavery and did not like what Lincoln stood for.
For older students, the idea of being prisoners of war and information about Andersonville which is the cam that Pink and Say were sent can be introduced.
This heart-wrenching story is recommended for older students as well as adults. The concept of friendship and sacrifice that is portrayed through the characters Pink and Say can teach all ages!

Mrs. Katz and Tush

Mrs. Katz and Tush
Patricia Polacco
Bantam Books, 1992
Picture Book, Multicultural K-3
Summary: Mrs. Katz and Tush is a heart-warming story about a frienship between Larnel, a young African American boy and Mrs. Katz, an older lady from Poland. Larnel's mother would visit with Mrs. Katz often and one day Larnel decided that he would go visit her himself. He had the idea of brining the runt from the litter of kittens in the bottom of his building to Mrs. Katz and asking her to let it live with her. No one wanted this kitten because "she was so ugly, with no tail." Mrs. Katz gives her a Yiddish name-Tush. Mrs. Katz fell in love with Tush and so did Larnel, who also began to love Mrs. Katz and her stories of her old country and the way that times used to be. Mrs. Katz tells Larnel that her people and his people have a lot in common-they have seen trouble, happiness, and have great strength. Larnel went with Mrs. Katz to visit the graveside of her husband as she read from her book, saying "kiddish." He also had Passover dinner with Mrs. Katz. When Tush escaped, they searched all over town for their little cat. Soon she was found and Mrs. Katz was overjoyed! As the years passed, this special friendship grew. Mrs. Katz became part of Larnel's family. When Mrs. Katz died, Larnel's wife and children read from the inscription on the tombstone together. It says, "Mrs. Katz our Bubee-such a person."
Response: I leared so much though this sweet story! This book helped me realize how imporatnt it is to have friendships and realtionships with the elderly. I am encouraged to visit my grandparents more and my eighty-five year old neighbor. I want to hear their old stories and learn about their traditions. Larnel and Mrs. Katz brought so much happiness to each other's life. Through Mrs. Katz, I gained knowledge of many of the Jewish customs. The author, Patricia Polacco's family is of the Christian faith and the Jewish faith. Therefore, she is very knowledgable of the Jewish as well as the Christian faith.
The illustrations in the book do a great job of conveying the characters. Mrs. Katz is portrayed as a loving, jolly lady. She is always smiling, always has rosy cheeks with her white hair in a bun. Larnel is portrayed as an energertic, excited young boy. The artistic medium is pencil and watercolor. The colors are vibrant and the double spread illutrations ceratinly provide many details to hold studetns' attention.
Teaching Ideas: I would like to read this book to my class for a few reasons. One is that it demonstrates to students that it is important to spend time with those who are older than they are. This book is a great example of how they can make a difference in a life. Larnel and Mrs. Katz developed a friendship that lasted a lifetime!
If I have a child who is Jewish(follows Judaism), this would be an excellent book to read. Other students could be taught what their classmate believes and traditions that he/she follows. Words that Mrs. Katz uses could be talked about. She gives the cat Tush, a Yiddish name, which is the "international language" of Ashkenazi Jews, based primarily on German with words taken from Hebrew and many Slavic languages, and written in the Hebrew Alphabet. Ashkenazi Jews are from eastern France, Germany and Eastern Europe. Most Jews in America are Ashkenazic. When Larnel has Passover dinner with Mrs. Katz, she says, "Such a seder I'll prepare for you." A seder is the home ritual performed on the first two nights of the celebration of Passover. Mrs. Katz shares a little bit about what Passover is. The teacher can go more in depth with this and explain the Old Testament story of Moses and the Israelites and the way that God delivered them from the Egyptians. Mrs. Katz also refers to how her people and Laurnel's people are a lot alike in the trouble they have seen. The teacher can explain to students what slavery was and the hardships that African Americans endured. A great book that deals with this issue is Moses: When Harriet Tubman Led Her People To Freedom.
A few other words that Mrs. Katz uses: Kugel. She says that she makes the best fresh-baked kugel which is a Yiddish pudding-a dessert of noodles, fruits and nuts in an egg based pudding.
When Mrs. Katz and Larnel visit the tombstone of her deceased husband, she says a prayer of Kaddish, which is a prayer in Aramaic praising God, commonly associated with mourning practices. The chuppa she mentions is a wedding canopy which is symbolic of the groom's house. This is also mentioned in Polacco's book The Keeping Quilt.
This book is a great book to teach students lessons about friendhips as well as the Jewish culture.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

"Aleutian Sparrow" poem

My heart aches for the comfort, the love, and the joy of home.
How I long to hear the way mine and Pari's laughter crackled over the winter fire like sugar frosting and the way our skin smelled after a day gathering wildflowers in the summer hills.
How I long to walk across the backs of salmon with Eva and Alfred, with our nets glistening in the moonlight as the salmon splash water diamonds into the air.
How I long to feel the fierce wind as it play the grass like a tempest of green violions, the hear the waves crash againist the rocks raging like lions, to see the sun emerge from the gallopping clouds, to feel the rain one moment and see a rainbow arching over a volcano the next.

I do not understand this harsh treatment, the manner of this camp. Why were we taken from our homes? Questions pour from my heart as the summer rain falls from heavy clouds. Why are we treated like prisoners? We are citizens of this country, not prisoners. The deer has more freedom that we do! Why can't a doctor come to help those who are sick? Most importantly, when can we go home?
All I know is that I have reason yet to be thankful for I am alive aren't I? Even here, my prayers reveal a thousand realms to be grateful for another day, though it may be filled with pain and sorrow or hope and joy.

Friday, February 15, 2008

"John Philip Duck"

John Philip Duck

Author and Illustrator: Patricia Polacco

Philomel Books, 2004

Picture Book, Multicultural K-2

This is a story of Edward who lives in the foothills of Tennessee during the depression. Edward and his father work at the same motel in Memphis. During the week, he and his father stay at the hotel but on the weekends, Edward and his father come home to the farm. One day on the farm, Edward found a little duckling. He begged his mother and father to allow him to take care of the duck and nurse it back to health. His father allowed him to take it to the hotel, where he stayed in a cardboard box in the kitchen beside the cookstove but soon he started to venture into the halls. The staff of the hotel all worked together to keep the duck a secret from the strict manager, Mr. Schutt. One day, Edward showed the staff how the duck would dance to a John Philip Sousa march. This is where he got his name: John Philip Duck. One day, Mr. Schutt's hunting buddies came and put their live duck decoys into the lobby fountain pool, where John Philip Duck was also put to keep hidden from Mr. Schutt. When the men starting putting the ducks back into their cages, John Philip was caught! Edward yelled, "Wait one of them ducks is my pet." Mr. Schutt was mad! When Edward was allowed to show him the duck's tricks, everyone in the hotel cheered! Mr. Schutt gave Edward one month to train all the ducks that way and to train them to not come out of the fountain. When one month was over, all the ducks passed the test! They were able to perform the tricks that Edward taught them and stayed in the fountain all day. Edward was given a new uniform-one with shiny brass buttons and he was declard the official Duck master of the Peabody Hotel, where he stayed for fifty years! When he returned back to his farm, he played a John Philip Sousa march and all his graduates came flying to the pond to their beloved Duckmaster.

I enjoyed this fun story of John Philip Duck. It defintley made me smile and laugh! I believe that students would enjoy this book, for it is humorous. I think that it is rather comical to think about a duck marching to music! I also enjoyed Edward's lively spirit. The book even calls him a "dreamer." He says that someday that he will have a snappy uniform with shiny brass buttons and very soon his dream was fulfilled when he became the duckmaster of the hotel. Before he met John Philip duck, he sees the formation of the geese in the sky and wonders why they all follow a leader and wishes that he could be one of them, so he could see one up close. This dream also comes true.

The illustrations are done in watercolor and pencil. They do a great job of communicating the story and would hold students attention while the text is being read. The pencil art does a great job of conveying different emotions, from the angty Mr. Schutt to the excited Edward. Students will be captured by the scenes of the book, for they are double spread. There are many details that need to be taken in across the double spreads. I also believe that the text fit the illustratons because the text is placed in a different spot on each page, wherever there is a free space from the illustrations.
There are many ways that this book can be used in the classroom to teach different aspects. Teachers could explain to thier students the causes of the great depression and share photos with them. Students should understand that this was a very difficuilt time, and many farmers had to close their farms because they were not making enough money to provide for their families. This is why Edward and his father had to go find work in the city. Their farm was not providing for the family. Students can also hear John Philip Sousa march that the ducks marched to. Maybe students could even march around the room and pretend that ducks were teaching ducks to march!
The teacher can also relate this story to the students by asking them if they have a pet that they deeply care about. Does this pet like to follow you around? Have you taught your pet tricks that you would like to show others? Can you see a similarity in your relationship with your pet and the relationship that Edward had with John Philip Duck? What about your pet's name? Did you come up with it in a similiar way that Edward did for his duck?
I believe that students would greatly enjoying this book. They would laugh and learn at the same time!

Where I'm From

Where I'm From
I am from a loving home bubbling with happiness.
I am from the pansies my Momma planted with tender care and the tall oak trees that protect our home.
I am from hearty laughs shared at the dinner table and fun times spent playing board games.
I am from the Conrad Brown and Dewey Hobson family.
I am from the strong-willed, kind-hearted, and the joyful.
From being Daddy's princess and Momma's sweetheart.
I am made beautiful and wonderful by a God who loves all with a love that is unfailing and everlasting.
I am from the truth that all are invited to share in a relationship with God through accepting his son, Jesus Christ, who died on the cross for all, bearing our sins.
I am from Yadkin County, green beans and tomato sandwiches.
From the grandfather who worked hard to raise his family on a farm, from the grandfather who fought in WWII, from a loving father who would sacrifice his life for his family and the God he loves.
Beside the piano are photo albums spanning through the years. From special birthdays to memorable vacations, from a young boy named Nathan with a love for adventure to a grown man on his wedding day, from a chubby baby girl with a grand smile to a young woman filled with a love for life, from a sweet baby boy named Lucas who loved lizards to a young man filled with a passion for love and laughter, from parents who have sacrificed so much for the sake of their family. This is where I'm from.

Saturday, February 9, 2008

"Because of Winn Dixie"

2000 Newbery Honor Book
"Because of Winn Dixie"
Kate DiCamillo
Candlewick Press, 2000
Realistic Fiction, 2-5

Becuase of Winn Dixie is a story about a young girl, Opal, and the unique friendship that she shares with her dog, Winn-Dixie. She and her father, "the preacher" take in this stray dog and both fall in love with him. Winn-Dixie helps Opal make friends in the town of Naomi, where she and her father have just moved. She makes friends with the most unlikely characters, who Opal and Winn-Dixie lead to feel accepted and loved. Opal realizes that all that has happened to her this summer is because Winn-Dixie. She has made new friends, found a job at the pet shop, been invited to a young girl's birthday party, and has been able to let go of the emptiness in her heart that is there because she misses her mother whom she has never met. When she thinks that she loses Winn-Dixie during a thunderstrom, her heart is broken. Opal and her father run through the rain for a long while, searching for Winn-Dixie. Here, in the midst of the storm, Opal is finally able to ask her father about her mother who Opal has never met and longs to hear about. Her father, who she calls "the preacher" and "the turtle", breaks down and cries, telling Opal that he is so thanful that she is his daughter. Winn-Dixie brings Opal closer to her father, leads her to true friends who love and care for her, and leads her to find so much happiness that she says, "I felt my heart swell up inside me with pure happiness."(176)

This book evoked much emotional response for me! I have a yellow lab named Ginger, and Winn-Dixie reminded me a lot of my own dog. I enjoyed how Opal described Winn-Dixie. Her first description of Winn-Dixie says that "mostly he looked like a piece of old brown carpet that had been left in the rain."(11). Several times during the book she refers to Winn-Dixie smiling, saying that "he pulled back his lips and showed me all his teeth." I believe that my dog does that too! The way that Opal descirbes her dog makes it impossile not to want to meet him and have him smile at you! It almost seems that Winn-Dixie is very humanlike. He does not like to be alone, sneezes, likes peanut butter, sleeps in Opal's bed, sits on the couch with Opal and her dad, and smiles. I believe that Winn-Dixie's importance to Opal helps students reach the "being in and stepping out" reader response stance. This means that students use the story as a basis for reflecting on their own lives, on the lives of others, and the human experience. I took this stance as I read this book because I began to think a lot about my relationship with my own dog. I thought about the fun activties that we do together and how I also treat my dog like a human. I talk to Ginger much in the same way that Opal talks to Winn-Dixie and I think that I also can tell when Ginger is smiling or scared. My dog is also scared of thunderstorms. When Opal thought that she had lost Winn-Dixie during the thunderstorm, I knew exactly how frantic, fearful, and heartbroken that she felt. Ginger ran away from us when we were hiking in the mountains one summer. She ran right back to our vechicle, thank goodness. I also know the happiness that Opal felt when she found Winn-Dixie. Much like Opal, I ran and wrapped my arms around Ginger. I believe that students who have a pet who they care deeply about, it does not have to be a dog, could relate to Opal and Winn-Dixie's relationship. Maybe they can relate to what Opal feels in the beginning-that Winn-Dixie is her only friend. Even if students do not have a pet, maybe they can think of a friend, neighbor, or movie character who have found a friend in an animal. For example, the movie My Dog Skip, Far From Home, and Homeward Bound are all great examples of the impact that a dog can have on a life. My Dog Skip is a story much like Winn-Dixie's. Skip becomes the young boy's best friend and leads him to make friends and become more confident in himself. Connections with Because of Winn-Dixie can also be compared to other books like Old Yeller, Big Red, Shiloh, and even Stuart Little. The class could have a discussion aboout this or even write a paper or journal entry about the unique relationships and frienships between animals and people.

I believe that readers from all ages would enjoy this book! I found myself laughing out loud at times. I laughed when Winn-Dixie caught the mouse in the church and laughed imagining all the animals out of the cages at the pet shop, sitting at Otis' feet, listening to him play his guitar. I was felt very sad at times during the book. When Opal talked about how much she wanted to meet her Mother and that her heart felt empty without her Mother, I was sad. When I found out that Amanda's little brother Carson drowned, I felt sad. When the preacher talked to Opal about her Mother, telling Opal that he was so glad that she left Opal with him and that she was proabley never coming back, I also felt like I could cry. The book also made me feel happy and joyful. At the party when Opal brought Otis, Sweetie Pie, Miss Fanny Block, Amanda, Dunlap, Stevie, and the preacher all to Gloria Dump's house, I felt happy for Opal. She was surrounded by friends who she and Winn-Dixie had brought together.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

"Lily's Crossing"

Newbery Honor Book
"Lily's Crossing"
Author: Patricia Reilly Giff
Delacorte Press, 1997
Histrical Fiction, 3-5

Summary: "Lily's Crossing" is set in the years of 1944-1945, during the ending years of World War II. Lily is a lively and loveable young girl who lives with her grandmother(Gram) and her father(Poppy) in St. Albans, New York. Each summer they take a trip to Gram's beach house, which is in the cozy little town of Rockaway. Lily greatly loves her summers spent here and so does Poppy. She looks foward to her summers at the beach all through the year and thinks quite often of the many special memories that have been created here for Lily. However, this summer will be different from any other due to the war that is changing everyone's life. Lily's good friend, Margaret, will not be there this summer because her father is moving their familly to Detroit where he will be a part of the assembling line which is creating B-24's, which Margaret's Dad calls "Liberator Bombers." Margaret's brother is also missing in action fighting in the war. When Poppy tells Lily that he has to join the army to be an engineer, who "will help put Europe back together agian," Lily's heart is so broken that she does not know how to handle the feelings of anger, hurt, sadness, and fear. Lily makes a special friend in Rockaway who encourages her, accepts her, and cares greatly for her. They comfort each other during this diffcuilt time in their lives. Lily's friend name is Albert and he is from Hungary. He is seeking safety from the war, for his mother and father were killed for prinitng a newspaper that wrote bad things about the Nazis and Hitler. He expresses great concern and worry for his younger sister, Ruth, who is in France. She had the measles and was not allowed to go on the ship to America. Lily and Albert's friendship blossoms and grows deeper all throughout the book. They were brought together by rescuing a kitten from the ocean and nursing it back to health. They sneak into movies together, sneak out on the rowboat in the middle of the night together to see the ships, have picnics together, share their intermost secrets and fears, and go swimming together. Lily refers to Albert as her best friend;"the first friend that she had ever made." As the summer ended, Lily and Albert say goodbye, with promises to never forget one another. Lily wrote about Albert many times in her journal at school. Her teacher tells her that some people never have a friend like that. In 1945, Poppy comes home from the war, telling Lily that he found Ruth! He had read all of Lily's letters that told Poppy all about Albert and Ruth. Ruth was living at a convent with horses, cows, a river, and that she was happy, but missed Albert everyday. When summer came and Lily returned to Rockaway, she knew it would never be the same without Albert. The suprise and tear-jerker of the story comes when Albert and Ruth are there, at Rockaway, and Albert is pulling his sister toward Lily saying, "It's Lily, it's my best friend, Lily."
Response: This book creates a great emotional response. I would recommend it to any teacher to read in their classroom, espically if they are teaching a unit on WWII. Not only does the book teach about what life may have been like during WWII, many lessons are taught on friendship-what a true friend truly consists of. This book touched my heart in so many ways. I felt as if I could feel what Lily and Albert were feeling at times because I felt like I know them so well! When they were crying at different times in the book, I also felt like crying! I like the way that Giff allows readers to read Lily's inner thoughts. For example, when she was telling Albert that she lied to him, that they could not really row out to the boats at sea and travel to France, she says, "lying to Albert was not like lying to anyone else. He had a way of looking at her as if everything she said was important, serious or funny, interesting to him somehow...she felt tears running down her cheeks and reached up to wipe them away."(144). This brings readers to realize how much that Lily cared for Albert, that he was very special to her. Another example is when Lily gets wiped out from the wave when she was trying to rescue Albert in the ocean, who follows her to the blanket, saying, "I thought you were such a good swimmer." Lily thinks: "As soon as she stopped coughing she was going to drown him herself. She was going to take him by his skinny neck and throw him right back."(75). Lily has a very lively spirit. She sneaks out of the house at night, wears lipstick when she is not around Gram, and allows her imaginition to take control quite often. For example, in the beginning she spies on Albert because she thinkse that he is a spy. I think that all girls could relate to Lily in some way. Lily deals with issues that all girls face during this age-lies, daydreaming, and a need for friends. Her character develops throughout the story as she shares herself with Albert. She realizes that she no longer needs to lie and she realizes what makes a true friend. The friendship that Albert and Lily create is one of sacrifice and trust. Albert trust Lily enough to tell her about his past-his family and his long journey to America. He also shares his deep sadness that he feels becuase he may never see his grandmother or sister again. Lily also shares her sadness with him. She misses her mother who died when Lily was very young and Lily is afraid that Poppy will not come back. At the end of the book, Lily rows out to the ocean in the storm to help Albert, who is trying to see the ships. When she gets to him, he was "gulping water, and she reached out, and by some miracle, her hand hooked around the top of the jacket. She held it, feeing her nails rip, but knowing she wouldn't let go, even if she was pulled out of the boat."(155) Lily was willing to risk falling into the raging ocean to save her friend Albert. Not long before this, Albert had told Lily that when he left Hungary, he thought that he would be angry and sad forever. He told Lily that because she was his friend, he was happy. Lily and Albert's friendship is one that students can learn from. A true friend is one who accepts you just as you are, is always ready to listen and encourage, and would be willing to risk life for.
Teaching Ideas: There are so many ways to incorporate this story into the classroom! First of all, students need to learn about WWII and information about Pearl Harbor as well as the countries of Allied and Axis powers in the war. Students need to understand that Hitler was the leader of Germany and that he wanted to conquer the world. Albert's parents were killed because they wrote againist Hitler and his followers, the Nazis. They were very cruel and harsh to people who did not follow their orders, even killing others who were againist them. The United States, England, France, and Russia were fighting together againist the Japanese and the Germans, who were conquering land and people with evil intentions.
Albert tells Lily of his adventure to America. He traveled from Hungary through Austria and Switzerland, across the mountains to France,where he got on a ship that brought him to America. The expanse of Albert's journey can be better understood when looking at a map.
The culture of this time is also introduced in this book and students would greatly enjoy learning about this! For example, Lily writes about the movie Fair Stood the Wind for France, which was based on novel. Lily and her friend Margaret snuk into the movies to see this about four times!
Lily also reads several novels one of them being Evangeline, The Three Musketeers, and A Tale of Two Cities. I believe that students would enjoy hearing about theses stories which were popular during this time. Students could then compare this to what is popular now. Would they enjoy reading the books that Lily was reading?
Students can also be introduced to the candy that was popular during this time. Lily and Margaret get into the candy that was going to be sent to Margaret's brother, Eddie, who is a soldier. The girls are excited as they look through the bag finding Hershey bars, Walnettos, Sugar Daddy lollipops, and Life Savers. Students may not know what Necco Wafers are(which is what Lily chose) and teachers may try to find some so that studetns can try them!
The concept of rationing is also introduced in Lily's Crossing. Students can learn why Lily's grandmother quite often talked about not having any butter due to the war. The teacher can even read a primary account about rationing in the U.S. The writer speaks of coupouns and the close rationing of gasoline, sugar, and dairy products.

This is truly a great book in which students can learn so much! Not only can students make connections with the characters but gain knowledge of an important time in history.

Sunday, February 3, 2008

"Kindle Me A Riddle"

"Kindle Me A Riddle: A Pioneer Story"

Story by Roberta Karim
Pictures by Bethanne Anderson
Greenwillow Books, 1999
Picture Book, Historical Fiction, Poetry K-2
"Kindle Me a Riddle" is set in the 1850's with the pictures set in the landscape of eastern Utah. The book is told through the young eyes of Constance. She is a girl who seems to think rather deeply into subjects and she asks many questions! Her question follows this pattern each time: "What is our chalk before it was chalk?" The book goes throughout Constance's day which she shares with her Mother, Father, and brother Jack. Constance also goes to school, does chores, listens to Papa read a book, and falls asleep with her doll in the loft of her family's cabin. One can learn much about pioneer life by reading this book.
I thought this book was enjoyable and that students would be entertained by it. I believe that they would even laugh a few times reading this book! I like how the book is written through a child's point-of-view becuase it seems to think the way that a child may think! For example, Constance says that after school "we leapfrogged home" and she asks "what is my doll before it's my doll?" Her mother answers, "Corn husks dancing in the moonlight." I think that this is significant because students may not have ever thought about what children played with during the 1800's. I know that they can not imagine playing with a doll made from corn husks!
This book can be used in the classroom to learn about pioneer life and for students' to learn new interesting facts! For example, when Constance asks her teacher where chalk comes from, her teacher replies, "Chalk comes from seashells pressed tightly together." I did not know that! The teacher can use the book to teach concepts about pioneer life which include the importance of a fire in the cabin, the wagon roads which used to be buffalo trails, the abundance of apple orchards found in the west, using chalk and slates in school instead of paper, what a springhouse is, how life would be using a fire and candles for light, how baskets were made, playing for corn-husk dolls, and that pillows were made from from feathers from ducks, chicken, or geese. All of this information can be made into a very interesting and fun lesson plan!
The illustrations of this picture book are beautiful! They are oil paints on a gesso background. The paintings are all very colorful which matches the tone of the book greatly. The landscapes look so real-there are rolling hills, pine trees, colorful skies, birds, blooming trees, stars, and moons. The people all look happy and gentle, and have different expressions depending on the text. The paintings of the house portray a great picture of what the houses may have looked like-plain and simple. The artist also draws the fireplace in all the house pictures because the pioneer life depended greatly on the fireplace. It was used to cook food, give light, and keep them warm. I like how the artist uses many colors and is sure to make each page different and pleasing to the eye.
This is a book that the teacher would enjoy reading to her students. The students would learn about pioneer life as well as interesting facts. The students would also like taking in the details of the paintings.

Friday, February 1, 2008

"Katie's Trunk"

"Katie's Trunk"
Written by Ann Turner
Illustrated by Ron Hinker
Macmaiilan Publishing Company, 1992
Picture Book, Historical Fiction , K-2

Katie is a young girl living during the days of the American Revolution, which would be around the year 1773. She lives with her family which consists of her Mother, Father, sister Hattie and brother Walter. Her family supports England; they do not support the rebels who are againist England's power of the colonies. The people of the town no longer talk to Katie's family. Katie says that her and Walter's friends hiss at them, "Troy!" which is a word that describes an England supporter. One day Katie's father runs toward the house, screaming for the family to hide in the woods because the rebels were coming. While they are hiding in the woods, Katie becomes so mad that she decided to just run back to the house, because she thought it was not right, fair, or just for these men to hurt their house and their things. When she goes inside the house, she looks and touches her favorite things. When she hears the men at the door, she runs to hide in her Momma's trunk in the bedroom. She hides down under her Momma's dressses, and she can scarely breathe. The men are looking for money and they decide to look in the trunk. As one man begins to pull out the dresses, his hand touches Katie. Suddenly the man shouted, "Out! The Tories are coming!" Katie was very thankful that this man, John Warren, decided to protect her family from the rebels.

This book is a great way to teach students about the Revolutionary War. The teacher will have to distinguish between the rebels and the tories. The tories supported England ruling the colonies on North America continent. The rebels no longer wanted England to contorl the colonies. The teacher should use a map to show the students where England is located and where the colonies were located so the students can better understand. Students can be introduced to the reasons the Revolutionary War started. The book refers to the Boston Tea Party. Katie's mother says, "Tea in the harbor! Wasting God's good food!" The teacher can teach students what the Boston Tea Party was and why the rebels threw crates of tea into the harbor. For example, students will need to understand what the Stamp Act was and why this made the colonists so angry. A great source that can be used for grade 3-5 is to allow students to read (either indvidually or together) a primary source about the account of the Boston Tea Party. It is from the Boston Gazette Newspaper, 1773. This will greatly enhance their understanding of life during this time as well as increase understanding of the book "Katie's Trunk." Also, the teacher may want to show pictures of the Boston Tea Party or pictures of the war. This will help enhance students understanding.
The illustrations of this book are done in watercolor and pencil. I believe that they greatly portray the tone of the characters and this time in history. For example, the characters do not smile throughout the book. This is because there was much conflict between the colonists. The way that Katie and her family dress also teaches students the way that men, women, and children dressed during this time. The men also wore their hair long with a braid in the back with black hats and the women wore bonnets and buns. The children wore dresses, trousers, and buckle-up shoes. I believe that the illustrations communicate symbolically through the use of backgrounds and colors. The background is simple, for during this time period there were not large cities or elaborate houses.
I really enjoyed this book because his book taught me very much about this time period. I believe that what makes this book even more special is that this book is based upon a true story. The students can try to imagine what Katie must have felt as she was hiding in the trunk and how thankful she must have been that John Warren did not tell the other men he found her. The last page of the book is very meaningful and speaks of how thankful that Katie is: "He'd(John Warren) left one seam of goodness there, and we were all tied to it: Papa, Mama, Walter, Hattie and me."