Monday, November 15, 2010

The Misfits

                             "The Misfits" 
                                                                  by James Howe 

I would give this book 4 **** out of 4 stars.

SummaryThe gang of five (Addie, Skeezie, Bobby, Joe and Colin) are a group of outcasts who are determined to change their school. The students decide to try to form a third party in the student government election and they want the school's only African American student to run for president. The party is forced to disband and the students decide to start the No-Name party.
James Howe
This is an amazing chapter book that is difficult to put down. I believe it is a great book to use with children who are in upper elementary or middle school. 

This book contains controversial topics and issues that relate to elementary students and their personal issues. Joe is a character who is confused about his sexuality which is an extremely controversial issue to talk about in schools but one that is relevant to their lives directly. I know that Joe is a fictional character but I am sure there are Joe's all around the world who are afraid to speak out about their true feelings in fear of being rejected by society, their families and friends. 

Any child at any age can relate to being called a name. The gang of fives goal was the stop this epidemic. I believe this is a campaign that every elementary school, middle school and high school should adopt. Being called names, whether it be fat, lame, or gay, can have serious negative effects on children and their self esteem. It creates a hostile environment where children are afraid to be who they truly are. 

The gang of five reaches out to children who are not like them and are interested in promoting equality. They reach out to the only African American student in the school to become the future president of the student government. These children do not judge people based on their race, gender, weight or sexual orientation. These characters, while being completely different, are accepting of all people. They are good roll models for children in todays society. I would love the opportunity to hopefully teach this book in my future classroom. 

Monday, November 8, 2010

2 Choice Picture Books

"John, Paul, George, and Ben"

"John, Paul, George, and Ben" is written and illustrated by Lane Smith. I would use this book with students who are in second through fifth grade. 

Rating: I would give this book 5 ***** out of 5 stars. 

Summary: This is the story of John Hancock, Paul Revere, George Washington and Benjamin Franklin before they became legends. This book describes their childhood and how the events that happened in their lives led them to where they left their mark in history. 

I love this book and will definitely be using it in my classroom. It is a fun way to teach children about history. It also allows them to picture these influential people as children like themselves. Teachers can use this book to teach their students about each of the men featured in this book and the rolls they played in our history. 

"Amelia and Eleanor Go For A Ride"

This book is written by Pam Munoz Ryan and illustrated by Brian Selznick. I would use this book with students who were in grades four or five. 

Rating: I would give this book 3 *** out of 3 stars. 

Summary: This is the story of a night in April when Amelia Earhart and her husband visited Eleanor Roosevelt at the White House. They were great friends who loved to do things that many thought women shouldn't be doing such as flying and driving. They go on adventures doing both of those things and share dessert at the White House afterwards.

  This book can be used to talk about the relationship between friends. Both of these women shared similarities as well as differences and this never hindered the fact that they liked to spend time with each other. Teachers could also use this book to teach children about the famous women in our history, these particular women included. You could teach your students about all of the wonderful things Amelia and Eleanor accomplished in their lifetime as well as some other influential women such as Rosa Parks. This book can also be used to introduce the issues between women's rights and the traditional roles women are expected to play. 

*Both of these books contain authors notes that contain the true story behind the ones illustrated in the book. 

Multicultural Picture Books

"The Sounds of Kwanzaa

The book "The Sounds of Kwanzaa" was written by Dimitrea Tokunbo and illustrated by Lisa Cohen. It is written for first through fourth graders. 

Rating: I would give this book a rating of 5 ***** out of 5 stars. 

This book is dedicated to the teaching of Kwanzaa and how it is celebrated. It takes the reader step by step through the celebration of Kwanzaa. Each page is designated for a specific day during Kwanzaa and tells the reader what is done on each day. For example, on the second night of Kwanzaa one red candle is lit and traditions about self determination are shared. The illustrations accompany the Swahili word being introduced on the opposing page. 

Last sentence of each page in this book is dedicated
to which candle is lit which night. 
 This book also has some great elements that could be used in the classroom. Every page starts with the same two lines which is great for struggling readers. Patterns allow them to see the same words over and over again to be able to turn unfamiliar words into familiar words. 

"Almost to Freedom" 

"Almost to Freedom" is written by Vaunda Micheaux Nelson and illustrated by Colin Bootman. This book is written for second to fourth graders. 

Rating: I would give this book 5 ***** out of 5 stars. 

Summary: This story is told from Sally, Lindy's doll's point of view. She is constantly by Lindy's side and she is there for her during some pretty rough times. She watches Lindy get whipped by the slave master and listens intently at a late night bonfire where people speak of something called freedom. Lindy is awoken in the middle of the night and is about to embark on an extremely dangerous journey. 

This is a phenomenal picture book. I would recommend that it is used with children closer
to third or fourth grade because of the amount of text and content. This is an amazing book 
to use when teaching students about slavery. You can use this book to describe the types of work the slaves were forced to complete and the songs and traditions passed down from 
generations. Towards the beginning of the book a bonfire is held and the topic of freedom is brought up. Lindy and Sally don't know what the adults are talking about. This would be a 
great time to talk to students about what it means to be free. A class chart could be made 
with each student contributing an idea of what freedom means to them. The chart would be discussed and you can dramatically tell students that each of these items were unavailable to African Americans during this time. This is what brought about the need for the 
underground railroad. When Lindy is awakened in the dead of night, she and her mother run to meet her father and meet a few amazing and courageous people along the way. They meet someone who rows them across the river and an elderly couple who hides Lindy and her 
family in their basement. These people were part of a secret system of both whites and 
african americans who helped slaves escape to the north. This is another important topic 
that should be taught in school in conjunction with the topic of slavery. You could also
introduce your students to the Civil War which explains why the slaves ran to the north to 
find freedom. This is time jumping just a little bit, but you can also use this book to teach
students about the civil rights movement. During this time, African Americans still weren't
given equal rights and opportunities and there were some very important people who
fought and gave their lives for this cause.
This is a great reference tool for teachers to use while teaching this book. You can plan
great lessons from this resource.

"The Girl Who Loved Wild Horses"

"The Girl Who Loved Wild Horses" is writtenand illustrated by Paul Goble. Paul Goble is an award winning children's author who writes mostly Native American stories. This book can be used with students grades first through

Rating: I would give this book 4 **** out of
four stars.

Summary: A young girl growing up in a Native American village who loved horses. She knew everything there was to know about horses
and the village began to notice. The young girl spent many years roaming with the horses and was missed by her family. One day returned
home but was unhappy without her horses,
returned to them and visited her family once a year.

"The Girl Who Loved Wild Horses" is an amazing children's book that allows teachers to
incorporate diversity into their classroom, specifically about Native American culture. This book illustrates the intense bond and relationship some humans developed with animals.
This could be introduced by talking to students about the bonds shared between humans and animals in our culture today. Such as, dogs cats or birds. This can be applied to teaching
students about the bond in Native American culture. This is also a great book to teach
students about legends. These types of stories are passed down from generation to
generation and are believed to be factual. One idea I had that I would like to incorporate
into my classroom is have a day where my students and I dress in traditional Native
American dress and we sit in a circle and share our own legends that we have written. A sort of tribute to the culture of these people and a way to show our appreciation to the legends of the native people. This book and its illustrations allow students to immerse themselves into the lives of the people in this village. Such as the way they dress, act and live. 

Here are some resources and lesson plans for teachers to use to incorporate this specific book into their diversity activities

Woodson Experience

by Jacqueline Woodson

I was pleasantly surprised with this novel. Sitting down to read I was very skeptical about reading a book containing only poetry. When I was a young student, poetry and language arts were never made interesting which could very well be the source of my skepticism.

I loved that the entire novel was written from Lonnie's perspective and followed him through many settings in his life. We got a taste of what life was like with his family before the tragedy, his life at school and his life with Miss. Edna. Since I am currently enrolled in language arts and reading methods at the University of Iowa, I have come to realize the importance of writing in the classroom. This novel enforces this idea and also further supports the fact that writing can be an escape for most students.

The two prominent themes in this book are faith and belongingness. Lonnie's younger sister, Lili, believes that if Lonnie finds God and reads the bible they will be able to be together again. Lili lives with a new family not far from Lonnie and the family she is living with values faith and religion. Lonnie is skeptical of this plan but will do anything to be reunited with Lili. He begins to read the Bible and search for God anywhere he can think to look. I believe Lonnie also fed off of the innocence in Lili's statement. In her mind, this is simple. Lonnie plus God equals reunited and Lonnie knows that the real world does not work like that but he has faith in his younger sister and hopes that one day things will return to they way they once were.

Belongingness is also a theme in this novel. Lonnie feels that he does not belong, that he does not fit in anywhere. He is continually searching for his place in life. He does not have a set group of friends at school, he feels that at any moment Miss. Edna will abandon him and he has lost Lili, the only family he has left after his parents passing. He finds a shred of belonging when he is with Lili and when Miss. Edna's son comes to visit at refers to him as his little brother.

Towards the end of the novel, things were looking up for Lonnie which made me extremely happy. When I become immersed in a book I begin to feel like I am in the story (this is how I can tell it's a great book!). After hearing how much Lonnie struggles to come to terms with his parents tragic passing and being separated from Lili, I was hoping for a happy ending. The ending was very open ended but I choose to believe the best. I would give this novel a 5 out of 5 stars.

After reading separate novels, we were placed into discussion groups in class. After discussing our novels, our group came up with commonalities we thought were present in all of our novels.
Jacqueline Woodson

-Urban Settings
-Family Tragedy
-Separated Siblings
-African American Characters
-Similar Endings

Monday, October 25, 2010


"Locomotion" by Jacqueline Woodson
Rating: I would give this book 5 ***** out of 5 stars.

This is an amazing novel that pulls on your heart strings. The entire time I was reading this book I really felt for Lonnie. It made me feel good to know that he found comfort in writing. I know he is a fictional character but his problems are ones that real children may be experiencing or experienced. I want to incorporate writing into my classroom to hopefully provide children the same safe haven Lonnie found in writing.

For the first fifty pages of this novel I thought Lonnie was a girl. This could be due to my schema with the name Lonnie. Every Lonnie I know is a girl so I was fairly surprised to find out that she was in fact a he. I could not imagine the pain that this young boy is feeling. He lost his mother, father and in a way his sister. He knows that not many families want to adopt or house a boy who is his age and he was bounced around from church family to church family until there were no more families. He lives a with a women who tells him to be quiet which is what turns him toward writing. Miss.Edna does, in a way, show Lonnie love. She continues to house and feed him and allows him to come along on her trips to see her sons. I believe that Miss Edna's son, Rodney, has a great influence on Lonnie's life. He has no adult male figure to look up to and Rodney is very accepting of him calling him his little brother.

I am surprised that the foster care system would not do its best to keep Lonnie and Lili together. They are lucky they live relatively close to each other. She is the only family he has left. I love the innocence of Lili's thought process. She believes that if he finds God they will be together. If Lonnie can finish the bible and find Him they will be allowed to see each other everyday. Little does she know life is more complicated then that.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

"The Giver"

"The Giver" by Lois Lowry

I was pleasantly surprised by this novel. Unlike most people, I had never read this book before so I did not know what to expect. I sat down to read the first couple chapters and I found that the book was hard to put down. I was captivated by the live that Jonas was explaining. Those who live in a civilization such as the one we find ourself living in, could not even imagine what living in this particular culture per say would be like. A culture that sees in black and white, where all children have the same birthday celebrated by a special ceremony and after the ceremony of twelve age is simply forgotten. Each ceremony is similar to our cultures birthday parties, each child receives a "gift" or a new priviledge in society. For example, nines get their bicycles which is their equivalent of a car and as you progress through your years you get a new jacket or get to take down the braids in your hair. In our society, when children turn 16 they may receive their drivers license which will most likely lead to a car and at each birthday celebration children receive various gifts such as bikes or clothes. In their society you are not to ask questions or to be rude. Apologies are scripted and spoke with no meaning, and apologies are expected to be accepted immediately. This is something that does not occur often in our society. It is okay for you to be mad at someone and to sometimes not accept their apologies. 

One thing that surprised me was that people did not see in color. I did not understand the scene with Jonas and Asher playing with the apple. I didn't understand this concept until later in the book. I also think that Jonas's placement was more of a punishment instead of an honor. The elders make it seem like such an amazing and important job when in reality it is an extreme burden. Jonas begins to feel things that no one else in the society can feel, he knows pain and love and killing. This is a lot for a young boy to feel and he has no one to talk to besides the giver. He begins to be unable to relate to his peers and family because he sees what life could be like when it is filled with love, family and genuine happiness and freedom. This brings me to another point in this book that shocked me. I could not imagine a life without love. While Jonas's parents admit to enjoying his presence, there is no love shown between parents and parents and children. Also, the fact that there were no extended families. No aunts, uncles, cousins or grandparents to share memories with. All throughout the book I was skeptical about the release process, so it was not surprising when my thoughts were varified. 

The concept of "sameness" is something that this society highly values. The population not being able to see colors allows this concept to take flight. There are some things that even black and white can't hide. Jonas has light eyes, which is something that is never spoken of but it is a difference that can be seen with their vision. 
Lois Lowry

I was also very disappointed with the ending of this book. I am someone who likes a clear cut ending, whether it be happy or sad. I choose to believe that Jonas and Gabe live to find a society that is similar to ours. I believe that everything Jonas did was for what he believed was right and that he did find happier days. Overall, this is an amazing book and hopefully one that I will get an opportunity to use in my classroom. 

Saturday, October 23, 2010

5 Picture Books

"When I Was Young in the Mountains"
by Cynthia Rylant and illustrated by Diane Goode

Rating: I would give this book 4 **** out of 5 stars.
This book is a Caldecott Honor winner.

Summary: This is a story about a young girl and boy who live in the mountains. She explains all of the things she and her family would do on a daily basis. For example, her grandmother making dinner and going to the local store to buy butter. She also shares the most vivid memories she holds close to her heart. At the conclusion of the book, she states that when she was young she never wanted to be anywhere else except the mountains.

I really enjoy this book. The illustrations accompany the words on the page exquisitely. This book would be great to use with children in first or second grade. You could use this book to teach students about what life is like in the mountains compared to the rural and city neighborhoods. This book could also be used to teach students about what life was like 50-100 years ago. Such as, how the children pumped the water from the well and warmed it for their baths or how the bathroom was in a special house outside of the home. This book also introduces new vocabulary to students such as Okra, johnny-house and hoe. The topic of religion and baptism is also discussed in this book. This book could be considered controversial due to this reason, but I believe it is important for students to see how different religions existed at different points in time. Therefore, I would still read this book to my class. You could also relate this book to the different landscapes of the United States, which could relate to your students home landscapes or what their favorite vacation spots look like. This would be a great addition to your students writers notebooks! You could also ask students to make this entry in their writers notebooks (if they choose): "When I Was Young in the...." have them fill in the blank and write a page to add to a class book.

"Wilfrid Gordon McDonald Partridge"
 is written by Mem Fox and illustrated by Julie Vivas.

Rating: I would give this book 4 **** out of 5 stars

Summary: This story is about a little boy who lives next to and old persons home. He has a special and unique bond with each person who lives there, especially Miss Nancy. One night he over hears his parents say that Miss Nancy has lost her memory. He asks all of his old friends what a memory is, goes home and fills a box with his memories and shares that box with Miss Nancy which brings back her memory.

This would be a great book to read with students who are in third or fourth grade. You could discuss with children what they think a memory is and if they have one that is especially special and if they do to write about it in their notebooks. This could also give students the opportunity to create their own "memory box". They could bring things in from home that represent fond memories they have stored away in their minds and can share with the rest of the class. This book could also help teach students about the structure of stories and transition words such as next and then. You could also incorporate a lesson about how friends can be any age. It does not matter if you are six of ninety six.

"The Lotus Seed"
by Sherry Garland and illustrated by Tatsuro Kiuchi

Rating: I would give this book 5 ***** out of 5 stars.

Summary: The Lotus Seed is about a young girl's grandmother's story about her journey to America. Her grandmother keeps a lotus seed with her to remember he home land by. One night, her younger brother planted the seed and Ba found the flower days later. Once the seed blossomed into a pod she gave her grandchildren a seed to remember her by. The young girl put the seed in a safe place to hopefully give to her future children.

The Lotus Seed is an incredible story that would be great to use with students from first to fourth grade. This book needs a little pre-reading activity. Anything that will activate and or broaden students schema. You would need to find out what students already know about the Chinese culture. This would be a great book to use while talking about the different cultures of the world. You could use this book along with other books about various countries. You could read these books, have children research some facts on their own and have a day to celebrate all of the countries with their traditional dress and food dishes. This is also an amazing way to teach students about diversity and to incorporate diversity into your classroom. Since this topic is a little more complex then most books this is a great book to use while teaching children about asking questions. After reading the story once through, the class can make a chart with any questions that came to mind during the reading. You can also incorporate how to find answers to these questions by labeling each question with a T for text, I for inferring and OS for outside source. (Miller 2003).

"Goldilicious" by Victoria Kann

Rating: I would give this book 3 *** out of 5 stars.

Summary: This book is about a young girl and her imaginary friend named Goldilicious who is a unicorn. Pinkalicious and Peter, her younger brother, go on many adventures with Goldilicious until she flies away in a hot air balloon. Thinking Goldilicous is lost, Pinkalicious is sad but finds her waiting in her bed that night.

This book is appropriate for children who are in first or second grade. I like the complexity of the language this book contains but I do not think it would be a book I would use for a mini-lesson. It does encourage students to have imaginary friends and to use their imagination during play and school. You could recommend this book to students with siblings because Pinkalicious and her brother don't get along at the beginning of the book, but through playing and imagining all of the adventures Goldilicious would take them on they become much closer. This would be a good book to suggest to students who are having trouble finding a topic to write about in their writers notebook.

"Chrysanthemum" by Kevin Henkes

Rating: I give this book 5 ***** out of 5 stars

Summary: Chrysanthemum is a young mouse who loves her name, until she begins school. Her classmates make fun of her name and she wishes she could have a simpler name. Until one day the music teacher Mrs. Twinkle told the class she was also named after a flower and if her baby is a girl she was going to name her Chrysanthemum. Everyone wanted to be named after a flower and Chrysanthemum finally appreciates her name.

I am in love with this book. It is so beautifully written and illustrated. The summary that is written above does not do the book justice. I highly recommend this book to teachers in first to fifth grade classrooms. This is a rather long book, so if you are going to use it with younger children it is best that you read it to them a few times. The vocabulary in this book is out of this world, this book will definitely broaden children's knowledge of words. You could also use this book to learn about children's names and where they came from (again, another great entry in the writers notebook!). This book can also be used to encourage children to love everything about themselves and why it is important to not tease each other. This would be a great book to use in the beginning of the year. You can learn about your students on a personal level and also reinforce the concept of building a community in the classroom.