Friday, February 29, 2008

So You Want to be President?

A. Title: So You Want to be President?

B. Author: Judith St. George

C. Illustrator: David Small

D. Publisher: Philomel Books, a division of Penguin Putnam Books

E. Genre: Picture Book - Informational Text

F. Reading Level: Grades 3 - 5

G. Awards: Caldecott Honor Book, ALA Notable Children's Book

H. Summary: So You Want to be President? is an extremely entertaining and hilarious children's picture book about our country's presidents. This book goes over what it takes to become president mostly by grouping the presidents together by characteristics that they share. Some of the information about our former presidents has been on who has served in one of our country's wars, what fun activities they've done in the White House, common names, birth places, age, sense of humor, physical appearance, related presidents, siblings, and the list goes on and on. The book has a great combination of real facts, fun facts, and hilarious images (Presidents included go from George Washington to Bill Clinton). The illustrations are done in ink, watercolor, and pastel chalk. The backgrounds are all colorful, lively, and entertaining. Each page has a pictures of presidents, and in the back of the book is an index that tells which president is on which page. The back of the book also has section of information on all of the presidents up to Bill Clinton; each president has a few lines devoted solely to them.

I. Response: I absolutely love So You Want to be President? I wish in fourth and fifth grade, when I remember studying the presidents and our nation's history, that we had had this book as a resource. I think the book has the perfect combination of real facts, fun facts, and comedy to get students interested in the topic of our former presidents, and to maybe even lighten to mood and the amount that the students have to learn. The illustrations are enough to keep any child entertained; the pictures are very comical and the presidents' faces and features tend to be over-done, kind of like the cartoon artists that draw a picture of you surfing or roller skating with the giant head.

J. Teaching Ideas: Reading So You Want to be President? would make the perfect book to read as a class, or to the class, as a transition into a unit on our nation's former presidents. Not only does this book discuss facts about many of the presidents, it gives some great facts on what it actually takes to become president: age restrictions and the oath that all presidents have to take. When I did a simple search online, I found lesson plan after lesson plan. One website I found, TeacherVision, had ten ideas to use in the classroom; some of the ideas include creating a game show about that presidents with 'life-lines' and 'phone-a-friend,' students could pick one president to research for a presentation (dress up like your president), make a running for president speech, etc. Scholastic also has a lesson plan on So You Want to be President? This lesson plan involves writing details and characteristics of students' lives, creating a time-line, students should also include what they plan to accomplish in their life. The number of classroom applications that this book has are so large, I couldn't even sort through all of the internet lesson plans I found. So You Want to be President? is a great addition for the upper elementary grade classrooms!

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Big Talk: Poems for Four Voices

A. Title: Big Talk: Poems for Four Voices

B. Author: Paul Fleischman

C. Illustrator: Beppe Giacobbe

D. Publisher: Candlewick Press

E. Genre: Poetry Book/Picture Book

F. Reading Level: Grades 1-3
G. Summary: Big Talk: Poems for Four Voices is another one of Paul Fleischman's creative poem books for multiple people to read aloud. These books are great for classroom application because kids think they're just so much fun. This book has some similar features to those in Joyful Noises and I am Phoenix, but it only has three poems: "The Quiet Evenings Here," "Seventh-Grade Soap Opera," and "Ghosts' Grace." At the beginning of the book there is a two page spread that has instructions on how to read this book, helpful hints, and the table of contents. This book is most noticably different than its sister two-voice poem books because there are four voices. Each reader chooses a color at the beginning (green, yellow, orange, or purple) and that is the line they read throughout the book. The illustrations in this book are made using Photoshop and Painter. The book is overall very bright and there is color everywhere, unlike the black and white sketches in both Joyful Noises and I am Phoenix. The poems in this book have even more of a melodic sound to them.
H. Response: I loved the illustrations in this book; the whole thing is very colorful, bright, and vibrant. The book's illustartions kind of scream fun and they do account for a good portion of the fun. Each page pops because not only are there colorful, childlike illustrations but each reader's section is coded in a different color. I enjoyed the poems themselves because they were a lot of fun, they are amazing to look at, they had a great sing-songie flow to them that made them all the more entertaining. The only negative thing about this book is that I see it more as a fun book rather than a impressive educational text.
I. Teaching Ideas: I would suggest using Big Talk: Poems for Four Voices with younger to middle grades in elementary school. The book can be a great resource for aiding children in their reading/oral reading. The kids can break into groups of four and practice the poems and present them orally as a way to increase their oral reading skills. This book can also be used to teach lessons on poem structures and characteristics because Big Talk has so many fun words that create rhythms and there are rhyming words, the list does in continue on a bit in the subject field. Like I said above though, I would use this book as more of just a fun classroom addition, something to get kids interested in Poetry, but not neccessarily the best book to plan many lessons around. Paul Fleischman's books Joyful Noises: Poems for Two Voices and I Am Phoenix: Poems for Two Voices are much better resources for class lesson plans.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

The Half-A-Moon Inn

A. Title: The Half-A-Moon Inn

B. Author: Paul Fleischman

C. Illustrator: Kathy Facobi

D. Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers

E. Genre: Fiction

F. Reading Level: Grade 5-6

G. Summary: An adolescent boy named Aaron, who happens to be mute, has a coming of age experience. His mother goes to the market over night and leaves Aaron alone at home for the first time in his life. A snow storm hits, and Aaron's mothered is delayed. Worried, Aaron dresses warm, brings his mother's warm coat, packs a sack of food, and goes out in the snow to find his mother. Along the way he realizes he doesn't quite remember the long journey to the market town, and soon realizes what he needs now is to find people. Aaron meets some interesting people on his search for his mother, some good and some bad. He also has difficulties communicating to everyone that he was mute because not everyone he met could read. Aaron came across The Half-A-Moon Inn and met an old, innkeeper women with dark motives. With plans of kidnapping, holding Aaron against his will, and possible robbery, Aaron has plenty of adventure while becoming able to take care of himself and being able to overcome his disability. The few illustrations in the book are simple pen sketches, but they're very detailed. The page is covered in tiny pen strokes, and the shading techniques the illustrator used are really impressive.
H. Response: Again Paul Fleischman wrote a book that I really enjoyed. I just feel as though when he sits down to write a new book, he makes sure to incorporate plenty of opportunities to make classroom connections. I love how this book has underlying tones for an adolescent boy becoming comfortable with himself and adapting to his mute disability. It seemed to be a book that a young teenager could relate to; the reader may not be mute, but don't all teenagers feel like no one hears them when they talk like they're mute? Readers can also relate to feeling different and being treated differetly because of it. I also liked the little fun, slightly unrealitic factors about this book. I really liked the ending when the bad, old innkeeper and the criminal froze to death because a blizzard came and those who aren't truthful can't light a fire. The people with no morals or respect in this book seemed to get what they deserve and the good guy came out on top.
I. Teaching Ideas: This book would be a great addition just for accelerated reader or connecting with a text. It also could be used in a literature lesson for teaching specific differences between fact, fiction, and opinion. There are a lot of real-life topics and details in this book that students would be able to identify, but there are also some fictional details mixed in. Students could group together to make a big chart to separate the differences. The Half-A-Moon Inn could also be used to teach a lesson about the disabled, politically correct terms, how they're just as equal as everyone else, etc. If children understand disabilities, they'll be less inclined to make fun of someone who has them and more inclinced to offer help with books or doors. There are also a lot of great moral characters and immoral characters to do great camparisons. I was unable to find any specific lesson plans on the internet, not in a library, but I was able to think of quite a few classroom applications anyway.

I am Phoenix

A. Title: I Am Phoenix

B. Author: Paul Fleischman

C. Illustrator: Ken Nutt

D. Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers

E. Genre: Poetry Books - Informational Texts - Picture

F. Reading Level: Upper Elementary, Grades 5+

G. Summary: Paul Fleischman wrote this book after he wrote his Newbery Medal for Joyful Noises: Poems for Two Voices. Just like that book, I Am Phoenix is also a book for two voices. However, there are two things that are different between books. I Am Phoenix is about birds, instead of insects, and the poems are written about the birds, not in the birds' voice. The poems discuss the way different birds move, where they live or habitat, distinct characteristics, birds of prey's hunting habbits, etc. The poems have a lot of onomatopoeia words like fluttering and flitters, a lot of words that give you great sensory details. The illustrations are amazing and are done by the same person who did the illustrations for Joyful Noises. Just like its brother book, I am Phoenix has illustrations that are sketches and are very elaborate. Ken Nutt has some great at night sketches, especially for the poem "The Wandering Albatross," which has a gorgeous ocean, ship, and a detailed clear, starry sky.

H. Response: Just like Joyful Noises: Poems for Two Voices, I really enjoyed I Am Phoenix. Both book have great teaching opportunities, but this book has a lot of older classroom applications that pop out to me as well. Like I touched on in the above section, the illustrations are great, pretty much captivating. There is a great sketch of a man pulling a stallion and you can see every detail in the man, the stallion, and the dry, cracking mud they're walking on. There are poems and sketches on birds like finches, albatrosses, pigeons, doves, the phoenix, sparrows, and the list goes on. The poems were also really informative, and by the end of the book I had learned something new about pretty much every bird I read about in the book.

I. Teaching Ideas: There are a ton of teaching ideas that I can think of off the top of my head before ever looking for a lesson plan. For younger students, group projects on birds or habitats would be great; that doesn't even have to be restricted to the younger grades. This book is definitely more difficult than Joyful Noises and so I think it would be most useful in upper elementary school and middle school. The book has great references and information on habitats, environments, survival characteristics, and the list goes on. The class could split into groups, make costumes and have an oral presentation of their poem and their research. The students could do a general research project on the bird, or get even more specific and do a more specific topic like just habitats, characteristics, etc. Then there are also a ton of Language Arts and English applications: copying the poem format, studying terms like onomatopoeia, and again the list keeps going. This is definitely another great addition of Paul Fleischman's books for the classroom.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Baseball Saved Us

A. Title: Baseball Saved Us

B. Author: Ken Mochizuki

C. Illustrator: Dom Lee

D. Publisher: Lee & Low Books Inc.

E. Genre: Picture Book, Historical Fiction
F. Reading Level: Grades 3-5
G. Awards: 1993 Parent's Choice Award

H. Summary: During World War II, the American government sent Japanese-Americans to desert camps. The camps were surrounded by a barbed wire fence and soldiers with guns; the conditions were horrible with sandstorms, hot days, and cold nights. The people soon became restless because there was nothing to do, and the children soon began to change and become disrespectful. The father of the main character decided to build a baseball field to give the community something to do. At first just a few helped to build it, but eventually a lot of the people in the camp joined in. The main character, a young boy, tries hard to get better at baseball and succeeds. When the government finally let the Japanese-Americans go home, playing for the school baseball team is what helped him to become adjusted and accepted at school. The illustrations were done on paper with encaustic beeswax; then the illustrator scratched the images in the wax and painted them with oil paint for the color. Some of the pictures were inspired by photographs from an internment camp in 1943.

I. Response: I am so glad that I bought this book for my collection. Not only does it shed light on a negative, but important, part of our nation's history, it also shows a great point of view of racism. The point of view of an innocent child makes the story really sink in. I think another reason it struck me so much was because it was a hopeful story about a bad time in Japanese-Americans' lives. The author also took an event that could happen to anyone, being left out of playing a sport in PE class. On top of the racists comments, that we all know is wrong, there is feeling from within of not being chosen or accepted.

J. Teaching Ideas: This book is almost perfect for the using in the classroom. I found one lesson plan for Baseball Saved Us that used the book as a way to introduce historical fiction books. As the teacher reads, the children make a list of characters, places, events, and facts. Then discuss the elements of historical fiction with the class and create a venn diagram. The middle of the venn diagram has the list of things the class wrote down, the left side has historical facts, and the right side has fiction; the teacher uses this exercise to show what historical fiction is and how it is a mix of both. I also found a lesson plan on the discrimination of immigrants. The objectives are as follows, "1. Students will create a dictionary of reform terms. 2. Students will write profiles of several key reformers in American history. 3. Students will examine the impact individual people can have on society. 4. Students will design and implement related community service projects. 5. Students will gain an understanding of the historical context of the reformers and their objectives." The lesson plan also gives lists of specific topics, people, and ideas to use or give as options. The website also discusses what types of skills the exercise is addressing. This book would even just be great to read to the class and just have an open discussion about how the main character must have felt, how the treatment of him made them feel, would they ever treat someone this way, do they know and understand what World War II was, and the list could go on and on.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Math Fables Too: Making Science Count

A. Title: Math Fables Too: Making Science Count

B. Author: Greg Tang

C. Illustrator: Taia Morley

D. Publisher: Scholastic Inc.

E. Genre: Picture Book - Informational Text

F. Reading Level: PreK-K/Primary

G. Summary: Math Fables Too: Making Science Count is a great informational text picture book that includes counting and mathematics, and science. The beginning of the book has an author's note that discusses Greg Tang's intentions when writing this book. The author's goal is to help kids learn to count and begin to understand the concepts of addition. The author also wrote into the book non-mathematics related objectives: to get kids more interested in science, animals use of tools, and a positive message to kids about mathematics and science. An example of the counting and scientific information is on pages three and four; "Daydreams - One evening 2 Koalas were in search of something sweet. They climbed a eucalyptus tree with nimble hands and feet. This tree is very poisonous to all but just a few. Koalas are immune and so the leaves are safe to chew. 1 took a little nibble and the other 1 a bite. For theses very picky eaters, the leaves must be just right. The 2 marsupials loved the taste and ate the night away. And since they are nocturnal - they planned to sleep all day!" Each page-spread is set up in a way much like this, and the illustrations have a 3-D look to them that makes me think the medium is paper collages; the illustrations' background looks to be painted or digital with the paper-collages layered on top.

H. Response: The reason I love this book so much is because it covers multpile subjects and topics and is so well illustrated. Each page spread is unique to the animal it is about. It clearly has both mathematical and scientific concepts that can be applied to the classroom. Each spread tells interesting facts about the animals and their lives; my favorite pages are the ones that discuss the spitting fish: "These fish have such a sneaky way of catching what they eat. They spit a stream of water that knocks insects off their feet!" I also really like the way the illustrations are done. They are two page spreads with the words in the illustrations. The way the landscape and the animals pop out of the book because of the layering and collages are just so neat.

I. Teaching Ideas: Scholastic has a great lesson plan for another one of Greg Tang's books that is very similar in concept; the lesson plan is for Math Fables, which is a counting book that also discusses the animals environments. After reading Math Fables Too: Making Science Count, you could start a class discussion about whether or not the class knows what a fable is. As a teacher you could ask your students to talk about the animals on the cover of the book and what the students know about them before you read the book to the class. You could have the students locate where the animals in the book live and make a giant floor map. Or "play out the numbers in the story with unifix cubes or another type of counting math manipulative." You could also assign a project for the students to make their own number book, maybe dealing with animals maybe not. The class could also work together and create an animal habbitat such as an ant farm or a butterfly garden. These are just a few ideas I found from the lesson plan built around the original Math Fables, there are plenty of other great ideas that can be applied to this book!

Counting Crocodiles

A. Title: Counting Crocodiles

B. Author: Judy Sierra

C. Illustrator: Will Hillenbrand

D. Publisher: Voyager Books, Harcourt, Inc.

E. Genre: Picture Book, Fiction/Counting, Folktale

F. Reading Level: K-2/Primary

G. Summary: A clever little monkey lives in a lemon tree on an island in the middle of the Sillabobble Sea. Across the sea there is an island that has a banana tree! The little monkey uses her quick wit to out smart the hungry crocodiles that live in the surrounding water. She tricks them into creating a pathway across the water by counting them. On the copyright page, there is a note: "This story is based on Pan-Asian folktale in which a trickster animal (a monkey, a rabbit, or a mouse deer) persuades crocodiles or sharks to form a bridge over water, under the pretext of counting them." The illustrations are done in oil, oil pastel, watercolor, and gouache on vellum.

H. Response: I got this book in October or November at the math conference in Greensboro, NC and I absolutely love it. First of all the illustrations are phenomenal; the way the illustrator combines the media of oil, oil pastels, watercolor, and gouache on vellum create such breathtaking water/underwater pictures. In the story, the clever monkey counts the crocodiles in so many fun ways: crocs resting on rocks, building blocks, in a box, in polka-dots, juggling clocks, and the list goes on and on. The funny illustrations to go along with the strange things the crocodiles are doing makes this book very entertaining and interesting. Younger kids will love to see crocodiles in the water dressed in tuxedos playing violins, with big blond wigs, dressed up like Goldilocks, or sunbathing. This book also counts up from one to ten and then back down from ten to one. For younger elementary grades, this book could be used in numerous ways to aid classroom mathematics lessons.

I. Teaching Ideas: This book would be excellent to start off a lesson on counting and recognizing numerical order because the book counts up from one to ten and then back down from ten to one. After reading, one way to include Counting Crocodiles would be to draw or paint their own scenes full of ten animals. There is a lesson plan that goes along with a Dr. Suess counting book called Ten Apples Up On Top that could also work with Counting Crocodiles. Each student takes a paper plate and draws a self-portrait of themselves (or to apply it directly to the book, you could have the students draw their favorite animal, a crocodile, or maybe the monkey). Next, each student decides how many apples to balance on their head (or the students could draw bananas to go along with Counting Crocodiles). Once the student has picked how much fruit to balance on the head of their portrait, then they create the cutouts of the fruit to paste on the head. Once everyone is completed, as a class we can decide which self-portrait or animal-portrait will go where, so that the number of fruit is in order from smallest to greatest. There are so many little ways to modify this one lesson plan into working well with this book. The bottom line is that Counting Crocodiles has gorgeous and bright illustrations that can keep anyone interested, a great example of counting and numerical ordering, and is just overall fun. It is a great mathematical book addition for any lower level classroom.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Lost! A Story in String

A. Title: Lost! A Story in String

B. Author: Paul Fleischman

C. Illustrator: C. B. Mordan

D. Publisher: Henry Holt and Company, New York

E. Genre: Picture Book, fiction - Informational Text

F. Reading Level: Grades 3+

G. Summary: During a storm, a grandmother tells her granddaughter a story about a young girl who gets lost in the woods while looking for her dog. The grandmother uses string to tell the story of how the young girl used her wits and whats available around her to help her survive in the snow. Using logical thinking, the young girl finds her dog and returns both of them homes safely. After the story, there are pages of informational text on how to create, with yarn, all the shapes the grandmother made while telling her granddaughter about the young, lost girl; the young girl in the story turns out to be the grandmother herself! There are step-by-step directions and visual pictures to teach you how to make the shapes. The illustrator, C. B. Mordan, follows in the footsteps of the illustrator for Joyful Noises and I am Phoenix in doing sketches for the illustrations. The illustrations in Lost! A Story in String are definitely hand sketches, but these are made using ink and are drawn onto a clayboard instead of drawn with pencils. This type of media allows for great shadow detail and dense forestry detail. Also, because everything is drenched in snow in the story, the contrast between the white, snow covered areas and the black ink of the forest are phenomenal.

H. Response: Overall, I really like Paul Fleischman's writing style. Everything he writes about can be applied in the classroom because he once considered becoming a history teacher. I loved Lost! A Story in String mostly because while I was growing up my friends and I always had a string playing "Cat's Cradle." The story itself is great as well. The little girl who gets lost is so smart and a great role model. She is grounded and thinks thoughtfully through all of the problems that occur while she is out searching for her dog. She never gets really scared or frustrated; she just takes one thing at a time until she reaches home. Not only does this book have great classroom applications, it also has great life skills: patience, hard work, logical thinking process, and never giving up.

I. Teaching Ideas: Lost! A Story in String can be connected to the classroom in quite a few ways for younger students. Students could learn, from the book and teacher instruction, how to make shapes out of string. Then, working in groups, individually, or as a whole class, the students could tell a story of their own using the yarn to make the pictures. Students could tell and show stories about themselves, their family, subjects in school, other books the class is reading, etc. The flexibility of the story telling with string shapes allows for the possibility of being applied to almost any subject. The book can also teach about never giving up and using your mind to its fullest capabilities, especially when in a dangerous situation such as getting lost in the woods.

Joyful Noises: Poems for Two Voices

A. Title: Joyful Noises: Poems for Two Voices

B. Author: Paul Fleischman

C. Illustrator: Eric Beddows (Ken Nutt)

D. Publisher: Harper & Row, Publishers

E. Genre: Poetry

F. Reading Level: All ages, 9-12

G. Awards: Newbery Medal

H. Summary: This is a wonderful scientific thinking poetry book! Joyful Noises: Poems for Two Voices is a collection of poems about insects and their lives. The greatest part about this book is the fact that it is meant to be read aloud by two people. A great example from the book would be the poem "Honeybees." The two voices are the Queen Bee and the Worker Bee, and they show the great contrast between their daily activities and lives. Not only is this book extremely interesting and fun to read aloud, it has great facts about the insects the poems are about. Also included in the book are poems about grasshoppers, water striders, mayflies, book lice, moths, digger wasps, whirligig beetles, and more.

I. Response: I absolutely love Joyful Noises: Poems for Two Voices. Each poem was so unique and funny and educational. I believe that the poems in this book are free verse because this type of style gives Paul Fleischman the freedom he needs to create the two points of view (two voices) in each poem. My favorite poem in the book is called "Book Lice" and is about two book lice who meet and fall in love despite their different book tastes! Not only does this book have vast educational applications, it's just an overall fun read. I would absolutely recommend this book to teachers, future teachers, and everyone else. Another great thing about this book are the illustrations. The illustrations' media is definitely pencil sketches, but they're extremely detailed and really aid in the telling of the poems. I honestly have never seen such elaborate and gorgeous drawings, especially the illustrations of the outdoors and nature.

J. Teaching Ideas: There are so many different teaching possibilities that can be pulled from Joyful Noises: Poems for Two Voices. For younger students, Joyful Noises can be used as a fun way to introduce scientific concepts. The students can form groups, pick a poem, research the insect, and then orally present the insect research and perform the poem itself. can also be used as inspiration for writing exercises. Students can use these poems as a reference to create their own free verse poems or their own two voice poems. The class as a whole can make costumes to look the insects and put on a performance of the book for their parents or peers. This book can also be used in much older grades, such as those in middle school and high school. Again, you can use Paul Fleischman's writing style as a guide to write their own poetry. Comparing Joyful Noises: Poems for Two Voices and I Am Phoenix: Poems for Two Voices, another one of Paul's book of poems for two voices about birds, could be a great comparison essay prompt. Other essay prompts could come from Paul Fleischman's literature and poetry being compared to a variety of other writers. Like I said, there are numerous ways to apply Paul Fleischman's Joyful Noises: Poems for Two Voices to the classroom on a variety of grade levels.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Vera Vera - Free Verse Poem

Never did I realize just how much of me was in my home.
Before the Russians, before the Japanese, before the Americans
The natural beauty of the Aleutian Islands is reflected in the Aleutians peoples.
With the Japanese spying and filtering onto the islands like seagulls,
We're ripped away from our homes by the government in search for a safer place.
Isn't safer supposed to come with food, dry shelter, and medical supplies?
Doesn't safer mean that the government won't forget about you when things get rough?
Day after day, we watch our community dwindle down with the cold and sickness.
Years of neglect happen before we're aloud to return home.
Dirt, ash, destruction, and pain are all I can see as I walk through what is left of home.
The wind blows through to bring in the salty smell of hope.
The Aleutian people are in their homelands once again.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Where I'm From

I am from the ocean, from the Atlantic and the Gulf.
I am from the East Coast, from Pennsylvania down to Florida.
I am from the sandy shores, the calming blue sea of Wilmington.
I am from big family gatherings, and crystal clear blue eyes, from Tracy and Jeffrey and the Hartmans.
I am from the poor and the well educated.
From always be kind and education is the best tool we have in this world.
I am from Catholics who cherish their knowledge and educational institutes.
I am from the Irish and the Ukrainian, wedding soup and pierogies.
From the time my mother’s strength passed away, to the many times my father was transferred, to the reconciliation of my estranged brother.I am from the photos cluttering up the mountain house walls, from Massachusetts, New Jersey, Alabama, North Carolina, Florida, and good old Shamokin, Pennsylvania.

Sunday, February 3, 2008


A. Title: Moses: When Harriet Tubman Led Her People to Freedom

B. Author: Carole Boston Weatherford

C. Illustrator: Kadir Nelson

D. Publisher: Jump at the Sun/Hyperion Books for Children, 2006

E. Genre: Picture Book

F. Age Range: ages 5-8

G. Awards: Caldecott Honor Book, Coretta Scott King Award

H. Summary: In the book Moses: When Harriet Tubman Led Her People to Freedom, Harriet Tubman is born into slavery and aches for freedom. She listens to the guiding voice of God, who leads her to freedom in Philadelphia, PA. In the process of becoming free, Harriet leaves her whole world and family behind in the south. She soon realizes how much she misses her family;Harriet would give her life to have the rest of her family free. She once again lets God guide her to his church doubling as a stop on the underground railroad. With this resource, Harriet returns back to the south and frees her family! Soon she realizes that her calling was to continuously return to the south and free as many slaves as she could. This picture book was written to be Harriet Tubman's spiritual journey of God guiding her to freedom and the freedom of others. The last page of this book has an author's note that tells about the true life of Harriet Tubman.

I. Response: The abolishment of slavery and the Civil Rights Movement are huge parts of our nation's history, and this book does an excellent job of combining excellent illustrations with a well told story. In my opinion, the illustrations are the best things about this book. Of course the story isn't too bad either! The materials used to create the illustrations are not listed in the book, but I love the effect they have. The colors are so rich, and the pictures seem to have an amazing depth to them; almost like what you're reading the book, you're looking into Harriet Tubman's world. I also like how the author took the spiritual journey of Harriet and connected it fully at the end by giving Harriet Tubman's biographical information. The book is written to easily be incorporated into lesson plans dealing with the Civil Rights Movement, slavery, and the life's of the individuals who helped to shape the free nation we live in today.
J. Teaching Ideas: This would be an excellent book to introduce or to incorporate slavory, civil rights, and underground railroad topics. Education World's website has a lesson plan for grades 3-5, Harriet Tubman and the Underground Railroad, that includes a internet scavenger hunt and some other activities. The lesson plan's keywords are Underground Railroad, Black History, abolitionist, Harriet Tubman, and slavery. I like this activity because it incorporates the learning of history with advancing computer skills. The bottom of this lesson plan has excellent internet resources including The Internet African American History Challenge, National Underground Railroad Freedom Center, and National Geographic's The Underground Railroad. The options for incorporating Moses: When Harriet Tubman Led Her People to Freedom into classroom learning, activities, and projects are pretty broad. The Educator's Reference Desk also has lesson plans dealing with these topics, plus many others. One of those lessons is for the Kindergarten grade level and is called Who Was Harriet Tubman?. This lesson helps younger children start to recognize the issues of slavery and to learn who Harriet Tubman was and how she helped many slaves escape.

Saturday, February 2, 2008

What Do You Do With a Tail Like This?

A. Title: What Do You Do With a Tail Like This?
B. Author: Jenkins, Steve
C. Illustrator: Page, Robin
D. Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Company, 2003
E. Genre: Picture Book
F. Age Range: Grades k-3
G. Awards: 2004 Caldecott Honor Book

H. Summary: What Do You Do With a Tail Like This? is very entertaining and educational book. This picture book goes over what some animals do with their ears, eyes, mouths, noses, feet, and tails in a very interactive way. The creative pictures of the animals in this book creates a very positive interaction and guessing game with the readers. The last page in the book also offers additional information on every animal in the book!

I. Response: I really enjoyed this scientific picture book as a future teacher and just for enjoyment! This book is sure to grab the attention of elementary age school children, grades k-3 at least. The children and readers are able to have fun while learning knew things and putting their brains to work. Before the author reveals what the animals use the designated body part for, there is a page that shows numerous animals and names a specific body part. I love this aspect of What Do You Do With a Tail Like This? because it opens up all kinds of great discussion opportunities. Children reading this book are able to think through the information given to them and come up with their own ideas on how the animals work. The book also describes what the animals actually use the named body part for. The end of this picture book also has an excellent couple of resource pages. Each animal discussed in the book has a paragraph of information on them in the back. I think this book has the power to get younger children interested in science and animals, and to potentially spark an interest in science that may last much longer than just while reading What Do You Do With a Tail Like This?. Another part of this book that I absolutely love is the illustrations. The illustrations are made out of cut-paper collage and have a layered quality to them. The images have a 3-D effect and almost seem to be popping out of the book because of the layered collage. The different colored and textured papers really added to the overall effect.

I. Teaching Ideas: This books can be applied in the classroom environment in a number of different ways. As a teacher, you could use this book to help introduce a project about animals, characteristics, classifications, etc. The Scholastic website has a large variety of lesson plan ideas, including many that are fine tuned to certain children's literature. The link above takes you directly to a lesson plan entitled "A Planet Full of Animals." This particular lesson plan is aimed at children around the kindergarten age. The objectives are to observe that various kinds of animals have similarities and differences and to sort and classify various kinds of animals. Another lesson plan, available from Scholastic, called "Activity Plan Mixed Ages: Animal Sculptures" combines animals, creativity, and imagination. Another idea for classroom application would be to allow each student to pick an animal, maybe from the book maybe not, and for them to do a project all about the unique survival features of their animal. There are so many possibilities for projects to go along with this book. Furthering investigation similar to that in What Do You Do With a Tail Like This? leads to development in the child's scientific observational skills.