Monday, April 28, 2008

Becoming Naomi Leon

A. Title: Becoming Naomi Leon

B. Author: Pam Munoz Ryan

C. Publisher: Scholastic Press

D. Genre: Realistic Fiction Novel, Multicultural

E. Reading Level: Grades 4-8

G.. Summary: Naomi Leon is an average upper elementary age girl who is half Mexican and half American; the mother was American and the father Mexican. She has a younger brother, named Owen, that has some physical deformities but who is very intelligent. Both Naomi and Owen live with their great-grandmother, who they call Gram. The three of them live happily at Lemon Tree trailer park in their camper, Baby Baluga. Out of no where, Naomi and Owen's mother, Skyla, shows up; Naomi barely remembers her mother and Owen doesn't have any memories of her. She left the two of them with Gram years ago to "go find her own life." Skyla brings Naomi lots of gifts but falls shy when it comes to giving Owen gifts. Skyla has a boyfriend named Clive, who is a tattoo artist in training, and he has been giving Skyla all the money to buy her children presents. Skyla is a drunk and has been in and out rehab for most of her adult life, and after awhile it becomes clear that Skyla is back for her own purposes and not those of her children. First, Skyla promises to go to after school conferences with Naomi and Owen, but instead she leaves them at the school until after dark when Gram goes to pick them up. Naomi, who at first is thrilled that her mother is back, soon realizes that her mother only really wants her and doesn't really want Owen. It even becomes clear that Naomi is only important to her mother because she can get money from the state for having her and so that she can babysit Clive's daughter. One day while Gram is sewing at the neighbors (who are also very close friends of theirs), Skyla takes Owen and Naomi to Owen's doctor visit. The whole time Naomi and Skyla are waiting for Owen, Skyla keeps sneaking off to the bathroom to drink. By the time Owen is through, Skyla is drunk and yells at the doctors for telling her there is nothing they can do for his physical appearance until he grows up a little more. When the three arrive home, Clive calls and tells Skyla they're reading to move away to Las Vegas. Skyla orders Naomi to pack her things and come, but she refuses. Naomi instinctively protects Owen by making sure that she is in between Skyla and him at all times. Skyla hits Naomi for not obeying her and even threatens to hurt Gram if she doesn't listen. Naomi tricks her mother and gets her to go into the other room while Naomi and Owen run through the avocado fields to where Gram and their neighbors are sewing. They protect the children and get her to leave, but Skyla swears that her and Clive will be back the next day to pick her up. Immediately, Gram goes to the court house to get temporary custody of the children in writing, and then before Owen and Naomi know it, they're driving down to Mexico for a little vacation! In Oaxaca, Mexico, there is an annual soap carving festival that a Leon has been entering for the past one hundred years, every year. Not only are they in Mexico to escape Skyla until the custody trial, but they are also there to try and find Naomi and Owen's father, Santiago. While in Mexico, Naomi realizes where she has come from and finally begins to find out who she is as a person. In the end, they find Santiago, who is beyond happy to be reunited with his children, and establish contact for future visits. Santiago can't drop his life and just move to the US, but now at least Naomi and Owen have an established, healthy relationship with their biological father. When it came time for the trial, the judge almost granted full custody to Skyla until she realized that Skyla only wanted Naomi and not Owen. Naomi got on the stand and found enough courage to speak out against her mother and tell the judge everything that had happened. As soon as the judge realized that Skyla had to intent on taking or raising Owen, she awarded Gram custody. By the end of the book, Naomi was back in the same place she started, but with a whole new outlook on life and herself!

H. Response: I have to start off by telling everyone how much I love this book. It is my absolute favorite book that I have read in a long time. Pam Munoz Ryan does an amazing job of capturing the innocence of children forced into adult-like situations. The author does such an amazing job that I showed real emotion while reading this book. I was on an airplane flying to Pennsylvania when I read the book, and I started to cry while I was reading the confrontation of Skyla and her children. I've known people like Skyla, so right from the beginning I had little sympathy with her. I think Skyla's character is a relatively dead-on, stereo-typical deadbeat mother, which makes the book that much easier to relate to for children. When I first set out to read this book, I had a slight prejudice because it just didn't seem like it would be that entertaining, but I stand completely corrected. The story itself was amazing and heartwarming, but from the first page to the last page I was glued to the book; I just felt like I was looking out through Naomi's eyes. Becoming Naomi Leon will absolutely be a book in my classroom, but I will also do everything I can to try and find a curriculum reason for the whole class to read it. This book has the opportunity to bring hope and love to so many children whose lives are in shambles or are experiencing the same things as Owen and Naomi. This type of literature can help children get through really difficult times; imagine how this book could help a quiet student, who never reaches out for help, going through this type of situation (just like Naomi).

I. Teaching Ideas: The first lesson plan that I found online for Becoming Naomi Leon was on Scholastic's website; the lesson even has a printable worksheet. The worksheet included with this lesson plan helps to match the same words in Spanish and English. The lesson plan itself starts off with general discussion questions such as why do you think the author chose to let Naomi tell the story instead of some other character or an outside person?; why did Naomi think that Mr. Marble was the best person at Buena Vista Elementary School?; Naomi thinks it is good and bad that Skyla came back into their lives. What did she mean by this?; and Naomi took Blanca to see Mr. Marble and then to the library to eat lunch. Naomi thought of it as a place where all the leftover kids came. Blanca thought it was some sort of club. What does Naomi mean by being a leftover kid?. The majority of the lesson is for the students to learn about Mexican culture and its language. Other lesson ideas include exploring Naomi's soap carving hobby, general character discussions, list creating, and creating an alter-ending. Another fun, creative, and interactive lesson plan would be to do a soap carving project. Off the top of my head, students could create a soap carving that they thought best captured the book, or maybe even a soap scene with multiple soap carvings.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Junie B., First Grader: Jingle Bells, Batman Smells!

A. Title: Junie B., First Grader: Jingle Bells, Batman Smells (P.S. So Does May.)

B. Author: Barbara Park

C. Illustrator: Denise Brunkus

D. Publisher: Random House Books for Young Readers

E. Genre: Realistic Fiction, Novel

F. Reading Level: 1-3

G. Summary: It's time for the holidays, and Junie B. Jones is short by a buck for Secret Santa shopping and stressing. May has a few extra dollars, but the money is for her emergencies and no one elses. Junie tries to convince May for the dollar, but she just ended up telling May how they weren't friends and how she didn't even like her. May and Junie B. Jones did not get along. Each student gets a sack to decorate for their secret santa sack; their secret santa would put their gift in their sack during lunch the next day. When it came time to draw for secret santa, guess who Junie B. Jones got? May, she had to buy May a present! Junie B. plans to give May what she deserves in her secret santa sack. Junie B.'s teacher, Mr. Scary, tries convincing her that if she gives May a good gift that it will make her feel really good inside. In the end, Junie B. decides not to give May exactly what she deserves as her secret santa gift. Instead, Junie B. decides to give a real gift instead of teaching May a lesson.

H. Response: I had never before read a Junie B. Jones book before, but I had heard many good things about them. I constantly saw how well they were doing on book lists, and that was part of the reason I decided to read them; I had also seen many elementary school girls reading the Junie B. Jones series during tutoring sessions. Once I picked the book up I couldn't stop reading it because I absolutely love Junie B. Jones; the character's innocense and personality just worked so well for me. She made me laugh with some of her thought process too; for example, when May told Junie that her father said she shouldn't let friends borrow money, Junie told May that that was more than ok because she wasn't May's friend and she wasn't going to pay her back. After May got mad and told her she couldn't have any money, Junie B. couldn't figure out why her best argument skills hadn't worked. The other kids in the class had to explain to Junie B. the few reasons why May would have acted that way. Since reading this book, I definitely plan on purchasing the Junie B., First Grader series, plus the other Junie B. Jones books, for my future classroom library.

I. Teaching Ideas: For all of the Junie B. Jones Series there are many online resources for classroom application. On the Random House's website, there are great Junie B. Jones links including brief information on each Junie B. book in the series, a letter from Junie B. Jones, biographical information on Barbara Parks, activites, and future reading suggestions. Some of the activities included are a Junie B. quiz, coloring with Junie B., word search, picture search, Tic Tac Toad, Junie B. mask, and the list goes on. The website Teachers at Random has a lesson plan specifically for Junie B., First Grader: Jingle Bells, Batman Smells (PS So Does May). Before reading the story, the lesson plan suggest discussing with the class the concept of secret santa. After the class reads the story, this website offers excellent discussion questions that are to help students fully understand what they've read: Why do May and Junie B. have such a hard time getting along?, Do you think they'll ever become friends? Are they both to blame? Why or why not?, Why isn't Junie B. excited to be a secret santa?, Mr. Scary tells Junie B. "If you do something nice for May, you'll feel so proud inside. It will feel like a gift that you've given yourself." What does this mean and do you agree?, In the end, why does Junie B. change her mind? This website also has three links to Junie B. worksheets; one of which is a secret santa shopping list and you have $10 to spend. The Junie B. Jones series just seem like alot of fun and something that will be enjoyable to the students for classroom application. There are also holiday and moral lessons that can be applied to the classroom.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Tap Dancing on the Roof: Sijo (Poems)

A. Title: Tap Dancing on the Roof: Sijo (Poems)

B. Author: Linda Sue Park

C. Illustrator: Istvan Banyai

D. Publisher: Clarion Books a Houghton Mifflin Company Imprint

E. Genre: Children's Poetry; Sijo Poems

F. Reading Level: 2+

G. Summary: The beginning of Tap Dancing on the Roof has an explanation on Sijo poetry. "All the poems in this book are sijo. Sijo is a traditional Korean form of poetry. Like a Japanese haiku, a sijo is written using a syllabic structure. In its most common form, a sijo in English has three lines, each with fourteen to sixteen syllables. Because the lines can be quite long on the page, sijo in English are sometimes divided into six shorter lines..." The sijo poems that are in this book are both three lines and six lines. The poems are all different with varying topics, and the end of sijo poems usually has a suprise, special twist, or joke. Some poem titles include "Long Division," "Brushing, "Ocean Emotion," "Echo," November Thursday," and "Botany Lesson." The illustrations are drawings done in ink with mostly black, but other colors are present throughout the illustrations. Most of the illustrations are single page spreads, but for a few poems, like "October" below, they're double page spreads.

H. Response: I absolutely love this book because I have never even heard of a Sijo Poem before. In school I was taught all about haiku poetry, but I never learned about the Korean form of poetry. The children's poetry in Tap Dancing on the Roof falls into the category of form poems; the haiku poem also falls into this category. The book itself is extremely helpful in understanding what a Sijo is. The beginning has an excellent page devoted to explaining the Sijo, while the end of the book has an author's note, historical background information, furhter reading suggestions, and tips for writing your own Sijo. This book is basically screaming classroom application because everything you need for a lesson plan is in this book. The illustrations in this book are very interesting and vary greatly between poems. Some illustrations have colored ink and others just have black. My favorite illustration goes along with the poem below, "October." It has a two page spread with the branches, leaves and everyone's hair billowing in the wind, all done in a grey color scheme.

I. Teaching Ideas: Straight off the top of my head, this would be an excellent book for a writing poetry lesson plan. Not only is the book full of fun and interesting examples of Sijo poetry, but there is also a very clear explanation of the sijo poem and tips for writing your own. Tap Dancing on the Roof can be read as a class and then the students can experiment writing their own sijo poems. The whole class could write and illustrate their poems and compile a book and each student could have a copy. There could be a unit that combines sijo and haiku poetry that could involve historical information, reading examples of the poetry, and creating their own.

J. Favorite Poem:

The wind rearranges the leaves,
as if to say, "Much better there,"
and coaxes others off their trees:
"It's lots more fun in the air."

Then it plays tag with a plastic bag,
and with on gust uncombs my hair!

I love this poem because it is so playful. My favorite thing about it is how the wind takes on personality and characteristics. There are many fun poems in here that would be great for in class exercises.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

It's Snowing! It's Snowing!

A. Title: It's Snowing! It's Snowing! Winter Poems

B. Author: Jack Prelutsky

C. Illustrator: Yossi Abolafia

D. Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers Inc. & An I Can Read Book

E. Genre: Poetry

F. Reading Level: 2-3

G. Summary: This is a wonderful book of winter and snow poems! A cute short poem in It's Snowing! is called "Stuck in the Snow: Stuck in the snow, - dad's pickup truck. 'Sorry, dad, - that's your bad luck.' - 'Shovel it out!' - he smiled and said. - I guess it's my bad luck instead." The book progresses from the last leaf falling and bird leaving to end autumn through to when the snowman is almost completely melted away as spring is on its way. There are short winter days, snowball fights, and ice skating trips. Some of the poem titles include "It's Snowing! It's Snowing!," "One Last Little Leaf," "Winter Signs," "I am Freezing!," "When Snowflakes are Fluttering," and "The Snowman's Lament." Each poem has illustrations to go along with it that are detailed and a lot of fun. The illustration spreads vary depending on the size of the poem and the poem itself. The illustration sizes are full single page, half page, and one fourth page. The medium appears to be watercolor paints, and they are bright, friendly, fun, and great for younger children's literature.

H. Response: I really enjoyed Jack Prelutsky's poems. They have a perfect combination of an essence of childhood and being a kid mixed with all the feelings that come along with the winter season. The book is an easy read, and I had fun reading the whole thing; each poem was a small story inside the whole story of all the poems. The poems in It's Snowing! fall into the lyric or expressive category because the tell about the different characteristics of winter. Some of the poems were about enjoying the winter perks like snow and snowmen, but some of the poems were about freezing or the strong winds; both of the views on winter made a the poems all together feel like they really captured winter. The illustrations are bright and cherie with the cover being my favorite illustration in the whole book. I love the way the snowflakes looking falling down on the little boy's face with the warm yellow background.

I. Teaching Ideas: It's Snowing! would be such an excellent poetry book for classroom application, especially if you were wanting to incorporate seasonal changes: the end of autumn, winter, and into the the start of spring. In the student activities section of Scholastic's website, there is a great exercise where students can learn about Jack Prelutsky's poetry techniques, get help brainstorming for their own poem, steps to help write the poem, and then the students publish them online. The has a lot of great resources for winter activites and lesson plans, thematic units on Jack Prelutsky, and ice and snow units.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Sone

A. Title: Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone

B. Author: J.K. Rowling

C. Pulisher: Scholastic Press

D. Genre: Fantasy, Science Fiction

E. Reading Level: Grades 3+

F. Characters:
Harry Potter is a twelve year old boy attending school at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. He is an orphan due to the unfortunate death of his parents by Lord Voldemort when he was just a baby; the result of the event left Harry with a scar on his forehead in the shape of a lightening bolt. He has a wild mop of brown hair and glasses. In the wizarding world, Harry is a bit of a celebrity because he is the boy who lived and forced Voldemort from power all because his killing curse backfired onto himself, though Lord Voldemort didn't exactly die.

Ron Weasley is Harry's best friend. The two meet on the Hogwart's Express, the train that takes all the students to Hogwarts for the school year. Ron is also in Gryffindor with Harry, and he is tall, skinny, pale, full of freckles, and one of many children. The Weasley clan of children include Bill, Charlie, Percy, the twins Fred and George, Ron, and the only girl Ginny; the parents are Arthur and Molly. One giant wizard family of flaming redheads!

Hermione Granger becomes friends with both Ron and Harry after a dangerous run in with a mountain troll that was let loose in the Hogwart's castle. She is very into school and grades; she has brown, thick, wavy hair and a cat named Crookshanks. The two didn't previously get alone with Hermione because she was a bit bossy and ended up saying some mean things to make Hermione upset. She was crying in the girls bathroom and was unaware of the troll, which happened to be in the same bathroom as her, and Ron and Harry came to her rescue. The three just barely managed to beat the troll and ultimately save the day. The three have been friends ever since.

Albus Dumbledore is the headmaster of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. He has long, thin, wispy, silver hair and a long, silver beard. He wears half-moon glasses and has a certain connection with Harry that he doesn't have with other students. He is an amazing wizard and the only one that Lord Voldemort is scared of. Harry loves Dumbledore and really looks up to him.

Lord Voldemort is the evil that is present in this novel. He uses dark magic to control and kill people to make them do what they want. His original plan was to take over the wizarding world, but Harry and his mother destroyed his plan when he was at his strongest. In this book, he is not even human, but part of what remains, a wispy, ghost like creature. He overtakes Professor Quirrel and uses him for his body. Ultimately, Voldemort and Professor Quirrel are beaten by Harry at the end of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, and the wispy, ghost like Voldemort escape out into the woods once again.

Professor Quirrel is the unfortunate professor that was overtaken by Lord Voldemort. He wore a turban on his head to cover the face of Voldemort and was always very nervous and twitchy. Everyone thought his days out in the field working against the dark arts made him go a little crazy. He is the Defense Against the Dark Arts professor at Hogwarts, but that clearly didn't help him against the dark lord's power. Most of the book, Harry didn't even suspect professor Quirrel but rather Snape instead.

The Dursleys are Harry's aunt, uncle, and cousin. Aunt Petunia is Harry's mother's sister, her husband Vernon, and their son Dudley. Petunia is skinny, frail looking, pursed lips, dark hair, and a clean freak. Vernon is a large, porky man with bulging eyes and a red face. Dudley is a spoiled rotten, extremely overweight bully. Harry has been living with them since his parents died when he was a baby until the day he goes to Hogwarts, and now he lives there during the summer when Hogwarts is out of school.

Hagrid is the grounds and gamekeeper of Hogwarts. He is a half man, half giant who is very tall in height and large in size with big bushy, brown hair and beard. He has a massive dog named Fang. Hagrid is the one that came to hand deliver Harry's acceptance letter to Hogwarts and officially escort Harry to the train station to ensure he got to school. Hagrid becomes best friends with Harry, Ron, and Hermione over the school year.

Draco Malfoy
is Harry Potter's rival and enemy from Slytherin. He is pasty and pale with almost white blond hair. Draco is constantly looking for a reason to pick on or both Harry, Hermione, and Ron.

G. Summary: Harry Potter is ten going on eleven living with the Dursleys: his aunt, uncle, and cousin. He has a scar in the shape of a lightening bolt on his forehead, an out of control mop of brown hair, and glasses. All of his life they have treated horribly and like an outcast. Harry's room was the closet under the stairs with spiders, and he wore his fat cousin Dudley's hand-me-down clothes that were far too big. They constantly belittled Harry and said nasty things about his parents. A few days before his eleventh birthday, owls started to hangout around the Dursley's and letters began to arrive for him. Uncle Vernon didn't want Harry to read the letters so he did everything possible to keep them away from them; he nailed the mail slot shut, took his family to a hotel, they even went so far as rowing out into the middle of the sea and hiding out in a lighthouse surrounded by the violent ocean. A half giant, half man named Hagrid came to visit them and hand deliver Harry's letter, which happened to be his eleventh birthday. Hagrid told Harry all about how he was a special boy, that he was a wizard. Hagrid also reveals to Harry the truth about his parents death, that they were killed by Lord Voldemort, an evil wizard from the past. The Dursleys protested, Hagrid gave Dudley a tail, and Hagrid and Harry left together to go to Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. On the way to Hogwarts, Hagrid and Harry stop at Diagon Alley, the wizarding world's shopping strip, to purchase everything Harry needs for the upcoming school year: robes, a wand, an owl, books, etc. Hagrid explains to Harry why everyone around him seems to know his name, because he's the boy who lived, the boy who beat Lord Voldemort. At Hogwarts, Harry finally found a place where he felt like he belonged, home. When the students first arrive, they are assorted into four houses where they live: Gryffindor, Hufflepuff, Ravenclaw, and Slytherin. His best friends are Ron Weasley and Hermione Granger; Ron is a tall, skinny, red haired, and freckled kid in a large family, and Hermione Granger is a brainy, school loving, skinny, brown haired, bossy kind of girl. Harry finds out how great he is at seeker and joins the Gryffindor Quidditch team; the premier sport of the wizarding world that involves flying on brooms, a golden snitch that flies, hurtling bludgers, and three goals on each side to score in. A natural rivalry at the school is between Gryffindor and Slytherin, and Harry's rival is Draco Malfoy, a proud Slytherin. Harry and his potions teacher, Professor Snape, immediately find that they do not like one another, and Harry become suspicious of his loyalty to the good side of the wizarding world. Following Snape, Harry, Ron, and Hermione find a room with a large three-headed dog protecting a trap door. Curiousity and the need to save the day led the three to go on the adventure down the trap door by lulling the three-headed dog to sleep; through devil's snare with sunlight; flying through a mass of swarming, flying keys to find the one and only key to open the door that stood in their way; and an intense game of real wizard's chess, where the pieces move and actually fight one another. Injured from the game of chess Ron and Hermione stay behind while Harry goes to face evil. He finds Professor Quirrel a room with the Mirror of Erised, and Harry soon realizes that Lord Voldemort is part of Professor Quirrel. The professor removes the turban on his head to reveal Lord Voldemort's face. The two are trying to get their hands on the Sorcerer's Stone to restore Lord Voldemort's health. Only a person who would use the stone for good and not evil would be able to receive the stone, and soon Harry realized it is in his pocket. Harry and Professor Quirrel struggle and fight for the stone, but as soon as Harry touches Professor Quirrel's skin he begins to burn in agony; because Lord Voldemort is part of him, and Harry's mother sacrificed herself to save her son, Harry is protected by the spell cast by his mother's love, something Lord Voldemort has no defenses against. Waking up in the hospital wing of the school, Harry is greeted like a hero for foiling Lord Voldemort's plan to return and everything is explained to him by Dumbledore, Hogwart's Headmaster and Harry's role model.

H. Response: I absolutely love the Harry Potter book collection. I have them all, and I have read them all. I often find myself rereading the series over and over again. I can't wait to be able to share this amazing series and world with my children and my future students! Trying to fathom how J.K. Rowling created this fantasy just blows my mind. I want to be a children's literature author some day, and I can only dream of having the imagination and natural writing skills that she has. When you read the Harry Potter series, you are completely submerged in a different world. She weaves in the perfect amount of real world things to make the reader wish that much more that Hogwarts could be a real place. I still read the books and secretly hope and wish that maybe J.K. Rowling got it wrong, maybe the school doesn't start until after high school, or maybe after college. Basically, I want to live in her make-believe world. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, along with the other books in the series, has many opportunities for teaching connections and lesson plans. There are many themes that run throughout this novel that would be very appropriate for classroom application.

I. Teaching Ideas: Some of the themes that run through Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone are good and evil, love, friendship, bullying, bravery, fear and success, and decision making. The Teacher's Resource File on J.K. Rowling has eight website links to biographical information, ten criticism links, and ten lesson plan ideas for varying Harry Potter books in the series. One lesson plan link has coloring pages/worksheets for the students to incorporate their lives into the Harry Potter world. The worksheets include mazes, both simple and more complex, designing a new crest for Gryffindor, a remembral ball to write everything in about the book that you don't want to forget, and a Bernie Bott's Beans container that allows the students to create their own flavors. At TeAchnology's website is a great resource with twenty-one lesson plan ideas for the Harry Potter series. Lesson plan ideas include a day in the life of Harry Potter, creating a Hogwarts floor map, creative writing exercises, two entire unit lesson plans on Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, creating Harry Potter character posters, learning settings with Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, make a Harry Potter board game, and the list goes on. With these amount of resources from only two online teacher resource pages gives a pretty good impression about the actual number of classroom application ideas that are available out there. The Web English Teacher website a lesson plan suggestion for every book in the series, discussion topics for each book, an idea for a Harry Potter game show, crafting a Harry Potter Haiku, Harry Potter math stories, and also multiple great resources for each book in the series. With how much children and adults both already love Harry Potter, and that includes me, why would you not use that interest that is present? If you can apply classroom skills and objectives needing to be covered according to the NC Standard Curriculum, or any other state curriculum for that matter, to Harry Potter then the outcome and learning experience is most likely going to be positive. I don't know many children that wouldn't be ecstatic to create a Harry Potter board game or movie posters. If reading the novel together in class, the students could pick their favorite character and keep a first person journal throughout the reading of the novel. The students can decorate the journal cover to show personality about their character, and pretend that they are the character with every journal entry. The possibilities are really almost endless for the classroom connections with Harry Potter novels that to not use them seems like a crime to fun and interactive education.

J. The Mirror of Erised - The Mirror Erised is hidden in the castle away from people. The mirror has the ability to allow whomever looks in it the pleasure of seeing what their heart most desires. For Harry, the Mirror of Erised shows him his dead mother and father because what Harry wants the most is to belong to a loving family instead of the cruel and often thoughtless family of the Dursleys. Dumbledore comes to Harry's side in an attempt to comfort him because Harry had become slightly obsessed with the image in the mirror. Harry spent more time than he should have longingly looking into the mirror of what could be. He needed Dumbledore to bring him back to reality, even if that is a sad reality. Voldemort tries to use the mirror to get the Sorcerer's Stone and cannot understand why the Mirror of Erised is not showing/giving him what he wants. The Mirror Erised is an object that has the potential to be dangerous; its purpose is to show the looker what their heart most desires, but often the onlookers find it hard to look away. The mirror causes them to wish and will the conveyed image to be real; Maybe the onlooker is looking at something in their past, something that never happened, or something that they wish might not have happened. Whatever you see in the mirror is a false image though, almost a false premise of hope because what is in the mirror normally cannot come true. If I was to look into the Mirror of Erised, I think it would show me a childhood where I got to stay put in Wilmington, NC and not have to move around. When I was growing up that is all I wanted, even though now I realize the amount moving enabled me to grow as a person. I don't think that I would be who I am today if I hadn't moved around so much growing up.

Monday, April 7, 2008


A. Title: Rosa

B. Author: Nikki Giovanni

C. Illustrator: Bryon Collier

D. Publisher: Henry Holt & Company, Inc.

E. Genre: Biographical Picture Book

F. Reading Level: 4-6

G. Awards: Coretta Scott King Book Award

H. Summary: Rosa is the story of Rosa Parks and the Civil Rights Movement. Rosa Parks is the African-American woman who refused to give up her seat on a public bus. This picture book takes you through Rosa Parks' day to show her side of the story. She didn't get onto the bus intending to cause a huge scene and be remembered throughout history. Rather, Rosa was tired and just didn't want to have to get up to give someone else the seat just because he was white, or just because she was black. The March on Washington, NAACP, and Martain Luther King's speech were amoung the Civil Rights events that were also discussed in Rosa. About a year after Rosa Parks was arrested for refusing to give up her seat on a bus to a white man, the Supreme Court ruled it illegal to segregate on a bus.

I. Response: I really enjoy any picture book that has a lot of historical and educational value. I am a huge history geek, and I think in the classroom is the perfect place to share that passion. We can learn so much from what we have already accomplished or failed to accomplish. This book about Rosa Parks' life really would be a great addition for any elementary classroom library. I really liked the combined use of collages and watercolors to illustrate the different feelings and emotions going on during the heated times. The collages had a neat touch with what looked like small, torn pieces of paper that were used to create some of the illustrations. I also loved the details of the faces and the way the light and shadows fell on them; they are truly gorgeous.

J. Teaching Ideas: The number of resources to go along with Rosa are amazing. I can come up with numerous history lesson plans involving Civil Rights, African American History, empathy, etc. A simple search on Google pulled up so many ideas from credible sources. Scholastic's website has a great resource that has an activity sheet to go along with it. The activity sheet has a list of events that happen during the book Rosa and the students are supposed to fill in the order the events took place in. The lesson plan aims to reinforce the comprehension and understanding of the story and the Civil Rights Movement. Some recommended discussion questions include discuss the jobs Mr. & Mrs. Parks had and were they wealthy, segregation, the typical bus rides for African Americans, what helped Rosa to be so brave and remain in her seat, the term boycott, why does MLK Jr. take the bus boycott to a national level, etc.

Informational Texts

Not many books come into my mind when I think about informational text picture books. I know that some stories I read before that were informational were really cute and creative, but I think the classification of informational text almost labels it scary or boring. I'm a big history geek and I love to learn things about nature, animals, and the environment, so I think that informational picture books would absolutely interest me. I think children that read informational text are great and responding to the wonderful illustrations and the new information that they're discovering. I think at the age for picture books, most any of them can have positive learning experiences pulled from them.

Saint Patrick

A. Title: Saint Patrick

B. Author: Ann Tompert

C. Illustrator: Michael Garland

D. Pushlisher: Boyds Mills Press

E. Genre: Biography Picture Book

F. Reading Level: 3-4

G. Summary: Saint Patrick starts off with a forward, which is a prayer by Saint Patrick. A long time ago a boy was born near the Irish sea named Succat, but he would later be known as Patrick. Patrick's father was a well-off man who was also a deacon in the church, but Patrick wasn't a religious child. Patrick also grew up very comfortable with educated parents, but he wasn't very into his studies and so he was kind of bad at school. When he was sixteen, Irish pirates attacked their village and looted and killed. He was captured and sold into slavery. He was sold to a chieftain in Northwast Ireland, and there he took care of his master's cattle and sheep; his master never treated him poorly. While out in the fields, Patrick had alot of time to think, and he thought about he never really payed attention to the teachings of the church; so Patrick decided to fast and pray. At night he heard a voice telling him he would go to his own country and that his boat was waiting for him. Patrick set off toward the Irish sea some two hundred miles away. Along the way Patrick suffered many hardships but he never lost his drive or his hope. He made it to the port and asked the departing ship to go and they said no. Patrick prayed as he walked away and the captain changed his mind. The boat landed and then men wandered for a month in the woods, starving. The men on the ship were pagons and asked Patrick for help; he told them to pray to his god for food, and then the pigs arrived. Patrick made it back home, and he realized that he needed to live his life for God and to teach the Irish heathens. Next, Patrick sailed to France, spent several years preparing for a mission, studied to become a deacon, and later was ordained a priest. Eventually, Patrick was made a bishop, and he and his followers set out on his mission to convert/save many barbaric Irish peoples. The illustrations in this book are done in mixed media.
H. Response: The thing that I love most about Saint Patrick is that the illustrations are so colorful that you just can't take your eyes off of them. They're clearly done in mixed media with what appears to be digetal imagery, collages, different styles and types of papers and materials, etc. Each illustration is full of different types of media, and they all create these bright, eye-poping, vivid images. They're very cool, and I definitely suggest checking them out. The story itself was really interesting to read because I am Irish and Catholic and sadly, I didn't really know the story of Saint Patrick. The story has a lot to do with god and religious topics, but it also had other themes including beating the odds, and never giving up. This isn't my favorite children's picture book, but it definitely had some really great aspects to it.
I. Teaching Ideas: This book doesn't have as many classroom teaching opportunities as many of the others that I've read. One idea would be when discussing or teaching about other countries or religions using this book as a way to start the lesson. Saint Patrick could be used to introduce a unit on Christianity or Irish history.
J. Bio Poem:
Devout, Compassionate, Trusting, and Brave
Friend of sailor Pagans
Lover of God, faith, and Praying
Who feels scared, nervous, and under prepared
Who finds happiness in spreading the word of God
Who needs God to guide him and protect him
Who gives the knowledge of Christianity to those in need
Who fears the barbaric lands of Ireland, failing, and being killed
Who would like to see the Pagans enlightened to Christianity
Who enjoys fasting
Who like to wear a simple, brown robe when I preach Christianity
Resident of Southwest Britain near the Irish Sea

The Magic School Bus: Inside the Earth

A. Title: The Magic School Bus: Inside the Earth

B. Author: Joanna Cole

C. Illustrator: Bruce Degen

D. Publisher: Scholastic

E. Genre: Informational Picture Book

F. Reading Level: 3-4

G. Summary: The Magic School Bus: Inside the Earth is about Ms. Frizzle's class adventure to collect rocks and go to the center of the Earth. The class and the magic school bus go out to a field and start digging. Ms. Frizzle teaches them about the different layers: soil, sandstorm, shale, limestone, marble, granite. On their adventure to the Earth's core, the students learn about fossils, stalagmites and stalactites, crust, melted rock, mantle (solid rock), outer core (melted metal), inner core (solid metal), and volcanoes. The rock collection at the end includes limestone, marble, shale, granite, slate, sandstone, basalt, obsidian, pumice, and quartzite. The illustrations in this book take up the entire page with the text worked in, and the page spread has both single and double page spreads. The illustrations are line drawings with watercolor and a cartoon format.

H. Response: I loved watching The Magic School Bus growing up, and I always thought the cool adventures they went on looked like so much fun. I think it is a perfect example of a tv show that got me excited about learning. This particular The Magic School Bus book made learning about rocks, fossils, and the Earth's makeup in a fun and interesting way. I love the illustrations and text in this book. There is the story text, but then there are also dialouge bubbles with text so you can read what everyone is saying to one another while they're digging down to the Earth's core. The illustrations have great color and detail; I especially like the way the black ink outlines everything. Ms. Frizzle's dresses really add to the fun and goofiness of the book and do a good job at keeping interest.

I. Teaching Ideas: Right away it is clear that The Magic School Bus: Inside the Earth can be used to introduce or teach a lesson or unit on what the Earth is made of, rocks, fossils, etc. One lesson plan that I found for it actually had multiple objectives: mastering/improving computer basics and science concepts. The lesson plan involved an online internet website hunt and learning more facts about what was covered in the book. There are many other possible lesson plans possibilities such as bringing examples of the different types of rocks (ex. limestone, granite, marble, etc.), creating a type of Grand Canyon type of diagram, and the list goes on.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Yeh-Shen: A Cinderella Story from China

A. Title: Yeh-Shen: A Cinderella Story from China

B. Author: Ai-Ling Louie

C. Illustrator: Ed Young

D. Publisher: Philomel Books, a division of The Putnam
Publishing Group

E. Genre: Folktale/Fairytale

F. Reading Level: 2-3

G. Summary: Yeh-Shen: A Cinderella Story from China has the same illustrator as the author/illustrator of Lon Po Po: A Red Riding Hood Story from China. The illustrations in Yeh-Shen are done in the same style and media as Lon Po Po: oil pastels and water color with a panel layout. In Yeh-Shen, a long time ago, a cave chief had two wives, which was the custom, and each produced a daughter. Unfortunately the chief and one of the wives died leaving the lone wife to raise both daughters. The stepmother was a very angry, bitter woman because her daughter was not very beautiful, especially in comparison her step-daughter Yeh-Shen. Yeh-Shen was forced to do all of the hard labor chores and had no friends. One day Yeh-Shen caught a small fish to keep in her pond, and every day she would save some of whatever small ration of food her stepmother would give her to give to her fish. The fish grew massive in size, and when the stepmother found out that Yeh-Shen had a secret friend she became furious, caught the fish, killed it, and cooked it for dinner. Yeh-Shen was so devistated when she found her only friend missing that she cried over the pond. Suddenly a old man appeared and told her not to cry; the old man told Yeh-Shen that her fish was a magic fish, and to ask the fish bones for favors but to be very careful with them. Everyday Yeh-Shen would ask the fish bones for enough food to live on, until one day she asked the fish for a gown suitable enough to go to the village feast. This feast is where all of the men and women come together to try and find someone to marry, and Yeh-Shen desperately wanted to go. The fish gave her a gorgeous dress, headdress, and slippers and told her to be very careful with the slippers. Yeh-Shen went to the feast and everyone talked about her beauty; then just before anyone realized who she was she ran away, losing a slipper in the process. When she got home, the fish no longer talked to her and she was once again wearing rags. The slipper ended up in the hands of a prince who was determined to find the owner of the tiny, fragile slipper. Once he found Yeh-Shen he knew that he had found his one true love.

H. Response: Right away I could tell the illustrations in Yeh-Shen were done by an illustrator I had seen before, and that the illustrations were done in the same kind of layout/spread, panel layout. The story itself was a lot of fun to read, and right from the beginning I could see classroom connections with the Cinderella story and with the time the story took place, before the Ch'in and Han dynasties. I really enjoyed this version of Cinderella, but I have to admit that I like the Chinese Red Riding Hood tale, Lon Po Po, better than Yeh-Shen. I also think I like the Irish tale of Cinderella better than the Chinese because in Yeh-Shen the Prince never sees her before searching for her. The Prince come into possession of her gorgeous slipper and wants to find its owner; only after finding out that the slipper belongs to Yeh-Shen does he fall in love with her. Unlike the Disney and Irish versions of Cinderella where the prince falls in love with her at first site and then has to find her by the slipper she left behind. The similarities between the Irish Cinderella and the Chinese Cinderella include a widower parent, each Cinderella has a man or woman help them by giving them the right clothes to wear to the occasion, both Cinderellas being forced to do chores and stay in because of their beauty, happy endings, and the ugly, mean stepsister(s) and stepmother paid for the way they treated the poor Cinderella-like characters. Some of the differences between Yeh-Shen and Fair, Brown & Trembling were the number of stepsisters, one widow was a man and the other a woman, one 'fairy godmother,' AKA the person who helped the main characters get their dresses, that was a woman and one was an old man, one had a church and one had a feast, one had a Prince searching for the owner of a shoe and one had the prince searching for Cinderella herself.

I. Teaching Ideas: Just like in the post below, there a thousands of option for ideas, lesson plans, or units on multicultural Cinderella stories. has a whole list of ideas for incorporating fairytales and the Cinderella story into multiple subjects. The ideas on this page are mostly for higher grade levels, including upper middle school and high schools levels. Some ideas include writing a short paragraph on a fairytale character (like Cinderella) in the first person perspective, dramatize by having students dress up like a character and read aloud, introduce inventors/explorers who had ideas most people originally thought were only imagination, include geography by discussing different castles around the world and where they're located, and the list goes on to include ideas for math, art, spelling, and Cinderella specific lesson ideas.