Saturday, April 26, 2008

Becoming Naomi Leon: 'Naomi, I believe I feel like a clean, fluffed sheet on a bed-making day."

Author: Pam Munoz Ryan
Publisher and date of publication: Scholastic Inc., 2004
Genre: Fiction, Multicultural
Grade Level: 3-4

Becoming Naomi Leon is a wonderful story about a young girl trying to find her identity and place in the world. Naomi Leon lives with her brother Owen and gram in Lemon Tree, California. Their home is inside Baby Beluga a mobile home that resides in Avocado Acres Trailer Park. Naomi was raised by her great-grandmother. She is a quite girl with not too many friends and who has a hard time standing up for herself. Gram is a spunky old lady that spends most of her time taking care of her great grandchildren and spending time with her friend Fabiola. Owen is a boy with a great spirit but has been diagnosed as and FLK, a funny looking kid. Naomi enjoys soap carving and keeping list while her brother finds comfort in wearing strips of tape on her shirt. This year in school Naomi makes a friend named Blanca. Blanca is the exact opposite of Naomi making them a perfect match. As the story unfold Naomi's mother suddenly reappears after seven years. At first Naomi doesn't know what to think. Her mother is buying her new clothes and treating her like a real daughter. Then Skyla's secrets are soon revealed. Naomi learns that her mother has been in and out of rehabs and has started drinking again. On Thanksgiving Skyla brings Clive, her boyfriend over to the house. They express how they want Naomi to come and live with them and Clive's daughter in Las Vegas. Naomi is devastated and doesn't know what to think. One day after Owen's doctor’s appointment Skyla tries to get Naomi to leave with her, you see she doesn't want Owen. When Naomi argues with her, her mother slaps her. Naomi and Owen run out the house and down the street to Fabiola and Bernardo's where gram is at and they know they will be safe. Over the next couple day’s gram devises a plan to get temporary custody of the children and take them on an unexpected trip to Mexico. On the way to Mexico gram explains things to Naomi. She tells her about the temporary custody and how they will stay gone until their court hearing. Also, gram mentions that while in Mexico they are going to try and find her father Santiago, who at one time wanted them but Skyla wouldn't allow it. While in Mexico Naomi quickly begins to learn about her Mexican roots. At first they have no luck finding her father until The Night of the Radishes. Once they meet their father Naomi learns even more about her love of carving and her native background. Naomi wants to stay in Mexico with gram and Santiago however her father explains to her that her home is in Lemon Tree and now that they have been reunited nothing can keep them apart. Once back in California they go to court. In court her mother act's very grown-up and Naomi knows that she is putting on a show. After reviewing evidence, talking with both parties and finding out that Skyla only want’s one child but not both, the judge awards gram with full custody. Naomi, Owen and gram couldn't be happier. They continued living their wonderful life in Lemon Tree.

This book touched my heart. I instantly felt like I was a part of the Outlaw clan. The book was filled with wonderful and unique characters, I don't feel like I have ever met any quite like them. One of my person loves of the books was all the neat and quirky little saying that gram and them had to explain their feelings. I quoted one at the top but another that I liked was "were going to weather this. Let's plant plenty of sunshine in our brains" and "gram got a bee in her bonnet because she thought the winner didn't hold a candle to our entry." There were many more those are just to name a few. I just love the idea of expressing yourself in such an unusual way. It really makes it more meaningful and seems to hold a better perspective no matter what the situation. Another aspect of the book that I adored was the idea of "thinking positive". What a great way to teach your students the benefits of thinking positive about life and how it plays out in the end. Thinking positive is something that we all struggle with at times and this book is a great reminder of why it is so important. Naomi faced a lot of decisions and new life experiences over the course of a couple months. She had to look deep inside her heart to figure out what to do and how to handle these different situations. She showed so much courage for a young girl that I think she would make a great role model to students. When it comes to incorporating multiculturalism I think that this author did a great job for the story she was telling. We knew from the beginning that Naomi was half Mexican but that it was not a prominent thing in her life. Taking the trip to Mexico and being introduced to the culture, traditions, food, music and people changed Naomi. The author had her experience a part of her that had been missing and made it the missing link in her life. The author showed the reader just enough about Naomi’s culture to not overwhelm them but to include them in this learning, discovering and exploring process. It was so tasteful and eventful that I myself would love to go to Mexico and experience it from her point of view, attend the radish festival and participate in all of their Christmas festivities. What was so neat was how most of the stuff that she learned while in Mexico really helped to explain who Naomi was and why she felt the way she did. The author integrated Mexico into Naomi so naturally that once you read the story you knew it was meant to be. For example her love for carving, she learned how the Leon family having been carving in the festival for over a hundred years and that was one of the things they were known for. This part of her became so much of her story and her connection to her long lost father. It was amazing how something as simple as a hobby for soap carving could turn into a family history, a legend. All in all the book was fabulous and I can't wait to read it again.

In the classroom I would love to do a number of things with this book. First of all I would like to have my students explore all the unusual quotes that gram and Naomi use throughout the book to describe what they are feeling. I would have them discuss what those quotes are saying to them and what emotions they express. Then I would have them explore their family and culture to gather quotes that their family uses to express themselves and have them share what feeling they convey when they use them and why. I think this gives people the opportunity to learn about their own culture and other unique families. How fun would it be to then hang some of them up around the classroom and have the students use the quotes instead of negative words or really basic positive words. Another thing that would be fun is to learn more about Mexico. Learn more about the festival and Christmas traditions and then explore other countries Christmas traditions. If your students could go to any type of festival what would it be and why? Then have them look it up and see if that kind of festival exists and have them do a report on it. I think this book provides so many opportunities to explore other cultures, so have fun with it.

The Sissy Duckling

Authors: Harvey Fierstein
Illustrator: Henry Cole
Publisher and date of publication: Aladdin Paperbacks, 2005
Genre: Picture Book, Multicultural
Grade Level: K-3

The Sissy Duckling is a story about a young duck named Elmer. Elmer is a very special and unique duck. Unlike most boy ducks Elmer likes to bake cookies, build sand castles, put on puppet shows, paint and things like that. He never wishes to participate in games like football or baseball and he mostly plays with girls or by himself. One day Papa Duck decided it was time for Elmer to learn how to play baseball, if he didn’t Papa Duck said he will never make it in the world. Elmer suggested that he put on the half time show instead but Papa was not pleased. When it came time to play baseball, Elmer was not good. He struck out three times and when they told him he was out Elmer skipped away happily. Later that night Elmer overheard Mama and Papa duck talking about how all the boys at the baseball field called Elmer a sissy. Elmer asked his mama was a sissy was and she said, “It is a cruel way of saying that you don’t do things the way others think you should”. Mama just went on telling Elmer how he was special and would one day amaze them all. The next day at school Drake Duckling the bully said that there were no sissy’s allowed in his school. Elmer simply said you’re just angry because I do things differently and one day I will amaze you all. Drake continued to call Elmer a sissy. After class Drake was waiting for Elmer because he wanted to fight. Elmer ran all the way home and hid under his bed. Later that night Elmer heard something disturbing. He heard papa duck calling him a sissy because he ran away instead of staying and fighting. Papa then said Elmer was no son of his because he didn’t act like he wanted him to. Elmer packed up his things and ran away. Elmer found a new home in the forest. With all his skills he fixed his place up nice. When it was time for the ducks to fly south for the winter, Elmer stayed behind. Shortly after they left he discovered that a hunter had shot down his papa. Elmer took papa back to his home and nursed him back to health. At first papa was mad because no duck had ever survived the winter. However, Elmer and papa spent the entire winter getting to know each other and papa soon realized how special Elmer was. When the other ducks returned home from the south papa duck told everyone what Elmer had done. Elmer became their hero. Even Drake the bully gave him a high five and told Elmer that he had changed. Over the years Elmer soon learned that there were lots of other ducks in the world just like him and that he wasn’t so different but he would always be special.

I absolutely love this book. There are so many wonderful education themes to address with your students. Elmer Duckling is a wonderful, strong and brave character that you can not help but to fall in love with him. I know that this book is to help address the issue of being gay to elementary students but I would suggest to not focus only on that aspect. This book can serve as a great basis to begin talking with younger children about differences among each other, bullying and things like that. As you get into the older grades like second and third, this book opens up great opportunity to talk about gender differences, bullying in detail and much more. It begins to address the issues of fitting in and not fitting in, fighting and even relationships with parents.I think that so many people read this book and automatically think that it has to used to discuss gender issues or bullying however, there are so many things going on in this book that children face on a daily basis. It is easy to talk about bullying but what about those who are being bullied. It is important to focus on teaching our students how to cope with emotions that may make them feel alone or left out. We need to teach them how to cope with the fact that they may be a little different but in nothing but great ways are they different. Relationships are another big topic in this book. As teachers we could examine the relationship between Elmer duckling, mama duck and papa duck. There is so much going on inside that home that Elmer needs to learn to deal with. I don’t doubt that there will be students in my class that have parents at home who downgrade them. It is my job to help them develop ways to communicate to their parents and deal with home situations, or at least let them know that there are people who can help. The illustrations in the book are wonderful. They convey so much emotion that it is easy to connect not only with the characters but the story that the author is trying to portray. I read in an article that the illustrator purposely uses a lot of pink in the story to address the whole "gay" issue. However I will be quite honest in saying that I never really even noticed it. I am not saying this is good or bad but I just didn't stick out enough for it to make a difference either way in the way I read the book. I think your students will enjoy reading this book and I hope you do to.

In the classroom there are lots of things you could do. FIrst of all you could do a unit on bullying. Many children need to learn the in's and out's of what it is and how they should go about reporting bullying. This could easily be done with little skits for the students to do. Another activity that I really liked was one where you just focus on the differences of the students. I think that as a teacher we should point out differences among everything possible. Whether people do or do not have pets and what kind, favorite colors, different sports people like to play, favorite television shows, religion, culture, eye color, height, shoe size and so much more. Students need to learn and realize that they are each a unique blueprint and all have special and unique abilities. This topic is not only good for helping students to learn to accept one another but to respect and appreciate their self. The game you would play is called "Simon Say's Who Are You?" The object of the game is for you to call out things like:
- Simon Says “everyone with brown eyes, stand up.”
- Simon Says “Everyone who has a dog as a pet jump on your right foot.”
- Simon Says “Everyone whose favorite sport is basketball, put your left hand on your head.”
- Simon Says “everyone who speaks more than one language, turning circles.”
At the end of the game have the student's name one thing that they learned about another classmate that they didn't know before. Well these are just some suggestions there are many other wonderful things that you can do with a book like "The Sissy Duckling."
Here are two great sites all about bullying. The first one has the Simon Says game on it:

Thursday, April 24, 2008

The Spiderwick Chronicles

Authors: Tony DiTerlizzi and Holly Black
Illustrators: Tony DiTerlizzi and Holly Black
Publisher and date of publication: Simon and Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2003
Genre: Fantasy, Fiction
Grade Level: 2-3

In this first edition to the Spiderwick chronicles we are introduced to the Grace children. They are twins brothers Jared and Simon and the older sister Mallory. They just moved into their great aunt Lucinda's very old victorian style home. The moved their with their mother who felt it was time for a change since their father had just recently left them. Simon is really into animals, Mallory enjoys fencing and Jarred, well he is not quite sure what he likes to do. He recently got into a fight at his old school and the family thought that this move could be a news start for him. Once they moved into the house Jarred started hearing really creepy sounds. Well one night the Grace children decided to track down what they though was a squirrel. What they discovered was two things. FIrst they discovered some weird item stored inside the wall which they decided to take out and have a look at. The second thing they discovered was a dumbwaiter that lead to a secret office. They sent Jared up the dumbwaiter to check it out. To Jared's surprise he found a poem which he could not decipher and then in the dust he discover that someone or something had told him to watch his back. After that night weird things started happening to the grace family. Mallory woke up with her hair tided to the bed and one morning the kitchen had been turned upside down. The mother automatically assumed it was Jarred and he knew that something much more was going on inside the house. Jarred decided to check out the attic and when he did he slowly began to decipher the poem that he found which ultimately led him to discover Arthur Spiderwick's Field Guide to the Fantastical World Around You. It contained descriptions of all kinds or faeries and other creatures. Jarred because sure that there was a brownie in the house and he was the one who was causing all the trouble. The Grace children then decided that what they had found in the wall was the brownie's home. So they built him a new on and the mischief soon stopped. About a week later when they returned to the office they met a little man who told them to burn the book or it will soon bring you trouble....

I really enjoyed the first installment of the Spiderwick Chronicles. I had heard of the movie but was not sure what the books were about. In just a short amount of time the author was able to completely engage the reader into a journey that you can not wait to finish. What I really like about the story was that it is an easy read for younger children. It is the perfect size chapter book and the perfect length for those who are having trouble reading or do not like to read. It is long enough to hold their interest but not to long to bore them in the process. I am curious as to why the authors decided to do it in short installments instead of in one long book. Either way I think students will really enjoy it. Another things that I liked about it was that with three children as main characters it makes it easier for children in your class to relate to someone. Whenever they can connect to a character the interest level increases. These are just regular kids and they have no idea what they have just gotten themselves into. Throughout the book there were sketches of something that the author was trying to portray. I enjoyed these because it seemed like every time I was reading something interesting I could glance over to the next page and that is exactly the same image that they author was trying to capture. I think that having these brief sketches really adds character to the story. I also think students would enjoy it.

In the classroom you could talk about faeries, sibling relationships, adjusting to a new area or any of the other many themes in this book. I however would love to have fun with this book. In the book you learn about different types of faeries and they author provides am image of what they look like. I think it would be neat to either have the students draw a faerie that represents them or to make one up and give it different characteristics. Would they be good or bad, where would they live, what would they eat and all the other fun things that we learn about in the book. After they create their faerie you could have them write a short story about their faeries. Then you could compose them and create your own classroom field guild. It would be a lot of fun.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Home on the Range: Cowboy Poetry

Author: A Variety of authors
Selected By: Paul B. Janeczko
Illustrator: Bernie Fuchs
Publisher and date of publication: Dial Books, 1997
Genre: Poetry (Multicultural)
Grade: 3-5

Cowboy's Favorite
By: Barney Nelson

When a mn spends his life on horse back,
And the country's been his home,
There are thing he learns to love
As across the range he roams.

There's a scent of burning cedar
And the rhythmic windmill creak,
The song of a friendly mockingbird,
And sunshine on his cheek.

There's the smell of boiling coffee
Or a lonely coyote call,
The smell of sweaty horseflesh
And a lost calf's mournful bawl.

The light from a kerosene lamp
And the early flow'rs in spring,
These are but a few of
A cowboy's favorite things.

But there's one thins that the cowboy
Love more than all the rest,
That makes him glad to be alive
And puts strenght in his breast.

It's not the song that a fiddle play
Or the money in his jeans.
It's not a brand new pair o' boots
Or a pot of pinto beans.

It's the promise from the Foreman,
Who rules the Range on High,
That the cows will once more fatten
And that the short grass will not die.

This smell that every cowboy loves,
No matter what the season,
And this sound that chases frowns away
No matter what the reason,

Is a simple thing that fills his heart
With peace from crib to cane,
The gift that brings life to his home,
The sound and smell of rain.

- First I want to talk about this poem. I loved it. I believe that it captured the pure essence and heart of a cowboy. It describe why he is a cowboy and portrays the love and passion that he has for his life's work. Beneath all the hardships that cowboys may face there are just some simple things that put them at peace. I love how the poem starts out by telling what he loves about the open range. He uses so many of the elements of poetry. The sound of the mockingbird, the smell of the cedar and the rhythm of the windmill. i could even feel the sunshine on my cheek as I read the words. He continues to include our senses with the smell of coffee and horseflesh. Things that when you read you can't help but find yourself searching for those smells in your memory. I couldn't stop thinking to myself about breathing in a nice deep breath of that fresh brewed coffee and I can understand how he loves that smell. He forms great images in your head about the lone coyote, lost calf, light from the kerosene lamp. I mean every line just seemed to take me further and further in to the land of the cowboy. After the author focus on the nature part of the cowboys favorites, he then goes on to say what aren't his favorites. I was not surprised to see that these things were materialistic item like boots, money, pinto beans and stuff like that. The author really put emphasis on the fact that cowboys were into materialistic people. They had a true love and passion for the land and all that it possessed. In the end nothing pleases the cowboy more than the SOUND AND SMELL OF RAIN. I just thought to myself how true is that. THere is nothing more pleasant that sitting on a porch listing to the rain hit the roof and the ground. Taking in a deep breath of that fresh, clean scent of rain. I truly can wash all your blues away. The poem had my so engrossed that I fell in love with it. I hope that you can see the beauty that I see in this poem.
The book is a wonderful collection of Cowboy Poetry. There are poems that discuss the image of a cowboys, the belies, daily routine, and the rare life of a cowboy. Some of the poems discuss life on the range while other talk about being a common hand and rodeo cowboy. There were many about the nature of the range that talked about landscape, animals, wind and rain. Al the beauty and hardships that the terrain faces were in these poems. There was even one about friendship and finding that lifelong friend. There were a couple about cowgirls and how they had to work hard to succeed in this business. The topics and stories addressed in this book are endless and not to mention timeless. After I was done reading I wanted nothing more than to travel back in time to be there, smell the smells and see what they see. The illustration of done with pencil and oils. THe more intricate things are in pencil. Things like a cowboy or a town, trees and animals. Whatever it was the poem was putting emphasis on that is what the pencil drew. The oil was indescribable but not neat. Meaning it seemed to run all other the page is colors of brown, green, blue and gold. Colors that to me represent that openness and landscape of the life of a cowboy. The illustrations really portrayed the perfect image that the poem was trying to capture. I enjoyed this anthology so much and I look forward to reading many more and introducing this one into the classroom.

- This book would be a great way to start a topic on the west, cowboys or even animals that are on used on the farm. There are many different approaches to this book. The poems are not limited by any means. I however would have to use the whole book, have them read all the poems and then focus on a few. Like for the poem I chose I would have my students create a poem about their favorite things. I would ask them to use the same format and try to leave out materialist things as there favorites. There is a great poem about friendship. You could have your students explore what they think are good qualities of a friends and maybe have them create a poem for a friend. Another one that really sticks out was a poem called Riding the Wind. i would love to have my students think about when and how they could ride the wind and write a poem about it. There are so many opportunities I just hope you don't forget this book when it comes time to talk about the west in your classroom.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

My Mirror of Erised

In my Mirror of Erised there is no doubt in my mind that I would see the birth of my baby girl. I know I may not see it in the way it will happen in real life. However, my innermost desire to hold her and make sure she has 10 fingers and 10 toes. I look forward to the day of her arrival she will be the most precious gift I have ever recieved. I think about the day that she enters this world everyday, all day long. In the picture is me lying in the hospital bed holding her and standing next to us is her father, my husband, the greatest guy I know. I know in my heart it will be the most special day of our lives.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Harry Potter and the Sorcer's Stone

Author: J. K. Rowling
Publisher and date of publication: Scholastic Inc, 1997
Genre: Fiction, Fantasy
Grade: 3-5

Harry Potter is the boy who lives under the stairs at the Dursley's residence. The Dursley's are his aunt, uncle and cousin who have taken him in because his parents have died and treat him like everything but family. One day a letter arrived that was addressed to Harry however his uncle Vernon would not let him have it. The letters kept coming and no matter where they ran the letters found Harry. On his eleventh birthday a man by the name of Hagrid came to visit Harry. Hagrid is the gamekeeper and keeper of the keys at Hogwarts School of witchcraft and wizardry. Harry quickly learned that he was a wizard and had been invited to attend Hogwarts. Harry also learned the disturbing truth about the death of his parents and a scar that remained on his forehead. The great dark lord, Voldemort had killed the Potter's but could not succeed in killing Harry thus remained the scar. Hagrid took Harry to Diagon Alley, a magical place located underneath London. It was a place where wizards and witches visited the bank, potions shop, wand shop and many more. Harry got all the schools supplies he would need. He also realized that he was famous in the wizard world. Everyone knew Harry Potter, he is the great child that defeated Voldemort. On the train to Hogwarts Harry is introduced to the Wesley's, Ron who was a first year also, Fred and George the twins and Percy the Prefect. Harry and Ron instantly became friends. On the train we also meet Neville, who is shy and accident-prone. Hermione Granger also introduces herself. She seems a bit stuck up and at first Harry and Ron do not like her but they soon become great friends when they save her from a troll. Once they arrive at Hogwarts they are sorted into one of the four houses at Hogwarts. Harry, Ron Hermione and Neville at get placed in Gryffindor. Harry was happy to be anywhere but in Slytherin. Once at Hogwarts Harry began to learn and explore a world that was unlike muggle's world. (A muggle is someone who is non magical) Harry began taking classes to learn potions, transfiguration, herbology and even how to fly a broom. Harry was so good at flying that he even made it on the Gryffindor Quidditch team. Quidditch is a wizard's sport. At first the only evil that Harry encounters is a boy by the name of Malfoy, Draco Malfoy. He was in the slytherin house and always starting stuff with Harry and trying to get him into trouble. One night Harry discovers a three-headed dog that seems to by hiding a trapped door. Harry, Ron and Hermione then set out on a mission to discover what Hogwarts is guarding. The sorcerer's stone is at Hogwarts and it contains the elixir of life. This journey gets them into a lot of trouble. They soon find out that it might have something to do with the return of Voldemort and if he gets his hand on the sorcerer’s stone he will for sure return. Once this news surfaces Harry feels it is his duty to get to the bottom of it because Voldemort did kill his parents. Harry, Ron and Hermione had to get past many enchantments and other obstacles in order to save the sorcerer’s stone and the rest of the wizard world from the return of Voldemort. The end is full of twist and surprises that I dare not reveal until you read it yourself.

This Harry Potter book was spectacular. I am a huge fan of the movies and was looking forward to finally reading one of the books. I must give the moviemaker so credit however. They did a fantastic job at portraying the story on screen. I mean there were a few slight changes but for the most part I was pretty satisfied. They only thing that bummed me out was that Percy was not really even in the movie and Neville's part was downplayed in the movie. Of course the book was so much better I just feel like I should still give the movie props for trying. I would have to agree in saying the J.K. Rowling's words captivate you and bring you on a journey that you never knew your imagination could reach. As a lover of all things fantasy I was amazed by her story. She did not forget to include a single detail or aspect of the story. I walk away feeling like I myself had just left Hogwarts and couldn't wait for the summer to be over so that I could return. Any book that can captivate me like that I can't wait to introduce into my classroom. I love the idea of introducing books that you know not only the teacher loves but one that the students will love as well. Rowling did a beautiful portrayal of good and evil. I loved how Harry refused and resisted to be like the man who killed his parents. He has so much hate and anger inside him yet he uses it to prevail on the side of the good and defeat the evil. Harry is willing to die to revenge his parents and save the lives of all the magical people that he just met. What bravery and courage Harry embodies is one to pointed out. I could never at age eleven be so willing to take on such a huge role. I think that this bravery and courage is great for our students to see. It helps them to realize that they to can overcome their fears and stand up for what they believe and feel is right. So many children let themselves fall in the shadows because they do not have the self-confidence to be who they are. Characters like Ron, Hermione, Harry and Neville are great role models for young kids of all different shapes and sizes. Friendship and love are two other big themes that are reoccurring through this story. Now a days kids don't want to talk about those things. They feel like the teacher is getting al mushy and trying to force all this stuff down them. However the friendship formed throughout the story between Harry, Ron and Hermione is one that I don't think even our students can ignore. You can't help but fall in love with those three and then reflect back on your live and friendships. You learn and grow from what they can teach us and I think that I important to point out to our students. The power of love between a child and his parents was a major theme played out beautiful in the end of the story. My god it makes my heart melt just thinking about it. I think it is important to point out these themes and try to get our students to understand its importance. Why did J. K. Rowling put such emphasis on this power of love? Well the book offers up many many more themes and things to talk about with your students. I loved the book and can't wait to read the others. It is officially on my list of things to do.

The Mirror of Erised plays a role in the book unlike one you would expect. This particular mirror shows you your heart's most innermost desire. The thing about this is that you have to realize that what your innermost desire may be may not being something that can happen. It can portray anything dead, alive, truth or fiction. The mirror does not always show you what you want or what you may think. This is a really tricky concept because students might think that it has the ability to show your happiest desire however it could portray something that is said and you know you can never obtain. Take Harry for example. He never knew his family and in the mirror that was what he saw. It may have made him happy however he had to quickly tell himself that it was not possible. His parents were dead, this was an illusion that made him feel good but could also hurt him for he might never leave the mirror. The mirror symbolizes to me reality. I think often in life we wish for the impossible to happen. I am a firm believer in dreams come true however we must remember to make our goals and dreams achievable through the reality of life. We can't waste away wishing for things that we know will never happen. I believe that imagination is a powerful thing. However with imagination we learn that it is just that and in order to achieve anything like what we imagine we have to learn to achieve it through what is available to us in life. The mirror represents a reminder to live in today and in the future that we hold for ourselves. Do not dwell on the past or things that we cannot change. It was a reminder to Harry that he must move on and do what he can about the future not dwell on his parents death. It was important for him to realize that he can make a change and make things better by facing the obstacles that are put in front of him. Don't place things in your life that are impossible to overcome. I don't know if this is what the author wished to portray but this is the lesson that I learned.

Harry Potter could be used in the classroom for a number of things. It could be used to talk about science and other things of that matter. However in my classroom I would look for ways to apply it to the everyday life of my students. The children in this story are faced with many of the same things that my students will be facing. So, why not take this opportunity to really have them explore what they feel and why they feel that way. The possibilities are unlimited for a book like Harry Potter.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008


Author: Cornelia Funke
Publisher and date of publication: The Chicken House, 2003 then published in English by Scholastic Inc in 2003
Genre: Fiction, Fantasy
Grade: 4-6

Twelve-year old Meggie lives alone with her father, Mo. Mo is a talented bookbinder who has passion for books. He also has an unending love for his daughter and lost wife. Mo, passed down his passion for books to his daughter Meggie as well. Meggie had never been told where her mother went or why she left, all she knows is she has been without her mother since she was three-years old. In spite of that emptiness in her life, Meggie's life with her father has been near perfect, until one night when a stranger, by the name of Dustfinger comes to visit Mo. A whispered conversation between Mo and Dustfinger, behind the closed door of Mo's workshop, embarks Meggie on a journey that begins with a trip to Meggie's aunt Elinor's house and ends by nearly killing them in the village of a villain named Capricorn. It isn't long before Meggie learns that bookbinding is not her father's only talent. He also has the ability to “read” people and objects right out of stories and into the real world. But this can also cause major trouble because this is what started the whole journey, when Mo read the evil villain Capricorn out of his story Inkheart. On the journey Meggie also learns the story of how her mother disappeared and the discovery that she has inherited her father's talent. Capricorn is after Mo because of his ability and he is also after the last copy of “Inkheart” which is in Mo's possession. Capricorn and his followers will stop at nothing to capture and control Mo and gain possession of the book. It is up to Meggie to find a way to use her talent and end this story with a happy ending.

Inkheart was a magnificent story. I have fallen in love with the works of Cornelia Funke. Her writing is so detailed and descriptive that you can't help but get lost in the pages of this wonderful story. She uses such great character development that by the end of the story you feel like you have sat down at the kitchen table with each and every one of them and had the greatest of conversations, except for maybe Capricorn. What I loved about it was that most fantasy stories like this have the reader fall into the story and live in there book. However in this story the characters come to life. They learn to live and survive in our world. Some love it hear but others like Dustfinger wish for nothing more than to return to his home in Inkheart. The battle between good and evil it so real that there were some parts of the story where I was gripping on the ends of the pages hoping that good would soon prevail. Another aspect that I loved so much was that there was no predicting the ending of this story. It had twist and turns literally until the last page that will keep you turning the pages faster than you can read them. Also, almost everything that happens in this book could happen in real life well, except for the reading of fictional characters into the real world. But a lot of things that take place and obstacles that Meggie face could really happen which makes it so interesting. I wonder what my students would do if they were ever faced with some of these tough situations. There are many themes to this book that could be explored in the classroom that the possibilities are unlimited. Meggie is a brave soul and I can only wish that at 12 years old I could be as brave as her. She deals with love, courage, despair, betrayal and so much more. But she handles it all like a champ. My favorite character however was aunt Elinor. She had tons of wit and did not bite her tongue even if it could save her life. She reminds me of an aunt in my family and I am sure everyone has an aunt Elinor in their life. She brought such sarcasm to the story . There were times she made me laugh out loud. I can not wait to share this wonderful story with my students and I look forward to reading the next installment, I wonder where the journey will take me this time.

In the classroom an obvious thing to do would be to discuss the themes of the story. However this story is so unique that I would love to see what my students could come up with if I were to ask them to write a story where their characters come to life. What kind of characters would they create? I also think another fun thing would be to have them write there own ending to the story much like Senior Fengolio had to. How would they have destroyed capricorn and ended the story with a happing ending of would they give it a happy ending? I think to challenge their minds like this to be creative and think outside the box is what our students look for from us. I think that giving them the freedom to change the ending or create there own unique characters will inspire them to write more, read more and be more creative.

For those of you who are interested this is a link to movie trailer...yes, they are coming out with a movie:

Here is some lesson plan stuff:
Books mentioned in Inkheart:

Monday, April 7, 2008


Author: Nikki Giovanni
Illutrator: Bryan Collier
Publisher and date of publication: Henry Holt and Company, LLC: 2005
Genre: Nonfiction, Biography (Multicultural)
Grade: 2-5

Rosa Parks was one of the best seamstresses in Montgomery, Alabama. People used to call her work magic. On one Thursday in 1955 Rosa's boss let her go home early because she had worked so hard and he knew that her mother was ill. She went to the bus stop, entered in the front door to pay her dime them went out and entered through the rear of the bus were the blacks had to sit. Once on the bus the section for blacks was full however she found a seat in the neutral section, which was for both blacks and whites. After a few stops James Blake the bus driver told her to give up her seats. Rosa just sat there. Blake then called the police and when Rosa would not move she was arrested. Rosa was tired of always putting white people first and always having to be considered "colored". She was arrested for everyone not just herself. Jo Ann Robinson a professor at Alabama College (for blacks) heard the news and decided to do something about it. She called a meeting at her office. Her and 25 women made posters saying "No Riders Today: Support Mrs. Parks, stay off the buses; Walk on Monday". The people walked for days, months and years. Reverend Martin Luther King was brought in to speak on the subject and spoke for the injustice that was taking place. On November 13, 1956 the Supreme Court of the United States ruled that segregation on buses was illegal, segregation was wrong. Rosa said "NO" to remind the nation that the U.S. constitution makes no provisions for second-class citizenship. We are all equal under the law. Her no turned into a yes for change.

I liked this biography of Rosa Parks. What a great reader for young children. The book mentions a lot of people that really fought for equality among races. What I liked most about the book was the simplicity of the story and how quickly it unfolded but yet you feel like you know everything. One thing that interested me that I was not aware of before was the fact that blacks actually walked for almost year. That whole time they stuck to this nonviolent movement and refused to use public transportation. Also, the fact that people from all over the country sent them shoes and clothes to wear so that they could bear whatever weather they faced was amazing. The story of Rosa Park truly is one that all students should know. I am glad that I was able to read this and freshen up on the history of what happened that year in Montgomery, Alabama.
I really loved how the illustrator constructed the images for this book. They looked as if he had taken bits and pieces of torn paper and formed them to make the pictures. It was almost like a collage but they were absolutely beautifully done. What it made me think of was the fact that our world is made of bits and pieces of peoples, culture and religion. We all live in this world of diversity yet if we work together we can make it world around us beautiful. I don't know if that was his significance for doing what he did but that’s how I read the pictures.

In the classroom there are a lot of topics that could be covered with the Rosa Parks story. First of all it would be a great way to start a lesson on African American historical figures or African Americans that made a difference during the civil rights movement. It provides a great opportunity to talk about civil right what are they, why do we need them and things like that. Have the children come up with some civil rights of their own for the classroom. Segregation is a huge topic in this story and I think that students need to learn how much of an impact segregation made on our society. It would be really neat if you could find and activity that deals with segregation in the classroom and then see on the students react and how it makes them feel. I think that it is important that we take the time to address these issues with our students and really educate them on the matters of what happened in history.

Houdini: World's Greatest Mystery Man and Escape King

Author: Kathleen Krull
Illutrator: Eric Velasquez
Publisher and date of publication: Walker and Company, 2005
Genre: Nonfiction, Biography
Grade: 2-5

Houdini, also known as Erik Weiss was born in Budapest, Hungary around 1874. His home was located in Appleton, Wisconsin. He was the son of a Jewish rabbi and one of seven kids. Growing up him and his family were poor and on the edge of homelessness. Instead of going to school he worked to contribute money to his family. He used to charge people money to see his "Prince Of Air" trapeze act on the playground. At age twelve he ran away to lessen the burden of his family. He met up with his family in New Your City were he worked in the factory and in his spare time ran, swam, boxed and other activities. Houdini loved to read and one day he read a book about the French founder of magic, which is where he got his name Houdini. He quickly began practicing magic and soon traveled all over doing 12 shows a day. His shows consisted of card tricks, magic routines and other small things. At 19 he married the love of his life Bess Rahner. She was shorter than 5 feet and began his partner in his 1st masterpiece called "Metamorphosis". Bess helped Houdini in all of his shows. His number one goal was to pack the house, which was not an easy task. The owner of a theater came to him one day and asked if he could focus only on dramatic escapes. He was soon bringing in audiences and making a lot of money. Houdini was very strong. He bought many magic books and is said to have had the largest collection of magic in America. He practiced 6-8 hours everyday. He conquered panic so that he could do tricks in ice-cold water, escape routines and many more. Later in life he bought his dream home in NYC and supported his entire family. He was self educated and had a large ego. Houdini dies in 1926 at the age of 52. Houdini always said to never tell your secrets however here are a few things we know about him. He could expand his chest so that once he was in a straight jacket he would deflate and make it easier to get out. He had extraordinary muscle control, which allowed his toes to operate fingers and to swallow and return keys. Houdini was also obsessed with studying locks. He bought one of every lock that he could find, would take it apart and completely understand its process. He truly was magical.

I was very excited to pick a biography book on someone. I was not sure who I was going to pick. As I was looking through the catalog in the library I came across this Houdini book and got really excited. I love magic shows. I can remember always buying those books that would teach you coin trick, card tricks and other things like that. Any time Chris Angel or a documentary about magicians comes on TV. I can guarantee you that I am watching it. I have always heard of Houdini, I mean who hasn't. But, I never really knew what he was all about and why he was so famous. I didn't know what boundaries he had broken to become so great. Well this book answered all of those questions. It is full of fun facts about how he became the mystery man and escape king. The book also provided little inserts about magic tricks that he was known for and how he would perform them on stage. I felt like I was watching a show as a read the story. The illustrations are very realistic. The illustrator did not over or under exaggerate the colors but used them as you would see them in real life. My favorite thing was when the book was describing a trick the illustrator would portray different images of the trick as if you were watching it from start to finish. This book really made me want to learn more about Houdini and all that he did.

You could use this book to talk about Houdini and the impact he made on entertainment and magic in the late 1800's early 1900's. You could also use this book to begin exploring magicians, how they came about and why they are so important to our history. I really think it would be fun to bring in books of magic tricks and have each student learn one and then as a class put on a magic show for each other. I think that this is one way to really lighten things up and have fun in the classroom. Don't be limited to just talking about Houdini have them explore his would by creating magic themselves.

The following link tells a little bit about Houdini being in children's literature and then provides a list of other books for young readers about Houdini:

Bio Poem of Houdini

The world knows him as Houdini but his name is Erik Weiss.
He is the World's Greatest Mystery Man and Escape King Known in Every Country on the Globe.
He married the love of his life Bess, he is the honored brother to six and the beloved child of his parents.
He is a lover of magic, books and locks.
Who feels passion, obssession and love.
Who find happiness in bringing mystery and magic to thousands.
Who needs to practice for hours, educated himself on all things magic and most of all his wife Bess.
Who gives support to his family, love from his heart and magic to everyone.
Who fears nothing, not even death.
Who would like to see someone try to be as great as him.
Who enjoys his life and sharing his talents with the world.
Who likes to wear handcuffs and straight-jackets.
A resident of New York City but a traveler of all lands.
He is Houdini.

Animals Nobody Loves

I am a big fan of nonfiction texts. I love learning new things and exploring worlds that actually exist. Growing up I was one of those children who had books on everything that I loved. I wanted to know as much as I could about things that interested me. I have books on presidents, dance, magic and my favorite was my collection of encyclopedia for kids. I love learning facts, it really interest me. So, I think that children will respond great to nonfiction texts. Some will enjoys them more than others however I think that learning about life, our world, history and all those other fun things will really spark children's interest.

Title: Animals Nobody Loves
Author: Seymour Simon
Illustrator: The photos are real pictures of animals that were taken by a variety of photographers
Publisher and date of publication: Sea Star Books, 2001
Genre: Nonfiction, Informational Text
Grade: 3-5

Animal’s Nobody Loves is a book about just that. In this book you learn about sharks, bats, piranhas, rats, hyena's and many other animals that most people often view as ugly and disgusting. The purpose of this book was to inform children about what miraculous creatures these animals are even if they are mean and ugly. The book address the fact that they should be respected for the things that they do do and how they contribute to our life cycle. The book introduces students to habitats, eating habits, facts and unique characteristics about each animal. By then end the book hopes to have changed your mind about these non-loved animals and hopes that you will consider liking or even respecting them.

I loved this book. I am an avid animal channel watcher and often learn and hear about many of the animals that were in this book. Surprisingly enough I learned things that I did not know about some of these creatures. For example did you know that vultures could spot a dying animal from forty miles away? Or did you know that a man-of-war consist of a colony of different kinds of creatures that coexist. This book is full of interesting, fun and sometimes vulgar information. Reading about rats and ants makes my skin crawl however they do do some good in this world. Books like this are good for children to read they are fun, short tid bits of information that actually that entertain and are easy to remember. I love the idea of getting educated and not even knowing it.

I would use this book in a variety of ways. You could use it to introduce different kinds of habitats, eating patterns or characteristics of animals. I think it would be fun to have them read a book like this and then chose one animal to do a project one and learn more about it. At the end of the book it ask the reader to make a list of other animals that they do not like and to think of reasons why. I think it would be fun to have your students compile this list but then have them do mini research projects on them. Helping them to learn more about them and understand them. These are just a few neat ideas that we as teachers could do in the classroom. The idea is to have fun with it and make it educational at the same time.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008


Author: Ai-Ling Louie
Illutrator: Ed Young
Publisher and date of publication: Philomel Books, 1982
Genre: Picture Book, Fairy Tale (Multicultural)
Grade: K-5

Yeh- Shen was the daughter of a cave chief in Southern China. He had two wives and both had a daughter. Yeh-Shen's mother and father both died when she was young, leaving her in the care of her stepmother. The stepmother was jealous of her beauty for her daughter was not as beautiful. So, her stepmother treated her like a servant. Yeh-Shen had only one friend and it was fish. One day the stepmother wanted to see the fish but it was smart and would not show itself unless it knew it was Yeh-Shen. The stepmother devised a plan to trick the fish by wearing Yeh-Shen's coat. When the stepmother approached the pond in Yeh-Shen's coat the fish appeared. The stepmother then stabbed the fish and took it home to cook. Yeh-Shen was very sad but then the spirit of a sage came to her. The old man told her that the bones of the fish were very powerful and that whenever she needed anything she could tell the fish bones and they would help her. So, Yeh-Shen grabbed the fish bones out of the garbage. She loved talking to them, she would often tell them that he was hungry and they would provide her with food. A festival was approaching and Yeh-Shen longed to go and possibly meet a husband. However she had lots of cleaning, cooking and sewing to do. Once the Stepmom and daughter left for the festival Yeh-Shen asked the bones to help her with her clothes so that she go attend the festival. She was soon standing in a beautiful gown and shoes made of gold. The spirit bones told her to make sure that she did not loose a golden slipper. Yeh-Shen went to the festival and everyone was taken by her beauty. When she thought her stepmother had noticed her she ran back toward her home. Her clothes turned back to rags and on the way she lost a golden shoe. She cried because when she returned the bones were silent. A villager found the shoe, sold it to a merchant who presented it to the king as a gift. The king became some taken by the shoe that he longed to know who it belonged to. The King put out a search far and wide. There was a pavilion set up near Yeh-Shen’s house were people could come and try to claim the shoe. One night Yeh-Shen went to the pavilion and took the shoe. The king and his men followed her home especially after he was struck by her beauty. The king appeared at the door and told her to try on the tiny shoe. It was a perfect fit. The king had found his true love.

Yeh-Shen was a wonderful Cinderella story. I enjoyed it from start to finish. My favorite thing about the story was her friend the fish. I just love how many Cinderella have an animal friend that they can talk and relate to. With Disney it was the mouse and other woodland creatures. In Yeh-Shen it was this beautiful Chinese fish. I think it is important for our students to see the relationships that they have with animals. I can tell you how many times I have been sad and the only thing that made me feel better was when my dog "Princess" jumped up into my lap and showed me that unconditional love. Many time young people feel alone and I think it is great to encourage a friendship with animals. Another thing that I really liked about Yeh-Shen was the Chinese culture that was present throughout the entire book. There was everything from Chinese fish, spirits, dress and most importantly the emphasis on tiny feet. Throughout China tiny feet has always been considered extremely beautiful. Women used to bind their feet in order to make them smaller and more appealing to men. It was a process that hurt very much but it is with out a doubt and very strong aspect of their culture. The king did not just love the golden shoe he also love the extremely small size of the tiny shoe so, I was glad to see that. I loved how Yeh-Shen remained humble and quite throughout the entire story. The pictures were panel picture much like the ones that we have seen in Lon Po Po. I love the panel pictures that bring so much drama. They really help to put emphasis on what is being portrayed in the story at that point in time. Each panel tells a separate story but when you look at it as a whole it also tells a story. So, that is really neat. I look forward to reading more Cinderella stories. This assignment has gotten me so interested in learning about the cultures and the history of this magnificent tale.

In the classroom you could do a number of things depending on the grade. You could use this book as an intro to fairy tales. You could use it as an opener to China and its culture. Like I said before there is a lot covered so this book would be great for students to read and get a sense of what China was like all those years ago. Another thing that I would love to do with older children is to have them write their own Cinderella story. Lay out the platform but then have them create own that would go around the culture they were raised or that is in their home. There are many many more things to do. This is just a few that I would do for sure in my classroom.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008


Author: Margaret Greaves
Illutrator: Margaret Chamberlain
Publisher and date of publication: Clarckson N. Potter, Inc. 1990
Genre: Picture Book, Fairy Tale (multicultural)
Grade: K-3

Tattercoats is the name of the young woman in this story. She lived with her grandfather in his castle. He disliked her very much because she reminded him of his daughter who had died. Tattercoats is what all the servants called her because she lived off of scraps and tatters. She never did know her real name. She had one friend, a boy, who looked after geese. He often played the pipe which would cheer her up. One day a messenger came and said "The King commands your presence at a great ball". It was to celebrate the prince's coming of age and his chance to choose a bride. The grandfather prepared for the ball but forbid Tattercoats to go. She cried and her friend the goose boy said that they could go and watch the people at the gates, the fireworks and anything else they could observe from outside the walls. On the way to the palace a young man came up behind them, swung from his horse and started to travel with Tattercoats and her friend. After talking and walking for a long time the prince asked if she would marry him. She refused and said that she was not fit for a prince. He could not persuade her to change her mind however he did make her promise to meet him at the hall of the palace at midnight. When midnight came Tattercoats came walking through the door to the palace. The Prince went to her and claimed to all the people in the land that this was his bride. Instantly Tattercoats rags fell away and she stood in a gown of gold. They were married the next day. As for the grandfather he laughed his glooms away, forgot his sulks and became a wonderful grandfather to Tattercoats.

I enjoyed the story. I was simple and sweet much like the Cinderella story I know from Disney. I was expecting there to much more depth and character to the book however it almost seemed like just another princess story with a happily ever after ending. There was nothing about a glass slipper, fairy godmother, or anything magical to make this story unique. I could not pick out the culture from the country in which it derived from. It is a story from England and I can honestly say that only thing that struck me as English was the goose boy friend and that fact that the author wrote that the ball was for the prince's coming of age. I do know that in England you’re coming out or coming of age party is a big deal and highly celebrated a tradition which is still carried out today. So, really to me nothing made this story special or unique it was just "cute" like many other princesses, happy ending stories. I think that the book was done in water colors. There was no set structure the pages or the pictures that were painted on them. They looked very "watery", with no real direction. The colors were light and airy with pretty blues, pinks and other light colors. There was never too much darkness which really helped to bring life to this light and airy tale. When she painted the king and his horse she used very royal colors, deep reds, blues, yellows and purples. Colors that to me represent a sense of royalty. I would also say that some of the pictures look as if crayon were used on top of the paint to bring some accents to the pictures. It is definitely something that children could look and at and think oh, I can do that. The images truly did capture the essence of the story.

In the classroom I would use this book to read if I were doing a Cinderella unit. I am not even sure that would use it just as a fairy tale book because so much better are out there. I honestly look at this book as one of those that you would simply just read. I would not use if for educational purposes. It does not offer much to a teacher and like I just said there are better books to use for educational purposes. I would however use it a nice read to my students.

Monday, March 31, 2008

I Poem for 2 Voices

I enojyed writing the I Poem for 2 voices however, I found it difficult. When we wrote the I Poems about ourselves and out lives it was alot easier find the right words to describe how I grew up. Whereas with this I had to really dig deep into these two girls minds. I had to be able to read past the words of the book and pull out feeling and emotions that were not written in plain sight. I can't imagine being in the situation of either Yeh-Shen our Tattercoats so to express these deep feelings that were to be describe was a littledifficut for me. I almost had to write it as if I were to put myself in their shoes, how would I feel and then hope that my feelings came close to what they were feeling. However I think it is a great assignment expecially for the classroom because all of the things I just described is exactly what I would want my students to do with their characters. I also feel that I would have to assign this tye of assignment more than once because I think that the more you do it and get used to the format the better the poems will come out. Also it helps you to look at all your characters in a different way in any story that you read not just the one your are assigned.

The two Cinderella book I read were Tattercoats a story from England and Yeh-Shen a story from China.
In Tattercoats there was not much about the culture is was more like a Disney Cinderella story with all your basic princess, castle things that you see in any movie.

However in Yeh-Shen a lot more of the cultre was revealed. They use of Chinesee fish, spirits and ancestors were present throughout the entire story. Another aspect that I liked was the concentration of the tiny feet and the importance and beauty that the Chinese culture finds in extremly tiny feet.

All in all I ejoyed doing this assignment and would love to explore further stories of Cinderella.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

The Three Little Javelinas

Author: Susan Lowell
Illutrator: Jim Harris
Publisher and date of publication: Scholastic Inc. 1994
Genre: Picture Book, Folk Tale (multicultural)
Grade: K-4

Once upon a time there were three little javelinas. There were two brothers and one sister and they all lived in the southwestern desert. One day they decided to take different paths to seek their fortune. The first little javelina got caught and a whirlwind that blew him into a pile of tumbleweeds. He then decided to build a house with the tumbleweeds. Then along came a coyote with his magical tricks. The coyote called to the pig but he would not come out so, he huffed and puffed blew his tumbleweed house away. The javelina escape with the coyote following behind
The Second little javelina came upon a Native American woman who was gathering saguaro ribs or long sticks. The second little javelina asked for some to build a house with. The first little javelina soon arrived and together they stayed in the house made of saguaro ribs. The coyote then arrived and blew their house down. Meanwhile the third little javelina met a man making adobe bricks. She asked if she could have some to make her house with. The third little javelina built her house and soon her two brothers arrived to stay with her. The coyote had followed and threatened to blow the house down. When he tried nothing happened. He then tried crawling down the stove pipe but it lit him on fire and the coyote ran off screaming and the three little javelinas lived happily ever after.

What a magnificent story this was. I think that it is even better than the one I grew up listening to. This story just had so much more character behind it. The author did a magnificent job of incorporating the life and culture of Mexicans, Native Americans and others that live in the southwest. The book uses different languages, materials and environments of the southwest. The book was a great twist on a classic that we all know and love. Another aspect that I really liked was use of different animals. Instead of pink farm pigs the story was about the hairy, dirty wild hogs known as Javelinas that you can't help but fall in love with. Also, instead of a wolf the author used an animal that is native to the southwest, the coyote. The whole idea was just brilliant and I loved the story. Once again I have no idea what media the illustrator used to capture his images. However, they were so realistic. When he did pictures of the desert scenes they filled the whole page with that dry, humid feeling of the desert. It made you feel like you were walking along with the javelinas. He also did pictures with a lot of white space around them which put emphasis on what he was drawing. The white space around some of the pictures really brought out the story and essence of the illustrations. I soon learned that this illustrator lives in the desert in Colorado. So for him to be able to portray what he see everyday is what I think really brought the pictures to life.

There are so many educational opportunities with this book it is unbelievable. You can use it as an opener to begin learning about the southwest, its culture, people, environment and so much more. In the book there is talk about cactus, adobe bricks and how they are made, tumbleweeds and the hotness of the desert. There are some fun animals to explore and not to mention the use of two different languages. What a great way to being a lesson on the use of different languages in theses cultures. The lessons are not limited by any means. I would use this book in my classroom with out question and use all that it offers me as a teacher.

A neat website about Javelina's:

Thursday, March 20, 2008

The Fourth Little Pig

Author: Teresa Celsi
Illutrator: Doug Cushman
Publisher and date of publication: Steck-Vaughn Company 1990
Genre: Picture Book, Folk Tale
Grade: K-2

In The Fourth Little Pig the sister comes to visit the three little pigs in their brick house. Ever since the wolf blew down the other houses the three little pigs have been hiding inside the brick house. They were afraid to go outside for they feared that the wolf would get them. When the sister arrived she was amazed to find them in such fear and decided that she had to persuade them to overcome their fears and go outside. She tried to get them to imagine all the things they could do outside the house but when that didn't work she huffed and puffed and blew down their house. The pigs then peeked over what was left of their wall and soon saw that there was not a wolf in sight. They them cheered with joy and decided that they would never spend their whole life in fear. The sister was then left the three little pigs to go and explore because she loved to travel.

I absolutely loved The Fourth Little Pig. It was a great continuance of what happened in the original story. It takes place after the story that we all know and love. What I loved most about the story was that they included a strong female figure in the book. The three boy pigs were living in fear and constantly hiding from the big bad wolf. Then in comes the sister pig and tells them to grow up pretty much. She shows them that there is this great big world out there to enjoy and explore. She opens their eyes and teaches them not to be afraid. I really loved how powerful her character came across in the story. I am not sure what the illustrations were made of but if I had to guess I would say some sort of watercolor. The reason I say that is because of how the colors fade across the page. Each color has many different shades, not like some things that you use and get a consistent color with. Anyways, the colors were loud and vibrant while portraying these pigs and their story.

The story ends by saying "She knows there are worlds to explore, if only you're willing to open the door." I would explore with my students what exactly this quote means. I think it is a great saying and it offers up an opportunity to really explore with my students what other types of worlds are our there. We can explore cultures and much more. I think it is a great way to teach children to not be afraid to learn about places, people and things that they are not familiar with. In this book there is also the issue of fear. With students I could talk about things that they are afraid of and explore options to help them overcome and deal with certain fears. There are other lessons with this story like learning about pigs and their habitat however I think that with an older grade you could easily use this book for much more.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Venn Diagram

For my venn diagram I read The Fourth Little Pig and The Three Little Javelinas. Both stories are related the The Three Little Pigs story that we all know so well.

This is a picture of the differences. One side is of The Fourth Little Pig and the other side represents The Three Little Javelinas.

This next picture is of the similarities between the two stories.

I attached the sentences to the board with velcro. I made it this way so that the children could decide for themselves where they think each sentence belongs. Either with the similarities, The Fourth Little Pig or the The Three Little Javelinas. The pictures below show the front and back of some of the sentences so that you can see how I attached the velcro. The other picture shows the board with missing pieces.

Swamp Angel

Author: Anne Isaacs
Illutrator: Paul O. Zelinsky
Publisher and date of publication: Penguin Puttnam Books for Young Readers 1994
Genre: Tall Tale, Folklore, Picture Book (Multicultural)
Grade: K-5
Caldecott Honor Book

Angelical Longrider was born in Tennessee and was much taller than her mother. When she was 12 she saved a wagon train and they named her "Swamp Angel". There once was a bear named Thundering Tarnation that was terrorizing a town. The townspeople offered a reward to the hunter that could kill the bear. "Swamp Angel" along with many other men signed up for the hunt. They teased her for thinking she could hunt down this Thundering Tarnation because she was a girl. Tarnation out witted all the hunters except Swamp Angel. She wrestled with the bear through the mountains and lassoed a tornado to bring him back to earth. She wrestled him into a lake where she drank up all the water. The bear finally had her pinned so she took her tobacco pouch and made the bear sniff it. He sneezed so hard that the Swamp Angel flew into the air. They soon began to wrestle again but they were so tired they fell asleep. They snored so loud that trees fell down and one landed on the bear and killed it. The Swamp Angel fed everyone all around with the dead bear. She kept his pelt for a rug, she laid it in Montana and it is now called the Shortgrass Prairie.

What a wonderful tall tale. I had never heard of this story or anyone like it. First of all I loved the fact that it was about a women. In so many other tall tales it is often about a man of some sort. So, to have this one be about a woman who was tender hearted yet brave as a man made me very happy. I really enjoyed the Swamp Angel character. She embraced all that I would have expected to see in a southern, Tennessee woman. When asked if she should be home making pies, she replied "I aim to a bear pie". I love how she was witty and full of southern goodness. Her reply to this question was my favorite because she was like yeah I'll make a pie when I get done killing this bear. I also loved the part about the Great Smoky Mountains.

How the author portrayed the creation of these mountains was amazing. I know it’s not true but they way she wrote this story made me want to believe that this was why they are all smokey. That something this beautiful could be created from something so bizarre. I guess that’s the fun all a tall tale.

There are so many ways that this could be used in the classroom. I personally think it would be fun to have students create their own tall tale. I would also like for them to use the idea of taking a natural landform and coming up with their own creative way of have it be created. It could be the Grand Canyon, a lake, mountains or anything that sparks their imagination. I think that this book would be a great way to talk about the culture of Tennessee. The language used in the book is very southern and students would love exploring why different regions have different dialects. It could also be used to compare to other tall tales and see what they have in common and what makes them so different. I would enjoy reading this book in my class and I think your students would to.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Lon Po Po

Title: Lon Po Po
Author and Illutrator: Ed Young
Publisher and date of publication: Penguin Putnam Books for YOung Readers in 1996
Genre: Folklore, Picture Book (multicultural)
Grade: K-5

Lon Po Po is the story of three sisters Shang, Tao and Paotze who were left home alone while their mother went to go visit their grandmother. Nearby lived an old wolf who disguised itself as an old woman to try to get in the house. The wolf knocked on the door and told the children that it was Po Po their grandmother. The oldest, Shang was a little weary but never the less they were excited and let the wolf in. Once inside the wolf blew out the candle and would not let them relight it for they would see it was not Po Po. They climbed into bed and Shang felt it's tail and claws. The Wolf quickly explained that is was something that she had brought for the children. Shang then lit the light and the wolf quickly blew it out but she had seen the wolf's hairy face. Shang then asked if Po Po wanted any gingko nuts. She told the wolf that they were soft, tender and with one taste you would live forever. She told the wolf that her and her sisters would pick some for her. When they got to the top of the tree Shang told her sisters that is was a wolf. They then told the wolf that he would have to pick the nuts himself. So they made him get in the basket and throw the rope around the tree in order to pull him up. However each time they tried they would let go and the wolf would fall down to the ground. On the third try the wolf fell and died. The sisters quickly ran back into the house, locked the door and feel asleep. When their mother returned they told her the story of the Po Po who had come.

I really enjoyed this version of Little Red Riding Hood. I actually think that I might have liked it better. The Little Red Riding Hood that we are all familiar with seems so much more fairytale like with that whimsical flair that we all love. In this story is doesn't seem so much like a fairytale but an actually story with suspense and all that good stuff. I thought it was entertaining and I loved how they tricked the wolf in the end with basket. I think the sisters, the ginkgo nuts and the death of the wolf just brought this story to life and gave it so much character. I read it three or four times because I couldn't believe how much I enjoyed reading it. The pictures in the book are amazing. The illustrations are done in what is called Panel Pictures. Meaning that the illustrator creates a picture, then divides it into three panels of different widths. In this book there is one wide and two narrow. This Paneling often sets a mood that the illustrator is trying to portray. I thought this was wonderful. I found that it made the most simplistic picture more intriguing and I was really anxious to put together the image that the illustrator wanted me to see. Overall I really enjoyed reading this book from start to finish.

I think that is book could be used in a variety of ways. I know that one of the first things I would do is to have my student’s create their own Panel Pictures that tell a story. It could be any story that they like, made up or happened in their life. I also think that in the classroom you could have your students come up with their own Red Riding Hood Tale. Or, have them read many of they different versions and have them compare and contrast them through a variety of different ways. I think that with stories like this we as teachers can get really creative in how we explore the world of folklore.

Monday, March 3, 2008

Baseball Saved Us

Title: Baseball Saved Us
Author: Ken Mochizuki
Illustrator: Dom Lee
Publisher and date of publication: ee & Low Books, 1993
Genre: Sports Book, Picture Book (multicultural)
Grade: 1-4

Baseball Saved Us is a story about a young boy and his family. They were Japanese and sent to an internment camp after the bombing of Pearl Harbor. This boy and his family were shipped of to a place in the desert where they lived in barracks and were surrounded by guards and dust storms. The grow-ups and kids just sat around all day doing nothing to do. One day the father decided that to make baseball field so that people would have something to do. They flooded the area to pack down the dirt and make it hard like a baseball field. They had adult teams and kid teams. The young boy was never really that good at baseball but playing in the camp made him better. In the last game, he was up to bat and it was him who would determine the fate of the game. Throughout the season he had always felt like the guard in the tower was looking down on him and noticing that he wasn't that good of a player. So, in the last game he looked up at the guard and was determined to hit the ball. He struck the ball out of the park and the guard gave him thumbs up. Shortly after the boy and his family left the camp and returned to their regular life. He went back to having no friends but he was also a better baseball player. He made the team but soon realized that people didn't like him, they celled him a Jap which didn't make him feel good. At their first game it was his turn at bat and he pretended like the pitcher was the guard in the tower. He blocked out all the noise and hit the ball out of the park.

It was really easy for me to see how Baseball saved this little boy. While in the camp they were bored to death and disconnected from the outside world. Being able to play baseball game him and his friends a sense of community and made them feel like they were real kids again not just some Japanese outcast. When the boy left camp and returned to school baseball saved him again. It allowed him to interact with the ones who made judgments about him. It allowed him to show them that just because he was Japanese doesn't mean that he can't play baseball and be a boy just like everyone. When he hit the ball out the park in the end his team lifted him up into the air and made him feel accepted. All this was thanks to baseball. Who knew it could bring so many people together. Just like Sumiko in Weedflower, she had her garden. Her garden saved her from the ultimate boredom and made the camp a place that she could call home. Having her garden with her beautiful flowers saved the person inside much like baseball did to the people in this story. I thought that the story was going to be more about the camps but whoever I was pleasantly surprised to see how the story played out. it was not as exciting to me as Weedflower but it was still a pretty great story. The book said that the pictures were done with beeswax that had been applied to paper then scratched out the images. Which them allowed the illustrator to add oil paint for color. I would have never guessed that this was the technique used however I love the illustrations. They are so muted in color but compel amazing images. I love how the color scale is pretty much the same except for a blue baseball cap or green grass. Until the very end each picture is the same, in the end however the colors brighten up almost as if the life of this young boy was brightening up.

I would use this book in my classroom to introduce a number of topics. First internment camps and how they affected the Japanese. I could talk about the game of baseball and how it has brought people together throughout history. I also think it is important to pay attention to the idea of team support. In the camps the Japanese support each other but when they return to life outside camp the young boy doesn't seem to be getting much

Monday, February 25, 2008

Ten Little Fish

Title: Ten Little Fish
Author: Audrey Wood
Illustrator: Bruce Wood
Publisher and date of publication: The Blue Sky Press 2004
Genre: Counting Picture Book
Age: K-1

This wonderful counting book is a story about ten little fish that explore their colorful ocean and swim through a sea filled with surprise and adventure. Along the way you lose fish counting down to one little lonely fish who doesn't know what to do. The lonely little fish soon finds a mate. They then become mother and father to ten little fish.

Ten Little Fish is a great counting book. What I really enjoyed about this one compared to others is that the book counts backwards from ten to one instead of the normal starting at one and counting up. I think it is a great idea because counting down can sometimes be a little more difficult for students especially those who are just learning how to count. Kids can see that it works both ways. The book is full of rhymes and fun adventures. The fish encounter different things that appear in the ocean. The pictures are full of bright colors that really bring the sea to life and will have children captivated from start to finish. I was really excited when I found this book because it is from the author I am doing my author study on however instead of it being illustrated by her husband Don it is illustrated by her son Bruce Wood which makes it really special, to me at least.

In the classroom I would use this book to explore the world of counting. Not only from 1 to 10 but like the book does which is counting backswords. This would be a great introduction to the idea and understanding of how to count backwards. Even though it is a counting book I do think that it could be read when studying fish or the ocean. The book is full of things that fish do really encounter and do when swimming through the sea. So, I would not limit myself only to the counting part of the book but open up my children to see its connection to the sea and have them learn from that aspect of the book as well.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Merry Christmas, Big Hungry Bear

Title: Merry Christmas, Big Hungry Bear
Author: Audrey and Don Wood
Illustrator: Don Wood
Publisher and date of publication: The Blue Sky Press 2002
Genre: Picture Book
Age: K-2

Merry Christmas, Big Hungary Bear is a story about a little mouse who has lots of presents under his tree for Christmas. He is told not to forget about the bear that lives in that cave, which never gets presents. At first the little mouse wants to keeps all his presents but soon has a change of heart decides to share them with the bear. The mouse carries the presents up to the cave and before he left to return home he noticed that there was a gift for him from the bear.

The main aspect of this story is sharing. I really enjoyed the story live. It was simple yet very much to the point. The colorful and vibrant illustrations captured every moment of the little mouse and his journey to the cave. What I loved most about the illustrations were that they were very detailed in all the little spots but the overall picture never looked crowded or overdone. The images caught every important aspect of the story and even showed the emotions that the little mouse was going through when trying to decided what he should do. I think that this book offer great potential because sharing is a issue that we as teachers have to deal with with all children. I think that I could use this book and ignore the Christmas aspect of it because we don't want kids to think that they only have to share at Christmas time. However I would think that that is when most children want to share the least. So, emphasizing sharing around the holidays to all people even the ones you might be afraid of (like the bear) has a really good lesson as well. I would like to see more stories of the mouse and his journey's, I think they would be great.

I would use this book to discuss the issue of sharing. Sharing with friends, family and the ones who have nothing to share back. I think it is important to point out to children that they may get something in return but it might not always be a present. Sometimes if they share they might get a hug, something good might happen to them and things like that. I think that this could really allow me to talk about all avenues of sharing and not just share the blocks with Tom and things of that sort. So, read it and use it is a great story that all your students will love.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Elbert's Bad Word

Title: Elbert's Bad Word
Author: Audrey Wood
Illustrator: Don Wood
Publisher and date of publication: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich Publishers 1988
Genre: Fantasy Fiction
Age: 1-3

Elbert is a young boy, one day at a garden party at his house he found a bad word and stuffed it into his pocket. While watching his Aunt Isabella sing the bad word flew into his mouth. Next thing you know the butler had dropped a tray of deviled eggs which caused a chain of events where at the end a croquet mallet fell onto Elbert's big toe. When the mallet landed the bad word flew out of Elbert's mouth. His mother then made him wash his mouth out with soap. Elbert then went to see the gardener who was also a wizard. Elbert knew that he would know what to do about the bad word. The wizard baked Elbert a pie that would cure his use of the bad word. Inside the pie were all kinds of words to use instead of the bad word. Elbert ate the pie and returned to the party. A chain of unfortunate events led to the mallet landing on Elbert’s big toe again. Only this time Elbert used funny words to describe the pain and the bad word went away forever.

Elbert's Bad Word is funny, entertaining and one that we can all relate to. I consider myself to be pretty good at watching my tongue especially around children. However I do fear the day that a bad word slips out of my mouth in front of my students. I think as a teacher I can really respect this book because even as an adult I to need a reminder of other words to use and to remember to practice using good words in place of the bad words. Elbert’s bad word was originally done in pencil then done with color. The pictures were lively, detailed and full of color. However the most important thing was that the book never used a specific bad word it was always referred to just as the "bad word". I appreciate this because as a teacher I want to teach my students to not use ALL bad words not just the one that could have been used in the book. Don Wood did a great job at portraying the bad word. It looked like a dust ball floating around in the air and it had a grumpy face. I think that children can see that it was grey, dull, and not something they want to be a part of.

In the classroom I would use this book to explore bad and good words. I would be careful to not introduce them to words they don't know but instead invite them to tell me the bad words that they are not allowed to use. Then as a class we would come up with a list of good words to use instead of bad words. We could come up with some really fun and funny words that I think kids would enjoy using instead of a bad word. Also I could address different situations in which they might use bad words then discuss and practice using the words that we had come up with as a class. I think it would be fun and something that my students would really learn from. So, I would definitely use this book in my classroom and I recommend it to everyone else as well.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Catherine, Called Birdy

Title: Catherine, Called Birdy
Author: Karen Kushman
Publisher and date of publication: Clarion Book 1994
Genre: Historical Fiction (Multicultural)
Grade: 3-5
Newberry Honor Book

Catherine is a 14 year old girl living in the English countryside during the year 1291. Catherine also called Little Bird or Birdy is the daughter of an English country knight. Her favorite brother Edward who is a monk asked her to please keep a journal so that she can record the events of her life over the next year. Catherine of course saw no point in this journal however she decided to write in it for her brother. Catherine wrote of many things in her journal. She hated women chores and longed for adventure. She hoped to run away from her life of being a woman and become a crusader, a monk or something that only men could do. She wanted to explore the world outside of her manor and she the great things that the world had to offer. Catherine also wrote about how she hated her beastly father for thinking that he could sell her off to be married for whatever price he saw fit. She did not think of herself as cattle or something else that could be sold. Through out her story she ran off many suitors by being unlady like, playing tricks and so forth. It was that last suitor that gave her the most trouble, Shaggy Beard as she called him. Shaggy Beard was an old and nasty man who at the thought of him turned her stomach. She did not know how she was going to get rid of him. Catherine faced many other events throughout the book. She experienced the birth of her baby sister, death, marriage, broken hearts, hangings and many more events that took place in her life through the ones that she loved. In the end Catherine realized that she will always be woman but that nobody can change who she is inside. She decided to live the life that was chosen for her but with dignity, self respect and as the person she knew she was inside. She was married off not to Shaggy Beard but his son who was handsome and sweet. Catherine's journal ended there but her journey to a new and happy life was just beginning.

Catherine, Called Birdy was a wonderful book to read. What I liked most about it was that it was about a life of glitz and glamour during that time which is what you see in most stories. Instead it was about a young girl who lives a middle class life and the peasants that she surrounded herself with. It was about ordinary people and how they went about their everyday life instead of the life of kings and queens. Karen Cushman really captured the essence of era in her story. The words and sayings made me feel like I was tight there in the thirteenth century with Catherine. What amazed me the most was the description of foods that they ate. It consisted of things like eel pies, peacock, and things that I would have never imagined. She included how they took care of headache and other life needs with remedies they would cook up from dung, goose wax and things of that sort. It was just so captivating and seemed so real not just in parts but from start to finish. Catherine longed for adventure and so do I. I could understand her pain in not wanting to be and act like everyone else. She wanted to be an individual and do something great in her life. I also felt her pain in not wanting to be married off. I can't put my mind around the concept of marring someone you don't love and Cushman does a wonderful job at bringing what was once true back to reality. It made me really step back and think about how far we have come since then. I feel that any young girl would read this book and fall in love with Catherine. I believe we could all see a piece of ourselves in her.

There are so many ways that I could use this book in the classroom. It talks about many historical events that happen During the Middle Ages. Cushman has always loved history and made it a point to stick to true events throughout the story. Some of the issues that were addressed were arranged marriages, hangings, Jews being persecuted and moved to other lands. It also talked a lot of the crusades, how awful and full of death they were. The book also addressed life in the English countryside and how people lived. The style of houses, the food they ate, the games they played, chores and how they made a living raising goats, making linens or things of that sort. The whole book embraced the culture of the Middle Ages and I do feel that it would be a great introduction to that era. Another strong topic was religion. Back then everything that these people did revolved around their religion, every celebration, mass on Sundays, saint's days and many more. Their religion was them and they were their religion. It is a topic that can't be ignored and I would most definitely address the importance of this to my students and the effect it has on their lives. As a teacher I could also talk about the importance of a diary. How keeping them can alone someone to look back at their life and see how much they have grown. It can be an outlet for emotions and thoughts that you are feeling. So many positive things come from keeping a journal or diary that I could maybe have the class keep an in class journal of how they feel and the thoughts that they have. I could go in so many directions with this book that I would use it in my classroom. It is a great book and I highly recommend it.

This is a great link for Middle Ages for kids. It allows you to choose your topic games, crusades etc. It then provides you with 3-4 links about that one topic that contain kid frindly pages. Check it out
Here are some more:

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Free Verse Poem reflection of Aluetian Sparrow

Images of the land I love string through my head as I remember my favorite stories.
Alone is how we feel but I know I have my people to lean on.
The world and the air are so cold against my skin.
Time turns slow as days and weeks pass but the scenery stays the same.
I dream of home with open fields that go on for days.
I dream of fishing trips and wait for the day for it all to return to normal.
Hopeful I am, I must be strong for the ones I love.
One day life we be pleasant again.