Monday, November 15, 2010

The Misfits

Title: The Misfits 
Author: James Howe 
Genre: Children's Novel
Age Level: Middle School
Rating: 4 Stars

The Misfits is what I consider to be an inspiring outlook on the daily trails and tribulations of a middle school outcast.  What I enjoyed most was the light-hearted tone, and the way that the "Gang of Five" embraced their misfit personas, putting a positive spin on being the school outcast.  A lot of novels about adolescents focus on an outcast searching for acceptance.  The Misfits had a different spin, as the four main characters viewed their misfitting traits as positive gifts.  

Putting topics such as homosexuality into a children's novel is something that I think is a great idea.  Topics such as this are things that students are going to be exposed to, and I feel that Middle School students are of the appropriate age to begin mature discussion of such topics.  Additionally, having feelings of confusing on sexual identity or other controversial topics alike are feelings that could very well begin at the middle school age, and having a relatable and realistic book such as the Misfits is something that could help students feel as though they are not alone.  Although homosexuality is a controversial topic, as parents and students have various opinions and beliefs on the topic, it is something that students should feel comfortable discussing in a learning environment.  

Another positive aspect of this novel that I enjoyed, was Addie's outspoken nature.  Standing up for what one believes in is something is is incredibly hard to do at the middle school age.  In my opinion, the middle school level needs more Addies (although the know-it-all attitude I could do without).  Doing something as bold as refusing to say the Pledge of Allegiance is something that could possibly inspire readers to stand strong for what they believe in, and follow up their beliefs with action that makes a difference- something that school teaches its students from grade to grade.  

Overall, I found The Misfits to be a fun and light-hearted read that puts a positive spin on being an outcast.  It is, in my opinion, extremely relatable to students of it's targeted age, as it touches on a number of issues that go on during the adolescent age.  Growing up isn't always easy, but I think it is important to be able to show kids that they are all in it together, and no body is alone.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Jaqueline Woodson Experience

Reading "Feathers" by Jaqueline Woodson was an experience very different that when I usually read a book for school.  More often than not, I find myself uninterested by texts assigned at school.  I'm not sure if it is the books themselves or the fact that I am being forced to read them, but regardless, my Woodson experience was the complete opposite.  After rushing to read Feather's in time for class, I found myself constantly slowing down to really soak in the text.  As previously stated in my Feather's blog,  I loved the way that Frannie took me as the reader through her travels and self-discovery.  I felt like she had a very wise and mature mind for someone who was a middle schooler, which gave the story an interesting tone and perspective.  Overall, I really enjoyed the way the book was written, and found myself actually connecting and attaching to an assigned reading.

Another thing that sparked my interest about Jaqueline Woodson's writing, was her use of controversial topics.  Throughout Feather's, there was a constant reference to religious viewpoints of Frannie and her family.  Jesus was discussed on numerous occassions, which could cause controversy in a classroom where the students all have differing backgrounds and beliefs.  Being a college student, I am able to recognize these issues as controversial and understand that the author is not trying to push certain beliefs onto me as the reader.  However, parents and students may not necessarily understand that when a controversial book is assigned in a classroom with younger students.  It is for this reason that I would be extremely careful in deciding how to handle implementing a controversial text in my own classroom, however I think the benefits of Woodson's intelligent and creative writing style would outweigh the dangers.  

The Stinky Cheese Man and other Fairly Stupid Tales

Title: The Stinky Cheese Man and other Fairly Stupid Tales
Authors: Jon Scieszka and Lane Smith
Genre: Children's Picture Book/Spin-off of Fairy Tales
Age Group: Mid-Upper Elementary
Rating: 5 Stars

Being one of my childhood favorites, I couldn't wait to read this book again in order to complete a blog post.  The Stinky Cheese Man and other Fairly Stupid Tales is a collection of spin-offs of the classic fairy tales. (i.e. The Princess and the Bowling Ball instead of the Princess and the Pea).  The book is a Caldecott Honor Book, and contains texturized, bold, collaged illustrations that really serve as separate pieces of art throughout the book.  For first time readers, this book could be extremely confusing, as the text jumps around the page, and goes from large to small to bold to colored texts at random.  Additionally, the narrator, Jack, jumps in and out of the stories, discussing the putting together of the book itself.  It is a very humorous book that involves fun tales to read aloud to younger kids, but it's uniqueness will probably only be fully appreciated by an older crowd.  

The fact that the book is divided into many little stories could be used to the teacher's or parent's benefit.  The book could be used for a lesson on writing or fairy tales, but the content itself may not be extremely useful in a classroom setting.  For this reason, I think that this fun read could be used as a "free-time" read or a read aloud as a reward for a class' good behavior.  Or, one short story could be read to start the day or end the day, in a way to calm the kids and get them ready to go.  I personally definitely intend to have this book in my future classroom, because I think the way that it is written is extremely unique and could help when teaching the students about different kinds of writing and books.

President's Day

Title: President's Day
Author: Anne Rockwell
Illustrator: Lizzy Rockwell
Genre: Children's Picture Book
Age Group: Lower Elementary
Rating: 4 Stars

President's Day, another holiday themed book from the Anne Rockwell collection, is a story about students performing a play about the presidents of the United States.  The reader, through the story, is able to gain information on the different presidents, whose names appear in bold and red/blue font on the pages in the text.  The images, much alike the others in her series, are done in bright and bold colors, and in cartoon form.  They take up the entire page, making this book perfect for a Big Book or read aloud in a classroom.

I think that this book is perfect for a classroom that is learning about the presidents.  It is a fun way to interact with the students, and have them learn some interesting facts at the same time.  It seems to be targeted at younger elementary students, as the text is simple and to-the-point, with sentences on the shorter side.  Thus, this book would be great for younger readers.

Another thing that the students might enjoy with the use of this book, would be doing a similar role-play project.  Although the students in the story do an organized and formal play, there are smaller and more short-term projects discussed in the story (such as paper mache Mt. Rushmore).  Doing some of these activities, or simply reading the book aloud to a classroom, would be a great way for student's to learn about the past presidents of our United States.

St. Patrick's Day

Title: St. Patrick's Day
Author: Anne Rockwell
Illustrations: Lizzy Rockwell
Genre: Multicultural Children's Picture Book
Age Level: Elementary
Rating: 5 Stars

I think that this story is the perfect book for a read aloud on St. Patrick's Day, no matter what the grade (within elementary school).  The story is about the students within a class giving presentations of various types to their classmates.  Within these presentations, the reader learns about Irish dances, foods, etc.  The main character is 100% Irish, and talks about his experience having an Irish family.  

When I first went searching for multicultural literature, I started steering towards stories that involved Asian culture, African-American culture, etc.  I think this was because I was searching for what I thought was cultures that varied greatly from my own.  Being a good portion Irish, white, and American, I was hesitant to pick up a book about a white boy living in America.  But as it turns out, this brought to my attention that I was overlooking a number of great multicultural reads.  There are so many cultures out there that we can educate our students on, and it is important to bring in a wide variety.

The illustrations in this book are full page pictures, with bright, bold colors, and a cartoon style.  They do a great job of illustrating what is going on in the text, which is helpful to students who may have trouble with context while reading.  Another interesting thing about this story to point out, is that the author and illustrator have the same last name- this leads me to believe that they are related, which sparked an idea for a fun classroom activity.  Students could write a story and have one of their siblings, guardians, or friends illustrate it, making a join piece of work.  This is something that could be done to parallel with the reading of this story in the classroom. 


Title: Allison
Author/Illustrator: Allen Say
Genre: Multicultural Children's Picture Book
Age Group: Elementary
Rating: 5 Stars

Allison is an enlightening story about a young girl who realizes she is adopted once she sees that she looks more like her favorite doll, Mei Mei, than like her parents.  The story develops as she acts out due to her sadness, and then later becomes accepting of her situation after adopting a stray cat into the family.  This story is, what I believe, to be the perfect story for a child who has also been adopted.  It shows the importance of family, and how families are all different.  The character of the cat serves as a metaphor for Allison's own situation, and helps her to come into her own as she finds comfort in their similarities.  

The images in this book are realistic in style, and take up the entire page.  They are outlined by a bold white border, helping the images to pop at the reader.  The colors are light and at times transparent in their painterly style.  The book is organized with text on the left and illustrations on the right, keeping the story consistent and great for younger readers.  Not only would this book be great for an adopted child to read, it would also be a great read-aloud in a classroom setting.  This way, students could understand where their peers may be coming from, and better understand the emotions that are involved in adoption and family.  

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

My Name is Yoon

Title: My Name is Yoon
Author: Helen Recorvits
Illustrator: Gabi Swiatkowska
Age Level: Elementary
Genre: Multicultural Children's Picture Book

This multicultural read is perfect for any elementary classroom, whether it is to teach a lesson on cultures and diversity, read aloud to a class, or have for students individual reading pleasure.  It is a culturally conscious story about Yoon, a girl from Korea, whose family moves to America where she feels alone and out of place.  In her American classroom, Yoon does not write her name in the english language, but instead writes cat, bird, and cupcake.  After making a friend and becoming empowered by her differences which she is later accepted for, Yoon finally writes her name in English.  I think this book would be especially beneficial to read to a class when there is a new student.  Or, for that new student to read individually, so that they can relate to the hardships of being in a new and unfamiliar setting.

Additionally, this book has entrancing illustrations that are painterly in style with shadowing and smooth blending of the brush strokes.  The images do a good job of depicting the text, which can really help the reader if they are struggling with the context of the story.  Within the illustrations are pieces of Yoon's daydreams, which are woven throughout the image and sometimes slightly hidden.  This is a fun way for students to interact with the pictures, and would be great to have in Big Book form so that the whole class could examine the illustrations.

My Name is Yoon is a great multicultural book in that it depicts some of the traditions and pieces of the Korean culture, thus educating the reader on a culture that may be different than their own.  The story itself bears a great lesson about acceptance, which is something that children of all ages and cultures struggle with throughout their school years.  Overall, I would highly recommend this books for its powerful illustrations, teachable cultural notes, and beneficial message.