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.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010


Title: Feathers
Author: Jaqueline Woodson
Genre: Children's Novel
Rating: 5 Stars
Age Group: Upper Elementary/Middle School
While reading Feathers, I admit that I did not originally find the text to be controversial.  It wasn't until after I had finished the novel and was reflecting on what I had just read, that it really sunk in all of the loaded information and controversial issues touched on in this text.  The story is about a girl named Frannie who is black, and lives on the "black side" of the highway.  A boy from the "white side" transfers to her school, which causes turbulence among the children who were brought up in their segregated community in the 70's.  The boy, nicknamed "Jesus Boy" due to his "Jesus-like" appearance, befriends Frannie who sticks up for him throughout his troubled start at Price elementary school.  Other events are going on throughout the story, such as the pregnancy of Frannie's mom, and the troubles related to Frannie's brother's deafness.

I loved this story because of the way it was able to make me really think.  Certain lines were so deep and poetic, I found myself stopping to reflect on Frannie's words.  Her mind was so wise and mature for a sixth grader, and I liked how I as the reader was able to travel with her as she made discoveries regarding hope, spirituality, and life itself.  

I think that the reason I didn't originally find the text to be controversial, was because I grew up in a Christian background.  For this reason, I didn't find it odd that the characters were discussing Jesus, however, I know that in a classroom where people have varying religious backgrounds and beliefs, this could be a controversial topic.  It is an issue that would have to be addressed, because the topic of Jesus is such a prominent theme throughout the story.  There would be no getting around it in a classroom while analyzing the text.  Some of the Jesus references were more obvious, while others were hidden in metaphors.  For example, Samantha, Frannie's friend, talks of the similarities between Frannie's two chicken pox scars in the middle of her palms, and nail holes (a reference to Jesus being nailed to the cross).  For reasons such as this, I feel that this text would be best for higher-level readers in upper grades, so that they could really pick apart the text and be able to appreciate Woodson's controversial yet intelligent way of writing.

I think that this novel is a wonderful and poetic book that is relatable to any growing and maturing child. Although it is set in the seventies and segregation is still a major part of life, the internal battles that Frannie deals with such as handling bullies and friendships are life experiences that students could connect with.  At the same time, her experiences that are not as relatable, such as living in a world of segregation, are equally important to the text, as they could teach the reader about historical issues which can then be connected to life in our world today.  Overall, I greatly enjoyed reading this book, and would absolutely love implementing it in my future classroom- however, I can forsee the controversy and issues that could likely arise.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Black and White

Title: Black and White
Author: David Macaulay
Genre: Children's Picture Book
Age Level: Upper Elementary
Rating: 5 Stars
Black and White is a unique picture book that is completely unlike any I have read before.  The book has multiple stories going on at once, each of which is in a different corner of the pages, and each of which connects to the others in some way.  The different stories are written in different texts, to help differentiate between them.  The style in which the images are illustrated also differ, from line-oriented, monochromatic sketches, to colorful cartoon-like pictures.  The stories are able to connect a herd of cows, newspapers, a train ride, and a family all to one another.

I think this book would be especially fun for students to read in their free time in a classroom.  In terms of content, I wouldn't personally recommend using this book for a lesson, unless it was on different styles of illustration, or as an example to mimic in a writing activity.  The story that I particularly enjoyed was the one involving the heard of cows (found in the lower right hand corner of each page).  These illustrations were particularly striking because the black and white tended to form various optical illusions.  Overall, this book is something that should take students a while to read and understand, because they should pay special attention to each detail in the images that help build the story as a whole.

The House in the Night

Title: The House in the Night
Author: Susan Marie Swanson
Illustrator: Beth Krommes
Genre: Children's Picture Book
Age Group: Lower Elementary
Rating: 5 Stars
After reading the House in the Night, I definitely want to have a copy of this book for my future children.  In my opinion it is the perfect bedtime story, however I would not necessarily choose it for a classroom read aloud.  The story is short and concise with unique illustrations that are only black, white, and gold (perfect for the Hawkeyes :) and visually appealing.  The images are rounded and intricate with sketched markings that detail and shade each piece of the illustration.  They are almost calming in a sense, which flows greatly with the bedtime story aspect.

The story is a series of objects in events, that is then reversed.  In other words, it starts off with the mother handing the daughter a key, that goes to a house, that has a room, that has a bed... and so on and so on.  Then the story goes in reverse and ends with the key, where it had started.  This form of writing creates a full-circle cycle, which I find particularly appealing, because nothing is left unsaid or unsolved.  For me, this sets a calming mood, which is again ideal for a bedtime story.

The text itself is not very challenging, and there are only a few words per page.  For this reason, I find this to be a great book for beginning readers to practice with their parents in bed before going to sleep.  The white borders that are framed around each of the pictures really gives the idea of each illustration as a separate piece of art, which I, as an art specialization, really appreciate.  Overall, this is one of my favorite pieces of children's literature that I have seen thus far in Reading and Responding to Children's Literature.  

Arrow to the Sun

Title: Arrow to the Sun
Author: Gerald McDermott
Genre: Native American Children's Picture Book
Age Group: Elementary
Rating: 3 Stars
Arrow to the Sun is a Pueblo Indian Tale that would be ideal to read aloud when teaching a lesson to elementary school students about Native American culture.  As a Caldecott award winner for it's illustrations, this children's picture book has extremely vibrant and colorful images that are made up of geometric shapes and patterns to create abstract illustrations.  Some pages are completely wordless, allowing the students to make their own interpretations regarding what is happening in the story.

Similar to that of the Native American books I read for my genre/perspectives presentation, this book is told in the form of a Native American legend.  It is about a boy who goes on a search for his father once he reaches manhood, and becomes an arrow that he rides to the Lord in order to speak to him about being his son.  The boy passes many tests and goes on various adventures- another common theme found in Native American literature.  The storyline is almost mythical, and would surely interest students of young ages.  While teaching a lesson on Native American culture in my future classroom, I would definitely include this book.  I would also want to teach this book in the form of a big book, because I find the illustrations so unique and different from other books, that I would want students to pay close attention to the shapes and the patterns that they form.

Barnyard Banter

Title: Barnyard Banter
Author: Denise Fleming
Genre: Children's Picture Book
Age Group: Lower Elementary
Rating: 4 Stars

What originally struck me about Barnyard Banter were the elaborately collaged and colorful illustrations.  They remind me of the Eric Carle collages of animals, which I am a big fan of.  The colors and collaged papers are textured and paint splattered, making them extremely appealing to the eye and attention-grabbing.

The story teaches children the noises that animal makes, and also can help them with animal identification.  With only a few words in a relatively large font written on each page, the book is ideal for beginning readers.  The lines also rhyme from page to page, making the book perfect for a sing-along or read-aloud in a classroom.  Throughout the story, you see parts of a goose hidden within the page.  Every few pages, the text asks, "where is goose?"  this is a fun way for the students to interact with the book, searching for the goose amongst the intricate illustrations.

I would imagine this book to be the perfect big book.  By reading this aloud to a kindergarten class in a big book form, students would be able to read along, and see the colorful images in a larger form.  I can imagine my future classroom having kindergardeners singing along to the noises of the animals, and being able to identify the sounds each animal makes.

Mei Li

Title: Mei Li
Author: Thomas Handforth
Genre: Children’s Picture Book
Age group: Elementary
Rating: 3 stars

Although this book is a Caldecott winner, I found it to be slightly controversial in both its images and text.  Lines such as “Mei Li knew a girl could not be an actress” could very well send the wrong message to young readers.  In addition, after spending the majority of the book trying to prove to her brother that girls can do everything that boys can do, she ends up cleaning the house on the last page- a stereotypical role of a female.  For these reasons, I might not choose to read this aloud to a younger crowd, or at least without giving a disclaimer first. 
The images are black and white, which for me personally would not be to striking and interesting as a young child, but their sketchy textured markings are unique and interesting to the eye.  The illustrations do a good job of putting an image to the text, and giving more context clues than are given in the words alone. 
This book would be good to implement in a lesson regarding China.  The storyline is about a girl living within a walled community close to the Great Wall of China, and has a lot of vocabulary typical to China.  For this reason, it could be a good text to read aloud during a cultural unit or to go along with an activity about other cultures, specifically China.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

The Giver

Title: The Giver
Author: Lois Lowry
Genre: Science Fiction Novel
Age group: Middle School
Rating: 5 Stars

         When first assigned a science fiction novel, I was all but excited.  I had always pictured science fiction to involve aliens and scientists- an ignorant and incorrect original idea.  As I dove into The Giver, I soon realized that the genre I had originally steered clear of could in fact be a new favorite.  The Giver had real-life, relatable situations in them, however was set in a fictional “utopia” land where the world of its inhabitants differed greatly from our world today.  Throughout the novel, I found myself constantly asking, “what if this really happened?”  Although it is clear this is a fictional story in a fictional setting, it was fun to imagine a community that seemed so unbelievable.  Although there are powers and rules and a completely different way of life where Jonas lives, the character goes through relatable life happenings such as the burden of responsibility.  Although I, clearly, wasn’t dubbed a “receiver” of memories, I have bared the burden of painful secrets or the responsibility of holding another’s weight on my shoulders so-to-speak.  It is real-life emotions such as this that brought this interesting and original story to life.  Far from the aliens and scientists that I had originally imagined, The Giver included an interesting take on life that involved the discarding of the elderly and those considered to be less-than-satisfactory, along with the monitored lives and roles in the community that each character was trained to play. 
         I think that this book is perfect for students in middle school, or even lower levels of high school.  In particular, I think that this novel is an excellent example of creativity, and would thus serve as a guiding piece of writing in a writing lesson.  If I were to teach the targeted age group, I would definitely have this book assigned to the class, and then work on writing individual science fiction books after we were through.  I think that there are other students who have the same perception of science fiction as I do, and by giving them this novel as an example to show the broadness of this genre, they could maybe find a new interest in it as I did.  In addition, it is not often that students are asked to write in the form of science fiction, so it could be a great activity that promotes creativity and stretches the mind.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Mouse Count

Title: Mouse Count
Author: Ellen Stoll Walsh
Genre: Children’s Picture Book
Age: Lower Elementary
Rating: 3 stars

            This is a short, cute book about mice that escape a hungry snake.  In the process, the snake fills a jar with mice, counting them as he goes.  The mice then work together to tip over the jar, escape, and are counted backwards in the text.  This is perfect for beginning readers, as it has short sentences and repeated phrases.  In addition, it deals with numbers, and the collaged illustrations show the number of mice in the jar at each time, adding color to the story, and a visual aid.  I would definitely use this book to teach very young children numbers, as it is a good example of counting to 10. 

Chicka Chicka Boom Boom

Title: Chicka Chicka Boom Boom
Author: Bill Martin Jr., John Archambault
Illustrator: Lois Ehlert
Genre: Children’s poetry/picture book
Age: Lower elementary
Rating: 4 stars

            This classic children’s book was a childhood favorite of mine.  It is a unique twist on how to learn the alphabet, with colorful images of the letters and coconut tree in which they climb.  The story rhymes throughout, and has repeated phrases, making it perfect for children who are just beginning to read, working on poetry, or the alphabet.  For these reasons, I definitely plan to read this to my future children, in addition to keeping a copy in my classroom.  It is fun and bright, and helps beginners learn, while staying entertaining and fun!

Clifford's Busy Week

Title: Clifford’s Busy Week
Author: Norman Bridwell
Genre: Children’s Picture Book
Age: Lower Elementary, beginners
Rating: 3 stars

            This book is especially helpful for students learning the days of the week.  Each page goes through the various days of the week, and a location that Clifford went in search of his toy mouse.  The pictures greatly enhance the story, as you can see Clifford’s emotion in his face, and get a better idea of the setting’s details.  Although it is not the best quality literature I have read, I do think it is beneficial for beginning readers to have stories such as this, with short sentences that can correlate with something they are also learning (i.e. days of the week).  For this reason, I would use this in my future classroom if I were teaching kindergarteners, and would also use it with my own future children in their beginning stages of reading.

My Two Uncles

Title: My Two Uncles
Author: Judith Vigna
Genre: Controversial Children’s Literature
Age: Elementary
Rating: 5 stars

            I found this book to be a realistic and non-sugar-coated story about a girl who has 2 uncles (a gay couple).  The 3 characters build a diorama together for Ellie’s (the girl) Grandparent’s anniversary party.  Her grandpa, however, does not approve of his son’s lifestyle (dating a male) and refuses to allow his son’s partner to attend the party.  In the end, Ellie is explained the differing opinions about homosexuality by her father.  The grandpa is cordial with his son and son’s partner, but isn’t overly loving or unrealistically ecstatic of their decisions after a lifetime of disapproval.  I think that the story is good in that it is realistic.  It doesn’t have a cliché happy ending, but an ending where people are just beginning to overcome their differences- representative of how many people today are in a position where they are overcoming their biases as well.  I could understand why this could be considered controversial, as the opinions in the text expressed by Ellie’s father could differ from the readers’.  However, I would use this book for a lesson in my classroom, when teaching a lesson about diversity, differing opinions, and differences.

She Come Bringing Me That Little Baby Girl

Title: She Come Bringing Me That Little Baby Girl
Author: Eloise Greenfield
Illustrator: John Steptoe
Genre: Controversial Children’s Literature
Age: Lower-Middle Elementary
Rating: 3 stars

            At first glance, it was hard to tell why this story was considered to be controversial.  This story is about a young boy who doesn’t want a baby sister, but then is happy in the end.  It is told from the boy’s point of view, making it relatable, and is what I consider to be a perfect read for a child who has a new baby sibling on the way or who has just arrived.  It’s painterly illustrations are interesting and unique in that the pastel colors show clearly each brush stroke.  A line that I found that could indeed be considered controversial, was “she couldn’t throw a football” in reference to the idea that the boy’s baby sister wouldn’t be able to play sports because she is a girl.  In addition, the book is not always in proper English, and entails some words that could be considered African American slang.  However, I think that the message of the story overrides these small details that quite honestly I do not think a small child would notice.   For these reasons, I think that I would include this book in my future classroom, or at least have it available on a bookshelf, for students who are expecting/have a new baby sibling.  

One Eye! Two Eyes! Three Eyes!

Title: One Eye! Two Eyes! Three Eyes!  A Very Grimm Fairy Tale
Author: Aaron Shepard
Illustrator: Gary Clement
Genre: Fairy Tale/Children’s Picture Book
Age Group: Lower-Middle Elementary
Rating: 5 stars

            This story shares a lot of similar characteristics to other fairy tales I am familiar with, such as Cinderella.  There are 3 sisters, and the one sister who is outcast ends up with the prince in the end.  There is an old woman who is illustrated to be similar to a fair godmother, as she casts charms and hovers above the ground.  In the story, two-eyes (the main character) is outcast for being different because she has two eyes.  Her sisters have 1 and 3 eyes, which is considered “normal” in this story, making for interesting discussion in an elementary classroom.  The old woman teaches Two-Eyes charms so that she can eat, and the sisters become suspicious.  In the end, Two-Eyes is saved from her hateful sisters by a knight, and lives happily ever after.
            The illustrations in this story add emotion to the text.  They parallel with the words, and add humor and detail.  The cartoon style goes perfectly with the light mood, and the images cover much of the page.
            I think this story is perfect for reading aloud in a classroom to a group of students.  Many students will see the parallels to Cinderella, and also discover the message that being “different” is a good thing.  I would definitely use this book to teach either a lesson on difference or a lesson on fairy tales to children of young ages in my future elementary classroom.


Title: Cendrillon: A Caribbean Cinderella
Author: Robert D. San Souci
Illustrator: Brian Pinkney
Genre: Fairy Tale/Children’s Picture Book
Age Group: Elementary
Rating: 5 stars

            Cendrillon is a beautifully illustrated Caribbean version of the classic Cinderella.  The story is told in the perspective of Cendrillon’s godmother, who serves as a fairy godmother in this story.  The story is quite similar to the original Cinderella, in its use of wands, a ball, a magic slipper, and evil stepsisters.  The story, however, using the occasional Caribbean lingo, helping the reader become more knowledgeable on Caribbean culture.
            The illustrations are vividly colored etchings, which look like they could likely be a result of printmaking.  They are sketched and textured, giving the pages each a unique page of art.  Detailed borders surround the text, and I believe the illustrations alone are reason enough to show this to a class.
            If I become an art teacher, this book would be perfect for teaching a lesson on printmaking or color.  In a regular elementary classroom, I would also find this story to be appropriate and a fun read aloud in a group setting.  This is definitely a book I will keep in mind for use as a future educator.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Focus Question: The Literary Elements

The literary elements are all important aspects that create the foundation for a story.  The use of all of them combined constructs the form and body of any story, and helps the reader to understand what is happening from page to page. 

I find characters to be the most important.  A story without characters, in my opinion, is no story at all.  However, a character does not necessarily have to be a person.  As seen in The Higher Power of Lucky, the desert can be a character in itself.  The growth of the characters themselves brings the story to life, and is what interests me the most when I am reading any given story.  

Point-of-view is also an important literary element.  There is nothing more frustrating than reading a story where the point of view is inconsistent, if it is not done correctly.  In the fourth book of the Twilight Saga, Breaking Dawn, the narrator switches 3 times between characters.  We get to see what is going on through Bella's point of view, then Jacob's, then back to Bella's.  I believe this to be an incredibly clever way of seeing the story from different angles.  It helped me as the reader gain insight to various characters emotions, and made for an interesting twist.

Time is also something that can be played with by the author.  Jumping time zones (such as during flashbacks) can be beneficial to bringing a story to life, or it can cause confusion and lose the reader.  I think that the most basic and understandable form of time is when it is organized chronologically.  For young children especially, this is the most realistic and relatable, because our lives are being lived chronologically.  Much like point-of-view, I feel that time has the potential to really help or really hurt the body of a story.

Place is an element that I find can add a lot to a story.  The more detailed the setting is, the more I like it, because I can get a visual of where the characters are in place.  Place helps contribute to the passing of time, based on when the location of the characters changes.  I think that without description of the character's location, I as a reader would be frustrated and lost.

Plot is essential, as I feel it forms the story itself.  The sequence of events that are created throughout a story are what I enjoy reading about- the actions, the activities, and the events that the characters partake in.  It helps to connect the dots and relate other parts of the story, and is best enjoyed when read between the lines.

The mood of a story is created by a combination of all of the above literary elements.  The colors of the place, the emotions of the characters, can all help create the mood or tone of the piece.  The mood is important: if the mood is depressing it can pull you in and evoke emotions that the author intends to take out of you.

Symbols and extended metaphors are extremely helpful in the building of a story.  The Higher Power of Lucky is notorious for using symbols to add important tidbits of information to the reader, whether it be about the characters, place, etc.  (i.e. Lincoln's knot typing obsession says a lot about him as a person).

Finally, theme is important for the author especially when creating a piece of writing.  It is what the story is likely built off of, and we as readers get to interpret what the author is trying to say based off of this literary element in combination with the six others.

The Higher Power of Lucky

Title: The Higher Power of Lucky
Author: Susan Patron
Illustrator: Matt Phelan
Genre: Children's Novel
Age group: Upper Elementary
Rating: 5 stars

When assigned the Higher Power of Lucky, I was admittedly not very enthused.  Novels such as this reminded me of my elementary and middle school days, where I was assigned short novels to read.  Hating the fact that I was being forced to read something against my will, especially a book I would not have chosen myself, lead me to strongly dislike these assigned readings.  However, it wasn't until I completed this novel in college that I have learned to truly appreciate novels aimed at its intended age group.  Ironically, I have a stronger appreciation for children's novels, and a greater understanding of their depth, now that I have read a book aimed at young children while I myself am a young adult.  

I found that the character of Lucky is more than just a child in a children's book.  She is a complicated being with depth and emotions that are sought out throughout the book by the reader.  What struck me within the first chapter is that Lucky's mind seemed too wise and mature for her child body.  Each chapter was exciting as I the reader was able to watch Lucky grow and develop.  But it wasn't necessarily the words at face value that intrigued me, but more so the feelings they evoked.  To my surprise, this book was not at all childish or at a "lower" reading level- it was a well written novel that could be perfectly enjoyable to an adult as well.  The references to more "adult" content such as Alcoholics Anonymous helped me as an older reader really take the book seriously as an actual novel rather than something written solely for kids.  At the same time, I enjoyed the child-like nature of Lucky's adventures, and the innocence of characters such as Miles and HMS Beagle.  

Although there has been controversy about this book (in terms of the word 'scrotum') I find this book to be an excellent choice for upper elementary readers.  I think it would be easy for readers to find someone to relate to in this book, whether it be Lucky, Lincoln, or Brigette.  I would imagine that children of Lucky's age would find her thoughts, emotions, and antics to be relatable or at the very least intriguing.  The illustrations are also a nice way to break up the text and help the children get visuals of things that may not see every day such as a burr.  If I were to teach in an upper elementary classroom, I would definitely implement this book into a lesson for its thoughtful writing, or the content regarding Lucky's self-discovery.  I feel that people of all ages could learn from the Higher Power of Lucky, and enjoy reading about this realistic and relatable character.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Happy to Be Nappy

Title: Happy to Be Nappy
Author: Bell Hooks
Illustrator: Chris Raschka
Genre: Children’s Picture Book
Age Group: Lower Elementary
Rating: 3 stars

            Happy to Be Nappy is a book about ethnic hair care, aimed at younger readers.  Its hand lettered text makes it slightly challenging to read due to the handwriting itself, and the childish and simplistic watercolor illustrations add a bright and happy mood to the piece.  The book seems to be aimed towards colored girls, as the word “girl” is used repeatedly, and the illustrations are all characters of darker shades of skin.  This could be a good lesson in diversity in a lower elementary classroom.  However, the book describes the difference in ethnic hair and its abilities to do certain things, so it may not be very relatable to all students.  For this reason, I believe it would be better to have available for free reading time in a classroom, but would not necessarily be ideal for a read-aloud.  

Tacky the Penguin

Title: Tacky the Penguin
Author: Helen Lester
Illustrator: Lynn Munsinger
Genre: Children’s Picture Book
Age Group: Lower Elementary
Rating: 5 stars

            Being a childhood favorite, I was immediately drawn to this book at the public library.  Tacky the Penguin is about an odd penguin, who does everything differently from his penguin friends.  He does cannon balls instead of diving gracefully, he sings loudly and off key, and he marches to a different beat.  When hunters come along, the other penguins run and hide, and Tacky scares them off with his singing and odd behavior.  In the end, the other penguins realize they love Tacky for his differences, and his oddness is really a good thing!
            I think this book is perfect for children of young ages, because it sends the message that being different is a good thing.  For this reason, I would definitely read this aloud in my future classroom.  The book is not gender biased, and is not particular to one specific “type” of person, thus being a great book to read aloud in a group setting.  The illustrations are goofy and colorful sketches that add emotion and detail to the text.  All in all, I find this to be a great read that is truly applicable in a classroom setting.

A Rainbow of Friends

Title: A Rainbow of Friends
Author/Illustrator: P.K. Hallinan
Genre: Children’s Picture Book/Poetry
Age Group: Lower Elementary School
Rating: 5 stars

            A Rainbow of Friends is the ideal classroom read for a lower elementary school classroom.  The illustrations are child-like and filled with vivid colors and shading, and depict perfectly what the text reads while adding addition information such as character emotion.  The story is also a poem, as it rhymes all the way through from page to page.  It is about the importance of having friends from all different races, backgrounds, interests, etc.  This is an extremely important message for people of all ages, thus there are great benefits of reading this aloud to a classroom.  It is short and concise, but gets the message across, and provides the reader with a light and happy mood.  Overall, I think this is the perfect book for a classroom setting.