Archive for May, 2011

May 28, 2011

1621: A New Look at Thanksgiving

1621: A New Look at Thanksgiving
Authors: Canterine O’Neill & Margaret M. Bruchac
Photographers: Sisse Brimberg & Cotton Coulson
Copyright 2001 National Geographic Society
ISBN: 0-7922-7027-4
Genre: Multicultural

In this informative and eye-opening text, a new and more accurate view of the first Thanksgiving in America is outlined and explored for the reader.  As has been documented during the last few decades, accounts of Native American life and how colonists developed what is now the United States have often been historically incorrect.  This book describes the events leading up to the well-known feast that took place between the English colonists and the Wampanoag people in 1621.  The differences in historical myth and what most likely happened on that day are discussed, including the absence of such things as feather headdresses, silver-buckled top hats, cranberry sauce, and mashed potatoes.  The photographs illustrate historically accurate clothing and activities and can be seen today at the Plimoth Plantation in Massachusetts.  The book also offers a timeline of events for the reader to better understand why the event might have occurred.  This text is an excellent portrayal of events that are often distorted in schools every fall.  Using this text with students may help them better understand why we celebrate Thanksgiving and how we must look at depictions of historical events with a critical eye.

May 28, 2011

Why Mosquitoes Buzz in People’s Ears

Why Mosquitoes Buzz in People’s Ears
Retold by: Verna Aardema
Illustrators: Leo & Diane Dillon
Copyright 1975 Dial Books for Young Readers
ISBN: 0-8037-6089-2
Genre: Folklore

In this ancient African tale, the reader enters the world of several animals who lay blame on one another when a tragedy takes place in the jungle.  In the beginning, a mosquito tells a lie that sets a series of events into motion.  When the lion, king of the jungle, calls each animal before him to explain its actions, the animals learn that it is all the mosquito’s fault.  With this tale, storytellers provided an explanation for why the sun rises in the morning and why mosquitoes buzz in people’s ears.  With beautifully created illustrations, Why Mosquitoes Buzz in People’s Ears is an excellent example of quality folklore retold for the contemporary reader.

May 28, 2011

Slap, Squeak, & Scatter: How Animals Communicate

Slap, Squeak, & Scatter: How Animals Communicate
Author/Illustrator: Steve Jenkins
Copyright 2001 Houghton Mifflin Company
ISBN: 0-618-03376-9
Genre: Informational Text

Steve Jenkins again captures his audience with the use of layering and texture in his collage illustrations.  The pictures in his book, Slap, Squeak, & Scatter: How Animals Communicate, come to life as Jenkins explains the different ways animals communicate.  Animal communication is a scientific area of study, and with this book, readers can explore how animals notify each other of danger, signal that they want to play, or attract a mate for reproduction.  Jenkins’s text is presented in a simple, understandable fashion so readers of all ages can enjoy it.

May 27, 2011

Back of the Bus

Back of the Bus
Author: Aaron Reynolds
illustrator: Floyd Cooper
Copyright 2010 Philomel Books
ISBN: 978-0-399-25091-0
Genre: Multicultural

Written with unique differences in language of African Americans during the mid-1950’s, Back of the Bus presents the reader with a fictional tale of a boy riding the bus with Rosa Parks.  Through this young man’s perspective, the reader learns about Parks and how she refused to move from her seat when a white man wished to sit down.  This quality children’s book can spark a discussion about the injustices of the Civil Rights era and how they might have been viewed by a young child at that time.

May 27, 2011

Ellington Was Not a Street

Ellington Was Not a Street
Author: Ntozake Shange
Illustrator: Kadir Nelson
Text Copyright 1983 Illustrations Copyright 2004 Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
ISBN: 0-689-82884-5
Genre: Multicultural

Ellington Was Not a Street is an interesting introduction to many of the individuals who were a part of changing the culture during the Civil Rights era.  In this unique children’s book, Shange recalls her childhood home and the powerful men who entered her home and would later be remembered by the world.  Using an atypical poetry style, Shange prompts the reader to ask questions about the men in the story and piques their curiosity.  At the end of the story, there is a brief description of each of the characters and their contribution to the movement of change for African Americans.  This book would be an excellent addition to a classroom library!

May 27, 2011

Out of the Dust

Out of the Dust
Author: Karen Hesse
Copyright 1997 Scholastic Inc.
ISBN: 0-590-37125-8
Genre: Historical Fiction

Out of the Dust is a beautifully written story about a young girl named Billie Jo who is coming of age during the Dust Bowl.  Living in the panhandle of Oklahoma, Billie Jo faces several tragedies as she faces the many hardships that the rest of the nation also faced during the Great Depression.  Written in a poetic style, the words and layout of the story accentuate Billie Jo’s emotions as she discusses the happenings of her life during her teenage years.  Vivid language and a unique writing style bring the Dust Bowl era to life for readers of all ages.  It is definitely an enjoyable read!

May 26, 2011

When Marian Sang

When Marian Sang
Author: Pam Munoz Ryan
Illustrator: Brian Selznick
Copyright 2002 Scholastic Press
ISBN: 0-439-26967-9
Genre: Biography

There are many amazing stories of individuals who made remarkable strides in the movement toward equal rights during the Civil Rights Era.  Some are very famous – who could forget the impact of Rosa Parks or Martin Luther King, Jr? – while others blend into the background of history.  Although they may be a bit forgotten, those who don’t stand out worked to create change in many ways in order to secure equal rights for all.  Marian Anderson is one of those individuals.  In the children’s book When Marian Sang the author describes how Marian changed the performing arts scene for African Americans with her magnificent voice.  The historically accurate illustrations in this book are based on photographs from the time period, and the reader is able to gain more knowledge from the books appendix in which the author and illustrator describe how they came to tell Marian’s story.  It is an inspirational story about how one person can overcome the odds and create a change for many.

May 26, 2011

How Much Is a Million?

How Much Is a Million?
Author: David M. Schwartz
Illustrator: Steven Kellogg
Copyright 1985 Mulberry Books
ISBN: 0-688-09933-5
Genre: Informational Text

Very often, abstract concepts are difficult for children to understand, especially children affected by autism spectrum disorders.  In the children’s book How Much Is a Million?, large, abstract numbers such as one million are described in a much more user-friendly manner.  Comparisons are presented in concrete terms that kids are familiar with so these large numbers aren’t so confusing after reading the book.  The bright, interesting illustrations provide enjoyment as kids learn about the magic of large numbers.

May 25, 2011

Saving Strawberry Farm

Saving Strawberry Farm
Author: Deborah Hopkinson
Illustrator: Rachel Isadora
Copyright 2005 Greenwillow Books
ISBN: 978-0-688-17401-9
Genre: Historical Fiction

Before beginning a new history lesson or starting to read a new book about a historical event, it is beneficial to read a shorter story that can help illustrate the new information that will be presented to the reader.  Saving Strawberry Farm is a beautifully illustrated children’s book that presents many of the ideas surrounding the Great Depression in a simple way that new learners can understand.  A young boy goes to the corner store to buy some ice for an Independence Day picnic, and while there he learns that a neighbor’s strawberry farm is being auctioned by the bank.  In an effort to save the farm, Davey alerts the townspeople using a trick often employed during the Great Depression.  This story provides talking points for teachers to begin discussions about the hardships of poverty, the differences in daily life, and the efforts of townspeople to support each other.  It is an excellent story that brings this era to life.

May 25, 2011

And Tango Makes Three

And Tango Makes Three
Authors: Justin Richardson & Peter Parnell
Illustrator: Henry Cole
Copyright 2005 Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing Company
ISBN: 978-0-689-87845-9
Genre: Controversial

Many different types of families exist in our society today.  Some children grow up with a mom and a dad, with only one parent, with their grandparents, in foster homes, or even in homes with two moms or two dads.  This topic can often be difficult to explain to young children as they begin comparing their own lives to those of their friends.  In And Tango Makes Three, the reader learns about a unique family that lives at the Central Park Zoo.  Roy and Silo are two male penguins who live together in the penguin house and begin to act like a couple.  When they find a rock and start to nurture it like the other penguin couples are nurturing their eggs, the zookeeper takes notice and places an orphaned egg in their nest.  This book can be used to start a discussion about the different types of families that children may have as well as a way to begin a discussion about adoption, surrogacy, or foster-parenting.  Although controversial to some, reading this book may be an appropriate means for answering questions kids may have about same-sex couples and families and how they are formed.