Sunday, April 27, 2008

"A mouse with a lioness's voice"

Title: Becoming Naomi León
Author: Pam Muñoz Ryan
Publisher: Scholastic, Inc, 2004
Genre: Multicultural, realistic fiction novel
Age Range: 3-5

Summary: Naomi lives with her brother Owen and great-grandmother Gram in California. Owen has many physical disabilities and Naomi is very shy, and loves soap carvings. One day, their mother, Skyla reappears wanting to get to know her children. She buys many gifts for them, but shows a greater interest in Naomi. She has struggled with drinking, and has been in and out of rehab and half-way houses for years. She and her boyfriend Clive want to take Naomi to Las Vegas with them, so she can be a babysitter for Clive's daughter Sapphire, and they can collect the government money for the girls. Gram, along with their neighbors Bernardo and Fabiola take their trailer and leave for Mexico. This is to avoid Skyla taking Naomi, and they hope to find the children's father, so that Gram can receive full custody of the kids. While in Mexico, Naomi learns a lot about the Mexican culture, and begins to love it. She helps the men with their carvings in for the Night of the Radishes, where they receive 2nd place. Their father is there, and they get to spend some time with him, as he tries all he can to help them in their fight to be with Gram. When they return home, they go to court against Skyla and Clive. Skyla wants only Naomi, and when Naomi finally speaks out against living with them, the judge grants Gram custody. Naomi is now able to be with Owen and Gram, as well as spend time in Mexico with her father.

Response: Naomi and Owen are not the typical characters in a novel. They do have to deal with certain things such as bullies at school, making friends, and trying to fit in, which all young children deal with. However, they have to deal with that in the extreme. They also face the issues of a broken family, with a mother who struggles with addiction. Gram is their saving grace, and continues to provide and fight for them no matter what obstacles may be in their way. Skyla is an appropriate name for her because she is often up in the clouds. She flies around, not thinking about anything, and is certainly never grounded. She is selfish and rude, hitting her children because she can not control her addictions.

Owen provides a great lesson for children. Not only does he struggle with physical disabilities, but it is obvious he struggles mentally and emotionally. His tape is like a security blanket, and without it he is not himself. It is so hard to see Skyla deal with Owen because she is so ignorant. She thinks that he can not hear what she says about him, including when she talks to the doctors about his condition. When the doctors refer to him as a "Funny Looking Kid," Skyla blows up and gets angry. She is so superficial; if she could see that Owen is the smartest student in his class, and his mood is always so cheerful and happy, their relationship could progress. All she sees is the physical appearance, what is on the outside. And if you look at her, then you think she is completely put together. Her hair color and lipstick always match, and she is always changing them. But if you look at her inside, her character, you see how terrible she is. This woman abandoned her children, and only wants one of them back so she can collect money on her. She is destroying her body and mind with alcohol, and she takes it out on her children, even slapping Naomi at one point in the story.

Naomi is a young girl who does not know what to do with herself. She speaks at a whisper, and is afraid to stand up for herself and Owen. She is a worrier and a list maker, two things I can identify with. But when you have lived your life not knowing what is going to happen to you, worrying only can come naturally. Throughout the course of the story, she learns about herself, and the culture of her background, and embraces her "inner lion" (her last name of León means lion). That is why I chose my title "a mouse with a lioness's voice" because that is truly what she becomes. She stands up for herself and it helps her to be able to stay with Gram and Owen. The father is just a compassionate wonderful man, who got entangled in the trap of their mother. He does all he can to help his children, and Naomi seems to be a lot like him.

This book is a great way to teach, and learn about the Mexican culture. The entire second half of the story talks about the rich and beautiful traditions and people involved. It is completely told from an insider's perspective because the author, Pam Muñoz Ryan, has a Mexican heritage. We are learning about the culture from her, someone who has lived and experience it first-hand. Each tradition, whether it is food, celebrations, clothing, Naomi embraces because it is a part of her. There is no stereotyping involved, and I think that by reading it from the perspective of someone who knows nothing about the culture either, helps the reader to embrace and accept the culture as well. I love the relationship that Owen has with Ruben. Neither of them speaks the other's language, so they must rely on other interaction. They are best friends, playing and spending all their time together. It shows the great barriers that can be broken with understanding and acceptance of one another.

There is great use of the Spanish language, but it is simple enough so that even young readers can pick up what they are saying to each other. Words such as el mercado and quesillo represent a basic vocabulary that provides an insight into a foreign language.

There are several other cultural markers: food (mole, tortillas, pan dulce), La Noche de Los Rábanos, Posada, and the great importance of the family. All these things were introduced and fit well into the flow of the story. A wide variety of characters are introduced during their time in Oaxaca, and not all of them necessarily believe or act the same, but all bring a different spirit of the culture with them. Posada is perhaps my favorite tradition that I learned about. It is a great way to celebrate Christmas, and it shows a little difference in the way that their culture looks at the birth of Christ. Everyone walks around, knocking on all the doors in the neighborhood, looking for someone to let them in. At the end, everyone gets great goodies and Naomi leaves with sense of understanding about how humble Christ's birth was. It is in Mexico that Naomi makes a connection with herself and her real family.

This book's title says "Becoming" because it is a story that shows the journey of a young girl who finally embraces her heritage, and defines who she is. I think it is an essential multicultural book because it deals with so many different issues that students can relate to, or need to understand.

Teaching Ideas: This book is a great way to introduce the Mexican culture. The great language, traditions, and food that are presented in this novel can be a great starting point for children to learn about Mexico. There is a great idea for doing soap carvings with them at the end of the novel, and I think students would enjoy that.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

"The Little Ships"

Title: The Little Ships: The Heroic Rescue at Dunkirk in World War II
Author: Louise Borden
Illustrator: Michael Foreman
Publisher: Aladdin Paperbacks, 1997
Genre: Picture Book, Historical Fiction
Age Range: 2-5

Summary: In the beginning of WWII, there were about half a million soldiers stranded in Dunkirk. They had been trapped on three sides by the German military. The only way to save them was by the sea. A little girl and her father own a small boat called the Lucy. They decide to sign up, she has to make herself look like a boy, and join the efforts to go and save the soldiers. They are a part of 861 boats that go and save men. When they arrive they see men who are hurt and dying, as well as their animals. They took thousands of men from the shore to the larger ships, each time she was looking for her brother John. As they were leaving, stray bullets were hitting their ship, and the city of Dunkirk was going up in flames. When they arrived home, the learned that a man traveling with them had died, so they took his dog in as their own. Soon she heard news that her brother was safe. They listened to the words of the Prime Minister, and heard that they had helped to save over 338,000 men in Dunkirk.
Response: I have not heard very much about Dunkirk in my studies, other than it was a massive rescue attempt. It was interesting to read in the author's note about all the animals that were rescued, along with the men. She also adds in some of the speech from the Prime Minister who talks about fighting the war with Germany until the end. He said that the rescue at Dunkirk was not necessarily a victory, but a miracle that they were able to save so many men. These are great tools of information, and the foreword in the front from the captain of a ship also adds to the authenticity of the story. There is nothing but bravery and courage spoken from the little girl who travels with her father. The story seems to be written in almost a free verse poem, as it is written in stanzas on the pages. Her words are very realistic and the vocabulary seems to match that of a young child. She is very descriptive in talking about the soldiers, and their very desperate condition. I think it is very interesting to note that she would be able to help pull these men into the ship, being very young. She says that her hands were raw inside the gloves she wore. She saw things that many people would not dare to speak of. Soldiers in Dunkirk were hurt and had no help. Thousands of men owe their lives to this massive armada of ships that came to help them. The illustrations in the book are done with water color. There is no real bold colors until you see Dunkirk and the fires and things in it. The pictures of the boats traveling are very dark and gray. There is a hazy sort of feel, as if they are about to approach a major storm. Some of the details are a bit blurred, showing just how much was going on at the time. I think it shows that details were forgotten by those there because they were so focused on the rescue at hand. The most important picture, in my opinion, shows a man being pulled on to the sip, after he has fallen into the water. he is hanging onto one side of the boat, with his dog paddling beside him. They are all reaching out for him, to save his life. But at the same time, the water is enveloping him, and the white crests are almost like weapons coming after him. Both he and the little girl are wearing blue, which brings them both together. Also, the dog in this picture is the dog she ends up taking home with her. She is their rescuer. She also talks about not showing her fear of the war. Of course, it was the beginning, but this war was perhaps one of the greatest tragedies in history. The holocaust killed well over 6 million people. Stories like this give hope because at this time the world was consumed with so much hate and violence.
Teaching Ideas: This follows with a study of WWII, or even talking about heroes. This little girl is a hero, well, she was fictitious but perhaps young people helped out at this time. Children can talk about how it would be to go through something like this in war. I would use this book in part with other books, such as Milkweed, Aleutian Sparrow, and Weedflower that give students a wide array of things that were going on at this point in time.

"The Watsons Go to Birmingham--1963"

Title: The Watson's Go to Birmingham--1963
Author: Christopher Paul Curtis
Publisher: Yearling, 1995
Genre: Historical Fiction
Age Range: 3-6

Newbery Honor Book
Coretta Scott King Honor Book

Summary: The Watsons are an African American family living in Flint, Michigan, where the weather is freezing. There is a mother named Wilona, a father named Daniel, an older juvenile delinquent brother named Byron, the storyteller named Kenny, and a little sister named Joetta. The family struggles trying to keep Byron in line. Kenny is really intelligent, and Joey is a bit of a whiner and tattle-tale. Kenny talks a lot about his family, and making a new friend named Rufus. Byron continually gets into trouble, and his parents finally decide that they are going to take him to Alabama to stay with their grandmother. The family is going to drive together and stay for a few weeks, and then leave Byron there. Their mother has everything planned out, and their father even bought a portable record player for their car. On the way, their father decides he is going to drive straight to Alabama, much to their mother's dismay. Once arriving there, it seems like Kenny and By switch places because Kenny is in a bad mood and hot, while Byron is enjoying everything. Kenny goes against the warning signs into Collier's Landing, where a whirlpool killed a young boy. Kenny begins being pulled in by the "Wool Pooh" and it is Byron who saves him. On Sunday, Kenny is still shaken by the events, and he sees his little sister go to Sunday School. A little while later a huge noise shakes everyone, and it is soon realized that someone has bombed the church. Kenny runs over there finding a shoe, and seeing many terrible things in the church. He thinks it belongs to his sister, and that she is dead. When he gets home, she comes into his room, and he acts like she is a ghost. What had happened was Joey had gotten too hot in the church and came home on her own. The family left that day and went home. Kenny has a hard time with the whole thing because he believes it was the "Wool Pooh" who was in the church pulling Joey away from him, and he let go. He eventually has a breakdown with By in the bathroom, and realizes that he is okay, and to finally let go of the things that happened because they were not his fault.

Response: This novel displays a wide variety of emotions, and allows for the reader to really get inside the characters’ personalities. The first half of the book gives the reader an idea as to where the family lives, their experiences, and a good description of each character.

The father of the family is goofy and fun loving; he spends most of his time cracking jokes, and trying to get their mother to laugh. He is head over heels in love with her. He is also a very proud man, driving straight through to Alabama just to prove he is still young enough to do it. The mother is a stern woman, who is definitely the head of the household. She has those looks that let everyone know what she is thinking; she is much more serious than her husband. A strong southern woman at heart, she plans every detail of the trip, and can not wait to show her family her great southern roots. Byron is thee typical rebellious teenager. He spends most of his time skipping school, bullying children, and getting into any and every kind of trouble. His juvenile record is what sets the family on their trip. He will have to stay with their grandmother down there all summer because of his continuous trouble. Kenny is the storyteller. The novel is told from his young perspective. He is very intelligent; one of the best readers in the school. He does his best to stay out of the way of his older brother, and other school bullies. He has one friend, a new boy who moved up from the south. Joetta, or Joey, is the youngest. She is very caring and never wants for her brothers to get in trouble; however, there are times that she can be a tattle-tale. She loves church, and attends Sunday school each and every week. The family is known as the “Weird Watsons” because they are often doing things a little out of the ordinary. For example, when their father comes home with the portable record player in the car, they sit out there for hours listening to all their favorite records.

There are three events that take place in the novel that I feel like made a great impression on me, and really helped to make this book a great read.

The first event takes place when the family arrives in Alabama. It is hot, and this makes Kenny very grouchy. He decides that he is going to venture to Collier’s Landing, disregarding the warnings and a cautionary tale about a young boy who was killed. Not even Byron will go with him. After arriving in Alabama he made a 180, perhaps he changed, or maybe he was just afraid of having to stay there all summer. Kenny gets in the water, and at first, he feels great. He feels free. However, he starts to realize he is being pulled further and further out into the water, and he wants to get back to land. There is a whirl pool, and Kenny thinks it is a “wool pooh”, an actually person trying to get you. It starts sucking him under the water, and pulling him further away from the shore. As hard as he swims, he can not seem to shake the “wool pooh” from grabbing his leg. I think this is symbolic of the entire Civil Rights Movement. They waded into it wanting freedom, which they deserved. Their evil “wool pooh” were those who opposed them in their efforts. They would try to keep them from it by bombing churches, killing people, and discouraging them in any way possible. As for Kenny, he continues to think about his little sister, and soon he is pulled to safety by his big brother, Byron. The two decide not to tell anyone about it, and it weighs heavy on Kenny’s chest.

The second event takes place the next Sunday afternoon. Kenny tells his sister she looks beautiful before she leaves to go to Sunday school, which should be a forewarning that something is not right with the day because he has never told her that before. Not too much later, there is a huge crashing sound, like thunder. No one really knows what is going on until Kenny hears his mother scream. He learns that the church that Joey has gone to has been bombed. He is in a daze as he rushes over there. He finds a shoe in the rubble that looks just like Joey’s. He starts to pull at it, and he starts to think that the “wool pooh” has got a hold of her, and he is too scared to continue. He sees little girls hurt, and rushes home. He gets back and sees Joetta coming into his room, and he thinks she is a ghost. What had happened was she was hot and went outside, and apparently followed him home. She was safe, but Kenny could not shake the fact that he was not brave enough to take on the “wool pooh.” This again is symbolic of the entire Civil Rights Movement. Unfortunately, bombings like this took place often during this time. Little girls and other innocent people were hurt and killed for no reason. Those who opposed the advancing movement did this to try and stop who they could; the “wool pooh” that scared Kenny also scared many others because they knew the resistance was willing to do whatever it took to keep them from continuing in their efforts.

The last event takes place weeks after the Watsons return home from Alabama. Kenny, having been through what he had the past few weeks, was not himself. He was carrying a heavy load, as many would having dealt with near death experiences. He and Byron lay in the bathroom and Kenny sobs and talks about his guilt for not fighting the “wool pooh” or Joey. He has this unnecessary guilt built up inside of him, and Byron tells him that he must let it go. On page 203, Byron gives a profound and poignant statement. He says, “Kenny, things ain’t ever going to be fair. How’s it fair that two grown men hate Negroes so much that they’d kill some kids just to stop them from going to school? How’s it fair that even though the cops down there might know who did it nothing will probably ever happen to those men? It ain’t. But you gotta understand that that’s the way it is and keep on steppin’.” This statement pretty much sums up the entire point of the book, and how those involved in the Civil Rights Movement ever found the strength to continue on their journey.

Teaching Ideas: This novel is a perfect way to talk about the Civil Rights Movement. Being from North Carolina it is important to talk about all the great events that took place here. The Greensboro sit ins are perhaps the most famous. Also, discussing the bus boycotts and church bombings that took place all over is a vital part of the movement. Using the book Rosa, and talking about influential people will help them to understand how important this time period was. Children must understand that this was a peaceful movement, but the resistance to it was what brought violence. Movies such as Remember the Titans and Glory Road are a great supplemental to this.


Title: Milkweed
Author: Jerry Spinelli
Publisher: Laurel Leaf, 2003
Genre: Historical Fiction
Age Range: 4-6

Summary: A young boy lives on the streets in Warsaw Poland, before WWII. He remembers nothing of a family or even his name. He is adopted into a group of young thieves, where a boy named Uri takes him under his wing. They live in lavish conditions for a short amount of time, but are soon forced onto the streets after the Jack boots begin taking over. The little boy is given the name Misha by Uri, and a whole story about his upbringing. It is known that the little boy is a Gypsy, and all the other boys are Jews. Misha becomes fascinated by the Jackboots, claiming he wants to be one, and also with the lives of the Jews. He becomes friends with a young girl named Janina, and they often leave presents for each other on her back porch. Soon the Jews are forced into the Ghetto, and Misha follows Janina's family there, which they do not approve of. When the wall is built around it, there is a hole where Misha is able to travel back and forth. Soon he and all the other boys are put in the ghetto, with the exception of Uri. Misha begins smuggling in goods at night through the small hole in the wall. Janina begins following him on these adventures, and her father adopts Misha into their family, even giving him a Jewish armband. Death and starvation follow, as many are killed, even one of their friends who got caught smuggling. Soon it is time for the trains to take the Jewish people to different camps. Janina's father tells Misha that they should go through the hole and run away; however, Janina is fascinated by the trains, and gets caught up in the masses. Uri actually attempts to shoot Misha, it seems he has been hiding his identity and pretended to be a Jackboot, but misses, and Misha is spared from the trains. He wants to find Janina, but a farmer spots him and takes him home so he can heal. Soon, he has the boy working as a slave for him, but after the war is over, young Misha takes a ticket to America. He lives his life trying to tell his story on the streets. He gets married, but his wife soon realizes he is too much for her. In the end, his daughter and granddaughter find him and he is able to spend the rest of his life with them.

Response: Milkweed was not what I was expecting at all. For a children’s book I found it to be very deep, detailed, and a little dark. It speaks of the Holocaust, and there is no positive or bright side to focus on, but the little bits of humor used did help. The young boy, later named Mischa, is just a complete mystery to the read. Since the story is written through his perspective, and he really knows nothing, neither does the reader. You really have to infer and figure it out on your own. Without the background knowledge of WWII, one would probably be a bit lost. But it is great that the perspective is that of a young, innocent child because it really adds to the atmosphere of the story. It simplifies the actions that were being taken on the Jewish people during that time, but also adds a great deal to it because you see just how inhumane it really was. I never knew about the smuggling and things that went on in the ghetto until now, and young Mischa lives for this. In history class, I learned a lot about the disease and death that swept through these ghettos because that was what the Germans wanted, to kill the Jews naturally, as to say it was not their fault.

Mischa and the other orphan boys show great strength and courage to live and survive alone. Uri plays a fatherly role to Mischa, even at the end, when he pretends to shoot him so that he is not taken to the concentration camps with the others. He is abusive and very tough on the little boy at times, but the things he does to him are nothing compared to what is being done to the other 6 million Jews around Europe. Mischa is a gypsy, from what is said in the story, and that made him just as much of a target as the Jews. He never really knows this because no on tells him. He often says, “I’m glad I’m not a Jew,” and people look at him like he is crazy because he, too is considered inferior. When he becomes obsessed with the merry-go-round, it really shows how young and innocent he is. Sure he steals to eat, and live on the streets, but he is still a young child at heart. He is truly happy when he is accepted into Janina’s family, and given a Jewish armband to ear. He works so hard to help bring food for her family, and only her and her father are accepting of the boy. His relationship with the orphanage is strange because I would think they might take him in; however, he is not Jewish like the other children. They do give him a bath one night and fresh clothes. He brings them food as well.

There are several disturbing and eye-opening scenes described in the book. When a horse’s leg is cut off at the merry-go-round, a Jewish man is blamed for it. They strip his clothes down, tying him up so he does not move. Then, they proceed to spray freezing cold water on the man, in the dead of winter, until his body is completely blue. This is the first time that Mischa sees death, but he really does not understand it or take it in. Death becomes a part of everyday life while he is in the ghetto. His friend Gray John dies, after suffering a long time, probably from starvation. When people died in the ghetto, they were covered up with newspaper, and people would steal their socks and shoes. Another friend is hung because he is caught smuggling. Mischa is exposed to more in his life than anyone deserves to be.

Janina, a young girl Mischa becomes friends with, and then lives with in the ghetto, is an interesting character. She seems very innocent and sweet at first, and Mischa really loves her. But living in the ghetto really takes its toll on her, especially when her mother dies. She begins smuggling with Mischa, and he gets very annoyed with her greedy and selfish ways. Her father takes the time to celebrate Hanukkah with the family for the two years they live there. He goes through all the motions and all the things that would normally be done. Even when the menorah is stolen, he continues. He even buys Mischa and Janina combs as presents. This is a small glimmer of hope in a dark and desperate time. Her father holds on to his beliefs as a dedicated Jew, even though he is suffering, and eventually will be killed. While, the mother is sick, Janina is not interested in doing it, and the uncle that lives with them claims he is now a Lutheran. It is amazing to me how someone could still hold strong to their faith when everything has been taken from them.

The milkweed is a great symbol for the entire novel. It is found in the ghetto one day, and Janina blows the pods open, spreading their seeds. It is a small little weed growing in a terrible and barren ghetto. I think that Mischa is much like the milkweed in the story. Sure he is a little weed, not something spectacular. However, he does bring a little bit of happiness and hope to those he is around. He provides people with food, and his forever positive attitude really does seem to take its effect on people.

The story follows Mischa’s life. It takes him until the last days of his life. This is important because it not only talks about the war, and the time he was involved with it. But it shows that the things he went through during this time impacted the rest of his life.

Teaching Ideas: This book is a great addition to a unit on the Holocaust and WWII. Students will really be able to relate to Mischa or Janina as they read.

I think I would have students to write or even discuss a reaction to the book because it is so dark at times.

Having them to go online, there are great resources about the Holocaust.

Teaching the Holocaust provides great lesson plans. It is mentioned that they are probably to be used in grade 5 or higher, but if necessary, can be adapted.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008


I'm going to dunk this basketball,
I'll soar above the rim.
I'll fly so high that everyone
Will cry out, "Look at him!"

My dunk will be spectacular ---
The greatest of them all.
When I grow three feet taller,
I will dunk this basketball.

Taken from good sports: rhymes about running, jumping, throwing, and more by Jack Prelutsky.

I chose to read this particular anthology because it is about sports. Poetry is probably one of my least favorite genres, but if I can find a subject I enjoy, then it is not so bad. This was a great collection of poems. They are written at a very simple level that children can understand, as well as imitate. They are short and give a great description of an event during a game or match. It encompasses a wide variety of sports. I can see this book working well with boys because they can be very passionate about sports, and this can get them involved with poetry as well. The poem I chose to share is about basketball, my favorite sport. It makes me think of my brother when he was little. He would always tell us he was going to grow and be able to dunk a ball. He is now eighteen, and he is an outstanding ball player; he can also dunk the ball. The picture that goes with the poem is a little boy with a ball trying to dunk, and there are several pictures of him getting larger and larger as he reaches the goal. All the pictures are done with watercolor and ink, and the colors are bright and bold. They grab the attention of the reader. The white space all around draws attention to the bold black text, and the great illustrations. Certain elements of poetry are present even in these simple short poems. I think the first element that stands out is the rhyme. In this poem, not every line rhymes. It goes in a pattern of abcb dede. The same letters represent a rhyme, so the second and fourth lines in the first stanza rhyme (rim, him). In the second stanza, the first and third rhyme, and so do the second and fourth (spectacular/taller, all/basketball). According to Temple text, rhyming adds a musical quality to poetry, and it builds repetition. If I was teaching children about poetry, I would probably start with simple rhyming poems because they are easier to grasp. The end rhymes in the poem help pull a reader in, and they become more involved. The imagery produced by some of the words in this poem is really incredible. For example, the young ball player says, “I’ll soar above the rim…fly so high…” these give the reader a great illustration of someone jumping really high because being able to dunk a basketball means you can get yourself up to the ten-foot rim. Another word I love in this poem is “spectacular” describing the dunk. This makes me think of Michael Jordan and other great athletes who could leap and do great tricks when dunking the ball. There is a very simple form to this poem, two stanzas of four lines each. This helps with understanding, and logic of the poem. There are commas or an ending punctuation at almost every line, so students can easily break it down. The insight given by this poem is obvious, as it is stated at the end. The ball player must “grow three feet taller” in order to dunk the basketball. I think readers will enjoy this ending because they can relate to it, especially if they are short. This entire anthology is a must for my classroom because I think that every student can find a poem in here that inspires them to get up and move around.

Monday, April 14, 2008

"Junie B., First Grader:Boss of Lunch"

Title: Junie B., First Grader: Boss of Lunch
Author: Barbara Park
Illustrator: Denise Brunkus
Publisher: Random House, 2002
Genre: Fiction, Chapter Book
Age Range: 1-2

Summary: Junie B. Jones is very excited about her new bird lunchbox. She keeps looking at it during class, sparking a debate over whether it is better to bring your lunch or buy it. In the cafeteria, she realizes that she and another boy are the only ones who do not buy their lunch. Her friend Jose lets her have a bite of his cookie, and she talks about Mrs. Gutzman, who used to bring cookies to her class last year. Junie B. runs to the kitchen when she hears that Mrs. Gutzman is working there. Her teacher gets mad at her for running back there, but Mrs. Gutzman asks Junie B. if she would like to be the lunch helper the next day. She gets permission, and the next day she goes to help. She dresses like a lunch lady and has three jobs to do. Junie B. gets excited when her class comes, and she lets it known to them that the food for the day is gross, which makes everyone lose their appetites. Junie B. is very embarrassed. Later that day, Mrs. Gutzman comes to the classroom and Junie B. is able to help her pass out cookies to her class.

Response: Junie B. Jones is quite a character. She is full of energy and life. You can see that she is a typical first-grader who repeats everything she hears from adults, and sometimes does so at inappropriate times. She seems to be a little distracted in the classroom, perhaps ADHD, and her teachers get upset with her quite often. Her fascination with a lunch box is quite hilarious, and she is so proud of it. Her big dilemma in the story is that she brings her lunch to school, thinking it is the greatest, but almost all the other students in the classroom buy school lunch. She gets a little jealous about it, as another girl makes her feel bad. Junie B. gets super excited when she gets permission to work in the lunchroom. Her parents try to tell her that just because she is helping, does not mean that she is the boss. Junie B. seems to have a hard time with this because the next day she does not really fulfill the jobs that Mrs. Gutzman gives her. She keeps having to wash her hands and change her gloves because she will mess with her hair or touch something with germs on it. Her three jobs are: greet students coming into the cafeteria, wipe down the counter, and keep the napkins filled. Junie B. tries to do these jobs the best she can. She gets nervous greeting older students, and they pick on her. When her class comes in Junie B. gets really excited and tells them that "I'M KEEPING HAIR AND GERMS OUT OF THE TUNA NOODLE STINKLE!"(p. 64) Her trying to show up May makes all the students disgusted with the food, and they refuse to eat. Obviously this is bad for the cafeteria as they have to make sandwiches for all the kids. Junie B. is humiliated the rest of the day, and when Mrs. Gutzman comes in to the room later, she thinks she is in big trouble. However, Mrs. Gutzman gives Junie B. a second chance at helping her, by passing out cookies. This story teaches children about responsibility and the duties of being a helper. Also, there are smaller lessons about not bullying and picking on others. Junie B. is very applicable to young readers because she is such a real character that they can learn from

Teaching Ideas: There is a great Teacher's Guide that can help with using the book in classroom. It is great for teaching responsibility, using with science for birds, and building character. For students there is a great website where they can do activities and learn more about Junie B. Jones books. More Junie B!

Mirror of Erised

The Mirror of Erised shows you what your heart most desires. I know that if I was to walk up and look inside, it would show me my family. I am very close to all of them, and they are the most important thing in the world to me. My parents and younger sister are moving to Hernando, Mississippi, right outside of Memphis, TN this summer because my Dad recently earned a promotion. My younger brother will be graduating from high school and going to play basketball in college. He has not made a decision as to where yet, but none of his top choices are anywhere near Boone. I think that my heart's greatest desire would be to have them closer to me. I feel very safe and lucky knowing that I can see them in an hour. After this summer, it will be a 12 hour drive to see my parents. Besides this, I desire to one day have a family of my own. I hope that my future family will be able to be as strong and supportive as the family I am a part of right now.