Author: Pam Muñoz Ryan
Sunday, April 27, 2008
Author: Pam Muñoz Ryan
Tuesday, April 22, 2008
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.
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'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
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.