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.
Author: J. K. Rowling
Illustrator: J. K. Rowling
Publisher: Scholastic Press, 1997
Genre: Fantasy, Novel, Fiction
Age Range: 4-6
Summary: Harry Potter is sent to life with his Aunt and Uncle when his parents die. He is raised by them, and treated very poorly. Strange things always seem to happen to Harry. When Harry reaches the age of eleven, mysterious letters start appearing for him. His Aunt and Uncle hide them from him. Eventually Harry learns he is a wizard and goes to attend Hogwarts, a school for witches and wizards. He also learns that his parents were killed by an evil wizard, Voldemort, and that he was able to survive and cripple the wizard. He is placed into the Gryffindor house, and makes friends with Ron and Hermoine. Harry joins the Quidditch team where he is the seeker, and nearly dies in his first match. A troll appears in the castle, and other strange things. The three find a three-headed dog guarding a trap door. Harry stumbles across a mirror that shows one's greatest desire, and he sees his parents. They learn that there is a Sorcerer's Stone that can give the Elixir of life to whoever drinks it. Harry is hated by a professor named Snape, who seems to be the prime candidate for wanting the elixir. Harry and his friends sneak around at night trying to find clues, and eventually decide to find the stone. They get past all the different traps, and Harry must face, not Snape, but Professor Quirrell, who is sharing his body with Voldemort. Harry is able to survive because of the love his mother had for him, and because he only wanted to protect the stone, he can see it in the mirror and it remains safe.
Response: I first read this book when I was in middle school, and have since read every one in the series. I loved being able to go back and read about the beginning of this great journey that Harry Potter has through seven amazing books. I was able to pay more attention to details, and now knowing the rest of the story, it is neat to see how things are pieced together. J.K. Rowling wastes no time getting the reader right into the middle of the story. While reading, I feel like I am the fourth member of Harry, Ron, and Hermoine's group. The great description and imagery that she uses paints a great picture, and also allows the reader to smell, touch, and taste every detail of the story. When the Troll comes, the smell is described as, "a foul stench reached his nostrils, a mixture of old socks and the kind of public toilet no one seems to clean." (p. 174) The twists and turns of the plot never stop because everyone thinks that Snape is the bad guy, a regular occurrence in every book, but in fact it is stuttering Quirrell, who has become obsessed and entangled with Voldemort, perhaps even brainwashed. The story provides great themes that students and all people can use. The first, and perhaps the most important is bravery. On J.K. Rowling's website http://www.jkrowling.com/ she says that bravery is a very important part of the book, and a great characteristic to possess. Harry exemplifies bravery his whole life, being able to put up with the Dursley's. The house of Gryffindor is symbolized as a lion, a universal symbol of courage and bravery. He stands up for his friends throughout the story. When Neville's rememberall is taken, Harry gets on his broomstick and chases after it. This actually lands him a spot on the Gryffindor Quidditch team. Harry and his friends show bravery in the face of pure evil as they attempt to get past each spell to find the Sorcerer's Stone. Hermoine uses her great intelligence to help them through the plants. Harry gets on the broom and finds the hidden key. My favorite examples of bravery come from Ron and Neville. Ron leads the trio on the life size chess board, giving himself up so that they can continue on. He says, "That's Chess! snapped Ron. You've got to make some sacrifices! I take one step forward and she'll take me -- that leaves you free to checkmate the king, Harry!" (p. 283) He literally gets knocked out by the Queen, but it permits his friends to continue. Neville shows great courage when he stands up to Ron, Hermoine, and Harry. He tells them not to sneak out and stands up for himself. He says, "Don't you call me an idiot! said Neville. I don't think you should be breaking any more rules! And you were the one who told me to stand up to people!." (p. 272) Bravery against evil is a constant theme, as Harry and his friends constantly battle the dark arts. Another important theme is the power of love. Harry's mother is the greatest example of this because it is her love that saved his life, not once, but twice. He was able to survive as a baby because her love for him was so strong, so good, that nothing even as evil and Voldemort could overcome that. In the end, when Quirrell is trying to kill Harry, he continually is burned by touching Harry's skin. This again is the result of Lily Potter's love for her son. It protects him from what is evil. Harry and his friends break rules out of necessity it seems. They do these things to help protect themselves, and the school from the evils of the dark arts. The friendship that these three develop over the course of a school year is so strong and real. They are loyal to each other, no matter what the others are going through. They stand by each other when Harry and Hermoine lose 100 points for Gryffindor. In the end, they are all together going against the traps because they want to protect each other, and help Harry to triumph over evil. The truest form of their loyalty comes in the sacrifices they make. Ron sacrifices his body during the chess game, and this shows how loyal he is not only to his friends, but to the cause for good. Harry Potter presents many themes, some of which bring about great debates about censorship. To me, it is a story that shows great imagination, and can spark great creativity in young children. The lessons they learn in these novels far outweigh the "dark magic" that is also present. I feel like this story is nothing more than a story, full of great imagination and creativity.
Teaching Ideas: This novel is full of great imagery and description which students can use to develop their writings. The owls in the story provide a great connection to science. I remember we dissected owl pellets, and that is an activity that can be done with students. I think discussing elements of fantasy with them is very important so that they realize what is true and what is false.
Wednesday, April 9, 2008
Author: Mary Pope Osborne
Illustrator: Sal Murdocca
Publisher: Random House, 2000
Genre: Historical Fiction, Fantasy
Age Range: 2-3
Summary: Jack and Annie are taken back to colonial times, during the Revolutionary War. They arrive during a great snow storm on Christmas Eve. They come upon a camp of soldiers, and they tell the children they need to go home. One of the soldiers asks the children if they can take a letter home to their family, if the attack goes wrong. This letter is the piece they need to help Morgan; it is the something to send. They follow the men, and are lead to many boats awaiting to cross a great river, the Delaware River. A man is debating on whether or not to continue the mission because the weather is terrible. This man is George Washington. Jack and Annie cross the river with the first group of men, and George Washington is not happy they followed. They tell him that he must press on because this attack will be successful. The children go back across, and Washington does lead his troops. Jack and Annie are able to help Morgan and George Washington.
Response: Jack and Annie once again save the day! They are able to travel back into the early period of American history, the Revolutionary War. The night they arrive is Christmas Eve; the night that Washington and his troops cross the Delaware in one of the most unexpected attacks of the war. It really was a turning point that gave the Patriots a great momentum swing that helped them to eventually win the war. Jack and Annie are able to learn about the war, as well as the hardships. They learn about how difficult it is for families to be separated during the holidays, and that the men are not always in the best of spirits about fighting. The weather during this time was horrendous. It was a great blizzard, and Washington debates on whether or not they should continue. Jack teaches a great lesson when he talks to Washington. He says, "Even if things look impossible, you should keep going, sir...The harder things seem, the greater the triumph, right?" (p.59) He helps to reiterate the words of Thomas Paine, that George Washington quoted to his troops to keep them motivated. Paine's words said, "The harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph...What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly. It is dearness only that gives everything its value." (p.30) This book gives great information about the Revolutionary War. The facts are printed in bold print, so the reader can see that they are important historical facts. It talks about Red Coats and Patriots. The facts about George Washington, and his great cross of the Delaware River. In the back of the book there is more information about the War and Thomas Paine. This story provides students with a simple look into one important event that helped America become an independent country.
Teaching Ideas: The Magic Tree House website has a great section about the book. It provides students an opportunity to search the site, and other links, to learn more about the Revolutionary War. Revolutionary War
Another activity would be for students to write their own story of meeting someone from the Revolutionary War or being a part of a significant event during that time.
Sunday, April 6, 2008
Title: Actual Size
Author: Steve Jenkins
Illustrator: Steve Jenkins
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Company, 2004
Genre: Non-Fiction Informative Picture Book
Age Range: K-2 Grade
Summary: This is a book that depicts different animals around the world. Many of them are not well-known. The most important thing is that each animal, or a part of that animal, is illustrated in its actual size. It gives the size of each animal, and at the end of the book there is more information given about each animal that is in the book.
Response: Steve Jenkins does an amazing job with animal books. Earlier, I read What Do You Do With a Tail Like This? which gives students a chance to guess different animals by looking at a section of their bodies. This book takes different animals and shows the actual sizes of a part of their bodies. I kept comparing myself to the parts that were shown. For example, a gorilla's hand is on a page, and you can literally put yours on top of it and see how much bigger the gorilla's hands are. Something I noticed is that I had not heard of many of these animals. Like the smallest fish in the world is the dwarf goby, and it is only 1/3 inch in length. I feel like I learned a lot from this story because it gave information about animals I was not familiar with. I kept wanting to take out a ruler and really measure the animals' wingspan or length. I was really surprised to read some of the facts. Like, the eye of a giant squid is approximately 12 inches across, and they can be up to 59 feet long. While the facts and text are very simple and straightforward, the illustrations are really what make this book amazing. Despite the fact that each one is done in actual size, they are created using cut paper and collage. They give amazing texture and definition to the animals. You can't help but want to touch each picture because they look so real. There is great texture, particularly on the teeth of the shark, each one given a lining of sharp ridges. The colors are bright and bold. Some pictures are small, with a lot of white space in the background that helps it to stand out. Others, such as the bear, shark, and lion, take up both pages. They are large, bold, bright, and they are able to stand out because of their great size. The colors that are used are real to life as well, many being bold and rich. Each animal is given so much detail and attention, they begin to look like photographs, not collages. This book gives so much interesting information, as well as beautiful pictures that can allow for a very interactive read.
Teaching Ideas: This is a great book for children studying animals. Having kids to measure the animals in the book, really see that they are actual to size. This will be a great way to introduce measurement. Also, you can have them to do a report about one of their favorite animals. Or, let them create their own Actual Size book using different objects and presenting different facts about them. http://www.pickbrains.com/articles/animal-facts This website provides students with interesting animal facts that they can use.
Title: Lou Gehrig: The Luckiest Man