Tuesday, November 16, 2010

"The Misfits" By: James Howe

Rating: 4/5
Grade Level: Grade 5 and above

I really enjoyed reading "This Misfits". I thought that the diverse and controversial concepts brought up throughout the course of the novel would be extremely beneficial for upper elementary students to be exposed to. I think that as students begin to come into their own and develop their own identity they will be very likely to associate with "The Gang of Five". As students reach a certain age they are more likely to strive to fit in with their peers. I think that this novel demonstrates the power of standing out and rages from the "outspoken and awkward" to the extreme end of "flamboyantly homosexual". I also think that the concept of challenging the "popular" students while running for student council represent the struggles certain minority groups have in the whole context of society. I also enjoyed the way they called themselves the "No- Name Party". I thought that this symbolized any individual who feels like they don't have a place in the school hierarchy, or even in society itself. One of the characters that really impacted me was Jo. With all of the recent suicides related to homosexual teens I think that it is essential that this issue be addressed in the classroom. I think that the earlier controversial issues are discussed in the safe environment such as the classroom, the earlier students will become educated about these concepts and hopefully expand their thinking to a more open minded perspective. Overall I really enjoyed the messages that were portrayed to the readers, and I think that it would be an excellent addition to any classroom, primarily upper elementary levels.

Thursday, November 4, 2010


"On A Wintry Morning" By: Dori Chaconas

Rating: 5/5
Grade Level: Kindergarten and above
Illustrations By: Stephen T. Johnson

I loved the book "On A Wintry Morning". Even though it is very simple and for younger students I still think it would have a great use in an upper elementary classroom. This book is about a relationship between a father and daughter. The love and compassion they have for one another jumps off the page through the illustrations and the poetic language. The repetition of "On a wintry morning" at the end of every page could be used to introduce a new form of writing to upper elementary levels. The way this book reads is as a poem, and the use of imagery only exemplifies the love that the father and daughter have for one another even though they are just participating in everyday activities. This development of text can be used to teach students how to take ordinary situations and make them more literary appealing. Also the use of rhyme in this book make the words fun to say and have more meaning than they otherwise would in a different context. I think that rhyming would be fun for students to incorporate into a story, and potentially spark their interest in poetry as well. I would love for my students to be able to share stories of this context with their classmates, and exhibit things that are important to them in their writing. I also want to portray the concept of creating a short text that portrays a lot of meaning. I think this will help my students to create more developed sentences in their writing in general, and portray more conceptual thinking to the audience.

The Woodson Experience

I really enjoyed sharing the Woodson experience with a group that read another book by Jacqueline Woodson. It was really interesting to hear different perspectives by other students in our class and how they perceived the literature itself. I also enjoyed comparing the different styles of writing in each of the novels that were compared and expressed to the rest of the class. I also thought it was very interesting the way Woodson expressed different themes and the way she went about portraying each to the audience. I think in my own classroom it would be really beneficial to have groups of my students read different novels by the same author. This can develop discussion in small groups in addition to a large group comparison. I think by examining multiple works by a single individual students will begin to understand different methods on how to make each of their literary works unique even if they occasionally do address similar concepts. I also think that Jacqueline Woodson has a special ability to portray ideals and morals that she cares about in a light that has the power of expanding the minds and experiences of others as well. She definitely had a way of connecting to the reader. Through the use of Woodson's dramatic and emotional language, I personally felt as though as I was living the experience myself. I think it would be beneficial to teach my students how to express themselves and their experiences in a way that others can connect to and potentially become part of the story itself.

"The Great Pig Search" By: Eileen Christelow

Rating: 4/5
Grade Level: 1st Grade and above
Illustrations By: Eileen Christelow

I loved the book "The Great Pig Search"! I thought this book was very fun and humorous. When Bert's pigs run away and move to Florida he is on a quest to find them. The use of illustrations in this book makes reading it so much more fun. The pigs are hidden throughout the pictures and makes the storyline that much more exciting for the reader. Bert thinks that he is seeing and hearing pigs all around him and his refusal to give up infuriates his wife Ethel. Bert and Ethel go on a fishing trip, and when Bert's fishing line tugs him all the way into the water a "mysterious fisherman" who happens to also be on the boat saves his life. I think this story encourages students to be creative through their literacy, and that they can give human characteristics to animals or even non-living things. Also I enjoyed how the pigs attempted to contact Bert through the media and the map that he left for them on where to "locate pigs". I like the mischievous attitude of the pigs and I think that this concept alone can be used as an introduction of character development. Each of the characters in the story have a unique personality that encourage the humor of the story through the situations that these individuals encounter. This book also addresses the concept of identity. The different disguises and attitudes that the pigs portray represent a new sense of self awareness and how these pigs want to be portrayed in society. I think this can be used to address potential insecurities in individuals and how they see themselves in comparison to how they think others perceive them and potentially how they would want other to see them. I think it is important for students to develop a sense of self  because if they have confidence in themselves as individuals they are going to be more confident in their writing.  

"Stompin' At The Savoy" By Bebe Moore Campbell

Rating: 4/5
Grade Level: 4th Grade and above
Illustrations By: Richard Yarde

I enjoyed reading "Stompin' At The Savoy". This story is about a young African American girl that is nervous to perform at her dance recital. That night a magical drum comes to visit her and takes her to an alternate world where she is surrounded by music, dancing, and jazz. This book portrays a significant standing on African American culture, and expresses many components of jazz music and dance. I also enjoy how this book expresses the significance of family support and values. Mindy is also able to conquer her fear of dancing in front of a group of strangers after she dominates the dance floor in her dream world. I also think this book could suggest a greater means of support beyond the physical world through the use of the magic drum. I think that this book would be a great interlude into encouraging students to be passionate about their culture and hopefully sharing specific concepts or traditions with our class. I think it is important to understand the background of the people that surround you; this will not only help my students to learn something new about their classmates but to also appreciate what makes the unique as individuals. I also think it would be very interesting to compare multiple differences throughout culture in our classroom. This form of education coming from their peers will hopefully cause them to appreciate a new culture as well as their classmates through their cultural identity. I also enjoy that Mindy conquers her fear and is able to perform confidently at her jazz recital. She took the encouragement of her family and of her spiritual guide on stage with her and was able to express her happiness and skill to the fullest extent. 

"Tonio's Cat" By: Mary Calhoun

Rating: 4/5
Grade Level: 2nd Grade and above
Illustrations By: Edward Martinez

I really enjoyed the book "Tonio's Cat". This book expresses the endearing relationship between a boy and his cat. Tonio moves from Mexico to California and have having difficulty adjusting. I think that this book represents the difficulty a new student could have in a classroom that they aren't culturally accustomed to. I also love the way Tonio stands up for the stray cat when others taunt it and poke it with a stick. This shows that he is courageous and isn't afraid to stick up for the cat even though he doesn't necessarily fit in with his new surroundings. Also when Tonio moved to the United States he had to say good bye to his dog. I think this could help students understand the hardship of saying goodbye to loved ones that is involved when an individual makes a move as drastic as coming from Mexico to the United States. I also really enjoyed how the other boys came to accept Tonio even though he wasn't part of their culture. Also language barriers were also addressed since Tonio was not fluent in English, which is one of the main reasons he found comfort in making friends with a cat. I think that this can signify the importance of welcoming individuals even if there is a language barrier. I hope to always use this method in my classroom especially with bilingual students becoming much more common. I think that if there is an establishment of comfort in the classroom these unique students will be more comfortable expressing their ideas and reaching new heights in the classroom.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

"Sometimes My Mommy Gets Angry" By: Bebe Moore Campbell

Grade Level: 5th Grade and above
Rank: 3/5
Illustrations By: E.B. Lewis

When I first picked out "Sometimes My Mommy Gets Angry" I wasn't sure what to expect. This story is about a young African American girl who is forced to become independent at a young age due to her mother's mental illness. With the support of her friends and her grandma she is able to "be a big girl". I did not like the overall concept of this book; it suggested that Annie needed to continue to take care of herself even when her mother was not in an appropriate mental state to care for her. I also disliked that while Annie's grandma knew there were serious problems at home her only instruction was to call her when she felt scared. I think that this implies to young students that if they are in a situation like this their only option is tolerance. I did not like that in addition to Annie's grandma, her neighbors were also aware of her mother's mental illness and failed to do anything about it even when they were directly exposed to her violent mood swings. However, this book does represent multicultural awareness since Annie's two best friends are both Caucasian girls. The three of them are very supportive of one another regardless of the face that they are of different races. I would only use this book in an upper elementary classroom in order to demonstrate the hardships of mental illness, and have my students discuss how Annie can escape this potentially harmful situation and environment. I would not use this book in a lower elementary classroom because I would not want students who are more impressionable to get the implication that mental illness is only present in African American families.

Monday, October 25, 2010

I Love to Blog!

"Feathers" By: Jacqueline Woodson

Rating: 4/5
Grade Level: 5th Grade and above

I enjoyed reading the novel "Feathers". I love how Woodson incorporated controversial and relative issues into something as simple as a 6th grade classroom. When "Jesus- Boy", the only white student in an urban African American public school, arrives in Mrs. Johnson's sixth grade classroom he causes our narrator Frannie to search for hope in the religious overcast that he brings into her life. I think that this concept of hope would be meaningful to discuss in the context of the classroom. By asking my students where they look to to find hope we can indirectly address religion in a way that won't pressure students to give a specific answer. I also think this book helps demonstrate that individuals do not necessarily have to be religious to have a connection to something or something that will bring comfort in a time of struggle. I also think it would be interesting to address how it may be different being the only white student in an African American school in comparison to being the only African American student in an all white school. I think that by making these comparisons in a discussion setting students of different races and cultures will better understand one another and hopefully be able to put themselves in a new perspective and circumstance that perhaps they did not appreciate in the past. I also loved the references that this book made to deaf culture. Being an American Sign Language student myself I have learned so much about this community that I didn't really knew existed. I would love to incorporate deaf culture into my classroom and hopefully allow students to understand something that may not have been introduced to them in the past. There is an extraordinary gap between the hearing and the deaf community and if I can guide my students to understand a difference as extreme as being able to hear and being completely deaf than maybe they will be able to apply the daily struggle that deaf individuals have to other races and heritages that they may not have realized. I hope that by educating my students on the hardships that others have gone through it will hopefully lead them to becoming more accepting and patient individuals.

"The Giver" By: Lois Lowry

Rating: 4/5
Grade Level: 6th Grade and above

I think that "The Giver" addressed a lot of interesting concepts that I think would be beneficial to be introduced into a classroom. This book portrays a surreal society that many would consider "ideal"; the world that Jonas lives in is one without divorce, poverty, unemployment, inequality or injustice. Good manners and family values are core morals that this society revolves around. When Jonas is declared the position of "Receiver of Memory" he begins to realize the secrets that are embedded within the "perfection" of this society. I think that the concept of "sameness" that is exhibited throughout this novel is a very interesting one and would serve great benefit in the classroom. When Jonas realizes that he has inherited knowledge that removes him from the ignorance that the rest of the community exists in, he is perplexed with the decision to leave the community knowing that outside of this sheltered society is knowledge, color, music and love. I think it would be interesting to ask my students if they could be truly happy living in this society, and living in ignorance of the potential possibilities. I would then have them compare how they would feel being put in Jonas's position and how their perspectives would change once they were made aware of these new possibilities. I also think that the concept of "sameness" can be used to discuss individuality and if stereotypes and discrimination would really be nonexistent if we did all look the same. I think it is important to address the concepts of individuality and how it relates to difference in culture, race, heritage, etc. Hopefully, this will allow students to understand and accept one another in the classroom environment. While I cannot guarantee that this open minded status that I'm trying to portray in my students will be expressed outside of the classroom; I can however, enforce the ideas of acceptance and self expression in the classroom. I do not want my students to ever feel intimidated or insecure about expressing themselves uniquely in our environment for fear of ridicule or not being accepted. That is why I think "The Giver" would be a spectacular addition to any classroom. 

"The Worm Family" By: Tony Johnston 

Rating: 4/5
Grade Level: 2nd Grade and above
Illustrations By: Stacy Innerst

I really enjoyed reading "The Worm Family". This book is about a family of worms who is moving to a new place to live. They are proud to be worms however, not all of their new neighbors are accepting of their pride and some even throw things at them until they are forced to leave. Soon they decide they are going to stop running from unfriendly neighbors and show the world how glorious worm can be. I think that many students can relate to the message that is portrayed in this story. The worms think that they are glorious to just be themselves and even though their neighbors do not accept them for who they are. I think that the message of embracing yourself even when others do not accept you is important for elementary aged students to understand since at this age teasing and bullying becomes much more common in the classroom. I also think that the transformation the worms make as a family is inspiring when they finally stop running and embrace their individuality even at the risk of not being accepted in their new town. Also the worm family meets a new family that is unique in their own way and both families embrace each others differences and form a bond with one another. I would definitely use this book in my classroom in order to demonstrate uniqueness and acceptance of others. The transition the worms made will teach students the importance of confidence and believing in their own abilities no matter what others may think. I also really enjoy the illustrations and the literary language used in the story. The repetition of the worm's song will allow students to recognize the words and also get excited about the literature itself.