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By: Becky Laney
Blog: Becky's Book Reviews
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Absolutely Almost. Lisa Graff. 2014. Penguin. 304 pages [Source: Library]
I loved Absolutely Almost. I think I loved it at least as much as Umbrella Summer. Maybe even a little bit more. I don't know. Time will tell. I don't actually have to choose between the two, right?! I can LOVE two GREAT books by one very talented middle grade author, can't I?!
Albie is the protagonist of Absolutely Almost. His narration gives the book a just right feel. It's a satisfying read about a boy who struggles with meeting expectations: his parents, his grandparents, his teachers, his own. He's never good or great, he's always only almost. Almost good at this or that. Almost ready for this or that. And this oppressive almost gets him down now and then. Not always, mind you. I don't want to give the impression that Albie is sad and depressed and unable to cope with life. Albie is more than capable of having a good time, of enjoying life, of appreciating the world around him.
I really appreciated Graff's characterization. Not only do readers come to love (in some cases I imagine love, love, love) Albie, but, all the characters are well written or well developed. Albie's parents at times seem to be disconnected, out of touch with who their son is, what life is like for him, what he wants, what he needs. But just when I get ready to dismiss them as neglectful or clueless, something would happen that would make me pause and reconsider. Readers also get to know several other characters: his nanny, Calista, his math teacher, Mr. Clifton, and his friend, Betsy. For the record, he does have more than one friend. But Betsy is his new friend, his first friend that he makes at his new school. It is their friendship that is put to the test in the novel. It is his relationship with Betsy that allows for him to progress a bit emotionally. If that makes sense. (So yes, I know that his best-best friend is Erlan. But Erlan has been his friend for as long as he can remember, probably since they were toddlers. He's completely comfortable in that friendship. Their friendship does come into the novel here and there. But for me, it wasn't the most interesting aspect of the novel.)
I loved the setting of Absolutely Almost. I loved how we get to spend time with Albie in school and out of school. I loved how we get to see him in and out of his comfort zone. I loved that we got to see his home life. We got to see for ourselves how he interacts with parents. I love how Albie is able to love his parents even if they don't really make him top priority. Especially his Dad. Albie's need for his Dad's attention, the right kind of attention, can be FELT. Albie held onto hope that one day his Dad would find time to spend with him, that one day his Dad would see him--really see him. There were moments that hope lessened a bit as Albie gave into his emotions-of-the-moment. But Albie's love for his dad always won out at the end. His hope would return.
The writing. I loved it. I did. I think the quality of the writing was amazing. There were chapters that just got to me. Their were paragraphs that just resonated with me. The writing just felt TRUE.
Absolutely, Almost is set in New York City.
© 2014 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews
I got a request this past year from my friends at Boston Green Academy (BGA) to help them consider their Humanities 4 curriculum, which focuses on philosophies, especially around happiness. This was a tough request for me, and certainly not one I had considered before. There aren’t any titles I can think of that say “Philosophy: Happiness” on their covers to pull me directly down this path.
But as I thought about it, I got more and more excited about how this topic is tackled in the YA world. The first set of books I considered were titles that dealt with “the meaning of life” in a variety of ways. Titles like Nothing by Janne Teller, Jeremy Fink and the Meaning of Life by Wendy Mass, and one of my personal favorites, The Spectacular Now by Tim Tharp give lots of food for thought about where we expend our energy and the wisdom of how we prioritize our attention in life.
This, of course, led to stories about facing challenges and finding happiness despite (or because) of the circumstances in our lives. So we pulled texts like The Fault in Our Stars by John Green, It’s Kind of a Funny Story by Ned Vizzini, and Marcelo in the Real World by Francisco X. Stork, which all deal with characters finding ways to deal with and even prosper alongside difficult circumstances.
Then we happened upon a set of titles that raise questions about whether you can be “happy” if you are or are not being yourself. We pulled segments of titles like Openly Straight by Bill Konigsberg, Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Saenz, Tina’s Mouth by Keshni Kashyap, American-Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang, and Rapture Practice, which I’ve talked about here before.
And then there were a world of nonfiction possibilities, those written for young people and those not — picture books by Demi about various figures, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi’s ideas about work and play, and any number of great series texts about philosophers and religions and such.
So I guess the (happy) moral of this story is that it was much easier than I thought to revisit old texts with these new eyes of philosophies of happiness. I left the work feeling as though every text is about this very important topic in one way or another, and I can’t wait to see how the BGA curriculum around it continues to evolve!
The post Happiness and high school humanities appeared first on The Horn Book.
Today, August 19th, the U.S. is celebrating National Aviation Day. This day was first established by a presidential proclamation of Franklin Delano Roosevelt in 1939 to celebrate advances in aviation. The date was chosen to coincide with Orville Wright’s birthday to recognize his contribution, together with his brother Wilbur, to the field of aviation — but it is a holiday meant to recognize all aviators who have advanced the field through their efforts. While the Wright brothers, Charles Lindbergh, and Amelia Earhart come to mind as the premier pioneering pilots, there are many unsung aviators. The books below highlight the stories of some of the most famous early female aviators and are the perfect way to celebrate National Aviation Day!
Night Flight: Amelia Earhart Crosses the Atlantic by Robert Burleigh with illustrations by Wendell Minor (K-3)
This book tells the story of Amelia Earhart’s historic crossing of the Atlantic on May 20, 1932, which made her the first woman to complete a solo flight across that ocean. The flight was a dramatic one, including both mechanical difficulties and fierce weather and both the prose and the paintings of this book capture the tension of the flight and the elation when Earhart touches down in Ireland. The book also includes a brief biography of Earhart, a list of additional sources on the subject and a fascinating collection of quotations from Earhart’s speeches and publications.
Sky High: The True Story of Maggie Gee by Marissa Moss with illustrations by Carl Angel (K-3)
Maggie Gee knew from a young age that she wanted to fly planes. It was a dream that stayed with her throughout her childhood and when World War II started, she leapt at the chance to serve her country by flying for the Women Airforce Service Pilots or WASPs. Despite stiff competition for a limited number of spots amongst the WASPs, Maggie succeeded, becoming one of only two Chinese American pilots in the organization. This book traces her path from her childhood dreams to her work as a WASP. An author’s note at the end fills in more details about her life after World War II and includes pictures of Maggie and her family throughout the time covered in the book.
Flying Solo: How Ruth Elder Soared Into America’s Heart by Julie Cummins with illustrations by Malene R. Laugesen (K-3)
While many know the story of Amelia Earhart’s flight across the Atlantic, fewer people know that Ruth Elder attempted to become the first woman to fly across the Atlantic years earlier in 1927. Though her attempt was cut short by a malfunction over the ocean, she nevertheless became famous, not only for her attempt but also for her later aviation exploits. This book tells her life story, focusing primarily on her attempt to fly across the Atlantic and her participation in a cross-country air race in 1929. Ruth’s story will excite fans of planes and flying and the illustrations will transport readers back to the 1920’s through their vivid details. The book also includes further sources of information about Ruth’s life as well as a final illustration that highlights a number of other important female aviators.
Fly High! The Story of Bessie Coleman by Louise Borden and Mary Kay Kroeger with illustrations by Teresa Flavin (4-6)
This book tells the story of Bessie Coleman, an African American woman who grew up in the south in the late 1800’s with a dream to get an education. When she moved to Chicago in 1915 for a chance at a better life, she discovered aviation and decided to head to France to pursue an opportunity to learn to fly. Once she had her license, Bessie returned to the U.S. where she flew in air shows and gave speeches encouraging others to follow her path. Though the book ends with the tragic tale of her death in a flying accident, the story is sure to inspire those interested in learning to fly.
Amelia Earhart: The Legend of the Lost Aviator by Shelley Tanaka with illustrations by David Craig (4-6)
Illustrated with a combination of paintings and photographs from Amelia Earhart’s life, this book is an impressive biography of a woman who is arguably the most famous female aviator in American history. Starting in her childhood and continuing until her disappearance in 1937, it offers a look into Amelia’s entire life, including aspects that are often glossed over in other books, such as her time as a nurse’s aide in Toronto and her work with two early commercial airlines. Both the pictures and the illustrations bring Amelia to life for readers and a list of source notes and other resources at the end of the book provide lots of options for further reading.
The post Read about female pilots on National Aviation Day appeared first on The Horn Book.
For the past six weeks, I have had the pleasure of teaching an English course to a group of highly motivated high school students enrolled in the summer session of an Upward Bound program. This summer’s book selection — Feed by M. T. Anderson — has spurred a campus conversation that I keep catching snippets of while I wait in line in the cafeteria or when I walk down the halls in the dorm. (I’m serious — a large group of teenagers, in school in the summer, are really talking about a book in their free time!)
Feed never fails to generate intense feelings and is also one of those books that could be suited to almost any theme or purpose that a course might cover. It lends itself to discussions of identity, social class, gender roles and expectations, conformity, language, as well as the topics around which I organized my summer course: media and technology.
The overarching question my students and I have been grappling with over the course of the summer is “Does the media create or reflect reality?” Feed is the perfect title to use as a case study for exploring this question, as it presents a dystopian world where the majority of people have a device — the “feed” — implanted directly into their brains. The feed constantly bombards its users with advertisements that are responsive to their locations and emotional states and also offers seemingly unlimited access to information. Of course, it also leads the users to have tremendous blind spots in terms of their understanding of the world around them and is controlled by powerful corporations who may or may not have the best interests of their users at heart.
Feed is the perfect choice for a course focused on media literacy. The book itself articulates and reinforces the need for precisely the skills learned in media literacy exercises: how to think critically about the content present in media messages, how to actively engage with information rather than passively accepting it, and how to uncover who creates the media and what their agendas might be.
Over the course of the summer, I have watched my students develop an increasing awareness of the challenges and implications of growing up in a media-saturated world. In addition to reading Feed, we have analyzed videos, advertisements, and contemporary songs to see what is under the surface of the media messages that we too often accept without question — and with which we even find ourselves singing along! I can see my students’ blinders beginning to come off as they think more critically about the world around them and how media impacts their own lives.
While Feed projects a vision of a dystopian future and was published back in 2002, I am struck each time I reread the book by how close the world Anderson describes seems to our own. The media and technology are increasingly influential and already play a key role in shaping our reality. The time to think about the implications of a media feeding us constant messages that may or may not reflect the world we want to inhabit is now and Feed is a wonderful title to use to engage young people in these critical conservations.
The post What’s the media Feeding us? appeared first on The Horn Book.
By: Darcy Pattison
Blog: Darcy Pattison's Revision Notes
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Are online reviews important? YES!
"I had no idea how important online reviews are, or I would have done it months ago." Hugh Howey (author of WOOL series) fan
Have your books been updated and made for sale as ebooks? Are you on the Kindle store, the Nook store, or the Kobo store? Great.
But if you’re not on the iBook store, you’re missing sales. Here’s why.
In a recent 2014 survey by Education Market Research, they surveyed schools about what tablets they currently own. Apple’s iPad overwhelmingly wins the tablet wars with 79.7% of the market. Distant competitors include Microsoft Surface at 10.2% and Samsung Galaxy Note at 6.2%. Wow! iPads rule! In schools, at least, Kindles only have 1% of the market.
Further, respondents said there are 2.3 million tablets in U.S. schools. That means about 1.6 million iPads are floating around the school buildings. That’s a huge market that you can’t afford to ignore! Especially when the respondents were asked about future purchases. Again, iPad tops the market share with 65.7% planning to buy iPads.
See my books on the iBook store!
To see if your ebooks are on the iBookstore, use the iTunes Link Maker tool. Search for your name under the books category. In the comments below, report what you find!
Darcy Pattison’s books on the iBookStore
Other eBook Options
Just because a school owns a dozen iPads, though, it doesn’t mean the school library will order from the iBookstore. Schools buying patterns are way more complicated because of factors such funding sources, issues related to inventory and checking out books, etc. In a September, 2013 article for Digital Shift, “SLJ’s School Ebook Market Directory,” Matt Enis and Sarah Bayliss run down 22 options that school have for purchasing ebooks for their libraries. Many options are simply a publishing company offering their backlist. Other options include ebooks from multiple publishers. The King among these options is Follett eBooks:
“Sixty-seven percent of PreS–12 schools using ebooks purchase from Follett, according to a recent Library Journal survey. Special features from Follett include note-taking capabilities in all titles and highlighting options in most, along with a tool allowing teachers and students to write and share notes. Additional Follett tools aim to support close reading and Common Core State Standards goals and offer scaffolding structures for struggling readers. Printing, copying and pasting, and text-to-speech features depend on publishers’ DRM specifications.”
One of the main reasons schools go to these ebook distributors is their desire to be “device independent” or “device agnostic.” They understand the limitations of being tied to a certain ebook reader. When a company provides “device independent” books, it usually means the ebooks are browser dependent. Any device which has a browser–such as Kindle Fire or iPads–can read that type of ebook. The versatility and universality of the browser dependent ebooks makes them an attractive option for schools. They aren’t tied to costly upgrades of tablets that tend to break. Instead, ebooks are read on whatever device is working.
Are your books available on these services? You’ll have to look up each one. Follett’s titles can be checked in their titlewave.com website, which is only available to customers. That means you’ll have to find a friendly children’s librarian to look it up for you. Yes, all my books are available on Follett’s ebook platform!
Finally, some publishers are making their eBooks available for purchase on their own websites. My indie books are available in epub or Kindle formats at MimsHouse.com. If you own the ebook rights to your books, you can sell them from your own website, too.
Book Reviews: A Difficult Ask
Of course, this means more work for authors as they work to get the oh-so-necessary-reviews. Already, we ask friends and family to review our books on Amazon/Kindle and maybe on GoodReads. KoboBooks used to pick up reviews from GoodReads, but since it’s been bought by Amazon, that’s not smart business; now, Kobo asks its customers to review on its site. And now, you should really ask for reviews on the iBookstore. Is it too much to expect from a friend?
Over the summer, I’ve been doing some literacy work with an educational consulting group here in Boston — we’re taking some of their existing professional development (PD) and classroom tools and modifying them to better address the Common Core. Last week, I went with some other members of the team to a PD session for high school teachers titled “Who’s Doing the Thinking?” In light of the Common Core, this workshop was designed to help teachers accurately assess the thinking demands in their classroom, and to make informed decisions around when we should guide students in diving into complex texts, and when we should let them do it on their own.
As part of this workshop, we watched a video of a high-performing 9th grade ELA classroom. The students were seated in a modified semi-circle having a whole-class discussion around themes in the latest chapter of The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks — a literary nonfiction text they were reading together. As the teacher facilitated the discussion, she skillfully asked probing questions like “What makes you say that?” “Where in the text can you find evidence to support that?” “Why do you think that?” Her questions enabled students to really ground their thinking in textual evidence — a key piece of Common Core reading.
However, I couldn’t help but notice another teacher move that happened often. After each student finished giving evidence and making a statement, the teacher almost always offered a “summary plus.” That is, she concisely restated the student’s point and added some of her own thinking to the student’s comment. I likely noticed this because I do it all the time: taking a student comment and adding more detail. Now, I think this is sometimes wholly appropriate, but after watching about ten minutes of this video and reflecting on my own practice, I wondered, Shouldn’t we be trying to get students to do these “summary pluses”? In a perfect world, wouldn’t we be nearly absent from the conversation?
The video clip I watched happened towards the beginning of a unit, and I have no doubt that the discussion was more “teacher heavy” than later discussions would be. But the video still got me thinking. In addition to simply probing students to give evidence, what can we as teachers say and do to encourage students to give those mini-summaries? One thing I’ve decided I’d like to try in my classroom this fall is to be very explicit about my “summary pluses.” During early discussions of text, I will tell my students exactly what I’m doing when I rephrase and add my own thinking, and then I’ll slowly try to release the responsibility to them.
Giving up control of the thinking in a classroom is so much harder than it looks, but as I delve into the Common Core this summer, I’m realizing more and more how necessary it is. I’m excited to really practice what I preach this fall, and I’m looking forward to hearing from other educators on how you navigate the thinking balance in your classrooms!
The post Who’s doing the thinking? appeared first on The Horn Book.
Every teacher has heard it before: if you’re teaching students to succeed on the Test, then you’re teaching them the skills they’ll need to succeed in college and beyond.
And if you’re like me, you’ve either inwardly or outwardly scoffed at this claim.
As I use the summer to reflect on this past school year and to begin planning for the upcoming one, I’m thinking about this in terms of my Advanced Placement English Language and Composition course. Thankfully, I’m not under much external pressure to ensure all my students earn qualifying scores on the AP exam in May. But I do feel responsible for preparing them adequately for the Test since it has the potential to beef up their transcripts and earn them college credit.
But is the purpose of the class to pass the exam, or is it to prepare students for reading, writing, and thinking at a college level? Does preparing them for the exam do just that in this specific instance?
I would argue that part of it does but part of it does not. In particular, the reading section of the AP English Lang. & Comp. exam fails to imitate authentic college-level work. The section consists of four one-page passages — usually taken from varying disciplines and time periods — each followed by multiple choice questions testing a variety of reading and rhetorical analysis skills. Students have one hour.
But in how many college courses were you handed single-page excerpts accompanied by multiple choice questions? How many of your college exams looked like this?
In my experience (as an English undergrad and then as an Education grad student) the answer to both questions is zero. I had to read book upon book upon book, many of which were unfamiliar, dense, and complex. If we weren’t reading a book, then we were reading long, scholarly articles. We read. We thought. We discussed. We wrote. We did not answer multiple-choice questions.
Yet, answering multiple-choice questions like the ones on the AP exam is the kind of skill that can theoretically improve with explicit instruction and practice. So do I spend my time having my students do just that? Or do I spend it having them read/discuss/write about the kind of texts they will encounter in college and beyond?
The College Board and many others would probably say both — but if the point of practicing multiple-choice questions is simply to become good at answering multiple-choice questions, then why are we doing any of this?
While this isn’t a new question, I still haven’t heard a convincing answer.
The post Why are we doing any of this? appeared first on The Horn Book.
In January I wrote about the joys of giving children notebooks and letting them run riot with their story ideas. Since then I have met many teachers and parents who have done just this. They have told me how wonderful it is to see this space being used. The freedom to write or draw whatever the child wants has fed into stories she or he has often then gone on to polish in class in structured writing time. (This has not, of course, always been a direct result of my post – many teachers and parents were already giving their children the chance to explore their writing in this way.)
I would not be blogging about this again, were it not for something I witnessed on a long train journey last week; something which had me thinking again about how constraining we can be in our approach to our children’s education and the damage that can be done when pleasure is forsaken in favour of ticking boxes and getting things ‘right’. And, perhaps more importantly, when this approach leaks into home life.
A mum got on the train with her two small daughters, whom I guessed to be about five and six, and her son, who, I thought, looked about eight. They settled into their seats and the mother brought out some pens and pencils, paper and notebooks.
The little girls immediately clamoured, ‘I want my notebook!’ ‘I am going to write you a story!’ How lovely! I thought. What a great way to spend a few hours on the train. ‘Yes,’ said the mother. ‘You each have twenty minutes to write a beautiful story, and then I will read it and check it. Now – remember I want to see “wow” words, good punctuation, proper spelling, neat handwriting and lots of interesting verbs and adjectives—’ The boy groaned loudly (or was it me?) and put his head in his hands. ‘I don’t WANT to write a story!’ he complained. ‘I don’t like writing stories and I am no good at them.’ His mother placated him with promises of chocolate biscuits if he would only ‘be good like the girls and write for twenty minutes without making a fuss’. His sisters were indeed already scribbling away and reading aloud what they had written, eager to share it with their mother. She praised them and told them to keep going for the full twenty minutes. What is it with this twenty minutes thing? I thought. Maybe she is desperate for a bit of peace and quiet. Don’t judge! You were in this situation not so long ago yourself: long train journeys with young children are tiresome and they have to have things to do otherwise you go crazy and so do they.
The boy then handed over his story. His mother, glancing at it, said, ‘Well, that’s not very interesting, is it? You haven’t used good connectives, there are no “wow” words, your handwriting is messy and you just haven’t made an effort.’
Then came the killer blow. ‘You really have got to start making an effort with your writing, you know,’ the mother went on. ‘Next year you will have to write for twenty minutes and put all these things into your stories. You have been on holiday for a week already and you have done no writing. You must promise you’ll concentrate on this for another twenty minutes, or you will be no good at this next year.’
I must confess that, at the time, I wanted to lean across and engage the boy in conversation. I wanted to ask him if he liked reading and, if so, what kind of stories did he like best? What about his favourite films? I wanted to get him chatting about his likes and dislikes and encourage him to scribble them down, to use this precious ‘writing time’ as a chance to let his brain go wild. I wanted to tell him that it was OK to do that, and that afterwards he could go back over his story and concentrate on the connectives and the punctuation and the neat handwriting. I wanted to say that all those things his mother was talking about were indeed important, but that perhaps the reason he hated writing so much was that he was struggling with remembering the rules; that if he could forget the rules to start with, he would then perhaps find he loved writing stories, and that he had piles and piles of them to tell. I might perhaps have added that, as a published writer, I would be paralysed if I had to write a clean first draft from the off which obeyed all the rules of Standard English . . .
Of course I didn’t. I did not want to upset his mother – after all, it was none of my business. In any case, on reflection, it was not her behaviour with her children that upset me the most, rather the fact that she clearly felt anxious that her son was not up to scratch with his English. Indeed, she was so anxious that he improve that she was insisting he work on it over the summer holidays, and work on it in the exact same way he is required to at school. She was armed to the hilt with educational jargon and was turning this terrifying arsenal on her weary son. I was an editor before I was fortunate enough to develop my career as a writer. I know as well as anyone the importance of good grammar and correct punctuation. I appreciate clean, clear writing and a well-structured plot. I know good dialogue when I see it. My own children will roll their eyes and tell you that I am the first person to howl at the misuse of the apostrophe on a street sign or restaurant menu. Of course I can see why we have to teach these things and why parents should care about their children’s level of competence in English. However, it makes me extremely upset that an obsession with such technicalities has the potential to wreck a child’s love of their own language. When you are as young as that little lad, creative writing should be fun, shouldn’t it? Leaving aside the dubious value in making your child work over the summer holidays in such a joyless way, I found it heartbreaking that the mother seemed not to see the potential for fun in giving her son a notebook and letting him run riot with his imagination before giving him guidance and advice on how to hone his ideas. Even more heartbreaking, though, was the thought of how anxious the woman seemed to feel about her son attaining certain targets in the academic year to come. She cannot be alone in feeling this. I only hope that, come September, her son will find himself fortunate to have one of the many inspirational teachers we have in this country who are still in love enough with their subject to occasionally throw out the rulebook and teach from the heart instead.
By: Paula Becker
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Blog: Welcome to my Tweendom
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By: Stacy Dillon,
After an illness at age 4, Cece loses her hearing. She is soon equipped with a hearing aid that involves wearing a pouch around her neck attached to some "ear globs". Cece is happy to hear again, but now has to learn how to understand once more. To top things off, Cece now has to go to a new school.
A good thing about the new school is the other kids are wearing hearing aids too, and Cece is learning some useful skills like lip reading and using visual, context and gestural clues to help in understanding. Cece is just finding her way, when her family decides to leave the city and head to the country, where she will be going to a regular school.
Cece gets a brand-new-BIG-for-school-only-around-the-neck hearing aid (The Phonic Ear) that comes with a microphone for her teacher to wear and is superpowerful. What nobody expects is that it comes with the added feature of having a super long range, allowing Cece to hear not only her teacher teaching, but whatever her teacher is doing when she is out of the room as well (yes...even *that*!).
Cece has to negotiate the things that all kids go through at school - including navigating a friend who is not-so-nice, and getting her first crush. Things unique to her situation include dealing with friends who TALK TOO LOUD AND TOO SLOW, and those who refer to her as their "deaf friend".
This is more than a graphic memoir - it is a school and family story for all kids. Cece is an imaginative and emotional kid with whom readers will identify. There is an accessibility to Bell's art that immediate draws you in and you can't help but cheer with her successes and cringe with her tears. Fans of Telgemeier and Varon will readily scoop this up off of the shelves, and it *will* be passed hand to hand. I am certain I will see many doodles of Cece and her friends in the margins of writer's notebooks this coming school year. Do yourself a favor...get more than one!
Since I wrote recently about using a text set built around the idea of respect and the title Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass by Meg Medina, a few people have asked what other texts we used alongside it. Our* essential question was “What makes someone worthy of respect?”
We were aiming for a set that spanned genres, and so the resulting set was both too big to use in our short time but also made of texts that weren’t only from the YA world. It included the some of the following:
- Poems like “The Ballad of the Landlord” by Langston Hughes and “Ex-Basketball Player” by John Updike
- A series of quotes about respect from famous people
- The short story ‘Chuckie’ by Victor LaValle
- A couple of articles about bystanding and upstanding when bad things happen to others
- Lou Holtz’s famous first locker room speech at Notre Dame
- A couple of pieces from the This I Believe collection having to do with self-respect (thisibelieve.org)
- Several anecdotes from the book Discovering Wes Moore about choices, misunderstandings, and facing adversity
This group of texts are all related to the idea of respect and who gets it and who doesn’t, and the different readings allowed us to consider respect from a variety of vantage points as we tried to put ourselves in the shoes of Piddy and Yaqui in the anchor novel. They also gave us lots of time to dabble in writing different genres.
Text sets are such a fun way to really think hard about important stuff, and I’m excited to keep adding to this set about respect.
*This curriculum for the BGA/BU Summer Institute was developed in collaboration with my awesome friends Marisa Olivo and Lucia Mandelbaum from BGA and Scott Seider from BU.
The post Yaqui’s text set appeared first on The Horn Book.
Dear Mr. Henshaw, a Newbery medal-winning book by Beverly Cleary, is a great way to get students to think about some of the therapeutic benefits of writing. Of course, you don’t have to mention how helpful writing can be when you need to sort out feelings but you can let students figure this out on their own as they read the book.
Leigh Botts writes to his favorite author, Mr. Henshaw, as part of a school assignment and when the author writes back and asks Lee questions, his mother says he has to respond. Through his correspondence with Mr. Henshaw Lee learns about accepting life’s difficulties and — with the encouragement of Mr. Henshaw — starts to keep a journal.
In addition to coping with his parents’ divorce and missing his father, Leigh also deals with moving, adjusting to a new school, and having his lunch continually stolen — certainly timeless topics.
While some children may not think of writing letters to an author, they may keep a journal or know someone who keeps one. There are a lot of projects that can be added to the study of this book, including writing letters or journal entries as one of the characters. Students could also write to offer advice to the characters. Introducing students to the basic format of a personal letter (or e-mail) will provide valuable experience.
Mr. Henshaw certainly proves to be more interesting (and interested) that Leigh probably imagined. Reading this book could also foster discussion about the kinds of people your students admire (authors, celebrities, athletes) and what makes a person worthy of admiration. Ask if there are any local, “hometown heroes” that your students admire in addition to people who are nationally or internationally famous.
One of the many takeaways from the book for adults is that adults encourage Leigh to write and while he is hesitant at first, it grows on him. Students who would not write on their own may learn to enjoy it more if a teacher or parent lays the groundwork for them to get comfortable first.
The post Using Dear Mr. Henshaw to encourage students to write appeared first on The Horn Book.
Third grade is a funny transition period between picture books (“baby books”) and chapter books (“big kid books”). Personally, I think there is much to say about a great picture book, but my students tend to balk at the idea of reading them; they want long books with as many chapters as possible. I think what my students are really searching for is more challenging content, but not all students are ready to enter the realm of the chapter book or even a very complex picture book (meaning fonts, vocabulary, and overall visual structure). So I try to encourage students toward picture books that are meant to be more academic or informative, and relatively straightforward. Here are two of my many favorites.
Michelle by Deborah Hopkinson; illustrated by AG Ford
When I was working for AmeriCorps, my nonprofit purchased this book as a Christmas gift to all its student participants. My students were enthralled by this book because of its subject, Michelle Obama. The book’s text was complex but straightforward enough that it was accessible. It narrated her story without over-fantasizing, and told my students that by working hard, anything was possible. The pictures helped with the comprehension but what shone was Michelle’s values and strength of character. Because of the population I was working with (low income, racially diverse community), I think Michelle continues to be a relevant role model and the reason why the book remained so dear to my students.
Redwoods written and illustrated by Jason Chin
Another great find while working for AmeriCorps, I wanted my students to grasp the height and girth of a redwood tree without ever visiting one. I read this book aloud because the text was sometimes too long and detailed, and needed summarizing or simplifying. This is probably more appropriate for an older grade, but my students enjoyed this nonfiction picture book nonetheless. Jason Chin also wrote and illustrated two other nonfiction books (Coral Reefs and Island: Story of the Galapagos), but I found this one to be the simplest for 3rd grade.
I know what you’re thinking: what about graphic novels for 3rd grade? That’s another blog post in the making. Until then, what picture books have you found that are both engaging and academic?
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By: Roger Sutton
Blog: Read Roger - The Horn Book editor's rants and raves
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I teach ESL to adults and have often used children’s books as educational tools with these students who are trying to master English. I’ve read picture books to lower level classes, but the year I taught Advanced Conversation, I knew I needed something different.
Having taught lower level classes, I can say that in comparison these students truly did have a good grasp of English but they needed help to get to the next level. While they certainly weren’t shy about talking, I realized that this group still needed listening practice. The books chosen for the class were good — providing conversation prompts and vocabulary exercises — but they were ordered without their audio components.
Despite signing up for the class and despite their very real need to practice listening to English, my students seemed to regard listening practice as a form of torture and would groan whenever that part of class began. I wanted to increase their vocabulary and get them into a focused conversation about a story. I thought Charlotte’s Web would work and borrowed the audiobook from the library.
The characters, the plot, everything is masterfully done. And of course as a child I didn’t realize how many words were being defined within the story, sometimes by a character and sometimes through context.
I introduced the story and we did pre-reading exercises with some of the more challenging vocabulary before listening to each chapter, but the idea was for them to listen to and discuss the story. They were not thrilled.
After one or two audio-only sessions, I won a copy of the 60th anniversary edition of book, so the compromise was that they could pass the book around and they’d spend a little time reading along and some time just listening. They were surprisingly fair about it. The stronger students let the weaker students read along longer. After a few weeks one student had her husband get her a copy at the library so she could read along the entire time.
Once, during a pre-reading exercise, I told the students the chapter they’d hear was called “Explosion” and asked what they thought might explode. One of the younger students, a man in medical school whom I suspect was looking for a more action-packed story replied hopefully, “The pig?”
While there are no exploding pigs, life and death are major themes of the book. This book also depicts a slower, more agrarian lifestyle that fostered discussion because it is a way of life some of my students found familiar.
At the end of the book, the two male students had eyes shining with tears they held back. The women, on the other hand, were quiet and thoughtful but their eyes were dry.
One man affirmed that animals really do communicate with each other, even if we don’t understand them. The student who’d hope for Wilbur to explode said, “At first, I hated it…but it turned out to be a good story.”
The post Caught in Charlotte’s Web appeared first on The Horn Book.
Normally I’d upload a post bright and early on a Monday, but today…it just wasn’t gonna happen. Unlike most of the bloggers here, I don’t have end-of-school-year burnout excuse. It was just one of those weeks followed by a busy weekend followed by a Monday that came too soon.
People here at the Horn Book are gearing up for the American Library Association conference — either getting ready to go themselves, or stepping up their work because lots of us will take the end of the week off. With so many people out of the office, not to mention most of the folks we work with at publishing houses, it’s the perfect time to take a long weekend away. For me, everything I had to design is done and on it’s way to NV. If you are at ALA, stop by the Horn Book booth and grab our gorgeous new poster by Brian Floca before they run out.
For those of you who are teachers rather than librarians, this ALA conference (in Las Vegas, baby!) is when the Newbery, Caldecott, and Coretta Scott King award acceptance speeches will be given. These are big deals for everyone who attends. People tend to choose their outfits with care and a few librarians have even taken to doing interviews on the “red carpet.” Here’s the 2008 video, a la Project Runway.
We will print the acceptance speeches in our July issue and have been sworn to secrecy about their content until they are given next week on Sunday and Monday. Check this site later this week for profiles of Kate DiCamillo, Brian Floca, Rita Williams-Garcia, and Bryan Collier.
If you want to know how the Horn Book reviewed all of this year’s ALA award winners, go to this page.
We’ll be back on our regular schedule Wednesday — and Friday, too, even though I plan to sleep in that day!
The post Playing catch-up appeared first on The Horn Book.
Perspective is a thing so integral to understanding a story. It can even be the reason why an author thinks to lift a pencil and write a story. Yet perspective is a difficult concept, particularly for six-year-olds.
As a first grade teacher, I have found that teaching about a character’s perspective is at times an easier task than having students contemplate an author’s purpose. I have come to the conclusion that somehow characters are more tangible to students. They feel more real. They are living, acting, speaking things in the story, so of course they must think something too! Right?
Authors, however, are an abstract people for them. Although they create a book’s very words and images, they are removed from the story. For an elementary school child, understanding that this person has a message to get across is not only an exceptionally high level skill, but it can also be downright confusing.
Luckily two authors came to my rescue as I attempted to undergo teaching this comprehension skill. These authors have a clear purpose and point of view. Their stories carry with them important messages and ideas —and these messages come from the most unlikely of places: informational texts.
Typically, when teaching students how to uncover an author’s purpose, I have thought strictly in terms of how they write. Do they write to entertain, to persuade, or to teach? This year I found that some authors can do a little bit of each.
Suzanne Slade and Martin Jenkins are two of these very authors. They write stories that are not only instantly engaging through their images and diagrams, but informative. Most importantly, embedded within their facts and illustrations are persuasive messages they are trying to convey.
Suzanne Slade’s, What If There Were No Bees?: A Book About the Grassland Ecosystem, captures readers through its cause-and-effect plot. Students begin by learning about pollination, ecosystems, and food chains. Then, in a clever twist, Slade describes what would happen to these ecosystems if one animal, the honey bee, were simply removed. This text helps scholars learn about ecosystems and food chains, but there is also a message in this story: Bees are important and should stick around.
Similarly, Martin Jenkins creates a beautiful picture book detailing the background and history of extinct and endangered animals. In Can We Save the Tiger? students are exposed to stunning illustrations of tigers, emus and other animals. They learn facts about these animals, yet, they also learn how to prevent the extinction of current endangered species. Like Slade, Jenkins has a purpose: tigers (and other animals!) are in danger, but are worth saving.
When Slade’s and Jenkins’ books are paired with more traditional informational texts, such as textbooks, or books in which facts are simply stated, their perspective becomes all the more clear and refined. I found these pairings integral to the teaching of this reading skill this year. Students were immediately able to discover the distinction between the tones of the texts and thus — the authors’ perspectives!
The post Teaching perspective to first graders appeared first on The Horn Book.
Despite a preponderance of research that shows that external motivators do not increase student engagement and motivation over the long-term, it still seems that you can’t find an elementary school where reading is not at some point tied to coupons to free food, stickers, certificates, or miscellaneous prizes.
These gimmicks and contests do reiterate that reading is fun — but only if you get something for doing it. Recently my own school had one of these contests and the experience not only proved ineffective at cultivating a passion for reading in my students, but actually reduced the excitement that some of my them had for reading.
This time around the incentive that was supposed to spur children to become lifelong readers was bikes. For each book read, that child would receive one ticket to be entered into a drawing for a bike.
Each classroom would have two winners: one girl and one boy.
Initially, what upset me most was the division between males and females. My students and I have done a lot of work around gender and stereotypes and this contest seemed sure to reinforce binaries that my students had been learning to question. Additionally, my class has a tremendous gender imbalance, so the odds of winning the bike were almost three times higher if you were a boy — a fact one of my bright young mathematicians pointed out during one of our conversations about the contest.
Though I inquired about the possibility of having a single classroom box and two of the “boy” bikes as the prizes for my classroom, I was told that the “bikes had already been ordered.” As a new teacher, I felt I had to settle for taking the boy box and the girl box, even though it went against my better judgment. While we had some great student-prompted conversations about why there were two boxes, it was difficult to settle for “that’s what the adults who set up the contest said that we had to do.”
As the date for the bike drawing approached, only about half of my students had participated in the contest and I had observed no changes in my students’ reading behaviors. I did, however, witness a number of contest participants quickly flipping through books so they could add the title to their “books read” lists. As with most contests of this type, accountability is difficult to ensure and enforce and the enjoyment of reading a book becomes reduced to a simple means to an end.
On the day of the drawing, my students were moderately excited. Two highly gender-stereotyped bikes had been sitting in the atrium of our school for over a week to drum up excitement. (The boys bike was red and black while the girls was white, purple, and pink — with streamers, of course.) When it was time for the winners in our classroom to be drawn, I halfheartedly pulled out the two names — one from the boy box and one from the girl box.
I was so relieved that the contest was finally over, but my students were certainly not done thinking about it. A few minutes later, a girl who hadn’t participated in the contest came over to me and told me “it hurt her feelings that she had to sit there and watch other kids get stuff.” Another three students in my classroom left the assembly in or close to tears. The melancholy that had swept over my students was palpable and painful to witness. The assembly certainly hadn’t felt like the “celebration of reading” that the organization sponsoring the program had promised.
After the assembly, we talked as a class and discussed ways that the contest might be improved. Their ideas included having a prize that the whole class could win for reading, having everyone win bikes, and having books as prizes. At the end of the talk, one girl said — to nodded approval from her peers — “I just wish that this contest had never happened.”
Another student, who had read the most books in our class but didn’t win, kept repeating: “I read 82 books and I got nothing.” Despite my reassurances that she had gotten to enjoy the experiences of all of those wonderful books and had definitely become smarter as she learned things from the books, she remained dejected.
Whether it is with pizza, stickers, or free movie passes, attempts to incentivize reading fail to cultivate the habits of lifelong readers and send the message that reading is something you should do only to get something in return. Yet these contests continue to proliferate and are constantly dressed up with flashier prizes and greater promises to improve reading habits.
What explains the ubiquity of these contests? I think it is in part, because they seem so harmless. An outside organization or sponsor generously offers to support reading — most likely with the best of intentions. The seemingly innocuous nature of these contests is what makes them particularly sinister. After all, who would argue that giving away bikes to kids who might not have one is a bad thing? The school and local community would most likely vilify a teacher daring to stand up in opposition to such a program. (I’ll let you know how that goes when I argue against repeating this contest next year.)
I am convinced that we must rescue our students from contests of these sorts. If we don’t, we may end up with students who refuse to read a book without the promise of getting something. Surely there must be better ways to engage community partners in joining us on our journey to create lifelong readers who are intrinsically motivated to explore the wonderful world of books without resorting to contests that leave students reflecting that they read but “got nothing.”
The post What do I get if I read this? appeared first on The Horn Book.
Blog: Playing by the book
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Indulge me: Have a quick brainstorm about picture books you know for young kids which explore what it feels like to be different?
[Go on! Play the game!]
Of those you’ve come up with, how many are about emotions rather than physical characteristics?
How many of them feature humans rather than animals?
How many of them have a boy lead character rather than a girl?
[I came up with very few, and even then I needed help from the ever resourceful and generous Letterbox Library. Between us we came up with Oliver by Birgitta Sif, Eliot Jones, Midnight Superhero by Anne Cottringer and Alex T Smith, Weslandia by Paul Fleischman and Kevin Hawkes but that was pretty much it.]
So when Made by Raffi written by Craig Pomranz, illustrated by Margaret Chamberlain (@madgiemadge) appeared in my hands for the first time I sat up and noticed; it’s about a boy who feels he doesn’t quite fit in, for instead of football, his passion is knitting and sewing.
Although he’s a curious and generous kid, he feels sidelined at school. Unlike most of his classmates, he doesn’t like noise and rough play. But thanks to a supportive teacher he discovers a new passion – making his own clothes. When it is time for the school play could this new skill help him gain the respect of his peers? Without giving the game away, the ending is upbeat, but also authentic. This isn’t a sugar-coated story. (For the really interesting background to the story, take a look at this article).
This book deserves to be in every school and read in every family for a whole plethora of reasons. It’s bold, tackling gender issues that many adults might skirt around: I love Pomranz daring to use the word “girly“, and it certainly helped us talk about how being a girl interested in ‘boys’ things’ is often more accepted by society than a boy interested in ‘girls’ things’. It’s big hearted; not just the warm, loving family Raffi is part of, but also his supportive school. It shows all sorts of children playing together, with different skin colours and different physical abilities, as well as different interests. It’s a joyously inclusive book, which tackles big themes gently and playfully.
Margaret Chamberlain’s illustrations are delightful. She uses colour very cleverly to portray moods and to mirror how much more interesting – indeed colourful – the world is for a diverse range of characters; wouldn’t the world be a dull grey place if we all liked only the same things?
A book about loneliness, respect, difference, and learning to trust your instincts even when it means you don’t follow the crowd, Made by Raffi is a vital, delightful and unusual book I urge you to share.
M and J were recently shown how to knit by their Grandma, and reading Made by Raffi offered the ideal opportunity to practice their recently acquired skills. (Here are some Youtube tutorials we found helpful to refresh our memories of what Granny had taught us: Casting on, knit stitch, casting off.
Having a ball of wool with lots of different colours on it was an effective tool in motivating the kids; each child would knit one or two colours and then hand the needles and ball over to the other. It gave them easy targets to aim for, and I’m sure this is partly why they completed a long scarf far more quickly than I was expecting.
Whilst knitting we’ve been listening to:
Lots of songs by Raffi (an Egyptian-born Canadian singer-songwriter who creates great kid-friendly music), – here’s a whole playlist on youtube.
The Knitting Song by Bill Oddie
Knitting by Arthur Askey. Massively old fashioned but a great rumble through all sorts of stitches and garments.
Learning to finger knit. Here’s the youtube video we used to learn how to fingerknit.
Letting the kids embellish their own clothing. I found this the easiest/most satisfying way to let the kids have a go at making something themselves – they chose buttons they liked and sewed them onto a couple of pieces of clothing. Simple sewing but with a relatively big (and ‘real’) result.
Making a cloak as described in the story. Alternatively, if you can find a department store selling off curtain samples (eg in John Lewis or House of Fraser), you can pick up pretty much prepared cloaks – all you need to do is add something (eg a large hook and eye) so you can have the cloak safely stay on your shoulders as you zoom around wearing it.
If in a school or a library setting, making a display with images of clothes designed by men (Galliano, Versace, Gaultier for example, cut out from glossy magazines) and as the centre pieces place Made by Raffi and The Boy in the Dress by David Walliams. Whilst not for primary school kids, I’d also encourage you to read Boys Don’t Knit by T.S.Easton, a hilarious take on a teenage boy who loves to knit. Ben Fletcher and Raffi would definitely like to meet each other!
Other activities which would go well with reading Made by Raffi include:
Socks for supper by Jack Kent
Knitting Nell by Julie Jersild Roth
Mr. Nick’s knitting by Margaret Wild and Dee Huxley
Shall I knit you a hat? : a Christmas yarn by Kate Klise and M Sarah Klise
Derek, the knitting dinosaur by Mary Blackwood and Kerry Argent
Annie Hoot and the knitting extravaganza by Holly Clifton-Brown
Mrs. McDockerty’s knitting by Ruth Martinez and Catherine O’Neill
Noodle’s knitting by Sheryl Webster and Caroline Pedler
The knitting of Elizabeth Amelia by Patricia Lee Gauch and Barbara Lavallee
Knitty Kitty by David Elliott and Christopher Denise
The truly terribly horrible sweater that Grandma knit by Debbie Macomber, Mary Lou Carney and Vincent Nguyen
Carrie measures up! by Linda Williams Aber and Joy Allen
Other picture /illustrated books which feature knitting include:
Pa Jinglebob, the fastest knitter in the West by Mary Arrigan and Korky Paul
Pa Jinglebob and the Grabble Gang by Mary Arrigan and Korky Paul
The best little knitter in the West by Sermsah Bin Saad and Samantha Cook
The three billy goats Fluff by Rachael Mortimer and Liz Pichon
The long red scarf by Nette Hilton and Margaret Power
It’s gone, Jac! by Rob Lewis
A winter’s yarn by Kathleen Cook Waldron and Deborah Turney Zagwyn
Love from Woolly : a lift-the-flap book of woolly gifts by Nina Michaels and Nicola Smee
Pelle’s New Suit by Elsa Beskow
Milo Armadillo by Jan Fearnley
If you like the sound of Made by Raffi and are anywhere near Edinburgh in August, don’t miss the chance to meet author Craig Pomranz talking about his book as part of the Edinburgh Book Festival.
Disclosure: I received a free review copy of this book from the publishers.
Here in Boston we are getting ready for a sideswipe by Hurricane Arthur. They’ve even moved the Boston Pops and fireworks festivities to tonight instead of tomorrow. Meanwhile, Arthur is headed for the southeast coast here in the US today. It’s pretty rare for that first storm of the season — the one named with an A — to do much damage, but still one worries. I hope everyone stays safe.
Thinking about this hurricane’s name reminded me of the most famous children’s lit Arthur, Marc Brown’s aardvark. I admit to never watching one of the cartoons all the way through, in part because I don’t like how the character’s face was made so generic for the cartoon version. It’s as if Arthur’s makeover role model was Michael Jackson: lighter skin tone (or is it fur?) and smaller features. I never did understand the color change, but regarding the nose, it’s probably difficult to animate a character with a large droopy nose and short arms. How would he carry anything?
Still, when you compare the first book — which is about Arthur learning to come to terms with having a very large nose — to the present incarnation, I have to wonder what children make of this change.
Has anyone had a conversation with a child about the different physiognomies? If so, I’d love to hear about it.
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Blog: Playing by the book
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A rich and warm-hearted coming-of-age tale, Head over Heart is an impressive and important debut novel from Colette Victor.
An adolescent girl is smitten with a boy in her class. But she fears her family would disapprove of her spending time with him. How can she balance her wishes with those of her family? How does she work out what she really feels, when whatever course of action she takes may make someone unhappy?
Victor’s novel is finely told, with an eye for emotional complexity, but what makes it stand out for me is how very relevant it is today in Britain with all this talk of “British values”; the heroine in this story (which made me cry quietly as I reached the final pages) is a Muslim girl, trying to work out some of the issues any teenager might face to do with friendship, love, lust and just who they see themselves as, who they want to be, but she is having to do this at the same time as trying to find a comfortable place between or across two apparently very different cultures.
Ideas of what is right or wrong, what is appropriate or not are thoughtfully explored. There are no easy answers, but there’s lots of respect and understanding, quietly woven into the pages. Whilst it is brilliant to see some publishing diversity (how many other novels for young teenagers can you think of with a Muslim main character?), I firmly believe this is story relevant to any adolescent (and indeed any parent of young people just entering that crazy time of their lives when hormones run riot), whatever their cultural or religious background.
If you enjoyed Anne Booth‘s Girl with a White Dog I’m confident you will love this book, which also explores how life in Britain today is incredibly enriched by the many cultures that find a home here. Pertinent, moving, and at times challenging Head over Heart is a book which makes the world a little better for enabling us to walk in each others shoes and understand our neighbours and ourselves a little more.
Perhaps the last comments of my review should go to a friend of mine: I lent my copy of Head over Heart to a Muslim friend who first warned me that it might take her ages to read the book. Within pretty much 48 hours she was back: “I couldn’t put down the book!” “Her writing is so beautiful.” “I would definitely give my daughter this.”. She also talked about how for her as a parent who didn’t grow up in the UK (but in Pakistan) it was very interesting and helpful to think about the differences between her own childhood and that of her UK born children.
Authors write outside their experience all the time but I still felt it would be interesting to hear what Colette Victor had to say about the experience – she was born in South Africa and now lives in Belgium. Here’s what she had to say to me:
“The magic of being a writer is being able to leave your own predictable and familiar existence to temporarily take up residence inside another person’s skin, a different set of circumstances, a new world all together. If the only viewpoint I was supposed to write from was that of a white, middle-aged South African woman living in Europe, I doubt I’d be doing any writing at all. I certainly wouldn’t have any readers.
So why did I feel I had the authority to write from the perspective of a Muslim teenage girl living in Europe? Well, it all boils down to my job, really. I live and work as a community worker in an ex-mining city in Belgium with a large immigrant population. I’ve worked with many different groups of people over the years – children, senior citizens, ex-convicts, job seekers, resident groups and mothers. Many of the young people and mothers I work with are of either Turkish or Moroccan origin – their families came out here over fifty years ago to work in the mines. I’ve heard countless personal stories, been inside scores of homes and spent hours in the company of young Muslim girls and their mums. I also spent a lot of time interviewing some of these girls to find out their viewpoint on various issues and, I can tell you, they’re as vast and varied as any other group of women.
One of the reasons I set out to write Head over heart was because there are so many misconceptions surrounding the headscarf. People often see it as a symbol of female oppression. Through my work I’ve met many proud, strong women who choose to wear a headscarf as a symbol of their identity, despite the opinions for or against it. I know married women, widows, single mums and emancipated university students who wear a headscarf because that’s who they are and not because there’s a man standing in the wings demanding it. On the flip side, I also know many women who would seem Westernised and wear Western clothing but live an existence of subjugation and submissiveness behind the scenes. I know Belgian women, Christian women and atheists – some lead proud, strong lives, some live in fear and submission. Ultimately it’s about looking further than cultural accessories and seeing the person underneath.
My daughter, Stella, who’s about the same age as Zeyneb, had a Muslim best friend for all her nursery and primary school years. The two girls were always together, doing homework, dressing up, sleeping over at each other’s houses. As my daughter’s friend got older and her body started changing, she often expressed concern about the fact that soon her carefree childhood would be behind her and she’d have to make the choice of wearing a headscarf or not. This is what got me thinking about all the cultural pressures at play in making such a decision and this is what I explored through Zeyneb’s eyes in Head over heart.”
My thanks go to Colette Victor for her thoughts on this. And thank you – this has been a long post, but I really think this book deserves the time and space I’ve devoted to it dtoday for it is an excellent, thoughtful, and highly relevant début.
Book: The Girl Who Wouldn't Brush Her Hair
Author: Kate Bernheimer
Illustrator: Jake Parker
Age Range: 4-8
The Girl Who Wouldn't Brush Her Hair, written by Kate Bernheimer and illustrated by Jake Parker, is my favorite type of picture book. That is, it is largely nonsense, but is based on an issue that will resonate with young kids. There's a girl who has beautiful long brown hair, and who decides that she doesn't need to brush her hair. "It's just my way", she tells her (largely invisible) parents. Because her hair is such a mess, a mouse decides that it's the perfect habitat, and moves in. Before she knows it, the girl has something like 100 mice living in her head. but there are consequences.
Kate Bernheimer ratchets up the nonsense from page to page. Like this, after the mice ask the girl not to bathe anymore:
"Much to the mice's relief, the girl agreed. For though she was becoming quite dirty, she had grown fond of their company. They had set up such a marvelous home for themselves -- a palace, really, atop her head. It had secret passageways and a cheese cellar and a tiny circular moat."
Seriously? Mice with a moat on her head? It's hilarious.
Jake Parker's illustrations (rendered in pencil and digitally colored) suit the story perfectly. The girl's hair is a gorgeous, tangled mess. She has bright brown eyes in her heart-shaped face. She looks like a doll, really. The mice are perky and cute. The girl's doll, Baby, manages to look forlorn as the girl's attention is taken up by the mice. There's a slight soft-focus to the pictures that works well with the story.
I can't wait to share The Girl Who Wouldn't Brush Her Hair with my own daughter, who has, shall we say, issues with hair-brushing. In our house, we've been telling her that birds will come to live in her hair if we don't get out the tangles. But mice work, too, and, as it turns out, are more fun. The Girl Who Wouldn't Brush Her Hair is hilarious, and well worth picking up. Especially recommended for preschool girls who have long hair.
Publisher: Schwartz & Wade (@RandomHouseKids)
Publication Date: September 10, 2013
Source of Book: Review copy from the publisher
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This site is an Amazon affiliate, and purchases made through Amazon links (including linked book covers) may result in my receiving a small commission (at no additional cost to you).
© 2014 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. You can also follow me @JensBookPage or at my Growing Bookworms page on Facebook.
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With baseball season in full swing, it is the perfect time to check out one of the many great picture books featuring baseball. Here are some of my favorites.
Silent Star: The Story of Deaf Major Leaguer William Hoy by Bill Wise with illustrations by Adam Gustavson (K-3)
Today many baseball fans may not know this, but in the late 1800’s one of the best major league players was William Hoy, who also happened to be deaf. This book tells his story with wonderful oil painting illustrations that will help readers understand both the time period and Hoy’s life.
Clemente! by Willie Perdomo with illustrations by Bryan Collier (K-3)
Told in English with scattered Spanish words, this book follows a young boy named Clemente as various family members tell him about his namesake, the great Puerto Rican baseball player Roberto Clemente. While the book details Roberto Clemente’s baseball career, it also includes other aspects of his life, including his charitable work. It is a great option, particularly for those looking for a book that incorporates Spanish language text.
Lou Gehrig: The Luckiest Man by David A. Adler with illustrations by Terry Widener (K-3)
Though he is perhaps best known now for the disease named for him, Lou Gehrig was an important figure in baseball well before he was diagnosed. In this book, readers learn about his early life, including his studies at Columbia University and his fourteen years in major league baseball, during which he played in a record number of consecutive games. While the book does not shy away from Gehrig’s illness, it tells the inspirational story of his life both before and during that period.
You Never Heard of Sandy Koufax? by Jonah Winter with illustrations by Andre Carrilho (K-3)
In a striking departure from many sports biographies for children, this book focuses on Koufax’s struggles and early failures before recounting his rise to the top of the game. Readers also learn about the important role that Koufax’s Jewish faith played in his career, causing him to face discrimination and also leading to his refusal to play in the 1965 World Series because it fell on a high holy day. Though this book will appeal to all baseball fans, those who love baseball statistics will particularly enjoy the way that it integrates important stats into the illustrations at key points in the story.
Take Me Out to the Yakyu by Aaron Meshon (Preschool)
In this fun, brightly colored book, a young boy goes to baseball games in both the United States and Japan. Side-by-side pages show the differences between the experience in each country, both at the stadium and outside of it. The book integrates Japanese words in the text and unique details of baseball culture in each country into the illustrations.
Casey at the Bat by Ernest L. Thayer with illustrations by Joe Morse (K-3)
This entry in the Visions in Poetry series takes the classic poem “Casey at the Bat” and moves it to an urban setting. The poem is a classic for a reason, and a new generation of baseball fans can enjoy it with the modern, updated images that accompany it.
The Unforgettable Season: The Story of Joe DiMaggio, Ted Williams and the Record-Setting Summer of ’41 by Phil Bildner with illustrations by S.D. Schindler (K-3)
Whether you are looking for a baseball book or an exciting glimpse into a period in history, this book won’t disappoint. It follows the separate paths of Joe DiMaggio and Ted Williams as they each chased baseball records over the course of the summer of 1941. The illustrations bring the time period to life and make this book a great way to make baseball fans into history fans — and vice versa.
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