Monthly Archives: March 2013

Module 5: Under the Mesquite

Book Summary-

Lupita, the oldest of eight children, must grow up quickly after her mother is diagnosed with cancer.  This novel is written in easy-to-read verse style and explores the in-between life that Lupita lives in a border town in Texas; not quite an American, not quite a Mexican.  Lupita uses her involvement in the arts more specifically acting and writing to help cope with the anguish she is experiencing at home.  She discovers that she has more strength than she knew and that she can depend on her siblings to help her hold the family together.

McCall, G.G. (2011) Under the mesquite. New york, NY: Lee & Low Books Inc.

Impressions:

Part of the reason I wanted to read this book is because of the increasing popularity of novels in verse at the school library where I work.  Also we have a growing Hispanic population at my school.  I was hoping this might be something I could recommend because from my experience, many teens want to read about a character that is similar to themselves.   I was not blown away by this book, but I do think the voice of the narrator, Lupita, is authentic and genuine.  I can see how teen girls would be able to relate to her issues and concerns.  Also the verse format is easy to read and would be good for reluctant or new-to-English readers.

Professional Review:

“Told in verse sprinkled with Spanish terms (a glossary is included), this story of Lupita s high-school years details her increasing responsibility within her large Mexican American family after Mami is diagnosed with cancer. Caring for seven younger siblings, keeping up with schoolwork and her drama roles, and staying connected with her classmates and friends while the worries gnaw at her take their toll, but she is strong. There are also moments of intense vulnerability.  As high-school graduation nears, Lupita sees that her mother may not be there for it: Suddenly I realize / how much I can t control, how much / I am not promised. The close-knit family relationships, especially Mami and Lupita’s, are vividly portrayed, as is the healing comfort Lupita finds in words, whether written in her notebooks or performed onstage.”

Dobrez, C. (2011, October 1). Under the mesquite [Review of Under the mesquite, by G. McCall.] Booklist 108(3), 90. Retrieved from www.booklistonline.com

Library Uses:

I think this book could be used in a variety of ways.  Since it is written in verse, it could be tied into April’s National Poetry month in some way.  Also, because of its subject matter it could be included in a multi-cultural display or activity of some kind.  At our school a multi-cultural celebration ocurrs in April and many English teacher use literature from various cultures and ethnicities in lessons or as the basis of discussions.

 

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under 5420 Literature for Youth

Module 5: Let It Shine

Book Summary:

This is an illustrated rendering of three Spirituals: “This Little Light of Mine,” “Oh, When the Saints Go Marching In,” and “He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands.”  Ashley Bryan uses intricately cut construction paper in bright colors to build worlds based on these well-known songs.  Mr. Bryan is a well-respected illustrator having been a Coretta Scott King Award winner, as well as a Hans Christian Anderson Award nominee.

Bryan, A. (2007).  Let It Shine.New York, NY: Atheneum Books.

Impressions:

If you love art, color, and flawless technique then this is a book you will want to buy for your personal collection.  Mr. Bryan puts a new colorful spin on the art of paper cutting and a fresh perspective on these revered songs.  By using construction paper as his medium, Mr. Bryan seems to be reminding the reader that like construction paper these songs are familiar childhood standards; and yet beautiful and inspiring as well.

Each page turned opens a new vista to explore and wonder over.  My favorites are his exquisite flowers.  He layers color upon color; each curve of each petal and leaf delicately shaped.  In another scene we see the rainbow of the world’s existence captured within the colorful expanse of God’s hands.  Honestly, I have not been so moved by art in a long, long time.  You can feel the love of the music, the words, and the worlds Mr. Bryan has created in every detail of the art.

Professional Review:

Starred Review. PreSchool-Grade 5—Bryan’s vibrant illustrations interpret and energize three beloved songs: “This Little Light of Mine,” “Oh, When the Saints Go Marching In,” and “He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands.” Although the artistic style is similar to that in All Night, All Day (Atheneum, 1991), here Bryan uses intricate cut-paper collages to accompany the lines of text at the bottom of the pages. Energy and movement course through many of the full-bleed illustrations, as when children-depicted in rainbow-colored silhouettes-use a boat, an airplane, a bicycle, and other means to carry their lights “Ev’ry where I go.” At other times, the images offer comfort and security, as large multicolored hands embrace the world’s wonders and “the little bitty baby” is cradled in an adult’s protective arms. Simple melody lines and an explanation of the origin and importance of spirituals are appended. Yet, Bryan’s illustrations demonstrate more than words the dynamic inspiration that these songs still provide. Readers will find themselves humming as they turn the pages.—Kathy Piehl, Minnesota State University, Mankato

Piehl, K. (2007).  Let it shine: three favorite spirituals[Review of the book Let it shine: Three favorite spirituals, by A. Bryan]. School Library Journal, 53(1), 113.  Retrieved from http://www.slj.com/

Library Use:

This would be the time to break out the music!  A whole program could be built around books which celebrate song visually.  With older students in a school setting, the librarian and students could discuss how the art adds to the music and how the music inspires the artist.  With versions of the songs playing in the background, construction paper could be provided for the students and they could work on their own illustrations for one or more of the songs.

This book could also be used as a way to discuss slavery, the history behind slavery in this country and the legacy of Spirituals in today’s society.  I think this use would be good in a classroom setting maybe in Junior year in Texas when American history is studied.

Leave a comment

Filed under 5420 Literature for Youth

Module 4: The Giver

Book Summary:

Set in sometime in Earth’s future, this is the story of Jonas as he approaches the time for his life assignment in his seemingly trouble-free community.  Everything is neat, orderly, and peaceful, but there is also very little diversity.  When Jonas is assigned the esteemed but rare position of “Receiver of Memory” his life becomes the opposite of what it has been through out his childhood.  Suddenly he is exposed to everything that he and his fellow citizens have been deprived of for generations- pain, anger, hurt, but also the extremes of joy, beauty, and freedom of choice.  As his wisdom grows, Jonas must make a wrenching decision as to the fate of a fellow child and his own future.

Lowry, L. (1993).  The giver. New York, NY: Houghton Mifflin Company.

Impressions:

One librarian I work with absolutely loves this book so I was hoping to really like this book, but I have to admit, I was not overly impressed.  I can understand the appeal- it is a touching story, showcasing the idea that diversity in society can be messy and troublesome, but is worth the effort.  I just thought the story was a little boring.  And I feel really terrible saying that!  I know this is considered a classic and it won the Newberry, but for me, it was a little tedious to read.

I also don’t like the emotions it evoked in me- mostly a sense of hopelessness and despair.  In fact, this book reminds me of The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood.  I had a similar feeling as I was reading it.  The ending of The Giver seems more hopeful, but no less ambiguous.  Will Jonas and Gabriel make it outside of the community that has been their home with no feasible means of survival?  It seems unlikely to me, but Ms. Lowry sets a hopeful tone.  So maybe it does turn out ok.  I’m not sure if I’m willing to commit to the sequel or not, we’ll see.

Professional Review:

“In a complete departure from her other novels, Lowry has written an intriguing story set in a society that is uniformly run by a Committee of Elders. Twelve-year-old Jonas’s confidence in his comfortable “normal” existence as a member of this well-ordered community is shaken when he is assigned his life’s work as the Receiver. The Giver, who passes on to Jonas the burden of being the holder for the community of all memory “back and back and back,” teaches him the cost of living in an environment that is “without color, pain, or past.” The tension leading up to the Ceremony, in which children are promoted not to another grade but to another stage in their life, and the drama and responsibility of the sessions with The Giver are gripping. The final flight for survival is as riveting as it is inevitable. The author makes real abstract concepts, such as the meaning of a life in which there are virtually no choices to be made and no experiences with deep feelings. This tightly plotted story and its believable characters will stay with readers for a long time.”

Kellman, A. (1993, May 1).  Junior high up fiction [Review of the book The giver, by L. Lowry].  School library journal, 39(5), 124.  Retrieved from http://www.slj.com

Library Uses:

I can see how this book would be good for a discussion about the role of diversity, personal choice, and individual determintion in society.  In fact, I think this might be a good choice for students enrolled in a program such as AIVD (Achievement Via Individual Determination) since they are learning how to make good choices which will hopefully lead them on to a successful academic career in both secondary school and at the college or university level.  I think many of them could relate to Jonas’ struggle to take on a responsibility he was not sure how to handle and to make his own choice about his future even if it would not be popular or might even put him in danger.  As part of reading the book, maybe the students could create a video diary of their own feelings and if they agree or disagree with Jonas’ decisions or if they agree or disagree with the way the community is run.  This could also be paired with another similar book such as The Hunger Games or Divergernt.

Leave a comment

Filed under 5420 Literature for Youth

Module 4: It’s Like This, Cat

 

It's like this cat

Book Summary:

Set in the early 1960s, this is the coming-of-age story of Dave Mitchell and his pet cat.  (He of course chose the cat after an argument with his father over which would make a better pet a cat or a dog: his father chose a dog.)  In the course of looking out for Cat, Dave runs across some interesting characters in his neighborhood including Tom, a high school drop out and Mary his eventual love interest.  Dave also learns what it’s like to have compassion towards a neighbor in trouble and how he can depend on his dad when things get tricky.

Neville, E.C. (1963). It’s like this cat.  New York, NY: HarperCollins Publishers Inc.

Impressions:

At first, I found this book to be a little cheesey, but I have to admit it grew on me the further into it I read.  If the reader can get past all the pop culture references in the book, the basic story is one that many teens may be able to relate to- having conflict with parents and wanting to make decisions independent of them; wanting to choose their own friends; spreading their wings and moving independently as mature individuals.  Of course, it always helps to have some guidance along the way from an adult that can be trusted and this book portrays what I think are believable relationships between Dave and his parents- especially his father.  In the end, Dave learns to appreciate his parents and their interest in him.  He also learns that growing up is not as straight forward as it seems.

Professional Review:

“This book is a stark contrast to coming-of-age stories like Shiloh that feature a lonely boy and a dependent, loyal dog who become fast companions. That’s because this book is about a boy and his cat. Both are fiercely independent and curious. That curiosity leads both into some scary yet exciting adventures. Author Emily Neville really captures the innocence and exhilaration of catch-as-catch-can life for the main character as well as those who cross his path. Her caricature of both cat and boy behavior is humorous and true-to-life. In addition, her romantic portrayal of New York City through the eyes of youth is magical. At the same time, one feels all the familiarity and intimacy of a small town as she weaves the chapters through landmarks like Gramercy Park and Coney Island and then back to “the neighborhood.” The matter-of-fact portrayal and acceptance of family dysfunction is refreshing in a book more than 40 years old.”

Brown, S. (2008, February 14). Book review: It’s like this cat [Review of the book It’s like this, cat, by E. Neville].  Early childhood education resources [Web log post].  Retrieved from http://www.eced-resources.com/2008/02/14/book-review-its-like-this-cat/

Library Uses:

The first thing that came to mind was using this either in a lesson in a school setting about the 1960s or maybe as a book for a middle school or high school book group.  The students or young patrons could read the book and talk about what is alike or different about the “teen experience” from the earlier time period to the present.

The book could also be looked at from a geographic perspective and readers could talk about New York city.  A “virtual” trip could be taken to the various spots discussed in the book via Google Earth and maybe even watch the movie version of the show, West Side Story, that Dave and Mary go to see when they spend the day together in New York.

Leave a comment

Filed under 5420 Literature for Youth

Module 3: Smoky Night

Smoky night

Book Summary:

In straight-forward prose, Eve Bunting tells the  story of Daniel and his mother as they live through the 1992 Los Angeles riots.  As seen from their apartment window, Daniel and his mother witness the craziness of that time.  While his mother tries to comfort him, Daniel attempts to understand how people can do things a child clearly knows is wrong.  David Diaz’ acrylic portraits over mixed-media collages movingly portray Bunting’s story.  This tale ends with the notion that people must first know each other in order to become friends and understand one another.

Bunting, E.  (1994).  Smoky night.  New York, NY: Harcourt Brace & Company.

Impressions:

This book really moved me.  I found myself in tears every time I read it- and I read it several times in order to catch new details in the illustrations.  I was pretty young at the time of the Los Angeles riots and was not very interested in what was happening WAY out in California, but this children’s book made me dig deeper and do some research about what happened.  It is a shame how much damage was incurred and how little has been done to rebuild the area.  The simple message relayed by this book is that no matter what our separate backgrounds are, we as humans, must work to get to know each other and try to accept one another.

The illustrations in the book are fascinating to look at; I poured over them many times looking for all the tiny details.  Mr. Diaz used a mixed-media collage background usually containing elements from the action taking place in the book.  For example, when Daniel and his mother watch a man carrying stolen clothes from a dry cleaners still in their plastic wrappings, the collages have plastic wrap strewn across the page.  Then his acrylic paintings have a somber, heavy sort of feel that seems appropriate for this serious story.   Overall this book is very deserving of the Caldecott Medal it won in 1995.

Professional Review:

“Kindergarten-Grade 3-Daniel and his mother watch through their window as an urban riot is in progress. She tries to explain what is happening as he sees the laughing people break into the neighborhood stores and rob them. One of the victims is Mrs. Kim, whose cat is the enemy of his cat, Jasmine. Daniel’s mother doesn’t shop at Mrs. Kim’s store because she feels it’s better to “buy from our own people.” Later, their building is set on fire and he and his mother go with their neighbors to a shelter. The boy worries about Jasmine, and is relieved when a fireman brings her and Mrs. Kim’s cat to the shelter. The felines have learned to get along in their shared danger. Bunting skillfully uses the voice of the child narrator. His innocent view of the riots makes the destructive behavior of the rioters more abhorrent. His suggestion that the cats were enemies only because they did not know each other well enough enables the adults to reach out to one another and bridge the distance their prejudice has kept between them. Diaz illustrates the story with bold, dark, stylized acrylic paintings framed by collage backgrounds of various textured objects usually reflecting the text. When the rioters loot a dry cleaners, for example, the background is wire hangers and plastic film. The pictures are more arresting than appealing, but they invite discussion and will stimulate thoughtful responses to this quietly powerful story.”

Sherman, L. L. (1994, May). Book review: Preschool & primary grades [Review of the book Smoky night, by E. Bunting]. School library journal, 40(5), 89.  Retrieved from http://www.slj.com/.

Library Uses:

I think the cultural background of the library’s patrons will have a lot of impact on what sort of even or program built around this book.  It covers topics which may be very sensitive for some or maybe even most people.  Perhaps this book might be better presented for it’s artistic integrity.  The illustrations are fabulous and the book could be used as an example of mixed media art.  The story could be shared first (I think this could be used for older elementary all the way up to teens if the focus was on recreating the art work- or at least an interpretation of the art work.)  After the story has been read and the pictures shared, offer various collage materials and paper and pens, pencils, maybe even paints, and allow the children to make their own pictures either depicting a scene from the book or something from their imagination.  Perhaps as they are working, conversations will start up about the story and the issues of poverty, injustice, racism, etc. may be discussed in an organic way without the pressure of a formally led discussion.

Leave a comment

Filed under 5420 Literature for Youth

Module 3: One Fine Day

One fine day

Book Summary:

This story was inspired by an Armenian folktale and tells the story of a fox who finds himself in a lot of trouble after drinking almost all the milk an old woman has left while she gathers fire wood.  The old woman quickly cuts off the fox’s tail and holds it ransom while he goes on a search to replace her milk.  Thus begins the domino-like effect of the story.  First the fox asks for some milk from a cow, but the cow wants fresh grass from a meadow.  When the fox asks the meadow for some grass to give the cow, the meadow wants some water in exchange for the grass, and on it goes.  Finally a kind-hearted peddler gave the fox some grain which set in motion the chain of giving the fox needed in order to obtain the milk from the cow.

Hogrogian, N. (1971).  One Fine Day. New York, NY: Simon and Schuster.

Impressions:

I loved this book as a child.  I think it was part of the collection in my kindergarten class.  I have memories of being snuggled up in a cubby area under a kind of indoor tree house (I’m not sure really how to explain it) with this story and looking at the pictures.  I don’t think I could read at that time, but I knew most of the words by heart.

For me, the illustrations are a big part of the appeal to this book.  From the moment you open the book, you see the fox.  His image is on the end papers both front and back, but you only see little glimpses of him as he passes through the forest behind the trees.  The images are rendered in lovely muted colors with an Impressionistic feel; sort of a little fuzzy- kind of how one feels on a warm summer day.  The fox is a strong orange color and quite cute.  When his tail is cut off it becomes apparent how much of his cuteness depends on that tail!!

This story is almost like one of those games where you have to come up with a word that begins with a certain letter of the alphabet and then you have to recite everyone else’s words who have gone before you too.  So once the fox has been told he has to go get milk to replace what he drank, he first goes to the cow and asks, then he goes to the meadow to ask for the grass the cow has requested in order to get the milk, etc.  So each page adds a little more to read plus whatever has come before.  It builds up to a nice rhythm.

The other nice quality about this book is the themes of justice and forgiveness.  The fox has done something wrong and must atone for it.  He’s not a bad fox, he’s just made a mistake, but the old lady deserves to have her milk back.  Through some hard work, the fox finally finds someone in the position to be a little generous which allows the fox the ability to repay his debt.  The old woman forgives the fox and sews  his tail back on- everyone is finally happy.  It’s a nice ending and I think brings the story full circle.  I believe that children will appreciate the fairness in this tale about a tail.

Professional Reveiw:

“It wasn’t a fine day for the fox once he had drunk all the milk from an old woman’s pail- he lost his tail to her carving knife.  While Miss Hogrogian’s telling of an old Armenian folk tale is flat, the opposite is the case with her illustrations, which won her a second Caldecott Medal a couple of years ago.  A Selma Lanes noted in these pages, ‘You can almost feel the homespun of the old heroine’s dress and hear the metallic clang of her emptied milk can.'”

New in paperback [Review of book One Fine Day, by N. Hogrogian]. (1974, August 11). New York Times.  Retrieved from http://www.nytimes.com/  (Proquest document ID 120096942).

Library Uses:

I think I would use this as a way to showcase folktales in storybooks.  Maybe a different region could be highlighted for a certain period of time.  Maybe a six-week run?  Changing weekly.  This book could fall within either the Middle Eastern realm or perhaps in with Russian folklore?  Then there could be Asian or Chinese, African, European, South American, etc.

Leave a comment

Filed under 5420 Literature for Youth

Module 2: The Outsiders

41HJ9PBJD8L

 

Book Summary:

This is the classic story of Ponyboy, his brothers, and his friends all greasers in a small Oklahoma town.  They do their best against the odds of poverty and their lower class status to try and make ends meet and find some kind of happiness.  Living all the while with the added risk of confrontations with the upper class kids- the Socs.

One night Ponyboy and his friend Johnny get jumped by a group of Socs.  The fight ends with Ponyboy almost drowned and Johnny knifing a Soc to get away.  Dally one of their friends helps them escape to a nearby town where they live in a small abandoned church until things calm down back home.

Just as they are preparing to come back home, Johnny ends up severely burned after re-entering the church that was on fire and rescuing children who had wandered inside.  He’s barely hanging on by the time they get him to the hospital.

In the end, Johnny doesn’t make it.  But he has made an impression on Ponyboy and how he wants to lead his life.  In the end, he has shown Ponyboy that he is the one who can make a decision about what path to choose as he grows older.

Hinton, S.E. (1967). The Outsiders. New York, NY: Penguin Group (USA), Inc.

Impressions:

I decided to read this one because of its continued popularity with readers.  I work in a high school library and for almost any reluctant boy reader this book captures and keeps their attention and I really wanted to know why.  Now I did see the movie way back in my high school days and I liked that, so I was hoping the book would be just as good;  it was.

I think this book really speaks to the teen age experience.  Even if the reader is not part of a gang or gang-like group or part of the popular crowd, he or she is most likely part of some kind of group- that’s just the nature of high school.  Teens know what it feels like to be anxious about oneself and where he or she fits in the world.  Not to mention how to navigate in that world on your own, within your group, and within the larger group of the school and community.  This book talks about all of that in a way that makes it dramatic and life-altering; I mean Johnny ends up losing his life because the two groups cannot solve their problems in a way that does not involve violence.

Ultimately, this book is about how to grow up and make your own decisions in life.  It’s about choosing to move forward and make changes in order to not only survive, but also to succeed.  In the end, Ponyboy could have decided to coast by and just  do enough to pass, but inspired by Johnny’s last letter, he decides to actively try and make something better for himself and his life.

This book is about hope and the chance of a better life no matter how you start out.  I believe that the teens who read this novel understand and want that message.  Teens want to know that even if they mess up and make mistakes, there are still more chances out there.  I like that message too and now understand why this book has endured as a favorite for so many years.

Professional Reveiw:

“Few books come steeped in an aura as rich as S. E. Hinton’s novel ”The Outsiders,” which celebrates its 40th anniversary this year. At a time when the average young-adult novel was, in Hinton’s characterization, ”Mary Jane went to the prom,” ”The Outsiders” shocked readers with its frank depictions of adolescents smoking, drinking and ”rumbling.” Although other pop culture offerings had dealt with these themes — most notably ”Rebel Without a Cause” and ”West Side Story” — their intended audience was adult. By contrast, ”The Outsiders” was a story ”for teenagers, about teenagers, written by a teenager.” Hinton’s candid, canny appraisal of the conflict between Socs, or Socials, and Greasers (for which one might substitute Jets and Sharks), published when she was 17, was an immediate hit and remains the best-selling young-adult novel of all time. ”

Peck, D. (2007, September 23). ‘The Outsiders’: 40 years later [Review of the book  The Outsiders, by S. E. Hinton]. The New York Times Book Review.  Retrieved from http://www.nytimes.com/pages/books/index.html

Library Uses:

In a public library, I think this would be a great book to use for a book group.  After reading the group could meet to watch the movie and then talk about both.  Of course refreshments with the movie would be a good idea too!  Also, if you wanted to get people really motivated, the kids could come dressed as either a Soc or a greaser and there could also be a costume contest or everyone who dressed up could be entered in a drawing to win a prize.

Leave a comment

Filed under 5420 Literature for Youth