Thursday, October 29, 2009

A/I/P thoughts

For my author/illustrator/poet presentation I chose to research Mercer Mayer (as you could probably tell). I really enjoyed this project because I learned so much about one of my favorite author/illustrators and I was surprised at how much I didn't know about him. In regards to using a project like this in my classroom I see many benefits and would definitely implement this into my class. What I found interesting is that Mercer Mayer went to school for art and knew he wanted to try to illustrate children's books. However, when he showed his first portfolio to an art director he was told to throw it away and start he did! I thought that was unbelievable because even as an adult I have a misconception that authors and illustrators know what they want to do and are good at it right away. I think that doing a study like this with a class would be a great way for them to see that even authors don't start out making books. Along with this, it will also show students different ideas that they can use in their writing. I think studies like this are perfect to get students engaged in their reading and writing because they understand what writers do and by learning more about the author it might create more of an interest when they are reading.

Golden Eagle: A Graphic Novel Adventure (Critter Kids Adventures) by Erica Farber and J.R. Sansevere ILLUSTRATED by Mercer Mayer

This book is part of a series based on the critter kids created by Mercer Mayer. The critters' class goes on a field trip to Coyote Canyon, a desert reservation. When they arrive at the reservation they discover that there are golden eagle eggs that have dissappeared and the kids go on an adventure to find out what actually happen to them.

My favorite Mercer Mayer books are the Little Critter collection and I did not know that this graphic novel series existed. I thought this was great because most of the Little Critter books seem to be for younger readers and these books apply to older readers! On almost every page of the story there are facts given about things related to reservations or animals found in the desert and I think that these make the book very worthwhile. It is fun to read and children are also learning a little so it is definitely a win-win. I did find it a little difficult to read just because it seemed like there was so much going on on every page. This could be that I am not an avid graphic novel reader so I am not used to the layout but, there were times when I was confused on where to go next on the page. However, I think it is a fun and different way for students to read about new topics and I think they would enjoy that it is an adventure series!

A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens ILLUSTRATED by Mercer Mayer

This book is about the classic Christmas story about Ebenezer Scrooge and Bob Cratchit. However, in this story all of the characters are animals.

I really enjoyed this book. While the story is a classic and is a favorite of mine, what I liked most about this book was the illustrations. As I've said before, Mercer Mayer is one of my favorite children's illustrators and he does not disappoint in this story. The colors that he used were absolutely perfect! They were dark and really portrayed the "classic" feel of the story but they were also bright and kept the reader looking and engaged. I thought this was a great switch to classic tale that I knew.

There's A Nightmare In My Closet by Mercer Mayer

A little boy who is afraid of what lives in his closet at night decides that he is going to get rid of the nightmare once and for all. He comes up with a whole plan for how to catch him and he waits in the dark for the nightmare to come out of the closet. He turns on the light and shoots him with his cap gun. Unexpectedly the nightmare starts to cry so in order to soothe him the little boy tucks him into his bed.

I read "There's An Alligator Under My Bed" and loved it and I this story is no different. I like that there is a twist at the end. The reader is expecting to see a scary monster come out of the closet (and they do) but then the monster turns out to be very sensitive and very sweet. I love this story because it is definitely something that everyone can relate to. Who hasn't been laying in bed and thought they heard something out of the ordinary? I read this with my child study and he thought it was hilarious! Children of all ages can relate to this book and would really enjoy it!

Shibumi and the Kitemaker by Mercer Mayer

This story is about an emperor's daughter, Shibumi, who lives in a far-away kingdom with her mother and father. Her father built her a garden and she was allowed in the garden but not outside the walls so that she would be safe. She can hear all of the sounds outside the walls and she hears other children saying that she is kept in there because she is so ugly. She climbs a tree to yell at them and from the tree she looks out over the city and sees that it is nothing like what she imagined. She is used to beautiful things and in the city she sees slave traders, beggars, and garbage in the streets. Immediately she wants to talk to her father but can't because he will know she climbed a tree so she comes up with an idea to have the royal kitemaker build a kite for her to fly over the city with. By doing this she will send a message to her father-she wouldn't come down until the city was as beautiful as the palace or the palace was as run-down as the city. The emperor immediately says that he will rebuild the city but his councilors do not agree with him so they try to shoot the kite down. The kitemaker was holding the kite and saw them so he jumped off the tower and the two of them disappeared for many years. The emperor still tried to rebuild the city and a war broke out because the noblemen were greedy and didn't want to change the city. One day a samurai leaves the kingdom because he believes that the little girl is still alive and he finds her and tells her that her father has tried to change the city but he is too old now. Shibumi tries to go back with him but the palace is surrounded so she goes back and builds a giant kite so that she can enter the way she left. In the end, her father is killed in combat and Shibumi takes over.

I loved this story and I was completely surprised that it was written by Mercer Mayer. He is one of my favorite illustrators and I love his Little Critter stories but I had no idea that he wrote other stories (which sounds very naive but I only knew him for these books). The story is amazing and I think it does a great job of discussing contrasts in SES in a society and how people can change these differences and not just accept them. While the story is great, the illustrations are absolutely beautiful. They are different from his other books but the colors are still very vibrant and the scenes he creates are amazing.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009


I have really enjoyed this semester so far. I love that we get to blog our responses instead of just writing up a paper for the teacher to read. I think this has really helped me in how I present the information because I feel that when I write my reflections I am talking to my peers and fellow teachers so I write differently than if I am just telling a teacher my ideas. My favorite part of this class is that we get to read through many different types of children's books and look at them critically to decide whether or not we think they would be good to use in a classroom. Prior to this class I had never really looked into children's books, I just read them and took the information as it was presented. I didn't look deeper into them and I didn't look at it from a child's perspective. I think that these are very important when thinking about books that I want to bring into a classroom because I want to know what my students are reading and know what they are getting from the text. When I blog about the books I love getting feedback because I think it is very beneficial and it is similar to what I would like to do when I begin working in a school. I think that the discussions are very similar to conversations that I will have with teachers at any school I work for in the future and being able to present information to different people (especially those with different views/opinions) is very beneficial. This class has really helped me to begin thinking about how to use children's literature in my classroom so that students can get the most out of the texts.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

The Misfits (Part I) by James Howe

This book does an amazing job of redefining "minority." It is about a group of five 12 year olds who are trying to run for student council. They are not part of the "popular" or "in" group but they know they have something to offer and they know that they are not the only ones who can benefit from them being in student council. They represent a lot of different aspects of the school.

I loved this book because it discusses so many different topics and the title "Misfits" brings it all together perfectly. The misfits are seen as people who don't fit into the "norm" and in this book they are represented in a number of different ways, for example; a tall and very smart girl, a very round, chubby boy, and a homosexual boy, to name a few. My favorite part of this book was they way it discussed the minority in a school and how it showed that it is about a lot more than race. When Addie decides that she wants to run for student council she immediately goes looking for someone who is black and who is popular to run as president on her ticket. She does this because she thinks that if anyone knows what it is like to feel like a minority, it has got to be a black student. When DuShawn agrees to run for president he understands why she picked him to run but says "You're more oppressed than Tonni and Royal and me. I mean, we're cool." This part of the story really stuck out to me because this is exactly how it is in school. People aren't really seen as fitting in based on the color of their skin, it is based on whether or not their cool. And what makes them cool is the people they hang out with, what activities they participate in, what their families are like...race doesn't really come into play. I thought this book did an amazing job of pointing out this idea!

Mommy Laid An Egg or (Where DO Babies Come From) by Babette Cole

In this story parents are preparing to tell their children where babies come from. They come up with many different ways in which children are made; girls are sugar and spice and everything nice, and boys are slugs and snails and puppy dog tails. Then they create stories about how they are brought to the parents; some are delivered by dinosaur, made from gingerbread, the stork, and in the case of these children..mommy laid an egg. After hearing all of this from their parents the children laugh and begin to "educate" their parents.

I thought this book was really funny and also very true! It seems that parents are very uncomfortable talking to their children about where babies come from but most of the time, children already have a pretty good idea of what actually happens. I thought this book did an excellent job of showing that kids know more than we think and that by trying to "shelter" them and avoid awkward topics it makes it more awkward when they begin informing you. This book is controversial, I would say, mainly because of the illustrations. There are full pictures of the a male and female and it discusses the ways they "fit" together. I can definitely see why this would be controversial and I would be very concerned about having it in a classroom but I think that parents could really benefit from this book. I'm sure that many children would giggle and snicker (I know I did when I was reading it) but there is not reason they can't laugh about it. I think that this book would help parents present the topic in a way that the children could understand and by being able to laugh about it it would be a lot easier to talk. The end of the book does a great job of illustrating the idea that EVERYONE knows how babies are made by having a herd of animals come into the house. This book shows that it is a natural process and that it is okay to laugh about it.

Arlene Sardine by Chris Raschka

This is about a fish named Arlene who wants to be a sardine. It talks about her life and swimming around with her thousands of friends until one day she swims into a big net purse. Then, she sits in the net for a few days and is eventually lifted up to a boat and that is where she dies. However, the story doesn't end continues on talking about how she is salted and smoked (delicately). From there, it moves to her being "well rested on the conveyer belt" and then being packed into a can that is closed up with no air and being cooked.

I thought this book was interesting and it was very specific and graphic about what happens to our food before we I'm not a fan of sardines but after reading this book I would find it hard to be! I thought it was interesting how, even when talking about the not so pleasant things that happen to the fish when they are being prepared for packaging, the author didn't make it sound bad. By saying "delicately salted and smoked" and being "well rested on the conveyer belt." While I think this would be good for children who are reading this to feel more at ease with the idea of the fish being harmed, I think there was probably a hint of sarcasm as well. I think this book would be good for children because it is always important to know where the food you eat comes from. However, I think this book is a little biased and would make children feel bad for the fish, and other animals they eat, so they would feel like they shouldn't eat animals. I felt the book was promoting vegetarianism and I think it is important to show different view points. However, I think that if I had this book in a classroom I would want to find books that promote the views of people who prefer to eat meat because, as I said before, this book seem to support just one point of view.

And Tango Makes Three by Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell

This story takes place in a zoo in New York. It starts by talking about all of the animal families that live in the zoo and then it focuses on the penguins. It begins to discuss how a boy and a girl penguin find each other and beome a couple. Except for Roy and Silo. These 2 male penguins do everything together and they watch other penguin couples and they do the same things. They make a nest of stones (like the other penguins) and they sleep together (like the other penguins). Eventually, they realized that the other couples were having babies and they weren't. They found a rock and they treated as an egg; they took turns sitting on it to keep it warm and they were very cautious. The zoo keeper was watching them and realized what they were doing so he found and egg that needed to be cared for and he put it in their nest. When the new baby penguin finally arrives the zoo keeper names him Tango because it takes 2 to make Tango. From then on they lived like all of the other families in the penguin house.

I thought this book was great! I really liked that it was written from a penguin family because I think it makes it more fun and I think that children will really enjoy it. I also think that it made it really easy to make connections to humans, so even though it disconnected by talking about penguins it was easy to come back and talk about it on a more common level. I think that would be great for children as well. I liked that it talked about them watching the other penguin couples and how they did the exact same things because it shows that there really is no difference between the couples other than they are two males. My favorite part is when the zoo keeper brings an egg for them to care for because I think this could bring up a lot of great discussions, for adults and for children. It shows that although they themselves cannot have a child together, there are other ways and they can still be happy together. I thought this book did a great job of addressing the topic and making it accessable to children.

Whitewash by Ntozake Shange

This is a story about a young African-American girl named Helene-Angel. Her and her brother, Mauricio, were walking home from school and they got stopped by a group of white males. Mauricio is beaten up pretty badly and they spray painted Helene-Angel so that she is white. After the incident there is a lot of publicity and Helene-Angel does not want to come out of her room or go to school because she is ashamed of what has happened. She is embarrassed for herself but she also feels that she has embarrassed the world. When she finally decides to come out she sees all of her friends from school and they walk to school with her.

I loved this story! I wasn't sure what this book was going to be about and it totally surprised me. It was really hard to read this book and not get emotional because it is such an amazing story and it is based off of true events. I think this book really made me step back and think about how people in our country look at race and what they believe. In the story, when the boys are spray painting Helene-Angel, they are yelling things at her about being white and being American and I found this to be very interesting. Why is it that people still see white as being American? Obviously, there are plenty of Americans who are not white, yet so many people view it as being a characteristic of American. This book was really hard for me to read because it made me realize that as much as people want to believe that there are no racial issues and that everyone is equal, that's not how it is and I think it is important to understand that. For children, I think this book is very powerful and I think that it would be hard for children to understand completely what is happening and what it means but I definitely think it would be a great book for children to read so they can begin to get an understanding of these issues. The illustrations do a great job of bringing the words to life in this story and I think that this would be very beneficial for children because even if they don't fully understand what they are reading or what is being read to them, they can see the illustrations to help them understand.

The Un-Wedding by Babette Cole

This book is about 2 children, Demetrius and Paula Ogglebutt. Their parents do not get along at all. They used to get along and they used to be pretty people but because they had ugly thoughts about each other they became ugly. They would play tricks on each other and the children thought their behavior was because of them. Demetrius and Paula decide to ask if anyone else has parents like they do and they make a sign for anyone with problem parents. They find that a lot of students have the same issue and they all come to a group consensus that the parents' actions are clearly not their fault. Then, they decide the best thing for their parents is to not be married any more so they decide to "un-marry" them and the parents agree it is a great idea. The un-wedding is complete with an un-wedding cake and separate un-honeymoons. At the end the family takes down the big house they used to live in and they build 2 separate houses with a tunnel connecting them so Demetrius and Paula and go back and forth.

I thought this was a really great story about a topic that is hard for a lot of adults to talk about with children. The illustrations in this book did a really good job of depicting the children's emotions in various situations. When the parents are playing mean tricks on each other, for example, the children's faces look scared and nervous. When it discusses them feeling that their parents' behavior was because of them, their faces seem very sad. I also thought it was great that the book talked about the students talking about it in school and finding other students who were having the same problems with their parents. I think a lot of children feel like they can't talk about it in school because they feel like they are the only ones going through this type of situation but that is obviously not the case so it is important to show children that it is alright to talk about it. I did notice that in the book the family was a wealthy, white family. Their house that they had was very large and extravagant and when they tore down the old house to build two separate houses those houses were pretty extravagant as well. The idea that a family would actually be able to have a separate "honeymoon" for each parent and that they would take down a house and build two separate ones is pretty extreme and I doubt a lot of children could relate to that situation but I think that it makes the story fun. It is a pretty serious topic but it makes it fun and humorous for children and takes some pressure off the topic for a little while.