Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Love to Mama edited by Pat Mora

This book is full of poems about mothers and grandmothers and is a tribute to mothers everywhere. The poems are beautifully written and contain both Spanish and English words within them. For students coming from a Spanish background this would be great for them to have background knowledge in the language and the culture of the book so that they can relate and connect to the poetry. for students who do not have a Spanish background it is great for them to get insight into a new culture or a culture that they may not know much about. At the end of the book there is a glossary of Spanish words and phrases and it was one of my favorite parts about the book. I think that people of all ages can really benefit from reading books that contain multiple languages and cultures because it opens up their minds and exposes them to new ideas and ways of life. Aside from the text of this book, the illustrations are incredible. The colors are very bright and bring a lot of life to the poems and make it fun to read through.

Good Sports by Jack Prelutsky and Chris Raschka

This book is a poetry book all about sports. There are the typical sports- basketball, baseball, football, etc. but there are also poems about gymnastics and frisbee and sports that some people wouldn't think of right away. There is something for everyone in this book.
I think this book is great for children because it goes back to what I have said in previous posts about making poetry accessible to children. It is hard to read poetry when you are first introduced to it and it is even harder if it is about things that you have little or no experience with. By having short poems about sports (which is a topic that a lot of children know about) it helps students begin to connect with poetry and makes it relevant to them. I think that poetry books like this are a great starting point for introducing poetry to students because it allows them to combine the familiar with the unfamiliar.

Poetry for Spring selected by Lillie Patterson

This book is full of multiple poems about Spring. The poems are from various poets but they all consist of topics relating to Spring. My favorite thing about this book is the layout. The table of contents starts with "Welcome, Spring" and the first few poems are all about the beginning of Spring. Then, the poems focus on events that occur during the Spring season- Mother's Day, Easter, Arbor Day, St. Patrick's Day, etc. Finally, that last poem is Goodbye, Spring and it is about the last few days of Spring before summer arrives.
I enjoyed reading this book because when I was in school I was not interested in poetry, and even in college I still have trouble understanding some of the poems I read. Although I might not fully understand what the poet is saying or understand the way he or she is saying it, I can still understand the meaning of the poem and I can use my imagination to create scenes in my head that help me understand what I think is being said. I think books like this really help children begin to create meaning in what they are reading and shows them that they don't have to understand every piece of what they are reading in order to understand what the author is trying to tell them. I think this book is great for creating class discussions.

Winter Eyes by Douglas Florian

This book, as you might have guessed, is a book of poems all about winter. The poems are short and each one has an accompanying page that is used just for a painting of the poem. The poems are about all of the wonderful things about winter-cabins, ice fishing, sledding, etc. However, there are also great comparing and contrasting poems-What I Love About Winter followed by What I Hate About Winter.
I really enjoyed this book because, again, I think it makes poetry accessible to students. I liked that it had poems that were contrasting because I think that would be an interesting way to approach a discussion about comparison and contrast because a lot of children don't have exposure to poetry. Also, being from Iowa I love the winter and the fact that I am reading it in November just gets me thinking about all of the things that I love about winter and how great snow is!

More Small Poems by Valerie Worth

I read this book because it was mentioned in Love That Dog and it made me curious as to what it was. Just as the title states, it is a book of small poems. The poems are all of various topics-kittens, shoes, fireworks, anything you can think of.
I think this book is great, especially when children are first being introduced to poetry because it makes it very accessible to young readers. It shows them that poems don't have to be long, extravagent poems to be meaningful and that you can create poetry from anything. There are virtually no limits. I also really enjoyed this book because I usually don't read poetry but when I was reading through this I was amazed at how simple, yet powerful some of the poems were and it was fun for me to read through them.

Love That Dog by Sharon Creech

This book is about a boy named Jack who is telling a story through a series of short poems. However, he doesn't really think they are poems because he believes he doesn't understand poetry. His teacher helps him realize that everyone is a poet.
I love this book! I could completely relate to it, even now in college. Reading through the first few pages I knew exactly what Jack was saying. In my creative writing class in college we read the Red Wheelbarrow and I remember thinking, "I have no idea what this is about." As I was reading Jack's thoughts I couldn't help but laugh because it doesn't matter how old you are, sometimes you're going to feel like you just don't get it. What I loved about this book was that Jack's teacher keeps having him read poems and write poems and eventually Jack starts realizing that he can actually write poems. Throughout the entire book he keeps saying he doesn't understnad the poems they are reading and he doesn't think that his poems are that great because he doesn't really think they are poems. By the end of the story he is writing poems and putting his name on them for the entire class to see. I think this book is great for children because they can relate to it and it shows them that it's okay to not understand something right away, and also that not everyone gets the same thing out of what they are reading.

Strega Nona by Tomie dePaola

This is about a girl name Nona who grows up with her grandmother in Italy. Her grandmother is a strega (someone who does magic and creates potions and lotions) and eventually Nona will become a strega. She learns from her grandmother and when her grandmother decides to retire Nona takes over the business and gets the secret to her grandmother's magic. She becomes Strega Nona.
I read this book when I was little and I loved it! I remember thinking how cool it would be to be able to have a magic pot that made pasta for you if you sang to it. I also remember that, although my grandmother didn't do magic, I loved spending time with her and learning from her. I really enjoy reading this book and no matter how many times I read it I love it every time. I think this is great for children because I think that when they start out writing they are really focused on telling about their lives and it's very factual and this book shows that you can write stories and they don't have to be completely true. You can have fun with it!

Caps For Sale: A Tale of a Peddler, Some Monkeys, and Their Monkey Business by Esphyr Slobodkina

This book was about a man who sold a variety of caps and he stacked them on top of each other when he would walk to town to sell the caps. However, no one was buying his caps so he went to the country and found a tree to rest under for a little bit. When he woke up all of his caps were gone and he found them in the tree with a bunch of monkeys. He gets very angry and tries to get the monkeys to give the caps back but they just keep mimicking him. Eventually, he tricks the monkeys into giving the caps back and he re-stacks them on his head and walks back to town.
I remember this book from when I was in school and I thought it was really funny. I loved reading this book because it was just fun to watch the monkeys and see how the peddler was going to get the hats back. I think that this book would be fun in a classroom because it is simple but you can do a lot with it. The class could create their own play and act out the scenes or they could create a similar story and make their own books. This story is great for getting young children involved in reading!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Painted Dreams by Karen Lynn Williams

This book is about a little girl named Ti Marie and her love of painting. In the beginning of the story Ti Marie uses bricks and rocks to created colors for her paintings. However, she does not have a lot of time to paint because she has to look after her two younger siblings while her mother goes to sell food at the market and her father goes to work in the field. One day while she is watching her siblings she sees the bocor (priest and healer), Msie Antoine. His yard is full of houses that have brightly painted pictures on them that Ti Marie falls in love with. Then, she sees him painiting and she sees all of the paints that he is using. She wishes she had paints like his so she sneaks out one night and she finds his old paint tubes that he had thrown away and she uses the last little bits of the paint. She goes to the market to help her mother and she realizes that their area never really gets looked at when people come to the market because it is so far back. Ti Marie decides to help her mother and she finds a wall that she can clear and make into a "canvas." Many people stop by their cart to see her painting and end up buying from her mother. For the rest of the book she is able to practice her painting and the bocor tells her that she is doing a great job.
I think this story is great because children can really see how it is important to find something you believe in and keep going. Ti Marie's mother didn't quite agree with her through the entire process because she knew it might not happen and she need Ti Marie for help. However, even without the full support of her mother she still did what she had to do to help her mother/family and to get the paints/materials that she needed.

Shadows by April Pulley Sayre

This book is about two friends who discover their shadows and then they continue to find all the things around them that have shadows.
I thought this book was really sweet. It had a "stop and smell the roses" theme to me. It's easy to notice peoples' shadows but it's not so easy to notice a flower's shadow, or a tree's shadow, or the fact that a person's hat creates a shadow. I really enjoyed this book because it pointed things out that I had never thought about before and did it in a way that I hadn't thought of before. The illustrations really bring the idea of shadows into the overall pictures. The illustrator used acrylics and there aren't really definite lines but you can still see the basic picture; which is just like a shadow. I thought this story was great and I think children would love it. It could be a great resource for discussing details and being specific in stories and why it is important in stories.

Abuela by Arthur Dorros

This story is about a little girl named Rosalba and her abuela. The two go for a bus ride and then they go to the park. While there they feed the birds and Rosalba begins to imagine what it would be like if one of the birds picked her up. The rest of the story is Rosalba telling the reader what all her and her grandmother would do if they were flying in the sky.
I thought this book was great for many reasons. I really enjoyed that it was from a different cultural background because I think that that can bring a lot to a classroom. Also throughout the story there are Spanish words along with English words. In a classroom this would be great for students because non-Spanish speakers would become familiar with some pieces of the language and native Spanish speakers would be familiar with them and may feel more comfortable reading a book with a little of both English and Spanish. Aside from the cultural benefits that this book could bring to a classroom I also think it is a great book for encouraging imagination! Who hasn't watched birds flying above them and thought about what it might be like if we could do that? The illustrations are amazing! The reader can see what is going on in the background of all of the pictures but the main focus stays on Rosalba and her abuela. This story is beautifully written and illustrated and it could bring a lot of beneficial elements to a classroom.

So Far From the Bamboo Grove by Yoko Kawashima Watkins

This story is about a young Japanese girl living in northern Korea during the Japanese occupation of Korea. I read this book after reading A Year of Impossible Goodbyes and I think it made it that much more interesting for me. I already had all the ideas of what it was going to be about and it was not what I was expecting at all. I still did not know much about the history of these events so I thought it was interesting to learn more about it and also to have another perspective. In reading A Year of Impossible Goodbyes it seemed that the Japanese had it very easy. However, in this book it shows that that was not the case. I really enjoyed the pace of this book because I found it hard to put down, I wanted to keep reading to see what happened to Yoko and her family. I also felt this was very emotional to read because it seemed that the characters had horrible situations to deal with over and over again. The fact that this story is based off of true stories made it even more unbelievable because I can't imagine being eleven and going through all of these things and being forced to grown up so quickly.
At the beginning of the book there is a letter from the author telling why she chose to write this book and I thought that was a great addition to the book. I think it helped me get into the story even more because she said she was writing to tell her own life experiences. Through the entire book I kept thinking how awful it was that people actually had to go through this and the fact that she survived creates an even more amazing story. As I said with the other book, I think this book would be great in the classroom. It would be great by itself but by pairing the two together I think it really creates amazing discussion and also helps students understand that stories have multiple perspectives.

Year of Impossible Goodbyes by Sook Nyul Choi

This story is about a young Korean girl named Sookan and her life during the Japanese occupation of Korea. I really enjoyed this story because prior to reading this I really had no idea about what actually happened in this area of the world during this time. I don't feel like the Japanese occupation is something that is covered in school curriculum so I really had no information about it. For me, this book was really emotional to read. At times I was excited and happy that the family had gotten out or had passed through a trying time but then right after that page there was an extremely sad or intense part where they were back to fearing for their lives hoping not to get caught. I cannot imagine being so young and going through these situations. Even going to school was a horrible experience and it seemed to me that Sookan stayed very positive (for what she was put through).
The mos surprising part of the story for me was towards the end when the war is over and the Koreans are celebrating. After the war, everything seems to be getting better for the family. Then, Korea is taken over by Russian communists. However, in the book it did not seemed to be portrayed as a negative thing at first. When I was reading this portion of the story I couldn't believe how happy the Koreans seemed to have the Russian there. What they had gone through was so horrible that even though the they were taken over by the Russians it was still better than what they were living through.
I can definitely see how this book would be perfect for a classroom. Even if it wasn't paired with So Far From the Bamboo Grove I still think it would be very beneficial because it is offering insight into a time in history that many students no very little about.