Tuesday, May 20, 2008


Author: Cynthia Lord

Published by: Scholastic 2007

Genre: Realistic Fiction Novel

Age Range: grades 4-6

Newbery Honor book, Schneider Family Book Award

This wonderful book follows Catherine, age 12, as she struggles to have a "normal" life. What makes her different from other kids her age? She has a little brother with autism and her family is centered around his disability. She uses rules to help her brother, David, pick up on social things that most children pick up on without instruction. Some of these rules include: "No toys in the fish tank", "If the bathroom door is closed, knock (especially if Catherine has a friend over)!", "Sometimes people laugh when they like you. But sometimes they laugh to hurt you.", etc. Catherine goes with David and her mom to David's occupational therapy appointments. She started when she was little because she was too young to stay at home alone, but now that she is older she continues to go because it allows her to have time alone with her mom. There is a boy, Jason, and his mother that have the same appointment times as David. Jason sits in a wheel chair and can't talk so he must communicate through word cards. Slowly Catherine and Jason form a friendship. Catherine provides him with more words with which to communicate and he teaches Catherine how to be more confident in herself and not to care so much about what other people think.

This was a beautiful book. There are so many quotable parts in here, as well as learning opportunities. It provides a way for the reader to see into the lives of people with dissabilities and see how much they can do, and understand and how valuable they are. This book could help readers get rid of missunderstandings and fear and hopefully encourage readers to get to know these people instead of pitying them from afar. It also has themes of not feeling accepted, making new friends, feeling forgotten. I really just loved this book and would recommend it to anyone, including older readers.

In the book Catherine has a rule for David that says, " If you don't have the words you need, borrow someone else's. If you need to borrow words, Arnold Lobel wrote some good ones." Arnold Lobel wrote the Frog and Toad books. It is really beautiful how David uses Lobel's words for his needs. One part of the book has David waiting for his dad to come home and take him to the video store but he's running a little late. Catherine trys to get David's mind off of this by having him count cars that drive by until their dad gets there. In frustration David crys, " 'The whole world is covered with buttons, and not one of them is mine!'" By this David meant that out of all of the cars passing by none of them belonged to their father. I think that goes to show how smart David is. He made that connection and though it doesn't make sense to someone who doesn't know him or Frog and Toad, it does make sense.

Catherine is very artisitic and is always carrying around her sketchbook and working in it. She says some wonderful things about art and drawing that I have to quote one on this blog:

" Looking closer can make something beautiful. Sometime I can change how I feel about something by drawing it. Drawing makes me find curves, the shadows, the in and outs, and the beautiful parts." pg. 19 - This one also says something about people too. Looking closer at something or someone that seems weird, or unusual upon first glance can show you that there is actually beauty, and value there.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

In the Small, Small Pond

Author/Illustrator: Denise Fleming

Publisher: Henry Holt 1993

Genre: Children's book

Age Range: K-1st

Caldecott Honor Book

This book names some of the different animals that can be found in a small pond. Itss simple phrases list different verbs that these animals do like "lash, lunge herons plunge." The illustrations are very bright and colorful and show the different animals that being described.

I really love the illustrations in this book. Fleming creates them using colored cotton pulp which she pours through stencils that she makes. In the end the water is pressed out and the different colored pulp comes together to make paper that has the image set in. I think this is such a unique method of illustrating and something that can definitely be adapted for the classroom.

For an art class the teacher could have prepared bottles of different colored paper pulp which the students could use to pour onto screens and make their own paper images. The pulp wouldn't have to be cotton pulp it could be made from tearing pieces of different colored construction paper, which the kids can help with, and then blending them in the blender with some water to create a pulp. I like the idea of letting students become familiar with different types of fiber arts from an early age. The fiber arts have often been labled as crafts and not been included in the higher art genre but as time goes on they are beginning to come into this scene through artists who take these methods to the next level. This book could also be used in an english lesson when learning about verbs. Fleming uses some really great verbs like wiggle, wriggle, waddle, parade, hover, shiver, etc.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

The Straight Line Wonder

Author: Mem Fox

Illustrator: Marc Rosenthal

Published by: MONDO 1997

Genre: picture book

Age Range: grades 1-2

This book is about a straight line that, one day, decides he doesn't want to be straight anymore and starts to wiggle, and twirl and bend into different kinds of lines. A couple of his straight line friends tell him to stop because the other straight lines won't like it and will stare but he continues to be himself and try out different things. Eventually all the lines decided to abandon him, they didn't want anything to do with him because he wouldn't be a straight line like he was "supposed" to be. He keeps on twirling and wiggling and making himself into a different kind of line until a famous film director sees him and makes him into a movie star and the other lines accept him again.

I think this is a cute way to talk about being different and how we should treat those that are different than ourselves. This line didn't want to follow the crowd and he perservered in his dream to not be a straight line even though everyone else tried to put him down and make him stop. The story uses a lot of repetition of phrases which can help the readers to learn the words. I can see this being read to a class and the students filling in what the second and third line say to the first everytime he makes a different kind of line. "Stay straight, silly!" and "People will stare!"

Line is one of the elements of art that children must learn. This story could be a fun lead into making different kinds of line and talking about how line is used in art. There can be straight lines, curved lines, thin lines, thick lines, many, many different kinds of lines. Students could make art using different lines and different tools to make lines. Students will already have been using line to create art for years because a line is what we make when we pick up any drawing tool but it is important to understand what can really be accomplished with line. Line creates shapes and forms, it can create depth of field, texture, etc.

Some artwork made up of lines:

"Line No. 50" by Zdenek Sykora

"Urban Jewels" by Denyse Thomasos

Monday, April 28, 2008

Imagine That! Poems of Never-Was

Selected by: Jack Prelutsky

Illustrator: Kevin Hawkes

Published By: Alfred A. Knopf 1998

Genre: picture book, poetry

Age Range: grades 1-3

This book is a collection of poems by different authors all having to do with creatures and creations that are purely from the imagination.
I really enjoyed this poetry because they were about things that I might never have been able to dream of myself. They show how creative a person can be. I also like these compolations of different writers because it offers the reader a variety of writers that they can look up more about if they like a particular poem. They can look for more of what that poet had written.
One of my favorite poems from the collection:
The Flotz by Jack Prelutsky
I am the Flotz, I gobble dots,
indeed, I gobble lots and lots,
every dot I ever see
is bound to be a bite for me.
I often munch on myriads
of sweet, abundant periods,
I nibble hyphens, and with ease
chew succulent apostrophes.
From time to timeI turn my gaze
to little dotted "i's" and "j's"
and if I chance upon a dash,
I soon dispatch it with panache.
I chomp on commas half the day,
quotation marks are rarer prey,
a semicolon's quite a treat,
while polka dots are joys to eat.
When I confront a dotted line,
my tongue flicks out, those dots are mine,
Morse code becomes a feast, and yes,
I've snacked upon an S.O.S.
For I'm the Flotz, who gobbles dots,
I gobble them in pails and pots,
and you'll not like my brief embrace
if you have freckles on your face.
I really like this poem because it is funny and creative and names many of the punctuation marks that the readers may be learning about such as commas and periods. This poem is also fun because it rhymes. Students can learn about different rhyme schemes such as the aabbccdd scheme of each stanza of this poem. This poem also includes words that might be new to the reader such as "myriad" or "panache" this sets up a good opportunity for students to learn new vocabulary. All of the poems in this collection are so creative and have creative pictures to illustrate what they are describing. Creativity is something that is very important to art. If students are having a hard time trying to come up with an idea for a poem one approach could be to have them draw things from their imagination or their dreams and use this as a jumping off point to writing thier own poems "Never-was".

Who's Afraid of the Big Bad Book?

Author/Illustrator: Lauren Child
Published By: Hyperion Books 2002
Genre: Children's book, traditional-ish

Age Range: grades k-3

This book is about Herb who loves storybooks and uses the pictures to help him figure out the story. He would take his books everywhere and even read them while he was eating which lead to many splotches and other things getting on his pages. One night Herb falls into his story book and wakes to find himself being yelled at by none other than Goldilocks telling him to get out of her story. He runs down the stairs and runs into the three bears. As Herb runs away from the screaming Goldilocks he encounters other traditional children's tales such as Hansel and Gretel, and Puss in Boots, and eventually makes it to a castle and then to where Cinderella is waiting for her Fairy Godmother. Throughout the story there is evidence of where Herb has altered his storybook by cutting things out or pasting things in, or drawing telephones in every scene, which is my favorite. He has to fix some of the problems he has created for these story book characters before he can find his way out but in the end he makes his way back home and fixes some of the things he has done.

This story is so original and creative. I love how the reader is encouraged to really interact with the book through Child's use of text on the page as well as pages you unfold or an actual hole in the paper that leads from one page to another. She also includes so many details that one can only catch upon multiple readings such as the "stains" left by food or what looks like a banana sticker stuck to the littlest of the three bears. She also incorporates some characters from her other books, such as the wolf with the eye-patch wearing a dress who is in her book "Beware of the Storybook Wolves" which also has Herb as the main character.
I thought this story could be a good introduction into an art activity where the students made their own altered books. Sometimes books are so loved that pages are torn out or stained or stuck together and eventually these books may get thrown away or can be found for very cheap at Thrift stores or yard sales. These books could provide an excellent "canvas" for an artist of any age all it requires is a little creativity. Students could add in pages of their own to replace torn pages or just to broaden the story. They could also go in and cut out or draw or paste onto illustrations in the book to create a new scene. This activity could be paired with an english lesson where they write the story that goes along with their new illustrations.

Look! Body Language in Art

Author: Gillian Wolfe

Published By:Francis Lincoln Limited 2004

Genre: picture book, Informational

Age Range: grades 3-5

This book looks at different artwork and shows the viewer how body language can communicate different feelings and events. It looks at the body by breaking it up into different parts such as the face, hands, and body pose and encourages the reader to figure out what is going on in the scene by "reading" the body. At the end of the book the author provides more information about the artwork used and the artists who made them.

I stumbled upon this book in the library and was so excited to see a children's book addressing this concept. It is important not only in art but in the real world to understand that communication does not just occur via spoken or written language but that people can understand each other using other things. During times when I have had to communicate with people that spoke a different language than myself, I found that we could still understand each other by looking at our tone or body posture or by acting things out to one another. This book is another that teaches children while introducing them to famous works of art.

In an art class it will be important for students to understand that they need to make the bodies and gestures of their subjects match the tone and mood they are trying to create in their artwork. Students could practice different faces or postures that they associate with different feelings. It would be a fun activity to have them act these out as a class before they begin drawing. Students could then choose a feeling that they want to portray and use what they have learned to accomplish it.

Winter Lights

Author/Illustrator: Anna Grossnickle Hines

Published By: Greenwillow Books, 2005

Genre: picture book, poetry, multicultural

Age Range: Grades 2-4

This collection of poems describes the different lights that can be seen during the winter such as the light caught in an icicle, holiday lights on houses, lights from different winter holiday traditions such as Santa Lucia, or the menorah, and many more. This book does a good job of describing lights from many different cultures that make up American culture, not just those of Western culture.

The main thing that made this book stand out for me, though, was the fact that all of the illustrations are quilted! Thats right, not drawn or painted, but made of pieces of fabric quilted together to make beautiful and intricate scenes. One of my favorites is a scene that looks like luminaries lining a pathway to a house. The lights stand out so brightly against the dark background and their are other warm colored clothes surrounding the luminaries to look like the light falling on the ground around them. Absolutely beautiful!!

This collection of poems could be used in the classroom during the winter months and would be a good way to incorporate the many different cultural traditions that occur in the winter. Students could also learn about quilting and the traditions that go along with it. Quilting is a craft that has been important in many areas of the world to show heritage, and different patterns represent different things such as where a person or family is from. Quilting also often brings people together because women would get toghether to work on quilts and became a social thing for them. Hines ends her books with an explanation of how she made some of her designs. She learned quilting from her mother and has really turned it into an artform. I think it is important to show these types of artistic expression because often fiber arts are lumped into the craft category and not given as much recognition. Some people believe that this lack of recognition is due to the fact that often the creaters of these types of art were women so their accomplishments were not as valued as the paintings or sculpting done by men. Students could try designing their own quilt patterns to represent them or scenes that they connect with. This could also provide an opportunity to bring in an artist or craftsperson who knows how to quilt to teach the students.

Check out this website: it explains some of the traditions behind each of the lights described in "Winter Lights" and how Hines accomplished her illustrations. Click Me!

This is Hines second book of Poems and Quilts. Her first is called "Pieces: A Year in Poems and Quilts" and won the Lee Bennett Hopkins Award for Children's Poetry in 2002.

Unlikely Pairs: Fun with Famous Works of Art

Author: Bob Raczka

Published By: Millbrook Press 2006

Genre: Picture book, informational

Age Range: Grades 2-5

This book has no words, just pictures, but that is the whole point. In the introduction the author explains how people usually view art one work at a time, as artists generally intend for their work to be viewed. Raczka suggests that we look at them differently in "unlikely" combonations that can create fun, funny new meanings. He provides the reader with pairs of art from different genres and time periods and the viewer is left to find new meaning for themselves.

I really like this book, it is something that I did not expect to find made for young readers. It offers them a way to look at famous works of art while also teaching them to look at the world differently. Most of these combonations were funny but different combonations could produce different affects.

This book could be used for a range of ages. Students could find their own interesting combonations with their favorite artwork. This would encourage the students to look at many different kinds of art and get acquanted with different artists and genres. It could also be used with older students to teach about appropriation in art, or using other artists work and altering it to make your own meaning such as Marcel Duchamp's drawing a mustache on the Mona Lisa.

I Wanna Iguana

Author: Karen Kaufman Orloff

Illustrator: David Catrow

Published By: Scholastic Inc. 2004

Genre: picture book, realistic fiction

Age Range: grades 1-2

The story in this book is made up of letters written between Alex, who wants an iguana very much, and his mother, who does not want him to have one. In the letters Alex tries to convince his mom that an iguana would make a great pet and that he would take very good care of it. His mom writes back her reasons for not wanting him to have one.

This book is so cute and funny. Alex always signs his letters with different descriptions of himself before he signs his name. My favorite couple of letters read as follows:

"Dear Mom,

Forget the girl. I need a new friend now! This iguana can be the brother I've always wanted.


Your lonely child,


"Dear Alex,

You have a brother.



The pictures that go along with the letters are also so funny and brightly colored. They really add to the playful tone of the book.

This book would be a great way to teach kids about letter writing and the proper format such as the greeting, like "Dear Mom," or "Dear Alex", the body of the letter, the closing, and the signature. Alex uses a couple of words to close his letters: Signed, and Love. He also adds in his descriptions of himself into the closing. A class could talk about other options such as "sincerely", or "forever yours", and when to use the different options. Alex also makes a good argument for getting an iguana, even presenting facts that I assume he found himself. Students could learn about looking into different things they are interested in so as to make their own decisions about what is good or bad for them.


Author: Ken Nordine
Illustrator: Henrik Drescher
Published By: Harcourt, Inc. 2000
Genre: picture book, poetry
Age Range: grades 4-5

There is lots and lots of color poetry out there, but this book has got to be one of my favorites. "Colors" began as radio advertisements for paint, giving fun new descriptions for the different colors, but people liked them so much that Nordine ended up recording them and calling them word jazz and then wrote them down combined them with Drescher's illustrations and now they are a children's book. He begins with green, my favorite color, and gives green a personality, describing it as "an intellectual vibration, smack dab in the middle of spectrum," then he goes on to describe all the "different greens inside of green". Green is also a trouble maker but is put in his place by blue and yellow who tell him they could make their own green if they needed to. After green comes blue, called Azure. Next is black and white and gray and lavender and on and on. Nordine doesn't just describe your basic primary and secondary colors but names others like, olive and burgundy, and turquoise. (click on any of the highlighted words to hear a clip of Nordine's "word jazz")

I love how fun this poetry is. The wording is a little advanced so it would be best for the older elementary age. I also really like the illustrations in this book. They are very playful and childlike. They are done on what looks like graph paper with different media such as watercolor,pen, collage, and others.

For most kids, learning to identify color is one of the first things they do and most come to school knowing the basic colors, but this book provides a new way to see color. Using this book and their own imaginations students can learn about the "personalities" of color and how different colors make us feel different ways and can even change the way we see things. Students can talk about the symbology of colors, like green standing for envy etc. Students can learn about the color wheel and terms that help define color like "primary colors", "secondary colors", "complementary colors", "tones", "values", "hues", etc. Students could also look at how color can direct the viewer's attention in an art piece, like how red pops out and catches the eye first. Students could also learn about what colors come together to form other colors and try mixing colors themselves. Students could make their own color wheels and draw different color characters that take on the personality that they think that color has. Another idea would be to have the students all choose different colors and make thier own color creatures or illustrations and then work together as a class to place their colors in the correct places to create a huge color wheel.

A Blogging of Thoughts

Becoming Naomi Leon
Author: Pam Munoz Ryan
Published by: Scholastic Inc. 2004
Genre: Realistic Fiction, Multicultural
Age Range: grades 4-5

Becoming Naomi Leon is about a shy little girl named Naomi who lives with her great-grandmother and little brother, Owen, in a small trailer they call Baby Beluga in Lemon Tree, California. Naomi's real name is Naomi Soledad Leon but her Gram added her last name of Outlaw to Naomi and Owen's to make them feel more like a family. In the beginning of the book Naomi's biggest worry is the trouble that some of the boys at school give her about her name but as the book goes on new worries come into her life. Naomi and her brother started living with their Gram when they were very young and can't really remember anything about their parents or their lives with them. When Naomi came to live with Gram she wouldn't talk and they found out that she had selective mutism from her insecurities and other things she may have suffered while living with her mother, and Owen had to have many surgeries to help correct some physical problems that he had. Naomi has few friends in the beginning, she doesn't see herself as one of the "makeup-sleepover girls", but she has adults in her life that love her like her teacher and the librarian, as well as some close neighbors that share her Mexican heritage, they are from the same town in Mexico as Naomi's father. Naomi has trouble voicing what is inside or her and uses art, specifically carving, and her notebook filled with lists to help express what she is thinking and feeling. Within the first few chapters of the book, the children's mother comes back into their lives which is exciting and scary for them. At first she seems promising but they soon find out her flaws and her plan that threatens to break up the little family that Naomi needs so much. In trying to protect Naomi from this, Gram and their neighbors Bernardo and Fabiola, take her and Owen on a trip to Mexico to find their father. In Mexico they find out that their father has always loved them but thought he couldn't see them because of threats made by their mother. Naomi also finds out that her talent for carving is one that runs in the Leon family, she even gets to carve in a festival that her family has carved in for over 100 years, La Noche de los Rabanos. In the end Naomi is reunited with her father and finds the strength to raise her voice and stand up for herself and her brother in order to keep her family together.

I really enjoyed this book. I think that it does a good job of incorporating cultural details without making it seem like they are just stuck in there as a side note. When Naomi makes a new friend at school named Blanca ,who also has Mexican heritage, she learns some Spanish words through her. She also learns Spanish words and customs from Bernardo and Fabiola and their family that she meets down in Mexico. Naomi does not know how to speak Spanish so it comes naturally, that the other characters would teach her and through that the reader will learn as well. Naomi and Owen come from one parent that is white American and one parent that is Mexican and are being raised by their great-grandmother, so in that alone this book is breaking not only racial stereotypes that suggest people should marry within their own race but also stereotypes about family. This book shows that a family does not have to be a mom, dad, and children who all resemble one another. A family can be a group of people who love and care for one another. If Naomi was to draw a picture of her family she would probably draw her Gram, her brother Owen and probably her neighbors Bernardo and Fabiola, and maybe even Mrs. Maloney. She would probably have to use a different color to depict the difference in their skin tones. Naomi has dark hair, skin and eyes and Owen has the opposite but that does not mean that they are not family or that their Gram will love them any differently. Readers are with Naomi as she learns more about her heritage. She really grasps onto the things she finds out about her ancestry and is proud of what her ancestors have accomplished. I really enjoy how the author introduces the reader to new vocabulary and ideas through Naomi's lists that she makes in her notebook. She has her list "Splendid Words" and "Superb Spanish Words". She doesn't just hear these words and then move on, she hears them and recognizes them as new and different and writes them down. Most children when they hear a new word will show some interest, they may ask what it means or may remember it to look it up later. Ryan provides an insider's perspective with this book because she has Mexican heritage as well. This makes me feel like she has a better understanding than an author who has simply researched Mexican culture. She knows what it is like to grow up in the culture that she is presenting to the reader.

This book would be great to use in the classroom to introduce diverse perspectives, and can spur on a bunch of other related activities. Students could make their own splendid word lists to learn new vocabulary, both Spanish and English. To practice this vocabulary the teacher could use the words in a Wheel of Fortune-esque game that the class could play just like the tv show that Gram and Fabiola always watched. For an art classroom it would be great to use this time to learn about Mexican artists and artforms as well as let students try soap carving. Naomi was working on a sculpture in her art class so this would be a good time to learn about three dimensional art forms and what goes along with that. Their are also a few extras in the back of the book that students can use to learn more about what the author used to write the book. I really like how it taught about collective nouns which come from the chapter titles. The author used descriptions of the animals and turned them into collective nouns for the chapter titles which also corresponded with what went on in the chapter. I really liked "a schizophrenia of hawks" and "an unkindness of ravens". In "an unkindness of ravens" Naomi's mom dyes her hair raven brown to match Naomi's dark hair, they also saw in this chapter some of their mothers meaner qualities.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone

Author: J.K. Rowling
Illustrator: Mary Grandpre
Published by: Scholastic Inc. 1997
Genre: Fantasy novel
Age Range: 4th-6th grade

In book one, or year one, we meet Harry and learn a little about his past, his parents' death, and how he survived a killing curse from Lord Voldemort, which led to Voldemort's ruin, or so some people think. Harry lives with his Aunt and Uncle and cousin, who are muggles (non-magical people), and has no idea that he is a wizard. They treat him terribly but despite all of this he still has grown into a loving and humble boy. As it gets closer to his eleventh birthday he begins to start receiving letters in a very strange way, via owls, and on his eleventh birthday he finally finds out he is a wizard and will be attending Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Within the first few weeks of school Harry makes some big choices, some of which he will not find out the significance of until later, about the house he wants to belong to and those he chooses as friends and enemies. Some of these friends include Ron Weasley and Hermione Grainger who will remain his friends through thick and thin. They form the perfect combination of talent, loyalty, cleverness and most of all courage that help them through the challenges they face in this book and the rest. Their curiosity also leads them into many of the adventures that they have, including fighting a troll in the bathroom and wanderings through the hallways under an invisibility cloak after hours. In the end Harry and his friends figure out the mystery of what is being hidden in the school that all of the teachers have been protecting and they think they know who they should be protecting it from. They go to save the object and Harry ends up triumphing once again over Lord Voldemort, who is still alive but must rely on his remaining followers. Harry's courage and the love that his mother gave in giving her life to protect him as a child help him to succeed in this challenge.

This book is so good, and I especially love it because it is a part of a series. In this book the reader will begin what will be a seven year journey (in book time), if one reads the whole series. Even if one doesn't read the whole series it is still great book by itself because Harry and his friends have separate obstacles and challenges in each book that ultimately lead up to the overall challenge of defeating the evil Lord Voldemort. I started reading it way before we were assigned to because I was so excited to start, and I became hooked and within a few weeks I had finished to whole series. Rowling uses the fantasy genre to touch on real life challenges that we all meet. For example, Harry has choices that he has to make. He could choose to take advantage of the fame that he receives in the wizarding world and become proud and maybe join forces with the Slitherins and Draco Malfoy who are very proud and prejudice but instead he chooses to make friends with people who are caring and sincere and chooses to belong with the Griffendors, who stand apart because of their courage and chivalry. Other themes of the book are good vs evil, the power that love can have to allow good to triumph over evil, and a desire to belong. It touches on the injustice of prejudice and how it can hurt people through how the Slitherins look down on wizards who are not pure-blood and other magical creatures that are not wizards (this theme is brought out more as the books continue).

During one of his wanderings through the school Harry stumbles upon a mirror that shows not just his reflection but the image of himself with his parents as if they were still alive and they were one happy family. This mirror is called the Mirror of Erised and on it are the words "erised stra ehru oyt ube cafru oyt on wohsi" which if you reverse the spelling of and move the spaces around says "I show you not your face but your heart's desire." The thing Harry wants most in the world is his parents back and to have a happy family, something he has never experienced in his memory since his parents were killed when he was so young. Later in the book Harry sees something else in the mirror, something that Voldemort wants very badly but can not get because of a very clever idea on Dumbledore's part. Harry shares the mirror with Ron and he sees himself as Head Boy and Captain of the Quidditch team. This shows Ron's desire to prove himself and make himself standout both among his brothers who have been head boys and precepts and pranksters, and his famous friend Harry who has become "the youngest seeker in a century" on the Griffendor Quidditch team. I think if I looked in the mirror right now I would see myself with my friends on the beach because at this point in the year my greatest desire is for school work to be over and for summer to begin. The first thing I am doing after returning home this summer is heading to the beach with my highschool friends on what has become an annual summer trip to the beach, this tradition in my mind will mark the beginning of my summer.

An activity that students could do would be to make their own Mirrors of Erised and draw, paint, collage, be as creative as they can be to show what they would see in the reflection. This is my Mirror of Erised. I made a frame for it and painted a beach scene on tin foil to represent the reflection of my trip in a shiny mirror.

Monday, April 7, 2008


Author: Nikki Giovanni

Illustrator: Bryan Collier

Published by: Scholastic, 2007

Genre: Biography, Picture Book

Age Range: grades 3-5

Caldecott Honor Book

Coretta Scott King Award Winner

This book tells the story of Rosa Parks and how the integrity and courage that she displayed by refusing to give up her seat on a bus because of a prejudice and unjust law led to a bus boycott that in the end helped gain more rights for African Americans and reminded our nation that "we are all equal under the law and are all entitled to its protection." This story also introduces Martin Luther King Jr. a leader in the civil rights movement. It also mentions groups like the NAACP and the Women's Political Council, as well as other important historical events such as desegregation in schools, and the death of Emmett Till.

I found the illustrations in this book to be very interesting. They were accomplished using watercolor and collage. I also enjoyed the artist's note at the beginning of the book about how he visited the actual settings of these events and drew inspiration from the heat that he felt in Alabama. The heat came through in the illustrations in the yellowish and dark colors. He says that he "wanted the reader to feel in that heat a foreshadowing, an uneasy quiet before the storm."

This book could be used in the classroom to teach about the history of our nation and what people had to go through to get the rights they deserved. This book would be a good lead into learning about the Civil Rights Movement because it definatly represents the feelings and mood of that time and introduces many terms, events and people that are important to understanding this time in history and the whole concept behind this movement. It also is a good lead into discussions about how we should and shouldn't treat others. In grade 4 in art, students are to learn about how to incorporate multi-step processes into their work. The technique used by Collier is multi-step in that he painted and then cut out what he painted and used collage to create his illustrations.

Slap, Squeak & Scatter

Author/Illustrator: Steve Jenkins

Published by: Houghton Mifflin Company, 2001

Genre: Informational text, picture book

Age Range: grades 2-4

This book is about the different ways animals communicate. Jenkins breaks the book into sections. The first section describes how animals use sound to warn other members of their groups about danger. A beaver slaps it's tail against the water, for example. The second section describes how animals communicate whether they want to be friendly with other animals or want to fight. The next section explains how some animals use different forms of communication to find a mate. The fourth section gives examples of how animals keep their groups together or locate one another. The fifth section shows how animals tell each other where they can find food and the last section tells how animals mark their territory to communicate that it is theirs. Jenkins, again uses collages of interesting papers from around the world to illustrate the different animals he writes about and the environments that they are acting in.

This is the second Steve Jenkins book that I have read and I loved it, just as I loved the other one. When I began to read this book I was babysitting 3 year olds and decided I might be able to get some school work done at the same time. I pulled the book out to sit down and read it myself but the minute one of the 3 year olds saw it she was immediatly in my lap ready to be read to. She loved his illustrations and liked trying to name the different animals. Some of the animals represented were unfamiliar to her but they were also unfamiliar to me. We were both learning from this book. I think that shows the power of good informational children's literature, it can show new ideas to both a 3 year old and a 20 year old. When a book can teach children that are being read to, children that are reading on their own, and the adults that read to children that shows that it is quality literature. I also love Jenkins' illustrations. They are so realistic for them to be made out of paper. I found myself showing this book to fellow art majors, who found that they enjoyed his technique as well.

This book would be great in the regular classroom as well as the art classroom. Teachers could use it to teach lessons about different kinds of animals, but they could also use it to talk about communication with in the classroom. After reading this book and seeing how animals communicate, students could work together as a class or maybe in small groups to think about different ways that humans communicate. These discussions could lead to talking about ways to communicate that would encourage working together, violence provention, dealing with arguments, and other skills that will help children to treat each other with respect. Students could also find out what other cultures find offensive or polite and this could teach students to not jump to conclusions about how they interpret what another is communicating. Art is a form of communication but different people and different cultures have their own set of ideas behind what different symbols and imagery mean. One of the competency goals in the NC Standard course of Study as early as grade 1 aks students to "choose and evaluate a range of subject matter and ideas to communicate intended meaning in artworks." A competency goal for grade 2 is for the learner to "develop skills neccessary for understanding and applying media, techniques and processes." This includes learning how to use cut paper, express mood and feelings and create visual effects and textures using the learned media. What better way to teach what can be accomplished with cut paper than to show them the work of Steve Jenkins?

Informational Text in Children's Literature

April 2, 2008-
My initial reaction to informational text is the fear that it might be boring. Often we are presented with factual information in the form of a text book which can often suck all the life and interest out of a topic or important person. I am hoping that informational children's literature will be different. I am hoping that the author's of these books will help to create enthusiasm in the reader to learn more about the subject matter they are presenting. I also hope that illustrators of these books help to create interest as well through their use of media that appeals to children and can help them invision these new areas they would be reading about.

April 7, 2008-
In reading some informational children's books I found that my hopes were satisfied. There are books out there that present information to children in interesting ways and are backed by beautiful and creative illustrations.


Author: Jonah Winter
Illustrator: Ana Juan
Published by: Scholastic Press 2002
Genre: Biography, Picture Book, Multi-cultural
Age Range: grades 2-4

This book is a biography of the life of Mexican female artist Frida Kahlo. It begins with her childhood where the reader learns about her family. Frida's dad was a photographer and she had 5 sisters which meant she had a very busy mother. The reader also learns that she was very sick as a child and learned how to draw because she was confined to her bed for so long. Art becomes a source of happiness and escape for little Frida. As she grows older she learns how to paint photographs from her father and teaches herself how to paint her own pictures. During her school age years she is in a horrible bus accident and almost dies, but in the end, she survives but to walk with a cane and cope with a body that always hurt. This experience finds its way into her artwork. She expresses her pain through her paintings and her painting is always there for her even when she is restricted by a cast around her torso. She also incorporates her Mexican culture into her paintings but retains her own unique style.

I thought this was a really cool book because it is a children's book about a Mexican female artist. It is hard enough to find non-Western cultures and/or women in art museums, so to have a children's book about one is very impressive. I really enjoyed how the illustrator painted (acrylics on wax paper) with bright colors, this will give readers a better understanding of Kahlo's style. When looking through the book there are many little surprises that help point towards Kahlo's work or Mexican culture. On almost every page there is a little skeleton figure or head. This references the Mexican tradition of the Day of the Dead, Dios los Muercos. On several of the pages the way the illustrator has set up the page mimics painting by Kahlo like the two Fridas holding hands as a girl or the older Frida wrapped in vines.

This book could be used to help students learn about Frida Kahlo. It is important for students to learn about artists of the past and especially those of non-Western cultures. In the past, mostly European artists have been studied and other cultures like that of Mexico or Africa have been overlooked. This would be a good way to look into the Mexican culture and learn about the art that is traditional there. In a lot of North Carolina schools there has been an increase in hispanic students. Incorporating their culture and background will not only help their confidence by showing that there culture is important to learn about in schools too, but hopefully it would help students understand more about each other and improve relationships.

To aid in learning about the person that a children's biography is about students could look up more information and write a bio poem.
My Frida Bio Poem

Smart, Creative, Unique, Suffering
Twice, the Wife of Mexican muralist Diego Rivera.
Lover of Drawing, Painting, and Bright Colors
Who felt lonely, sad but hopeful.
Who found happiness in painting.
Who needed to walk with a cane because of injuries from a bus accident.
Who gives credit to her Mexican culture in her painting style and themes.
Who feared not being able to paint because it was her escape from her sickness and pain.
Who wanted to see herself become a professional painter but received most of her fame after her death.
Who enjoyed painting self-portaits to express her pain.
Who likes to wear long socks to hide her less developed right leg, due to polio.
Resident of La Casa Azul (the blue house) that is now a museum in Coyoacan, Mexico

Friday, March 28, 2008

Cinderella I Poem for Two Voices

An "I poem for Two Voices" is kind of like two poems from two perspectives that are meant to be read simultaneously. In this I poem the different perspectives are coming from two different versions of Cinderella.

The first version is the Algonquin Cinderella called Little Firefly. I read Little Firefly: An Algonquin Legend adapted by Terri Cohlene and illustrated by Charles Reasoner to learn about this version of Cinderella. I also looked more into the Algonquin culture so that I could add more of their traditions and practices into Little Firefly's perspective in the I poem.

The second version is the Persian Cinderella called Settareh meaning star. To find out about this Cinderella I read The Persian Cinderella by Shirley Climo and illustrated by Robert Florczak. Climo adapted this version of the Cinderella tale from one of the tales from the volumes of The Arabian Nights. I also looked up more information on Persian customes to add to Settareh's perspective.

I found it very interesting to write an I poem for two voices. It helped me understand where each character was coming from and was a good way to find out more information about each culture. I hope you enjoy my Cinderella I poem.

click here to read my Cinderella I poem for Two Voices: click on the link next to my name.
Also read my fellow classmate's I poems about other versions of the beloved tale of Cinderella.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Princess and the Pea Venn Diagram Project

This project asked to find a creative way to compare two versions of a traditional tale using a venn diagram. I chose the story of the Princess and the Pea.

The first story was adapted and illustrated by Lauren Child. Her story followed the traditional tale that I have heard before pretty closely while ofcourse adding her own sense of humor into the narration. The King and Queen have a handsome son who needs to be married. In her story he wants to marry for love and wants her to have a certain "something". The King and Queen want him to find a real princess and she eventually finds them one stormy night. They give her dry clothes and allow her to sleep at the castle. The queen puts a single green pea under a pile of mattresses and says that if she is truely a princess she will be able to feel it. The next morning, after the princess has had a terrible nights sleep, she meets the prince and he thinks she has that "something" that he has been looking for. The queen also finds out that the princess is so sore from sleeping on the pea all night and she approves of her marrying her son.

The second story, adapted and illustrated by Alain Vaes, departed from the traditional tale a lot more. He added the story line of the Queen having a love for jewels and that is the reason she tests all the princesses so harshly when her son comes to her wanting to get married. The king and queen in this story really are kind of stupid people. After several princesses fail the test the Prince goes for a drive and his car breaks down, yes this is set in a more modern time period. A girl comes and fixes his car and he finds out that she is the princess of the neighboring country. He takes her back to his house, after she has agreed to marry him after having known him for a very short time, probably just a couple of hours. She passes all the tests and then there is the final test of the pea under all the mattresses. She doesn't sleep very well but it is not because of the pea it is because her necklace slipped around to the back and the opal jewel was sticking into her back. The next morning it appears she has passed the test and the Queen is not very happy about this until she finds out that the princess will come into ownership of the crowned jewels of her country very shortly. All in all, I thought this was a terrible adaptation but it makes for a good comparison of different variations of a traditional tale.

For the venn diagram I decided to use a teacup to represent Child's story because the Queen in this story realizes that the Princess is sore from the pea when the princess says "ouch" trying to pick up the teacup that the prince dropped. Vaes' story is represented by the opal charm that the princess wore, and the similarities are written on a pile of mattresses with the pea in the middle because they both had this element in common. For the sake of an art class I decided it would be good for students to also explore the difference in the materials used in each book's illustrations. Lauren Child uses collage as a way to illustrate her story so students could explore that method to make the object representing that story. I could not find any direct information about Vaes' materials but it looked like watercolors. Students could explore using water colors represent the object for that story. On the shared object I would suggest that students experiment with using the two techniques together, watercolor and collage.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Swamp Angel

Author: Anne Isaacs

Illustrator: Paul O. Zelinsky

Published by: Penguin Group, 1994

Genre: Picture Book, Traditional Lit

Age Range: grades 2-4

Caldecott Honor 1995

This book is a Tall Tale from the mountains of Tennessee. It is the tale of Angelica Longrider, kind of the female Paul Bunyan in size. She was taller than her mother when she was born and grew up playing with an ax and becoming known for her bravery. She got the name Swamp Angel by saving a group of covered wagons by picking them up and moving them out of the swamp. The real story, though, is about how she fights the pesky bear that came to be know as Thundering Tarnation in the neighborhood because he was stealing everyone's food, putting them in danger or not having anything stored up to eat through the winter. She joins in on the competition to put an end to his theivery. When everyone else fails, she accomplishes some pretty tall dilemmas and comes through triumphant in the end. She gets the bear and his hide and puts it in front of her cabin and today it is known as the Shortgrass Prairie. I love how tall tales usually end by giving you an explanation of why something in nature is the way it is. It just gives you even more of a since of pride of where you're from even though you know thats not why it is that way.

This was a funny tale that I have definately never heard before. It immediatly reminded me of the tall tales about Paul Bunyan because of Swamp Angel's size and the fact that it described her as "the greatest woodswoman in Tennessee." I liked how she was playing with axes, building log cabins, and was "second to none in buckskin bravery." I loved how the style of illustration fit in so well with the theme. They recall the look you would expect from the time in history that these stories derive.The illustrations were done in oil on wood veneer. The wood helps give it that old-timey feel, along with the oval and square compositions with the borders. The playfullness of the colors and the look of the characters also go along well with the story.

This book could tie in with lessons on the traditional arts of North America or of individual states. North Carolina and Tennessee would probably share a lot of cultural arts especially in the mountain regions.

Lon Po Po: A Red-Riding Hood Story from China

Author/Illustrator: Ed Young

Published by: Penguin Putnam Books for Young Readers,1996

Genre: Picture Book, Traditional Literature, Multi-cultural

Age Range: grades 2-4

Caldecott Award Winner 1990

Lon Po Po is the Chinese version of the traditional Red-Riding Hood tale. A mother lives with her three daughters in the country but one day leaves them to visit her mother for her birthday. She tells her daughters to be good while she is gone and to remember to latch the door tightly come nightfall. During the night a wolf, knowing the mother is away, comes and tricks the girls into letting him in the house by making them think that he is their grandmother, thier Po Po, come to visit. They let him in but after a while the older and most clever of the girls realizes they have been fooled and comes up with a plan to get the wolf out of the house. She tells him that he must come and try the gingko nuts that are high up in the tree outside, they have magical powers. The wolf follows them outside and the three girls eventually defeat the wolf by dropping him three times from a great height out of the basket they tell him they are using to help him climb the tree to reach the gingko nuts.

I enjoyed reading a tale that I have grown up hearing but in such a different way. It was fun to think of how this one is both alike and different from the one I have heard all my life. For example, in this one, the "grandma" comes to the house instead of the granddaughter visiting the "grandma". I also liked how these girls got out of the bad situation using their own cleverness instead of having to be saved by a woodsman hearing the cries for help like in the story from my childhood. I liked that they both shared the "my what big teeth you have"effect though, in that the girls ask why their Po Po's voice is so low, or nails so sharp.

This book provides the opportunity to look at different cultures in not only literature but also in art. The illustrations are very much in the Chinese style, especially the first one where the mother is waving goodbye to her children. The softness of the colors and line, as well as the portrayal of the landscape remind me of Chinese scroll paintings. Asian artwork has a large focus on using words, text, and pictures together to create the art. This book also introduces us to the use of watercolor and pastels. Students can experiment with using chalk pastels to achieve the bright colors and the different qualities of line and shading. Students can learn that a hard line can be accomplished and produce bright colors or they can smear them to get the hazy look that is used often in this book. They can also mix the colors together to get a gradation of color.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

I Will Never Not Ever Eat a Tomato

Author/Illustrator: Lauren Child

Published by: Candlewick Press, 2000

Genre: Picture Book, Multi-cultural

Age Range: k-3

Kate Greenaway Medal

This extremely cute book is about Charlie and his little sister Lola who has a long list of things she will NOT eat. In order to get her to try these things he becomes very inventive and renames them and gives them interesting places of origin. Carrots become "orange twiglets from Jupiter" and mashed potatoes become "cloud fluff" from Mount Fuji. In the end Lola finds that she does like these different foods and she even trys tomatoes on her own after renaming them "moonsquirters".

I loved this book. It helps the readers to open their imaginations and to try new things. Lauren Child uses mixed media and font that is bolded or wiggles across the page to create an interesting way to read. Her bright colors and child-like drawings can really appeal to younger viewers because they can probably see themselves making things that look just like this. She uses cut out drawings and what looks like clippings from photographs or magazines to create her illustrations.

This type of approach can easily be brought into the classroom. This would be a great way to teach students about collage and use of color. They can also begin to understand how seeing shapes is important in being able to draw or create things that look believable. I use the term "believable" because they don't have to neccesarily look real. For example the table tops in the illustrations are cut out from pictures but they are not just rectangles they are cut to make it look like they go back in perspective so the things sitting on top won't look like they will slide off. These table tops still don't look "real" but they make sense to the eye. I would want probably want to keep the subject of this project open that way students could really play with the material and create interesting scenes from their imaginations.

A Series of Unfortunate Events: The Bad Beginning

Author: Lemony Snicket

Illustrated by: Brett Helquist

Published by: Harper Collins, 1999

Genre: Realistic fiction, Mystery, Series

Age Range: grades 4-5

This book starts with the three Baudelaire children, Violet, Klaus and Sunny, and the tragic loss of their parents in the fire that also consumed their home. They are sent to live with their cousin, Count Olaf, because according to their parents will they are supposed to live with their closest relative. Olaf lives just across the city, but the children are pretty sure that physically close was not what their parents had in mind. Count Olaf treats them horribly and they quickly figure out that he is just trying to get to their family money that will only become theirs when Violet, the oldest, becomes of age. Olaf, determined to have their fortune, comes up with a plot to get it sooner and the Baudelaire children must figure out what that plot is to keep themselves and their money safe. This is just the first book laying out the adventures and unfortunate events of the Baudelaire children.

I found this book so much fun to read. Lemony Snicket really has a smart sense of humor that both children and adults can enjoy. Mr. Poe, the executor of the Baudelaire estate, has two sons named Edgar and Albert which I found funny because it reminded me of Edgar Allen Poe who is a writer whose work tends to be dark. Similarly, Snickets series is definately not bright and happy. It touches on death, and abuse things that children face though we don't like to think they do. I also like how, Snicket made the children so interested in books. Klaus enjoys reading and Violet enjoys inventing things but when they need to find something out they go to books for the answer. That shows children that they can find things out for themselves and come to their own conclusions. They don't always need adults to give them the answers. I also liked how Snicket defined the bigger words that he used within the context of the reading. He not only gives them the meaning of the word but the reader also gets to see it used in a sentence so they can see how to properly use it themselves. I think one of my favorite parts though was on page 94 when Klaus stays up late reading to try and figure out what Olaf could be up to. He gets tired and his eyes are trying to close and he finds himself reading the same sentence over and over. Well instead of just letting us read that description Snicket repeats the sentence "He found himself reading the same sentence over and over." three times so that you are also reading the same sentence repeatedly.

Since this book touches on darker more sensitive parts of children's lives it opens up the opportunity for students to express harder times they have had in their lives. Some art projects could include expressing these times through many different types of art medium. Another fun thing that would work with building creativity would be to have them create thier own inventions to help them perform something that they needed to do.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

A Free Verse Response to Aleutian Sparrow

Aleutian Sparrow by Karen Hesse

The story of the forced relocation of the Aleuts during WWII, told in free verse from a young girl's perspective.

I hate her mother.

I don't hate her mother.

I can't understand her mother.

For a person who has such a strong relationship with my own mother, it is hard for me to understand.

Hard to understand how her mother could just send her to stay with someone else.

Hard to understand how her mother could just leave her in the camp.

It is terrible what the government did to her people. The hard times she was put through because of her race.

It makes it worse that one of her own family would turn her back on her as well.

Friday, February 15, 2008

The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle

Author: Avi

Coverart by: Ruth E. Murray

Published by: Avon Books, 1990

Genre: Historical fiction, Mystery

Age Range: 4-5th grade

Newbery Honor Book

This book is about Charlotte Doyle and her adventure on the Seahawk as she travels un-chaperoned from England to America. In the year 1832 Charlotte was 13 years old and her family was moving back to Rhode Island. Her parents went on ahead of her and made arrangements for her to cross with a couple of families after she had finished her school term. When the time came to board the ship, though, the other families had made excuses to avoid this particular trip, and despite the warning given to her by the crew of the Seahawk, Charlotte is made to continue on as planned. At first she finds that she is not kean on sea travel and finds the crew to be unfit company, the captain is the only "gentleman" on the ship. She also does not understand the dangers that loom on the ship, though she has been warned. As time goes by she makes friends with a member of the crew, and begins to talk to the others. She also finds that the captain is not as great a man as she thought and uncovers the mutiny that the crew have been planning. Many events occur that result in her shedding her fancy dresses, donning a sailor's uniform and becoming part of the crew. She also becomes the suspect of a murder that happens one stormy night. In the end she finds that life at sea is the life for her, though it takes a lot of hard work, it provides a freedom that she would not be able to experience with her upperclass family.

This book was a very exciting read. I liked how it used so many terms that one would hear on a ship during that time period and provided an Appendix with diagrams to help the reader understand what a ship was like. Through the story the reader learns about the prejudice of class and gender during this time period. I think it also empowers the reader to do things that they normally wouldn't think they could do. No one expected Charlotte, a girl, to be a good sailor but she turned out to be a great one. This book really encourages giving people and experiences a second chance with an open mind.

Part of fourth and fifth grade art curriculum is for the students to "understand the visual arts in relation to history and cultures". Part of this goal includes comparing art from one culture to another during the same time period. Since this book has Charlotte traveling from England to America that provides the opportunity for students to compare the artwork of the two countries. They may note the similarities and differences in the styles, subject matter and themes etc. They can also discuss how the artwork may reflect the feelings and events going on during the time period. In making artwork of their own it might be interesting to have them take a style that inspires them and make it their own to tell their own visual story of something that has happened to them or something that is happening in the world today. This would help achieve another goal which is to let students respond to work both objectively and subjectively (knowledge-based and personal).


Author: Louis Sachar

Coverart by: Bagram Ibatoulline

Published by: Yearling 1998

Genre: Fantasy

Age Range: 4-5 grade

Newbery Award winner

This page turner is about Stanley Yelnats and his experiences as a result of the curse brought on by his "no-good-dirty-rotten-pig-stealing great great-grandfather" . Stanley, an overweight, unpopular boy is accused of a crime he did not committ and since his parents don't have the money to afford a lawyer to defend him he loses the case and finds himself on a bus to Camp Green Lake, "a camp for bad boys". Here he and other boys are forced to dig holes, in what once was a beautiful lake but has for a long time just been a desert wasteland. They dig under the assumption that it will improve their character. Throughout his time at Camp Green Lake Stanley makes friends and becomes more confident in himself despite the hard conditions. He also uncovers the real reason for all the holes, finds a buried treasure and ends his family curse.

I really enjoyed this book. I had been wanting to read it for a long time, so I decided now was as good a time as any. This book really teaches about not judging people by the way they look and shows the bad things that can result because of it (though in this story the result seems to often be a curse). Stanley's great great-grandfather thought that just because a girl in his hometown was beautiful that she was someone he should marry, he found out that she wasn't as great as he originally thought(luckily before he married her). The people in the town of Green Lake wouldn't let Sam learn in the school or be in love with Kate Barlow because of the color of his skin. Stanley found out that even though all of the boys around him were at Camp Green Lake because of bad behavior they were the best friends he could have, something he and many of us might not expect.

This book intertwines many stories and brings them all together to one solution. There is the story of Stanley's great great-grandfather, Madame Zeroni and the beginning of the curse, the story of the town of Green Lake and Kissing Kate Barlow, and Stanley's own story. This would be a great book to use to teach about more complex plots, folk-tales, foreshadowing, etc.

Fifth grade art curriculum includes learning about the art of the Americas. Since in the story Stanley discovers mysteries of the past through digging the art teacher could make a connection to art through archeology. Many of the cultures of the Americas, and around the world, have had to be unearthed and many of the items remaining are the pottery, architecture, and metals and stone works done by these cultures. These things are part of the arts of the Americas. Students can learn how to do some of the techniques used to make these things such as pinch pots, coil pots, or carving.

Tibet: Through the Red Box

Author/Illustrator: Peter Sis

Published by: Frances Foster Books, 1998

Genre: Picture Book, biography, Multi-cultural

Age: grades 3-5

Caldecott Honor Book 1999

This book is another by Sis about his experience. He is called home by his father so that he can receive the Red Box. Inside is his father's diary which includes writing, drawings and maps about his experience in Tibiet. When Sis was young his father was called to film the building of the road through the Himaylayan mountains. He was gone for a long time but when he came back he told Sis about his adventures. The book includes these stories from Sis' point of view and his father's point of view.

I liked how it taught me something about Tibet, its geographic features, religion, ruler, etc. I liked how each story linked with a color and he flashes back to the room where he is reading and it is that color too. Sis uses color as an important symbol or way to show passage of phases or time in a lot of his books.

I liked how he used different formats and font to show the different perspectives the story was told in. The more handwritten looking font are excerpts from his father's diary and along with them are pictures of things his father would have seen and experienced. These pages look old in the background like the pages of an old diary. In the sections where Sis is narrating the font is regular and the page is white. He also has illustrations of what he was experiencing at the same time his father was experiencing the story in Tibet and his father's outline is always there but it isn't filled in to show that he was missing out on parts of Sis' life.

At the end of each story you return to the room from which Sis is reading his father's diary. It is all one color and filled with images from the story. These are Sis' imaginings as he reads his father's word and the associations he has with the color of the room.

This book could be used as an introduction to altered books (look through the galleries at this website) or journaling used in the classroom. Altered books are a good way to let kids be free and creative. They can write, draw, paint, collage, etc. This book could be one that is provided for them to look at and get ideas about how one can pull together words and images. They could also take one theme and pull it throughout all the pages of a book. This theme could be something they have exprienced or maybe stories that have heard family members tell or maybe even an issue they want to address. The possibilities are endless but in the end they will create something that is uniquely theirs.

Where I'm From

I am from frames,
from G&G molding, and miter saws.
I am from the ground barefoot.
(Comfortable and close underneath leather-bottom feet.)
I am from the rose garden
the magnolia trees
which grow large in my backyard and after which my great grandmother was named.

I am from learning how to cast with a daffy-duck fishing
pole on the kitchen floor,
a compound bow at the age of 4,
and snuggled next to my little brother in a sleeping bag
while my Dad hunted.

I am from banana-pudding and laughing loud with head thrown back,
from Mary Leigh and Nancy.
I am from the last blacksmith in Springhope, talented cabinetmakers and good mothers.
From “do you know how much I love you?”
and “it’ll all work out”.
I’m from faith in Jesus and His saving grace.
From Sunday school singing of “Jesus loves you” and the desire to give my heart to Him.
From His lifting of my burdens and
“when I die, hallelujah, by and by I’ll fly away”.

I'm from Raleigh and Willow Springs,
home-made chicken stew and mashed
potatoes with hard boiled eggs.
From the magic Papa used to hypnotize pigeons,
the cream soda in the cooler in the back of GranGran’s truck.

I am from my Grandma’s living room wall,
covered with framed photos of loved ones and
the experiences we’ve had together,
collages of family vacations.
I am from the times we get together and paint with our words the pictures that we did not capture.

Friday, February 1, 2008

Moses: When Harriet Tubman Led Her People to Freedom

Author: Carole Boston Weatherford
Illustrator: Kadir Nelson
Published by:Hyperion Books for Children, 2006
Genre: Picture Book
Age Range: 2-3 grade
Caldecott Honor Book
Coretta Scott King Award Winner

This book is about Harriet Tubman and her escape from slavery. In the beginning she is thinking about running away and then the time comes. She steals away into the night and finds her way to people that can help her. She runs into many dangers, but she finally makes it to the North, to freedom. After spending some time there she decides she needs to use her life to help others and she returns to the south to help lead other slaves to freedom via the Underground Railroad.

I really enjoyed how the author related Harriet's story through her spiritual journey. I loved how she showed Harriet's reliance on God and His provision. I know this part of the story can not be considered fact because we don't know exactly what Harriet thought, but I thought this element of the story made it even more powerful. I liked how God's words were written with the movable text, bigger and in different shapes that went along with the illustration.

The illustrations in this book are beautiful! They are so rich and expressive. One of my favorites is the one where three-fourths of the page is black and at the top are the warm oranges of dusk and the silhouette of the wagon. The illustrator does an amazing job of showing light which goes along well with the presence of God in this book. Throughout history God has been represented by light both in art and in writing. There are many places in the bible where Jesus or God is referred to as light. In Exodus God provided and was light many times for the Israelites to help them escape from Egypt. In this story Moses was a person God used to help free his people, this is the reference for Harriet Tubman's nickname, and the title of the book. Like Moses, God used Harriet to help free these people that he loved.

In an art classroom this book would be a good example of how light helps to shape an object and how the appearance of an object can change depending on where it is. Middle school is about the age where they start to learn how to draw to make things look 3 dimensional. To do this students must learn about and use value which is created by light. They must also learn how to understand light sources in order to portray light in art that they are creating from their imagination and not from something they can look at. Many times in art history the light source in a painting or drawing is that of the image of God or Jesus.

National Geographic's Underground Railroad- click here for an interesting, interactive way to learn about the Underground Railroad.

Some other places where God is referred to as light in the Bible:

What do you do with a Tail like this?

Author/Illustrator: Steve Jenkins and Robin Page

Published by: Houghton Mifflin Company, 2003

Genre: Picture Book, Informational

Age Range: k-2

Caldecott Honor Book 2004

This book teaches kids unique facts about different animals. First it shows pictures of body parts and asks what is does. For example, it shows a bunch of different tails and asks, "what do you do with a tail like this?" This gives the child the opportunity to guess what animal each belongs to and try to figure out what they use it for. The next page answers the question and gives a cool fact about the animals. At the end of the book there is more information about each animal.

The best thing about this book, to me, is the illustrations. I absolutely love the cut paper. I love the idea of illustrations that aren't just drawings or paintings like we usually see. I took a fibers class where we made paper and I wish I had known about this illustrator then. I also love the way the words are arranged on the page. For example, the words about the skunk look like they spray out when he lifts his tail, or the sentence about the lizard is broken in two just like his tail.

It would be so much fun to have a drawer or bin specifically for collecting interesting paper scraps. Whenever you are at the art store or on vacation and see a unique piece of paper you could buy it and keep it there. This could be implemented in the classroom or at home to help provide and inspire kids and adults alike to be creative. When they have an idea of what they want to make they know exactly where to go to get the materials, and if they want to make something but don't know what they could use the paper to inspire them.

This book could be incorporated into classrooms of many age levels. The words might be juvenile for older students but the illustrations of cut paper are interesting to anyone. In a class where students are learning to make their own paper this could be an excellent way to show them what can be done with this paper. They wouldn't have to do animals, they could go further with the concept and create whatever they wanted.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

The Three Golden Keys

Author/Illustrator: Sis, Peter
Published by: Doubleday 1994
Genre: Fantasy, Picture Book, Multi-cultural
Age Range: 3-4th grade

This book, written to his daughter Madeleine, is about Peter Sis and his fictitious trip back to the city of his childhood. A wild storm carried the hot air balloon that he is traveling in off course and her finds himself back in Prague. When he arrives the city is deserted but still looks the way it did when he was young. He finds his way to his childhood home and discovers that it is locked with three padlocks. His black cat leads him through the city to three places that he enjoyed as a child, my favorite was the Astronomical clock. In each place he reads a Czech legend and receives a key. After reading all the legends and receiving all the keys he goes back to his house and unlocks the door. His mother welcomes him, and it is like he has never left Prague and now he has brought his daughter with him.

I love Sis' attachment to his roots and his attention to detail. This is the second book I have read of his where he is trying to recreate for his reader the culture of his childhood. The first one I read, "The Wall" brought out the sad and bad things of his childhood but this story shares some of the good things of the city. These are the things he wanted to share with his daughter. All of his illustrations are very detailed, even the images that seem simple, like the weather balloon on the first page, have very detailed textures. I also like how he has a hidden image of a cat throughout the whole book. On one page the city looks like it has cat eyes, in others the doors look like cat faces. He plays with the process of juxtaposing one image on top of another to add new or more meaning.

This could easily be adapted into a lesson for any age group. In grade 3 students are supposed to learn about fables and myths and learn how to incorporate them in their art. Sis incorporated the legends of his culture into this book. Grade 4 is learning about North Carolina and they could work on illustrating a legend or tale from North Carolina's history. For older students into the middle and high school age range Sis' images could be used as examples of line drawing, juxtaposition, use of color as a symbol, etc.