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.