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