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.