Thursday, January 12, 2012

No foolin’ – I’m back.

Happy New Year, everyone.  I’m feeling a little out of shape both for blogging and running.  But there’s no time like the present get back at it.

The Great Moon Hoax by Stephen Krensky (823 K882G PIC BK) offers some interesting possibilities for classroom use.

The story is based on a hoax perpetuated by the New York Sun newspaper in 1833. The Sun ran a series of stories about the findings of an astronomer, Sir John Herschel who had apparently discovered many bizarre and incredible creatures living on the moon.  The story is told from the perspective of two young newsboys who temporarily benefit from the hoax as more people buy more newspapers to keep up with the new discoveries.
The picture book is good but not brilliant.  A few liberties are taken with some historical points of accuracy, like whether a newsboy as poor as the ones depicted in this story could read well enough to read these stories, as an example. The illustrations are quite artsy but I find they don’t add much to the story in terms of establishing place or time.  One picture shows a woman in a short dress, which is confusing. They do however illustrate the newsboy’s poverty, living in the streets.  Small snippets from the actual news stories are included and add an authentic element.

I like the potential the book has for discussion about the role of media and the importance of criticallyreading (or listening or watching) all news stories.  Questions like, why were people so gullible believing this story?  Could it happen today?  How can we check whether something is true or not? What are potential consequences of untrue or inaccurate journalism?

To supplement this topic also try What’s your source?: questioning the news by Stergios Botzakis (302.23 BOW 2009) for students in elementary grades and  Unspun: finding facts in a world of disinformation by Brooks Jackson (302.2 JAU 2007)for high school and older.

Now I’m thinking about the Orson Welles radio dramatization of the War of the Worlds in the 1930s – an almost-hoax.  I expect kids would be fascinated and amused to know about the hysteria this sparked with confused listeners about invading Martians.  Seek out Kathleen Krull’s book, The night the Martians landed : just the facts (plus the rumors) about invaders from Mars (791.4472 KrN 2003) for a full retelling of this event.

Discussions around child labourers could also be sparked from this picture book and the conditions in which these boys and real life children must work in.  There are many good resources to bring in to supplement this component of the story, both historical and contemporary, and fiction and nonfiction. One recommendation is Before their time: the world of child labor by David Parker (331.31 PAB 2007) for a look at child labour in contemporary situations around the world.
I recommend The Great moon hoax for grades 3 to 5 or 6.


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