Monday, August 30, 2010

Deep, dark, mysterious...wonderful. Nonfiction Monday

I've just been perusing The Deep (ok, glommed onto this book is more like it) because it’s so freaking amazing!

Between the sheer wonder of all the critters that live in the deepest depths of the oceans and the artistry of the photographs, this book is very, very, VERY difficult to put down.

Check out the Creatures from the Deep website  to see a sampling of some of the most ethereal creatures (all sorts of octopus, squid, and jellies down there besides some really deadly looking fish with dagger teeth) one could imagine.

Tons of information for each picture plus interesting essays written by leading scientists studying ocean life for those interested in learning more. But, really, it’s the pictures which steal the show and I believe will get and keep the attention of kids, of all ages.

In many of my book talks, I promote a couple of similar books Rainforest (578.734 MARR 2006) and Reef (577.789 RE 2007) recommending them time and again.  Though fairly hefty, coffee table type books, the full page photographs show an amazing array of creatures and habitats, more than making up for their weightiness. Some of the macro images are almost other-worldly.  Besides the obvious science connections to biology and ecology, I also recommend them as ways to draw kids into books (for all those non-readers out there), have them really look, think, read (text and images) and question - skills found in the Alberta science curriculum. 

Perhaps some the odder pictures could be used as story starters.  You can also make language arts connections looking for the stories to be found or just reading some of the small 'narrative' passages that describe the photographer’s adventures taking these photographs.  Some are very adventurous  and entertaining like when he comes across a black baby caiman and did not realize that the small piping sounds it was making were a signal to its mother that it felt threatened.  Momma answered the call, crashing through the bush to protect her baby and our intrepid photographer made a quick getaway with all limbs attached.

All three books can be tied into current affairs one way or another.  There’s great opportunity right now for both The Deep and Reef with so much attention on the Gulf of Mexico.  Rainforest can also be used in a social studies context showing how humans are having an impact on this diminishing resource.

So much potential.  So appealing.

Join Nonfiction Monday Roundup by clicking on the box below to go The Booknosher to see a list of recent blogs dedicated to highlighting nonfiction resources.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Journal entry #5 – Legacy continues

I just had a thought: What if students are asked to determine whether events –big events -- have left legacies or not?  This is related to my last journal entry where I’m finding lots of great books about people involved in changing situations, yet the books are often not explicit about people being driven by the idea of leaving a legacy.

In pursuing the idea of legacy on the internet, I saw how the word ‘legacy’ is commonly seen as “a given”, that a big event does indeed leave a legacy.  But is this always true or just an easy, trite cliché? Is there only one legacy or how many?  Is it always apparent as to what the legacy is? Is this something linear or more tangential?

I’m thinking about the book like Hitler Youth: Growing up in Hitler’s Shadow by Susan Bartoletti, which is a fantastic compelling look at how the Nazis trained young people into following fascist thinking. Was there a legacy from this early indoctrination? What is/was it?

A more contemporary scenario is the US and 9/11.  Lots of great books to support looking at this event like September roses by Jeanette Winter (823 W7338S PIC BK) or  Ask me no questions by Marina Tamar Budhos (823 B859A FIC) (this is recommended for grades 7 and up but because Nellie McClung Elementary School has in past years selected materials above grade level, I will suggest this item to them.) But what is the legacy of this occasion (besides more airport security)?  Is it different for the individual compared to society? When does a legacy become apparent?  Is it too soon to determine?

Would students be able to follow through on this? Could they discover the connections between the past and the present and determine for themselves what legacies have been left from the Hitler Youth or 9/11?

Lots to think about, but great critical thinking possibilities.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Do! What You Will! - Nonfiction Monday


I’ve another fantastic, handmade book from the publisher Tara to recommend.  It’s Do! by Gita Wolf, Ramesh Hengadi and Shantaram Dhadpe (954 WoD 2009 PIC BK).

Like their book Tsunami! (include link), I think that Do! presents many opportunities for classroom use.

Using very simplistic human and animals figures based on traditional Warli tribal art from Western India, action words such as pull, farm, fight, carry, play and read (just a few) are enacted within a village setting.  For example 'work’ depicts men and women doing various tasks from making fish traps and harvesting and collecting food, to making clay pots, as well as a few activities I’m uncertain about.  ‘Dance’ beautifully displays two curving lines of dancers spiraling in circles with musicians and spectators gathered around.

The illustration style embodies movement, which is what inspired the authors originally.  Traditionally everyday activities, special events and stories are recorded in this way (more typically as murals on the walls of their homes) that captures the dynamic quality of people and animals moving about.

What an interesting way to look at rural life in India (Alberta social studies curriculum for grade 3), Indian art, narrative and pictorial forms of storytelling, and of course, language arts.  The beautiful ‘feel’ of this book is also in its making which is all done by hand (silkscreened, typeset and bound) on recycled kraft paper.  Another one of those books ‘where less is more.’  Wonderfully do-ne!

Join Nonfiction Monday Roundup by clicking on the box below to go Playing by the book to see a list of recent blogs dedicated to highlighting nonfiction resources.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Journal entry #4 - More about legacy

I’m starting to think a little more concretely about the big idea ‘legacy,’ in terms of actual books which may or may not have a direct connection to the curriculum.

Some of the titles I’m considering so far:
100 suns: 1945-1962 by Michael Light (355.825119 LIO 2003)
The first time: innovations in art by Florian Heine (709 HeF 2007)
Eye for color: the story of Josef Albers by Natasha Wind (709.2 WiE 2009 PIC BK
Dream: a tale of wonder, wisdom and wishes by Susan V. Bosak (813.6 BoD 2004)
One hen: how one small loan made a big difference by Katie Smith Milway (823 M648O PIC BK)
Besa: Muslims who saved Jews in World War II by Norman Gershman (940.5318 GEB 2008)
Pier 21: gateway of hope by Linda Granfield (971.6225 GRP 2000)
The Librarian of Basra: a true story from Iraq by Jeanette Winter (020.92 WIL 2005 PIC BK)
Planting the trees of Kenya: the story of Wangari Maathai (333.72092 NIP 2008 PIC BK)
14 cows for America by Carmen Agra Deedy (327.676 DEF 2009 PIC BK)
Peaceful heroes by Jonah Winter (303.66 WIP 2009)
Listen to the wind: the story of Dr. Greg and Three cups of tea by Greg Mortenson (303.66 WIP 2009)
Hitler youth: growing up in Hitler’s shadow by Susan Campbell Bartoletti (943.086 BAH 2005).

Not a lot of fiction and most of this is pretty lofty in terms of positive legacies (with the exception of Hitler Youth.) I’m also noticing that most books don’t refer to people being motivated to leave a legacy but being driven to improve life in some way. And this is okay.  Books don’t have to directly link to the big idea.  They can be the bridge that enables the teacher to direct the students thinking.  Sometimes implicit works even better then more explicit books.

Any thoughts out there about any of this?
Read any books lately addressing the big idea of legacy?
Want to share?

Monday, August 16, 2010

It's Non-Fiction Monday & The tingle of potential

Nonfiction Monday
Today I'm hosting Nonfiction Monday.  This is a weekly roundup of blogs that highlights nonfiction children's literature.  If you wish to have your blog's posting added to this week's list please leave your link in the comments box or use Mister Linky's Magical Widgets found at the end of this posting and I'll add them throughout the day.

Just in at the Doucette Library is Tsunami by Joydeb Chitrakar, a very interesting book published by Tara Books.

This is one of those books that kinda get my synapses snapping, a ‘feeling’ you might say, of ‘potential’.

First, the format: This is what grabbed me right off the bat.  It is a rectangular-shaped book that unfolds downward, accordion-style as it tells the story.  It represents a scroll (more about that in a moment).

Second, the story: Well, it’s not really a story.  It is a recounting of the 2004 tsunami that devastated large areas of South East Asia and killed thousands of people.  Though it does tell of the event, it more aptly conveys the feeling of loss and desperation that was left in its wake. It is described as ‘dirge-like in tone’ and as a ballad.

Now back to the scroll aspect.  The description on the back of the book says it best: “The Patua is a form of narrative graphic art, comprising a series of panels, stitched together to form a scroll.  It belongs to a performance tradition of Bengal when song-writer and artist went from home to home, showing pictures and singing out their stories. Traditional stories and local news was part of their repertoire.  Now contemporary artists also look to events reported in the mass media, especially drawn to news that is dramatic and emotionally charged…”

Third, the illustrations: Wow!  Can’t miss them. The colours, yellow, red, green and black are incredibly vibrant, bordering on the garish.  The books are all handmade, from the making of paper to the silk-screening process to the assembling of the book.  See video as to how this is accomplished.  Very cool.

The first panel/page shows a fearsome, open-mouthed, fanged demon.  The open mouth has a river-like flow of water, representing the water from the tsunami, filled with people, animals, homes and debris. Along the ‘banks’ of the mouth we see mostly mourners and a couple of journalists.  The text of the narrative also flows along beside the “water’s tongue” poetically describing the “tragic story that I sing Of the wave that took everything. Tsunami!  Swallower of the living…”

And finally, the potential:  I can see connecting this book to art, language arts, social studies, science and health. Everything but the kitchen sink, you might say.

For art, the whole book itself can be used to look at the process of hand making a book. Looking at this traditional form of storytelling could also tie into the arts.

For social studies, there is the grade 3 social studies curriculum in Alberta that looks at India.  At higher grades, looking at global issues such as how the international community responds to crisis is possible.  Tied to current events, like the recent earthquake in Haiti, it provides a venue for comparing situations.

Language arts can connect into narrative styles as well as how the story was physically told (accordion scroll) and what this contributed to the telling.  Students could potentially use this as a basis to model some of their own work.

For science, extreme natural events often hold a fascination for kids.  Adding this to a unit on earthquakes, volcanoes and drought would be a natural fit and provides a way to engage and introduce cross-curricular connections, too.

Whew!  I wonder what else?  I know this is one that I’ll keep in mind and find opportunities to promote – whatever the subject.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Great list of resources …You need to know about this!

Earlier this week I discovered a blogging event where teachers, who  specialize in classroom literacy and are passionate about children’s literature, were asked to compile lists of 10 picture books that they could not live without.  I don’t know how they did it.  Only 10!  I’ve tried this exercise and haven’t been able to do it.

What a fantastic list of blogs to have discovered  and know that I'll be following a few of them from here on out.

As for the lists, they were a treat to read  (almost 40 bloggers participated) encompassing a diversity of tastes including  fiction and some nonfiction, from award winners to small press runs.  It was wonderful to see great classics such as William Steig, Eric Carle, Chris Van Allsburg, and Cynthia Rylant, mentioned. A few listed Canadian authors, such as Barbara Reid, Melanie Watt and Laurel Croza.  Others took a more specified approach and focused on books for boys, books representing First Nations peoples or African-Americans.

I was reminded of some long-time favorites (Fly away home; Sister Anne’s hands; Red Parka Mary), some very recent favs (Chalk; My people; 14 cows for America) and some new must haves (Dogku; The watertower; Big plans; and Punk Farm on tour).

Really, you must check this out.  Visit Reflect and Refine: Building  and spend some quality time perusing this fine posting, August 10 for 10.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Home is where …

It often seems that it’s not until we are about to lose something that we realize how precious it is – like where you live.

I Know Here by Laurel Croza (823 C8862I PIC BK) is about a little girl who is moving from a small rural community in northeastern Saskatchewan to the big city of Toronto – away from the place she knows best in all the world.  She’s leaving it all behind, from the road that leads between the dam her father is working on and her school, the number of trailers that line this road, the forest that backs onto her house, the best spot to catch frogs or toboggan in the winter,.

She contrasts this to what is to come in Toronto, where everything will be unfamiliar.  Then with the help of Miss Hendrickson her school teacher, she captures the essence of her home and what she loves best in a picture that includes, “the howl of the wolf and the smell of the fox in his cage and the stare of the old moose and the feel of my heart beating fast as I swoop over my road in a five-seater airplane” knowing this home will not be forgotten provides a sense of comfort and reassurance.

I admit that the first time I looked at this book I didn’t really take to the illustrations.  The story was fine but the style of the pictures just didn’t do it for me. But when a favorite instructor in the MT program really raved about it, I thought I’d better take a second look.  Glad I did.

I recommend I Know Here to elementary grades because it connects easily with the Alberta social studies curriculum around community, home, identity, geographical thinking and even resiliency.  Knowing that you can always hold what is dear to you, however far away you may be, will reassure children moving into new situations, whether it’s a new city or new classroom.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

International Day of Indigenous People – August 9/10

This year’s theme is focused around HIV/AIDS. 

I have one suggestion that ties directly to the theme and is by Canadian authors, Larry Loyie and Constance Brissenden: The Gathering Tree (823 L957G PIC BK)

Though very pointed in its purpose, illustrating the importance of creating awareness among First Nations peoples about HIV/AIDS, the story also demonstrates the power of community and tradition.  Robert, a young man, returns to his community from the city to attend an annual community gathering.  At the invitation of the community’s elders, he bravely tells of his condition and that he wishes to help people understand more about the virus and how to prevent it. Within the story itself, there are details as to how Robert contracts the virus but it does give assurances about how people will not ‘catch’ it.

There are pages at the end of the book providing additional information about the importance of awareness, prevention and family/community support.  Questions that children could ask are also answered providing, a great deal of information about HIV and AIDS.

For additional information check out Chee Mamuk Aboriginal Program .

Template Design | Elque 2007