Thursday, September 29, 2011

Simply a beautiful picture book

The Negro Speaks of Rivers by Langston Hughes, illustrated by E.B. Lewis (811 HuN 2009 PIC BK) is a breath taking book that gives me goose bumps. The words and pictures beautifully coalesce to provoke a strong response from me every time I read it.

This short poem speaks of the history (even prehistory) of African-Americans, making connections with the rivers Euphrates, Nile, and Mississippi. These rivers have flowed for all time creating a sense that African-Americans too have a long, rich heritage associated with rivers. The watercolour illustrations also contribute to the ebb and flow of the poem

The illustrator, E.B. Lewis, includes a note at the end of the book that tells how meaningful the poem became for him and the personal connections he made to it through understanding the power of water as an element and as a metaphor. He goes so far as to include a self-portrait, depicting himself with head bowed in prayer and, in his words, “the river is embracing me.” It is a stunning illustration.

There is a gentleness and calmness to this interpretation of Hughes’ poem that slows the reader down to take in the words and to be filled up with their meaning.

The suggested reading level is certainly appropriate for elementary students but this is the kind of book that the older you are the more you’ll get out of it. Why not try it with older students, too?

Also, check out My People by Langston Hughes, photographs by Charles R. Smith Jr. (811 HuM 2009 PIC BK), another rendition of Hughes’ poem with awe-inspiring photographs. This is one of my all time favorite books and made my Top 10 of 10 picture books.

I know I’ve mentioned in the past that I’m not really into poetry but I think I may have to rethink this position.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Good one for social studies

This Child, every child: a book about the world’s children by David J. Smith (323.352 SmT 2011) will make an excellent resource for elementary and junior high social studies’ classrooms.

The most recent addition to the CitizenKid series by Kids Can Press, looks at how children around the world live. It starts to dig beneath the surface of the numbers (there are 2.2 billion children in the world; 80 million do not go to school; 220 million children between the ages 5 and 17 work; etc.) by looking at real life examples of kids from around the world and what their lives are like.

We meet Nasir (9) and Omar (10) from Pakistan and learn that they work in a rug factory because the factory boss can pay them less for their labour than an adult and their small hands are ideal for completing the intricate work.

Hakim lives in the capital of Ethiopia, Addis Ababa. He eats well enough, goes to school, receives some medical care (vaccinations) through the school yet has very poor access to clean water and sanitation. Compared to other children in Ethiopia, Hakim is fortunate.

Sara (9) lives with her family in rural southeast India. Her life is somewhat different than that of her brother’s, Amir (8). She does not go to school like Amir but stays home to help with household chores including walking long distances to obtain water and wood. She is already engaged to be married whereas Amir will finish school, get a job and select his own wife. Sara has few choices as to what she does with her life.

This book provides an important introduction to thinking about kids in other countries. In Alberta, grade 3 Social Studies, Peru, Tunisia, Ukraine and India are the countries that are studied. It’s important to teach more than the ‘surface culture’ (eg. food, art, dress, music, architecture, decoration, etc.) and delve deeper into the culture (eg. use of language, interpretation of events, beliefs and values, norms of behaviour, patterns of thinking, cultural assumptions about age, gender, status and wealth, etc.) The above is based on an illustration taken from Social studies and the world: teaching global perspectives by M.M. Merryfield and A. Wilson (370.117 MeS 2005) and provides a clear picture as to what often is the primary focus of cultural studies at the elementary level – surface culture.

In This child, every child, twelve of the thirteen chapters are based on the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. Typically, one or two articles are included in each two-page spread, highlighting the featured issue such as good health care, safe water, good food and safe environment. At the back of the book, the author has included a child friendly version of the UN’s document which synthesizes each article very succinctly, making it very easy to understand.

Also included are two pages of suggested activities and questions to further the discussion about the quality-of-life of children in other countries.

The last page includes the websites and documents the author consulted to compile the statistics in this book. This provides a great opportunity for additional classroom exploration with a dash of mathematics thrown in.

Pair this book with If the world were a village by David J. Smith (304.6 SMI 2011), Material world: a global family portrait by Peter Menzel (306.85 MEM 1994) and What the world eats by Peter Menzel (641.3 MeW 2008) for a fascinating look at comparative standards of living and inequities.

Today is Nonfiction Monday, a round-up of blogs featuring nonfiction children's literature.  Stop by True Tales and a Cherry on Top for this week's event.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

A vote of confidence - Thanks!

Thank you Cathy, author of the Reflect and Refine blog, for recognizing me as a Versatile Blogger!

This recognition comes with responsibilities, namely the following three:
1. Thank the person (people) who nominated you and provide a link back to their blog.
2. Share 7 things about you.
3. Pass this award along to 15 other blogs that you have discovered and notify them of their nomination.

So, check to #1.

Seven things about me (as a reader):
1. My first ‘big persons’ book I read was Beautiful Joe by Margaret Marshall Saunders. I was in grade 5.
2. Bill Bryson is one of my all-time-favorite authors.
3. I prefer foreign films with subtitles rather than dubbing into English.
4. Dav Pilkey’s Dragon series of books inspired me to try making a paper mache version of Dragon for my niece when she was about 4.
5. I ran book clubs for children (of various ages) and their parents for a number of years at Monkeyshines Children’s Books bookstore.
6. I haven’t finished the Harry Potter series. Only got to book number 3.
7. I love the Dolch readers when I was in early elementary school. They turned me onto reading myths and legends from different countries. However, these are NOT my favorite books any longer. I never recommend them even though there are few of them in the Doucette Library.

Ok, #2 taken care of.

15 blogs I want to nominate for Versatile Blogger:
1. Myra at Gathering Books
2. Jennifer at From the Mixed up Files
3. Melissa at Book Nut
4. Edi at Crazy Quilts
5. Kristine at Best Books I Have Not Read
6. Starleigh at Twinkle’s Happy Place
7. Angela at Bookish Blather
8. Brenda at BrendaDee’s Daily Learning in 2011
9. Sterg at Graphic Novel Resouces
10. MissA at Reading in Color
11. Roberta at Wrapped in Foil
12. Janet at All About the Books with Janet Squires
13. Ana at Ana’s Nonfiction Blog
14. Jennie at Biblio File
15. Jennifer at Jean Little Library

There. Strike #3 off the to-do list…

I know not everyone likes getting blog awards so, to all you nominees, do as you will, just know that your writing is appreciated. If you’ve been previously nominated -- Congratulations, again! This has been an opportunity for me to send out a note of appreciation for the writing you do and let you know that I learn a lot from each of you. It will also introduce new readers to your blogs, too.

Monday, September 19, 2011

International Day of Peace - September 21, 2011

Otherwise known as Peace Day, this is the day that the United Nations has set aside to encourage all nations and all people to work toward worldwide peace.

"Peace Day should be devoted to commemorating and strengthening the ideals of peace both within and among all nations and peoples…This day will serve as a reminder to all peoples that our organization, with all its limitations, is a living instrument in the service of peace and should serve all of us here within the organization as a constantly pealing bell reminding us that our permanent commitment, above all interests or differences of any kind, is to peace."
So, in honor of today I’d like to suggest Peaceful pieces: poems and quilts about peace by Anna Grossnickle Hines (811 HiPe 2011 PIC BK) for your consideration.

This is one of those books that I think will be appreciated in many classrooms for a variety of purposes. This collection of poems explores various aspects of peace from the personal to the profound, between everyday people and people with public prominence.

Children will recognize themselves when reading the poem about two siblings who must stand nose-to-nose after their bickering drives their mother crazy. Predictably, tensions between the two disperse quickly as they try not to break out giggling. Or, as described in another poem, a busy, agitated brain is bombarded with chaotic, frenzied thoughts and ideas, fighting to calm itself, looking for peace.

The efforts of people such as Gandhi, Mother Teresa, Jimmy Carter, Nelson Mandela are celebrated here as well as people who I had not known about, like Samantha Smith and Mattie Stepanek. Short biographies are included at the back of the book to tell us of their labours making the world a better place.

The most notable aspect of this collection though is the illustrations. The author has illustrated each two page spread with stunning quilted panels. The vibrant colours and patterns, the stitching and the cloth-piecing are dazzling.

This is a gorgeous book, relevant to all of us. Teachers will use this for poetry units, art, science, and social studies as it ties into personal, political and natural worlds.

The suggested reading level is grade 1-5 but the theme will work for older students, as well.

Last year’s recommendation, What does peace feel like? by Vladimir Radunsky (303.66 RaW 2004 PIC BK) compliments Peaceful pieces perfectly.

Today is Nonfiction Monday, a roundup of blogs that review nonfiction children's literature. Stop by Tales from the Rushmore Kid to read up on this week's recommendation.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Summertime Reading 2011 – Wrap Up

Well, with university officially back in class this week, summertime reading is over for another year. I can’t say I got to all the books on my list (see April 14th for some of my intentions) but there were many others that I consumed along the way. I did seem to be on a real adult mystery kick this summer, which cut into the number of YA novels I would have otherwise read. Oh, well. I’m not dead yet. I’ll continue to keep reading over this academic school year and then again there’s always next summer…
Here are some highlights from the last days of summer:

Picture books (fiction and nonfiction)
Along a long road by Frank Viva (823 V835A PIC BK)
Highly stylized illustrations depict the journey of a man on a bicycle, up, down, along curves, through town, along country roads, and even hitting an occasional bump along the way. Fun and whimsical. Suggested for preschool to grade 2.

Ballet for Martha: making Appalachian Spring by Jan Greenberg (792.8092 GrB 2010 PIC BK)
Describes the collaborative process that went into the production of Appalachian Spring. Wonderful illustrations and fluid writing made this captivating to read. Suggested for grades 2-6.

Boogie knights by Lisa Wheeler (823 W565B6 PIC BK)
Story told in rhyme that worked for me. All the ghost and ghouls of a castle are looking for a good time and enjoy themselves at a Mad Cap Ball. One-by-one seven sleeping sentries are woken,to investigate the noise, only to end up joining in the fun. Great playful language. Suggested for grades K-3.

Just one bite: 11 animals and their bites at life size by Lola M. Schaefer (591.53 ScJ 2010 PIC BK)
From small to very large, we learn about different animals, the food they eat and how much they consume in a single bite. Very cool. Suggested for grades K-3.

The Loud book! by Deborah Underwood (823 Un1L PIC BK)
Companion book to The Quiet Book. I liked the first one and loved this even more, as with our cast of cute animal characters we encounter,all the loud noises in a day. Suggested for preschool to grade 1.

Planting the wild garden by Kathryn O. Galbraith (581.467 GaP 2011 PIC BK)
Gently tells and illustrates seed dispersal of wild plants by wind, animals, birds and people. Suggested for grades 1-4.

The Bamboo people by Mitali Perkins (823 P4196B FIC)
Two young Burmese men are forced into the army and develop a friendship that overcomes ethnic prejudices. After one of the boys is captured by the minority that the army is fighting, the point-of-view shifts to a protagonist from the minority group who must overcome his own prejudice as he comes to know his captive. Suggested for grades 6-9.

The Best bad luck I ever had by Kristin Levin (823 L57865B CD)
I really enjoyed this audio version read by Kirby Heyborne, about a friendship between a white boy and a black girl in Alabama in 1917. Dit is the protagonist who initially is sorely disappointed to find out that the new postmaster has a daughter. Nevertheless, the two become inseparable friends. Dit does seem a little naïve about how blacks are being treated in this predominately white community. Loved it. Suggested for grades 4-7.

A Long walk to water by Linda Sue Park (823 P218L PIC BK)
Based on a true story of a ‘lost’ boy from Sudan, recounting his years in refugee camps and eventual relocation to America. He returns to the Sudan building wells to enable access to clean water. His story intersects with Nya, a girl who walks miles everyday to bring water to her family. Suggested for grades 5-8.

Slog’s dad by David Almond
David Almond doing what David Almond does best – leaves you wondering… Slog’s father had been a vibrant, upbeat man and promised to visit his son one last time – after he dies. So, when Slog and his friend, Davie, encounter a man who Slog believes is his dad, Davie thinks the man is only pretending. Illustrations are intriguing, enhancing the mood and extending the story. Questions of faith, trust, and deep grief are instilled in this short story. Suggested for grades 5-9.

Creatures of the rainforest: two artists explore Djabugay country by Anna Eqlitis
The illustrations here are the real stars, showing us a myriad of critters that inhabit the tropical forests of Queensland, Australia. Shortlisted for the 2006 Children's Book of the Year Award.

The Good garden: how one family went from hunger to having enough by Katie Smith Milway
A somewhat inspirational story based on real-life farmers in Honduras. They improve their lives by adopting more sustainable food production practices, reducing their reliance on unscrupulous middlemen. Suggested for grades 3 to 7.

Harriet Tubman, secret agent: how daring slaves and free blacks spied for the Union during the Civil War by Thomas B. Allen (973.71 AlH 2009)
Fascinating read about a lesser known facet of Harriet Tubman’s life and the work done by other blacks during the Civil War. Recommended for grades 6 and up.

Sit-in: how four friends stood up by sitting down by Andrea Davis Pinkney (323.1196 PiS 2010 PIC BK)
Well-told recounting of the 1960s peaceful protest at a Woolworth’s lunch counter in North Carolina by four black college students. Suggested for grades 3-6.

They called themselves the KKK: the birth of an American terriorist group by Susan Campbell Bartoletti (322.42 BaT 2010)
How this notorious group came into existence, highlighting American race relations that still resound today. There is a chilling description of the author’s attendance at a KKK rally. Suggested for grades 7-12.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Timely reflection

September 12th, 2011 – New moon rising.

Faces of the Moon by Bob Crelin (523.3 CrF 2009 PIC BK) is a poetic reflection about the phases of the moon. The high quality of production contributes greatly to the appeal of this book. Thick glossy paper and the lino-block print illustrations make it a pleasure to turn the pages. The rhyming text is okay. I have to fess up that I’m not a huge fan of rhyming text in nonfiction books as I often find it gets in the way of the delivery of information, with the ‘poems’ laboured and contrived. This time I found it worked relatively well.

The majority of the book looks at eight phases of the moon, from not visible to waxing to waning. In between is the full moon, of course, but also a waxing gibbous moon and a waning gibbous moon. I’m thrilled to learn about gibbous moons – a new term for me. Each of the featured phases has a tabbed page with a four-line poem, a die-cut of the moon’s image and a sentence telling when the moon rises and sets. I’ve never really thought about seeing the moon during daylight hours but now I’m noticing it much more.

Two pages at the end of the book provide basic information about lunar phases and why we only see fragments, depending the orbits of the moon, earth and sun. A few facts about the moon are included as well, laid out in a simple rhyme to aid memory. This part’s a little much for me but if it works for you, great.

I recommend this for early elementary grades and would pair it with Moon by Steve Tomecek (Jump into Science series by National Geographic) (523.3 ToM 2005 PIC BK) for more straight forward information about the moon and Full Moon Rising by Joanne Taylor (523.3 TaF 2002 PIC BK) which looks at the seasonal aspects of each full moon (Wolf Moon in January, Honey Moon in June, etc.) in a northern prairie landscape.

Today is Nonfiction Monday.  Stop by Wrapped in Foil to read about nonfiction children's literature reviewed from many blogs. Enjoy.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

September 8, 2011 - International Literacy Day

Today is International Literacy Day.  UNESCO marks this day as a reminder to the international community that literacy remains a challenge for 796 million adults and  67.4 million children around the world.

My recommendation for a children's book to commemorate today's event is Nasreen's Secret: a true story from Afghanistan by Jeanette Winter (958.1 WinN 2009 PIC BK).

Nasreen's father has been dragged off by the Taliban leaving Nasreen, her mother and grandmother alone and without resources.  Eventually, Nasreen's mother leaves to search for her husband and Nasreen ceases to speak.  Her grandmother, in desperation to alleviate some of Nasreen's trauma, takes her to secret school for girls.  Her desperate wish is for Nasreen to learn about the bigger world and Afghanistan's own rich cultural history.  It's not until her friendship with Mina helps her overcome her grief that Nasreen begins to learn about more peaceful and prosperous places beyond her country's borders.

The grandmother's wish for Nasreen to go to school to learn about world underlines the power of knowledge and the hope that with knowledge comes peace for Nasreen and perhaps, Afghanistan.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Not your everyday "John Hancock"

Signature: patterns in Gond art edited by Gita Wolf, Bhajju Shyam and Jonathan Yamakami (759.9548 Si 2010) is a celebration of the artistic tradition and creative ability of tribal artists from central India. This book offers a unique perspective of Gond art as it explains that each artist designs an individual pattern that becomes their ‘signature’. Artists can be identified by these designs.

Each two page spread features an artist and one of their paintings. A segment from the painting has been blown up to showcase the pattern the artist uses to decorate the images in the painting. Animals, gods, people and trees are represented in these pages and every singe image is filled in with detailed patterning of their ‘signature’ design. The patterns include crosses, single lines or dots, diamond shapes filled with lines, basket-weave, half-circles, spirals and many more. The colours combined with the patterns create vibrant images.

Each artist explains the inspiration for their particular design. I’ve included a few of these descriptions which I often find very poetic.
Mohan Shyam says, “Here are ears of corn. I’ve drawn them simply one behind the other, in rows.”

Nankusiya Shyam says, “This is the pattern created by a marriage procession, as it weaves through the village.”

Narmada Prasad Thekam says, “I’ve followed lines, the lines from the past to the present, tracing memory.”

Rajkumar Shyam says, “You’ll see my design inside a lemon. Just cut it across in half, and you’ll find the seeds and the pattern I’ve used.”

Subhash Vyam says, “These are seeds, scattered on the feathers of a peacock.”

In terms of classroom use, the most obvious connection is art. I think it could also be used in a social studies classroom when talking teaching about identity and the interconnectedness between tradition, the individual and the present. Further to this is the concept of community and how the Gond have developed and maintained their art form. Pair this with another Tara book, Tsunami as a way to illustrate how traditional art forms are being kept relevant in today’s world.

To see what Gond art looks like check out the YouTube video below.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Journal entry #5 – Journey’s end

I’ve just presented a mega-book talk to the group of teachers from Nellie McClung Elementary School centered on their ‘big’ idea for this coming academic year. It’s all about ‘journey’.

I always enjoy the process of reading and considering old and new resources with a specific focus. It gets me to think in new ways, re-envisioning how I might use materials in a classroom situation. In this case, I didn’t feel like I had any epiphanies about ‘journey’ but certainly enjoyed the many tangents I developed over the last couple of months. (See past postings, if you’re curious as to what those are.)

To wrap up, I thought I’d list three picture books that all touch on the same idea but in different ways and also speak to one element of ‘journey’ -- returning home.

The Umbrella by Ingrid and Dieter Schubert (823 Sch77U PIC BK) is a wordless picture book that illustrates one intrepid dog’s adventure as he is whisked along by the wind while holding a red umbrella. Strong autumn winds take him high into the clouds until he drops through a hole in the sky towards an African savannah. Danger is averted when helpful elephants blow him along until he catches an ocean wave. Enchanting sea life and an obliging whale help him continue his adventure. Over a tropical island, a pelican helps our pup avoid hostile people. Passing over a snowy landscape with polar bears and seals, his journey slowly winds down, as the weary dog gently lands at home again. (Suggested for preschool to grade 2.)

Follow Me by Tricia Tusa (823 T87F PIC BK) is an imaginative exploration of senses and colour. A young girl gets lost in the blue of the sky as she swings higher and higher. She asks us to follow her “deep into brown, into the bright white of yellow, into orange that slips into red all tumbled together…” which is in a natural environment of some sort (forest, garden, etc.). Exploring her world, reaching out, she returns once again to earth and home. Lovely illustrated poem. (Suggested for grades K-4).

And the last book I’ll highlight is Instructions by Neil Gaiman, illustrated by Charles Vess (823 G126I PIC BK). This is a poem that guides the reader through a fairy tale land where there is much to enjoy and beware. Being kind and helpful will stand you in good stead and has its rewards. Being cautious is also very important, so as to not go astray or run afoul of savage creatures. Completing the journey requires turning back, feeling more confident in our ability to look after ourselves, trust in our decisions and realize that we’ve grown up and gotten bigger from our adventures. And, then it’s time to “go home. Or make a home. Or rest.” YouTube has an animated reading by Neil Gaimon. (Suggested for grades 2 and up. Maybe even a good graduation gift.)

So ends this summer’s ‘journey’. Poetry, imagination and an appreciation of things that are different and familiar, have all played a part. Really, it’s limitless, isn’t it?

Template Design | Elque 2007