Thursday, May 5, 2011

The Game of Silence



Bibliography
Erdrich, Louse. 2005. THE GAME OF SILENCE. HarperCollins: New York. ISBN 978-0060297893


Plot Summary

Omakaya, the eight year-old Ojibwe girl is growing up in the quickly changing world of 1850, near the Great Lakes.  Traditions and yearly activities are steadfast, but Omakaya can sense a dark change on the horizon.  She is hesitant to accept that it is her time to find and be guided by her spirits.  Her family and mentor, Old Tallow, help to steer her during the troubling times of invasion by the white men.  Omakaya is gifted with the ability to have guiding dreams and visions.  Over the course of a year, she learns to embrace her gift and show her people the way.

Critical Analysis
The Game of Silence beautifully describes the daily life of the Omakaya people, who view kindness as the most important human trait.  Their customs and traditions reflect their views by the way they honor elders and spirits of relatives who have passed.  Erdrich seamlessly enriches the story with the beliefs, rituals and language of the Ojibwe people.  Omakaya and her people inspire love in one another, even when faced with the atrocities of white domination of the lands.  The wicked way that Native Americans were driven off of their land could conjure hatred in even the best of people, but through her visions, Omakaya learns from the waves, “all things change, even us, even you.”  The story of The Game of Silence remembers and honors the Ojibwe in such a way so as to engage the reader and light their inner spiritual fire.  

Awards & Honors 
Scott O'Dell Award for Historical Fiction
Kirkus Editor’s Choice
Horn Book Fanfare
ALA Notable Children’s Book
ALA Booklist Editors’ Choice
New York Times Notable


Reviews
"She has created a world, fictional but real: absorbing, funny, serious and convincingly human." - New York Times 2005
"Erdrich's shaded pencil drawings shore up their softness with strong definition that particularly enhances the energetic and comedic scenes." Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books 2005
"In this heartrending novel the sense of what was lost is overwhelming." - Booklist 2005


Connections
  • Teachers can raise kids interest in Native American facts and people by introducing the Ojibwa on this website.  There are links to photos of Ojibwa clothing, food, housing and other elemesnts of the culture that would make excellent classroom discussion.
  • Students can choose a Native American tribe or the teacher can assign one.  After researching their customs they can create at poster or work of art in the style of the tribe, and share it with the class.
  • The class or group can host a Pow-wow with music, art, traditional dress, and if possible, a Native American guest speaker.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Ship Breaker


Bibiography
Bacigalupi, Paolo. 2010. SHIP BREAKER Little, Brown Books for Young Readers: New York.  ISBN 9780316056212.

Plot Summary
Ship breaking in the gulf is the only life that the young Nailer knows in the post-apocalyptic world created by Bacigalupi.  Workers are marked by their tattooed faces, and the jobs are rough and dangerous.  Corrupt bossmen and swanks rule ruthlessly with weapons and half men.  Hope is scarce until a raging city killer storm blows through, and Nailer and his crew find a girl amongst the wreckage who could be worth a lot more than he ever bargained.  He is faced with a difficult decision to run with her the Orleans with a dream for a better future away from the wreckage.  

Critical Analysis
Ship Breaker instantly hooks in the reader with detailed descriptions of the painfully violent jobs in the shipyard and the graphic descriptions of the motley crew.  The cutthroat nature of humanity transcends the shipyard and paints a picture of a dark and corrupted world. Bacigalupi paints an eerily realistic vision of the future and the characters represent the battle between good and evil.  The genetically altered half-man, Tool, is a brilliant counterpart to the swank girl, Nita.  Tool speaks powerful words of wisdom and proclaims, "They made a mistake with me...I was smarter than they prefer."    Ship Breaker takes the reader to the edge of an ultimately bleak future, and yet warmth and love find ways to beam through the smoggy clouds of a polluted atmosphere. 

Awards & Honors
2010 National Book Award Finalist 
ALA Printz Award

Reviews
". . . A decisive rout of a legion of villains will leave readers content." - Bulletin of the Center for Childrens Books 2010
"This thriller will grab and keep readers' attentions as Nailer and Nita ‘crew up’ in their fight to survive. . ." - The Horn Book 2010
"Vivid, brutal, and thematically rich, this captivating title is sure to win teen fans for
the award-winning Bacigalupi." - Booklist 2010

Connections

  • Introduce the book by defining "ship breaking", and show students photos and/or a presentation about the reality and dangers of ship breaking. 
  • After reading, students can choose their favorite scene from the book and make a shadowbox to represent it.
  • Explore OSHA regulations for ship breaking.  There are many posters for ship breaking on their site.  Students can compare our standards to Bacigalupi's world of Ship Breaking.  Then they can write a safety plan for the Nailer, Pima ,and the Crew

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

The Arrival


Bibliography
Tan, Shaun. 2007. THE ARRIVAL. Arthur A. Levine Books: New York. ISBN: 9780439895293

Plot Summary
A man journeys from a dark place and leaves his loving family to establish a new life for them in a land far away.  After arriving, he and the ship full of immigrants encounter a new world filled with exotic creatures and strange machines.  He meets people from other lands, takes on laborious jobs, and finally is reunited with his wife and child.  

Critical Analysis
The world created by Shaun Tan will take you to the past and future simultaneously, and the story line is one that is relevant in our society today.  Whether his drawings are two inches or ten, each is gallery worthy work of art.  From the moment that the immigrants scatter across the lands, brilliant mixtures of foreign skylines and printed unreadable languages give the viewer a sense of seclusion.  Emotions of uncertainty, adventure, loneliness, and love are strongly evoked by the sepia toned sequenced drawings.  Though THE ARRIVAL has no word, each page is an engaging and thought provoking read. 

Awards & Honors
Spectrum Award
World Fantasy Artist of the Year
Publishers Weekly Best Book of 2007
New York Times Best Illustrated Book of 2007
New York Times Notable Children’s Book of 2007
Booklist Editors' Choice 2007
School Library Journal Best Book of 2007
Washington Post Best Book for Young People for 2007
Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books Blue Ribbon for Fiction
ALA Notable Children's Book, 2008
Horn Book Fanfare Book 2007
Nominated for an International Horror Guild Award, Illustrated Narrative

Reviews
"Tan captures the displacement and awe with which immigrants respond to their new surroundings in this wordless graphic novel." - School Library Journal 2007
"The Arrival proves a beautiful, compelling piece of art, in both content and form." - Booklist 2007
"Shaun Tan not only makes the old immigration story new again, he also ingeniously puts the reader in the immigrant’s position to give the experience an immediacy one would have thought impossible to obtain from a fictional exploration..." - Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books 2007

Connections
  • As an introduction, students can write a short essay about what they would expect if they were moving to a new country.
  • While "reading" students can take turns explaining frames.  They could also break out in to groups and discuss their interpretations of an assigned chapter.  
  • Students can practice their skills of storytelling though art, by drawing or sculpting a sequence of events that made (or could make) them feel different, nervous or scared.  

Monday, May 2, 2011

Joey Pigza Loses Control


Bibliography
Gantos, Jack. 2000. JOEY PIGZA LOSES CONTROL.  Farrar, Straus and Giroux: New York.  ISBN 9780439338745.
Unabridged Audio:  Read by Jack Gantos

Plot Summary
The lovable, yet severely hyperactive, Joey Pigza gets to spend the summer with his estranged dad.  He learns about Storybook Land, baseball, and his eyes are also open to the reality of addictions.  Grandma's cigarettes and his father's alcoholism parallel Joey's need for hyperactive medication.  However, some dependencies are different from others, and Joey learns this lesson after losing control. 

Critical Analysis
Joey, discovers a lot about himself and subsequently teaches the reader about the reality of his ADHD disorder through Gantos's style of writing and reading.  The nonstop thought processes of Joey are scripted out in the chaotic fashion that a hyperactive child must contend with on a daily basis, and the listener gets a real taste of what it feels like to be wired.  Joey's family are fairly average folks, with the typical quirks ranging from hilarious shopping cart rides with grandma, to the gripping realities of a parent with an addiction.  Joey tried to make it through the the game before he "unraveled at the seams like a baseball that had been smacked around too many times."  Joey's struggles with his dad and his disorder, but he finally finds control and the book manages to teach a lesson about control, acceptance and compassion.   

Awards & Honors
Newberry Honor Book
New York Times Outstanding Book of the Year
ALA Notable Children's Book
ALA Booklist Editors' Choice
Horn Book Fanfare

Reviews
"Gantos lifts this account of a kid with a lot of problems well above the stock problem novel: Joey's view of the world is compelling regardless of what he's dealing with, and it's realistic in both its perceptions and their limitations." - Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books 2000
"Readers will be drawn in immediately to the boy's gripping first-person narrative and be pulled pell-mell through episodes that are at once hilarious, harrowing, and ultimately heartening as Joey grows to understand himself and the people around him." - School Library Journal 2000 
"Good books, like this one, keep you turning pages..." - The New York Times Book Review 2000

Connections
  • When Joey is off of his patches his thoughts are often scrambled.  Student and/or teachers can log on to Discovery Education and create a word scramble puzzle using key topics of the book.  
  • Kids can listen to the unabridged version of Gantos reading the book and have a quiz bowl over trivia facts in the book online.  TRIVIA QUIZ
  • The class can discuss ADHD and create cartoons or drawings to symbolize the thought processes behind Joey's actions
  • Students can simply make poster drawings of their favorite scene from the book.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

What To Do About Alice?

How ALICE ROOSEVELT broke THE RULES, 
charmed THE WORLD,
and drove her FATHER TEDDY CRAZY!



Bibiography
Kerley, Barbara. 2008. WHAT TO DO ABOUT ALICE. Scholastic Press: New York.  ISBN 9780439922319.

Plot Summary
This biographical, picture storybook describes the colorful and exciting experiences of Theodore Roosevelt's daughter, Alice.  Whether "Running riot" or "eating up the world," Alice lived life to the fullest.  Kerley describes Alice's self schooling, political standings and even married life.  The ending Author's Note personifies the many roles of Alice, and supports the story.

Critical Analysis
Alice Roosevelt is portrayed as a so-called "problem" in a time period where children were usually seen and not hear, but Kerley makes a point to show how the problem child was truly a giver of life and excitement.  Fotheringham illustrates Alice's mischief and animated personality with brightly colored and time period appropriate art.  Kerley's depictions of Alice's childhood escapades, library explorations and diplomatic missions around the globe turn Roosevelt's problem in to a national treasure.  
"From the time she was a little girl, Alice ate up the world."   

Awards & Honors
Silbert Honor Book
Boston Globe-Horn Book Honor
Irma Black Award Honor Book
Parents Choice Award
A Publishers Weekly Best Book of the Year
A School Library Journal Best Book of the Year
A Kirkus Reviews Best Book of the Year
An ALA Notable Book
Capitol Choices
New York Public Library 100 Titles for Reading and Sharing
Nominated for Young Reader awards in Texas, Illinois, Utah and Tennessee



Reviews
"With a palette that emphasizes Alice Blue, her signature color, the illustrations often match Alice's spirit with zigzag streaks, circular pieces of spot art, and slanting figures. . . ." - The Horn Book 2008 
"Kerley brings another historical figure to life."- School Library Journal 2008
"Kerley reveals the essence of Alice in an upbeat account of her life, dramatizing Alice's love of ‘eating up the world..." - New York Times Book Review 2009

Connections
  • Before reading, children can learn about other U.S. Presidents' children by researching, and they can follow up by playing this fun quiz.  http://www.funtrivia.com/playquiz/quiz137680fc4e88.html
  • Teachers can use the free resources at Scholastic and print mazes and coloring sheets for students, to heighten their interest.  The Maze!  The Coloring Page! 
  • Resources provided from the "Learning Through Listening" website are insightful for teachers.  They recommend that students read What To Do About Alice? and list the facts that they learned about the first daughter.  Then they will research another first daughter of interest, and write a new story, "What To Do About ______?"

The Wednesday Wars



Bibliography
Schmidt, Gary D., 2007. THE WEDNESDAY WARS. Clarion Books: New York. ISBN  978-0618724833

Summary
The Wednesday Wars takes place during 1967 amidst the Vietnam War and political unrest.  The main character, Holling Hoodhood, is sentenced to a weekly Wednesday tutorial with his teacher, because he, the lone Presbyterian, has nothing to do on those afternoons.  After learning about cleaning erasers for a while, Holling begans exploring beauty of Shakespeare.  Mrs. Baker also coaches him on running track.  Holling learns much about life and himself throughout the Wednesday Wars.  

Critical Analysis
Gary Schmidt's representation of life in the late 60s for a middle school-aged kid is spot on, and the lead character, Holling Hoodhood's traits withstand the test of time.  Schmidt incorporates the classic plays of Shakespeare in to The Wednseday Wars.  The relationship of love and war and beauty and tragedy are as relevant in the present time as the past. Holling's relationship with his teacher, family and friends may be rocky at times, but love is always a constant in life’s equation.  Parallels between Shakespearean plays and the uncertain times of the 1960s inspire Holling Hoodhood during the typical junior high experiences. 




Awarded
2008 Newbery Honor Book
ALA (American Library Assn), Notable Book for Children 2008 
ALA, Best Book for Young Adults 2008
Booklist, Editors' Choice 2007
National Parenting Publications Book Award 2007
New York Public Library, 100 Titles for Reading and Sharing 2007
Book Sense Award Finalist 2007

Reviews
  
"There are laugh-out-loud moments that leaven tie many poignant ones as Schmidt explores many important themes, not the least of which is what makes a person a hero." - School Library Journal 2007
"...one of the most endearing characters to come along in some time." - Publishers Weekly 2008
"To see if the novel would resonate as deeply with a child, I gave it to an avid but discriminating 10-year-old reader. His laughter, followed by repeated outbursts of ‘Listen to this!,’ answered my question. Best of all, he asked if I had a copy of ‘The Tempest’ he could borrow." - New York Times Book Review 2007


Connections
  • The Wednesday Wars would be an excellent gateway or introduction to Shakespeare's liturature.  After reading, students can study a specific play and look for parallels in their own world
  • Students can practice Reader's Theater for their favorite section of the book and act it out in groups for the class.
  •  After reading each chapter (titled by the months of the year), students can keep a reading journal and practice summarizing and sharing what they have read.

    The Midwife's Apprentice


    Unabridged Audiobook

    Bibliography
    Cushman, Karen. 1995. THE MIDWIFE'S APPRENTICE. HarperCollins: New York.  ISBN 9780064406307

    Summary
    The story of The Midwife's Apprentice is of an obscure girl called Beetle, or Brat, who becomes a smart and lovely young woman.  With no family, no home and not even a name, she struggles through a cold homeless life.  After being taken in by a midwife named Sharp, the young girl learns of life and responsibility.  She finds a name for herself while running an errand, and becomes, Alice.  She learns to cope with failure, learns to love and how to cry, and finally Alice learns her place in the world. 

    Critical Analysis
    Kushman's story of the young girl, Beetle's, transformation in to Alice is brought to life by the lovely and animated narration of Jenny Sterlin.  The listener can instantly relate to the girl's compassionate and innocent feelings and her struggle to find her place in the world.  The girl names herself Alice, and is bursting with pride and love for herself.  After preforming courageous acts and overcoming her failures, Alice proclaims that she knows "her place in this world for right now."  This profound yet simple statement is an epiphany that even many adults never even realize.  The Midwife's Apprentice is a beautifully written novel, with a powerful leading character, and the unabridged recording is truly enjoyable for all ages.  

    Awarded
    2008 Newbery Honor Book
    ALA (American Library Assn), Notable Book for Children 2008 
    ALA, Best Book for Young Adults 2008
    Booklist, Editors' Choice 2007
    National Parenting Publications Book Award 2007
    New York Public Library, 100 Titles for Reading and Sharing 2007
    Book Sense Award Finalist 2007

    Reviews
      
    "There are laugh-out-loud moments that leaven tie many poignant ones as Schmidt explores many important themes, not the least of which is what makes a person a hero." - School Library Journal 2007
    "...one of the most endearing characters to come along in some time." - Publishers Weekly 2008
    "Cushman writes with a sharp simplicity and a pulsing beat. . . ." - Booklist 1995



    Connections
    • The Wednesday Wars would be an excellent gateway or introduction to Shakespeare's liturature.  After reading, students can study a specific play and look for parallels in their own world
    • Students can practice Reader's Theater for their favorite section of the book and act it out in groups for the class.
    •  After reading each chapter (titled by the months of the year), students can keep a reading journal and practice summarizing and sharing what they have read.


    Wednesday, April 6, 2011

    BONES

    SKELETONS AND HOW THEY WORK

    Bibiography
    Jenkins, Steve. 2010. BONES: SKELETONS AND HOW THEY WORK. Scholastic Press: New York.  ISBN 9780545046510

    Summary
    The book explores animal and human skeletal systems, by comparing shapes and sizes to scale.  Some bones are even portrayed as the actual size.  Jenkins brings bones to life by explaining how bones grow and strengthen.  The jobs of bones are described, and different types of animals' skeletal functions are portrayed with vivid pictures and explanations. 


    Critical Analysis
    Bones compares the skeletal system of humans and many animals in an artful and accurate way.  Cut-outs are cleverly assembled to make realistic representations of the skeletal systems.  Children will be amazed at the vast amounts of different sized bones.  The proportionately sized skulls from the human down to that of the mouse lemur are intriguing at any age.  Animal adaptations are also shown on a skeletal level, with examples to back up each photo.  The last pages of "Fact, Stories, History, and Science" contain wonderful comparisons, diagrams and answers to age-old questions.  "What is your funny bone?" Stone answers questions like this and many more in the pages of “Bones.”  Witnessing bones in motion will teach children and adults alike of what amazing creatures we are. 

    Awards
    Caldecott Honor Award Winner
    A Junior Library Guild Selection
    Society of Illustrators Original Art Show

    Reviews
    "Bones contains outstanding cut-paper collages of a wide range of animal skeletons." -- Natural History. 2011
    "First graders would love examining the pictures of what bones look like in living creatures and comparing their sizes and shapes." -- Science Books & Films. 2010
    "From the life-sized human skull grinning out from the brick-red cover to a complete skeleton waving goodbye from a gatefold late in the book, bones are given an entertaining and fresh treatment." -- School Library Journal 2010

    Connections
    • The Fejee Mermaid duped the public by mixing a monkey with a fish.  There is a photo of this creature on page 58.  Students can practice their creative and artistic skills by mixing other animals and creating new creatures of the unknown.
    • Teachers can help create a "readers theater" by analyzing the people of the exhibits.  Students can be delegated as reporters or chose a person from Barnum’s show.  Afterward, they can practice conducting interviews and then perform for the class.
    • Fleming's official website http://www.candacefleming.com/books/bk_barnum.html provides a teacher's guide for each of her books.  She recommends creating a timeline of Barnam's life, KWL activities, or holding a mini-circus for students to show off odd talents!

      THE GREAT AND ONLY BARNUM

      THE TREMENDOUS, STUPENDOUS LIFE OF SHOWMAN P.T. BARNUM

      Bibiography
      Fleming, Candace. 2009. THE GREAT AND ONLY BARNUM. Schwartz & Wade Book: New York.  ISBN 9780375841972.

      Plot Summary
      "The Tremendous, Stupendous Life of Showman P.T. Barnum" is just what you will get, with Fleming's easily readable yet informative tale of "Tale" (his childhood nickname) Barnum's life.  From the farm to the three-ring circus, Barnum creates "humbuggers" and imaginative exhibits and shows.  Fleming gives accurate details of Barnum's rocky personal life, alcohol abuse and money mishaps which shadowed those of the aristocrats at times.  An extensive bibliography, website list and source notes are provided at the end to back up the bizarre and exotic aspects of the book.

      Critical Analysis
      Barnum's remarkable life is easy to imagine in this fantastic portrayal by Candace Fleming.  She accurately describes Barnum's childhood, heyday and the time leading up to his death like a rollercoaster ride.  From his "rag tag" band to the "hummbugger" pranks he pulled, it is easy to see why he was loved by the public.  Fleming's informative side notes add to the story by providing history, personal stories and social norms.  For example, the "Caught Looking" addendum describes how "gawking at people with disabilities" was an acceptable form of entertainment at the time.  Barnum's view described the people of the exhibits as "amazing," and the photos included in the book are, indeed, amazing.  Barnum invented the three-ring circus, and this book is an astonishing description of his legendary life.

      Awards & Honors
      ALA Best Books for Young Adults 2010
      ALSC Notable Book 2010
      Booklist
      Top Ten Biographies for Youth 2010
      Kirkus Reviews
      Best Young Adult Book 2009
      New York Public Library 100 Books For Reading and Sharing Title
      Publishers Weekly Best Book 2009
      VOYA "Perfect Ten"
      YALSA Award for Excellence in Nonfiction for Young Adults 2010 (nominee)

      Reviews
      "This biography captures the spirit of the man and his era." -- The Horn Book
      "Fleming captures Barnum's exuberant personality and describes how his gift for promotion and dedication to delivering what the public wanted made him the world's most famous showman." -- School Library Journal
      "The text has a gently incantatory rhythm, while the book's twilight colors perfectly evoke the magic hour when shadows deepen even as the lights become more luminous." -- Roaring Book Press

      Connections
      • The Fejee Mermaid duped the public by mixing a monkey with a fish.  There is a photo of this creature on page 58.  Students can practice their creative and artistic skills by mixing other animals and creating new creatures of the unknown.
      • Teachers can help create a form for "readers theater" by analyzing the people of the exhibits.  Students can be delegated as reporters or chose a person from Barnum’s show.  Afterward, they can practice conducting interviews and then perform for the class.
      • Fleming's official website http://www.candacefleming.com/books/bk_barnum.html provides a teacher's guide for each of her books.  She recommends creating a timeline of Barnam's life, KWL activities, or holding a mini-circus for students to show off odd talents!


      Tuesday, March 29, 2011

      Almost Astronauts

      13 WOMEN WHO DARED TO DREAM




      Bibliography
      Stone, Tanya Lee. 2009. ALMOST ASTRONAUTS: 13 WOMEN WHO DARED TO DREAM. Massachusetts: Candlewick Press. ISBN 9780763636111

      Plot Summary
      13 brilliant and talented women pilots were ahead of their time.  Ambitiously they broke records and sound barriers, and their ultimate goals were to become women astronauts and pilot a spacecraft.  Stone takes the reader through a brief background story of each woman, beginning with dynamo, Jerri Cobb.  They trained rigorously through mental and physical and somewhat torturous obstacle courses, and in the end proved to be just as tough if not tougher than their male counterparts.  This was not proof enough for NASA or the "social state" and although they never ventured in to space, they jet set for future women who dreamed of flying to outer space. However, in a time period when a "a woman's proper place, supporting their menfolk, keeping the home fires burning," was the social norm, these women were not afraid to dream of something more.

      Critical Analysis
      The the true story of the Mercury 13 is an eye opener.  Stone does a marvelous job at capturing the excitement and devastating injustice of the time, but she also documents the progress which was made by the brave women.  Readers will be engaged whether they are familiar with the story or hearing it for the first time.   Feelings of anger and frustration are evoked by the discrimination against such amazing women, which was the norm of the not-so-distant past.  The story begins in 1999 with the legendary Wally Funk yelling, "Go, Eileen!  Go for all of us!," as the first woman to command a space shuttle is taking off at Cape Canaveral.  Stone does an excellent job of showing how the women of Mercury 13 paved the way for Eileen and other female astronauts who came after her ,by blasting stereotypes and breaking records.  Including quotes from famous astronauts stating that women could "bake casseroles" in space, show readers how the world wasn't ready for the female powerhouse pilots in the 50s and 60s.  This book is a must read for generations to come, because the portrayal of Jerri Cobb and the other strong women of the Mercury 13 are inspirational role models for men and women of all ages.
       
      Awards
      Sibert Medal Award Winner - 2010
       YALSA Excellence in Nonfiction Honor

      Boston Globe-Horn Book Honor
      NCTE Orbis Pictus Honor 
      Bank Street Flora Stieglitz Straus Award  



      Reviews
      "The details will likely be a revelation for the intended middle- and high-school audience." --The Horn Book. 2009.
      "All kids (and many others) should read this book. It is an eye-opener, clearly written and showing that, eventually, persistence counts." --Science Books & Books. 2009.
      "Almost Astronauts is an upsetting book, but a much truer portrait of an era than the many self-congratulatory celebrations of the Moon landing published this year." --Natural History. 2010

      Connections