Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Balarama A Royal Elephant

Balarama A Rojal Elephant
Ted and Betsy Lewin
Lee & Low Books Inc., 2009
     Balarama is the name of the royal Indian elephant who captures the hearts of Ted and Betsy Lewin.   They tell the story of their trips to India in the first person, and the realist illustrations give add a sense of culture and beauty to their experiences.  The book is dedicated to an elephant with a strong aura who had passed away the the previous year, Drona.  The magnificent elephant had carried the golden 'howdah' through the traditional Hindu procession, Mysore Dasara.  Balarama picks up where Drona left off and preforms the procession magnificently. 

Critical Analysis
     Ted and Betsy Lewin have created a book which is culturally nourishing for children.  They are the main human characters in the story which takes place in India, and all of the other characters are described and illustrated in a dramatic, yet very real way.  The Indian vernacular is not watered down, and children have the opportunity to familiarize themselves with another world, culture and the Hindu religion.  I think that is brilliant for the authors to include the glossary, and elephant facts at the end of the book.  When the reader is intrigued, it is the best time to teach terms and facts.  

     The details about Drona's untimely death are not dramatized or glazed over for the sake of young readers.  The This segment could helpful for children who have lost a loved one or who have suffered an accident.  It teaches that although painful losses occur in life, new adventures and beauty carry on.  The illustrations paint an intricately detailed view of India, the people and the culture.  Bright colors reveal the the descriptions of the Indian ceremonial and religious items, and the reader can easily imagine being there.  Illustrations depicting more serious moments in the book take up the entirety of the page, while more playful moments are characterized in a similarly playful way.  Onomatopoeia fonts are designed in to the images which set the dynamic mood.  The final photograph of the Balarama is clipped from The Times of India, and it gives the reader a since of pride to see the photo along side the wonderful reviews.  


Caldecott Honor Winning authors


"The combination of compelling travelogue and images is immediate and dramatic. Kids will also enjoy the extensive back matter, which includes elephant facts and a glossary." Grades 2-5. --Hazel Rochman of Booklist

"If the art doesn't grab chidren, the elephants surely will. Wonderful."—Paula Willey, Baltimore County Public Library, Towson, MD of School Library Journal


India Curriculum Unit:  Monkeys, Elephants and Turbans:  A Literary and Mathematical Trip to India
Created by: Andrea Edson
This unit created for Kindergarten students incorporates the story and illustrations of Balarama, to help students to recognize:

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Flotsam Review - Module 1 LS5603

David Wiesner
Clarion Books, 2006
ISBN-13: 978-0-618-19457-5

“Flotsam:  Something that floats.”


     The boy in the wordless picture book, Flotsam, shares many of the same traits as the award-winning illustrator, David Wiesner, who is pictured at the age of five on the inside of the back jacket cover.  After turning the first page, you can see a young boy using a magnifying glass as he inspects every detail of a small crustacean.  The viewer is instantly inspired to view each detail of the pages with the same intensity.  As the boy searches to find treasures that had washed to the beach, he stumbles across a mysterious camera.  The photographs developed from the film inside reveal a brilliantly colored underwater fantasy.  Supernatural scenes of wonder invite the viewer to stay on each page and soak their imaginations in the sea.  Finally, under the microscope, pictures within pictures reveal the worldly journey of the camera, and our main character snaps a photo of himself holding the other children’s photos to complete the cycle.  The cotton blonde-haired boy finds the fantastical photos in the camera, along with the cultural photos of children from all over the world. As he launches the camera back in to the ocean, you can only imagine the next adventures it will capture.  

Critical Analysis

     David Wiesner’s illustrations are phenomenal, and without words he manages to create pages that coerce the viewer in to savoring every minute detail.  The illustration of the fish eye on the front sleeve cleverly foreshadows the lens of the camera.  Sectioned pages create movement which expresses the feelings of the characters.  A sense of humanity and global oneness are established between the children who were privy to the secret wonders of the sea.  The story and artistic styling of Flotsam has the ability to intrigue and captivate readers, storytellers and art lovers without boundaries.  

Awards & Reviews:

The Caldecott Medal, 2007

The New York Times Book Review:  Best Illustrated Children's Book Awards

“Telling tales through imagery is what storytellers have done through the ages. Wiesner’s wordless tale resonates with visual images that tell his story with clever wit and lively humor,” said Caldecott Medal Committee Chair Janice Del Negro.

"Wiesner’s detailed watercolors make the absurd wonderfully believable, his graphic storytelling sense is sure and swift, and children will surely love “Flotsam” from start to finish." said David Small of The New York Times

Wordless picture books like Wiesner's Flotsam give children a platform for inventing unique stories each time they read the book.  Children can use the Flotsam photos of the the sea to tell and/or write their own short stories.  Each child will choose one page to analyze, and teachers can assist students by asking them questions.  
For example:
What are the creatures under the sea?  
Can you give them names?
Where did they come from? 
What is their temperament?
What do they eat? 

School Library Journal suggests this class project inspired by Flotsam.
An article submitted to School Library Journal, by Melissa Techman September 7, 2010
Students make an artifact which is relevant to a time period they are studying.  Each group of five shows the artifact as they re-create the picture within a picture with a high resolution camera.  Then the groups exchange and decipher the time period they are studying with the clue of the final photograph.