Thursday, May 5, 2011

The Game of Silence

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

"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

  • 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

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

". . . 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


  • 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

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

"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

  • 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

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

"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

  • 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.