Saturday, March 6, 2004
Davies, Nicola. 2003. SURPRISNG SHARKS. Ill. by James Croft. Cambridge, MA: Candlewick Press. ISBN 0763621854 [Suggested Grade Levels 1-3]
SUMMARY and ANALYSIS
This book offers the reader a colorful and fun book filled with informative and interesting facts about sharks. Some sharks shed light, while others can puff themselves up like a balloon. Both of these features are defense mechanisms to protect sharks from becoming a meal for some of the larger sea creatures out there. We are introduced to the 16 inch Cookie-Cutter Shark, which looks huge next to the tiny Dwarf Lantern Shark, topping out at a mere 6 inches. Of course, the great white and whale shark are included as well. The great illustrations done by James Croft are colorful, detailed and accurate depictions of the various types of sharks discussed.
While there are numerous books in print on this very topic, zoologist Nicola Davies, has taken her expertise in the underwater world and brought some fascinating details to the surface. There are two, separate double-paged diagrams that illustrate the internal and external features that make sharks unique. There are great explanations on some of the behaviors sharks exhibit, like the fact that they are always hungry and always looking for something to eat. SURPIRSING SHARKS if full of surprising facts! Did you know that sharks seldom attack humans and that pigs kill more people every year than sharks! This book would be an interesting and colorful addition to any juvenile nonfiction collection.
This would be great as reinforcement for any type of lesson on marine life or ocean studies.
Children can realize the great contrasts in the size of these sharks by using this book as a basis for a measurement exercise. Give students a ball of twine and have them cut pieces to represent the length of the various sharks discussed in the book. Comparative language exercises can be included as well, using phrases such as "bigger than", "longer than," etc.
Other books about sharks:
Arnosky, Jim. ALL ABOUT SHARKS. ISBN 0590481665
Field, Nancy H. DISCOVERING SHARKS AND RAYS. ISBN 091042332
Kalman, Bobbie, et al. SPECTACULAR SHARKS. ISBN 0778712982
Other books by Nicola Davies about underwater life:
BIG BLUE WHALE. ISBN 0763610801
ONE TINY TURTLE. ISBN 0763615498
WILD ABOUT DOLPHINS. ISBN 0763614548
By Marianne Follis
Thursday, March 4, 2004
Dale, P. 2003. PRINCESS, PRINCESS. Cambridge: Candlewick Press. ISBN 0763622125 [Suggested Grade Levels K-2]
SUMMARY and ANALYSIS
A beautiful young princess is put to sleep by a frowning fairy friend who was not invited to the princess’ birthday party. The frowning fairy wanted to spoil the birthday fun since she had not been included in the celebration. The primary question in the tale is “Who will wake the princess with a kiss?” As time passes, the angry fairy feels bad for causing the sleeping spell. She returns with a gentle smile rather than a frown. It is she who awakens the sweet princess with a kiss.
Clearly, Dale’s tale is similar to SLEEPING BEAUTY. However, this story is different in that it deals with friendship instead of true romantic love. There is no prince charming in the story ready to save the damsel in distress. Instead, the theme focuses refreshingly on friendship and the practice of righting wrongs. The text is almost poetic in that it flows gently and easily from page to page. Dale’s watercolor and pencil illustrations are appealingly done. The princess is frequently enveloped in light producing a halo effect. In addition, many of the pages are framed in a Beautrix Potter fashion. Moreover, the blending of old traditions with new themes makes this book the kind of tale that will endure the passage of time.
Children could act out PRINCESS, PRINCESS and SLEEPING BEAUTY for fun and enrichment purposes. The enactments could be elaborate productions requiring specific costumes and equipment. However, the productions could be done more simply in a classroom or library setting. In either case, the productions would be fun and strengthen student understanding of friendship, love, and related consequences. After the performances, students could compare and contrast their interpretations of the stories.
The reading of PRINCESS, PRINCESS could prompt rich discussion about friendship and making up.
Children could rewrite a traditional tale of their own choosing.
Other books or tales that can be compared and contrasted with PRINCESS, PRINCESS in terms of folklore similarities and differences:
Craft, Mahlon. SLEEPING BEAUTY. ISBN 1587171201
Hyman, Trina. THE SLEEPING BEAUTY. ISBN 060619844X
By Laura K. Davis
Wednesday, March 3, 2004
Cushman, Karen. 2003. RODZINA. New York: Clarion Books. ISBN 0618133518 [Suggested Grade Levels 5-8]
SUMMARY and ANALYSIS
Through a series of tragedies that strike her family, Rodzina Brodski is orphaned in Chicago in 1881. She is put on an orphan train with the hopes of finding a new life out west. Tall and awkward, Rodzina seems to wear a perpetual scowl on her face. Through Rodzina’s narrative, Cushman offers a pragmatic look at orphan trains. Not all orphans wanted to be shipped away, nor did they all find new loving families. One young boy is adopted to be an additional farm hand. One girl is adopted to replace a grieving family’s dead child. Before demanding her return to the orphan train, Rodzina is adopted to be a new wife for a family whose mother is dying. Enlisted as a chaperon for the trip, Miss Doctor goes west hoping to practice medicine. Since she is not accustomed to taking care of children, she enlists Rodzina’s assistance on the train. The two outcasts are immediately at odds with one another. Rodzina misinterprets Miss Doctor’s aloofness for insensitivity and Miss Doctor feels Rodzina is being too demanding and unappreciative of the adoptive families. Both characters are independent and determined to succeed. Eventually they decide to create a new life in Oakland together.
Through Rodzina’s eyes, Cushman gives realistic insights into the practice of sending orphans to new cities in the hopes of finding families. Since Rodzina recently lost her family, she is the orphan most likely to resent being shipped away from her home to find a new life. In homage to her great-grandmother who emigrated from Poland, Cushman sprinkles Rodzina’s language and habits with authentic words and habits. Her portrayal is honest, but not depressing. Rodzina is a reluctant heroine who finds a reason to be optimistic by the end of the novel.
Rodzina’s family came to America from Poland. Readers could research Poland in the late 19th century, including why families chose to leave and start new lives in the United States. Children can compare maps of Europe in the 1880’s and Europe today.
Have readers investigate what brought people to the western United States during the 1800’s. What did life in Montana or California offer that was different from Chicago or New York? Were their motivations similar to those of the Europeans who came to America? Also encourage readers to chart the path of Rodzina’s trip on a map.
Other books by Cushman that could be compared to this one:
CATHERINE, CALLED BIRDY. ISBN 0395681863
THE MIDWIFE’S APPRENTICE. ISBN 0395692296
Tuesday, March 2, 2004
Crutcher, Chris. 2003. KING OF THE MILD FRONTIER: AN ILL-ADVISED AUTOBIOGRAPHY. New York: Greenwillow Books. ISBN 0060502509 [Suggested Grade Levels 8-12]
SUMMARY and ANALYSIS
Crutcher has taken the wonderfully straightforward style he uses in his gutsy novels and applied it to his own story. He makes us laugh, and he makes us think. Through his antics as a self-proclaimed “bawlbaby”, his never-ending gullibility for doing anything his older brother suggested, his eventual adult emergence as a family therapist, and finally his role as storyteller, Crutcher’s fans get a taste for where his characters and plotlines originate.
For readers unfamiliar with Crutcher’s work, this book can serve is an introduction to the wealth of his young adult literature. On its own, it merits recognition for its thought-provoking passages about death, God, anger, and healing one’s self. Crutcher also touches on the subject of censorship (particularly of his own books) and why he feels the questionable elements of his work are so important.
After reading this autobiography and discovering some of the real-life influences on some of Chris Crutcher’s characters and story lines, teens can read a novel and compare the truth with the fiction. Those who have never read one of Crutcher’s novels can choose an example that sounds intriguing, while those who are already Crutcher fans can reexamine their favorite novels.
Suggest this book to teens and their parents who are seeking counseling or family therapy. Crutcher handles tough subjects with just enough humor to lighten the mood without discrediting the merit of counseling.
Other autobiographical novels about popular authors:
Gantos, Jack. HOLE IN MY LIFE. ISBN 0374399883
Myers, Walter Dean. BAD BOY: A MEMOIR. ISBN 0060295236
Paulsen, Gary. GUTS: THE TRUE STORIES BEHIND HATCHET AND THE BRIAN BOOKS. ISBN 0385326505
Soto, Gary. A SUMMER LIFE. ISBN 0833574736
Examples of books by Chris Crutcher mentioned in this autobiography:
RUNNING LOOSE. ISBN 068802002X
STAYING FAT FOR SARAH BYRNES. ISBN 0688115527
WHALE TALK. ISBN 0688180191
By Amy D. Picard
Crow, Chris. 2003. GETTING AWAY WITH MURDER: THE TRUE STORY OF THE EMMETT TILL CASE. New York: Dial Books. ISBN 0803728042 [Suggested Grade Levels 7 and up]
SUMMARY and ANALYSIS
Crow’s account presents the true story of the 1954 murder of fourteen-year-old Emmett Till as well as the trial of the men accused of the crime. Till, a black 14-year-old from Chicago, was brutally murdered while visiting relatives in the Mississippi Delta. While surprisingly few know about the Till case, the gruesome, racially motivated crime and the acquittal of the white murderer’s sparked national interest in the inequalities of the South and provided a powerful catalyst for the civil rights movement.
Crowe’s nonfiction account shares the events that led up to Till’s murder. Crowe details what happened on the horrible night, the court proceedings, and how the nation responded-- the "aftershocks" of the unbelievable ruling. He effectively paints Till as an average teen whose seemingly benign mistake costs him his life. The book gives much attention to detailing the climate of the American South, allowing readers to better understand the historical context of the event. Crow’s choice in including the infamous black-and-white photo of Emmett’s disfigured corpse is important to note; while the image is shocking, it provides readers with a real sense of the horrific nature of the unpunished crime. The account offers additional photos which focus on Emmett’s life as well as events and key players in the trial. Crowe’s narrative makes the book compelling and difficult to put down. In addition, he provides in-text references and a concluding bibliography, as well as a time line and a list of further resources about the case.
The Till case could be used as a springboard for a lesson or unit on different civil rights movements held throughout the world. Before reading Crowe’s account, teens could complete a KWL chart to determine what they know regarding the case, as well as the history of The Civil Rights Movement in America. After reading, the list could be revisited so that they could determine what questions they have.
Teens could read Crowe’s other work regarding the Till case (MISSISSIPPI TRIAL, 1955) to search for differences between how the story is delivered. After a reading of both, teens could discuss which book they liked better and provide rationales for their opinions.
Other stories about the Emmett Till murder and court case:
Crow, Chris. MISSISSIPPI TRIAL, 1955. ISBN 0380714086
Till-Mobley, Mamie and Christopher Benson. DEATH OF INNOCENCE: THE STORY OF THE HATE CRIME THAT CHANGED AMERICA. ISBN 1400061172
Whitfield, Stephen J. A DEATH IN THE DELTA: THE STORY OF EMMETT TILL. ISBN 080184326X
By Rose Brock
Monday, March 1, 2004
Crew, Gary. 2003. TROY THOMPSON’S EXCELLENT PEOTRY [sic] BOOK. La Jolla, California: Kane/Miller. ISBN 1929132522 [Suggested Grade Levels 5-8]
SUMMARY and ANALYSIS
Troy Thompson, a student in Ms. Kranke’s class at Daggaburra State School, has been given a journal for his poetry assignments where he has stapled Ms. Kranke’s notes and his own imaginative creations. An explanation and example of each type of poetry studied in class is included, such as ballads, limericks, acrostics, odes, and concrete poetry. Troy pursues each assignment with wit and creativity. His creations center around the typical preoccupations of the average ten to twelve year old boy: his girlfriend Kylie, his dogs Ferris and Bueller, and his own hyperbolic sense of himself. His illustrations include all types of media from illustrations with crayon to cut out magazine photos. Not to be forgotten that this is an ongoing class assignment, Ms. Kranke grades the poems, and her comments are included in traditional red ink.
Troy’s poetry is not all fun and games. His father, a police officer, is killed in the line of duty. Through his ballad and sonnet, Troy offers insight into how he is dealing with the emotional upheaval the death of a parent can cause a child. However, the book does not drown in the melancholy of the situation. His poems allow him to express his emotions as he feels he needs to, and Ms. Kranke has a dialogue with him about his father, but neither one dwells on the issue any longer than Troy wants to.
This book is a twist on a typical how-to book. It takes the stigma out of writing poetry by giving kids whimsical examples that are approachable and realistic. The examples are clearly explained in Mrs. Kranke’s notes, but the explanations are not condescending to the audience. Each type of poetry in the book is a type that kids would like to read and write. Troy’s voice is legitimate, and readers will be able to relate to him. This book is not meant to tell students how to write poetry like Shakespeare did it, rather it shows students how to appreciate and create their own poetry using their lives for inspiration.
Students can use this book as a guide in their own poetry writing, either in class or on their own. They can create a similar journal with their own writing and artwork. The book could be the basis of a poetry unit. The forms of poetry are simple enough to be taught and replicated easily, perhaps during April, National Poetry Month.
Other poetry books by young authors or about young people:
Nye, Naomi Shihub. SALTING THE OCEAN: 100 POEMS BY YOUNG POETS.
Watson, Esther Pearl (compiler). THE PAIN TREE: AND OTHER TEENAGED ANGST-RIDDEN POEMS. ISBN 0613339487
By Lea Ann Gilbert