Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Lon Po Po: written and illustrated by Ed Young (1989)

             Lon Po Po is a multicultural children’s picture book, both written and illustrated by Ed Young (1989).  Within the story, the sisters, Shang, Tao, and Paotze are staying home alone while their mother visits their grandmother.  While away, a wolf disguises himself as the grandmother and tricks the girls into letting him into their house.  Eventually the oldest sister discovers his true identity, and concocts a way to get rid of the wolf.  In the end, the wolf dies and the girls await their mother’s return.  
            Lon Po Po can be categorized within the folklore/folktale genre, as it is a “red-riding hood story from China” (Young, 1989). When considering the story’s language and illustrations, Lon Po Po is a quality piece of literature.  To begin with, this translated tale “reflects the cultural integrity of early retellings” (Galda et al., 2010, p. 178).  Young (1989) clearly introduces and describes the characters through text descriptions and behavior within the story.  The plot is sequential, as the sisters encounter a conflict with the wolf, and the tale’s conclusion provides pleasant closure when the girls outsmart the wolf.  Also, the language used within the story flows naturally in a third-person narrative format, and is appropriate and comprehendible for children.  The themes found within the tale are also universally significant, as obeying one’s parents and not trusting strangers is important for all children (Galda et al., 2010).  Lastly, Young’s (1989) illustrations portray excellence, as the panel-like watercolor pictures complement the narrative.
            The author, Ed Young was born in China but currently resides in New York.  As a child, Young read a lot, no matter the type of literature.  Growing up, Young knew that he wanted to pursue something artistic, which led him to illustrate for many other authors before writing and illustrating for himself.  Young is especially inspired by nature and folklore, which can be seen within both his writing and illustrations.  Several books that Young has written and illustrated include Cat and Rat, I, Doko, and Night Visitors. 
            When I first read that Lon Po Po was a translated version of the Little Red Riding Hood story, I was afraid that I would favor the classic tale due to its incorporation into my childhood.  After reading the story, however, I actually preferred the Lon Po Po version.  I loved the cleverness and courage of the 3 sisters as they noticed the danger they were in, and worked to escape the situation.  I also paged through the story several times just to take in Young’s beautiful illustrations.  Young combined breathtaking illustrations with an inspiring narrative; what more could we want?  Vicki Blackwell’s (2003) website displayed 2 illustrations from Lon Po Po which can be viewed below.

Below are 2 motivational activities and reader response questions that would be beneficial for students within the classroom:
  1.  The first activity would involve reading a classic version of Little Red Riding Hood, and the Chinese version, Lon Po Po.  After reading both stories as a class, students would partner up and complete a Venn diagram comparing and contrasting the 2 versions.  Students would be urged to keep literary elements in mind, as well as the quality of the illustrations in each.  After the partnerships completed the Venn diagrams, there would be a class discussion on the similarities and differences of the 2 stories.  I would also be curious to learn which version the students liked better and why. 
  2. The second activity would be a “transition” assignment that would be great for active engagement in the classroom.  As the students will be writing their own versions of Little Red Riding Hood within the folklore unit, I would focus on the way Young (1989) used transition words throughout his story to help organize the events and to help the tale flow freely.  Each time the students hear me read a transition word, I want them to put their hands out in a “stop” position.  Several transition words include but are not limited to first, to begin with, finally, then, now, the next day, once, and so on.  After the story is read, I will have the students do a class “retell” of the events that occurred using transition words. 
Reader Response Questions:
  1.  Did you like the ending of the book?  Why or why not?
  2. Are there any words or questions that you have from this version? If so, let’s try to answer them as a class!
  3. If you were an author, what would you change about this story/version?
Blackwell, V. (2003).  Lon Po Po [online images]. Retrieved from
Galda, L., Cullinan, B.E., Sipe, L. R. (2010).  Literature and the Child (7th ed.).  Belmont, CA:        
Wadsworth, Inc.
Young, E. (1989).  Lon Po Po: A Red-Riding Hood story from China. New York, NY: Penguin
Putnam Books

Sunday, January 20, 2013

The Giver: Lois Lowry (1993)

            The Giver is a science fiction children’s novel written by Lois Lowry (1993).  Within The Giver, a young boy named Jonas approaches his “Ceremony of Twelve,” where he would be given the assignment of the new Receiver (Lowry, 1993, p. 14).  The new life Assignment and the insight that it brought quickly changes Jonas’ perception of the community in which he belongs; with his newfound knowledge as Receiver, Jonas must make a life changing decision that could impact the community dramatically. 
            The Giver is classified as a science fiction novel in which the author explores a theoretically futuristic society influenced by scientific developments (Galda, Cullinan, & Sipe, 2010).  Lowry (1993) created a believable and detailed world/setting that allowed the reader to vividly imagine such occurrences within the novel. With such scientific advances portrayed, both the writer and readers are able to contemplate the possible consequences of the events that occurred (Galda et al., 2010).  The plot and the events are consistent throughout the novel, and are greatly influenced by the scientific advances within the community.  Science fiction novels such as The Giver are also known for their in-depth characterization.  Each character, whether Jonas, Mother, Father, or Asher are described in great detail, allowing for readers to become acquainted with each individual, and his or her contribution to society.  Jonas, however, is multidimensional, and grows throughout the story.  The style of The Giver is also greatly influenced by word choice (diction) and sentence structure (syntax); within the novel, Lowry (1993) uses phrases such as “the Old,” “Ceremony of Twelve,” “’Jonas has been selected,’” “’…the Capacity to See Beyond,’” “’We thank you for your childhood,’” and many more phrases to fit within the futuristic community she created (p. 44; 45; 60; 63; 64).  Lastly, The Giver allows readers to contemplate life within the science fiction novel, and question the significance of memories, feelings, independence, and more (Galda et al., 2010). 
Galda et al., (2010) also discussed Lowry’s novels and their dystopian stance.  According to the National Council of Teachers of English [NCTE] and the International Reading Association [IRA] (2006), a dystopia is an imagined, futuristic universe “in which oppressive societal control and the illusion of perfect society are maintained through corporate, bureaucratic, technological, moral, or totalitarian control”.  Dystopian societies are often controlling, citizens are under surveillance and fear outside communities, individuality is seen as a bad characteristic, and the society is often thought to be a utopian society.  Lastly, the protagonist or main character may feel trapped and question the society’s ways. 
The author, Lois Lowry, wanted to be a writer since she was a young girl (Scholastic Inc., 2013).  Writing was the subject that Lowry enjoyed the most while in school.  Lowry even called herself an introvert, and said that as a child, she preferred to curl up and read rather than spend time with friends.  When writing became her career, Lowry chose to write books of various styles and content, but a theme she tended to stick to was “the importance of human connections” (Scholastic Inc., 2013).  Though the list is quite extensive, several other of Lowry’s novels include A Summer to Die, Messenger, and Number the Stars. 
For as long as I can remember, I have heard about Lowry’s The Giver.  Personally, I loved it!  I ordered the book, and after 4 days, I finished the novel and wanted to read more.  The Giver was the type of book that made me feel what the characters were feeling; for example, when Jonas was waiting for his Assignment, my heart was racing and I could not read fast enough to find out what happened.  This book would be appropriate for 5th-7th graders, and  I wish that I would have read this book when I was young, and preferably at the age of 11; at this age, I could have questioned what Assignment I would have been given, and if such a society would have been right for me.  After considering this question, I think that I would have been assigned to an Instructor (teacher). 
Below are 2 motivational activities and reader response questions that would be beneficial for students within the classroom:
1.       The first activity would be a writing assignment in which students would write which Assignment he or she should be assigned to by the Committee of Elders.  Assignments for the Twelves include Birthmother, Nurturer, Caretaker of the Old, Story Teller, Laborer, Doctor, Instructor and more (Lowry, 1993).  Students are to choose an assignment which he or she feels fits him or her best.  Within the essay, students are to have an introduction, body, and conclusion.  In the body of the essay, students need to explain why the Committee should or would pick him or her for the Assignment.  Also within the body, students are to state which Assignment would be his or her least favorite, and why they would not fit that Assignment. 
2.      The second assignment would be a classroom debate.  The students would be divided into 2 groups: Dystopia and Utopia.  Students will support whether they think the community in which Jonas lives is a dystopia or a utopia.  Each group will be given the chance to visit the computer lab and research either dystopia or utopia.  After researching, students will take evidence from The Giver to support their position.  With several days to prep, the students will then engage in a friendly classroom debate.  Students are to behave in a professional manner, and are expected to be respectful to the opinions of others, and to speak in-turn only. 
Reader Response Questions:
1.       What was the author trying to say about life and living through this book?
2.      If you were Jonas, what would you have done towards the end of the book?
3.      If Lowry were to write a sequel to The Giver, what do you predict would happen next?
Galda, L., Cullinan, B.E., Sipe, L. R. (2010).  Literature and the Child (7th ed.).  Belmont, CA: 
Wadsworth, Inc.
Lowry, L. (1993).  The Giver.  New York, NY: Random House, Inc. 
NCTE & IRA (2006).  Dystopias: Definition and Characteristics.  Retrieved from
Scholastic Inc. (2013).  Biography: Lois Lowry.  Retrieved from
Scholastic Inc. (2013).  “The Giver.”  [online image].  Retrieved from

Monday, January 14, 2013

Harlem: a poem by Walter Dean Myers, pictures by Christopher Myers

Harlem is a multicultural poem written by Walter Dean Myers in 1997, with pictures by Christopher Myers.  The poem describes the history and uniqueness of Harlem within New York City.  The neighborhood of Harlem possesses great personality with its people, sights, art, music, spirituality, and more (Myers, 1997).  Harlem would be classified under the genre of poetry, which has been formatted in a free-verse style that does not possess rhyming (Galda, Cullinan, Sipe, 2010).  The poem also uses strong evocative language that conveys the experiences Myers had within Harlem.  The illustrations of people and the community are brought to life through detailed pictures and a vibrant combination of colors.  The illustrations even appear textured and as though the reader could touch and feel characteristics of each picture.

Harlem is a poem that could be read at a 4th-6th grade level.  Though the content would be interesting for the intended readers, it may be difficult for students to understand the message due to the word choice and structure of several verses, as well as various names and locations discussed (Galda et al., 2010).  Within the poem, individuals such as Langston Hughes, W.E.B. Du Bois, and James Baldwin are discussed, and locations such as Lenox Avenue and “the villages of Ghana/Mali/Senegal are mentioned;” an educator may need to research vocabulary, locations, and names prior to presenting the poem to the class to ensure understanding (Myers, 1997).  The pictures, however, correspond significantly with the verses, allowing readers to establish meaning. 

Harlem also contains poetic devices that enhance the overall meaning of the poem as well (Galda et al., 2010).  To begin with, a metaphor can be found in the statement “Harlem was a promise;” one knows that Harlem is not actually a promise, but Myers (1997) compares these two unlike things to strengthen his feelings about the neighborhood.  Personification can be found in the verse “Colors loud enough to be heard,” as a thing or inanimate object such as colors is given a quality such as being loud (Myers, 1997).  Also, Myers (1997) incorporates a simile when he states, “Heavy hearted tambourine rhythms Loosed in the hard city Like a scream torn from the throat Of an ancient clarinet”.  In this passage, the author is comparing a tambourine’s rhythm and a scream, though unlike things. Lastly, the way that the poem is structured helps readers to comprehend the subject of Harlem, as one can almost hear the poem being read with a blues band keeping a beat in the background. 

I really enjoyed reading Harlem, and would definitely suggest for this poem to be read in 4th-6th grade classrooms.  To be honest, I read through the poem several times to be sure that I understood the meanings on each page, as several pages required the reader to dig deeper than just the words on the page.  I fell in love with the illustrations of Harlem, and was touched to discover that the illustrator, Christopher Myers, is the son of the author, Walter Dean Myers (Myers, n.d.).  The book is also dedicated to Myer’s foster parents who raised Myers in Harlem; though he loved the neighborhood, his teen years were difficult, so writing was a form of escape.  Myers has written many more books, several of which include Monster, Harlem Summer, and Somewhere in the Darkness (Myers, n.d.). 

Below are 2 motivational activities and reader response questions that would be beneficial for students within the classroom:

  1. The 1st activity would be a form of “Community Share,” where the whole class would interact and discuss the poem together (Galda et al., 2010, p. 350).  Due to the difficulty that students may have understanding Harlem, I feel that it would be important for the poem to be read as a class, and then to have a class discussion following the reading.  Prior to reading, I would like to discuss “Poetic Techniques” that students may find while reading poetry; these may include alliteration, metaphor, and personification (p. 147).  While reading, I will encourage questions and will reread pages that are difficult for students to understand.  After the poem is read and clarified, I would have students write about what they had heard.  This quick writing activity would help promote unique ideas, which would then be discussed as a class/community.  I would also like to discuss the many meanings of the word multicultural, and discuss why Myers would write “Harlem was a promise Of a better life, of a place where a man didn’t Have to know his place Simply because he was Black” (Myers, 1997). 
  2. The 2nd activity would begin as an individual task in which students would write a short poem about his or her neighborhood.  Students will be required to use several poetic devices, to choose an appropriate name/title for the neighborhood/poem and to write about the people, sounds, smells, and anything else that is distinguishing and unique about the neighborhood.  When work time is complete, students will partner up and share poems with one another.  If time, students will also be able to illustrate one picture to go along with the poem. 

Both of the above motivational activities align with the Saint Leo Core Value of Respect (Saint Leo University, 1889).  Respect involves valuing others and being aware of another’s worth.  We should admire “all individuals’ unique talents,” and appreciate the contributions, efforts, and ideas of others (Saint Leo University, 1889).  With the above activities, students will be learning about the Harlem culture, and will also learn to value a way of life other than his or her own.  Providing for a book reading and open discussion with the class (as in activity 1), clarifications can be made so that students will not hold misjudgments or stereotypes about another’s culture.  By writing about one’s own neighborhood (as in activity 2), students will learn about diversity within his or her class, as well as within the city; with this, students will learn how multicultural the United states is, as even one city holds great uniqueness.  Overall, and through the many differences, beings are able to live together harmoniously, no matter one’s race, ethnicity, religion, gender, socioeconomic status, education level, and so on.

Reader Response Questions:

  1. What connections are there between the poem and your life?
  2. Is there anything that you didn’t know, that you do know now after reading the poem?
  3. What do you think the author’s purpose was for writing this poem?


Galda, L., Cullinan, B.E., Sipe, L. R. (2010).  Literature and the Child (7th ed.).  Belmont, CA: 

Wadsworth, Inc.

Myers, W.D. (1997).  Harlem.  New York, NY: Scholastic Inc.

Myers, W.D. (n.d.).  Walter Dean Myers: Biography.  Retrieved from


Saint Leo University. (1889).  Saint Leo University: Mission & Values. Retrieved from


Scholastic. (c. 1997).  “Harlem.”  [online image]. Retrieved from