Friday, February 15, 2013

Wabi Sabi: written by Mark Reibstein, art by Ed Young (2008)

            Wabi Sabi by Mark Reibstein, art by Ed Young (2008), is a story about a cat named Wabi Sabi who lives in Kyoto, Japan.  Within the story, Wabi Sabi begins to wonder what her name means, and sets out determined to discover its meaning.   After receiving similar answers from her master, a cat, and a dog that her name was too difficult to explain, she sought out a monkey at Mount Hiei.  Wabi sabi is a way that one may see the world; this concept began from the ways of the Ancient Chinese, and began to sculpt Japanese culture (Reibstein, 2008).  Basically, wabi sabi is a way or a feeling in which one can see harmony and beauty within simplicity.  This concept also incorporates humility, and its importance in the world. 
            Wabi Sabi can be classified as a multicultural children’s picturebook that incorporates fiction, a nonfiction concept, as well as poetry.  This book includes a cat’s story and haiku poems that can be found in both Japanese and English (Reibstein, 2008; Galda, Cullinan, & Sipe, 2010).  Within the story, Wabi Sabi appears to be a dimensional character who begins as simple and confident, and quick transitions to unsure and insecure.  After her journey to discover her name’s meaning, she becomes quite content again.  This story takes place in Kyoto, Japan, and in a world that is both realistic, and somewhat fanciful, as the animals are able to talk to one another. Reibstein does a tremendous job of developing the character of Wabi Sabi, as well as the events that take place during her search; in a sense, it is as if Wabi Sabi was at conflict with herself, as she was unaware of her own name's meaning, and therefore herself.  Wabi Sabi also incorporates nonfiction, as wabi sabi is a real concept or feeling that is used in Japanese culture.  Lastly, Reibstein writes not only a narrative, but also haikus, which are short, Japanese poems.  Haiku poetry works to express details one can envision through the senses, and is usually inspired by nature; these poems are written in 3 lines, with 5, 7, and 5 syllables. 
            Ed Young is the illustrator of Wabi Sabi.  Within Wabi Sabi, Young uses the technique of collage to create illustrations that appear to be multilayered and filled with vibrant details and color (Galda et al., 2010).  Young’s collages incorporate many objects to create an image that is both realistic, natural, and fictional.  Objects such as a straw mat, pine needles, hair/fur, and leaves create a dimensional look to each page.  Young also uses water colors, photography, and many other medium types within his illustrations.  Also, instead of the book opening and turning pages horizontally, the book opens and turns vertically.  I have another blog posting with illustrations by Ed Young, so if curious, check out Lon Po Po

"Wabi Sabi:" An illustration by Ed Young within the children's picturebook.

            I really enjoyed reading Wabi Sabi, as it took a concept that was difficult to understand, wabi sabi, and broke it down into a children’s story.  I found the narrative to be especially useful to understanding the concept, and the haiku complemented the story beautifully; however, such poetry may be difficult for young readers to understand.  The back of the story does include several translations for several haiku phrases in both Japanese and English.  This is also a story that allows my son to stare at the pictures for several minutes before turning the page. 
            The author, Mark Reibstein is both a writer and an English teacher.  Throughout his life, Reibstein lived in many different places, including Kyoto, Japan; while there, Reibstein had a cat named Wabi Sabi.  Wabi Sabi was the first picturebook that Reibstein wrote (Powell’s Books, 2013). 

"Mark Reibstein:" Author of Wabi Sabi

            Below are 2 motivational activities and reader response questions that would be beneficial for students within the classroom:  (3rd/4th grade Activites)         
  1.  The first activity would incorporate art and poetry for the students.  After reading Wabi Sabi, students would be able to create a collage of something that represented beauty to him or her within nature/the world.  Students would be encouraged to use watercolors, realistic objects, outlining, and any other media or techniques that would bring the picture to life.  After the collages were finished, students would begin writing a haiku about the beauty within the collage.  (Remember, haikus are poems with 3 lines; the 1st has 5 syllables, the 2nd 7, and the 3rd has 5 syllables.  Haikus also use one’s senses and objects of nature.)  As in the concept of wabi sabi, the collage may appear simple, but holds great beauty!
  2.   The 2nd activity would allow students to look up one’s own name and its meaning.  Each student would be given the opportunity to search for the meaning of one’s name on the computer.  Students would also be able to ask one’s parents why this name was chosen for him or her.  After all of the information was gathered, students would create a small poster with his or her name, including pictures and text describing the meaning. 
Reader Response Questions:
  1.  What was the author trying to tell you through this book?
  2. Have you ever seen something that others thought was simple and imperfect, but you thought it was beautiful? Explain!
  3. Why do you think Wabi Sabi’s friends had such a difficult time explaining the meaning of her name?
Galda, L., Cullinan, B.E., & Sipe, L. R. (2010).  Literature and the Child (7th ed.).  Belmont, CA:        
Wadsworth, Inc.
Powell’s Books.  (2013).  “Mark Reibstein”.  [online image].  Retrieved from
Powell’s Books.  (2013).  Kids’ Q&A: Mark Reibstein.  Retrieved from
Reibstein, M.  (2008).  Wabi Sabi.  New York, NY:  Little, Brown and Company. 
Young, E. (1989).  Lon Po Po: A Red-Riding Hood story from China. New York, NY: Penguin
Putnam Books
Young, E.  (2011).  “Wabi Sabi”.  [online image].  Retrieved from
Young, E.  (2013).  “Wabi Sabi”.  [online image].  Retrieved from

Monday, February 11, 2013

The Boy in the Striped Pajamas: John Boyne (2006)

             The Boy in the Striped Pajamas by John Boyne (2006) is a historical fiction novel that interprets a young boy’s experiences during the Holocaust.  After Bruno’s father is promoted to Commandant by the Fury, Bruno’s family is forced to leave Berlin and settle in a home known as Out-With.  After arriving, Bruno notices a “town” nearby that exists behind a tall fence; what Bruno does not know, however, is that such a town is actually a Camp where those of Jewish descent are brought by soldiers such as his father.  After exploring and meeting a young boy behind the fence, Shmuel, Bruno’s stay at Out-With seems to take a brighter turn.  After over a year, Bruno’s curiosity and love for exploration drives him to spend a day with Shmuel behind the fence.  In efforts to keep the ending a mystery, I will let readers discover the outcome on his or her own. 
            The Boy in the Striped Pajamas can be classified as a historical fiction novel that portrays the events of the Holocaust during the 1930s and 1940s; this novel would also be considered multicultural.  The book even states that The Boy in the Striped Pajamas is a “fable” (Boyne, 2006).  The events that occurred within the book, as well as the attitudes, were consistent and honest with the time period (Galda, Cullinan, & Sipe, 2010).  The novel possessed quality literary elements, as the setting, plot, characters, theme, and style were clearly developed.  The setting includes the 1930s/40s, Berlin, and Out-With.  Boyne (2006) did a tremendous job of detailing the setting, allowing other readers and myself to visualize each event as it took place.  The plot can be seen in the summary above, and includes problems, solutions, and conflicts.  The book events also usually occur in sequence, with several flashbacks.  The protagonist in the story is Bruno, who lives with his mother, father, and sister Gretel.  The author also goes into detail with Bruno’s grandmother and grandfather, Lieutenant Kotler, Maria, Pavel, and Shmuel. The author even discusses and narrates for the Fury/Adolf Hitler, as well as Eva Braun.  Boyne was able to capture unique values, feelings, and behavior for all of his characters.  Boyne (2006) was able to make the characters come alive through his detailed descriptions of each character, both through direct statements and overall behavior/interactions.  Personally, I feel that Boyne’s (2006) theme centers around the naivety of a young boy, and the ignorance, brainwashing, and evil that is occurring during the time period.  Boyne writes the story in a third-person point-of-view, and is still able to capture the mind of a 9-year-old. 
            Though the book does not contain illustrations, the cover art is striped, like the striped pajamas, and the lettering of the title is a faded black.  The cover may be quite simple, but one almost gets an eerie feeling when gazing at the book.  The book has been made into a movie, and the film cover is displayed below.

IMDb: "The Boy in the Striped Pajamas" (2008)

            Though the book is written in a fictional manner, I feel that Boyne’s portrayal of the Holocaust, people’s conflicting values and attitudes, evil, and the destruction of families were exceptional.  I loved the way that Bruno would dwell on certain instances, such as Maria packing his personal things, his sister being a Hopeless case, and his best friends from Berlin.  I felt as though I knew Bruno throughout the story, and my heart was pounding as he entered the Concentration Camp with Shmuel.  The friendship between the two boys was quite endearing, though ironic as it was also impossible. I also valued that Boyne was able to touch on so many emotions without details that may be considered gory or inappropriate for young readers. 
            John Boyne studied English Literature and creative writing as a college student (Boyne, 2010).  When beginning his writing career, Boyne wrote many short stories, many of which were published.  As discussed above, The Boy in the Striped Pajamas novel was later made into a film.  The novel received many awards and was considered a bestseller.  Boyne recently published a children’s book, The Terrible thing that Happened to Barnaby Brocket, and will soon have an adult novel published, The House is Haunted, in April 2013. 
            Below are 2 motivational activities and reader response questions that would be beneficial for students within the classroom: (Both are considered 8th grade activities)
  1.  The 1st activity would be a class discussion involving three terms: stereotype, prejudice, and discrimination.  Stereotypes involve generalizing about people in a group, prejudice incorporates an attitude, and discrimination is the actual act or behavior one displays towards another.  While reading the book, students are to mark (with sticky notes), examples of the 3 terms.  The class will gather once again to discuss the examples and explain one’s rationale. 
  2. The 2nd activity would involve a research project.  Students would be given time to research the Stanley Milgram Experiment (McLeod, 2007).  Basically, Milgram wanted to investigate the obedience Nazi soldiers displayed towards the Fury, and one’s personal conscience.  Milgram also questioned if ordinary individuals were able to commit such atrocities due to commands from an authority figure.  When ordinary people were asked to electrically shock another for giving wrong answers, would they obey orders?  Check it out! 
3 Reader Response Questions:
  1.  Have you ever been in a position where someone was being mistreated?  How did you react/handle the situation?  Was one person acting from an authoritative position?
  2. Where might children learn about and develop stereotypes, prejudices, or the act of discrimination?
  3. Do you believe that all individuals are capable of mistreating others?  What influences might there be?
Boyne, J.  (2006).  The Boy in the Striped Pajamas.  New York, NY:  Random House Inc. 
Boyne, J.  (2010).  Biography: John Boyne.  Retrieved from
Boyne, J.  (2010).  “The Boy in the Striped Pajamas”.  [online image].  Retrieved from
Galda, L., Cullinan, B.E., & Sipe, L. R. (2010).  Literature and the Child (7th ed.).  Belmont, CA: 
            Wadsworth, Inc.
IMDb.  (2008).  “The Boy in the Striped Pajamas”.  [online image].  Retrieved from
McLeod, S.  (2007).  The Milgram Experiment.  Retrieved from

Sunday, February 10, 2013

And then what Happened, Paul Revere?: Jean Fritz (1973)

            And then what Happened, Paul Revere? by Jean Fritz (1973) is a historical biography that focuses on the life of Paul Revere.  Although Paul Revere is most well-known for his midnight ride to warn the Colonial militia that the British troops were approaching, this book allows young students to learn about many aspects of Revere’s life.  The story begins with a brief description of Paul Revere’s childhood in Boston, Massachusetts.  At the young age of 15, Paul’s father passed away, and he would then take his father’s position as a silversmith.  In 1756, Paul married his first wife Sarah Orne, and had 8 children.  After Sarah passed away, he married Rachel Walker, and had 8 more children.  Fritz (1973) also discusses side jobs that Revere took on to earn extra money for his large family, including making artificial teeth and ringing the church bell.  In 1765, the English began taxing Americans on several items, one being tea.  Revere was also a member of the Sons of Liberty, as he participated in the Boston Tea Party in 1773, and was an “express rider between Boston and Philadelphia” (Fritz, 1973, p. 22).  Fritz (1973) includes fun facts in her book such as Paul Revere forgetting his spurs for his ride to Lexington.  After the Revolutionary War, he kept himself busy with many jobs, both new and old.  As Revere grew older, he had many grandchildren and great-grandchildren who would listen to his stories and ask, “’And then what happened?’” (p. 45). 
            And then what Happened, Paul Revere? is classified as a nonfiction biography about the historically well-known Paul Revere, but Fritz (1973) has written the book in an almost fiction manner for the audience of young readers.  This biography is narrated from Revere’s childhood to his old age where he reminisced about his many experiences.  Fritz (1973) highlights many important events/accomplishments within Revere’s life, as can be seen above.  The author includes many fun facts about Revere’s life, one being that he truly did create a silver collar for someone’s pet squirrel.  Fritz (1973) did an amazing job grounding the biography in facts about Revere, whether significant or silly, and presented them in a way that children could not only relate to the busy man, but learn about his compelling life (Galda, Cullinan, & Sipe, 2010).  The biography also flows smoothly, as Fritz designed an interesting and factual story line.  Revere is also a multidimensional character with his many businesses, large family, and busy lifestyle. 
            When considering illustrations within the book, Margot Tomes did a great job of helping readers to visualize the place and time in which Revere’s life took place; Tomes also accurately captured the dress during this time period (Galda et al., 2010).  Many of the illustrations are in black and white, or with bits of color incorporated within, and appear to be sketched on paper.  Tomes also uses quite a bit of detail in the simple and small pictures on each page. 
            To be honest, history has not always been a strong subject of mine, but this story allowed me to read a story that was not only true, but was rather enjoyable.  I liked that Fritz (1973) discussed many significant life events that I was able to understand; her word choice and to-the-point style will be beneficial for young readers.  I also liked that Fritz portrayed Revere as an ordinary man.  I love that he made a collar for a squirrel, was a dreamer, and forgot his spurs, just like everyone forgets something at some point (Fritz, 1973). 
            Jean Fritz and her family lived in China until she was 12 (Houghton Mifflin Company, n.d.).  As a young girl, Fritz loved to read and write about the people she met.  Her father often spoke of American heroes, and her homesickness for her American roots strengthened (Scholastic Inc., 2013). Fritz also attempted to get several of her children’s stories published, but her first few attempts were unsuccessful; after working as a librarian however, here ability to write for children deepened (Houghton Mifflin Company, n.d.).  As one can see, success followed.  Jean Fritz has written many great biographies that portray “pivotal figures and events in America’s history” (Fritz, 1973).  When creating such work, she researches her subjects and how they shaped history, as well as their quirky characteristics (Houghton Mifflin Company, n.d.).  Another aspect of her writing that makes it so special is that she uses journals, diaries, and letters of those she writes about, to make the biography “theirs”.  Several other books written by Fritz include Bully for you, Teddy Roosevelt!, Can’t you Make them Behave, King George?, and Just a Few Words, Mr. Lincoln. 
Below are 2 motivational activities and reader response questions that would be beneficial for students within the classroom:
  1.  The 1st activity would allow students to compare the 1700’s with today.  After reading the story, analyzing photographs, and seeing additional pictures of Boston from the 1700s, students would compare and contrast the time periods.  Students might choose to think about transportation, communication, families, buildings, occupations, etc.  Students could then share their preferences of living in the 1700s, or today. 
  2. The 2nd activity would involve the construction of a Paul Revere timeline.  After reading the book, the class would work together to construct a timeline displaying events within Paul Revere’s life.  If certain dates are unknown, students will be chosen to research the topic on the computer.  After events and dates are decided upon, students will be able to color and illustrate on the timeline.  Students will be able to witness the progression of time and the accumulation of accomplishments. 
Reader Response Questions:
  1.  What do you know about Paul Revere now that you did not know before?
  2. Explain why you would/would not like to have lived in the place or time of this story.
  3. What events within the book created conflict during this time period?
Fritz, J.  (1973).  And then what Happened, Paul Revere?.  New York, NY:  Penguin Group.
Galda, L., Cullinan, B.E., & Sipe, L. R. (2010).  Literature and the Child (7th ed.).  Belmont, CA: 
            Wadsworth, Inc.
Houghton Mifflin Company.  (n.d.).  Meet the Author: Jean Fritz.  Retrieved from                        
Scholastic Inc.  (2013).  Biography: Jean Fritz.  Retrieved from             
Small, D.  (2009).  “And then what Happened, Paul Revere?”.  [online image].  Retrieved from             

Polar Bear: Malcolm Penny (2000)

             Polar Bear by Malcolm Penny (2000) is a nonfiction book for young readers.  The book begins by discussing basic facts about polar bears such as their weight, speed, advantageous characteristics, and where polar bears live.  Penny (2000) then proceeds to discuss “relatives” of the polar bear, the birth and life of cubs, dens of the females, predators, hunting grounds and food, the food chain, forms of communication, migrating, mating, the life cycle, threats, and protecting the species.  The book also contains many text features, which will be discussed within the illustration evaluation.  As far as genre is concerned, this nonfiction book would be appreciated and loved by young children, ranging from grades 2-5.  Within Penny’s (2000) book, the facts were completely explained and current (Galda, Cullinan, & Sipe, 2010).  The material and subject are also appropriate for the age range above.  The author has logically sequenced the information in a fashion that is understandable, including illustrations and other text features that complement the material.  Penny (2000) has also written the book in a way that readers can enjoy factual information about the beautiful polar bear.  The author also appears to be quite knowledgeable on the topic of polar bears, and uses terminology that is not only appropriate, but able to expand the vocabulary of young readers (Galda et al., 2010). 
            The illustrations within Polar Bear include photographs that “illuminate the facts and concepts” (Galda et al., 2010, p. 306).  Every page of the book contains multiple illustrations that portray the information that is developed within the text.  Such photographs also help the reader to visualize the polar bear within its environment.  Another illustrative technique that is valuable within nonfiction books such as Polar Bear would be text features.  Text features are used within Polar Bear to help organize and expand upon information within the book.  To begin with, the book starts with a table of contents which states the topics covered, and the pages numbers where each can be found.  The book is also organized by general headings and specific subheadings.  Penny (2000) also uses diagrams in the book; one of these describes different features of the polar bear.  Next, a map is incorporated into the book, showing readers where wild polar bears can be located.  As previously discussed, Penny (2000) uses many photographs to display polar bears; under such photographs, there are captions which discuss the specifics of the image.  There are also 2 charts which portray the life cycle of polar bears, as well as where they stand in the food chain.  At the end of the book, there is a glossary of terms used within the book, as well as an index that readers can use to find certain topics quickly.  Lastly, Penny (2000) has a portion at the end for further information where he provides other book titles about polar bears, useful websites, and organizations to contact. 
            Though the audience of Polar Bear may be for those within grades 2-5, I really enjoyed and learned from Penny’s (2000) nonfiction literature on polar bears.  Before reading this book, my son and I looked through the pictures; when my mother saw us looking through the book, she told me something about their fur not really being white.  My mom could not remember the details, but she told me to see if the book mentioned it; sure enough, Penny (2000) discusses the polar bears’ coat.  As my mother mentioned, a polar bear’s fur appears white because “it reflects light from the snow” (p. 4).  This appearance, however, is quite deceiving, as the hairs are really hollow and transparent.  A polar bears’ fur is also waterproof and helps to keep him or her dry and warm.  Did you know all of this about just a polar bears’ fur?  If not, check out Polar Bear and the many neat facts within the book! 
            Malcolm Penny, the author of Polar Bear, is not only a writer, but a zoologist and a film-maker (Alibris, 2013).  Penny was the producer of the show “Survival,” a series on natural history television.  Penny has also written many books that deal with the environment and wildlife.  Other books by Penny include Bees, The Food Chain, and The Monkey and the Ape: Close Relatives (Goodreads Inc., 2013). 
Below are 2 motivational activities and reader response questions that would be beneficial for students within the classroom:
1.       The 1st activity would be filling in a KWL chart prior to and after reading Polar Bear.  Nonfiction books are excellent for students to decipher what they already (K)now, what they (w)ant to know, and what they have (l)earned.  I would have the students get into small groups of 4, and complete the column of what they already know about polar bears, prior to reading the book.  I would then have students brainstorm different ideas about what that they would like to know/hope to learn about polar bears.  After reading the book, I would then have the students see if they learned what they wanted to learn from the book, or what they learned in general.  This worksheet is also excellent for class discussions, as students can write down information that they feel is valuable to bring up during a class conversation. (2013) provides an excellent KWL template for students to use.  The link is below:
2.       The 2nd activity would be an actual nonfiction unit in which students would be able to create one’s own nonfiction book.  Students would first pick a topic of interest.  After visiting the library, students would then have a nonfiction book on the topic of choice.  After reading through the book, students would pick out 3 topics within their book, and create an illustration and text for the topic.  Students would also need to incorporate at least one text feature into the book.  After the pagers were completed, students would be able to create a cover page, tables of contents, and glossary.  This would be a great project for the class, and to share with parents! 
Reader Response Questions: 
  1. What information in the book came as a surprise to you? Explain.
  2. Do you have any remaining questions about polar bears after reading this book? Share!
  3. Can you pick out the different text features that the author uses?  How are these helpful for readers?
Alibris.  (2013).  Malcolm Penny.  Retrieved from
Galda, L., Cullinan, B.E., & Sipe, L. R. (2010).  Literature and the Child (7th ed.).  Belmont, CA: 
            Wadsworth, Inc.
Goodreads Inc.  (2013).  “Polar Bear”.  [online image].  Retrieved from
Goodreads Inc.  (2013).  Books by Malcolm Penny.  Retrieved from
Penny, M.  (2000).  Polar Bear.  Austin, TX:  Raintree Steck-Vaughn Publishers  (2013).  KWL Chart.  Retrieved from

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Goodnight, Goodnight, Construction Site: Sherri Duskey Rinker & Tom Lichtenheld (2011)

            Goodnight, Goodnight, Construction Site is a children’s picturebook written by Sherri Duskey Rinker and illustrated by Tom Lichtenheld (2011).  After a long day working on the construction site, each of 5 trucks take turns finishing duties and heading to bed.  This book can be classified as a fictional and poetic children’s picturebook. The Crane Truck, Cement Mixer, Dump Truck, Bulldozer, and Excavator are given human-like characteristics, and readers are able to read the story from the trucks’ perspective of the workday.  Each truck character is described in terms of duties, allowing readers to become familiar with each character on the site.  Rinker and Lichtenheld (2011) use rhyming throughout the story, setting a steady rhythm in place for the winding down construction site; each page contains a stanza for the given character.  Though trucks are the characters in the picturebook, children may view the events as plausible within this fantasy-like text (Galda, Cullinan, & Sipe, 2010). 
            Tom Lichtenheld, illustrator of Goodnight, Goodnight, Construction Site, has developed pages with images from top to bottom, including vibrant colors. Lichtenheld also uses bold black outline within the illustrations to accentuate each truck.   According to School Library Journal (2013), Lichtenheld’s illustrations are not only textured and detailed, but are “rendered in wax oil pastels on vellum paper”.   Each of the trucks is personified with duties and facial expressions within the book as well.  The illustrator begins the story with all trucks in the illustrations, then focuses on each individually, and ends the day with all of them together again.  The text on the pages is easily read, as the stanzas are written in black or white, depending upon the background colors.  There are even pages where the text is intertwined with the illustrations, creatively allowing the readers eyes to follow the images and narrative.  The illustrator also did a magnificent job of portraying the story within the images, as each pages’ picture follows the stanza. 

(Goodnight, Goodnight, Construction Site: Tom Lichtenheld)

            My son received this book from his aunt and uncle for Christmas, and we love reading it together!  Not only do children love to look at trucks, but the book gives them a chance to see what “really” happens within the construction site, including the trucks’ bedtime routine.  I feel as though the book also allows these gigantic trucks to be seen in a more personable light, rather than an intimidating piece of machinery that towers over him or her.  Another aspect that I love is the rhyming within the book; I feel as though such books flow so well throughout the entire story, allowing readers to become intrigued about what will happen next.  This book has been used time and time again to get my son cuddled in for bedtime. 
            Sherri Duskey Rinker is a graphic designer who wrote this book after being inspired by her two sons (Goodreads Inc., 2013).  When writing Goodnight, Goodnight, Construction Site, Rinker was determined to help families have sweeter dreams and more pleasant bedtimes.  Though this is Rinker’s first, I look forward to many more! 

(Goodnight, Goodnight, Construction Site: Tom Lichtenheld)

Below are 2 motivational activities and reader response questions that would be beneficial for students within the classroom:
  1.  The 1st activity would involve each student creating a stanza about his or her bedtime routine.  Students should keep in mind sequencing one’s bedtime routine, adjectives/describing words, and rhyming.  (Each stanza should be approximately 4-6 lines long.)  Each student would then illustrate him or herself getting ready for bed or snuggled into bed.  When all students were complete with the stanza and illustration, the class could create a Goodnight, Goodnight, 1st Graders book. 
                I brush my teeth and wash my face,
                Hop in bed, snuggled in place.
                I think about my fun-filled day,
                Then sleep and dream of lots of play!
  1.  The 2nd activity would be an adjective search.  After first reading the story as a class, the story would then be read slowly a second time.  This time around, students would be expected to identify adjectives/describing words.  With the list, an adjective word wall could be created labeled “Adjectives Under Construction”.  Several adjectives within the story may include weary, dizzy, tough, strong, sleepy, happy, etc. (Rinker and Lichtenheld, 2011).   

Reader Response Questions:
  1.  In what ways do adjectives help to strengthen the story?
  2. Choose one of the characters and sequence his bedtime routine.
  3. What similarities might you find between your bedtime routine and that of the construction trucks?
Galda, L., Cullinan, B.E., & Sipe, L. R. (2010).  Literature and the Child (7th ed.).  Belmont, CA:                      
         Wadsworth, Inc.
Goodreads Inc.  (2013).  Sherri Duskey Rinker.  Retrieved from             
Lichtenheld, T.  (2011).  “Goodnight, Goodnight, Construction Site”.  [online images].  Retrieved             
         from    construction-site.html
Rinker, S. D., & Lichtenheld, T.  (2011).  Goodnight, Goodnight, Construction Site.  New York, NY:             
         Scholastic Inc.
School Library Journal.  (2013).  Goodnight, Goodnight, Construction Site: Review.  Retrieved      from    Rinker/dp/0811877825

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

The Monarch's Progress: Poems with Wings by Avis Harley (2008)

                The Monarch’s Progress: Poems with Wings by Avis Harley (2008) is a collection of 18 children’s nonfiction poems addressing the Monarch butterfly.  Harley (2008) composed various forms of poetry within the collection, ranging from haiku, limericks, sonnets, concrete, cinquains, acrostic and more (Galda, Cullinan, & Sipe, 2010).  The poems beautifully describe how and what Monarchs eat, larva, the chrysalis, metamorphosis, migration, opposites, male Monarchs, wings, catching a butterfly, and many more experiences and descriptions (Harley, 2008).  Creative language and poetic techniques are used within the poems, such as simile, assonance, personification, rhyming, imagery, alliteration, etc.  Harley (2008) even includes a “Small Matters” section from pages 28-32, discussing each poem and its significance.  Harley’s poetry is not only true and interesting, but also understandable for young readers, especially benefitting those within 3rd and 4th grade (Galda et al., 2010).  Many of the concrete poems also assist readers in not only reading and understanding the material, but visualizing the experience as well. 
                Avis Harley is also the illustrator of The Monarch’s Progress: Poems with Wings.  The illustrator appears to use a variety of color with pencil and paper to bring the Monarch’s to life.  The vibrant colors, blending, and detail allow the reader to not only read beautifully crafted poetry, but to visualize the butterflies as well.  I would also consider the concrete poems to be another form of “illustration,” as Harley (2008) creates the image of a wing in “Chaos,” and the zigzagging of “Catching a Butterfly (1)” (p. 20;8). 
                As a lover of poetry, I found Harley’s (2008) work to be not only informative, but full of images that made me long for spring and summer.  Though I enjoyed each poem, I was especially fond of the poem “Chaos,” in which the author contemplates the “butterfly effect,” and its possible implications; “’Does the flap of a butterfly’s wing in Brazil set off a tornado in Texas?’”(p. 31).  The author captures the chaos of such a theory in the way that each idea is expressed one right after the other, lacking punctuation until the very end of the poem; instead of enjambment of just two lines, momentum picks up as each line takes off of another. 
                Avis Harley dabbled in many professions; she was an elementary educator, writer, illustrator, and mentor (Scholastic Inc., 2013).  Harley also traveled significantly, being born in Canada, teaching in England, and having given presentations in both Japan and Hong Kong.  Since retirement, Avis Harley has spent a lot of time writing poetry, including Fly with Poetry: An ABC of Poetry, Sea Stars: Saltwater Poems, and African Acrostics: A Word in Edgeways.  As can be seen from the above titles, Harley enjoys writing about things in nature. 
Below are 2 motivational activities and reader response questions that would be beneficial for students within the classroom:
1.       The 1st activity would involve the writing of an acrostic poem.  Students would be given the opportunity to choose something in nature to write about; this may include ladybugs, leaves, clouds, etc.  Students would then begin writing a poem using the first letter for each line:
After written vertically, students would brainstorm different phrases or words to describe the topic. A student might say, (L)ots of colors, (E)verybody jumps in, and so on.  Ken Nesbitt (2011) provides excellent steps and examples of acrostic poetry on his Poetry4kids website. 
2.       The 2nd activity would allow the students to become “Poetic Technique Investigators”.  After reading through The Monarch’s Progress: Poems with Wings, students would partner up and search through the collection for examples of poetic techniques.  Assonance can be found with “ground-bound” and “dainty…painty” (Harley, 2008, p. 16).  Personification can be found through “the friendly smile of a watermelon” (p. 6).  Students would be sharing with the class what poetic technique were used, and the definition of the technique.  Though I do not condone any type of smoking, I found Harley’s (2008) simile/comparison of a Monarch larva to a “heavy cigar” to be quite creative and easily visualized (p. 16).  Students may also choose to pick out new vocabulary words and define them. 

"Monarch Larva"

Reader Response Questions:
  1.  Are there any words or topics that you did not understand while reading? Let’s discuss!
  2. If I were an author, what topic in the natural world would I write about?
  3. Does the collection of poems help you to understand Monarch butterflies better? Explain.
Galda, L., Cullinan, B.E., Sipe, L. R. (2010).  Literature and the Child (7th ed.).  Belmont, CA: 
Wadsworth, Inc.
Harley, A.  (2008).  “The Monarch’s Progress: Poems with Wings”. [online image]. Retrieved  from          
Harley, A.  (2008).  The Monarch’s Progress: Poems with Wings.  Honesdale, PA:  Wordsong
Journey North. (2003).  “Monarch Larva”.  [online image].  Retrieved from             
Nesbitt, K.  (2011).  How to Write an Acrostic.  Retrieved from        
Scholastic Inc. (2013).  Biography: Avis Harley.  Retrieved from             

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Where the Wild Things Are: Maurice Sendak (1963)

           Where the Wild Things Are is a children’s picturebook by Maurice Sendak (1963).  Within the story, a young boy, Max, is sent to his room without dinner after misbehaving.  Before Max knew it, his room turned into a forest, he sailed across the sea, and landed where the wild things are.  After becoming their king, Max and the wild things create quite a rumpus, and before long, Max decides to travel home, where dinner is waiting for him.  Where the Wild Things Are can be classified as a fantasy, fiction picturebook for children.  To begin with, the story takes place partially in reality, Max’s home, and partially in a fantasy world, where the wild things are (Galda, Cullinan, & Sipe, 2010).  It took Max “almost over a year” to arrive in the fanciful world (Sendak, 1963).  Once he arrived, Max encountered animals, or wild things, that were able to think, feel, and behave in a rather human-like manner (Galda et al., 2010).  In this fantasy world, Max appears to be a dimensional character, as he first arrives to get away from home, but later realizes that he misses the love he receives from his family, and decides to return home.  The theme of the story appears to deal with how children deal with one’s emotions, such as the frustration Max feels went sent to bed without dinner; though Max wanted to get away, he came to terms with reality and returned from his fantasy world. 
            According to Galda et al., (2010), Sendak uses “cross-hatching” within his illustrations (p. 62-63).  Such a technique uses the black lines within the story to help readers follow the illustrations, which also follow the narrative.  Sendak (1963) also uses watercolors in his images, which lay under the black lines.  The author’s unique technique and media used creates excitement for young readers, as one is pulled into the fantasy world.  The colors chosen by Sendak are quite cool and dark, emphasizing the mood of the dramatic events that take place.  The illustrator uses an Outline style of art, which allows for great detail to be noticed within the images (Galda et al., 2010).  Within the beginning and end of the book, Sendak (1963) uses black font on white paper on the left-hand side of the page, with the illustration on the right.  Toward the middle of the book, the rumpus of the wild things and Max includes illustrations on both pages.  Sendak also refrains from using too many words on each page, and has dialogue in caps lock.  I also found it interesting that the realistic world, Max’s room, contains brighter colors, whereas the place with the wild things has darker colors. 

            Personally, I loved this story; and to be honest, this was the first time that I have ever read the book!  I found Max’s imagination to be contagious, and I also found the story to be related to my son.  When thinking about Max, he was upset and felt as though he had no control, and was sent to his room without dinner; with such frustration, he “traveled” away to a place where he had all of the control as king.  Max even sent the wild things to bed without their dinner.  After gaining control, he realized that he missed being home where he was loved; in a way, it was as if Max projected his feelings onto the wild things.  My son also has a difficult time dealing with his frustration, and I oftentimes find him talking to his animals as if he is the adult.  The mind of a child is unique, and Sendak captured it perfectly. 
            Maurice Sendak developed his imagination, desire to illustrate, and read early on (, 2013).  He was also deeply inspired by movies such as “Fantasia”.  After high school, Sendak had several of his illustrations published in a textbook.  Having studied art for a period of time, Sendak then became an illustrator for the children’s books of others.  He later went on to illustrate and write his own stories.  Where the Wild Things Are was actually thought to be a controversial book due to the frightening creatures or wild things.  Sendak wrote several others books including In the Night Kitchen, Ten Little Rabbits: A Counting Book with Mino the Magician, and Outside Over There.  Other than illustrating and writing, Sendak also created operas, and designed the “stage production of Tchaikovsky’s ballet, The Nutcracker” (, 2013). 
Below are 2 motivational activities and reader response questions that would be beneficial for students within the classroom:
  1.  The 1st activity would involve predictions.  Before reading the story, the teacher would have the students make predictions about what might happen with the story, and who the characters might be.  Throughout the story, the teacher would stop at portions where predictions could be made; for example, after being sent to bed without dinner, students might predict what will happen with Max.  Students should not only state what might happen, but also why they think this might happen; what clues help him or her to think this? Such predictions should be made throughout the entire story so that students are able to review the material in their heads, and formulate possibilities.  This task would be especially beneficial for readers within kindergarten and first grade. 
  2. The 2nd activity would be a literary elements task.  After reading the story and listening to an explanation of literary elements, the class would discuss the setting, plot, characters, and theme of the story.  Within setting, students should consider the time and place.  Within the plot, students should think about the sequence of events and possible conflicts/problems and solutions.  One should also ponder how Max grows throughout the story.  Lastly, the class should try to formulate possible themes for the story.  Students should also become aware of the fact that the story is fictional, and partially takes place within a fantasy world. 
Reader Response Questions:
Can you relate to Max in the story?  In what ways?
Can you describe Max’s personality? (Use details!)
Were any portions of the story too predictable or extremely surprising?
References: (2013).  Maurice Sendak.  Retrieved from
Galda, L., Cullinan, B.E., Sipe, L. R. (2010).  Literature and the Child (7th ed.).  Belmont, CA: 
Wadsworth, Inc.
Sendak, M. (1963).  Where the Wild Things Are.  New York, NY: Harper Collins Publishers
Sendak, M. (1963).  “Where the Wild Things Are”. [online images].  Retrieved from

Friday, February 1, 2013

The Voice that Challenged a Nation: Marian Anderson and the Struggle for Equal Rights: Russell Freedman (2004)

             The Voice that Challenged a Nation: Marian Anderson and the Struggle for Equal Rights is a biography written by Russell Freedman (2004).  Freedman (2004) constructed an 8-chapter nonfiction book about the life of Marian Anderson, born in 1897, passed in 1993.  Marian Anderson was an African American girl who was passionate about singing from a young age.  She sang in a church choir, community events, and at benefits as well.  As Anderson grew older, she became aware of the inequalities that existed due to the color of one’s skin.  With the help of her church and public singing opportunities, Anderson was able to afford voice lessons, high school, and college.  Marian Anderson began travelling for performances, won a singing competition, and performed in concerts.  Anderson even traveled to Europe to study music, became quite popular, and returned to the U.S. where her popularity grew as well.  Still struggling with segregation, Anderson was denied a concert in the Constitution Hall, but performed at the Lincoln Memorial instead, defying racial discrimination and injustices.  This occurrence even caused Eleanor Roosevelt to resign from DAR (Daughters of the American Revolution); DAR would later ask Anderson to sing for war relief during World War II, allowing an unsegregated audience.   In her 40s, Anderson married Orpheus Fisher, and continued on with her demanding career.  Anderson went on to perform at many more influential concerts, including a performance during the Civil Rights March.  Upon retiring, Marian Anderson continued with speeches at conservatories, ceremonies, and colleges.  Anderson received several awards, and was also widely known for her influence on the journey toward equal rights. 
            When considering the quality of Freedman’s multicultural (2004) biography, the facts follow smoothly with the story line, and Anderson’s experiences are vivid, detailed, accurate, and related to her accomplishments (Galda, Cullinan, & Sipe, 2010).  Freedman (2004) also avoided personal opinions, and kept the material to his subject, Marian Anderson, and her life events.  The author also displays his character as multidimensional, and touches on many areas of her life; Freedman (2004) not only included her moments of strength, both those of weakness and doubt as well (Galda et al., 2010).  The biography is also written in a style that keeps the reader engaged and wanting to see what Anderson accomplished next.  The biography encompassed Anderson’s childhood into adulthood, music, locations, and civil rights; Freedman (2004) explained all topics adequately, allowing the reader to understand who Anderson was, what she was doing, and where she was doing each event.  Though the civil rights, segregation, and discrimination are delicate subjects, Freedman (2004) “honestly portrayed” the events “in a way that is understandable to children without being overwhelming” (Galda et al., 2010, p. 289). 
            Within the biography, Freedman (2004) also provides a variety of photographs that illustrate the life of Marian Anderson.  Though Anderson’s life is interesting enough to simply read, the photographs allow an individual to visualize the place and time in which she lived (Galda et al., 2010).  Each photograph included is in black and white, allowing readers to realize how far back the struggle for equal rights dated.  Freedman (2004) does not only include photos of Anderson, but those with her family, voice coaches, historical figures and landmarks, significant life events, concerts, programs, segregation signs, recital posters, newspaper clippings, and more.  Each photograph also illuminates who Anderson was as an individual, as “she never took her popularity for granted,” because “If these people believed in me as an artist…then I could venture to be a better one” (Freedman, 2004, p. 39). 
"1939 Let Freedom Sing:" Marian Anderson singing at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, DC

            As an individual, parent, and future educator, I am very happy that I was able to read and reflect upon this biography.  Marian Anderson not only displayed courage in her ability to enforce equal rights, but also her determination to become a singer, with a work ethic that never faltered.  I feel that this book would be influential for students in grades 6 and up.  I felt as though I was knowledgeable on struggles before, during, and after the Civil Rights Movement, but it is absolutely inspiring to know that Marian Anderson had such a significant impact during the struggle.  I feel that most classrooms simply focus on Martin Luther King Jr., Rosa Parks, and several others, but Ms. Anderson most definitely should be included.  Anderson did encounter struggles, whether through being denied applications to school, the right to sing in the Constitution Hall, or having segregated audiences, but her voice was able to assist her in moving the nation.
            Russell Freedman, the author of The Voice that Challenged a Nation: Marian Anderson and the Struggle for Equal Rights, did not begin as a book writer for children.  After college, he worked as an editor and reporter for the Associated Press (Scholastic Inc., 2013).  Such work did, however, help Freedman get into the art of research and displaying information that the public would read.  When writing books, Freedman focuses on topics of interest, or those that he wishes to learn about; he also travels to gain inspiration for book topics.  Freedman has written several nonfiction books including Lincoln: a Photobiography, Eleanor Roosevelt: a Life of Discovery, and The Wright Brothers: How They Invented the Airplane (Scholastic, Inc., 2013). 
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 task of reflection and writing for 7th and 8th graders.  After having read Freedman’s (2004) biography, I would ask the students this: “If you were Marian Anderson, would you have done anything differently during your lifetime?”  This task would allow students to reflect upon Anderson’s life, her triumphs, failures, and her part in the struggle for equal rights.  Students would be required to complete an essay discussing what he or she would have done differently, and which events led up to this decision.  Following essay completion, a class discussion would be scheduled to reflect upon the students’ decisions and thought processes.
Events to think about:
·         After waiting in line to apply for school, she was denied a form due to the color of her skin (p. 12-13)
·         Her encounter with the Jim Crow laws (p. 15)
·         Turning down a marriage proposal for her career (p. 18)
·         After receiving harsh criticism following a concert (p. 25)
·         After being banned from the DAR at Constitution Hall, & then asked by DAR to sing later (p. 47; 72)
·         Concert at Lincoln Memorial (p. 57)
·         Refusing to sing unless no segregation in audience (p. 72)
·         Marrying Orpheus Fisher (p. 75)
2.       In the 2nd activity, students will be choosing a person of choice/interest.  Following a lesson on biographies and the reading of The Voice that Challenged a Nation: Marian Anderson and the Struggle for Equal Rights, students will be doing his or her own research on the chosen individual.  Students will be given time to research his or her individual, and time to complete a written copy of the biography.  Students are also encouraged to collect photographs that will be used for the end-product.  After the papers are typed, students will attach the biography and photos to a cardboard display.  Each project will be displayed at conferences.
Reader Response Questions:
1.       What emotions did Freedman’s (2004) biography provoke? Why?
2.      Are there any portions of the biography that surprised you? Which and why?
3.      What purpose does Freedman have for writing the biography about Marian Anderson?
Both of the above motivational activities align with the Saint Leo Core Value of Respect (Saint Leo University, 1889).  Activity 1 not only exposes students to the life of Marian Anderson, but it also allows students to think critically about her experiences, one’s personal values, and to decide what one would have done differently (if anything).  The strength of the classroom and the community depend upon diversity; with this, students are able to make choices on what he or she would have done differently, and still have the class acknowledge and accept the student’s decision (unity).   Activity 2 will give students a chance to choose a person of interest, and display his or her findings to the class.  Each student possesses unique ideas, talents, and interests, and these will all be displayed by one’s excellent work in a biography.  Students will not only be respecting one’s classmates, but also the individuals that he or she has written about.  One student may have decided that Marian Anderson should not have sang at all until audience segregation was abolished, and another student may choose to research and write about a controversial subject such as Adolf Hitler; no matter the students’ choice, the class with respect, reflect upon, and encourage the learning of one’s classmates. 
Freedman, R.  (2004).  The Voice that Challenged a Nation:  Marian Anderson and the Struggle
for Equal Rights.  New York, NY: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.
Galda, L., Cullinan, B.E., Sipe, L. R. (2010).  Literature and the Child (7th ed.).  Belmont, CA: 
Wadsworth, Inc.
McAvoy, T. D. (1939).  “1939 Let Freedom Sing.”  [online image].  Retrieved from
Saint Leo University. (1889).  Saint Leo University: Mission & Values. Retrieved from
Scholastic Inc. (2013).  Biography: Russell Freedman.  Retrieved from
Scholastic Inc. (2013).  “The Voice that Challenged a Nation: Marian Anderson and the Struggle
for Equal Rights”.  [online image].  Retrieved from