Saturday, April 25, 2009

Where I Am

It is difficult for me to write this particular blog entry. I have just come to realize that my time in this class is almost up. I have really enjoyed my time in this class. Our discussion after we have read books has been very productive and encourages one to talk the time to evaluate what we have read and why we are drawn to certain books.

I find myself taking extra time when picking out books for not only my daughters to read but myself as well. I no longer just grab books off of the shelf. I like to take the time and flip through books. I am now looking at children's literature through the eyes of a future teacher instead of just a parent. Books that I may have shied away from in the past because of their subject matter are now ones I take extra time and review. I have discovered new genres that in the past I would not have even given a second glance too (Captain Underpants for example).

When looking at books for purchase I find myself wondering how I may make that book work or utilized in my future classroom. I believe that this is the intention of this course. As far as the blogging goes, I fully intend on keeping up on my blog as I start to work through my practicum courses. I feel compelled to express my opinions on children's literature. I have already found that this blog makes me more critical of the books I choose to read. I can only hope that any followers of this blog feel that I have helped them look at children's literature a little more closely than just the picture on the cover. Thanks for a great time.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Money Madness by David A. Adler; Illustrated by Edward Miller (Holiday Press, 2009)
Another great book to use in when working with the concept of money in your math class. This book examines the history of money. Why we use it? How it was developed? It also introduces your students to the concepts of trading and bartering. Money Madness puts math into relateable terms for children. It also introduces students to monetary names used throughout the world.
David Adler is a former math teacher who has written several books on math concepts that students can relate too. He wants kids to see that math can be fun and aims to make his book easy to understand and follow. The illustrations offered by Mr. Miller are very bright and clearly state the message that Mr. Adler is trying to convey. Overall this book is a fun and interesting way to introduce the concept into the elementary school classroom.
Intended audience: Ages 4-8

What is a Princess?

Princess Grace by Mary Hoffman; Illustrated by Cornelius Van Wright and Ying-Hwa Hu ( Scholastic, 2007)
"Grace had wanted to be a princess for as long as she could remember." This is the first line of the absolutely amazing book Princess Grace. Luckily for Grace she had a Grandma and mother who encouraged her to follow her dreams. Grace is over the moon when her school announces that not only will there be a queen in this year's parade but two princesses as well. The princesses will be picked from her class. Of course the little girls practiced their waves and bows in hopes of being picked, while the boys thought "being a Princess was boring." Grace runs home to tell her family about the parade but is confronted with a question from her Grandmother that she was not expecting. "You can be a princess as long as you tell me what a princess wears." This question confused Grace. On the advice of her Grandmother she asks her teacher for help. That is when he opinion of princesses start to change.
Grace starting seeing Princesses in a whole new light. They were not all found in pink, floral and frilly dresses. Some princesses were warriors, spy's and some were even athletes. Grace decided that she needed to challenge the picture of a princess so she convinced her class to enter a float in the parade that promoted all sorts of princesses (and princes).
What really made this book for me was the multicultural nature of the book. As you can tell by the cover, Grace is an African American girl. Her friends are Hispanic, English and Hindi. The teacher in the book encouraged Grace to research a subject that she felt strongly about and did not persuade her in on direction or the other while Grace was discussing what she was finding. This book is an excellent book to introduce perspective and to challenge stereotypes.
Intended audience: Grades 2-4

Picture Day Horror

Bedhead by Margie Palatini; Illustrated by Jack E. Davis (Scholastic, 2000)
Admit it. Who has not had a bad hair day for picture day? If you raised your hand you are fooling yourself. You can honestly tell me that you have looked back through all of your school pictures and you are 100% satisfied with every one you see? If so, congratulations. You are in the minority.
Bedhead is a delightful book about a boy and his unruly hair. He wakes up one morning to find that his hair will not cooperate for anything. His parents and sister try everything they can to get the hair to be controlled but, no luck. He finally decides to wear a hat to school but is called out by the class "know-it-all" and cannot wear his hat. To top it all off the teacher reminds the class that it is picture day. Right as the picture is taken his hair goes back to it original state. Everyone laughs and becomes upset. Poor kid is humiliated on one of the most important days of his early school career.
What really makes this story is the over-exaggeration of the characters heads. The illustrations allow for you to see the pain and agony on every one's faces when Oliver is forced to remove his hat an expose his hair to more problems. Been there. Done that.
Intended audience: Grades 2-4

Absentee Dad

Molly and her Dad by Jan Ormerod; Illustrated by Carol Thompson (Roaring Book Press, 2008)

I hate to admit it but the only thing I liked about this book was the illustrations. I was really hoping from the title that this book would be about a stay-at-home Dad watching over his daughter. NOT AT ALL!!!

Molly lives with her mother and has not seen her Dad since she was a baby. She often dreams of what he would be like. What does he do for a living? Am I anything like him? All very valid questions that she deserves the answers too. However, she is constantly lying and making up stories of what her father is like to please her friends at school. Miraculously one day, Molly's mother has to go out of town for a week and, viola! her Dad shows up to take care of her. Why on God's green earth would her mother allow for this to happen. This man has never shown an ounce of interest in your child and now you are allowing him to spend a whole week with her? Seems a little far fetched if you ask me. The book is filled with all sorts of warm and fuzzies as Molly and her Dad start to see just how alike they are. But low and behold and the end of the week her Dad is on the first plane out of town. This message worries me a little.

I infer from this book that Molly ends their week together longing for a closer relationship to her father and he decides to leave. Way to get her hopes up. Now I have not not recommended a lot of books this semester but this is one I would caution using. You must really know your students and their family situation before you read this book in your classroom.

Intended audience: Preschool through Grade 2

Tornado Drill 101

Tornadoes! by Gail Gibbons (Holiday House, 2009)
Since the Iowa City School District just celebrated the nationwide Tornado Drill I though reading and blogging on a book about tornadoes would be fun. I am all about themes you know.
This book is filled with fascinating facts about the origin of the word "tornado", how a tornado is formed and how to determine the strength of a tornado. What I really liked about this book was the way it put some highly scientific words into a wording that younger children may be able to understand. This book would fit in great if you have a weather theme, are anticipating a tornado drill (especially for younger students who have never experienced one) and a unit about Midwest History as well.
The book discusses several points in history when tornadoes brought about all sorts of death and destruction, but also provides the reader with a list of safety guidelines for what to do in a tornado. The illustrations are very detailed and help relieve some of the pressure students may be feeling with the terminology that is being used.
Intended audience: Ages 4-8

Hello Kitty!

Bad Kitty Gets a BATH by Nick Bruel ( Roaring Book Press, 2008)

I want to introduce my fellow future teachers to an area of the Curriculum Lab that you may or may not know of. The "new book" section which I always thought was reserved for "just looking" is actually a vast resource of unknown and old authors that deserves a look. Located near the theme wall I was always under the impression that those books were designed to be left in the Lab. After talking with Barb I was informed that those books were available for checkout. So most of my blogs this week will be dedicated to introducing you to some of the incredible selections located on those shelves.
Bad Kitty Gets a BATH by Nick Bruel is an insightful look into what cat owners go through to give their stinky cats a bath. The book is written in the chapter format similar to the Captain Underpants series and is every bit as funny. The illustrations of the cat are worth the read alone. As a cat lover and a former cat owner, I know oh too well how long the bathing process may take with a cat. What is clever about this book is that the author throws in some little known facts about cats in the process. While you are reading the book you are introduced to some vocabulary that may prove challenging for emerging readers. However, the author was smart in offering a glossary at the back of the book that may help to lessen any confusion the words may give.
This book was so easy to read I was able to finish it in the time it took the tire store to replace two tires on my 35,000 mile car (about 30 minutes). Needless to say I had way more fun reading this book than signing the $300 credit card slip the TWO tires cost me. Love the cats, hate the car. :)
Intended audience: Grades 2 through 4

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Max's Chocolate Chicken

Max's Chocolate Chicken by Rosemary Wells ( Dial Books, 1989)

There really is not much to say about this book except that it is a good beginner reader book. The text is simple and the illustrations are cute. The story lacks proper punctuation and does not use quotation marks when the characters are speaking to each other.

I really do not know what else to say about this book except it will serve beginning readers well trying to implement reading strategies that they are learning. I guess in that sense it would also be able to be used when introducing the editing process in the writer's workshop.

Intended audience: Kindergarten through 2nd

The Blue and the Gray

The Blue and the Gray by Eve Bunting; Illustrated by Ned Bittinger (Scholastic Press, 1996)
A family is building a house right next door to the boys best friend's family. What makes the location of the house so unique is that it is being built on a Civil War battleground. What makes this even more unique is the fact the the boys are Black and White.
The main premise of the story is that the little white boys father gives the boys a history lesson as to the significance of the land they all chose to build on. The father wants them to remember and respect those who gave their life and the cause that they gave it for.
What is not clear is whether the houses were being built in the North or the South. This to me is a key missing element to the story. I am guessing by the material I could find on the author was that she was meaning for the story to be set in the South. This was pretty much my guess but since it was not clearly stated, it caused some confusion when I was reading it.
"The Blue and the Gray" provides an excellent contrast between what the South was like during the Civil War and the strides this country has made for racial equality since then. This book brings to light the beauty of friendship and the memories of the past.
Intended audience: Kindergarten through 3rd

Amelia Bedelia

Amelia Bedelia by Peggy Parish; Illustrated by Fritz Siebel ( Harper Collins, 1963)

Oh Amelia, you really are not the sharpest tool in the shed. I have to admit that until right now I have never read a book about Amelia Bedelia. During the course of this semester I have heard numerous stories of how students love this series. OK, my curiosity got the best of me. I wanted to know what was so great about this book. I am still wanting to know what is so great about this book.

So I understand that Amelia is a maid and makes several mistakes. An ordinary person would have been fired if they would have made all of these mistakes. But yet, since she can make an amazing pie, she gets to remain. Come on, how unrealistic is that? Don't we want to show our students that it is hard work and attention to detail that makes one successful, and not how well you can bake a pie? Don't get me wrong, I understand how the humor plays into everything, but it just seems a bit unrealistic.

With that said, I would not keep this series away from my library just for the pure fact that they are hilarious. Amelia obviously was raised to take things literally but that is part of the fun of this series. Amelia, I may not agree with the way you do things, but you make me want more just to see if you ever manage to get fired.

Intended audience: Kindergarten through 6th.

Frog and Toad Together

Frog and Toad Together by Arnold Lobel (Harper Collins, 1972)
One of my oldest daughter's favorite books is "Frog and Toad Together". It is such a favorite that she has checked it out (and subsequently lost) of the school library three times. Three times we have had to replace the book. Recently while I was cleaning her room and rearranging furniture can you guess what I found? Three copies of "Frog and Toad Together." But it is hard to discourage her from checking out a book that she apparently loves to hoard when it is such a cute story.
Frog and Toad are best friends. This book takes the reader along on five adventures, each one showing the strength of their friendship. The illustrations are extremely detailed and absolutely adorable. What I really like about this book is the simplicity of the text. It was originally designed as an "I Can Read Book" over 35 years ago. This fact holds true today. Emma loves going through this book and finding her sight words and using the strategies for reading that she is learning to interpret the text. Each time she reads the book she is able to understand the story more and more. Lucky for me she has found a text that keeps her interest and she enjoys using to construct meaning of the overall story.
Intended audience: Kindergarten through 3rd.
Oh, and in case you are wondering, the books were given to friends whose children also enjoy the book.

Earth Day and Math - what a combination

Earth Day - Hooray by Stuart J. Murphy; Illustrated by Renee Andriani (Harper Collins, 2004)
This book is great because it can be used across the curriculum. Designed as a math concept book to introduce place value, the book actually puts a "kid" face on the importance of teaching our children about recycling. "Earth Day - Hooray" also helps to build the confidence of children by showing them if they put their mind to it they can accomplish anything.
Luke, Ryan and Carly knew they wanted to plant some flowers at their local park in honor of Earth Day. What they didn't realize was how expensive the flowers would be. The kids come up with a plan thanks to the help of their teacher. They create flyers, skits and canvas their neighborhoods to get the community involved in their can drive to raise money. Will they raise enough money from collecting cans to purchase the flowers? The concept of place value helps the kids count the cans and add up the amounts to see if they have met their goal.
I really enjoyed this book. I read it to my daughters tonight and my oldest stands up, puts her hands on her hips and tells me and my husband that "she is going to be an earth saver." She is now insisting that she handle the recycling "all by myself." I guess you can say that the author has accomplished his goal of getting youth involved. Now if I could only convince her that cleaning her room would also help save the environment, I would be in good shape.
Intended audience: Pre-school through 6th

Fairy Tales - Wizard Style

Harry Potter : The Tales of Beedle the Bard by J.K. Rowling (Scholastic, 2008)

Thanks to Ms. Hermoine Granger we were introduced to The Tales of Beedle the Bard during the last of the epic Harry Potter series "The Deathly Hallows." Unfortunately, Hermoine was the only one (besides Dumbledore) who could read the Tales. Until now. Thanks to Hermoines hard work the Tales have now been translated to English. The Tales themselves are enjoyable to read. They do not vary much from our own Fairy Tales. What I do not like about the book is the fact that it was a separate book instead of being included as an epilogue on "The Deathly Hallows."
The Tales were as easy to read as the rest of the Harry Potter series. They really pulled you in as a reader and made you want to know what happened. They help to develop the back story of who Harry Potter and his friends were. Each Tale appears to offer insight to Dumbledore, Snape, Hagrid and the other Potter characters. Once again they are only Tales but they do read as if they were meant to be a continuation of the story.
Intended audience: 4th grade and up.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Year of Impossible Goodbyes

Year of Impossible Goodbyes by Sook Nyul Choi (Dell Publishing, 1991)
I have to admit that it took me awhile to get into this book. Where I can appreciate the trials and tribulations that Ms. Choi's family went through during the Japanese occupation of Korea, the book just did not really seem to explain the Korean view of life like I was hoping it would. What I did like was the way the author described what her Grandfather had gone through since Japan took over. To be considered a "scholar" in your country and then have it all degraded because you are Korean and not Japanese was hard to read.
I also found it hard to understand why they thought Americans were terrible when we didn't come and save the day. We had so many other issues to be concerned with at the time (but this is another story best kept to myself - no political opinions are needed here.) I just found nothing in this book that made me feel for the family. Does that make me a cruel person? This book was just not inspiring to me.
Even though I am not a fan of this book I can see its importance in comparing texts. The fact that it offers a viewpoint that was not covered in "So Far From the Bamboo Grove" is necessary for students to see how sides view their history and plight. I am just sorry that I was not as inspired or moved by this book as I was the other.

The Ultimate Working Mother

The Country Bunny and the Little Gold Shoes by DuBose Heyward; Illustrated by Marjorie Hack (1939)

Today I had a pleasant surprise waiting for me in my mailbox. My mother sent me a copy of a book that she used to read to me all of the time when I was a little girl. I used to just enjoy the book for the cute little bunnies and never really paid much attention to the actual text.

This afternoon I sat down and read the story with my youngest daughter. WOW! It is amazing how a story can change in your mind and be nothing like you remember 30 years ago. My daughter was just like me, she loved the little bunnies. I on the other hand saw this story as being the story of the ultimate working mother. The Country Bunny grew up idolizing the 5 Easter Bunnies. Never in her wildest dreams did she believe she would ever get the opportunity to become one herself. When one of the bunnies is "forced" to retire the "Grand Bunny" calls all of the bunnies together to choose the newest Easter Bunny. The Country Bunny was not consider until she was able to prove that she was wise, kind and swift. The "Grand Bunny" even rewarded (or I say tested) her by giving her the hardest location to deliver to. She not only delivered the egg but she proved herself to be brave. She was rewarded with the Golden Shoes that would allow her to jump anywhere.

The Country Bunny is an inspiring story for all generations. Now that I have revisited this story I see it in a whole new perspective. I am able to see this book as a mother. The Country Bunny wanted to do the best for her family and make them proud. By proving herself to the "Grand Bunny" she was able to achieve her ultimate goal. I guess you could say that this book is a testament to the importance of hard work.

Intended audience: ALL

The Man Who Walked Between The Towers by Mordicai Gerstein ( Square Fish, 2003)

In 1974 there was a street performer in New York who lived for a challenge. This gentleman thought there was no greater challenge then to walk between the Twin Towers (also known as the World Trade Towers). This book is all about the true story of what happened that day - I won't ruin it for you, that is the fun of this book.

What I really like about this book is the way the illustrations tell the story. This text could just as easily be a wordless book. The illustrations are so detailed and show the story from several viewpoints. This book could also be used to introduce the fall of the twin towers on 9/11 by getting students to see that we need to honor the memories of the towers and those who lost their lives instead of the tragedy that occurred. I know that this book helped me remember the stories I had heard of Philippe Petit and his tightrope walk and not the loss of a dear friend.

Intended audience: Kindergarten to 2nd
Two Dogs Swimming by Lynn Reiser (Greenwillow Books, 2005)

Spot and Whistle are poodles who like doing everything together. They live near a pond and enjoy running around it and playing fetch near it. They are very competitive and sometimes Spot is faster and sometimes Whistle is. Every time they go swimming Whistle swims the length of the pond, but Spot does something quite strange—he pretends to swim while remaining in one place so that he can jump out just before Whistle completes his return lap. Spot always wins this way by being the first out of the pond. One day, however, while the two are playing fetch, they have to dive into the water to retrieve the stick in the middle of the pond. Spot cannot pull his famous trick and has to swim with all his might to fetch the stick. From then on, Spot does not pull his funny trick but enjoys swimming in the pond beside Whistle.

This is an adorable story of competition and friendship. If you can say that you and your best friend are not somewhat competitive I would argue that you are lying. I know my best friend and I were always competing with our grades and at sports. It may not be seen as competition due to the closeness of our relationship but we will both admit that we are. This story can also serve as a "cheaters never prosper" lesson as well.

My only reservations about this book are the fact that the dogs are depicted as a black and a white poodle who are always competing. Some may have problems with this viewpoint. I don't but it is just something to think about.

Intended audience: Preschool to 2nd

What can you do with a shoe? by Beatrice Schenk de Regniers; Illustrated by Maurice Sendak (Simon & Schuster, 1955)
What can you do with a shoe? is a wonderfully illustrated book. Who doesn't love the many renderings of Maurice Sendak? What starts out as a dress-up game of two playful children, soon turns into a question and answer game of what one would do with their clothing items if there were no limits. "Do you put your shoe on your head or butter it like bread or use apple jam instead?" This story is filled with adorable rhyming words. A fun play on words this book would be excellent to introduce rhyming to younger students.
The illustrations are brilliant and extremely detailed and truly bring the characters to life. This book would be easy to put into song if you wanted to. There really is nothing else to say about this book except - READ IT!
Intended audience: preschool to 1st grade
Secret Code by Dana Meachen Rau; Illustrated by Bari Weissman (Grolier Publishing, 1998)
As I walk around the curriculum lab I tend to turn my head to the side and read the titles on the spine of the book. This particular title caught my eye. What is so interesting about this selection is that I was so consumed by the title of the book I failed to notice the cover art. Had I been more observant I would have seen that one of the books was written in Braille.
Discussing differences can be a difficult for student in the earlier elementary grades to comprehend. This book serves as an excellent example on how ones curiosity may lead to bigger and better things. Lucy notices that he book and Oscar's book are written differently. She is curious about what he is reading so she asks him if it is a secret code. Once he explains that his books are written in Braille, Lucy becomes interested in learning. Oscar and Lucy form a friendship that goes beyond sight.
I took away from this book that it is best to ask questions if you see something or someone who is doing things different. You may find that the person is more than happy to explain to you the reason they do what they do. I really enjoyed this book, it made me smile as I read it.
Intended audience: Pre to lower Elementary school

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

The Long and Short of It

The Long and Short of It by Cheryl Nathan and Lisa McCourt; Illustrated by Cheryl Nathan (BridgeWater Books, 1998)
Yet another book that introduces the math concept of measurement. The Long and Short of It offers comparisons between animals that have things that are long to those of animals that have something that is short (a toucan with a long beak versus a chicken with a short beak). The authors use of describing words allows the reader to visualize just how long and short the item is (ex. "and who can grow its beak longer than a banana? A toucan can! A chicken has a beak too, but guess what? Its beak is as short as a grape.")
This book was recommended through Harcourt Math to introduce the concept of measurement into the younger grades. The use of animals makes the story more enjoyable for its intended audience. Putting the measurement into terms even the youngest student could comprehend is also a good use of this text. My only concern is that some of the animals used are not exactly animals that everyone may be familiar with.
Intended audience: Kindergarten through 1st.

Inch by Inch

Inch by Inch by Leo Lionni (Astor/Honor Publishing, 1960)
At the beginning of every math unit, my daughter is sent home with an introduction sheet for the parents on what concept will be worked on. In yet another book by Leo Lionni, we are given another great example to be used across the curriculum.
An adorable story of an "inchworm" and his ability to measure things, Inch by Inch provides the reader with a way to visualize measuring things from a birds beak to a reed of grass. Mr. Lionni once again uses great illustrations and an adorable main character to bring his story to life. The text is once again intended for younger readers but it is the math concept hidden in the story that makes this book fun to read.
Once again, as I strive to introduce literature across the curriculum, I would see myself using a lot of Mr. Lionni's texts. Intended audience: Kindergarten through 1st.

The Fat Cat Sat on the Mat

The Fat Cat Sat on the Mat by Nurit Karlin (Barnes and Noble, 1996)

For this weeks blog I decided to let my oldest daughter pick a book for me to blog about. She had just returned from school and was excited to show me her latest "find" from the school library. Lately I have noticed that the books she chooses have become more complex in text. I have seen her gain more confidence in a reader in just the last few weeks. She is more adventurous in the amount of words that are on each page. Emma sat down and read this book to me as if she has been reading for years.

What I liked about this book was its use of rhyming words. The repetitive nature of words ending in "at" helped assist Emma in her reading. I was surprised however that the illustrations did not appear to follow the text. In fact the pictures were about two ahead of where the text was. I believe this helped Emma move past predicting what would happen next. She was confused at first because "usually the pictures help me with the words." I was happy that this book worked that way. I believe it helped Emma gain more confidence in that she was making the correct choices.

Any book that provides me with multiple teaching strategies is a keeper in my opinion. I would consider having this book as well as other rhyming books in my classroom library. The confidence that this book gives a reader is something that I want to foster in my classroom. Intended audience: Kindergarten through 2nd.

Little Blue and Little Yellow

Little Blue and Little Yellow by Leo Lionni (Astor, 1959)

This book is an example of a book that is old but can still be used in todays academia. While I would probably not offer this book as a staple in my classroom library, the lesson that it teaches would be beneficial in an art curriculum.

Little Blue and Little Yellow is the story of two dots, who have loving families, and can see past their differences. However, when the colors are combined the families worry that the little dots have disappeared. This is not the case however. The dots just combined their colors to form a new color, green.

This book would be useful in introducing color theory to kindergartens. The text is simple and the plot is easy to follow. In an art classroom this book would be useful. However in a regular classroom the text really does not serve a purpose. Intended audience: Kindergarten through 1st.

The Alphabet Tree

The Alphabet Tree by Leo Lionni (Dragonfly Books, 1968)
I was introduced to Leo Lionni in my Reading and Language Arts class with a book titled Alexander and the Wind Up Mouse. We used this book while completing a mock miscue analysis. I was drawn to his books because I found the illustrations to be very dream like in a sense. The illustrations are whimsical and the colors he chooses are bright and vibrant.
However, what I like about this book the most is its ability to be used across the curriculum. The story is an adventure by letters as they are encouraged to make words and then sentences. The author offers several lesson examples at the beginning of the book. I like that if a teacher sees a beginning reader suffering with language basics like spelling and sentence structure, this book could be used as scaffolding.
I would keep this book and other by Mr. Lionni in my classroom library for a number of reasons: ease of text, creative use of theme and color, and the texts ability to be used across the curriculum. Intended audience: Kindergarten through 2nd.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Bamboo Dreams

So Far From the Bamboo Grove by Yoko Kawashima Watkins (Beech Tree, 1986)

A moving journey of the Kawashima family as they try to evade being captured by the Communists. So Far From the Bamboo Grove is a great retelling of Yoko, her mother and her sister Ko as they struggle to make it from their home in Korea back to their Japanese homeland. The strength that these women show while battling nature, human kind and their own personal demons is truly inspiring.

As I was reading this book I was extremely moved. During my junior year of high school, I spent the whole year in Osaka, Japan. I am familiar with the Japanese/American relationships (or lack there of) that occurred during World War II. I was not however familiar with the comings and goings of the Japanese/Korean/Russian relations that were occurring at the same time. I was lucky enough to visit the cities of Hiroshima, Nagasaki and Tokyo to see the pain and devastation that happened during that horrible time in our worlds history. Yes, as an American I was outraged at Japan's eagerness to include us in the war even when we vowed to stay out. But now, after I have read Ms. Watkins, I see that we all were facing danger during that time. I admire her for being so candid as to what she experienced. It takes courage to speak of such a difficult time in ones life.

So Far From the Bamboo Grove would serve as an excellent book when discussing the complexities of what led to the travesties that occurred during World War II. So many lives were displaced by the decisions of so few, it is a topic that needs to be discussed. This book was a very quick read and offers an insight into the plight of the Japanese toward the end of the war that I was not familiar with.

Intended audience: Fourth through high school

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Where I Am

Where am I? Where am I? That is a good question.

I believe I am standing pretty good at this point in the semester. I am prepared to provide my opinions and concerns in class. I strive to value the opinions of my fellow classmates. As far as the reading goes, it seemed overwhelming at the beginning of the semester. I am surprised at how fast I am able to finish our books. The books are fun to read and each one helps to trigger a memory from my past or bring a topic up that I would like to discuss.

I enjoy reading children's books (and on average read 5 to 7 a day, thanks Emma and Jillian). I will admit that I did not see chapter books as a form of children's literature, but I am starting to see the benefits of expanding into these books. For example: I may have a student who is bored with the picture book scene and needs the extra push to go to the next level. The genre presentations provided me with an abundance of tools to use when selecting age and grade level appropriate texts.

I really like that this class is challenging the way I look at children's literature. I used to solely base my choices on the illustrations inside the book. Rarely did I look at the text of the book. I would only look at the illustrations and whether they would appeal to my daughters tastes. I feel that this class is providing me with the knowledge to choose wisely for my classroom library.

So I guess when you ask the question, "Where am I", I would have to say that I am feeling really good. My confidence in text selection is increasing and I feel that I contribute to the classroom discussion.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Misfits Part 2

The Misfits by James Howe (pages 143 to 274)

The end of The Misfits was not as predictable as I thought it would be. I guess I was choosing to believe that Mr. Howe would have tied everything up in a pretty little bow and the No-name Party would win. Well at least they did not finish last.

I liked the way that the Gang of Five supported each other and listened to each others ideas (even if they had to yell at each other to be heard - mainly over Addie). The lessons that they learned, as well as the rest of their classmates, was one that made me smile. My high school was very similar to Paint Brush Hills Junior High. Unfortunately we never had anyone who was willing to challenge the Britney's and the Collin's.

I believe that The Misfits should be taught in every school. The message is one of hope and belief that someday we all just may get along. With the ever changing landscape that is occurring in the American school system, the early this book is taught, the better prepared our students may be for junior and senior high. I would probably introduce this book to a third grade class with parental consent; fifth grade without parental consent (I would still send a letter advising the parents as to why I was teaching the book).

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Banned Books Part 1


Banned books. Why do we have to place limits on books? Isn't it up to the reader to make their own opinions of what a book has to offer? I guess I just do not see how we can place one piece of literature away from another based solely on a parents belief that the text and/or illustrations will take their child down the "wrong" path. I see so many of the books that I admire from my childhood placed on these lists solely because of the content within them was fitting at the time they were written and now are "controversial" because the story could offend someone. What about our history. Why should we hide from our past. Isn't it our job to bring the mistakes of our forefathers to light and change our ways. To me there should be no banned or controversial books. Every book on those lists has something to offer readers. LET THEM READ!!! With that said, let's get to blogging. I am choosing to complete this weeks blog under one entry. My reasoning for this is because the books are all related and therefore they should be discussed together.

The Misfits by James Howe (pgs. 1-142)

I am not 100% sure why this book is being lumped into the "controversial" category. I tried to find information that would help to explain why we were choosing to read this book along with our banned/controversial children's books and nothing was made clear to me. For what I have read so far, I would just say that this book is more for helping build self-esteem and less on controversy.
I admire the characters in this book (well the main ones anyway). Addie is not afraid to stand up for what she believes in. Bobby is doing his best to find his place in the world. Skeezie is misunderstood and Joe knows what he is but is not quite sure how to tell everyone else. Their friendship is solid and they support each other. That is a great theme of friendship if I ever heard one. The other plot is one of speaking your voice. When the administration tries to foil their plans of becoming a third party in the upcoming election, they work through their roadblocks.
I like the overall theme of what I have read so far. I am enjoying watching "The Misfits" come into their own, find their inner voice and stand up to those who have been putting them down for years. My wish would be that this book be required reading for all in junior high. Words can be hurtful and students need to know that it is okay to stand up for themselves.
I would absolutely teach this book. I would not approach it however until at least 5th grade. I believe this would be a good companion book to go along with the Character Counts curriculum that is now popular in the schools. Another good time to teach this book would be when students are given a Guidance section on bullying.
And Tango Makes Three by Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell (illustrated by Henry Cole)

What an amazing story. The true story of two male penguins at the Central Park Zoo (Roy and Silo). Who says you have to be in love with the opposite sex to raise a family. When the penguin keeper noticed Roy and Silo in love, he took an extra penguin egg and allowed them to raise Tango (because after all it takes two to Tango).
This book was another of my choices that had I not been told that it was a story of two homosexual penguins, I would have thought it was just a book about family. The illustrations are whimsical and pull the reader into the story. The love story between Roy and Silo is inspiring.

I would absolutely teach this book. In the Des Moines area this book was challenged by a family who was APPALLED that their school would openly teach about homosexuality. The school board luckily disagreed with the family. However, the school board, to appease the family moved the book to a part of the library that required parental permission to check out. Nice compromise but ABSOLUTELY unnecessary.

We need to stop sheltering our children. Yes we need to protect them but by taking books like "Tango" and placing them on a permission only shelf, we are not preparing our children for the world that exists today. I do not want my students to have to face a situation and fall flat on their face and make unnecessary comments about anyone (or their lifestyles). It is up to the parents to explain their views at home, but it is my job as a future educator to prepare my students as much as possible for the crazy world we live in.

In The Night Kitchen by Maurice Sendak

I read this book several times trying to find why it would have been considered controversial. Finally the fourth time through it and I think I got it - the main character, Mickey loses his pajamas and goes naked (and I mean naked) for awhile. Whoop d doo. What kid has not seen themselves naked? The text is simple, not controversial in anyway and the illustrations allow you to be heavily involved in the dream. Once again it is a parent who wants to have their child be sheltered that causes this book to be on the list.

I would definitely teach this book. I would have no problem reading it to my kindergarten class. Yes the illustrations may get a snicker when they see Mickey without his pj's but the story more than makes up for it. I would not however leave it in my classroom library. I say this only to hopefully serve as a happy medium between myself and parents.

Our Family Tree: An Evolution Story by Lisa Westberg Peters

The title says it all for this book. One does not need to go any further to know why this book is considered controversial. Any book that discusses Evolution will always come under scrutiny if a teacher chooses to teach it.

Westberg Peters does put the concept of evolution into terms that younger students may understand and the illustrations are age appropriate. I have seen this book placed into two age categories - kindergarten to grade 3 and grade 4-7. That is quite a large span.

I would have to say that I would probably not teach this book unless my administration will back its reading 100%. There are too many issues that are associated with Evolution. I do not want to battle any family who is overly religious and stomp on their beliefs. I also would not feel comfortable teaching this book due to the overwhelming vocabulary that may trip up younger students.

Daddy's Wedding and Daddy's Roommate by Michael Willhoite

Back in the early 1990's a book like Daddy's Wedding and/or Daddy's Roommate may have caused some controversy. However in today's society there is no way a book portraying a loving same sex couple should be considered controversial.

While yes at times Willhoite has a tendency to be a little stereotypical regarding a gay relationship, the story of love is quite clear. Young Frank is totally at ease with his fathers relationship AND his mother is very much supportive of her ex-husbands lifestyle. The illustrations are a bit over the top but that is necessary to help with the overall feeling of the stories.

I would definitely teach this book in my class. It would help show my students that there are several types of family dynamics. It shows that while Frank has a mother and stepfather, he also has a father and future stepfather who love him just as much. I would use this series when completing a Social Studies unit on families.

Like I said in the beginning I do not believe that we should have books that are considered controversial. Yes, parents do have the write to voice their opinions regarding the literary choices that are given to their children. However, when one parent complains there are more children that suffer from not having the book read to them.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Hate it or love it?

Love That Dog by Sharon Creech
I really was not wanting to read this book. I was thrown off by the title and the back cover really made me want to not read it. I was just thinking that it was a book about a boy who loved his dog, but had a hard time conveying that love.
What I found was a lovely surprise. Ms. Creech does an amazing job of telling a story of a boy who is trying to find his literary identity. Jack starts out by not wanting to complete an assignment, he hated poetry and could not make sense of what was being read. What he ended up finding was his voice. The way he worked out what he was thinking about the poems used in class reminded me of how I felt about poetry.
I truly am in love with this book. I agree that "any words can be a poem. You've just got to make short lines". That was how it was explained to us. Never did I have a teacher who tried to place the emotional part into creating poetry. They just seem to concentrate on a word and said "write about it".
This book is so much more than a book about poetry. It could be used as an instruction manual for teachers. Ms. Stretchberry was able to gain Jack's trust. She allowed him to guide her with when he was ready to have things posted, when to add his name and when to back off. She gave him the opportunity to gain the strength necessary to write about a very difficult time in his life. I want to be that teacher. I want to be the one who helps the student achieve the confidence to become the student (and in this case writer) they can be.

Hugs and Kisses

The Valentine Star by Patricia Reilly Giff; Chapter Illustrations by Blanche Sims
I was drawn to this book because of the adorable cover art. The fact that it was written by a two-time Newberry winner also helped in the selection. I am also interested in books that could be put into a thematic unit (in this case, Valentine's Day).
The theme of the book was cute. Emily and Sherri are friends, one day Emily decides she wants to play by herself, which Sherri takes the wrong way. This in turn creates a rift between the friends. Will they ever work it out?
The premise of the story is evident on almost any given day at school (regardless of grades). What I like about this book is that the author put the problem in a context that younger students could comprehend. The illustrations used at the beginning of each chapter helped connect the emotions the main characters were feeling to the text.
Intended audience: 2nd to 4th grade

Sunday Afternoon's

Katie's Sunday Afternoon written and illustrated James Mayhew
An enjoyable story about a little girl and her grandmother as they spend a HOT day together. Instead of spending the afternoon at the pool, Katie and her grandmother decide to visit the local gallery. While there Katie is able to go into the paintings and help those who in the painting enjoy life outside of the pictures.
This book is also another in a series. What I love about this book is that it introduces the reader to the world of art. In this particular book it is with reproductions of Seurat, Signac and Pissarro, also known as Pointillists. The text is enjoyable and is a little on the difficult side for beginning readers (due to the use of French phrases). The book would be good to use for a lesson on predicting the story.
I used this book with my Reading Buddy who claimed he was not a good reader. During our first meeting he mentioned that his favorite subject was Art. When I stumbled across this series, I thought it was just what I needed to get him engaged. I was correct, he really enjoyed the painting and was even more interested in reading the story than in our other meetings.
Intended audience: Kindergarten (for the illustrations) to 4th

Duck, Duck, Goose

How Do You Count a Dozen Ducklings? by In Seon Chae; Illustrated by Seung Ha Rew
The cover of this book infers that it is a book about counting ducklings. I was thinking that it would serve as a good book for introducing numbers to a kindergarten class. However, what I found was that it would actually be a good book to use when introducing the concept of multiplication to second and third graders.
The mother duckling is concerned with being able to keep track of her twelve ducklings. There is a fox on the loose who needs a snack. By trying different grouping scenarios the mother is able to keep her ducklings safe. She eventually does a good enough job that she is able to fool the fox.
The illustrations are good, each duckling is given a distinct personality. The text is simple, but the illustrations allow the reader to see the multiplication occurring.
Intended audience: Kindergarten through 3rd

Chicka Chicka

Boom Chicka Rock by John Archambault; Illustrated by Suzanne Tanner Chitwood
Another book in a series, Boom Chicka Rock, continues along the lines of its sister book, Chicka Chicka Boom Boom. A great book to use when introducing numbers to children, this book uses illustrations related to "Hickory Dickory Dock" to tell the story. The repetition of text will help the reader when they read for understanding. The illustrations also allow for the students to make a connection between the picutres and the text they are trying to read. They should be able to attain what the text is implying by looking the illustrations.
I would use these books in my classroom in conjunction with the introduction of number sets. Each book get progressively further in the number sets and will make the concept of math a little easier to understand.
Intended audience: Kindergarten


How Do Dinosaurs Learn Their Colors? by Jane Yolen; Illustrated by Mark Teague
How Do Dinosaurs Learn Their Colors? is a delightful story. It is one in a series of books designed to help children learn manners, colors, habits, numbers, and many other subjects. What makes this series so relate-able to children is the authors use of dinosaurs as the main characters. Dinosaurs take the place of children in the book, but human adults are still viewed as the authorities.
What I love about this series is the illustrations. Each page introduces a new type of dinosaur and offers relatively easy text for the readers to follow. At the end of the books further information is offered about the dinosaurs illustrated in the book.
While the text is simple, the use of dinosaurs will offer a starting point for many kids to become interested in reading. I know that my daughter made a friend at school based on their love of dinosaurs. One of the first books she ever read to me was a book in this series (How Do Dinosaurs Go To School?). If you have a student who is struggling with reading, I believe this series could help.
Intended audience: Kindergarten to 3rd

Wrut Wrow Wraggy

Scooby-Doo and the Phantom Cowboy; illustrations by Hanna & Barbera

Scholastic has decided to bring episodes of its popular "Scooby-Doo" series to readers. I must admit that I always enjoyed watching the cartoons when I was a kid. I was a little leery of how the episodes would be translated into text however. What I have now come to realize is that Scholastic is a lot smarter than I gave them credit for. My 5 year-old daughter is a perfect example of their success.

On Sunday we were taking a break from cleaning the house and I let them watch a little T.V. I found "Scooby-Doo" on the Cartoon Network and thought we could watch it. My daughter however got extremely upset. She did not believe that "Scooby-Doo" existed outside of the books that she was reading. She really made a connection with the books that we were reading. She is enthralled with the way Scooby seems to jump off of the pages due to the great illustrations. While the stories are predictable and always end with "those meddling kids and their dad-burned dog" solving the mysteries, my kids often will make up their own stories based on the illustrations.

I would probably never use these book when teaching in my classroom, I would keep them in my classroom library. They allow students to enjoy a character that has been around for years (at least 35 that I know of). They also typically have a lesson attached to them somewhere. In the lower grades they may be beneficial when discussing the importance of teamwork.

Intended audience: Kindergarten to 3rd

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

You have to love bananas

Once Upon a Banana by Jennifer Armstrong and David Small
Who doesn't love a good book about bananas? A jester (yes I said jester) lost his monkey (yep, I said it). The problem is the monkey steals a banana and throws the peel on the ground which causes a whole chain reaction to occur during the rest of the book.

The book sends a good message about how one action we take may change the course of our (or someone elses) life. I would use this book when I teach a unit on the environment and a character counts curriculum.
The illustrations allow you to see the expressions on the peoples faces as they see the problem and how the next person sees what is to come.

All in all this was my favorite book of "wordless" books that i read. The story was clear, the illustrations were spot, and the themes were apparent early.

Intended audience: Kindergarten to 3rd


The Crocodile Blues by Coleman Polhemus

What? I am totally lost as to what this book is about. I know that "wordless" books are supposed to challenge the readers imagination, but either this book really missed the mark or I am just not that imaginative.

While the drawings were good and the "gate-ways" (that is what the flaps were referred to) were amusing, the overall idea of the book was lost on me. Amazon and Barnes and Noble say that "The Crocodile Blues" is "a creative book that will leave readers anything but blue." What I find funny about that is, that even they cannot tell me what the book is about.

The illustrations show a man taking an egg from an egg vending machine placing the egg in the refrigerator. While he and his bird fall asleep the egg cracks and a FULLY grown crocodile appears. Next thing you know the guy has moved, then attends a party, and is presented the egg by the same crocodile who he ran from. I just don't get it. If someone can explain it to me I would greatly appreciate it.

Intended audience: I am not sure. I probably would not use this book in my curriculum because if I am confused about this book, how am I supposed to use it in my teaching.

Ha Ha

The Last Laugh by Jose Aruego & Ariane Dewey

A cute book about having the last laugh on something mean. The Last Laugh is a cleverly disguised book about bullying. As one can guess by the title, the snake gets his bullying returned. Throughout the whole book you see the snake tormenting animals and never having any thing done to him in return.

Finally a gaggle of geese decide to get even, they have had enough. What I liked about this book is that the theme is so prevalent for what may happen in schools today. I really do not have much else to add about this book. It was fairly predictable.

Intended Audience: Kindergarten to 2nd grade

Last Night

Last Night by Hyewon Yum

What child hasn't been sent to bed with no supper? Last Night by Hyewon Yum is a delightful book about a young girl, sent to bed with no supper and what happens when she falls asleep.

The illustrations are so dead on, it is easy to see the story occurring on the pages. The little girl is frustrated and falls asleep with the favorite teddy bear who takes her on a tour of the forest with her friends.

Hyewon Yum does an amazing job of using shadowing in his drawing to bring out the anger the characters faces and the disappointment the mother feels (a looming figure with her hands on her hips). The fact that the bear trusted the little girl enough to introduce him to his friends (an eclectic bunch of foxes, fish, and turtles), lets the reader know that trust is earned. It also helps one see that the little girl and her mother need to forgive and forget.

Intended audience: Kindergarten to 3rd grade

Saving Strawberry Farm

Saving Strawberry Farm by Deborah Hopkinson; Illustrated by Rachel Sadora
In the spirit of the genre presentations, I have decided to dedicate this weeks blog to the genre's that were discussed in class tonight.
"Saving Strawberry Farm" is an adorable book based on the Depression Era "Penny Auctions". Davey and Rose are excited about the Independence Day celebration their parents have planned. However when they go to the store to pick up the ice for the lemonade, the find out that their favorite person, Ms. Elsie, will be losing her farm. With the help of the town, they have a penny auction to purchase Ms. Elsie's farm for very little money.
When I think of the Depression, I think of dirt, sadness and despair. Yes, this book has all of those. However, the text never once makes you feel sorry for the kids in the story. It starts out telling what the family is going through in tough economic times. But it turns into a story of togetherness and friendship. The illustrations are light and carefree.
If you wanted to use this book to compare the Depression of the 1920's and 30's to our current economic situations, I believe that it will help make the discussion easier due to the illustrators ability to make the children real.
Intended audience: Kindergarten to 3rd grade.

Poopsie Hamster Buns reporting

Captain Underpants and the Wrath of the Wicked Wedgie Woman by Dav Pilkey

So I am completing my post about "Captain Underpants and the Wrath of the Wicked Wedgie Woman" under my new pen name of Poopsie Hamster Buns. Too funny.

I am still relatively new to the whole "Captain Underpants" phenomenon. Last summer I was teaching at a Summer Program and had a group of kids who were not paying close attention because of this series. Instead of getting mad, I found a way to use them in the teachings.

What I enjoy about these books is that they take the story of two boys who could be interchanged with almost anyone in school, anywhere in the country. Dav Pilkey has a way of making reading and writing fun. He introduces several forms of writing into his tales and that is what makes it fun. The expressions on the illustrations are also priceless. I can totally remember making the faces of "Captain Underpants" when I would play Superhero in grade school.

"Captain Underpants and the Wrath of the Wicked Wedgie Woman" brought back many memories of my least favorite teacher and how I would have loved to do something to her. The fact that she did not promote her students using their imaginations really bothered me. Ms. Ribble is everything I DO NOT want to be as a teacher. I was so excited to see Harold and George go against the grain. To me every student should be able to question. They may not always like the answer that they get, but they should at least have the chance to ask.

Intended audience: 4th grade and up. Adults may even enjoy them. I know I did.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Heroes Don't Run: A Novel of the Pacific War by Harry Mazer
I must have been walking around the Curriculum Lab with a deer in the headlight look on my face because two of the librarians stopped me and asked if I needed help. The genre of historical fiction has always been interesting to me. However, what I believed was historical fiction is not actually what it is today.
I was always under the impression that historical fiction was any book that took place in the past. However that is not true. I will not go into details because I do not want to ruin the genre presentation for next week.
Heroes Don't Run is a coming of age book designed for upper elementary grade students. Adam is adamant about joining the military to avenge the death of his father at Pearl Harbor. What he was not expecting was the amount of resistance and hard work he would encounter before he could fulfill that mission. Harry Mazer does and amazing job of bringing you into the pain that Adam was facing in the lose of his father. Mazer also brings in several historical elements (Japanese internment camps, Pearl Harbor survivors, Okinawan fight scenes) that transport the reader into Adam's world.
I believe though that it was the cover art that draws people in. One can see the pain in Adam's face, but yet also see the boy that has gone off to war, as so many young men were forced to do with this war. Having read the last book in a three book series only wants me to read the full story of Adam.

Monday, February 2, 2009

An Oldie but a Goodie

Where The Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak
While I was at a local bookstore I decided to visit the Caldecott Medal section. I never realized how many books I have read that have received this distinguished award. However, one book in particular took me back to when I was young.
Even before I could read I was a big fan of this book. My Aunt Janet gave me this book when I turned 4. I used to sit up after I was tucked in and look at the pictures. The monsters for some reason never frightened me. The expressions for the "Wild Things" were so loving to me. I used to think that Max was the one who should have remained on the island. After all, he was the one who misbehaved, not the monsters. They just wanted to please Max.
I still to this day can not tell you if this book is based on a dream that Max was having or if he was just playing make believe. I choose to believe that it was a dream but my six year-old will tell you that he stepped into his room, was mad at his Mommy and thought of things that would make his Mommy mad. All to get back at her. What an active imagination that child has.
"Where the Wild Things Are" is a classic story that allows the reader to form their own conclusion as to how and why Max went to the island. Was he dreaming of the Monsters? Do the Monsters represent all of the authority figures in his life? Does he decide to forgive the Monsters and that is why he gave up the authority and returned home? That is the beauty of the story - it allows you to imagine what happened.

Hip Hop

Froggy's Baby Sister by Jonathan London; Illustrated by Frank Remkiewicz
An excellent book series to be used in a K-1 classroom, the "Froggy" series of books focuses on raising self-esteem and promoting character in younger students. In this particular book, Froggy is finding the joys and sorrows of being a big brother. The story itself is perfect for students of this age who may be experiencing welcoming a new sibling.
The colors chosen by Mr. Remkiewicz for the illustrations are colors seen in many children's drawings. They are bright and detailed enough so the reader can predict what will happen next.

Silly Monkey

Curious George's First Day of School by Margret & H.A. Rey

Now who doesn't love a story about a silly little monkey brought to the United States by a man in a yellow hat? Curious George has been around as long as I remember. My Dad used to read me one of the Rey's stories every night for bed. I always swore that when I was older I was going to bring a monkey back from a vacation. I wanted my "George" to do everything with me.

The illustrations in this book, once again, allow the reader to tell the story without having to know every word on the page. They are whimsical and detailed. The illustrators use of colors allows the drawings to jump off of the pages. The giggles that my children provide while reading these stories wants me to have all children experience the brilliance of Margret and H.A. Rey. I fully intend to have the whole collection of Curious George in my classroom library.

Finding Nemo

Ecosystems: Oceans by Greg Reid

Every once in awhile I like to find a non-fiction book that explores an area of the world. One of my favorite places to visit (no matter which coast I am on) is the ocean. I want to share my fond memories with my students. I also want to help them squelch any fears they may have based on movies and/or books.

Oceans offers the reader an in-depth look at oceans around the world. The text allows the reader to feel as if they were actually visiting that particular location. What I also liked about the book is that the author provides the viewer with a list of websites that students, caregivers, and teachers can use to extend the information that is provided.

Grandma's Wishes

If Jesus Lived Inside My Heart by Jill Roman Lord; Illustrated by Amy Wummer
While I was looking for books to read for this weeks blogs, my daughter recommended that I read a book given to her by her Great-Grandmother. Now, I am a little leery of reading a book and blogging about it when it is religious based, because I know that religion should not be brought into the classroom. However, when I asked her why she liked the book, my daughter answered "because the pictures are fun to look at." So this week I have decided to revisit some books that I have read over the years and looking at them based on the criteria of the reading we completed for this week. The books are more for the story that the illustrations tell, not the story themselves.
If Jesus Lived Inside My Heart by Jill Roman Lord is a delightful story that teaches children to be generous and helpful to those around them. I did not even need to read the dialogue that accompanied the story. My three year-old was able to tell me the story and I know it was based on the illustrations. Amy Wummer uses cherub looking children and placed them in scenes that promoted the overall theme of the story. If I were to be teaching in a parochial school, this series of books would be great to use for a "Character Counts" unit.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Oh No!

"HELP! I'm Trapped in My Teacher's Body" by Todd Strasser (Scholastic, 1993)

I can only hope that my students do not feel about me how Jake feels about his teacher in the quite comical book titled "HELP! I'm Trapped in My Teacher's Body" by Todd Strasser. While walking through the Curriculum Lab I was trying to think of series books that have been popular since I graduated high school in 1992. The genres that are read today vary greatly from the books that were tops in the library checkout list from JD Darnell High School in Geneseo, IL. Back then the girls were interested in "Sweet Valley High" books and boys only wanted to read about "Star Wars" and "Star Trek".

Today the kids have Harry Potter. Fantasy novels seem to be the way to go when it comes to connecting to today's youth. Since I have already read all of the Harry Potter books I was looking for another series I heard was popular "Goosebumps" by R.L. Stein. He was my intended read for this week, but then a title caught my interest and made me remember a time when a teacher of mine switched place with a student for a subject period in 6th grade because the student thought "teaching is easy, all you do is boss us around."

"HELP! I'm Trapped in My Teacher's Body" was a cute book but fairly predictable. Jake was a troublemaker, hated his teacher, a science experiment went wrong, they switched bodies, Jake learned his lesson, so did the teacher, end of story. It reminded me a lot of "Freaky Friday" by Mary Rodgers. I could almost see the Disney movie now. While I enjoyed the book, I feel that the theme has been used too many times. I was hoping the book would also help the teacher see that his way of teaching was not necessarily the best way to teach to all of his students. Yes, Mr. Dirksen did also learn something from the change, but it was not as prevalent as I was hoping it to be.

However, what I did take from the book was that I want my students to feel as comfortable with me (and I in turn with them), to know when things need to be changed up a bit. I want to be able to tap into ways that will allow my students to learn to their utmost ability. If that means that we need to watch a movie, complete an experiment or bring Art into a Social Studies lesson, then so be it. I believe that this book helped me realize that unlike Mr. Dirksen, I want to offer my students the ability to switch things up a bit.

Until next time, "keep your feet on the ground and keep reaching for the stars." (Casey Casum)