Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Focus Question

In The Owl Moon, the tension of the story pulls the reader along because children and adults alike really want to see the owl and experience owling through the perspective of the child in the story.  The tension is beautifully done by the author because it seems effortless and isn't right in the reader's face, but instead invites them to follow along on their own terms.  The author also recognizes that it is difficult to resist such a unique experience as seeing an owl at night with your father, so it is not a common occurrence for most people.
The place in the story is also vitally important because it is a common place hosting a truly uncommon moment.  Anyone can find woods covered in snow that is from the midwest, so it is a setting students can create mental images as the story is read.  The mental images really enhance the literary experience in the classroom.  The place is not some made-up far-away place that readers struggle to imagine.  It is a place that exists and readers can tailor it to fit their own experiences or preferences.
The point of view also is crucial to the story because it is a young girl, who is owling with her father and who has never seen an owl.  She is so anxious to finally see an owl and the moment of finally seeing one is so climatic that the reader is happy for her.  She seems so small within the huge woods and all the massive snow.  It is a small character to mirror a small, but perfect moment in time of seeing an owl.

Caldecott Medal Winners

Owl Moon:
The book Owl Moon by Jane Yolen is illustrated by John Schoenherr and won the Caldecott Medal in 1988.  It is made for children between prekindergarten and late 2nd grade.  I would rate this book 5 stars. 
            The story in this book is about a child and a father walking through the woods during the winter in search of spotting an owl.  The father repeatedly hoots into the woods and the child follows in silence, knowing one ounce of sound could ruin the whole experience.  Since all of her older brothers have been taken to spot owls with their father, she was excited to be able to know what owls are like.  Once the owl is spotted, the magical moment is perfectly captured and the child fills with so much joy and fulfillment. 
            Since this book received a Caldecott Medal, obviously the illustrations are amazing.  They mirror the story being told perfectly and allow the reader to be dipped into the world of owl sightings.  Although the father and daughter go to the woods at night, there is a glowing light that shines on them as they walk.  The snow is so bright, the story seems to be set in daylight.  The snow and the sky are both shown as white and the text is framed on this background, which makes it look like it is during the day even more.  But if the reader pays attention, one realizes that the story has to be set at night based on the descriptions about looking with a flashlight. 
            The words in this book also paint brilliant images for a reader.  The sensory images can be used in the classroom to promote writing to allow readers to share a specific moment with the writer, even in the early elementary years.  Quotes like: “Our feet crunched over the crop snow and little gray footprints followed us.”, “I could feel the cold, as if someone’s icy hand was palm-down on my back.”, and “We watched silently with heat in our mouths, the heat of all those words we had not spoken.” really demonstrate the moments that are occurring within the text.  If a child closes his or her eyes while hearing this book read to them, the images formed will be so detailed and gorgeous from the words alone.  Then being able to see Caldecott caliber illustrations really enhances the literary experience. 
            Reading this book as a child with my mom provided a lot of wonderment and magical reading moments.  This book should be shared between parent and child and between teacher and students.  In the classroom, a lesson involving “showing not telling” through writing can be introduced to children as young as first or second grade.  Instead of just witnessing simple sentences, a teacher can see deeper writing.  Any child can benefit from experiencing this book, especially ones interested in art.  To see the intensity of illustrations can instigate some interest in linking drawings to text.  Students can write their own sensory stories, then they can illustrate them too. 

            Another Caldecott Medal winner, Jumanji, was both written and illustrated by Chris Van Allsburg.  The book is very interesting and can be shared with children as early as preschool and can be told to older children, such as 6th graders for the lessons and depth of the story.  I would give this book 4.5 out of 5 stars. 
As a classic book turned movie, not many people have avoided having some contact with some form of Jumanji in their lives.  The book tells the story of a brother and sister who have the house to themselves when their parents go to the opera.  The children find themselves bored with the toys in their house and venture into the park to find something more entertaining to do.  Judy stumbles upon a game called “Jumanji” with a  note taped to the back warning, “Free game, fun for some but not for all.  P.S. Read instructions carefully.”  As the kids play the games, they find that each of the tiles they land on actually happens.  A lion appears on the piano, monkeys in the kitchen, and a lost tour guide in the living room.  The children also know that in order to have the house return to normal, they need to finish the game and reach the golden city of Jumanji.  After weathering the harsh tiles, the duo finally makes it to Jumanji, just in time for their parents to return from the opera.  At the end, the children state that it is very important to finish what you start and follow the directions along the way, two classic lessons every parent and teacher wants children to be aware of. 
            Jumanji can be used in the classroom to ignite more imagination in children about the worlds that can be created through writing.  Teachers can use this book to begin a lesson about writing so readers can make images from the word.  The illustrations in Jumanji really match the words of the story and provide more information for the students.  The small details are an important part of the story being told.  Also, the story is about a game, which is a topic of interest among most children.  It is also very useful to children of all ages because it is magical to younger children and can spark ideas for writing.  Also, when using this book, teachers can also tie Jumanji to a unit about jungles.  Since the kids had a jungle come to them, a teacher can bring a jungle to the classroom for the students. 
            This book provides a lot of inspiration in the realms of reading and writing.  Students could even create their own board game that they bring to life.  The book is well written and flexible, making it a great asset to teachers.  I would recommend this book to students, parents, and teachers alike since it is such a great classic. 

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Roald Dahl

My AIP Project has led me to study Roald Dahl, an award winning author who has always been one of my favorites as a child.  Who could forget reading James and the Giant Peach or Matilda as a child?  Not to mention the amazing movies that have been created based on the books written by Roald Dahl.  I completely love every book he has written and remember the stories so vividly because they captured my imagination and made me believe that anything is possible. 
This author is such an inspiration to future teachers, authors, parents, aunts, uncles, and anyone who remotely interacts with children.  He communicates his deep love and passion for writing in every word of all 61 of his books.  Just the fact that he has written 61 books amazes me.  Then add the caliber of writing within each book- it is awesome.  When I was learning about Roald Dahl, it surprised me how tragic his life was.  He lost his father and older sister when he was just three years old.  One of his sons had brain damage after a car accident and his oldest daughter died after being exposed to the measles.  Yet his writing is still whimsical and captivating, even after all the heavy heartache he must have been feeling.  It really shocked me that he continued to write no matter what and kept producing books that grab his audience. 
Roald Dahl has left really big shoes to fill by any upcoming children’s authors because he was consistent and award-winning and passionate about every part of the writing process.  He should be used to showcase the joys of writing to students- especially those suffering from misfortunes in their own lives- to encourage more writing in elementary and middle schools. 

The Very Lonely Firefly

            The Very Lonely Firefly is written and illustrated by Eric Carle.  It is geared toward younger students, like preschool to late 1st grade.  I would rate this book 4.5 out of 5 stars. 
            This book is about a firefly who continually flies toward different lights, looking for other fireflies to travel with.  Although he struggles to find his peers, he eventually finds fireflies to fly around at night with. 
            The Very Lonely Firefly could be used with younger children to introduce the idea of identity and looking to belong to a group.  Being lost could also be talked about when using this book.  Students could discuss times they got lost in the grocery store or at amusement parks with their parents.  Almost every child has been lost at one point or another, so this book can be used to ignite some writing about how each student felt when they were lost and how they felt once they were found.  They could also draw pictures of what it looks like when they feel like they belong (who they are with, where they are, etc.) to a group. 
            I don’t really have any hesitations about using this book in my classroom because it seems to be able to be applied to any group of students.  Although the perspectives the students will bring to the discussion will be different, it will bring a needed diversity to the classroom.  

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Book! Book! Book!

The book Book! Book! Book! By Deborah Bruss is illustrated by Tiphanie Beeke.  It is geared toward primary elementary school students, ranging form kindergarten to third grade.  I would rate this book 4 out of 5 stars. 
            This book is about animals who get bored on the farm and look for something fun to do.  Once they see the happy faces of the people in the public library, they decide this is where they should visit.  All the animals in turn ask the library for a task to complete and the librarian cannot understand what the animals are asking for since their questions sound like “neigh”, “moo”, “baaah”, and “oink”.  It is not until the rooster comes in and says “book! book!”, much like boock, boock, that the librarian understands what the animals have been asking for.  She gives the rooster books to read and the animals return to the farm with the excitement about reading books. 
            When introducing the idea of visiting the public library, or even the school library, this would be a good book to incorporate.  Since it is humorous and grabs the children’s attention without being too demanding, it will allow children to slowly and in a stress-free way.  This book also covers all the sounds that animals make, which some urban students may never have heard first hand, so even audio of the animals can be played. This book increases interest in literacy as well as the idea that anyone can be interested in books. 

Hippos Go Beserk!

            Hippos Go Berserk! is written and illustrated by Sandra Boynton.  It is written for preschool-very early elementary, probably going as high as the end fo kindergarten.  I would rate this book 3 out of 5 stars.
            This book is about a hippo that is lonely by himself, but then a lot of hippos come to his house to have a party.  The hippos go berserk at the party (naturally) and once day breaks, they all return to their homes.  Once all 44 hippos have gone, the original lonely hippo is lonely once more.
            Counting would be the main lesson to get out of this book.  The repetitive listing of hippos doing various things allows students to visually see the amount a certain number represents while still providing them with entertaining descriptions and illustrations.  If a child already knows how to count, they would probably find this book to be childish and uninteresting. 
            This book could be used in a counting unit followed by children writing stories with pictures about certain amounts of animals or other things.  It could be useful to use this book with a child who is struggling to learn how to count or who fails to visualize numbers correctly.  

Dinosaur Woods

            Dinosaur Woods is written and illustrated by George McClements.  It is geared toward more primary elementary school or younger, ranging from preschool to late 1st grade.  The rating I would give this book would be 3.5 out of 5 stars. 
            This book is about a group of woodland creatures that realize their home is going to be destroyed by developers.  They brainstorm ways to protect their habitat until they think of building a life-size dinosaur to scare the construction workers away.  However, when the dinosaur (operated by all the woodland creatures from the inside) trips over a media cord and they are all revealed to all the press that has gathered to see the dinosaur, they think they’re in big trouble.  To their surprise, they are not in trouble, they are all just endangered or extinct, so the critters get to keep their home as a nature preserve. 
            Dinosaur Woods is a great way to introduce many topics about nature to younger children, such as: conservation, endangered or extinct animals, development, deforestation, and ways children can help conserve the earth.  This book could be incorporated into a unit about the earth and awareness of the human effect on the environment.  If this book was tied to another book about recycling, I could introduce a recycling system into my classroom for all the students to participate in.  I could incorporate writing and art and have children create a profile on an animal that is extinct to present to a small group or to the class. 
            This book would not be effective if used with children who are much older because they would think it was too silly to really learn as much.  Considering they usually know what endangered species are, this book wouldn’t be the best way to introduce a concept they already know about.  There are a lot of options when it comes to how to use this book in the classroom, so teachers can be flexible when incorporating Dinosaur Woods into their lesson plans.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Fantastic Mr. Fox

The novel Fantastic Mr. Fox by Roald Dahl and illustrated by Donald Chaffin is a book many people have read that has also been made into a motion picture that was recently released.  The book is geared toward the older elementary students, ranging from late 3rd grade to early 6th grade.  The rating I would give Fantastic Mr. Fox would be 4.5 out of 5 stars. 
This novel describes a dilemma a family of foxes face once the father fox, Mr. Fox, is bring hunted by the three farmers he has stolen chickens, ducks, geese, turkeys, and cider from.  The fox family are cornered into their burrow and find the other burrowing families (the Badgers, Moles, Rabbits, and Weasels) who have also been stuck in the underground tunnels thanks to Mr. Rabbit.  Together, the animals secretly rob the farmers by burrowing under their stashes of food and create a sufficient community of underground family. 
This book discusses many pertinent lessons about stealing, sharing, cooperation, and justice.  Although the farmers are malicious about hunting the foxes, stealing is not really the best option to teach children.  The largest apprehension I would have using this book in the classroom would be displaying a book where stealing is described as something that is permissible under certain conditions.  I believe that this is something children should not be taught- instead they need to know that a crime is a crime, no matter the outside circumstances. 
Fantastic Mr. Fox is somewhat mature for elementary school children, but some of the older students can grow from this book.  At some points in the book, especially as the farmers literally surround a hill with 108 men with guns and flashlights looking for a family of foxes, children can begin to grasp exaggeration and putting things in perspective.  As an outsider, is this amount of effort over the top or warranted by Mr. Fox’s persistent stealing?  Students have to think about these kinds of situations in life, especially in hypothetical situations.  It is valuable to decide if overreacting is worth possible outcomes or solutions to problems that can sometimes be out of your hands.
I would use this book in the classroom when discussing burrowing animals such as the ones mentioned above or speaking of the conservation of the environment these animals live in.  This novel could also be used when discussion fairness and justice and can truly open up a really great discussion about whether or not this behavior should be allowed.  Children could also learn to help people who are less fortunate than others, like animals that are cut off from their food supply.  Students can see the true desperation in this book when the animals are struggling to survive. 
Overall, this book would be useful in the classroom if a teacher can find a balance between the idea that stealing is never really allowed.  This book could be very effective in triggering thoughts of laws and justice in elementary school students.  

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Snowmen at Night

The book I read is Snowmen at Night by Caralyn Buehner and illustrated by Mark Buehner.  It is a picture book geared toward primary elementary grades and even preschool, probably ranging from pre-k-late 2nd grade.  I would give this book 3.5 out of 5 stars. 
This book is about what snowmen do when the sun goes down including sipping hot chocolate, racing, and playing snowman baseball.  These nightly activities are the cause for lopsided snowmen in the morning according to Buehner. 
Other books about winter could be used to tie this book into a unit.  One drawback to this book is that it can only be used in schools that have enough snow annually to build snowmen.  It would be much more applicable in a Chicago school as opposed to a Miami school.  If children have never experienced a snowman becoming lopsided in the morning, it is hard for them to relate to the story. 
Snowmen at Night could be used to discuss the melting process even at an early age in the classroom.  This book could also encourage the discussion about shapes and how one figure with a few shapes can change just by the shapes changing direction, like snowmen changing shape and height during the night even though it is the same snowman.  This book can especially be used when the winter begins or when the first snow falls in November.  This could also be incorporated into a unit about snow or snowmen.  After sharing this book with my students, I would hope that they would become more curious about everyday things like watching snowmen melt.  I would hope that my students would question anything they are not sure about after reading this book.