Monday, November 26, 2007

Genre 6 Fiction, Fantasy, & YA: The House of the Scorpion

The House of the Scorpion
1. Bibliography:
Farmer, Nancy. 2002. THE HOUSE OF THE SCORPION. New York, NY: Atheneum Books for Young Readers. ISBN 0-689-85222-3

2. Plot Summary:
In a futuristic world eerily similar to ours, Matteo Alacran was harvested instead of born. He is a clone of a rich and powerful drug lord and it is at his whim that Matt is allowed to live. When Matt realizes that his life was created to prolong El Patron’s, he decides his only chance for survival is to escape the compound and the bodyguards that surround him and take his chances in the world beyond. He is treated worse than an animal on the compound but the life that awaits him on the outside is one of child slavery. His daring escape and the friends he makes along the way give him the strength and courage to return victorious to his former home and right the wrongs of past generations.

3. Critical Analysis:
In her Science Fiction novel, The House of the Scorpion, Nancy Farmer brings us into a futuristic world where clones are harvested for body parts to prolong life and others are rendered mentally void of original thoughts. This book deals with several complex themes such as cloning, humanity, civil rights, immortality and self-awareness. In Matt’s world, clones are treated worse than barnyard animals and most are turned into ‘eejits’, which are implanted with a chip to suppress original thought, and make them totally subservient. When Matt and Tam Lin come across a man lying dead in the field, Tam Lin explains that the Farm Workers are eejits, “That’s why they work without resting until the foreman orders them to stop and why they don’t drink water unless someone tells them to.” The reader is exposed to the horror of slavery and the idea that the government allows humans to be turned in to robots used primarily at one’s will. Matt’s world closely resembles our own and his thoughts and fears are similar to many children’s. He has a desire to be loved, live freely without humiliation and embarrassment, and explore his dreams. Readers can identify with Matt’s fears and frustrations and he realizes his role in ‘life’. He was created to prolong his benefactor’s life, El Patron. El Patron’s death symbolizes Matt’s freedom as he escapes from the compound, but he is still not free. He is captured on the outside and forced to work in a shrimp harvesting camp. Here he is able to show his true self and use his intelligence and leadership skills to lead his newfound friends on an escape back to his original home where he has the chance to live as the new Matteo Alacran and make good choices instead of selfish ones.

4. Review Excerpts:
Newbery Honor Book 2003
Michael L. Printz Honor Book 2003
Starred in KIRKUS. “Farmer has a talent for creating exciting tales in beautifully realized, unusual worlds. With undertones of vampires, Frankenstein, dragons' hoards, and killing fields, Matt's story turns out to be an inspiring tale of friendship, survival, hope, and transcendence. A must-read for SF fans.”
Starred in HORNBOOK. “Farmer has shown great imagination in creating a unique, plausible, and disquieting view of the future.”
Starred in BOOKLIST. “This is a powerful, ultimately hopeful, story that builds on today's sociopolitical, ethical, and scientific issues and prognosticates a compelling picture of what the future could bring.”

5. Connections:
Other books by Nancy Farmer:
THE SEA OF TROLLS. ISBN 0-689-86744-1
Related books:
THE GIVER by Lois Lowry ISBN 0-553-57133-8
TUCK EVERLASTING by Natalie Babbitt ISBN 0-374-37848-7
Make a new book jacket for the cover
Find and research scorpions in books or on the web
Create a Reader’s Theater from Chapter 26 The Lost Boys

Genre 6 Fiction, Fantasy, & YA: Monster

1. Bibliography:
Myers, Walter D. 1999. MONSTER. Ill. by Christopher Myers. New York, NY: Harper Collins. ISBN 0-06-028078-6

2. Plot Summary:
Told from sixteen-year-old Steve Harmon’s point of view, Walter Dean Myers puts us right in the middle of a murder trial that could very well end up with a guilty verdict. Myers two formats to convey Steve’s thoughts; through diary-like narratives we see what it is like to be in prison and in film script format the courtroom trial unfolds. What will the jury decide?

3. Critical Analysis:
Award winning novelist Walter Dean Myers spins a chillingly realistic tale of what it is like to be on trial for murder. Through journal entries and script like texts the saga of the courtroom proceedings and Steve Harmon’s thoughts and fears become jarringly clear. The gritty dialog makes the characters jump from the page as the readers can imagine themselves sitting in the courtroom as a juror member or family friend. “KING- Yeah. All we need is a lookout. You know, check the place out—make sure ain’t no badges copping some z’s in the back. You down for it?” Christopher Myers’ stark pencil illustrations bring Steve to life. His sometimes blurred images reinforce the doubt and confusion that Steve feels. Myers brings in the reality of prison life by including sounds and images into Steve’s journal writings. “There was a fight just before lunch and a guy was stabbed in the eye. The guy who was stabbed was screaming, but that didn’t stop the other guy from hitting him more. Violence in here is always happening or just about ready to happen. I think these guys like it—they want it to be normal because that’s what they’re used to dealing with.” Steve’s conscience and his frustration about the consequences of his decisions drive this story and make it a gut wrenching, coarse journey into right and wrong. Readers can identify with Steve’s moral dilemma of self-punishment and pity. He is greatly disturbed by the effect his actions have had on his family. This eye-opening tale of one man’s decision to be in the wrong place at the wrong time gives us all reason to reflect that even the smallest choices can lead to greater problems.

4. Review Excerpts:
Coretta Scott King Award Winner 2000
Reviewed in BOOKLIST. “The tense drama of the courtroom scenes will enthrall readers, but it is the thorny moral questions raised in Steve's journal that will endure in readers' memories.”
Starred in HORNBOOK. “Myers adeptly allows each character to speak for him or herself, leaving readers to judge for themselves the truthfulness of the defendants, witnesses, lawyers, and, most compellingly, Steve himself.”
Reviewed in SCHOOL LIBRARY JOURNAL. “It's an emotionally charged story that readers will find compelling and disturbing.”

5. Connections:
Other books by Walter Dean Myers:
SCORPIONS. ISBN 0-06-024365-1
Other related books:
MAKING UP MEGABOY by Virginia Walter ISBN 0-385-32686-6
TEARS OF A TIGER by Sharon Draper ISBN 0-689-31878-2
FORGED BY FIRE by Sharon Draper ISBN 0-689-80699-X
Find and read scripts and screenplays. Investigate the notes about camera angles and shots, etc.
Visit a local jail or police station to take a tour
Have students write about what they think Steve does after the trial

Genre 6 Fiction, Fantasy, & YA: The Tale of Despereaux

The Tale of Despereaux
1. Bibliography:
DiCamillo, Kate. 2003. THE TALE OF DESPEREAUX. Ill. By Timothy Basil Ering. Cambridge, MA: Candlewick Press. ISBN 0-7636-1722-9

2. Plot Summary:
Despereaux Tilling is a mouse on a quest for adventure. From the moment of his birth, he was bound for greater things. The only surviving mouse from his litter, born with his eyes wide open and big ears, Despereaux was always a bit different. He hears music one day and breaks a major rule in the animal world. He speaks to a human. Not only does he speak to Princess Pea, he eventually falls in love with her and goes on a journey through the castle to the deep, dark dungeon to save her life and, in a way, his own.

3. Critical Analysis:
In her Newbery Award winning novel, Kate DiCamillo tells the heroic tale of Despereaux Tilling, a mouse bound for greatness. In this low fantasy of talking animals, royalty, castles and dungeons, DiCamillo digs into themes of love, bravery, sacrifice, and hope. In a quirky take on novel writing, DiCamillo speaks directly to the reader as if they were right there along for the adventure, watching from the sidelines. This approach, which was at first disconcerting, eventually grows on the reader and leaves them wanting more. “Reader, do you know what ‘perfidy’ means? I have a feeling you do, based on the little scene that has just unfolded here. But you should look up the word in your dictionary, just to be sure.” The reader feels the need to do exactly what she says else they might miss something important. (It means treachery or deceit, by the way!) There is much symbolism in the way Despereaux is described. His ‘big ears’ give him the ability to hear the beautiful music, which in effect starts his adventure. They also cause him to listen to and be aware of others and empathize with them. Miggery Sow, on the other hand, has her ears beat so much that they are described as useless and like cauliflower. She is hard of hearing and slow witted. She is instrumental in setting Princess Pea up for her impending doom. Despereaux is born with his ‘eyes wide open’ and the only one of his litter to live. These descriptions give the reader the impression that he is on a solo journey from the beginning and he is bound for greatness. Being born with his eyes open implies that he is aware of and accepts his fate, and will use the ability to catch even the smallest detail to his advantage. His red thread around his neck that banishes him from the mouse world is much like Hester Prynne’s Scarlet Letter A that announces her sin to the public. Readers will enjoy the feeling of being a part of the adventure and how every comes out in the end. Will they live, “Happily Ever After”? You must read to find out more…

4. Review Excerpts:
Awarded Newbery Medal 2003
Starred in KIRKUS. “And so unwinds a tale with twists and turns, full of forbidden soup and ladles, rats lusting for mouse blood, a servant who wishes to be a princess, a knight in shining-or, at least, furry-armor, and all the ingredients of an old-fashioned drama.”
Starred in HORNBOOK. “Framing the book with the conventions of a Victorian novel, DiCamillo tells an engaging tale.”
Starred in BOOKLIST. “Part of the charm comes from DiCamillo's deceptively simple style and short chapters in which the author addresses the reader: "Do you think rats do not have hearts? Wrong. All living things have a heart.” And as with the best stories, there are important messages tucked in here and there, so subtly that children who are carried away by the words won't realize they have been uplifted until much later. Ering's soft pencil illustrations reflect the story's charm.”

5. Connections:
Other books by Kate DiCamillo:
Related books:
HAPPILY EVER AFTER ed. Bruce Lansky. ISBN 1-59961-130-9
THE FROG PRINCESS by E.D. Baker ISBN 1-58234-799-9
Find recipes for and make soup to enjoy while you read
Read about and find more information about castles
Have students reenact the Mouse Council and make cases for Despereaux’s fate as if they were his lawyer.

Monday, November 5, 2007

Genre 5 Historical Fiction/Biography

Cracker! The Best Dog in Vietnam
1. Bibliography:
Kadohata, Cynthia. 2007. CRACKER! THE BEST DOG IN VIETNAM. New York, NY: Atheneum Books for Young Readers. ISBN 1416906371

2. Plot Summary:
Told against the backdrop of the 1960’s and the Vietnam War, Cracker! is a moving and emotional story of friendship and trust between a man and a dog. Cracker, the German Shepard and Rick Hanski, her handler, travel to Vietnam with the U.S. Army to detect enemies, bombs and traps to secure the safety of the soldiers at war. Rick and Cracker overcome their differences and learn to work together to save many lives and complete several successful missions. The Army has a policy that animals are looked upon as equipment that is to be destroyed when their usefulness has ended…will Cracker make it back to the U.S. alive when their tour of duty is over or will she be yet another casualty of war?

3. Critical Analysis:
Newbery Award winning author Cynthia Kadohata gives us an action packed glimpse into the Vietnam War through the eyes of Cracker, a German Shepard scout dog and her handler, Rick. Kadohata creates a gripping, emotional tale that will cause you to laugh and cry. Told from both the viewpoints of Rick and Cracker, Kadohata provides us with insight from all perspectives of the war. The author keeps the story believable because Cracker thinks and acts like a dog, the reader just gets to hear her thoughts, no one else. “Cracker had no idea what he was saying, but he sure did know how to pet a dog.” Kadohata sets the stage for the gritty reality of the war. “Cracker thumped against the man and heard his gun fire a moment later. She knew just where to sink her teeth: the man’s neck. Once his neck was torn, she swung around and saw Rick pushing himself up. He looked in her eyes for just a half a second, and she could see he was fine. Then he started running, and she ran after him.” Her accurate descriptions of the military maneuvers came from first hand accounts of Dog Handlers and Scout Platoons who served in the war. She provides an Author’s Note and Acknowledgements along with photos of soldiers and their dogs, which gives validity to her work. Readers will be thrilled at the ending and anxious to learn more about these brave soldiers who gave their lives so valiantly.

4. Review Excerpts:
Reviewed in KIRKUS. “Despite thin spots, the story succeeds on the strength of its characters, their struggles and their relationship, reaching a readership that doesn't get enough quality writing in this genre.”
Starred in HORNBOOK. “Without asking too much of her middle-grade readers, Kadohata creates tension and pathos around the bonds between humans and dogs in wartime.”
Starred in BOOKLIST. “The author of Kira-Kira (2004) andWeedflower (2006) tells a stirring, realistic story of America's war in Vietnam, using the alternating viewpoints of an army dog named Cracker and her 17-year-old handler, Rick Hanski, who enlists to "whip the world" and avoid a routine job.”

5. Connections:
Other books by Cynthia Kadohata:
KIRA-KIRA. ISBN 0-689-85639-3
WEEDFLOWER ISBN 0-689-86574-0
Related books:
Paulsen, Gary. WOODSONG. ISBN 0-02-770221-9
*Students can research Scout Dogs and how they are used in War and Peacetime situations.
*Invite a dog trainer/handler to speak to the students and possibly demonstrate dog training techniques.
*Find Vietnam on a map and explore the country and research their culture.
*Research Scout Dog platoons on the internet and read about real dogs who actually served in Vietnam. (EX: )

Genre 5: Historical Fiction/Biography

1. Bibliography:
LaFaye, A. 2004. WORTH. New York, NY: Simon & Schuster. ISBN 1416916245

2. Plot Summary:
Twelve-year-old Nate is injured at the beginning of this story and can no longer help his family with the grueling demands of maintaining a farm on the Nebraska prairie. His father brings in John Worth, an orphan from New York City, to help with the job. Nate and John, each fighting their own internal battles, must overcome their differences and work together to save the farmland from the ‘fence cutters’ who are trying to wreak havoc on the community.

3. Critical Analysis:
Alexandria LaFaye creates a moving story of friendship and courage in her account of two boys in nineteenth century Nebraska. The setting of the story makes the historical period come to life. Nate is injured while working on the family farm during a lightening storm. Medical attention is hard to come by and practices for mending a broken leg were much different in the 1800’s. After months of recuperating, he is lame and unable to help his father tend to the crops. When Nate’s father brings home an orphan boy to help with the chores, Nate begins to feel insecure about his worth. LaFaye keeps the dialog true to the spirit of the time. “On account of my mood, Ma thought my leg had me down in the body, so she brought me my supper in bed.” Her style reflects the flavor of the times and she creates a beautiful story of overcoming adversity in the unyielding Nebraska prairie. Nate must deal with his injury and inability to pull his weight on the farm and John must adjust to his new surroundings that are so different from his city upbringing and deal with the grief from the loss of his family. Both Nate and John discover their ‘worth’ and find their true value to their family and the community. Readers will identify with Nate’s jealousy of John and his insecurity about not living up to his father’s expectations. These are timeless emotions that readers of all ages can appreciate and share. LaFaye has created an enjoyable tale of daring and hope and leaves you wondering what happens next.

4. Review Excerpts:
Scott O’Dell Award for Historical Fiction Winner 2005
Starred in BOOKLIST. “The short, spare novel doesn't need the heavy heroic parallels; it tells its own story of darkness and courage. A great choice for American history classes.”
Starred in HORNBOOK. “This short tale has a quietly epic sweep.”
Reviewed in SCHOOL LIBRARY JOURNAL. “A satisfying piece of historical fiction.”

5. Connections:
Other books by Alexandria LaFaye:
NISSA’S PLACE. ISBN 0-689-82610-9
*Read and compare with other books written by A. LaFaye and look for similarities and differences.
*Research the North American Council on Adoptable Children (
*Research Orphan Trains at
*Create a Readers Theatre to enact from Chapter 18, “What We Learn”.
Other related books:
Osborne, Mary Pope. 1989. FAVORITE GREEK MYTHS. ISBN 0-590-41338-4
Warren, Andrea. 1996. ORPHAN TRAIN RIDER: ONE BOY’S TRUE STORY. ISBN 0-395-69822-7

Genre 5: Historical Fiction/Biography

1. Bibliography:
Stanley, Diane. 2000. MICHELANGELO. Hong Kong: Harper Collins. ISBN 0-688-15085-3

2. Plot Summary:
Diane Stanley once again captures the essence of her subject, this time Michelangelo, to create a masterpiece. Michelangelo Buonarroti’s life unfolds to reveal a chaotic, cantankerous artist who suffered with disappointment, loneliness, and frustration. Stanley tells the story of this Renaissance sculptor, painter, architect and poet most famous for his work on the Sistine Chapel and St. Peter’s Cathedral in Rome.

3. Critical Analysis:
Stanley’s beautifully illustrated biography of Michelangelo enhances the artist’s work while adding visual depth to understanding his immense gift. Michelangelo’s art was his life and that is expertly defined in this quote, “I already have a wife who is too much for me; one who keeps me unceasingly struggling on. It is my art, and my works are my children.” Stanley provides many graphic aids to enrich the details of the story. A map of Italy in the Age of Michelangelo helps the reader understand the distance traveled by the artist in the course of his life. She also includes a Bibliography for reference to other sources about the great artist, which gives credibility to the details of his existence. Readers will enjoy the trivia facts about some of Michelangelo’s works that provide a human and realistic quality to a long gone icon. Stanley intersperses the narrative of Michelangelo’s life with details about the art itself. When telling about the painting of the Sistine Chapel she notes that, “Michelangelo had painted the ceiling in reverse…As a result of what he saw, he approached the second half differently…His style changed too, gradually becoming more confident and bold.” When discussing the painting, The Last Judgment, we learn that he, “even painted himself into the picture in a most gruesome way—his is the dark, distorted face on the flayed skin held by Saint Bartholomew.” This poignant and insightful account of Michelangelo’s life allows the reader to see the artist as he really existed, complete with frustrations, doubts, insecurities, and family problems. Stanley completes her own masterpiece by showing us that Michelangelo was a real person who happened to have a great gift of art.

4. Review Excerpts:
Starred in KIRKUS. “This handsome, affordable, lavishly illustrated and wonderfully readable book has broad appeal. It deserves heavy representation in home, school, and public library collections.”
Starred in HORNBOOK. “Stanley captures in words and pictures the essence of Michelangelo, man of the Renaissance--sculptor, painter, architect.”
Starred in BOOKLIST. “Stanley continues her series of outstanding biographies, but this time she puts a new twist on some venerable art by using computer images. One of the most pleasing things about Stanley's books is the way her sturdy texts stand up to her strong artwork.

5. Connections:
Other books by Diane Stanley:
CLEOPATRA. ISBN 0-688-15480-8
Related books:
Vasari, Giorgio. 2003. LIFE OF MICHELANGELO. ISBN 0-8189-0935-8
Cook, Diane. 2003. MICHELANGELO. ISBN 1-59084-156-5
*Research Michelangelo and other Renaissance Artists on the Internet.
*Compare Diane Stanley’s other works and find similarities and differences between them. (Especially fun would be to compare and contrast Michelangelo and DaVinci)
*Have students choose one illustration from the book and write a story about it.
*Show a book of Anatomy and have students try to draw the human form.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Genre 4 NonFiction: Team Moon: How 400,000 People Landed Apollo 11 on the Moon

Team Moon: How 400,000 People Landed Apollo 11 on the Moon
1. Bibliography:
Thimmesh, Catherine. 2006. TEAM MOON: HOW 400,000 PEOPLE LANDED APOLLO 11 ON THE MOON. New York, NY: Houghton Mifflin. ISBN 0-618-50757-4

2. Plot Summary:
Catherine Thimmesh tells the story of the behind-the-scenes workers who helped take part in the greatest American space accomplishment of our time. Through quotes and interviews with people connected with the Apollo 11 mission, Thimmesh reveals their stories and draws together the huge undertaking that put the first Americans on the moon.

3. Critical Analysis:
In her personable account of the enormously complex task that was Apollo 11, Catherine Thimmesh relays the true stories of the men and women who helped make that mission possible. Through photographs (some of which were actually taken on the moon!) maps, and charts, Thimmesh conveys the thoughts and worries of the team that engineered, built and tested the Apollo 11 system. The author relates the magnitude of people responsible for ensuring the successful accomplishment of landing a man on the Moon and returning them to Earth. In a clear, organized manner, she details the background of this endeavor, beginning with John F. Kennedy’s mission statement, “I believe this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the Moon and returning him safely to Earth.” Her fact filled account tells of the separate organizations that worked together in support of the mission. “The lunar module was built by Grumman, 7,500 strong.” So as not to overwhelm the reader, a glossary, index and information on various Apollo missions is included at the end of the story. Readers who want to extend their knowledge of the U.S. Space Program can explore additional websites, investigate other sources, and read chapter notes included in the back of the book. Photographs support the text and provide a visual account for the reader to connect with the true-life details that weave together to form the fabric of this tale. People, young and old will appreciate the heroic particulars, great and small, that came together to create this successful enterprise. Thimmesh proves that no great deed is solitary, it takes a team.

4. Review Excerpts:
Orbis Pictus Award: Outstanding Nonfiction for Children 2007
Robert F. Sibert Award 2007
Outstanding Science Tradebooks for Students K-12 2007
Starred in KIRKUS. “This beautiful and well-documented tribute will introduce a new generation to that triumphant time.”
Starred in HORNBOOK. “The narrative balances what could have been a recitation of corporate names with a colloquial approach and high drama; primary source material gives specificity to the thousands.”
Reviewed in SCHOOL LIBRARY JOURNAL. “Despite occasional contrast issues when the white-on-black text is printed over blown-up photographs, this dramatic account will mesmerize even readers already familiar with the event-and also leave them awed by the level of care and dedication it took to surmount so many daunting technological challenges.”

5. Connections:
Other books by Catherine Thimmesh:
Related books:
Schyffert, Bea Usuma. 2003. THE MAN WHO WENT TO THE FAR SIDE OF THE MOON. ISBN 0-8118-4007-7
Godwin, Robert. 2005. APOLLO 11: FIRST MEN ON THE MOON. ISBN 1-894959-27-2
*Research other space missions and compare them to the Apollo 11’s problems and successes.
*Read biographies of Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldren and Michael Collins and other astronauts.
*Write to NASA and get information on upcoming missions and projects

Genre 4 NonFiction: Tornadoes

1. Bibliography:
Simon, Seymour. 1999. TORNADOES. New York, NY: Morrow Junior Books. ISBN 0688146465

2. Plot Summary:
Seymour Simon once again captivates readers with his spectacular full-color photographs and gripping, informative text. Simon details how tornadoes are formed and the conditions and degrees of their power. Readers will learn how scientists classify and track tornadoes and where some of the most powerful ones in history have occurred. This book introduces readers of all ages to one of the most tremendous acts of nature.

3. Critical Analysis:
In his interesting and informative book, Seymour Simon introduces the reader to the power and destruction of one of nature’s most violent and spectacular phenomena, tornadoes. Students of all ages will be attracted to the large, full-color photos, showing an ominous sky, various kinds of tornadoes and their paths of devastation. In addition to the pictures, there are a few maps, graphs and diagrams to help clarify the reader’s understanding of the makeup of the storms and where they most likely form. The clear, well organized text describes the weather conditions necessary for tornadoes to form, when and where they most likely occur, and how scientists forecast, rate, and track them. Simon also includes common myths about tornadoes and unusual facts that are sure to entertain. “A tornado once sucked up a pond full of frogs and rained them down on a nearby town.” Adding a nice balance to the ferocity and devastation of the subject matter, Simon also gives tips on what to do if one finds themselves in a situation where a tornado might arise, “Go to the basement of a solidly built house. Staying under the stairs or a heavy table helps to protect you from crumbling walls.” Simon’s passion for weather phenomena will sweep the reader off their feet and leave them wanting more. Known as ‘the dean of the children’s science book field’, Seymour Simon has written more than 200 books, more than half of which have been honored with the Outstanding Trade Books for Children Award by the National Science Teachers Association.

4. Review Excerpts:
Outstanding Trade Books for Children 2000
Reviewed in SCHOOL LIBRARY JOURNAL. “Simon’s clear, well-organized text discusses the weather conditions necessary to spawn these violent storms; how they form; where they are most likely to occur; and how scientists predict, rate, and track them. He also describes some of the major tornadoes recorded in the U.S. and includes weather maps and a diagram. Make room on your shelves for Simon’s standout view of a cataclysmic manifestation”

5. Connections:
Other books by Seymour Simon:
HURRICANES. ISBN 0-06-117072-0
LIGHTNING. ISBN 0-06-088435-5
WEATHER. ISBN 0-06-088439-8
*Compare other books about the weather written by Seymour Simon and look for similarities and differences.
*Look at other topics by Seymour Simon and make comparisons to how he approaches and showcases each.
Other related books:
Berger, Melvin. 2000. DO TORNADOES REALLY TWIST? ISBN 0-439-14880-4
*Compare Simon’s book to the way tornadoes are discussed in the other books.
*Have students investigate storm trackers and find out what they do and how they predict where storms might occur.

Genre 4 NonFiction: I See a Kookaburra!

I See a Kookaburra!
1. Bibliography:
Jenkins, Steve and Robin Page. 2005. I SEE A KOOKABURRA!. Ill. by Steve Jenkins. New York, NY: Houghton Mifflin Company. ISBN 0618507647

2. Plot Summary:
Teaming up yet again, Steve Jenkins and Robin Page create a delightful book about animals in their habitats. Each page represents an area of the world and the animals that inhabit that region. Through bright, colorful illustrations, children can discover a variety of animals and how they live. There is even a more detailed description of each animal listed at the end of the book. Students will enjoy finding a hidden ant on each page.

3. Critical Analysis:
Jenkins and Page have integrated a unique feature into each page of this book about animals in their natural habitats. Camouflaged in the beautiful and vibrant collage illustrations, animals are hidden in their surroundings. Along with the animals native to that region, the authors place an ant into each of the environments because they say, “There are thousands of different kinds of ants. They live almost everywhere on earth and can be found in each of the habitats shown in this book. Along with the eight animals in each picture, there is an ant—somewhere. Can you see it?” Six different parts of the world are shown, and each habitat includes eight animals, which may at first be difficult to spot. Children will enjoy trying to name and find the hidden animals. The pattern of “I see…” is repeated throughout to encourage readers to look for indigenous animals to that region. (“In the desert I see….) Turn the page and the hidden animals are uncovered against a white background and finish the sentence with appropriate nouns, verbs and adjectives (…a kangaroo rat bounding over the sand). The elusive ant is also exposed! Charming and lively, this approach also informs and describes the animals and their biomes in an accurate, distinct way. Lengthier notes on all the environments are placed at the end of the book with a map of the habitats as they are located in the world. Additional readings are provided for enthusiastic readers interested in more information. This dynamic, captivating book encourages critical thinking and influences readers to take a closer look at the world around them.

4. Review Excerpts:
Reviewed in KIRKUS. “While the animals have the lush, textured look one associates with Jenkins's work, the habitats are much less well-developed, resulting in a flatness and skewing of perspective that distorts the relative sizes of the animals shown. Unfortunate.”
Reviewed in HORNBOOK. “In an appealing game of hide-and-seek, readers look at one of eight different habitats with glimpses of animals. Turn the page, and the plants and rocks are gone, revealing the animals. The lush cut-paper illustrations invite detailed scrutiny, but the plants seem to be more of a nuisance than critical components of the ecosystems. Nevertheless, readers will be attracted to this handsome book.”
Reviewed in BOOKLIST. “The animal illustrations are reprised in miniature at the close of the book, each one presented with brief facts in tiny type, which are apparently directed to adults or older kids sharing the book with young children. Further readings and a small map round out the text. The bright and playful design will attract an enthusiastic audience.”

5. Connections:
Other books by Steve Jenkins:
DOGS AND CATS ISBN 0-618-50767-1
Related books:
*Student can create their own camouflaged animals in habitats and see if others can find them.
*Allow students to write their own “In the _________ I see….” Modeling the sentence structure found in the text.
*Research endangered animals and study their habitats. Discover why they have become endangered or extinct.
*Find information about a Kookaburra and other Australian animals.
*Visit a local zoo to find other animals listed in the books.

Monday, October 8, 2007

Genre 3 Poetry: Aleutian Sparrow

Aleutian Sparrow
1. Bibliography:
Hesse, Karen. 2003. ALEUTIAN SPARROW. New York, NY: Simon & Schuster. ISBN 0689861893

2. Plot Summary:
In her historical account of the relocation of the Aleut people, Karen Hesse tells the story of Vera, an Aleutian Islander, who must move from her home with her family during World War II. Vera describes her journey of being placed in the internment camps designed to protect the people from the invading Japanese through a series of diary-like entries.

3. Critical Analysis:
Newbery Award winning author, Karen Hesse, tells the tale of Vera, an Aleut native, along with the rest of her people, displaced to an internment camp during World War II. Through unrhymed verse Hesse paints a poignant picture of Vera’s journey. Told from Vera’s point of view, the reader gains insight to the harshness and injustice faced by the Aleuts at the hands of the United States Government. “We are citizens of the United States, taken from our homes. / We did nothing wrong, and yet we get little to eat and / no doctoring, and our toilet is an open trough washing into the creek.” Vera’s eternal hope to return to her native land and customs drives the story. Through reflection, tribal storytelling, and morale boosting activities Vera and the Aleuts are able to endure and overcome their hardships. The reader can feel their strength and pain as they celebrate Christmas with minimal supplies; sickness and death an everyday occurrence. “Someone from Ketchikan donated a worn pair of lace / curtains. / We washed them, cut them to shape, / And used starch to form them / Into angel wings for the children.” Hesse uses symbolism of the wings to signify the hope for freedom of their internment, salvation and rebirth. Her use of imagery adds beautiful details to the story. “My spirit rises with the sun, which parts the fingers of trees / And slides its light through to the forest floor.”
This is a timeless story of oppression and the strength of the human spirit to overcome. Children will enjoy Vera’s humor and wit in everyday situations. When told to make glue from fish eyes, Vera decides it is worth it to buy glue from the store instead. She also suggests that a construction project might go more quickly with Alexie not helping. Like the title Aleutian Sparrow, Vera continues to sing her song of hope and rise above the injustice of her situation and returns to her nest.

4. Review Excerpts:
Starred in KIRKUS. “With a whisper-soft touch, Hesse's clear, resonant verses and delicate imagery will break hearts.”
Reviewed in BOOKLIST. “As Vera talks about her life in the camps, she also weaves in her people's past history and culture, ensuring that readers will want to know more.”
Reviewed in HORNBOOK. “Some of the poems are quite graceful, conveying much in just a few lines, but in general, the format doesn't serve the author well.”

5. Connections:
Other books by Karen Hesse:
OUT OF THE DUST. ISBN 0590360809
STOWAWAY. ISBN 0689839898
WITNESS. ISBN 0439271991
Related books:
Mansell, Donald E. 2003. UNDER THE SHADOW OF THE RISING SUN. ISBN 0816319766
*Compare Vera’s story with the missionary family in Donald Mansell’s book. How was life similar and different in each situation?
*Read other novels by Karen Hesse. What do they have in common? Why do you think she writes about people and their struggles to overcome prejudice?

Genre 3 Poetry: Eureka! Poems About Inventors

Eureka! Poems about Inventors
1. Bibliography:
Sidman, Joyce. 2002. EUREKA! POEMS ABOUT INVENTORS. Ill. by K. Bennett Chavez. Brookfield, CT: The Milford Press, Inc. ISBN 0761316655

2. Plot Summary:
In this illustrated collection of poems about relatively famous and even some unknown inventors Joyce Sidman captures the thoughts and ideas behind each person’s discovery. Chavez’s beautiful illustrations create a strong visual account of each creation. This book offers 16 creative and inspired poems describing some of history’s most important inventions.

3. Critical Analysis:
In her collection of free verse poems about inventors Joyce Sidman captures the essence of various inventors and their creations. The poems are chronologically organized from the earliest inventions to the latest starting with the discovery of clay to the invention of the Internet. They describe the passionate struggle each person experienced in achieving the discovery for which they are most famous. In “The Light—Ah! The Light”, the poem, told through the voice of Marie Curie, describes the hardship of being discriminated against for being a female, Polish scientist and the discovery of radium, which would eventually take her life. Sidman uses personification of life to beautifully express Curie’s emotions. “I, Manya, the poor Polish girl from Warsaw, pried open life’s hidden heart and discovered the bright burn of its decay.”
Chavez’s illustrations delve deeper into each inventor’s discoveries and add additional details that extend the impact of their work. In “Enquire Within”, a poem about the discovery of the Internet, a series of circuits and electrical schematics interconnect along with a picture of an early computer, a spider web woven with the word, “WEB”, and images of the Revolutionary war with part of the word Revolution visible. These visual symbols impact the change and interconnectedness that Sidman conveys in the line, “I flung out the first strands freely, and others felt their pull, a revolution of thousands, worldwide, all helping weave the Web.”
Grouped into four sections, the poems follow discoveries throughout history that have changed our lives for the better. After each section additional information is given about each inventor and their discovery. This helpful information provides insight and understanding into the background of the inventor. For example, the poem, “The Real McCoy” is made much clearer to the reader after reading the background information which states that Elijah McCoy was trained as a Railroad Engineer in Scotland before coming back to America, the son of freed slaves. We can deeper understand his frustration at not being listened to as he tries to ‘sell’ his invention of the self-lubricating engine. Children will especially enjoy the section called “A Light Interlude” that tells of inventors whose names have become synonymous with their inventions. Recognizable names like Levi Strauss and Louis Braille will be familiar to some but others like Sir Thomas Crapper and Amelia Bloomer add humor to the list.

4. Review Excerpts:
Reviewed in BOOKLIST. “In 16 poems, mostly free verse, Sidman commemorates the best-known achievements of dozens of inventors.”
Reviewed in HORNBOOK. “In unfortunately small type, the chronologically arranged poems, accompanied by attractive paintings, are followed by brief biographical notes.
Reviewed in SCHOOL LIBRARY JOURNAL. “The entire book reads beautifully as one amazing journey from before recorded time to the present.”

5. Connections:
Other books by Joyce Sidman:
*Use poems about each inventor as a starting point for research about that inventor to create a biography told from the inventor’s point of view.
*Find other inventions to research and students create poems told from inventor’s point of view.
*Read other books by Joyce Sidman and compare the different styles of poems.

Genre 3 Poetry: Please Bury Me in the Library

Please Bury Me in the Library
1. Bibliography:
Lewis, J. Patrick. 2005. PLEASE BURY ME IN THE LIBRARY. Ill. by Kyle M. Stone. Orlando, FL: Harcourt, Inc. ISBN 0152163875

2. Plot Summary:
J. Patrick Lewis’s collection of fanciful poems is a kid-friendly homage to reading. His poems come in a variety of formats such as Haiku, Limerick and Acrostic to name a few. With a definite nod to Shel Silverstein and Edward Lear, the tone ranges from macabre to capricious. Anyone who enjoys books and reading will enjoy this different take on language and literature.

3. Critical Analysis:
In his whimsical collection of humorous poems, J. Patrick Lewis provides a different point of view on everyday items and ideas. His skewed thinking creates a fantasy world in which Alphabet letters do the backstroke in soup and butterflies and caterpillars discuss the future. The illustrations by Kyle M. Stone capture the essence of each poem. His beautiful watercolor drawings echo the mood and tone of the poems. In “Eating Alphabet Soup”, the letters are depicted floating among carrots and mushrooms in a swamp like environment and the text reads, “While K, Z, and B do the backstroke / across this hot, steamy lagoon, / the fun-loving Vowels / may want tiny towels / to dry themselves off on the spoon”. Lewis’ use of rhyme, rhythm, and alliteration will appeal to children and offer exciting opportunities for read alouds.
The book is organized with a table of contents helpful for finding poems. Even the Acknowledgements in the back of the book are written in rhyming verse. “Whose book this is I hardly know, / considering the debt I owe.” He gives a nod to the poets, like Edward Lear and Shel Silverstein, who have inspired him. Lewis uses many different styles and forms throughout the collection such as Haiku, Acrostic, and Limerick. In the poem, “Reading in the Dark”, multiple meaning can be inferred in the stretched out font for the words “w e e w o n d e r “, as the owls, who stay up late (night owls, perhaps?) pondering over the book, “The Field Mouse’s Guide to Midnight”. The wee wonder could mean the small mice or the fact that the owls are contemplating them. Lewis word choice and figurative language brings a deeper level of meaning to each unique creation.
The internal rhyme of the title alone is enough to capture a child’s interest and curiosity and leave them wanting more.

4. Review Excerpts:
Starred review in KIRKUS. “In 16 poems, all but two appearing here for the first time, the Midwest's cleverest living comic poet enjoins readers, "Please bury me in the library / With a dozen long-stemmed proses."
Reviewed HORNBOOK. “Not all of the poems read smoothly or easily, but many of them display wit and humor.”
Reviewed in BOOKLIST. “Despite the picture-book format, it will take children older than the preschool crowd to appreciate the wordplay, which on occasion is quite sophisticated (Lewis credits Lear, Carroll, and X. J Kennedy as his inspirations).”

5. Connections:
Other books by J. Patrick Lewis:
Related books:
Silverstein, Shel. RUNNY BABBIT: A BILLY SOOK. ISBN 0060284048
Prelutsky, Jack. BENEATH A BLUE UMBRELLA. ISBN 0688064299
*Student can create other book titles from the poem, “What if Books had Different Names?” and illustrate them.
*Research Edward Lear, Jack Prelutsky, Shel Silverstein, Lewis Carroll, and X. J. Kennedy and see how their poems and style has influenced J. Patrick Lewis.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Genre 2 Traditional Literature: Porch Lies: Tales of Slicksters, Tricksters, and other Wily Characters

Porch Lies: Tales of Slicksters, Tricksters, and other Wily Characters
1. Bibliography:
McKissack, Patricia C. 2006. PORCH LIES: TALES OF SLICKSTERS, TRICKSTERS, AND OTHER WILY CHARACTERS. Ill. by Andre Carrilho. New York, NY: Schwartz & Wade Books. ISBN 9780375936197

2. Plot Summary:
Patricia McKissack’s re-telling of stories she heard in her childhood are as timeless as fairy tales. In her collection of short stories, characters like Aunt Gran, Bukka Black, Mingo Cass, and Pete Bruce use their wits and cunning to outsmart and triumph in tricky situations.

3. Critical Analysis:
McKissack uses stories passed down from many generations to compile this collection of “Porch lies”, folktales used to teach and entertain. Carrillo’s black and white illustrations add emphasis to the conflicts and hardships faced by African Americans in the early 1900’s. Carrilho’s illustrations create a surreal blend of reality and imagination. The characters are represented as larger than life in both the pictures and text. Each of McKissack’s colorful and unique characters shows cunning and intelligence. The morals of each story vary but there is an underlying theme that good will triumph over evil. The importance of quick thinking and attention to detail are passed down through these delightful, lively tales. There is a strong oral quality to McKissack’s writing and many of these stories are better suited to be read aloud. Children of all cultures will appreciate and learn from Patricia McKissack’s ‘Porch Lies”.

4. Review Excerpts:
Starred in BOOKLIST: “Great for sharing, on the porch and in the classroom.”
Starred in HORNBOOK: “Grandly melodramatic black-and-white illustrations capture the mood of the stories and the flavor of the period.”

5. Connections:
*Ask students to deliberate on why Patricia McKissack chose to call her collection of folktales “Porch Lies”.
Other books by Patricia McKissack:
AWAY WEST. ISBN 0670060127
*Have students research their own family stories and record someone telling them or write them down.
*Take one story from Porch Lies and act it out as a reader’s theater or turn it into a play to perform for others.
*Read other folktales like:
Lester, Julius. THE TALES OF UNCLE REMUS. ISBN 0141303476

Genre 2 Traditional Literature: Bubba the Cowboy Prince

Bubba the Cowboy Prince: A Fractured Texas Tale
1. Bibliography:
Ketteman, Helen. 1997. BUBBA THE COWBOY PRINCE: A FRACTURED TEXAS TALE. Ill. by James Warhola. New York, NY: Scholastic Press. ISBN 0590255061

2. Plot Summary:
This story is a delightful twist on the classic Cinderella tale. Bubba is a Texas Cowboy who is overworked an unable to make it to the ball until he receives help from his fairy Godcow. Bubba and Miz Lurleen live happily ever after and good triumphs over evil once again.

3. Critical Analysis:
Helen Ketteman’s use of voice and James Warhola’s whimsical artwork allow this twist of a classic Cinderella tale to stand out as an original. Look for the Fairy Godcow in each of the illustrations. Children will also enjoy watching the relationship between Bubba’s dog and Miz Lurleen’s poodle develop. The strong use of dialect and regional vocabulary make the characters real and believable, not to mention fun to read aloud. Bubba is an archetype for good and there is a clear sense of good and evil where the story ends happily ever after. Many motifs are incorporated where the cow turns into a fairy godmother, and helps transform Bubba into a fine gentleman on a handsome stallion. The resolution comes to a quick, satisfying end where Bubba and Miz Lurleen live happily ever after, roping, and cowpoking along.

4. Review Excerpts:
Reviewed in KIRKUS REVIEW: “A Cinderella parody features the off-the-wall, whang-dang Texas hyperbole of Ketteman and the insouciance of Warhola…”
Reviewed in HORNBOOK: “The western-style trimmings of the text and accompanying oil paintings are humorous but not enough to justify retelling a story that’s as overworked as poor Bubba.”
Reviewed in PUBLISHERS WEEKLY: “Just the ticket for buckaroos lookin’ for a good read.”

5. Connections:
Other Cinderella stories: Jackson, Ellen B. CINDER EDNA. ISBN 0688123228
Louie, Ai-Ling. YEH-SHEN. ISBN 039920900X
Pollock, Penny. THE TURKEY GIRL. ISBN 0316714147
*Compare/contrast other Cinderella stories to this one.
Read other fractured Texas Tales such as:
Lowell, Susan. THE THREE LITTLE JAVELINAS. ISBN 0873585429
*Use the Reader’s Theater script to act out the story and practice fluency.

Genre 2 Traditional Literature: The Girl Who Loved Wild Horses

The Girl Who Loved Wild Horses
1. Bibliography:
Goble, Paul. 1978. THE GIRL WHO LOVED WILD HORSES. New York, NY: Bradbury Press. ISBN 0027365700

2. Plot Summary:
A Native American girl has a special gift that enables her to understand and live peacefully with wild horses. A thunderstorm causes the girl and wild horses to stray from their home and people and become lost. The girl is eventually found and returns home, but she is lonely for the horses, sad and becomes ill. She eventually chooses to live among the wild horses where she can be happy and free.

3. Critical Analysis:
Paul Goble’s beautiful artwork conveys the message of this story without help from the text. The stark black of the thunderstorm is a direct contrast to the otherwise sunny, white illustrations on the other pages. The girl is an archetype for good and she sacrifices her love for her people to live with the wild horses where she is truly happy. She represents the human element that we are part of nature. She becomes one with the horses and they accept her into their herd as we should accept and treat nature as if it were part of us. The last page’s artwork was the most poignant to me because of the duality of the animals. The two horses are intertwined in a circle as in the circle of life, endlessness, and eternity. The animals each have a partner, two rabbits, two lizards, and two gophers, as if to emphasize balance, creation, and the continuation of the species. The setting is simple and direct and the element of time passes quickly. Children will enjoy the fantastic story of running off to live in the wild along with the detailed and colorful artwork.

4. Review Excerpts:
Regina Medal Award 2006: Established in 1959, Regina Medal, honors an individual's continued distinguished contribution to children's literature.
Caldecott Medal Award Winner1979
Reviewed in SCHOOL LIBRARY JOURNAL “Paul Goble's beautifully-told, Caldecott Award-winning book”
Starred review in HORNBOOK
Starred review in BOOKLIST

5. Connections:
Related books: Goble, Paul. BUFFALO WOMAN. ISBN 0689711093
De Paola, Tomie. THE LEGEND OF THE BLUEBONNET. ISBN 0399209379
*Read BUFFALO WOMAN and compare/contrast with this story.
*Students can create their own folktale about their own hero who goes to live with a group of animals. Research the animal group and discuss why the hero wants to live among them and how the animals accept him/her.
*Discuss sacrifice and have students find examples of sacrifice in the above-mentioned books. Have students write about what possession they would sacrifice for their family.
*Find other Native American songs and chants to read and sing.

Sunday, September 9, 2007

Genre 1 Picture Books: Flotsam

1. Bibliography:
Wiesner, David. 2006. FLOTSAM. New York, NY: Clarion Books. ISBN 9780618194575

2. Plot Summary:
Flotsam, meaning something that floats, is the title of this beautiful picture book by David Wiesner. In this wordless book, a boy finds a camera while at the beach. He gets the pictures developed and discovers the adventure filled journey the camera has witnessed.

3. Critical Analysis:
David Wiesner uses only his illustrations to convey the powerful message of discovery through a child’s eyes in his Caldecott Award winning wordless book. His use of watercolors is appropriate to catch the colors and feel of nature in this book’s beach and ocean setting. His pictures vary from filling the entire page to being enclosed by lines to create a photograph image. Throughout the pages, the image of the boy’s eye is proportionally larger at times to emphasize various images so the reader gets the feel for what the boy is seeing. The boy’s eye is like the camera’s eye. Wiesner’s realistic representations of people and nature give validity to the idea that this story could possibly happen, which adds a magic of “what if…” The few words found in the illustrations give a humorous and literary nod for those paying attention. The camera that washes ashore is by Melville, who wrote the great ocean adventure, Moby Dick. In one picture, a family of octopus is listening to a story read aloud while the lamps in their ‘home’ are lit by what might be lantern fish. The octopuses also seem to have their own pets in a fishbowl. The theme of discovery and ‘things are not what they seem’ can be found throughout the illustrations with the starfish having islands on their backs and seahorses capturing invading aliens. When the boy discovers that the photos in the camera tell a story that goes back through many years by looking more closely at the images, he decides to become part of that chain of history. He takes his picture and adds his mark to the adventuresome camera and returns it to the sea for someone else to discover. The message of giving back and being a part of nature without harming or destroying it is a powerful one for students to discover. Wiesner does an excellent job of ‘showing, not telling’.

4. Review Excerpts:
Caldecott Medal Award Winner 2007
Starred in SCHOOL LIBRARY JOURNAL: “This wordless book's vivid watercolor paintings have a crisp realism that anchors the elements of fantasy.”
Starred in KIRKUS REVIEWS: “In Wiesner's much-honored style, the paintings are cinematic, coolly restrained and deliberate, beguiling in their sibylline images and limned with symbolic allusions. An invitation not to be resisted.”

5. Connections:
*Related Books: Other wordless books like:
Wiesner, David. TUESDAY. ISBN 9780395551134
Ludy, Mark. THE FLOWER MAN. ISBN 9780966427646
*Have students write a story to go along with one of the pictures in the book.
*Students can investigate and research cameras and how they work.
*Use a microscope to look at images at various magnification levels (10x, 25x, etc) and discover the differences.
*Have students create their own wordless books.

Genre 1 Picture Books: Moses

1. Bibliography:
Weatherford, Carole B. 2006. MOSES: WHEN HARRIET TUBMAN LED HER PEOPLE TO FREEDOM. Ill. by Kadir Nelson. New York, NY: Hyperion Books for Children. ISBN 0786851759

2. Plot Summary:
This book describes Harriet Tubman’s courageous journey north to escape slavery and become a free person. Through her faith in God and conversations with Him in times of doubt, Harriet gains the strength she needs to survive the dangers of being a runaway slave. She would go on to return to the south many more times to guide and rescue others to freedom.

3. Critical Analysis:
Kadir Nelson’s use of the strong imagery of dark and light colors to convey fear, doubt, hope, and joy add a deeper dimension to these and many more emotions. The reader can share Harriet’s apprehension, depression and peace as she moves from slavery to freedom. Nelson’s use of size and proportion exaggerate the importance of Harriet’s thoughts and feelings. The pictures cover the entire page and Nelson uses this technique to emphasize details of the story. On one page, when Harriet has finally reached free soil and she thinks she is in heaven, she is in the foreground seemingly towering over the townspeople with a church steeple in the background, a symbol of her faith in God. Her hands and head are illuminated and she looks down as if in prayer, grateful and at peace. Harriet’s thoughts and words are in a different font and when God speaks, the print is large and flows with the commanding tone giving guidance and encouragement. His words wrap around and encircle Harriet giving comfort and protection, or are straightforward in a line, giving direction. The theme is one of personal strength and faith. Children can relate to this historical account of Harriet Tubman’s search for her life’s purpose. Character traits such as perseverance, dedication, and selflessness transcend age levels.

4. Review Excerpts:
Caldecott Medal/Honor 2007
Coretta Scott King Award 2007
Reviewed in BOOKLIST: “Nelson's stirring, beautiful artwork makes clear the terror and exhaustion Tubman felt during her own escape and also during her brave rescue of others.”
Starred review in HORNBOOK: “Moses offers a visual and literary experience of Tubman's life on a par with Alan Schroeder and Jerry Pinkney's Minty.”

5. Connections:
*Related Books: Woodson, Jacqueline. SHOW WAY. ISBN 9780399237492
Connelly, Bernadine. FOLLOW THE DRINKING GOURD. ISBN 9781591977636
*Take one picture from the book and have students write about what Harriet might be thinking and feeling.
*Study a map of Maryland and Pennsylvania and follow the route that Harriet took on her journey north out of slavery.
*Read about the North Star and discover how it has helped sailors and travelers navigate their way.

Genre 1 Picture Books: Talking With Artists

Talking With Artists
1. Bibliography:
Cummings, Pat, ed. 1992. TALKING WITH ARTISTS. New York, NY: Simon and Schuster Children’s Publishing Division. ISBN 0027242455

2. Plot Summary:
In the introduction, Pat Cummings tells the reader about being an illustrator. She says, “even though art can be your job, it can still be very enjoyable.” (Cummings 1992) Fourteen award-winning artists tell their stories about how and why they became illustrators and answers some frequently asked questions.

3. Critical Analysis:
The stories are charming and insightful. The illustrators tell of the joys and hardships overcome in the paths they have chosen as artists. Award winning authors such as Jerry Pinkney, Lois Ehlert, Chris Van Allsburg, and David Wiesner relate their experiences and offer advice to young readers. Each illustrator’s page provides a childhood picture, birth date, and current (1992) photo of themselves. The stories generally begin with an early memory or experience with art and continue through to present day. Each artist responds to a set of Frequently Asked Questions that students inquire when they go out on appearances. Students have generated the questions and the illustrators respond in a language that is simple and engaging. Children will appreciate and connect with the school age photos of the illustrators along with examples of their early work from ages 5-12. Young readers can see that the artists were children once with dreams and aspirations just like them. The style is straightforward and speaks directly to children who want to become illustrators or want to know more about that career choice.

4. Review Excerpts:
Starred review in HORNBOOK (1992): “An inspired concept, executed with class.”
Starred review in BOOKLIST

5. Connections:
*Other books about illustrators:
*Read some of the picture books illustrated by the artists featured in this book and compare and contrast their styles.
*Using several books illustrated by one of the artists discussed in this book, review the frequently asked questions and see if students can find elements that the artist discussed such as special features or techniques they use, style, and subject matter.
*Have students write other questions to the artists. Find the artists address and mail them if you can. Maybe they will respond!
*Visit the artist’s webpage and go on a virtual field trip.
*Use this book as one source for a biography about a featured illustrator.