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.