Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Take Heart, My Child by Ainsley Earhardt with illustrations by Jaime Kim

Take Heart, My Child by Ainsley Earhardt is a beautiful, dreamy picture book about a mother's love and dream for her child. The book's prose is clean and fresh. It repeats at certain intervals, making it easy for smaller children to follow along. The story offers up a mother's dreams for the future for the child and teaches good lessons such as being unique, not following the crowd, striving to be happy or changing course, and persevering. The illustrations, done by Jaime Kim, are dreamy and magic-like, matching the book's story perfectly. If the book does not win an award for the storyline, it should for the beautiful illustrations.

I would highly recommend this book for a classroom or home library. I imagine it will become a childhood favorite with its feeling of safety and childhood empowerment. It would be suitable for a kindergarten through third grade classroom, but I would think that this picture book might find room in a fourth or fifth grade classroom. It would definitely be appropriate for a child who was facing a loss of a parent.  A portion of the sales of this book is designated toward the Folds of Honor organization that provides scholarships and assistance to the families of America's fallen soldiers.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Julie of the Wolves by Jean Craighead George

Julie of the Wolves is a wonderful story about an Eskimo girl facing the encroachment of the modern world on the Eskimo traditions and the natural world of the Arctic she lives in. Julie loses her mother at a very young age and her aunt takes her away from her father through legal means. Julie is then forced into marriage at thirteen, as is sometimes the custom among the Eskimos. This type of marriage is not binding, however, and Julie escapes into the wilderness in an attempt to find a life where she can start over again. Along the way to her destination, she uses knowledge of the old Eskimo ways to survive the harsh conditions that she experiences. This book is full of the wonder of living as part of nature. It also explores the Eskimo culture and the clash that happens when the modern world meets the old ways.

I would plan to use this book as an adjunct to lessons on the Arctic, Eskimos, the life cycles of lemmings, wolves, ecosystems, and/or ecology. There are bits that may be too much for younger students: the marriage between the thirteen year olds ends in a vaguely described assault. The main character befriends a wolf pack and the wolf pack adopts her and helps her to survive. Later, after we learn to love the wolves individually, the leader is shot cold by humans that happen to be out hunting. There are also vague references to Julie "not being a woman yet." The benefits of this book would be great in the classroom. It is a well told story, with a well developed plot and characters that are believable, even when they're wolves. It was found in the children's section of the library. It was awarded the Newbery in 1973. I would use it in a fourth through ninth grade classroom.         

Monday, July 25, 2016

A Green and Ancient Light by Frederic S Durbin

I found A Green and Ancient Light by Frederic S. Durbin in the adult section of the library.  It is a fantasy that will become a classic one day. It is one of the best books that I have read in a long time. It is suitable in every way for a third grade classroom all the way up through high school. The book is centered around a young boy who is sent to stay with his Grandmother over the summer during war time. The country, the time period, the names are all mysteries to create a story that could be anytime, any country fighting any other country. Readers are not allowed to pick sides in the war. That is not what the story is about. The story is about loyalty, love, and sacrifice. It's about honesty and trust. And it's about loss.

The young boy and his grandmother work on a puzzle that appears in an ancient garden. In the meanwhile an enemy soldier's plane crashes near the garden. The grandmother patches up the soldier even though he's the enemy. And because she helps the soldier, the soldier lives to help the young boy and his grandmother. This story is full of metaphor. It is thoughtful and kind and beautiful. It would be an excellent story, much in the line of the Lion and the Wardrobe but kinder and gentler.

I would use this book to teach diversity and tolerance. A lesson plan might include discussions of the reasons why the author left the names of the characters out of the book. The riddles of garden can be expanded to discussions of stars and constellations or myths. Or this book could just be enjoyed in order to make students lifelong readers.          

What Came from the Stars by Gary D. Schmidt

I found What Came from the Stars by Gary D. Schmidt in the children's section of the local library. The book is said to be for 10-15 year olds. It is a Newbery Honor Winner. The book is traditionally like Tolkien---the author creates another world complete with a new language and new objects and new beings. The story is about a young boy who has just lost his mother to a horrible auto accident. The boy blames himself for the accident. He didn't say goodbye to Mom the day she died; he was angry. On his next birthday a magical necklace from another world appears in his lunchbox. He puts the necklace on and starts interacting with the strange beings from another planet.

This book is full of metaphors, similes, and hyperbole. It has a very complex storyline, plot, and list of characters. I would not use it for elementary school at all. Perhaps it would be acceptable for a middle school classroom. It would be an excellent example of the use of symbolism. The book is very enjoyable, engaging, and well written. The plot keeps moving but at times is hard to follow. There are a lot of characters to keep track of and this would make it difficult for elementary and even some middle school students.  But the characters are believable and the good are caring and evil loses in the end.                

Sunday, May 22, 2016

The Sign of the Beaver by Elizabeth George Speare

By Source, Fair use,
The Sign of the Beaver by Elizabeth George Speare has adventure, adversity, and the difficult merging of two cultures. Twelve year old Matt holds down the homestead in Maine in the 18th century while waiting anxiously for his parents and family members to arrive. His adventures include getting injured. Native Americans nurse Matt back to health and eventually help Matt through a long summer and fall. After Matt's family fails to show up by September the Native American Chief invites Matt to migrate with the Indians to the winter hunting grounds, but Matt has faith that his family will return before winter. Matt readies the cabin for the winter, harvests the small amount of crops that he grew, and waits and hopes for his family as the lonely, cold winter sets in.

This book would be great to read to second grade on up. By 5th or 6th grades, students should be able to read on their own. This book is a Caldecott award winner.