Tuesday, October 30, 2012

They Call Themselves the K.K.K. by Susan Campbell Bartoletti

Review- They Call Themselves the K.K.K: The Birth of an American Terrorist Group by Susan Campbell Bartoletti
A.    Bibliography
Bartoletti, Susan Campbell. 2010. They Call Themselves the K.K.K: The Birth of an American Terrorist Group . Boston, Massachusetts: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. ISBN 9780618440337
B.     Plot Summary
“Klansmen were sworn to kill informers, even fellow members, who divulged information about the order, its rituals, or its members.” The Ku Klux Klan is a highly secretive terrorist group who conducted brutal raids upon black Americans. Their club began in the aftermath of the Civil War and grew into a decidedly organized, destructive organization that is still found today. Bartoletti opens readers’ minds to the story of the K.K.K. and the turmoil they caused.
C.    Critical Analysis
Using excerpts from slave narratives, archival illustrations, and documented accounts from the time, Susan Campbell Bartoletti gives a flowing, factual look at the rise of the Ku Klux Klan. Bartoletti is a noted author of informational text with a record of accurate, truthful writing. They Were Known as the K.K.K. is a clearly written text that targets teen readers. There is a wealth of illustrations to make it engaging and enough visual and verbal access features to make it great for research work.
D.    Review Excerpts
·         Starred review from Booklist: “…thoroughly researched volume.”
·         Kirkus Best Books for Teens 2010
·         Junior Library Guild selection
·         From School Library Journal: “…well-structured inside look at the K.K.K…”

E.     Connections and Classroom Activities
·         After reading aloud, with or without audiobook, this text would lend itself well to a discussion group format. The facilitator could pose questions about the students own background knowledge of racism, feelings and emotions, and connections to other texts. At the end of the discussion, the students could create a mock interview of a former slave and their personal account of the K.K.K.


Friday, October 26, 2012

Whales by Seymour Simon

Book Review- Whales by Seymour Simon
A.    Bibliography
Simon, Seymour.1989. Whales. New York, New York: Harper Collins. ISBN 0060877103
B.    Summary
Did you know that the humpback whale is longer than a bus and heavier than a trailer truck? And, the tongue of a blue whale weighs as much as an elephant! In this informative book, Seymour Simon, a trusted name in science, guides us through the underwater world of whales.
After interesting information about the whale species, Simon goes on to give us insight into the different types of whale. For instance, have you ever seen a whale that looked like a unicorn? This type of whale is called the narwhal, and it is known for its long tusk that sticks out several feet from its head! From the popular orca to the mammoth blue whale, Whales offers insight into Earth’s largest mammals.
C.    Critical Analysis
Whales is a collaboration between two very trusted names in nonfiction: Seymour Simon and the Smithsonian Institute. Simon pairs his flowing facts with lush, full-color photographs. The text moves from general whale information to specific facts about various whales. There is a short glossary and index located on the back of the book for reference. The book is recommended for ages 5-9; however, I would venture to say it is more appropriate for ages 9-12.  Some of the vocabulary is challenging with no subheadings for quick scanning.
D.    Review Excerpts
·         From Publisher’s Weekly: “…lucid, informative look at these intriguing behemoths.”

E.     Connections and Classroom Activities
·         Create a “Did you know..” mural or bulletin board about whales
·         Use this as a kick-start to a unit on sea creatures, mammals, or Seymour Simon’s work


Saturday, October 13, 2012

This Is Just To Say by Joyce Sidman

Book Review- This Is Just To Say: Poems of Apology and Forgiveness by Joyce Sidman

A.    Bibliography
Sidman, Joyce.2007. This Is Just To Say: Poems of Apology and Forgiveness. Boston, Massachusetts: Houghton Mifflin and Company. ISBN 0618616802
B.     Plot Summary
Mrs. Merz, a 6th grade teacher, asks her class to write poems of apology to someone they have wronged. The students write about love, dodge ball accidents, spelling bees, pets, and more. They decide to put their poems together in a book. And, to their surprise, the students get the people to whom they apologized to write back!
Some poets are truly sorry, and some are not, “I’m sorry your locker mirror disappeared/ and mysteriously ended up in my desk/ (But not really)”. Either way, the book reveals the various connections and relationships the poets share.
C.    Critical Analysis
In Sidman’s anthology of apologetic poems, the reader is introduced to various ways to say “I’m sorry”. Sidman uses haiku, pantoums, snippets, and rhymes to show a 6th grader’s version of apology. The emotional range is this book is very deep. In one poem titled “Dodge Ball Crazy,” the humor is vivid and apparent, “Sorry, Reubs, for belting you/ as hard as I could in dodge ball/ I’d like to say I wouldn’t/ do it again but I’d be lying”. In other poems, like “Next Time,” sadness and heartache are shown through the words, “Please, please come back./ Don’t leave me spinning alone,/ like a slow, sad tornado./ I’m sorry Daddy./ Next time I’ll be/ perfect.” The poems are accompanied by collage drawings and paintings with a variety of background and media present- dictionary entries, notebook paper, and school supplies. Sidman has a gift of capturing the characters’ voices and portraying them in her poems.
D.    Review Excerpts
·         Texas Bluebonnet Award Nominee 2008
·         Starred review in School Library Journal, Sidman’s ear is keen. Capturing many voices.”
E.     Connections and Classroom Activities
·         After reading this with students, the students can create their own apology poems for someone they have wronged.
·         This Is Just To Say could also be used to teach the various forms of poetry.
·         Also, on teaching character traits, you could lead the students on an investigation to find the different traits that each character portrays.


Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Beast Feast by Douglas Florian

Book Review- Beast Feast by Douglas Florian
A.    Bibliography
Florian, Douglas. 1994. Beast Feast. Orlando, Florida: Harcourt Brace and Company. ISBN 0152951784
B.     Plot Summary
Florian assembles 21 humorous poems about animals and insects in Beast Feast. The beasts range from an anteater to a walrus and everything in between. The poems may be short (“The pounding spatter/ Of salty sea/ Makes the walrus/ Walrusty.”) or longer in length like the couplet poem “The Chameleon.” Either way, Beast Feast is an enjoyable book for the eyes and ears.
C.    Critical Analysis
Douglas Florian’s Beast Feast offers surprises for the reader in the form of language and pictures. His verses have language twists that are truly witty, “Just when you think you know the boa,/ There’s moa and moa and moa and moa.” And, each poem is accompanied by a full-page watercolor painting. The paintings offer further insight into the poem itself. For instance, in the poem “The Whale,” Florian says the whale is “big as a street.” In the picture, the whale is marked with the street names “1st Street, 2nd, and 3rd.”
The obvious emotion tied to this collection would be humor. Florian shares factual information about each beast with a light-hearted play on words. About the caterpillar, Florian writes “But for this creepy bug don’t cry, / It will soon be a butterfly.”
D.    Review Excerpts
·         1995 Lee Bennett Hopkins Poetery Award
·         ALA Notable Children’s Book
·         Starred review in School Library Journal, Clearly a wonderful book.”
E.     Connections and Classroom Activities
·         After reading Florian’s poems, children will be inspired to write and illustrate their own poems. The beauty is Florian doesn’t ascribe to any one type of poetry. He gives examples of rhyming, concrete, and free-verse.
·         An author study of Douglas Florian’s work would be a great way to expand the learner’s knowledge of poetry.


Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Hurricane Dancer by Margarita Engle

Book Review- Hurricane Dancers: The First Caribbean Pirate Shipwreck by Margarita Engle
A.    Bibliography
Engle, Margarita. 2011. Hurricane Dancers: The First Caribbean Pirate Shipwreck. New York, New York: Henry Holt and Company. ISBN 9780805092400
B.     Plot Summary
Quebrado, or “the broken one,” has been traded from ship to ship in the Caribbean Sea since he was taken from his home in present-day Cuba. A child of a Taino Indian mother and a Spanish father, Quebrado translates for the cruel, ruthless Captain Bernardino de Talavera. When a hurricane sinks the ship, Quebrado is rescued from the water by a Narido, a young fisherman. Quebrado learns the power of hope and the gift of friendship again. And it is he who must decide the fate of his former captors.
C.    Critical Analysis
Engle’s verse novel, Hurricane Dancers, is a whirlwind of emotions. Engle fictionalizes historical fact in this original story. All of the characters, with the exception of Quebrado, are based on documented figures in history. Their voices weave together to create an epic story of loss, cruelty, love, and the regaining of hope.
Engle uses rhythm, sounds, and excellent imagery to portray the story of Quebrado. “There are days when he treats me like an invisible wisp of night, and days when he crushes me like a cockroach on a table.” The natural emotions felt throughout the story are prominent due to Engle’s impeccable word choice “…even though on a ship there is no place to hide.”  
D.    Review Excerpts

·         2012 Pura Belpre Honor
·         Starred review in School Library Journal, “Unique and inventive”
·         Starred review in Booklist, Linked together, the poems capture elemental identity questions and the infinite sorrow of slavery and dislocation...”
E.     Connections
·         For upper grades, this would be an excellent read aloud for fluency practice. In small groups, the students could be the voice of a character. And, coming together, the entire story could be shared.
·         For advanced ELLs that speak Spanish, this story would give them a tie to their own language that may spark interest in the plot.
·         After reading the novel, students could do a research project on one of the documented characters from the story.