Thursday, March 27, 2014

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak (Illustrated by Trudy White)

 Originally published in 2005 in Australia by Picador
Published in the United States in 2006 by Alfred A. Knopf,
an imprint of Random House Children's Books
Historical Fiction

Zusak's The Book Thief is a story about how important books become to a ten-year-old girl living in a small town (Molching) outside of Munich during World War II. In fact, writing saves her life. The narrator is Death, and the story is told from his point of view:
I could introduce myself properly, but it's not really necessary. You will know me well enough and soon enough, depending on a diverse range of variables. It suffices to say that at some point in time, I will be standing over you, as genially as possible. Your soul will be in my arms. A color perched on my shoulder. I will carry you gently away. 
At that moment, you will be lying there (I rarely find people standing up). You will be caked in your own body. There might be a discovery; a scream will dribble down the air. The only sound I'll hear after that will be my own breathing, and the sound of the smell, of my footsteps. . . .[My] one saving grace is distraction. It keeps me sane. It helps me cope, considering the length of time I've been performing this job. The trouble is, who could ever replace me? . . . The answer, of course, is nobody, which has prompted me to make a conscious, deliberate decision--to make distraction my vacation. Needless to say, I vacation in increments (4).
Times of war are particularly stressful for Death because of the great loss of human life. Death is stressed out and needs a break; he needs to relax. However, it's not performing his job that is the real problem. Death explains that he needs a distraction from "the leftover humans." The survivors are the ones he can't stand looking at because they are the ones "left behind, crumbling among the jigsaw puzzle of realization, despair, and surprise. They have punctured hearts. They have beaten lungs" (5). Then, Death begins to tell a story:
It's the story of one of those perpetual survivors--an expert at being left behind.
     It's just a small story really, about, among other things.
     *A girl [the book thief]
     *Some words
     *An accordionist
     *Some fanatical Germans
     *A Jewish fist fighter
     *And quite a lot of thievery 
I saw the book thief three times (5).
The book thief's name is Liesel Meminger, a ten-year-old girl who lives in Nazi Germany. Because she can no longer care for them, Liesel's mother decides to give up her two children (Liesel and her brother Werner) for adoption. While traveling on a train towards Munich, Werner dies, and this is the first time Death sees Liesel. While attending her brother's funeral, Liesel finds or "steals" her first book, a book called The Grave Diggers Handbook. Even though Liesel cannot read or write, she is fascinated by the book. Perhaps, the book becomes for her a companion of comfort to cope with the loss of her brother and family.

When Liesel arrives at her foster home on Himmel Street (a.k.a. Heaven Street), Death explains, "Whoever named Himmel Street certainly had a healthy sense of irony. Not that it was a living hell. It wasn't. But it sure as hell wasn't heaven, either" (26). Liesel's foster parents are waiting, Hans Hubermann, who she affectionately calls Papa and Rosa Hubermann (Mama) who is stern, has a sharp tongue, swears often, but in the end, has a heart. Liesel becomes very close to Papa as he comforts her in the middle of the night when she has nightmares and wets the bed. He plays his accordion and also teaches Liesel how to read. Liesel also meets Rudy Steiner, a young boy in the neighborhood, and they fast become friends. He has a crush on Liesel and is always asking her for a kiss. Leisel always refuses Rudy's request until Death appears (seeing the book thief for a second time) when Himmel Street is bombed in an air raid. Finally, Liesel grants Rudy's request, but it is too late.

The second book Liesel steals is called The Shoulder Shrug; she saves the book from a book burning. She happens to steal the book on Hitler's birthday, and it was her "anger and dark hatred that fueled her desire to steal it" (84). In an instant, she becomes "a girl made of darkness" (84). At the beginning of Part II, Death provides "Some Statistical Information."
First stolen book: January 13, 1939
Second stolen book: April 20, 1940
Duration between said stolen books: 463 Days (83).
Throughout the book, the narrator provides facts and statistical data to aid his readers. As the story unfolds, other characters are introduced: Max Vandenburg, a Jewish fist-fighter who is hiding in the Hubermann's basement to escape the Nazis and Tommy Muller, a young boy who lives near Liesel on Himmel Street.  Liesel and Max become close friends and share an affinity for reading. Max writes two books for Liesel that include sketches and his biography. Max actually uses pages from the book Mein Kampf, (Hitler's book of hate) to write his books; his sketches and text are illustrated in Zusak's book by Trudy White. One is a thirteen-page book called The Standover Man; the other is called The Word Shaker. Tragically, Max ends up being taken to a concentration camp, but does he survive? Tommy Muller is Liesel's neighbor on Himmel street, and he is repeatedly teased and harassed by the Hitler Youth.

A major character in the story is Ilsa Hermann. She is a prominent citizen in Molching and wife of the mayor. Mama Rosa and Liesel work for the Hermann family cleaning and pressing their laundry. When Liesel and her mother lose their job, Liesel continues visiting Ilsa's home because she loves to read the books in their large library. Even though Liesel steals books from their library, it is Ilsa who encourages Liesel to write a book about her life, a book she titles The Book Thief, which she writes in the basement. Ilsa ends up playing a significant role in Liesel's life after the Himmel Street air raid that flattens the entire neighborhood. During and after the raid, Death appears to most of the people Liesel knows. Liesel is one of the "leftover humans," a survivor left behind to crumble among "the jigsaw puzzle of realization, despair, and surprise." She has a punctured heart and beaten lungs, but she still has her books.

Several things the narrator (Death) says at the end of the novel will remain with me for quite some time: After the Himmel Street air raid when Liesel is leaning over Rudy's body, Death describes what he witnessed, "She leaned down and looked at his lifeless face and Liesel kissed her best friend, Rudy Steiner, soft and true on his lips. . . . She did not say goodbye. She was incapable, and after a few more minutes at his side, she was able to tear herself from the ground. It amazes me what humans can do, even when streams are flowing down their faces and they stagger on, coughing and searching, and finding" (536). This is the second time Death sees the book thief.

Once again, when Death sees Liesel with her Papa, he watches in amazement:
Papa was a man with silver eyes, not dead ones.
     Papa was an accordion!
     But his bellows were all empty.
     Nothing went in and nothing came out. 
She began to rock back and forth. A shrill, quiet, smearing note was caught somewhere in her mouth until she was finally able to turn.
     To Papa. 
At that point, I couldn't help it. I walked around to see her better, and from the moment I witnessed her face again, I could tell that this was who she loved the most. . . . 
'Goodbye, Papa, you saved me. You taught me to read. No one can play like you. . . . No one can play like you.'  
Her arms held him. She kissed his shoulder--she couldn't bear to look at his face anymore--and she placed him down again. 
The book thief wept till she was gently taken away (537-539).    
Seeing Liesel, the book thief, for the third time, Death becomes "distracted" from his job for a brief moment. Death rescues the book that saved Liesel's life, the one she wrote in the basement, the one she titled The Book Thief, the story of her life: "It's lucky I was there. Then again, who am I kidding? I'm in most places at least once, and in 1943, I was just about everywhere (539).

Death saw the book thief three times, and it had a tremendous impact on him: at her brother Werner's funeral, as Rudy's body lay on Himmel Street, and by Papa's side after the devastating air raid. Death's final words: "I am haunted by humans" (550).

This book really made me think about what is important in life. It's true. We will all meet Death "soon enough, depending on a great range of variables" (4). Perhaps in the end, how we respond to the difficult times we face will make a difference.

Although I liked The Book Thief and want to see the movie now that I have read it, I'm afraid many of my students would avoid reading this book because of its sheer size. I will encourage them to read it, nevertheless.

Markus Zusak's Official Website
Image Source

Sunday, March 23, 2014

The Giver by Lois Lowry (Newberry Medal Winner 1994)

Published in 1993 by Houghton Mifflin
Science Fiction / Fantasy

Lois Lowry's The Giver is one of four books set in the same, or rather similar, futuristic society: The Giver (1993), Gathering Blue (2000), Messenger (2004), and Son (2012). I taught this book on the high school level for twelve years while teaching in Tennessee and highly recommend it for the appropriate age level. Although the book is listed on many middle school reading lists, I believe this book is better suited for high school students because of several themes and motifs presented in the text.
The Giver is written from the first-person point of view of Jonas, an eleven-year-old boy who is the story's protagonist. He lives in a futuristic society whose leaders (The Chief Elder and a Committee of Elders) control every aspect of the citizens' lives. The goal of this society is to make everything equal and fair by eliminating pain, fear, war, hatred, differences, individuality, and choice. "Sameness" is stressed in order to promote peace and tranquility. No competition is allowed because, after all, we wouldn't want to damage anyone's self-esteem. Competition only emphasizes the fact that people do have different talents and abilities, and we definitely wouldn't want to do that. I can only imagine that, in a society like this, everyone would receive a trophy just for "trying" or "showing up." And everyone would make straight A's in school, if grades were given at all. The only time members of this community actually "win" something is when they are assigned their future jobs at the Ceremony of Twelve. Everyone in this community is under camera surveillance from the time they are born until the time they die; Big Brother is definitely watching.
Published in 2000

Published in 2004

The members of this community cannot choose the person they will marry (for marriage partners are assigned), and parents are not allowed to give birth to their own children. Everyone takes a pill to control the "stirrings" that occur during adolescence, and this practice is encouraged by the parents and continues into adulthood. Citizens are assigned jobs, and birth mothers, who never see their birth children, are the means of procreation. When a member of the community is deemed no longer useful, he or she is "released," which is just a euphemism for being "murdered." Citizens are taught they should look forward to being "released," and some believe being "released" just means being sent away, for no one actually knows where "Elsewhere" is.

I can't wait until this movie comes out!
I hope they stay true to the text.
Babies who are deemed unfit to live are also "released." In reality, they are given a shot in the forehead, right between the eyes, which kills them. Anyone in this society who breaks the rules or challenges what is taking place is also "released." Everything in this community is organized so that order is maintained and life is peaceful and serene; however, there is something dark taking place just beneath the surface. Only one person really knows everything that is going on, and that is the Giver, who receives and retains all memories of the past. As the Giver draws near to the end of his life, a Receiver of Memory is chosen to take his place, and that time has come.

Jonas, who is very different from the other members of his community because he has blue eyes and special abilities as a seer, lives with his father, a Nurturer of the new children; his mother, a worker at the Department of Justice; and his seven-year-old sister Lily. He is chosen to become the new Receiver of Memory. As Jonas begins his training and learns the truth about his "peaceful, "just," and "fair" community, he begins to question what is happening, especially when he discovers his father will "release" a newborn named Gabriel he has become attached to. At the climax of the novel, Jonas has to make a decision: Will he allow his father to "release" Gabriel, this small, innocent child who has been taken into his home? Or will he take action to change the outcome?
Published in 2012

This book is a great book for high school students. I have never had a student complain about the book, and I have never had a parent challenge the book because the book was taught at the appropriate age level in Sevier County. Discussions are always lively, and students are engaged.

Lois Lowry's Official Website
Source for Images
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Meryl Streep, Jeff Bridges, and Taylor Swift star in the movie.

A Time of Miracles by Anne-Laure Bondoux (Batchelder Award Winner)

Originally published in 2009 in France by Bayard Editions Jeunesse
Translated into to English in 2010 by Y. Maudet
Published in the United States in 2010 by Delacorte Press, a division of Random House, Inc.
Historical Fiction

I chose to read and blog about Bondoux's book A Time for Miracles for three reasons. First, it is a Batchelder Award winning novel. Second, it was written by a French author, and I had the opportunity to take three groups of high school students to France while I was a teaching in Tennessee; I assumed it would be easier to read a French novel because I have traveled extensively in France and might be familiar with some of the locations mentioned in the book. This did, in fact, turn out to be true. And third, I chose this novel because of the title and cover; I thought the story would have a positive message and would be uplifting.

What I didn't know was that I would be in for a big surprise; the book was not at all what I expected.
Mont St. Michel, France
Blaise Fortune's Birthplace
Gloria and Blaise's Destination
A Symbol of Hope and Freedom
It wasn't positive and uplifting. As a matter of fact, it was about the ravages of war and the plight of refugees fleeing their country for their lives. However, I loved this book and couldn't put it down. I found the book riveting. I look forward to reading it again and sharing it with my students. The story takes place from the Republic of Georgia to France (and everywhere in between), from 1985, or 1984 to be precise, until 2005.

From reading the back dust cover jacket, the reader is told little about what the story will actually be about. It simply reads:

"Hush, hush! I never lie, Mr. Blaise.
I may embellish things a little
from time to time, that's all." 
Gloria strokes my hair. 
"There's nothing wrong
with making up stories to
make life more bearable."

Embellishment! That's an understatement! Not until the end of the novel, does the reader truly understand the significance of those words and their true meaning. Don't worry! I won't tell you the ending! You have to read it for yourself if you like historical fiction.

The first lines of Chapter 1 read "MY name is Blaise Fortune and I am a citizen of the French Republic. It's the pure and simple truth." Or is it? Blaise begins to tell his story. . . .

The story is about a woman named Gloria and a boy named Blaise Fortune (a.k.a. Koumail) and their five-year journey to freedom from the war-torn Republic of Georgia to Mont St. Michel, France. Blaise loves to hear Gloria tell the story of how they first came to be together. One day while picking peaches in her father's orchard, a train derails nearby, and Gloria finds a woman in the wreckage who is dying. She pleads with Gloria to take her baby, and Gloria ends up raising Blaise as her own.

Map of the Republic of Georgia
This is not the map provided in the book.
The map in the book is more detailed.
Seven years later, the Soviet Union collapses, and Gloria decides they must flee the war-torn Republic of Georgia and travel to France. She wants to take Blaise (Koumail) to Mont St. Michel, France, where he was born, to a place where they will be safe and free. For me, Mont St. Michel becomes a symbol of hope and freedom, and because I have been there three times, it became even more meaningful.

Blaise is seven years old when their journey begins. Two maps are included at the beginning of the book showing the details of their long journey. The maps show where they stay and the people they meet along the way. The maps are very helpful, especially for people who are not familiar with this part of the world. I found it helpful to study the maps once again after reading the novel.

The book describes in detail the ravages of war and the plight of refugees who are fleeing for their lives. Not only is the story about their journey to France incredible but the ending is totally unexpected. After all, "There's nothing wrong with making up stories to make life more bearable."

If you enjoy reading historical fiction, I highly recommend this book. Below you will find a short video about Mont St. Michel, Gloria and Blaise's destination from the war-torn Republic of Georgia. Mont St. Michel was one of my favorite places I visited when I was visiting this country. If you ever have an opportunity to visit France, don't miss visiting Mont St. Michel!


Anne-Laure Bondoux's Official Website (Can Translate into English)
Mont St. Michel
Image Source
Map Source
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Friday, March 21, 2014

The One And Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate (Illustrated by Patricia Castelao)

Published in 2012 by HarperCollins Children's Books

Katherine Applegate's The One And Only Ivan is a fictional book based on the true story of Ivan, a silverback gorilla who lived in the Atlanta Zoo from 1994 until his recent death on August 20, 2012 at the age of 50. Sadly, Ivan died the same year Applegate's book was published. The book tells the story of Ivan's lonely life before being transferred to the zoo. Applegate uses great poetic license in telling her story, changing many of the details in order to give Ivan a voice of his own. The book's intended audience is children ages 8-12.

The One And Only Ivan is told from Ivan's point-of-view and reveals what it is like for him and the other animals who reside at "the Exit 8 Big Top Mall and Video Arcade" (6). At times the story is sad, happy, and even humorous. Ivan used to be the main attraction at the mall, but the shows are not bringing in the money they once did. Stella, Ivan's best friend, is an elephant with a chronic foot infection, and other animals become Ivan's friends.

Mack who works at the mall and is the boss, decides to bring in a baby elephant named Ruby to revitalize the show and increase profits. Julia, the daughter of the "weary" man who cleans the glass each night after the mall closes ends up helping have Ivan move to a real zoo after Stella, Ivan's long-time friend dies. Protesters become involved, and Ivan is eventually transferred to a zoo. The book is about his journey. Although Ivan has difficulty adjusting to his new habitat, he is better off in his new environment.

Castelao's illustrations are simple black and white drawings that add depth and bring life to the story. At the beginning of the book, Applegate provides a glossary that defines terms such as chest beat, Not-Tag, and me-ball that Ivan uses throughout the story. Without this glossary, readers would not have understood the meaning of these terms. It was appropriate, in this case, to put the glossary in the front of the book rather than in the back. Rather than dividing the book into chapters, Applegate chose to scatter simple headings throughout the book that relate to what is taking place in the story at a particular time: imagination, the loneliest gorilla in the world, stella, and my place. Each section is short and moves the plot along quickly.

This book would be a good book to teach children how to be political activists if that is what we want to do. Although I enjoyed reading the book, I would not choose to use it in my classroom. Once again, I found this book and the story about Ivan to be depressing. I have conflicting feelings about this book and found it difficult to blog about.

The One And Only Ivan Website
Atlanta Zoo Celebrates Ivan's Life
Image Source
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Wednesday, March 19, 2014

The White Rose: Munich 1942-1943 by Inge Scholl

Originally written in 1947 for use in schools in Germany, ages 13-18
 Published in 1970, 1983 by Wesleyan University Press
Most Recent Publication 2011, Wesleyan University Press
Nonfiction / Informational Text

Inge Scholl's book The White Rose: Munich 1942-1943 was originally written in German and later translated into English by Arthur R. Schultz. Inge Scholl was the surviving sister of Hans and Sophie Scholl, two German students who attended the University of Munich during World War II. She had to tell their story.

Hans and Sophie Scholl were members of the "White Rose" movement, a group of students and others who opposed Hitler's dictatorship and openly protested the regime by distributing anti-Nazi literature on their college campus. They were later arrested, along with Christoph Probst, tried, and executed on February 22, 1943. In her book Tell Them We Remember, Susan Bachrach defines the "White Rose" movement and explains its purpose and intent:
Hans Scholl
Of the Germans who opposed Hitler's dictatorship, only one group openly protested the Nazi genocide against Jews. The "White Rose" movement was founded in June 1942 by Hans Scholl, a 24-year-old medical student at the University of Munich, his 22-year-old sister Sophie, and 24-year-old Christoph Probst. Although the exact origin of the name "White Rose" is unknown, it clearly stands for purity and innocence in the face of evil. Hans, Sophie, and Christoph were outraged that educated Germans went along with Nazi policies. They distributed anti-Nazi leaflets and painted slogans like "freedom!" and "Down with Hitler!" on walls of the university. In February 1943, Hans and Sophie Scholl were caught distributing leaflets and arrested. Together with their friend Christoph, they were executed four days later. Hans's last words were "Long live freedom" (68)!
Christoph Probst, Sophie Scholl, Han Scholl
Hans, Sophie, and Christoph were beheaded for speaking out against the Nazi regime. Inge Scholl's book tells their story and documents their arrest, trial, and execution. The Introduction to the book explains the legacy of the "White Rose" movement, and then the author provides biographical information about Hans and Sophie Scholl, Christoph Probst, and other leading members of the movement, including Kurt Huber, a professor of psychology and philosophy in Munich, who was also executed five months later.

In her well-documented book, Scholl includes copies of the six leaflets that were distributed by the
students on campus, as well as other documents revealing what happened to her brother, her sister, and their friend:

The Indictment of Hans and Sophie Scholl and Christoph Probst

The Sentence of Hans and Sophie Scholl and Christoph Probst

The Sentence of Alexander Schmorell, Kurt Huber, the university professor, Wilhelm Grad, and Others

A Letter from Else Gebel

"Death Sentences," from Munchner Neueste Nachrichten

"Just Punishment of Traitors," from Volkischer Beobachter

Letter from Bishop Berggrave (excerpt)

Although the movement began with a sense of excitement, it soon became evident there would be no freedom to speak out against the Nazis, and the "White Rose" movement was crushed. Not all Germans supported Hitler, but most remained bystanders. The story of the "White Rose" movement is powerful; these young people should be remembered and admired for the stand they took against evil and for freedom. One of Hans and Sophie's favorite songs went:
Christoph Probst

Close the eye and ear a while
Against the tumult of the time;
You'll not still it or find peace
Until your heart is pure.

As you watch and wait
To catch the Eternal in the Everyday,
You freely choose to take your role
In History's great play.

The hour will come when you are called.
Be then prepared, be ready;
If the fire dies down, leap in;
Again it blazes, steady (14).

Scholl writes in her book, "Suddenly there occurred throughout Germany a wave of arrests that wiped out these last remnants of a genuine youth movement which had started at the beginning of the century with big expectations and great spirit" (14). This book would be an excellent nonfiction text for students on the high school level to read. I highly recommend this book for high school students and adults and believe we should never forget what they did for their country and for the cause of freedom:

Hans Scholl, born September 22, 1918, medical student, executed February 22, 1943
Sophie Scholl, born May 9, 1921, biology and philosophy student, executed February 22, 1943
Christoph Probst, born November 6, 1919, medical student, executed February 22, 1943
Kurt Huber, born October 24, 1893, professor of psychology and philosophy, executed July 13, 1943
And the list goes on. . . .

Let us not be naive; there is evil in the world. Read this book, and learn about the brave, young men and women of the "White Rose" movement who were not afraid to acknowledge this truth.

The White Rose Movement: United States Holocaust Memorial Museum
Learn More About Inge Scholl
Images for Inge Scholl
Source of Images
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Roland Freisler (Judge Who Sentenced Hans and Sophie Scholl to Death)

Sunday, March 16, 2014

National Geographic Little Kids First Big Book of Why by Amy Shields

Published in 2011 by National Geographic Children's Books
Nonfiction / Informational Text

Anyone who has young children or works with young children will often hear the following question almost to the point of exhaustion: "Why?" Amy Shields's book National Geographic Little Kids First Big Book of Why is an excellent source that can provide age-appropriate answers to questions that parents often have a difficult time answering. The book is filled with more than 300 beautiful photos and images produced by Getty Images, a division of the National Geographic Society.

The book is divided into four sections: (1) Amazing Me, (2) How Things Work, (3) Animals All Around, and (4) Wonders of the World. In the first section, Shields provides answers to questions such as Why am I special? Why are people different colors? Why do some people have twins? and Why doesn't it hurt to get my hair cut? Shields answers these questions by providing facts along with text that is interesting and easy to read. She also includes "recipes" or "experiments" that children can conduct with their parents and/or teachers. For example, in the section "Amazing Me," Shields includes a "Recipe For A Family Experiment" in which children compare their own physical features with other members of their family. After examining their own physical features, children come to understand that although they share many similarities and differences with other family members, there is only ONE of them! The message is positive and uplifting.

The second section of the book is about "How Things Work." In this section, questions such as Why does water turn to ice? Why does popcorn pop? Why does an elevator go up and down? Why can I see myself in a mirror? and Why do planes fly and boats float? are answered. This section will definitely satisfy curious little minds. It also includes experiments such as the "Milk Magic Experiment" and the "Bubble-Icious Experiment." Some of the fondest memories I have playing with my own children when they were young involved playing with bubbles, but what happens to bubbles when they are placed in the freezer?

The third section, "Animals All Around," answers questions such as Why do dogs make good pets? Why do cats hunt and purr? Why do worms come out when it rains? Why don't spiders stick to their webs? Why do bees make honey? Why do some animals hang upside down? and Why do cows make milk? This section was my favorite, and will quickly become a favorite for anyone who loves and is curious about animals. This section also includes a "Who's Talking Experiment."

The final section of the book "Wonders of the World" answers questions such as Why do we see a rainbow? Why is snow white? Why is the sky blue? Why does the wind blow? and Why can't we touch the stars? Two experiments are included in this section: the Make-a-Rainbow Experiment and the Seed-to-Sprout Experiment.

Shields's book closes with a parent tips section, a glossary, and an additional resources section. On the Why Not? page children identify things that are wrong in the picture. In the parent tips section, parents are encouraged to discuss various topics with their children such as observation, math, measuring temperature, nutrition, communication, memory, and crafts, just to name a few. This book has something for everyone! I highly recommend it for young children. Very young children (ages 4-5) will enjoy the pictures as the book is being read to them, and older children can read the book to learn about the world around them. The National Geographic illustrations are absolutely beautiful. Other books in this series include the National Geographic Little Kids First Big Book of Space and the National Geographic Little Kids First Big Book of Dinosaurs. Other topics are addressed as well; there is even one about robots. Check this one out!

National Geographic Kids
Other Amy Shields Books
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Wednesday, March 12, 2014

A Splash of Red: The Life and Art of Horace Pippin by Jen Bryant (Illustrated by Melissa Sweet) A Schneider Book Award Winner

Published in 2013 by Alfred A. Knopf
Picturebook: Schneider Book Award Winner for 2014 (Ages 0-10)

Jen Bryant's A Splash of Red: The Life and Art of Horace Pippin is based on the true story of Horace Pippin (1888-1946), an African-American, who was shot in the shoulder while serving in the trenches during World War II. This debilitating injury left him with little mobility in his right arm, preventing him from pursuing his passion: painting.

Original Pippin Painting

The painting "Saying Prayers" inspired
Bryant to learn more about Horace
Pippin's work and write this book. 

In one of the most inspirational stories I've read this semester, Horace Pippin overcomes his disability and goes on to become a famous painter through hard work and sheer determination. This book is about his life, his work, and his art. Today his art work can be seen in museums around the country, such as The Art Institute of Chicago; The Philadelphia Museum of Art; Brandywine River Museum in Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania; Chester County Historical Society in West Chester, Pennsylvania; and The Albright-Knox Art Gallery in Buffalo, New York. Other cities, such as Baltimore, New York City, Minneapolis, Wichita, and Charleston, also display his work.

Bryant writes in the historical note at the end of her book:

"When someone asked the self-taught artist about his
Original Pippin Painting
work method, he replied, 'I paint it . . . exactly the way I see it. . . . A curious and observant man, Pippin found his subjects almost everywhere. He produced roughly 140 works of art based on childhood memories, family stories, historical reports, movies, current events, and biblical Scriptures, as well as his own West Chester, Pennsylvania, neighborhood. Pippin's masterful use of color, form, and composition (how the elements of a picture are arranged) is considered his greatest artistic strength." He is also considered a folk artist, a primitive painter, and an American master. Most of his works are done in brilliant colors with just "a splash of red," thus the title of the book.

Original Pippin Painting
Bryant's book is unusual in that the author and illustrator worked together tirelessly researching the artist and his work by traveling all over Pennsylvania visiting museums and art galleries. They were passionate about this project, and their passion is clearly demonstrated by the quality of both the text and the illustrations.  The illustrations were rendered in watercolor, gouache, and collage, inspired by Pippin's deep, rich colors. Sweet writes in her illustrator's note:
When it came time to illustrate the art supplies [Horace] won in the contest, I knew the actual ones were long gone. But I was so struck by that moment--it brought back all the excitement I felt as a child with a new box of crayons, a ream of construction paper, or a tin of colored pencils lined up in consecutive hues. I re-created the brushes and pencils, which I carved from basswood and painted to look as realistic as the ones Horace might have received. I learned, too, that once he got those art supplies, Pippin used them to make small oval paintings on muslin of Bible scenes. I've imagined one of the those paintings on the title page.
One of the things I love about Pippin's art is how he limned his subject matter, making it all the more brilliant. But it was not only Pippin's paintings that inspired me--it was his words. Lettering Pippin's quotes within the illustrations gave me a way to illuminate his simple and heartfelt approach to making art.
I am grateful for the chance to look long and hard at Pippin's life and work. And I'm sure I will never use the color red in quite the same way again (end of book).
I found this book to be of such high quality that I immediately decided to read it to my high school
students. After their reaction, I made a commitment to buy a copy of the book for my personal library and recommend it to everyone I know. I plan to use the book in all of my classes, but I will especially use it for my English Language Learners and my students with learning disabilities. After reading it to my classes, one of my students asked if he could use the book for his response journal.

Original Pippin Painting
Although this book is recommended for students ages 5-8, I believe it could be used with older students with a little creativity and imagination.

Learn More About Horace Pippin (Video)

Jen Bryant's Books

More Horace Paintings (Source of Images)

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Sunday, March 9, 2014

Wonder by R.J. Palacio

Published in 2012 by Random House
Realistic Fiction

R.J. Palacio's Wonder is a heartwarming story about a ten-year-old boy named August (a.k.a. Auggie) who was born with a severe facial deformity. He knows he is different and has struggled with this knowledge his entire life. Although the book's tone is serious and at times can be heartbreaking, the humorous elements in the story make it enjoyable. The book begins with August expressing his inner feelings and deepest desires:
I know I'm not an ordinary ten-year-old kid. I mean, sure, I do ordinary things. I eat ice cream. I ride my bike. I play ball. I have an XBox. Stuff like that makes me ordinary. I guess. And I feel ordinary. Inside. But I know ordinary kids don't make other ordinary kids run away screaming in the playgrounds. I know ordinary kids don't get stared at wherever they go (3).
August goes on to say that if he found a magic lamp and could have just one wish, he would wish that he had a normal face that no one ever noticed at all. He wishes he could walk down the street without people seeing him and then "doing that look-away thing." Then he confesses, "But I'm kind of used to how I look by now. I know how to pretend I don't see the faces people make. We've all gotten pretty good at that sort of thing: me, Mom, Dad, and Via." However, Via, his sister, is not really that good at it. She gets annoyed at people when they stare or act rude and is very protective of her brother. One of the most heartwarming parts of this story is the obvious love that the members of Auggie's family have for one another despite Auggie's disability.

Up until now, Auggie has had so many surgeries that he has been unable to attend school. His mother
has had to home school him, but she finally decides he needs to go to school. She realizes the family cannot shelter and protect Auggie his entire life. Dad disagrees at first, and then he changes his mind, only to have mom change hers. Clearly the parents are concerned about Auggie and are struggling over what is best for him. Finally, they decide he MUST go to school.

From the humorous story of Auggie's birth to this first days in the fifth grade at Beecher Prep, to his relationships with his friends Jack Will, Julian, Charlotte, Summer, Miles, and others, to the challenges he faces in the classroom and in the lunchroom at school, to learning Mr. Browne's precepts for life in English class, to adjusting to doing homework at night, readers are drawn into Auggie's world and the world of upper elementary school-age children.

The book is divided into parts written from Auggie's perspective and the perspective of his sister and
other friends in the story: Part 2 is from Via's perspective, Part 3 is from Summer's perspective, Part 4 is from Jack's perspective, Part 5 is from Justin's perspective, Part 6 is from Auggie's perspective, and Part 7 is from Miranda's perspective. The book is realistic in its portrayal of children from this age group. Middle school can be a tough time for kids to adjust because kids can be very mean to each other at times. Auggie having to deal with Julian's rude comments is an indication of what kids at this age have to deal with, and with Auggie's deformity, the situation is even more serious. However, Auggie rises to the occasion, and each character undergoes a transformation in the story as the school year progresses and life lessons are learned.

The most enjoyable parts of this book for me were the touching things Auggie said and the special insights he would share along the way. For example, in Auggie's English class, the students were required to write about a "PRECEPT" for each month. For the month of October, the precept was "Your Deeds Are Your Monuments." This is how Auggie responded, and his response shows wisdom beyond his age:
This precept means that we should be remembered for the things we do. The things we do are the most important things of all. They are more important than what we say or what we look like. They things we do outlast our mortality. The things we do are like monuments that people build to honor heroes after they've died. They're like the pyramids that the Egyptians built to honor the pharaohs. Only instead of being made out of stone, they're made out of the memories people have of you. That's why your deeds are like your monuments. Built with memories instead of with stone (65).
In the Appendix of the book, readers can find a complete list of Mr. Browne's precepts for each month of the year. In the end, Auggie adjusts well to school, and his reaction when his name is called and he receives the Henry Ward Beecher Medal reveals what he truly believes: that he is just an ordinary kid:
I wasn't even sure why I was getting this medal, really.
No, that's not true. I knew why.
It's like people you see sometimes, and you can't imagine what it would be like to be that person, whether it's somebody in a wheelchair or somebody who can't talk. Only, I know that I'm that person to other people, maybe to every single person in that whole auditorium.
To me, though, I'm just me. An ordinary kid.
But hey, if they want to give me a medal for being me, that's okay. I'll take it. I didn't destroy a Death Star or anything like that, but I did just get through the fifth grade. And that's not easy, even if you're not me. 
Most people could not relate to the extent of Auggie's disability and what he has had to endure, but everyone can relate to feeling out of place at times, especially in school. This book has a great message for young people: It's what a person is on the inside that counts most.

Meet R.J. Palacio

Source of Images for Wonder

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Wonder Book Trailers

Thursday, March 6, 2014

A True Story! Pig on the Titanic by Gary Crew (Pictures by Bruce Whatley)

Published in 2005 by Harper Collins Publishers

Gary Crew's A True Story! Pig on the Titanic is based on a true story; the author's note places the book in its historical context:
At 11:40 P.M. on the night of April 14, 1912, the American-owned White Star Liner Titanic hit an iceberg off the coast of Newfoundland. The Titanic sank two hours and forty minutes later. Of the 2,228 people aboard, 1,523 lost their lives in the frozen sea: 158 of these were women and children. The sinking of the Titanic is one of the worst maritime disasters of all time.
While there are always tales of great individual courage in any disaster, the sinking of the Titanic seems to have more than its fair share. There are accounts of passengers giving up their places in lifeboats so that others could live, of women refusing to leave their husbands when the ship went down, but perhaps one of the most memorable acts of human compassion was performed by Edith Rosenbaum--and her wonderful music box pig, Maxixe. . . .
While preparing for my picturebook presentation, I came across this book and just had to read it and blog about it! It is a true story about a little music box pig named Maxixe that saved one woman's life; her name is Edith Rosenbaum. When the Titanic hit an iceberg that fateful night, at first Edith refused to get into a lifeboat, but when Maxixe was thrown into one of the boats by a sailor, she had to go after it, for the little music box had been given to her by her mother. Although the pig was damaged when it fell into the boat, Edith managed to wind up its tail and play music so it would calm and entertain the children until they were rescued. Edith survived that dreadful night, went on to become a famous fashion designer, and lived a long happy life, and Maxixe went on to become a hero. Edith Rosenbaum died on April 4, 1975, almost 63 years to the day of the sinking of the Titanic.

This book would be excellent to share with young children because it is true and uplifting. Many of them could relate to how important the little pig was to Edith because many of them most likely have small animals at home that they treasure. The illustrations for A True Story! Pig on the Titanic were created by Bruce Whatley, and although they look rather dated, they probably are representative of the pictures that might have been drawn in the early 20th century. They show Edith Rosenbaum boarding the Titanic with Maxixe, several scenes when she was on board the ship with the pig in her arms, and the various levels of the ship where Edith took her music box. The picture of the Titanic before it strikes the iceberg is darkly reminiscent of other illustrations depicting what the ship might have looked like before it sank on that cold, dark night. It is a dark, bluish black color, and the lights from the ship can be seen under a night sky filled with stars. The image even looks cold.

The story continues as chaos breaks out on board the ship. When Maxixe is thrown into a lifeboat, this "accident" saves Edith's life. When Edith realizes how frightened the children are, she winds up Maxixe's tail, and the music plays, calming the children's fears until they are rescued. All night long, the children pass the pig from one to another, wind up Maxixe's tail, and play the music. I encourage you to read this delightful story; I highly recommend this book for young children.

The photographs below are not in Crew's book but could be shown to students after reading the book so they will understand that this book is, in fact, based on a true story. I have provided a link below for easy access.

Edith Rosenbaum and Maxixe
A lifeboat full of Titanic survivors

Maxixe on display in New York

Music Box Internal Workings

The History Blog: Maxixe's Song Plays Again!

Source for Book Cover and Photographs

Listen to the Actual Recording of the Pig on the Titanic

Meet Miss Edith Louis Rosenbaum (Edith Russell)

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Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Three Sacks of Truth: A Story From France (Adapted by Eric A. Kimmel and Illustrated by Robert Rayevsky)

Published in 1993 by Holiday House, Inc.

Kimmel's adaptation of Paul Delarue's French tale The Three May Peaches is a delightful story that has a happy ending and a moral to teach: Tell the truth, and in the end, everything will work out. Whether or not this adage is true, the story reminds us that people who attain things through dishonest gain, may pay a cost in the end, and in this story, this is certainly the case for everyone in this story who lies intentionally.

The opening lines set the tone for a classic tale: "Once upon a time there was a king who was a good deal less honest than a king ought to be. Whatever he gave with his right hand, he took with this left." The king is described as having a craving for peaches, but not just any peaches. He craves the "perfect" peach and announces that the man who brings him the perfect peach can marry his daughter, the princess. But in truth the king has no intention of following through on his promise; in fact, he has concocted the entire ruse so he can eat all the peaches he wants without having to pay for them. This king is greedy and selfish.

Enters a poor widow who lives in a far corner of the kingdom who has three sons: Pierre, Pascal, and Jean. Jean is called Petit Jean because of his small size. The widow has a garden, and every day she sprinkles her peach tree with holy water. However, this tree is unusual; it only blossoms once every ten years and brings forth only three peaches. . . .But they are "perfect" peaches, and it just so happens to be the tenth year.

When the widow hears of the king's decree, she sends each of her sons to the king with a peach in a basket in order to win the hand of the princess in marriage. Pierre, the oldest, is sent first, but he meets an old woman along the way, and when she asks him what he has in his basket, he lies. He tells her the basket is full of frogs and toads. Suddenly the peach in the basket magically changes, and when Pierre arrives at the king's castle, he is thrown out for presenting the king with a basket full of the hideous creatures.

The widow sends her second son Pascal with the second peach, but when he meets the old woman along the way, he tells her his basket is full of snakes and lizards. The same thing happens again. When Pascal presents his basket to the king, it is filled with snakes and lizards, and he is thrown out of the castle.

The widow plucks the final peach from her special tree and hands it to her youngest son Petit Jean. She tells him, "You are cleverer than your brothers. Keep your wits about you, be polite to all you meet, and sure luck will follow you." When Petit Jean meets the old woman, he is polite and honestly tells her what is in the basket: one "perfect" peach. They speak kind words to one another, and Petit Jean thanks the old woman. In turn, she hands him a silver fife and encourages him to play the fife if the king goes back on his word: "You will come to a good end if you keep your wits about you."

When Jean arrives at the castle and the king sees his peach, he cries, "I must have a taste. . . .It is perfection itself!" When he realizes what he has just said in front of his entire court, he knows he must give Petit Jean the right to marry his daughter. The king has no intention of giving his daughter to Petit Jean in marriage, so he comes up with a devious plan. He presents Petit Jean with the impossible task of herding 10,000 rabbits in a pen four straight days in a row. Each day the king sets the rabbits loose thinking Petit Jean doesn't have a chance of completing the task, but what he doesn't know is that Petit Jean has the silver fife that was given to him by the old woman.

Once again the king tries to deceive Petit Jean by first sending his daughter and then his wife the Queen in an effort to trick him; however, Petit Jean IS more clever than his brothers. When his plan doesn't work, the king decides to trick Petit Jean himself. In the end, the widow's clever son places the king in a very embarrassing situation, and in order to keep from being exposed, he consents to their marriage. Petit Jean and the princess are married before the entire court, and of course, they live happily every after.

I had never read this story before, and I loved it. Similar to other fairy tales, it begins with "once upon a time" and ends with "they lived happily every after." Robert Rayevsky's illustrations are reminiscent of a classic fairy tale and are appropriate for the genre. The moral of the story? Honesty is the best policy.

I highly recommend Three Sacks of Truth for any age.

Meet Eric Kimmel
Image Source
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The Girl in Red (Story and Pictures by Roberto Innocenti, Written by Aaron Frisch)

Published in 2012 by Creative Editions

Roberto Innocenti's The Girl in Red is a modern-day version of the classic tale Little Red Riding Hood. The plot is the same, but the setting is different; the story takes place in the big city. There is still a deep forest, but in this version, it is called "The Wood." A little girl in a red coat still meets a wicked wolf; however, "a good story is magic." The endings can change.

The story opens with a group of children sitting in a room surrounded by toys. A granny-type figure, who seems to have come from another time and place, is sitting on the table: "Draw close, children, and I will weave you a tale. Toys can be fun. But a good story is magic. And there is no better time for one than when rain is tapping at your window. Know this, though, children: Stories are like the skies. They can change, bring surprises, catch you without a coat. Look up all you want, but you never really know what's coming."

The little girl is named Sophia. She lives with her mother and sister, and her grandmother lives on the other side of the forest, which is actually a large city. "Nana" is not feeling well and could use some company, so Sophia fills her backpack with biscuits, honey, and oranges, puts on her hooded, red coat, and heads for her grandmother's. The city is described as a big forest, and there are dangers everywhere. Sophia must learn the ways of the wilderness; she must learn how to survive. The illustrations are filled with evil images and graffiti and portray a city that is wasting away in crime and filth. The text of the story is separated from the illustrations in what appear to be text boxes. The illustrations are appropriate for the way the story is written. On her journey to grandma's house, Sophia takes in the forest's "wonderments" in the city: Music, a man playing a violin and begging for money; Magic, a man who appears to have had his head decapitated also begging for money (or is it a statue?); and Mysteries, a policeman standing near a murder scene.

Sophia finally reaches THE WOOD, the greatest wonderment of all, the heart of the forest. This illustration reminded me of New York's Times Square with lots of traffic, the subway, and people everywhere; I don't know if this was the author's intention or not. Sophia stops by her favorite shop, the window of wonders, which is filled with "monsters, princesses, dark fates, and happily-ever afters. Images of the past and the future." The toys are modern; the dolls are portrayed either voluptuous or violent, perhaps a sign of the times. Many of the dolls and toys are holding guns.

Sophia continues her journey towards Nana's house but meets the "jackals" who are watching and waiting to
take advantage of unsuspecting little girls. Suddenly a smiling hunter appears, who is really the wolf in disguise, to come to her rescue: "What big teeth he has. Dark and strong and perfect in his timing. Sophia tells him of her grandmother and her little home. Of the biscuits and honey." The hunter offers to take Sophia to her grandmother's on the back of his motorcycle, but drops her off right before they reach their destination. The hunter, or wolf in disguise, plans his evil deed.

The story shifts back to the children listening to the tale, and they all begin crying, but the old woman says, "Now, children, do not be ashamed of your tears! They are as natural as the rain. But they are not necessary here. . . . Stories are magic. Who says they can have only one ending?"

The color of the text boxes in the illustrations change from gray to bright orange: "Picture this instead, if you like. A woodcutter sees a wolf prowling about a home. He makes a call. The police are fast to appear, swooping in with the setting sun. The wolf is snared; a family is spared. The stars will shine on the forest tonight."

I enjoyed reading this modern-day version of this classic tale; however, I do not recommend it for young children. The illustrations are dark, sinister, violent, and often the images are not appropriate for a younger audience. I would recommend this book for older students, perhaps ages 11 and up. Like Grimm's classic fairy tales, perhaps this book would be better read by adults. This book must be read several times to be truly understood because there are so many images in the illustrations that have symbolic meaning.

Read this book! It is definitely different.

Roberto Innocenti's Official Website
Source of Images
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You Don't Even Know Me: Stories and Poems About Boys

Published in 2010
By Disney Jump at the Sun Books

Sharon Flake's book You Don't Even Know Me: Stories and Poems About Boys provides insight into the minds of young, African-American males who may often be misunderstood by people who don't understand
who they are or where they come from. The cover of her book is powerful and includes an image that readers would find very familiar; however, what lies beneath the image is what Flake really wants readers to grasp.

Flake's dedication reveals her reason for writing this book: "To my parents, Langston Hughes, and my neighborhood family, who showed me how beautiful I was; who reminded me what a great gift my neighborhood was to the planet, who taught me that the way I spoke was music to the ears and that it was okay to simply be me--a little black girl from the inner city of Philadelphia. To all who read and find my words, I give you the light that they all lit up in me. GO FORTH AND SHINE.

Other books Flake has written include The Broke Bike Boy and the Queen of 33rd Street, Bang!, Who Am I Without Him, Money Hungry, Begging for Change, and The Skin I'm In. You can tell by the titles what kind of background Flake comes from. This book is powerful because it
enables readers to have a glimpse into a world in which they may not be familiar, except for what they see on television, and the author reminds us that what we often see on television may not reveal the entire truth. Flake encourages her readers to venture inside the minds of young boys who may often be misunderstood and often underestimated because of their race, background, and life experiences.

Here are just a few lines of the first poem in her book "You Don't Even Know Me"; it speaks directly to teachers:

  I sit in your class
I play by the rules
I'm young
I'm fly
I'm black.
So of course I think I'm cool.
Geometry is my thing,
Physics is just a breeze.
So it bothered me last week
When you said I should be happy with that C.
You know,
I've been wondering lately,
Trying to figure out just how it could be
That you're around me so often
And still don't know a thing about me. . . .

As the poem continues, the young man provides examples of other ways he is often misunderstood and
reveals his thoughts and dreams in a way that I've never before heard expressed. "Scared to Death," a short story, is about a young man and young girl who decide to get married when she becomes pregnant. Other poems and short stories in this anthology such as "Getting Even," "Dying Before I'm Done," "Faking It," "Sixteen," "People Might Not Understand," and "I'm Not Supposed To" provide additional insight into the lives of young people who live in the inner city.

Sharon Flake won the Coretta Scott King/John Steptoe New Talent Award for her first novel The Skin I'm In and has won the Coretta Scott King Author Honor Book Award twice. She has also written books about young girls and books for adults. I highly recommend this book for teachers who have the desire to understand students who may be sitting in their classrooms every day.

Sharon Flake's Official Website
Source of Images
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Monday, March 3, 2014

Voices in the Park by Anthony Browne (Author and Illustrator)

Published in 1998 by DK  Publishing, Inc.

Anthony Browne's Voices in the Park is an intriguing book that is told in first-person point of view from the perspective of four different characters from two very different families: (1) an unnamed, apparently rich, bossy woman, her son Charles, and their pedigree Labrador Retriever named Victoria (the first family) and (2) a sad man who is out of work and is trying desperately to find a job, his daughter Smudge, and their dog Albert, a mutt (the second family). The two families couldn't be more different in their characterization. The first family lives in a nice neighborhood and wears nice clothes. The second family lives in a poor neighborhood and appears "rough-looking." The illustrations throughout the story contrast the two families and each character's perspective as the story progresses.

Browne's picturebook is divided into four distinct parts that are titled: First Voice, Second Voice, Third Voice, and Fourth Voice. As the story unfolds from the perspective of each voice, the font is different, and it becomes clear that all four of the characters do not see their walk in the park from the same perspective.

The First Voice: The rich, bossy woman decides to take her son and dog for a walk in the park, but it seems she isn't enjoying herself. When she lets Victoria off her lease, she says, "Immediately some scruffy mongrel
appeared and started bothering her." She is referring to the second family's dog Albert. After all, he isn't a "pedigree." The expressions on her face in the illustrations characterize her as being snobbish and smug. She orders her son to sit on the bench beside her, but doesn't even look at him. They are looking in opposite directions. Charles decides to run off and play with Smudge, and when the woman realizes he is gone, begins to call for him. She says, "You get some frightful types in the park these days! I called his name for what seemed like ages." Then she sees her son playing with a "rough-looking child," Smudge, and orders him to "Come here. At once!" They walk home in silence.

The Second Voice is told from the perspective of the sad man. He is seen sitting in a chair dressed in overalls and has his hand pressed against his
face. He looks downcast and depressed. He says he needs to get out of the house, so he decides to take his daughter and dog for a walk in the park. As they walk along the road of their neighborhood, there is trash scattered on the ground and a man dressed like Santa who is holding a sign that says "Wife and millions of kids to support." There is a broken picture of the Mona Lisa in the illustration, but she is not smiling. Once they arrive at the park, the man lets his dog go and remarks, "I wish I had half the energy he's got." The dogs begin playing together, and the man sits on a bench and begins to look through the newspaper for a job. He says, "I know it's a waste of time but you've got to have hope, haven't you? When it is time to go, Smudge cheers him up and chatters all the way home.

The Third Voice is told from the perspective of the bossy woman's son Charles. He is seen all alone looking
out a window and says, "It's so boring." Then his mother says it's time for their walk. When he sees the dogs playing together in the park, he sees it from a totally different perspective than his mother. He describes Albert as being friendly and sees the dogs as racing around "like old friends" and being happy. Charles responds, "I wish I was." He doesn't see the girl (Smudge) in the park as being "rough-looking." She is friendly and they play on the slide, the climbing bars, and they climb trees together. Unfortunately, his mother calls him just when he begins having a good time and is finally happy, and they head home. Charles wonders if Smudge will be there next time.

The Fourth Voice is told from Smudge's perspective, a young girl who is friendly and pleasant despite her family's circumstances. She recognizes her dad is "fed up," and is happy when he said they were going to take a walk in the park. She remarks
about the dogs behavior as they greet each other (the way dogs do) and thinks Charles is a wimp at first, but as they begin playing together, they actually have fun. Charles picks a flower for her before his mother calls for him, and Smudge says, "[He] had to go. He looked so sad." When she gets home, she puts the flower in some water and fixes her father a cup of hot cocoa.

I really enjoyed this book. It was interesting to see the experience of a simple walk in the park told from four very different perspectives. The illustrations are brightly colored paintings in which the characters are portrayed as monkeys. I don't really understand the purpose of this portrayal unless it was to distance the characters from actual people. I believe this would be a good book to teach children that people view the world from different backgrounds, life experiences, and knowledge, but if I were to use it, I would avoid the typical stereotypes that rich people are cold and selfish and poor people are just victims of their circumstances. I'm not sure what would be the best age group for this book. Younger children might not "get" it, but perhaps the book could be used to engage older students in meaningful discussions. I would like for some of my classmates to read this book; it would be interesting to see if they would be willing to read it to their K-3 age students. Teachers should use caution as to how they present the text if they choose to use it in their classrooms; this book could unintentionally perpetuate the idea of class warfare if not presented in a way that avoids stereotypes.

Meet Anthony Browne: Children's Laureate 2009-11 (British Author)
Source for Images
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