Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Everybody Bakes Bread

Everybody Bakes Bread by Norah Dooley

Available for purchase at Amazon

Summary: This story is about a multicultural neighborhood on a rainy Saturday afternoon. One girl sets of to find a three-handled rolling pin to help her mother bake bread and soon discovers everybody in the neighborhood is baking bread too. Although she never finds the rolling pin, she finds a cultural experience through a variety of breads.

My Opinion: This book is great because it uses a universal food to show differences and similarities in cultures. It brings diversity to children’s attention. It is also a great way to study geography and local ingredients that are native to a certain place.

Possible Topics: Multiculturalism and diversity are the main themes throughout this book. It is a great way of comparing cultures. It is also a great introduction to geography and countries around the world.

Children can study and learn the diverse cultures within their communities. They can compare and contrast the customs and beliefs within these different sultures. They can also be encouraged to view the stereotypes assosiated with certain groups of people and think of ways to combat these stereoptypes within their own classroom and neighborhood.

Sam Johnson and the Blue Ribbon Quilt


Title: Sam Johnson and the Blue Ribbon Quilt
Author: Lisa Campbell Ernst

Summary: This story is about a man named Sam Johnson. He wanted to join his wife's quilting club, but his wife told him that he couldn't because it was no place for a man to be. He was upset and decided to get other men to join the quilting contest. They formed a male quilting group and they spent days making their quilt. As both men and women were on the way to the contest, their quilts landed on mud puddle and both the men and women were upset. In the end, they used unsoiled sections from both quilts to make a new quilt. Their new product was beautiful and they all won the contest.

The reason why I like this book is because it shows that both men and women are capable of doing anything they desire. In one of the pages in the book, you will see Sam Johnson putting up signs that say, "Equal rights for men!" which is very rare to see. We usually see signs that are made for women- not men. This is a good book to introduce gender roles. Students can first discuss certain labels men and women might have. This is also good for classroom management because children can be given jobs in the class that both boys and girls can do.

This book is also great because it deals with quilts. Quilts are a great way to integrate reading, math, writing, history, etc. Students can write on each quilt; they can write about their personal experiences, about their cultural backgrounds, etc. Then all the students can either sew or glue a quilt together. Quilts are also a great way to study patterns and shapes.

Stages of Social Justice:
I think this book touched upon all 5 stages of social justice education. Through this book, students will learn to love themselves, love others, understand sexism, and find the need to change this stereotype.

Come Sit By Me

Come Sit by Me - By Margaret Merrifield, M.D., and illustrated by Heather Collins


This book from 1990 is an excellent and valuable source for all our classrooms when dealing with the sensitive and hard topic of HIV/AIDS. The protagonist, Karen, wants to befriend Nicholas, the new boy at school who is kind of quiet. She does, and enjoys playing with him, though he is out sick a lot. One day, she comes home to ask her parents what AIDS is because a boy in the class told her Nicholas had it and that he was no longer allowed to play with Nicholas. Karen's parents encourage her to keep playing with Nicholas because it wasn't something she could catch, but then other boys and girls' parents won't let them play with Karen either. Fed up, her parents call a large meeting to disspell some of the stereotypes and fears people have on the topic of HIV/AIDS.
At the end of the book, there are colorful illustrations under the heading "YOU CANNOT GET HIV OR AIDS BY:" and then shows children playing, someone sneezing, people at a sleepover, etc. The page after that has a parent (or a grownup) guide to talking to students about AIDS.

Usefullness of the Text (Units/Curricula):
This is a great book for dealing with stereotypes, and also for a unit on discrimination, possibly a stretch to community building. Many children are given their parents' biased opinions on topics, and they really need a push to overcome them. Also, there is a chance one of our own students will have HIV (even though we're not allowed to know about it), and this could be a good book for them to see.

Social Justice Education:
I think mostly levels 3 and 4. This book is all about overcoming stereotypes, and everyone's attitudes towards the young boy with AIDs definitely changes.

The Story of Ruby Bridges

The Story of Ruby Bridges by Robert Coles

In 1957 a Judge ordered four African American girls to attend white schools. Ruby Bridges, a six-year-old black girl, was one of those girls. The first day she went to her new school, her mother walked to school with her. United States marshals walked up the steps with them. There was a crowd in front of the school chanting. They were holding up signs saying racist comments and trying to scare Ruby. Ruby had to be taught alone without other students, because the white parents did not want their children to be in the same class as a black child. Every day Ruby prayed for the people on the way to the school, asking God to forgive the mob. One day she forgot to pray for the people so she went back down the school steps and started to pray for them.
This story would be a great book to use as a means to teach the history of desegregation and the civil rights movement. In addition, this book shows students that they are capable of achieving social justice education level five, that they can make a difference even though they are small. After all, Ruby was only six year old and she broke the barrier. Additionally, sometimes acting with grace and being peaceful can triumph over aggression. Drama can be incorporated into this lesson by putting on a play and then having discussions with the students about how they felt when they took on the roles of characters in the play.

The Sneetches

The Sneetches is yet another classic by Dr. Seuss that addresses issues of social justice. There are two kinds of Sneetches, “Star-bellied” Sneetches, and “Plain-bellied” Sneetches. The “Star-bellied” Sneetches get to play on the beach and have picnics and the “Plain-bellied” Sneetches can only sit and watch. Eventually Sylvester McMonkey McBean brings a machine that puts stars on the “Plain-bellied” Sneetches. Eventually, no one knows who had a star belly and who had a plain belly and the conflict is resolved. Obviously, this is not going to get the students riled up to go out and save the world, but it is a great way to facilitate a discussion about treating all people as equals regardless of race, class, sex, religion or sexual orientation.

This book addresses the second level of social justice because it encourages children to embrace people regardless of simple differences. One of the reasons I love this book is because it is a great way to begin talks of social justice with a group of young children who may be unfamiliar with the fact that in this world many people are treated unfairly.
  • Read the story-split students up into "Star-bellied" Students and "Plain-bellied" students, have them role play and have a discussion about how it feels to be treated not as equals.
  • Have the students take the perspective of the "Plain-bellied" Sneetches and write letters to the "Star-bellied" Sneetches expressing how they feel about the way they are treated.


Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Hairs & Pelitos
Author: Sandra Cisneros

Illustrated by Terry Ybanez

Hairs * Pelitos is a story in English and Spanish from The House on Mango Street.

Summary:Hairs Pelitos describes how each person in the same family has different hair type. The author gets into details of how the hair feels, looks, and smells. The hair types in this family range from brittle, to soft and silky with sweet warm scents.

Reflection:I think that Hairs Pelitos is a great book on individuality. It shows how different members in the same family are not the same, and it teaches us to celebrate those unique qualities. The pictures throughout beautifully represent strong family bonds.

Class Activities:Students can learn history while talking about their own heritage and listening to others in class. Additionally, they could discuss the different hair types that their siblings/parents have as well. After listening to their peers and teacher, students will have a better understanding that it's ok to be different.

Social Justice Education:1- Self love and Acceptance....Children learn about their own culture and learn to love and accept themselves.2- Respect for Others....Children learn about other cultures and will acquire respect for others.3- Exploring Issues of Social Justice....Racism and classism are confronted.

Posted by sophiak at 9:28 AM 0 comments
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Say Something

Title: Say Something

Author: Peggy Moss

Summary: Say Something written by Peggy Moss is a story about a girl who sees other chldren getting teased and bullied at school. She witnesses numerous students in her school and on her bus that get picked on by other children. She pays careful attention to their reactions and feels bad for them, but she does not do anything about it. One day, while her friends are out and she is sitting in the luchroom table alone, gets bullied by other children in the lunchroom. After the ordeal, she feels terrible and begins to think back at all the children that she had seen that day and knew what they were feeling. During the ride back hoome on the schoolbus, she befriends the girl who always sits alone on the bus and realizes what a funny person she is and makes a new friend. At the end of the story, there are websites and suggestions of things that can be done if someone sees somebody getting bullied.

Activities: After reading this book, students can write about an incident where they experienced a similar situation and wished that someone would just say something to the person that is bullying them. Some chldren might feel embarrassed that they are being bullyed and therefore might not want to talk about it. This also gives them an opportunity to write out their experiences and others feelings that they have.I haven't seen this book being used in the classroom, but I would feel that this would be a great issue to address in the classroom since almost all children go through something like this in their lifetime.

Domains of Social Justice:

1. Self love and acceptance: Students learn to appreciate others for their differences. They also learn to put themselves in others' shoes and know what the other person is feeling.
2. Respect for others: Students learn to respect others, to look not only at their physical appearance, but their personality as well.
3. Social Movements and Social change: At the end of the book, there are suggestions for students and teachers about what they can do when they see something.
4. Taking Social Action: Students learn ways to take action for positive change in and outside of the school setting.


Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Wake Up, World! A Day in the Life of Children Around the World

Wake up, World! A Day in the Life of children Around the World by Beatrice Hollyer, is a captivating book that takes readers through the daily routines of eight children from eight different countries. The readers will observe Paige in England, Natali in the USA, Cindinha in Brazil, Anusibuno in Ghana, Shakeel in India, Alexis in Australia, Linh in Vietnam, and Sasha in Russia wake up in the morning, prepare food, go to school, participate in class activities, interact with their peers, play games, help their families, and get ready for bed. The vivid colored photographs illustrate the different countries climate, customs, and traditions. The readers can visualize the different environments and lifestyles, as well as, the similarities in their overall values.
I was drawn to this intriguing book by its bold font title. Once I opened the book I was fascinated with the photographs and there captions explaining what the child is doing and why. I enjoyed reading about the children’s daily routines and experiences. From this book children will gain an awareness of the different places, culture, community, and lifestyles and how similar these various places may be to their lives. In addition, students will gain an appreciation of their environment.
I would incorporate this book in my classroom to develop student’s awareness about the different places and customs, as well as enhance their knowledge and positive attitudes towards diversity. After reading this book, I would have the students turn and talk with a partner and discuss the similarities and differences between the daily routines of the children in the book and to their own daily lives. To promote critical thinking and problem solving skills I would encourage my students to ask open ended questions about the book. For instance, in the book one of the children named Linh from Vietnam explains that children have to share the school day because there are not enough schools or teachers. A student might ask; what would Linh do if her family was told that she could not attend the already overcrowded school anymore? Following this question, I would have the students talk briefly with their partner and think of possible solutions for Linh’s possible schooling situation. Encouraging student’s inquisitiveness will develop their empathy for the children in the book and others, and encourage them to think of solutions to solve problems.
A lesson that would develop the students social action attitudes is by motivating them to work in small groups and research one of the countries from the book. The research project would encourage students to identify different issues that include social justice and social changes. The students will address these issues in their presentation and think of solutions to prevent the unjust situations from occurring in that country.
I feel that this book can guide the students in the direction of addressing the five social justice education stages, because students will develop an awareness of different cultures, as well as their own, and explore the issues of racism and oppression in other countries. The research project will initiate the discussion about various struggles regarding people’s race, class, or sex. The students are encouraged to explore these issues and develop the essential tools that will influence social change.

Curriculum unit: Social Studies-geography
The link attached gives you the chance to read the book

Can You Say Peace?

Title: Can You Say Peace?
Author: Karen Katz

Summary: This colorful picture book presents children from diverse countries around the world who call for peace in many languages. Each page introduces the reader to a variety of cultures and displays pictures of daily life activities in each country. Katz presents a picture of a kid in each page with his or her name and the word peace in their language written side by side with the pronunciation. This book is great to present to younger students on the United Nations International Day of Peace (September 21st) and other class activities that deal with peace and safety.
Reflection: I find this book to be just right, especially for a read aloud in celebration of the United Nations International Peace day. Karen Katz introduces diversity in a very colorful way starting from the cover that is a collage and presents different children from different backgrounds that come together in the name of peace. Towards the end Katz points out the International Day of Peace and states that no matter where these kids come from, they each have one thing in common that is: they want to go to school, play outside safely, and share food with their families in a peaceful and safe environment. The illustrations in this book are very colorful, vivid, collage like, and allows its readers to find images that evoke the happiness in each kid's portrait. I believe that the main message of this book is very important and should be introduced to every classroom. It is that everyone on this globe should have the right to peace no matter what country or language they speak. Overall, I enjoy how Katz shows where the children come from and the different languages they speak, along with a final list of additional countries with their names, language, and the word peace and its pronunciation in that specific language.

Social Justice Education: (Respect for others and social change)
This book definitely ties in with both, respect for others and social change as it projects children from around the world teaching us how to say the word peace in different languages. In addition, students will learn about the International Peace Day that is on September 21st and what it means to children from around the world. I mostly enjoyed how the author invites us to participate on a colorful voyage around the world to meet different children and learn other ways to say peace. It is nice to see all cultures come together at the end of the book and say the word peace all at once.

- Good for introducing the concept of peace to younger students.
- This book fits in perfectly when discussing about peace in our homes, school, and around the world.
- Good for read aloud on International Peace Day, on the first day of school to introduce classroom rules, and/or to help students to become aware of the importance of peace in this world.
- Great for engaging students to learn about appropriate behaviors that help preserve peace in our world.

- Students may create their own peace flags and hang them in the classroom.
- Students can draw, color, and present different peace symbols and display them in the classroom.


The Shaman's Apprentice: A Tale of the Amazon Rain Forest

The Shaman's Apprentice: A Tale of the Amazon Rain Forest
by Lynne Cherry and Mark J. Plotkin

The Shaman's Apprentice tells the story of a young boy named Kamanya who lives in the Amazon Rain Forest with his family. We find the boy has a fever at the beginning of the book, and his parents decide to take him to the local Shaman to help him get better. Meeting the Shaman, and becoming cured of his fever after spending some time with him and his medicines, Kamanya becomes intrigued by what the Shaman does. While other children his age play, Kamanya likes to visit the Shaman and learn about the different plants that are used to help cure people of illnesses.
One day, however, a stranger comes to Kamanya's village, who has an unknown illness that the Shaman is not able to cure. Many people are dying of this sickness, and soon enough, we are introduced to missionaries who come to spread their religion and give treatment to those with the strange disease. The disease is given a name (Malaria) and the missionaries provide the Indians with white pills containing quinine. Soon enough, many in Kamanya's village begin adopting the ways of the missionaries by wearing similar clothes and buying things that the missionaries offer to sell. Kamanya feels sad that his village no longer respects the Shaman the way they used to, but has faith that they will see the Shaman's brilliance. Gabriela, another stranger, visits Kamanya's village, but she has come to learn more about where Kamanya and his people live. She also informs them that the white pills used to cure malaria contain an ingredient taken from the very place that Kamanya and his people live, the rain forest. Once again the Shaman's respect is restored, and the villagers realize the value of having a person amongst them with such thorough knowledge of natural medicines. Gabriela helps Kamanya and the Shaman make a book of all the plants, and Kamanya goes on to become the future Shaman.

I thought this book was really powerful, in that we visit a main character and a setting that is not normally visited through a children's storybook. What made it even more compelling was the fact that Kamanya's Indian culture was legitimized and was shown as something that has provided such benefits to society, ie medicine. A book like this helps children understand that every culture, no matter how uncivilized it may be painted to be, provides our world with goodness in one way or another. What I also liked was the portrayal of Kamanya as a child with faith in his traditions and cultures - who, even though many in his community turned away from the medicine man, believed that there was real significance to this character in his community.

  • Students could study other items that they use everyday that come from different places around the world.
  • For science, students can study how different plants from around the world have been used in medicinces they find at their local drugstores.
  • For social studies, students in upper elementary grades could study what happened to Indian communities after people from outside came to their lands. How did the indigenous people change their lifestyles? Did everyone want to change their ways?
Social Justice:

The Shaman's Apprentice definitely hits on Levels 1 and 2, as students can apply Kamanya's story to their own lives and recognize their own culture's value, while also learning about a different culture and respecting it for its contributions. I could also see Level 3 being addressed a little bit, in that as a class we could discuss the fairness of what the missionaries did (the positives and the negatives)...I'm not sure how to extend it beyond that though.

My Brother Martin


My Brother Martin: A Sister Remembers by Christine King Farris


In this book we get a new perspective in the telling of Martin Luther King’s life. His sister describes King’s early years as a child living in a prejudice community. There are many true accounts of Martin’s life before he was fully aware of racism. When he does become aware of the prejudice that exists in his town he vows to his mother that he will one day “turn this world upside down.”


I was immediately attracted to this book by the title. Though I have seen many books about Martin Luther King Jr., I had never read an account on Martin’s life told by his sister and it felt like the story would be more intimate. The illustrations are vivid and draw in the reader to Martin’s childhood home. It explains the closeness he shared with his parents, grandparents, and siblings. In this book Martin the hero, is relatable and his everyday actions could be that of any children. When his two best friends, that are white, tell him and his brother that they can not play together because they “were negroes,” Martin is faced with the prejudice that will shape his life from them on. This is a significant point in the story because of they way Martin handles the situation. I would stress this point when discussing the book with students. There would need also to be a discussion on some of the language used in the book such as bigotry and segregation.


  • Students can write about what they would do if they were in Martin’s situation and were told they could not play with their friends because of skin color. The teacher can show the illustration on page 22 while students are writing. The emphasis of the writing can be on what action could Martin take to better the situation.

  • In the back of the book there is a poem called “You Can Be Like Martin” by Mildred D. Johnson. Students can write their own version of “You Can Be Like Martin after some discussion on strong personality traits.

Curricular Units:

  • A unit on the Civil Rights Movement.

  • An autobiography study people in history that made a difference or change against an injustice.

  • A self character study, personality characteristics that make a strong, respectable person.

Social Justice Education:

1. Self-love and Acceptance: Students will learn about different accepting others regardless of race. Building on that are discussions on character and how to be a good person.

2. Respect for Others: Though Martin is not treated with respect by his friends he does treat others kindly and preaches to others to do the same.

3. Exploring Issues of Social Justice: This book discusses racism, segregation and prejudice.

4. Social Movements and Social Change: The Civil Rights Movement.

5. Taking Social Action: When Martin grows up he leads marches against segregation and recites speeches.

Looking After Louis by Lesley Ely and Polly Dunbar

Summary: Looking after Louis by Lesly Ely and Polly Dunbar is about a Louis, a boy with autism. The story is told from the perspective of a girl in his class. The girl talks about the stereotypical autistic behaviors that Louis exhibits throughout the school day. One day at recess, Louis began interacting with the boys who were playing soccer. Although Louis wasn't passing or kicking the ball much, when his feet make contact with the ball one of his classmates, Sam, congratulate him. After Louis and the rest of the children come inside from recess, the teacher allows Louis, Sam, and Mrs. Kumar (Louis's paraprofessional/teacher's assistant/aide) to go back outside with the soccer ball. This prompts the girl whose narrating the story to become upset with her teacher. In the end, the teacher addresses the narrator's frustration by helping her to come to the understanding that rules can be broken for special people. This book is about inclusion and helping children to understand how they can be supportive of a student with special needs. Throughout the book Louis exhibits behaviors that are different from the rest of his classmates, but his classmates learn to accommodate, encourage, and understand Louis.
Opinion about the Book: I enjoyed reading this book because it is a good resource to introduce a discussion about inclusion to students. Often times students do not understand why certain children get special treatment or why certain children are allowed to behave a certain way without punishment. The book also does a good job of illustrating how students can work and help a student with special needs. I read a few reviews of the book and I would agree with some critics in saying that the book's overall message is excellent, but it should not be the only source of information for learning about children with autism.
How Would I Use This Book: I would read this book to my students especially if I was a teaching in a inclusion classroom. Even if I wasn't teaching in a inclusion classroom I would still use this book because of the overall message. If you decide to have a discussion with your students about a child in the class who has special needs like Louis, this book is a great way to begin the discussion.
Domains of Social Justice: 1) Self-Love and Acceptance: This book teaches students to examine their own behaviors and assumptions and see how they can become more selfless and proactive in the classroom. 2) Respect for Others: This book teaches students to respect people who are different from themselves. 4) Social Movements and Social Change: This book illustrates the positive aspects of inclusion and how students can help a person with special needs. 5) Taking Social Action: This book shows how students can help and encourage a person with special needs.
Curriculum Units: This book could be used in a curriculum unit on disabilities. It could also be used in a curriculum unit where students learn about differences, where the end goal would be to have students learn acceptance of differences as well as appreciation of differences. In a unit such as this one, I would talk about not only disabilities as one form of differences but also race, gender, class, etc.

In this work Allen Say explores his own past. He explores the issue of Japanese Internment Camps in the US during World War II. The book has a dream-like feel to it, and blurs the line between reality and imagination. The illustrations are haunting and the story line leaves room for interpretation.

This work does not stand alone. It can not be read once, teach a lesson, and be forgotten. Instead it must be integrated into a unit of study. It requires students to read beyond what it written. It also requires teachers to teach beyond what is written. The criticism for the book is that it does no go into depth about what internment camps were like, or why they existed. However, this is an opportunity for the teacher to support the work with additional research and resources. This issue was not found abroad, but instead was found in the US. This could open the eyes of students, and pull them closer to the issue.

1. Students could investigate their own heritage and the journeys of their ancestors through using this work as an inspiration.
2. Students could put themselves in the place of the main character in the story and write about how the would react to the situation.
3. Students could research internment camps during WWII in the US. They could also research similar situations to this around the world during different time periods.

Curricular Units:
This work would fit specifically into a unit on US History and World War II. However it could also fit into other topics of imprisoned people during times of conflict.

Social Justice Education:
The title of this work does not praise the US for being the “Home of the Brave” but instead calls the reader to question if the US is the “Home of the Brave” and if so, who are the brave ones. Internment camps are a part of US history that is often skipped over or breezed through. This book calls necessary attention to this issue. As a result, I feel as if this fits into the third tier of social justice education, which is exploring issues of social justice.


* For Valerie Bracco *

The Greedy Triangle, by Marilyn Burns

Book: The Greedy Triangle, By Marilyn Burns

Summary: There was a triangle who had many different jobs. He would do these jobs everyday, and one day he got bored and wanted to be something different. He wishes to experience life from the point of view of a shape with more sides such as a quadrilateral, pentagon, etc. So he visits a "Shape-Shifter" who transforms the triangle into a series of polygons with increasing numbers of sides. Eventually he almost becomes round. AT this point he relies that there was nothing wrong with just being a triangle and goes back to the “shape-shifter” and becomes a triangle again.

Reflection: The first thing that attracted me to this book was the title. I saw that you would be able to teach a numerous lessons off this one book. Obviously math, but also greed. And once I started to read it I figured you can also tie it into a cultural study by using different shapes instead of people to show the kids how all the shapes have a jobs and together they make up the world just like we do. We are all different and together we make up a world of our own.


  • Students could do a research project where they find out about the cultures of the world and find out how they all tie together.

  • Students could also have a set of equilateral triangles and as you are reading them the book they can add on another side ever time the book does. But before you read the part of what he becomes you can have them guess by looking at there own diagram.

  • Students could make a class art collage of themselves in a picture of the world to show how all the differences come together.

Curricular Units:

  • A unit on geometry: Not only are children introduced to the proper names of polygons, but also this book helps them to see shapes as they exist in their surroundings.

  • A unit on following directions.

  • A unit on differences and tolerance: shape, race, culture, religion.

  • A unit on respecting yourself and others: greed (having something and wanting more), self esteem.
Social Justice Education: Self-Love and Acceptance: Students learn about accepting themselves and recognizing they are different from other people.Respect of Others: Students learn about accepting cultural differences and how those differences can come together to form something strong and powerful.Exploring Issues of Social Justice: Students learn about differences: racism, cultural diversities.Social Movements and Social Change: The triangle is used as a metaphor for appreciating who you are and accepting the differences around you for who they are. Taking Social Action: Students explore how they can take action against racial prejudices and greedy behavior.

Number The Stars

Number The Stars
By: Lois Lowry

Summary: This is a factually based story about a young girl named Annemarie Johansen and her best friend Ellen Rosen. Lois Lowry wrote the book based on the stories of a life-long friend of hers who experienced many of the hardships and events described in the book. The setting takes place in 1943 in Denmark during World War II. The story is written in third person, through the eyes of ten year old Annemarie, so the language is age-appropriate and easy for children to understand. The story begins with word getting around in Copenhagen, the town where the girls lived, that the Nazi soldiers were here invading their town and kidnapping the Jewish people and send them to concentration camps. Ellen, Annemarie's best friend, was Jewish, so she and her family were in great danger. Ellen stayed with the Johansen's and pretended to be Annemarie's sister, but they ran into many troubles. One night, the Nazi soldiers came to Annemarie's house looking for Ellen's family, but they tricked them into believing that Ellen was a part of the Johansen family. After that incident, Annemarie's family thought it would be safer for the girls to go live with their uncle Henrik instead. The story continues with Annemarie trying to find the courage to save her best friend's life, but she cannot hide her fears.

What drew you to this book?: I noticed that the book received a Newbery Medal and the little girl on the book cover looks so innocent. Once I started reading the book, I could not put it down. I wanted to continue reading to find out what happens to Ellen and her family at the end of the book. When I read books, I like to put myself in the characters role and imagine the events occuring as I read on. The fact that this was a true story made me sympathize with the characters even deeper. I also love how the book is age appropriate for young readers and that the story is written through the eyes of a young girl, so the students get her perspective. There is so much history behind the story and the details make it easy for the reader to form a picture in their mind of what life was like during that time period.

Activities/Lesson Ideas: The story touches on a variety of themes; for example the friendship between the two girls, Annemarie and Ellen, is very strong. Annemarie held onto Ellen's Star of David necklace as a way to symbolize the bond that they both shared. She had to go take many risks and troubles in order to save the life of her best friend, yet she somehow found the courage to keep on going. Bravery is another theme that plays out throughout the story. Annemarie's uncle taught Annemarie that it is okay to be scared. He told her that being brave means "somehow ignoring the dangers of a situation , often because one does not fully understand it".

  • One lesson idea might be to have the students create character webs listing the different characteristics of the two characters. Then they can compare and contrast the two.

  • Another lesson idea might be to study symbols and what they mean. In the story, symbols represent different people (i.e. the star of david necklace represents Judaism).

Number the Stars has a strong historical connection to World War I and the holocaust period, thus it would be great to use this book in a unit on the World War. The story touches on events like the invasion of Denmark, and the Danish resistance. One of the characters in the book, Peter, is a fictional character who represents the many young men who fought and those who died as members of the Danish Resistance.

  • A lesson idea might be to study the Danish Resistance and how they came about, while using the character of Peter to help the students understand what life was like for a member of the Resistance.

  • A lesson idea might be to study what life was like for children during the Holocaust and War period. The students could pick a character they feel they most identify with or feel for and write them a letter telling them how they feel (i.e. write a letter to Annemarie letting her know that you admire her bravery and that everything is going to be okay).

  • A lesson idea might be to explore anthropology as the students learn about the Danish culture and Jewish culture and traditions.

  • A lesson idea might be to integrate georgraphy and have the students locate and plot where Denmark and Sweden are on the map.

Domains of Social Justice: This book definetly touches on three of the domais of social justice.

Self-Love and Acceptance- Annemarie does not understand everything that is going on, but she continues to stay strong and hope for the best for her friend. She begins to understand that it is okay to be scared and that it doesn't translate to not being brave. I think the students will be able to relate to her on that level because everyone has, in one point in their lives, felt scared about something.

Respect for Others- Annemarie and Ellen both value friendship so much that they will do anything to keep that bond strong. They don't let the fact that they come from different cultural backgrounds get in the way. They respect one another and care for each other a great deal.

Taking Social Action- Annemarie and her family take risks to save their dear Ellen. Annemarie's uncle has a boat that he uses to smuggle the Jewish people to Sweden.

Where to purchase the book: Amazon website-

Useful Resources:

Website includes everything you could ever need from resources for teachers to activities and lesson plans for students. It includes passages about the brief history of the struggles of the Jews at the hands of Hitler and the Nazi Party, fate of children, life under German occupation, etc.

  • The Star of David article

Potatoes, Potatoes by Anita Lobel


This book describes the story of a mother and her two sons and their lives together as potato farmers during a war between the east and west armies of their country. The mother tends to the potatoes and builds a cottage and a farm that house potatoes, all for her sons, so that their family never can go hungry. One day, the boys decide that they are tired of growing potatoes, and want to join the army. Without telling each other, each brother signs up for opposing armies: Red and Blue. One brother becomes the commander for the Red army, while the other brother becomes the commander for the Blue army. After years of battling, there is no more food available for the people of their country, or for both the Red and Blue armies. The brothers lead their armies to their mother's cottage, and demand food from the potatoes she had harvested all throughout the war. Soon, a war breaks out for the potatoes, and the mother's cottage is destroyed. The brothers begin to cry, realizing the harm they've caused. Seeing this, all of the soldiers think back on their days with their families and begin to cry. Finally, the characters decide that everyone will only get potatoes and food if they stop the war and return home.


I enjoyed most of the book. It read like a legend or a folktale, rather than a non-fictional narrative piece, which provided features of storytelling. I enjoyed the general theme of the story, which was of a family involved in war, their struggles, and the outcome of their actions during the war. I thought the book was one that touched base on the issues and impact of war, but it did not divulge in depth into these areas, which is O.K. for a beginners study and introduction. I did not like the ending of the book, however, which only stated that the soldiers who decided not to fight went back to their "mothers". I felt if I were using this book, of which I enjoyed most of it except for this feature, I would change the ending. Instead, to be more politically correct, as well as less stereotypical, I would have liked if the book stressed the importance of all families, not just the importance of mothers.


  • I would use this book as an introduction to making a list of the impact of war on families, and what war may lead to in future experiences. As a gateway into this discussion, this book could trigger discussions based on the impact of war, by describing what happens to the mother in the story, the relationships between the two sons, their soldiers, and their mother, and the roles of citizens who are living in war-like situations (in the book).

  • For ELA instruction, students could take on the different perspectives in the book: the mother, the younger son, the older son, and the soldiers in their armies. Students can write letters to other characters in the book, in the perspective of the characters they've chosen. Students will represent different opinions about war within the book, and can lead discussions, or present a debate based on their letters.

  • Students can study the importance of food, and in particular, the potato, during war. Students can figure out mathematically how many potatoes would be needed to feed the opposing armies as well as the surrounded townspeople who were left without food. Students will get a greater appreciation for how important and scarce food can become during a time of crisis.

  • These activities correspond to the ELA, math, and social studies curricula.

Social Justice Education:

1. Self Love and Acceptance: Students will observe the roles of the two sons within the story and their growth within the story. Both sons decide to leave their roots because they are tired of doing the same things day after day with their mother, but come to realize the importance of raising the potato crop because of its ability to unite their country and their own family.

2. Respect for Others: Students will learn that everyone, no matter who they are, regardless of race, ethnicity, religion, or status, needs the same resources, such as food. Because of this, in the book, the countries, soldiers, and townspeople decide that war is not a solution to their problems.

4. Social Movements and Social Change: Students will learn that the characters within the book decided that war only provided chaos and limited resources that were beneficial to the soldiers, their families, and their country and governments. In this way, they realized that fighting had to be ceased in order to truly provide for their families.

New York Is English, Chattanooga is Creek

New York is English, Chattanooga is Creek
By: Chris Raschka

New York Is English, Chattanooga Is Creek is a great book that takes you to the pplanning of a party and the the actual party itself. You begin the book with an introduction to New York who is an English Duke and to his friends, Chattanooga, Minneapolis and a few others. The author continues to introduce you to many other city names and their origin. His illustrations support the origins of the names. When they are all together you see how diverse the names and the faces that go with the names are.
This book made me laugh so much. This book was such a creative message to readers on the diversity of this nation. Raschka does such a great job at saying that we are all from different backgrounds, but one nation. I like how it is simple and colorful and straight to the point. The illustrations are powerful in showing us how we all look different and how we can ultimately come together.
A few activities that I ould do with this book are...
-Have students tell each other were their name comes from and place their name and definition and/or orgin on paper and decorate to hang around the room. The students can share their "All about my name" project with the class.
-Have students choose a name in their town or choose a different city/town name within the country (that wasn't hilighted in the book) and research its orgins.
-We can come u with our own version of the book and present it to the school.
Social Justice Education
1. Self-love and Acceptance: the students will have a chance to get to know many of the names that they are familiar with and learn that these names could come from where their families are from.
2. Respect for Others: learning about the diversity of the nation and discussing how diverse we are ass a class helps them to see that we are all mixed and that in order to continue to make our nation what it is, we need to respect and appreciate the amny differences that we have.
3.Exploring Issues of Social Justice: this book doesn't really touch upon issues of social justice, but we can turn it into something like that. For example (and this can be an activity) we can analyze the illustrations. New York is drawn as a pasty white man, which comes off as a slap in the face to New Yorkers.
4. Social Movements and Social Change: this is not confronted in this book.
5. Taking Social Action: again discussing how and why the illustrations are the way they are can lead to how we can change the way people stereotype.

Curricular Units:
-Social Studies: geography
-Math: Origins and their dates

What a Family!

Summary: Ollie, a red-head with freckles, is the shortest one in his kindergarten class. Frustrated, he talks to grandpa Max who tells Ollie about his brother Winthrop who looked a lot like Ollie today. Ollie goes on naming just about everyone in his family and how they look like.


Rachel Isadora wrote and illustrated "What A Family!" Faces of characters on each page look so real~ She really celebrates similarity and differences in the family. On the front and back, there is a family tree allowing one to figure out Ollie's first, second cousins and so on (very cute). Student of different backgrounds could feel drawn to the book because if the interesting family tree. Ollie's grandparents are white, but as the tree moves down, Black, Hispanic, and Asian uncles and aunts join the family to create interracial family tree. It is soooo possible for this to happen in real life too!!

Some things I appreciated-
1. Asian characters did not have the typical small eyes
2. Black characters did not have the typical flat nose
3. White characters had not only blond hair, but red, brown, freckles, and many other attributes besides "blond blue eyes"

This is a fun book to figure out first, second (once/twice removed) cousins!


I would use this book for....

*Family Study
-drawing family tree
-understanding who's in my family
-different make-up of family (one family's dad passed away)

The book allows students to have a "FRESH LOOK AT FAMILY TREES"-
but, there should be a better book about family. I recommend this book because of great illustration showing different races.


1. SELF-LOVE AND ACCEPTANCE: Students appreciate their family
2. RESPECT FOR OTHERS: Through family studies, students learn differences of others' families.
3. EXPLORING ISSUES OF SOCIAL JUSTICE: Students are now aware about inter-racial families.
4. SOCIAL MOVEMENTS AND SOCIAL CHANGE: Students could learn that in U.S. even around 40-50 years ago, different races could not even like each other because of racism. But people fought for equality.
5. TAKING SOCIAL ACTION: mmm, not sure.... what can my students do about this part? suggestions anyone???

Monday, January 29, 2007

Mrs. Katz and Tush

Mrs. Katz and Tush (Patricia Polacco) is about a young African American boy, Larnel, who develops a close relationship with his Jewish neighbor, Mrs. Katz. She shares stories from her past and tells him about her experiences as a Jewish woman. She drews connections between Jewish and African American history, explaining how their races are very much alike. She shares Jewish culture with Larnel through food and even holidays. The story explains how friendship can bridge gaps in age and race. Though Larnel and Mrs. Katz possess a great deal of physical differences, they have many similarities.

I would use this book in my classroom to help students understand that even people who appear to be different are actually very similar. Together we would create a chart that explains how Mrs. Katz and Larnel possess both similarities and differences. Then I would pair up the students so that they can could find similarities and diffferences among themselves. The book also explains how people who are unfamiliar with a particular culture can still appreciate those customs and ways of life. Though Larnel was not Jewish, he still enjoyed eating Jewish food and celebrating Passover with Mrs. Katz. I would ask my students if they have a close relationship with someone of another culture. We would talk about how those differences make their relationship interesting and how they share their own cultures with each other. Students can also interview each other or people in their neighborhoods who come from a different race or practice a different religion. This would help students to accept and celebrate different cultures.

Mrs. Katz explains how African Americans and Jewish people are similar. They have both experienced hard times and suffering, yet they found ways to overcome it and found strength within themselves. Both cultures have been oppressed and forced to live in a way that they did not agree with. With my students, I would have discussions about these similarities. We would discuss the treatment of Jewish people and African Americans, as well as other oppressed groups of people. We could also discuss the ways in which the two groups fought for change. From there my students would realize that many cultures have unfairly suffered from injustice but found ways to promote change.

This book falls within each stage of social justice:
1. Self-love and acceptance - Students learn to appreciate their culture by sharing it with others.
2. Respect for others - As they read about Mrs. Katz and Larnel's relationship, students will learn that people should respect other cultures and celebrate them.
3. Exploring issues of social justice - When Mrs. Katz compares Jewish people and African Americans, she touches upon the ideas of racism and oppression.
4. Social movements and social change - Though the book itself does not provide specifics about the ways in which people have struggled for social change, it can spark conversations about individuals who have helped different groups of people find freedom and equality.
5. Taking social action - After reading this book, students can begin thinking about groups of people who are currently being oppressed and discuss ways in which they can work for change.

Here is a link to a website that tells you how to use the book to teach anti-semitism. The second link gives a list of quotes from the book that you can use to address various concepts, such as Jewish language, immigration, and holidays.
Challenging Anti-Semitism
Mrs. Katz and Tush Reference Page

IT's Okay To Be Different!

Title: It’s Okay To Be Different
Author: Todd Parr

Summary: Todd Parr does an excellent job of showing children the various appearances and personalities that exist in the world. Each page is filled with a description and bright illustration of how it is okay for people to come in different shapes and sizes, for people to be a different color and for people to act differently. There are also illustrations that show acceptance for people who speak different languages and even people who can not walk. The book ends by letting children feel happy about a way that they are different and telling them that those differences make them special and that difference in general make the entire world a better place.

Lesson Ideas: I have yet to use this book in my 1st grade class but I feel that this book would be a great introduction for a K-3 grade class on a unit of tolerance.

Students can explore what happens to people in places where they do not feel it is okay for everyone to be different and how they feel about that.

Each page that explores a different difference can be a lesson on race for the page that talks about being a different color or for the page with people speaking a different language, a lesson about ethnicity.

Social Justice:This book I feel fits into 1 and 2. It allows children to love themselves in learning about their own and their peer differences

We All Sing with the Same Voice

Title: We All Sing with the Same Voice
Written By: J. Philip Miller and Sheppard M. Greene
Illustrated By: Paul Meisel

Level: Pre-K-Second

Summary: This is a wonderful story about children from all over the world creating music using a common instrument; their voice. This book is actually the lyrics of a children’s song that was made popular on Sesame Street. The illustrator, Paul Meisel, has done a terrific job of celebrating and encouraging diversity through bright, colorful pictures. The book not only includes pictures of children from different countries and of different nationalities but it also includes pictures of children in wheelchairs who have handicaps and/or disabilities. It includes pictures of children from the city and of children from the country. This book does a good job of addressing ever aspect of race, gender, culture, and sexuality . It does a wonderful job of showing how we are all different but we also all have similarities.

Activities: This story comes with a CD of the original song that inspired the creation of the book. Children can listen to the song while following the words in the book which can help increase their fluency and word recognition. The book teaches that although everybody looks different on the outside, we all share similarities with one another as well. It teaches children to be open and excepting of everyone. Music is a great way for children to share a part of their own culture or identity. They could share a song from their country or even just a song that they enjoy a lot. I would use this book to start a unit on tolerance if I find that my students are not accepting of people who are different then them. This would be a good book to use if you do have a student with a disability and you notice that other students are not playing or interacting with that student because they are different.
Levels of Social Justice: With a little bit of creativity from the teacher I think that this book can fit into four or even all five of the levels of social justice. It definitely teaches children about their own culture as well as others and the importance of respecting others. Although the book doesn't go into much detail about issues of social justice it does bring up issues that could be controversial such as gay/lesbian moms and dads. The book can be used as a good intro into discussions about the differences between families as well as the way that other people live.

The Other Side

The Other Side by by Jacqueline Woodson is an educational book with amazing, life-like illustrations that assist the story in captivating the reader. It is about an African American and White girl who each live on their respective sides of a fence but can not stop wondering about each other even though they know they are not allowed to cross over the fence. Soon enough the girls begin to speak to each other and immediately become best friends. They even find a very clever way to abide by the rules of the fence by sitting on the fence, neither crossing to the other side. They spend the entire summer up on the fence, talking and sharing their lives with one another hoping that one day, someone will come and knock the fence down.
I was drawn to this book because of the interesting way that the author uses the fence as a central metaphor for the bigger issue of segregation. It is a story of the era of segregation through the eyes of children which engages young readers of today. The illustrations are also very beautiful and realistic. I feel like this book is a wonderful way to introduce the issue of segregation and Civil Rights in a classroom.
I would use this book to launch a unit on segregation and Civil Rights in my classroom. Students can explore the many different ways that segregation influenced the people of that time period and how, although said to have ended years ago, continues in our society today. I would encourage my students to think about when in their lives have they felt like the characters in this book. What do they feel or have felt is between them and another person in their life or between them and the achievement of their dreams?
This book is also an excellent example of poetic language and imagery. It can be used to teach students about how authors use metaphors, similes and symbols in literature to achieve a certain goal and outcome in their readers minds.
The Other Side fits into three of the five Stages of Social Justice. Students learn Respect for Others through understanding the struggles faced by African Americans during the years of segregation and continuing afterward. Through this book students can also Explore Issues of Social Justice such as racism and the negative and long lasting effects it has had on our society. Lastly, students will learn about Social Movements and Social Change through the study of the Civil Rights Movements and the leaders responsible and involved in this movement.
This book can connect to many curricular units such as segregation, as mentioned before. Civil Rights, the laws and movement. Brown vs. Board and the issue of desegregating schools. It can also be used to analyze where we stand today in regards to segregation, civil rights and racism.
Below are a few links to lesson plans and activities that can branch out from The Other Side:

Sunday, January 28, 2007

The Black Snowman

Summary: The Black Snowman, written by Phil Mendez and illustrated by Carole Bayard, is a heart- warming tale of a child's journey towards self- love and acceptance.

The story, laced with its colorfully rich illustrations, begins long ago in western Africa. Here, an aged storyteller wraps his magic kente close to him, and summons the tales of memories past. The village children grow up and have children of their own, who also run to hear the lore of the storyteller. "But one day the storytelling comes to an end."

The village is seized by invaders and the African people are taken from their home and sold into slavery. All is lost. Even the magic kente is lost. "A thousand uses fray its delicate threads until it is discarded as a useless rag. But it still possesses the magic... it still has wonders to perform."

Cut to modern- day New York City. Jacob Miller is a poor black boy growing up in the projects. He lives with his mother, who tries her hardest to make ends meet, and younger brother Peewee. During the first part of the book, Jacob explores several issues of social justice, repeating the words that he has heard others say: "Everything black is bad! You ever hear of the Black House? No! But there's a White House. A white tornado cleans your sink; a black one destroys your house! And how about the fairy tales? It's the white knight who wins, the black one who loses. Good magic is white; black magic is bad."

Peewee implores his big brother to play in the snow with him, and Jacob begrudgingly obliges. As the two boys run out into the alley, Peewee asks Jacob to build a snowman with him. Jacob retorts, "We can't build a snowman. Just look look at that snow. It's watery and black from all the people trampling on it." However, Peewee pesters Jacob until he helps his younger brother sculpt a black snowman.

From the trash can, Peewee pulls a discarded scrap of cloth, the magic kente. Embraced by the magic of the kente, the snowman begins to talk. Jacob refuses his kind words, but soon starts to ponder them. "So black is bad, huh? What is more important in a book-- the white pages, the black words, or the message the book holds? The heavens are black, and the universe is held in it. Should we call the earth bad because it is cradled in blackness?"

Through the courage and sacrifices of the snowman, Jacob not only gains knowledge of his ancestry, but new apprecation for his culture, and most importantly, self- love and acceptance.

Opinion: I was particularly moved by the messages and illustrations included in The Black Snowman. I recommend this book to anyone who is interested in indulging him or herself in a blend of contemporary realism and historical fantasy.

Social Justice: 1 & 3

Lesson Plan Ideas:

Dancing in the Wings by Debbie Allen

Sassy is a young aspiring ballet dancer. Her efforts are thwarted by her big feet, long legs, and her instructor who despises her bright yellow leotard. By the end of the story, Sassy learns to love herself as she is and succeeds in her efforts to become a dancer.

I enjoy this book because the protagonist, Sassy, is not the typical blue-eyed, graceful character. Instead we see a realistic kid struggling with issues of self image and with those who doubt her true abilities. Yet, against all the odds against her, Sassy is able to love herself for who she is and this acceptance brings her the strength she needs to succeed and "dance in the wings."
Activities/Curriculum Connections:
1. The class can create a collective poster by writing every one's dreams on it and hanging it on the wall as a reminder that everyone is working towards their dreams.
2. Students can perform and coordinate a ballet recital or any other performance they want to do.
3. Students can learn all about the hard work dancers have to go through by calculating the amount of hour of practice they go through. They can even compare this number to the amount of time regular people should exercise and see if they meet the physical requirement.

Social Justice Education:
This books ties in with Self-Love and Acceptance as they learn to love and accept themselves for who they are as Sassy did in the story.
Respect for Others: Students learn that the physical defects of others should not be used against them to put them down, but rather learn to accept and respect others as they are.
Social Justice: Students learn that singling people out because they have big feet or long legs or other defects is not fair and should be ended.

Honoring our Ancestors

This book is from the same company ( ) that made Just Like Me, edited by Harriet Rohmer, and the format is the same where there are two pages dedicated to an artist; some of the fourteen artists are the same from Just Like Me. The artists are from diverse backgrounds. They each talk about an ancestor that has influenced them.

This book is just as beautiful as Just Like Me. The paintings are gorgeous and the artists have their own style. I especially like the idea that this book is about honoring our ancestors, which a lot of cultures emphasize. This book will inspire people to talk to their elders, to honor what they’ve done and respect them and ancestors of other people too. Some artists honored important figures from their culture that have influenced many other people too; “those that are not written in history textbooks.”

The format of this book makes it very easy for class projects and for students to explore their own ancestry or even a biography of a person they admire. The stories of each artist and their painting are unique to their own experiences, so students can be more creative when doing this as well.

This book fits the first two stages of social justice education. The artists displayed in the book are of diverse backgrounds, mainly minorities that aren’t usually represented in history books. Their stories are told through these artists and brought to life to the readers. Children learn about their cultures as well as others through these stories and paintings.

Friday, January 26, 2007

“My name was Hussein” by Hristo Kyuchukov tells a story about a boy who has to change his name because of a war that is going on in his country, Bulgaria. Hussein and the rest of his family are getting ready for Ramadan, a very important holiday for Muslims. Hussein loves to visit his grandparents on holidays. But one day, during the preparation for Ramadan, something happened. An army came, equip with tanks and cannons, to take over the land. Everyone in the country, including Hussein, could not visit their family. They were not allowed to go outside at night and they were not allowed to speak their native language anymore. They also had to change their names. Hussein did not want to change his name; his name means handsome. He was very saddened by the fact that he had to change his name.

This story touched me in many ways because Hussein’s family, his culture, and his village are being taken away from him. The title is what really caught my attention. The word “was” stuck out to me. I wanted to know what story was behind the word “was.” This story includes a large amount of Bulgarian and Indian culture and traditions that can be very useful in the classroom.

This book can be used in many ways in the classroom. For literacy, I would have the students write a journal entry explaining how they would feel if they were forced to change their name, if they could not see their grandparents, or speak their first language.
This is a great book to introduce the many traditions of Indian culture. For art, I would have my girls draw the outline of their hands on big white paper and have them paint it a pattern, to represent the henna art. For my boys, I would have them draw, paint, and color a pair of pants, a shirt, and a pair of shoes, to represent the clothes that they would wear for the Ramadan holiday. There will be plenty of discussions about this book in the classroom. We could discuss the things about the army, the officers, etc.

This book covers three levels of social justice education. Self love and acceptance are shown because Hussein, clearly, loves himself and doesn’t want to change his name. The story demonstrates how people do not respect each other. However, this story tells us what really happens in those countries. This story is giving us a little boy’s perspective of the whole ordeal. Racism and classism are explored in this story because the army is attacking this particular village and these particular people. Unfortunately, the last two levels of sje are not included in this story. I wish they were there is so much that can be done about this social issue.

Harvesting Hope: The Story of Cesar Chavez

Harvesting Hope
The Story of Cesar Chavez

Author: Kathleen Krull, Illustrator: Yuyi Morales


Harvesting Hope is a short biography of Cesar Chavez, a civil rights leader who founded the National Farm Workers Association. Before the creation of this organization, workers were not protected against harsh working conditions.
The book begins by describing Cesar’s childhood, which were filled with happy memories, until a drought in 1937 caused his family to lose their eighty acre ranch. This caused his family to become migrant workers, where they worked long hours in harsh conditions only to earn thirty cents a day (total of the whole family’s wages!). Cesar also went to an “English only” school, where he was ridiculed by his teacher for speaking Spanish. He dropped out after the eighth grade and continued to do farmwork. Later, he was inspired by outsiders to fight for change. He talked to various workers and persuaded them to join his fight. As word spread, more and more people joined in his protest through non-violent means. Eventually, the owners of the farms that many migrant workers worked on gave in and signed contracts with Chavez, which paved the way for fair treatment of all farmworkers.


I was first drawn to this book by its title: Harvesting Hope. The title fits with the story in the sense that Cesar was the one who began planting the seeds of change and through his efforts instilled/”harvested” hope in the farmworkers for better working conditions. Additionally, I have never really heard much about Cesar Chavez, and in the “author’s note” at the end of the book, there may be a clue as to why that is. According to the author, Chavez “was-and is-controvesial. Especially among those resistant to change, he had many enemies and received constant death threats. Even today, some argue about him and his goals, and others have forgotten him or have never heard of him.” Thus, through reading this book, I was able to find out more about him and it also made me wonder whether or not there were other important civil rights leaders whose names may have been ignored or forgotten over time.

Lesson Plan Ideas:
The following site is a teacher’s guide that contains several lesson plan ideas:

SJE Domains:
This book covers SJE domains #3 and #4. It explores issues of social justice in terms of workers’ rights and how Cesar Chavez struggled for social change through different forms of protest.

Curricular Units:
This book can be used in a civil rights movements unit study/curriculum or even to explore different forms of oppression in addition to the more well-known ones (i.e. racism, classism, etc.).


-Illustrator's webguide to book

-Harvesting Hope Lesson Plan

The Three Questions

Title: “The Three Questions”,
Written and illustrated by Jon J Muth,,

“The Three Questions” is a book about a boy, Nikoli who has three questions and cannot rest until he finds their answers. His questions are: When is the best time to do things? Who is the most important one? What is the right thing to do? He asks his friends the dog, heron, and monkey who tell him different things, all of which are selfish answers. Still unsatisfied, Nikoli goes for a long walk and stumbles across his friend the old turtle digging his garden, so he began to help him. He asked the turtle the three questions and then a storm comes. Nikoli heard a cry for help and ran into the woods. There he finds a mother panda bear trapped under a tree. Nikoli rescues her and her baby. After the mother and baby bears are safe, Nikoli is still looking for answers. Finally, the turtle makes Nikoli realize that “there is only one important time, and that time is now. The most important one is always the one who you are with, and the most important thing to do is good for the one who is by your side.”

Reflection: The best part of this book is the illustrations, they are watercolor and enchanting. The storyline is meaningful and exciting for students to hear. Nikoli’s questions are questions that many people ask themselves at some point in their lives and to hear the answers that he finds is inspiring.

This book can facilitate discussions on how to be good citizens. It shows the importance of doing good for others.
Nikoli has many character traits that are evident in the story which makes this book wonderful for a characterization lesson. Students can not only list Nikoli’s character traits, but they can find evidence of it in the story.
It would be a good idea to have the students write a paragraph to ask their own three questions and try to answer them.
Questioning what’s going on in the world is one of the most important lessons we can learn, and this book can facilitate discussions about why its important to ask questions like Nikoli did.
This story is based on a story by Leo Tolstoy, so it would be a good idea to do a study of Leo Tolstoy with a group of fifth and sixth graders. Because Tolstoy wrote “The Three Tales” you could read it, and compare it to the “Three Questions” and then have the students write their own “Three Tales” story.
Heres a link about Leo Tolstoy:

Levels of Social Justice:
This story addresses the fifth level of social justice education. Students are able to see Nikoli doing good for others, even though he didn’t know them. Through this book discussions can be raised about how to do good for the people in their town, school or anywhere. Nikoli sets an example of being a good citizen, which is one of the first steps to taking action for social change. After all, the last line of the story is “For these my dear boy, are the answers to what is most important in this world. This is why we are here.” This book is motivating and inspiring.