Thursday, January 25, 2007

Smoky Night

Book: Smoky Night by Eve Bunting, illustrated by David Diaz

A little boy watches the riots with his mother from their apartment. Later, their own building is on fire and as they are leaving, the boy realizes that his cat is not there. The neighbor Mrs. Kim, who is disliked by the community, is also missing her cat. The community gathers in a shelter to escape the fire and the riots on the streets. The story ends with the two cats being found together and teaching the humans a lesson about getting along.

The first thing that attracted me to this book was the illustrations. They were so real and reflected exactly what the author is writing about. Also, I thought it was really interesting that this book is about the L.A. riots, but no where in the book does it mention that. I This book can be helpful when teaching children about tolerance and racial conflicts overall. It also shows that during a time of need, race/ethnicity shouldn't matter because the only way to survive as a community is to work together.

  • Students could do a writing activity where they talk about a time that they were scared and how they maybe tried to feel less scared.
  • Students could also do a writing activity where they talk about a time they felt courageous and did something they were proud of
  • Students could make an art collage in the style of the illustrator using daily objects

Curricular Units:

  • A unit on riots in the U.S. Explore the similarities and differences between these riots. The causes.
  • A unit on diversity overall

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 being tolerant
Exploring Issues of Social Justice: Students learn about racism
Social Movements and Social Change: The cats are used as a metaphor for social change and through that, the students learn about how in a troubled time, helping each other is the only solution.
Taking Social Action: Students explore how they can take action against racial prejudices and intolerant behavior.


Where to buy the book:


  1. I like how you formatted your posting. Maybe you can teach us a little of that in class.

  2. Summary- This book is about a young boy who lives with his mom and his cat, Jasmine. One night they hear a lot of noise and see that a riot is taking place, where people are looting and setting fires. They even see people stealing from Mrs. Kim’s Market, a store nearby. The after the situation gets more violent, and the building they live in catches on fire. As they leave though, Jasmine is no where to be found, and neither is Mrs. Kim’s orange cat. After staying in the shelter for a while, the boy and Mrs. Kim are worried about their cats and if they made it alive. A little while later, a firefighter brings the two missing cats and they both drink from the same dish. After witnessing this, the boy says that they may not have liked each other before because they didn’t know each other, but now they do. After saying that, his mother introduces herself to Mrs. Kim and invites her to come by with her cat sometime. Mrs. Kim says thank you, and accepts the invitation.

    Reflection- I first came about this book last semester when I was student teaching a 6th grade class. My cooperating teacher read this aloud to the students, and they loved it. They understood the concept of tolerance, and especially, that it is not right to judge someone and make assumptions. Instead, you should try to get to know the person before you come to a conclusion about them. This is such a valuable lesson to learn, and this book is a great way to help get this point across.

    Activities/Curricular Units- One activity is where you can have the students put themselves in the boy’s situation and write about what they would do if they were him. How would they feel? Another activity is to let students think about a time where they may have experienced or have seen someone they know experienced a situation like this? What happened and what did they do? Not only will this be a writing activity, but students can open up to the teacher and their fellow peers and share how they feel. They can express themselves, and together build relationships with each other. This can tie into a unit about community building. In addition, tolerance is another unit, and the teacher can talk about the various stereotypes-gender, racism, etc. and what we can do to help avoid these biases.

    Social Justice Curriculum-
    1)Self-love and acceptance: Students learn that that is it ok to be different and to appreciate and respect themselves.
    2)Respect for Others: Students learn to not judge others, especially when you don’t take the chance to get to know them, and find out who they are and what they are all about .
    3)Exploring Issues of Social Justice: Racism is primarily discussed here and so students learn about the negative that can result when you are biased.
    4)Social Movements and Social Change: This book is about the riots in L.A., and so students with further lessons can learn how these riots affected the people and its impact. In addition, they can learn how other riots in this country or internationally, and other protests affect the way people think, feel, and the differences/changes it can or cannot make.
    5)Taking Social Action: Students learn life long lessons in where they try to avoid judging people and that working as a community and getting along is very important.