Sunday, April 29, 2007

What Zeesie Saw on Delancey Street

-by Elsa Okon Rael and Marjorie Priceman

This beautiful book is a story about a 7-year-old girl named Zeesie who is allowed to accompany her parents to a 'package party' in the early 1900s. Taking place on the famed Lower East Side of New York City, we are able to gather information about certain aspects of life some Jewish immigrants faced as they began their lives as citizens in this country.

This book has a unique approach to showing life as an immigrant in that it does not expressly call them immigrants, nor does it make obvious the point that the people in this story are struggling or poor. In fact, the setting is a party and for everyone else attending, it is just that.

The book leaves behind the simple 'Jewish people surviving' facade and takes on a more universal appeal when Zeesie sneaks into a room that only the men are allowed to go into. The Money Room is so named because all of the men go into it one at a time, and either leave spare money they have, or take any they need to help feed their families. The book does a beautiful job showing how this community, and others like it, come together to support one another and ensure success. It is an example of human beings reaching out to others in need, something all communities do, immigrant or not. When Zeesie realizes the power of the room, she leaves the dollar she has saved up, knowing that she is helping another person, even though they will not know she directly helped, and that she can no longer afford to go to the movie theater as she planned. She knows the dollar is better spent in that room.

This book would be great for units on immigration, because it tells a different side of immigrant life we don't often hear about. It could also help with a unit about New York's olden days, and also for a unit on friendship and/or tolerance.

As far as social justice education, this book achieves levels 2, 3, and 5. They can use Zeesie's selfless act to begin figuring out ways they too can better their own communities and the community at large. They can do this in many ways besides monetarily, striving to really fix the problems they see rather than just slapping a band-aid over.

**Posted by Emily, Valerie, and Amanda S.**

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Peace Crane

Author: Sheila Hamanaka

Summary: A girl questions the world for a chance at peace, "for a world without borders, of a world without guns, of a world that loves its children". As crane's are a symbol of long life in Japan, the girl in the book sends her paper crane throughout the world and remembers the good she has seen in the world, along with the bad. This story is based on Sadako Sasaki's belief that if you fold a thousand paper cranes, you will be granted your wish for health. The story gives a brief history of the US bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan and Sadako's story.

Reflection: The book has beautiful illustrations that are coupled with poetic lines and verse that tell this story. We follow the journey of a peace crane throughout the book and see wherever it goes peace or health is restored. Yes, this sounds mythic and optimistic, but I think the book sends a message of hope for children who are constantly questioning their world. This book tries to inspire children to take initiative and make a change in their environment.

  1. This would be a good book to couple learning about the history of war, such as WWII, or the history of Japan, or learning about unfairness and violence in the world.
  2. Students can think about their injustices in their communities and make a list. A discussion can follow asking how students can make social change about these injustices. Students can write their idea for social change on a piece of paper and will make a paper crane out of it. The cranes will hang in the classroom to remind students of their ideas, and the teacher can facilitate helping children take action.
  3. The book can be used to integrate social studies and poetry. The book has wonderful poetic lines, and is presented in poetic verse. It is a great example of description in writing.

Social Justice Curriculum: This book focuses on stages 1, 2, 3, and 5.

Friday, April 27, 2007

Korean Children's Day

Summary: Korean Children's Day is a story about how Mrs. Carnie's 4th-grade class became the Tae Kwon Do champions of Raymond Elementary School. Young Soo Newton, is an adopted boy from Korea who lives in America with his family. He takes Saturday classes at the Korean Institute because his adopted parents want to make sure he never forgets about Korea and his Korean heritage/traditions. He decides to bring his friend Jeremy along one Saturday, because they are celebrating Korean Children's Day. Jeremy, as well as the reader, learn about Korean Children's Day and Korean culture/traditions. In the end, Jeremy is so takenaway with Tae Kwon Do that he suggests to Young Soo Newton that their whole class at school should partake in this tradition. In the end, Mrs. Carnie's class becomes Tae Kwon Do champions of Raymond Elementary School.

Reflections: This was a great book because it shows how people can appreciate, learn, and participate in the traditions of another culture. It shows cultural appreciation not only on the intercultural level, but also on the level of adoption and identity. The fact that Young Soo was an adopted child from Korea makes the story more real. His parents make an effort and show appreciation to their child's country of origin. Often when children are adopted they are forced to assimilate with the culture of their adopted parents and forget where they came from. The illustrations are done in what appears to be colored pencil, which is interesting and different.

How would I use the book/curriculum units: This book would work well with a discussion on appreciating cultures and traditions. It could be used along side a curriculum on cultures and traditions of students in the classroom. Having students listen to this story and then share their own cultures and traditions is one idea. In addition, encouraging students to actually perform some traditions, or wear traditional clothing, or eat traditional food from all the cultures of the students in the class could also be a good activity. In additon, if you type in "Korean Children's Day" on Yahoo or Google you will find a bunch of lesson plans and ideas for this Korean tradition.

Domains of Social Justice: 1) Domains of self-love and acceptance: Students learn to love themeselves for who they are. In this case, Young Soo appreciates his Korean heritage and continues to practice and learn about his country of origin. 2) Respect for Others: Students learn to appreciate and learn about the cultures and traditions of others. 4) Social Movements and Social Change: Students learn that they can take a proactive approach to learning about other people's cultures and appreciating those cultures. Taking Social Action: Students learn how they can encourage other people (ex. Mrs. Carnie's 4th-grade class) to appreciate and participate in learning about the cultures of others.

Monday, April 2, 2007

The Butterfly

Patricia Polacco creates this beautifuly story about a young girl in France during a time when Nazi soldiers occupy every inch of her home town. One night Monique, the main character, discovers a little girl in her room and soon unravels the mystery going on in the very basement of her own home. It seems that her mother, who is based on a real woman during the Holocaust, Patricia Polacco's aunt, has been hiding a Jewish family.
This book is an amazing way to get students thinking about heroism, racism, the Holocaust and the true meaning of freedom, which the butterfly is a symbol of throughout the book.
This book can be used for many different activities and can also be incorporated into many different units. A unit on the Holocaust would benefit greatly from this book not only because it takes place in that time period but also because it exemplifies the many brave people who fought against the Nazis in small but powerful ways. Monique's mother in the story is a wonderful example of social justice stage #4 because she takes social action and risks her life to save the lives of a Jewish family. The book also fits into stages, 2: Exploring issues of social justice, 3: social movements and social change and 4: Taking social action.