Friday, March 26, 2010

Farming of Bones

Our group read "The Farming of Bones" by Edwidge Danticat. This book tells the story of the Haitian genocide that took place in the Dominican Republic in 1937 - something I had no idea existed. When people point to the Dominican Republic and say that the fact that it's so much better off than Haiti is proof that the earthquake is some sort of judgment on Haiti, I have to assume they don't know all the facts.
"The Farming of Bones" tells the story of Anabelle, a young woman who was orphaned at age eight when her parents drowned crossing the river that separated Haiti from the Dominican Republic after taking a day trip to a market there. Anabelle, stranded on the Dominican side, became a slave to a wealthy Dominican family who treated her with kindness. Their kindness would have allowed her to be fully satisfied with her life, had she not fallen in love with a poor Haitian day-laborer, who was beaten and considered sub-human by his Dominican boss. Though she didn't want to admit it, she soon was forced to see that her boyfriend's lot was the norm and her fate was the exception. As a nationalist movement spread through the Dominican Republic, Hatian communities began to be raided. Then the killings started, with Anabelle's boyfriend being an early victim. Anabelle escaped with a few close friends and survived traveling over mountains and through forests with little food and the treat of attack around every corner. She and one other member of their party survived and crossed over the river into Haiti. There Anabelle found her old village and made a life for herself, though she never married. About twenty years later, she went back to her Dominican mistress in search of answers as to what happened and why. Her mistress was just as mystified by the hate as she was. There were no good answers.
My favorite aspect of this book was that it told the story of horrible things that happened to the Haitians, but didn't present the main characters as helpless victims. Some people died, but others used their ingenuity to survive and escape. In fact, Anabelle was portrayed with a deep strength. She empowered those around her as she worked to save her people. This book shows Haitians as strong and enduring despite circumstances.
I also liked the way this book incorporated aspects of Haitian culture and life without being directly educational. It didn't come out and say, "Haitians really respect their elders," but I learned that they did from the way the characters interacted with each other. Through the book I got to see how Catholicism mixes seamlessly with their indigenous religion, how they think about birth and death, and what they value. You can tell the author, a Haitian herself, is just writing what she knows, not trying to teach or preach.
I wouldn't have elementary students read this book because it's a bit graphic, but it's a great reference for me as a teacher. I would consider giving a 5th grade class excerpts to read to give them a sense of how someone from Haiti thinks and expresses himself. This book also inspired me by showing me the value of first-hand accounts. I have Haitian friends that could come talk to my class, providing a far richer experience for them than reading an article or listening to me talk.


Trouble on Thunder Mountain by Russell Hoban and Quentin Blake

The O’Saurus family has been living on Thunder Mountain for many years. One day, they receive a letter in the mail explaining that Mr. Flatbrain of Megafright International has purchased Thunder Mountain and they must move out within 24 hours. Mr. Flatbrain wants to make the mountain flat and build a high-tech plastic mountain them park on the flat land. The dinosaurs are angry and upset, but realize they cannot retaliate with violence to get their mountain back. The animals of Thunder Mountain devise a plan and work together to show everyone how fun and exciting the old mountain is and how it is so much better than the plastic mountain with rides that Mr. Flatbrain has built. At the end of the story, Mr. Flatbrain is defeated and becomes a common worker on the dinosaur-run mountain that he wished to change.

I like this book because it takes a very real issue and portrays it in a story that seems fictional. Our country faces the problem of large corporations taking over smaller companies and land to do as they wish and as they see fit, without thinking of the consequences placed on citizens who live there. This book can help students to understand that this is done and that there are nonviolent ways to go about preventing such drastic changes in our precious land. The story shows the reader how important a close-knit community is and how it is important for community members to work together to bring about a change. When a community is faced with a hardship, they must work together to bring social justice and change through by ensuring their voice is heard.

You can find purchasing information for this book on


Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Behind the Mountains

Behind the Mountains

By: Edwidge Danticat

This book is written in the format of first person fiction in the point of view of Celiane Espérance. Through her journal entries, Celiane opens the eyes of the readers to the life of child experiencing political unrest and corruption through first hand dangers and incidents that happen to her and her family. Celiane also gives insight to the struggles and of an immigrant child both in school and in the home since she not only has to adjust to a new school & friends, but a “new father” as well. The history of Haiti is also cleverly integrated into Celiane’s entries in order to teach the readers the accurate history of Haiti and also given recognition to important people in Haitian history. Surprisingly, this book also shines a light on school violence and gang-related issues present in schools.

Danticat’s book would be of excellent use for teaching the history of Haiti and heroes of Haiti. Danticat successfully integrates accurate information on both these topics in a subtle fashion. This book could be used in literacy in order to teach point of view in writing and journal writing as well. The fact that the book is entirely written in a journal format can also encourage journal writing to students with emotional and behavioral disorders and even immigrant children in order to provide them with a channel of how to release their inner frustrations. Moy’s paintings are emphasized much in this book and could lend itself for studying and making Haitian art. This book would also be of good use for community building skills since being part of a whole community is emphasized all throughout this book and students can have a healthier understanding of the life of an immigrant classmate. Since school violence is presented when Celiane moves to Brooklyn, New York; NYC public school teachers could also use this book in order to teach students about prevention of school violence in their own communities.

Social Justice Domains:

  1. Self-love and acceptance: Yes, students learn how to value and appreciate the richness of Haiti and its people.

  2. Respect for other: Yes, student will learn how to understand and respect the cultures of others by reading a first-hand account of an immigrant child.

  3. Exploring issues of social justice: Yes, the corruption and political unrest will teach students about the oppression experienced by Haitian residents.

  4. Social movements and social change: Yes, students learn how although there was political oppression in Haiti, people still stood up for what they believed for.

  5. Taking social action: No.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Running the Road to ABC By Denize Lauture Illustrated by Reynold Ruffins

This is a short book intended for young students. It vividly and beautifully describes the long and ardous journey of six Haitian children on their way to school. The writing in this story is very rich and poetic. These children must wake up extremely early and travel a great distance in order to attend school. Yet all this does not phase the children because they are so eager and excited to learn. I enjoyed the language and writing in this book. The illustrations are extremely vibrant and each picture frame appears as an individual, beautiful oil painting. I also really like this book because it describes children who are so eager and willing to learn that they endure countless obstacles each day.

This book could be part of a social justice unit but it could also be integrated into a social studies unit. The students could examine the school and education systems in other cultures and explore the sometimes stark differences. The students could look at the conditions and environments of other schools. This book falls into the domains of social justice education because its major themes are education and Haiti. The book is also a great segue into a discussion about the value, role, and accessibility of education in different countries. I would use this book to examine those issues and I would try to incorporate the student's personal school experiences. We could look at their routes to school and discuss what motivates them to come to school everyday.

For more information and to purchase the book go to:

Miyuki Daniels, Stephanie Pastrano, Maire McCormack

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Selavi, That is Life: A Haitian Story of Hope

Selavi, That is Life: A Haitian Story of Hope
Author: Youme Landowne

This book tells a story of Selavi, an orphan boy who finds himself homeless on the streets of Haiti. While living on the streets, he meets another boy named Tifre, who introduces Selavi to other homeless children who are willing to share their food and a place to sleep. Throughout the book, Selavi and his friends face many struggles, however together they overcome such challeges, through their strong determination and the help of a local church.

In the classroom:
This book can be used in many ways in a classroom. This book can be used as a read aloud to begin a unit on Haiti or a unit of the world countries. It can help segway into the conditions that some children are living in in Haiti. It is important that the students not look at Haiti in pity, but in ways to spread knowledge of these conditions. This book also can be used to try to build a community within the classroom. This book does a great job shedding light into the ideas of differences in social class and stereotypes. Not only does this book highlight the differences but it also shows that among the differences of people there are also similarities and that all people can get along. This book can help students to find things that can help them relate to each other. This book could help students look past social class as well as color of skin and typical generalizations that they may come across.

Social Justice Education:
What is unique about this book is that the later stages of social justice education are heavily discussed rather than earlier ones which we have seen so many times before in other texts. The reader is forced to delve right into the third stage of Exploring Issues of Social Justice. The first sentence ends, "leaving a small child alone in the world." The unfair conditions some children experience in Haiti are exemplified in this text. At one point each child recounts their own traumatic injustices they have experienced and the hardships they have faced. A powerful metaphor that recurs is though each child alone is a single drop of water, together they make can be a mighty river. The children work together not once but twice to take social action, the final stage of social justice education. They make the change to help save children's lives by building a place for those youngsters without homes to find refuge. Though their new dwelling is destroyed, again they come together to once more take action for social change. This time their efforts are doubled. A radio tower is built and they are able to send out a message to the public. "We will write out messages in the air where they cannot be painted out." The children not only take action but implore others to do so as well. This book is an excellent resource to use within a social justice curriculum.

To purchase and for more information:

BY: Alexis, Hanna, and Josephine

Monday, March 15, 2010

Edwidge Danticat: "Behind the Mountains" by Katie, Pin, Stela

Katie, Pin, Stela
“Behind the Mountains” by Edwidge Danticat

For more information/Purchase:,

The diary begins in October 2000, when Haiti is filled with violence and general unrest with the elections taking place and the promise of many changes. Celiane tells her own story, about life behind the mountains, far from the city and the problems there. Forced by economic circumstances to seek work in America, her father has been gone for three years and the family anticipates joining him when proper visas can be arranged. When Celiane is awarded a notebook from her teacher she decides to keep a journal of her thoughts on the events leading to her trip to America. Through Celiane’s writing we are introduced to her family and all the places that they visit, including Port Au Prince during election time, where a bomb almost kills Celiane and her mother. Their struggles in Haiti come to a close as they travel to meet father in New York. After the initial joy at the reunion, their family life starts to unravel. Celiane's brother Moy is not eager to quietly obey his father. It is freezing cold, school is difficult and lonely, and the parents work long hours. The father means well, but he frankly is out of touch with his children and how much older they are, especially his son, who now is a young man after all and not the young teenager the father left behind in Haiti so many years ago. The family finds that there are challenges to face and new struggles begin as they have to become accustomed to American life.

Behind the Mountains is set in Haiti and New York. The contrasts between the two settings and cultures are vivid and it is clear that it is difficult to find your way in a foreign country. Danticat brings her own firsthand knowledge of Haiti and immigrating to America to this story, told in diary format.

Behind the Mountains explores the themes of coming of age, family relationships, separation and reunification, as well as immigration and cultural identity.

Haiti is a country marked by its political unrest and economic depravity as a result of years of dictatorship, government corruption, and a gap between the wealthy elite and profitable cities and the poverty stricken non industrial provinces. Although fiscally poor, Haiti is a culture rich in its language, folktales, customs, and community.

After reading this novel, students can research Haiti and its history, Haitian culture, Haitian immigration. Reading this novel may help to increase student awareness at the adjustments faced by immigrants. The question of why people immigrate may be raised (people seeking opportunity vs. people forced to leave due to persecution). Students may research immigration to the US from countries other than Haiti (ex. interview family and friends about their immigration stories). Students may be asked to keep a reading journal to record their reactions to the reading and discussions of the story (details about characters, settings, themes etc). Other related topics students may research: location, economy, government, refugees, culture-shock, duality of cultures, assimilation, integration…

Friday, March 12, 2010

Sélavi - A Haitian Story of Hope

Sélavi - A Haitian Story of Hope by Youme tells the tale of a young boy named Sélavi and his Haitian friends. Sélavi is an orphan who was living on the streets in Haiti when he met TiFrè, who introduced him to several other children who were living on the streets of Port-au-Prince. After the police threaten Sélavi and his friends, Sélavi finds refuge in a church. With the help of the church members, following the belief that "together, we can be a mighty river" an orphanage is built to house children like Sélavi. Unfortunately, Sélavi and his friends face many other struggles before finding success.

Not only was the text in this book informative, but it also told an inspiring true story through the illustrations. It delivered a message that even through hard times self-pity is not the answer, and by working together anything can be accomplished.

This book could be used in the classroom for a historical and cultural study of Haiti. You could also have the students create their own radio stations. Students could role play the different characters in the story to understand the various perspectives presented. Students could convert the story into a play, and go through all the steps of scripting, acting, editing, casting, staging, etc.

Self-love and acceptance - Sélavi never blamed himself or others for his misfortunes. This teaches students that they should continue loving themselves no matter what the circumstances.

Respect for others - Even when confronted by the Police, Sélavi's behavior was respectful. More significantly, he was more respectful of the others' stories.

Exploring issues of Social Justice - This book shows the lack of legislation protecting children in Haiti.

Taking Social Action - Sélavi and the others create their own orphanage and continue through the use of media to inform others of the situation.

By Mayrovy, Sarah, and Casey

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Selavi- by Youme for book group, HeeYeon, Priscilla, and Me!

1. Self Love-the story teaches about self love by the way it portrays the children of Haiti and how they decided to take measures into their own hands and not pity themselves, but do something beneficial for themselves.
2. Learning how to share in a community of other children where kids had to think of the common good of all opposed to the rights of just themselves. It gives them valuable lessons in respect, honor, pride and love.
3. Exploring issues of social injustice comes into play where the children are exposed to the world of injustice that children face such as no food, homes, working for insignificant wages, and being terrorized by the army.
4. They children built an orphanage for all street kids and also made a children's focus radio that allowed kids to voice their opinions and talk about things that affect them.
5.Students can become pen pals and then together they can lobby the Haitian government to make changes to better protect the children of Haiti. The students can also have a fundraiser and donate to UNICEF an organization that protects child rights in Haiti.

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Pepita Talks Twice/ Pepita Habla Dos Veces

Book: Pepita Talks Twice/Pepita Habla Dos Veces
Author: Ofelia Dumas Lachtman
Illustrator: Alex Pardo Delange

Age: Grade 1 +

Purchase info: Amazon

Other websites:

This children’s book is appropriately written in both English and Spanish as it follow the story of Pepita, a girl who faces some qualms about being bilingual. Pepita became frustrated when her ability to speak both Spanish and English meant she had to consistently translate for her friends, family, and neighbors. She finally decides that she will no longer speak Spanish (no longer speak twice).

Pepita then faces a myriad of unanticipated problems when she limits herself to only speaking English. She could not ask for tacos with salsa or call her dog’s name, Lobo because they were all Spanish words. She could not help the new students at school, sing Spanish song with her friends, or listen to the stories her grandma told her in Spanish. The turning point was when her dog had chased a ball into the road and was about to be run over. Pepita decided to scream the dog’s Spanish name (Lobo) and tell him to come back in Spanish, the dog turned back just in time. She then realize that benefits and joys of being able to speak both English and Spanish.

How to incorporate in the classroom/curricular units:
The underlying story line is good for exploring ‘perspective taking’ and other literally elements. Teachers can use this book to talk about Pepita’s perspective and why she no longer wanted to speak Spanish and ultimately why she decided to come back to it. Along that same line of thought it could be used to teach students about weighing the pros and cons of a given situation. This book would also be good to look at character development.

Social Justice Education:
This book addresses the following stages of Social Justice Education.

Stage 1: Self Love and Acceptance
Stage 2: Respect for others
Stage 3: Exploring Issues of Social Justice à Bilingualism

This book would be good to explore the issues of bilingualism and it also captures the idea of biculturalism. This book specifically addresses the issue of identity and multicultural world that many children in the United States are a part of. Students can discuss about similar issues that may face in their own lives where they might be struggling with a certain part of their identity but how they have realized that it is a significant part of who they are.

All the Colors of the Earth

Book: All the Colors of the Earth
Author: Sheila Hamanaka

Age: Grade 1 +

Purchase Info: Amazon

This children’s book has magnificent oil pictures accompanied by text that describes children’s skin tones and hair using beautiful metaphors and similes.(“ … the roaring browns of bears”; “… hair like bouncy baby lambs”)
The author also metaphorically describes the elegance of love and the energy of children all over the world. (“Love is amber and ivory and ginger and sweet”)

How to incorporate in the classroom/curricular units:
This book would be great to introduce younger students to metaphors and similes. Students can create their own metaphors of their own skin color, or the texture of their hair. This would be a good book to read for younger children (grade 1-2) as part of ‘knowing yourself’ unit or a unit that is aimed at celebrating diversity.
For older children, it is possible to lead a discussion about why the author felt necessary to create a book like this. The book also includes pictures of biracial couples which is not as common in most children’s book.

Social Justice Education:
This book addresses the beginning stages of Social Justice Education.
Stage 1: Self Love and Acceptance
Stage 2: Respect for others
The book does a good job of fostering an appreciation for students of all color and race. It acknowledges are physical difference, but also celebrates the energy that all children have. Unfortunately the book does not explore more complex issues of social justice, and the book is a simply one that celebrates the human race especially children. It could be use as a introduction book that can lead to more in-depth conversations.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Listen to the Wind: The Story of Dr. Greg & Three Cups of Tea

Listen to the Wind
Greg Mortenson and Susan L. Roth
Illustrated By:
Susan L. Roth

Didn't quite catch a break when you were reading Three Cups of Tea by Greg Mortenson? Well, your youngsters just might fall in love with this lovely picture book that encompasses the entire story told in Three Cups of Tea in a short story with beautiful collages in a kid-friendly picture book!

This story tells the tale of Doctor Greg Mortensen, who comes to Pakistan, a nurse, sick. He is taken care of by the people there of Korphe. Before Dr. Greg helps, the children do not have a proper building suitable to learn in. He promises to return and help them with their schooling. He eventually comes back and brings help with him, ready to build a school in order to educate the youth of Korphe.

Listen to the Wind is a great motivator in order to get students thinking of the way of life in other countries. For higher cognitive thinking students, questions can be asked such as, how do you think the people of Korphe are portrayed? How is Dr. Greg portrayed as coming from the United States? What are the conditions like in countries with not enough resources to fund a school? Why is education so important to the children in Korphe? What is the power of education as opposed to just donating money towards an organization?

The pictures in this book are marvelous. It all refers to some cultural aspects of the village of Korphe. I enjoyed this book a lot, because the pictures were collages, showing a lot of culture through texture. Students can also create their own collages, creating pictures and images the way Susan Roth did.

Since it is a fairly new storybook, students can discuss the current conditions in Pakistan. In the back of the picture book, there are also photographs of the true story of Greg Mortenson. It is a learning experience through photographs and photojournalism - telling the true story of the process of building a school, what it takes to put together a school, and the need for education. This is all social studies, art, and literacy combined into one.

Behind the Mountains by Edwidge Danticat

In this short novel, a first person narrative, Celiane recounts her journey from her mountain village in Haiti to join her father in Brooklyn, NY in her diary. Living in Haiti, Celiane, her brother Moy, and her mother, Manman, are threatened by bombs going off in Port-au-Prince during election time when they travel there from their village in the mountains. Celiane writes of her mixed emotions of the uncertainty of their arrival in New York, where their father has been working to support them. As they begin their new life in New York as a family reunited, things are not as picture perfect as Celiane had imagined. Celiane encounters many things that confuse her emotions, including moving to a brand new country, riding in a bus that has been bombed, having a brother that moves out of the house. Celiane is able to record and sort out this spectrum of feelings by writing them in her little notebook.
We found this book to be an informative account of Celiane’s experiences living in rural Haiti where she received her early education. The author portrays a vivid picture of what life is like in rural Haiti in the beautiful mountains. She then goes on to describe a picture of stark contrast in Port-au-Prince and then further elaborates on her adjustment in New York City. The book sheds light on many areas of Celiane’s life through her personal account in her diary. Danticat explores the modern day immigration experience through the eyes of Celiane. This book is an absolute must read in the classroom setting in order to help students to understand more about Haiti in light of the devastating earthquake.
In the Classroom:
This book can be used as a basis for learning more about Haiti. Students can begin building background prior to reading this book by researching important facts about Haiti. Teachers can integrate History, Geography, and Math into the Language Arts curriculum by asking students to conduct this research. Teachers can ask students to compare and contrast their own experiences of living in NYC as first generation or second generation immigrants. The discussion can be used a powerful tool to gain a more comprehensive understanding of students within the classroom and teachers and students alike can gain more of an insight of the feelings and experiences of students.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

"Moon Lady" by Amy Tan; Illustrated by Gretchen Schields

Summary: This book is about a young girl's relationship with her grandmother. After the girl expresses that she wants her wishes to come true, her grandmother tells her an old Chinese folk tale from her own childhood about the magic of the Moon Lady and her power to grant wishes.

The acclaimed author, Amy Tan, is best known as a writer of popular adult novels, namely The Joy Luck Club. This book teaches great lessons about acceptance, patience, strong family ties, and confidence. The grandmother emphasizes that wishes are secret and individual to each person. As long as you can dream, you give yourself something to work for.

Review and Classroom use: I thought this book was EXTREMELY long. While it does not have many pages, each page is at least 4 paragraphs long, and certain pages do not even have pictures. That being said, the pictures are so detailed with vibrant colors, authentically depicting the rich Chinese culture. This book is perfect to integrate Chinese culture into any reader's workshop unit or to integrate strong sense of community (in the classroom and all over the world) into a study of China. This book also promotes hard work and believing in oneself to achieve goals and dreams-- which can be a good lesson for the students when setting weekly, monthly, yearly or end of lesson/unit goals.

This would be best suited for a 3-5th grade classroom and would definitely span at least a week of read alouds. The folk tale could add a particularly interesting component to a study of China to show the students the rich family ties and long-lasting stories of the culture they are studying.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

A Chair For My Mother

About the Author
A Video

This books discusses the hardships that Rosa's family experiences after a fire destroys their apartment and possessions. Rosa lives only with her mother and grandmother, who all save their dimes and nickles until they can purchase a new comfy chair, that all three of them can use.Luckily, Rosa's family was able to rely on her neighbors to help them replace some items from their old apartment, but they were missing was a chair. The story begins with Rosa, a young girl, describing her mother's waitress job at the Blue Tile Diner. Sometimes after school Rosa also works side by side with her mother. Rosa and her mother place their earnings in a savings jar, but Rosa learns that not everyday is a good day for the savings jar. Then one day Rosa,her mother and grandmother all take their jars to the bank to cash, and go shopping for new a chair. The story ends with Rosa sitting on her mother's lap in the new comfy chair that all of them can enjoy.

My response- I enjoyed reading this book because the story is not long but contains an important message for readers. The book has a clear beginning, middle, and end that allows students to predict what will happen next in the story. Many children don't have everything they need, I like how the story focuses one item that Rosa's family does not own. This story reminds us how friends and family can help us cope through tragic events. Also, I found the vivid illustrations an additional compliment to using this text.

This book is a great stepping stone for " self love" and "respect for others" and "exploring issues" in Social Justice Education. For self-love, this book shows how three generations of African American women rebuild their lifestyle after a fire. Students learn about their community and how the women seek help from others in their community. The pictures raise students' awareness by observing that Rosa's family lives in an homogeneous community.
For "Respect for Others," Students will learn that Rosa's family is struggling with finances,they are living pay check to pay check and decide to start for saving for a new chair. Students will be introduced to jobs that some may not view as professional. This book also raises questions about what defines a "family?" because Rosa has no father. For "Exploring Issues" Students will notice that Rosa's mother works long hours as a waitress but can't purchase the chair immediately. Rosa's mother works hard but does not receive adequate pay.

Activities- I would have students use mathematics with A Chair for My Mother to research specific jobs and their salaries wages through making a bar graph. Students will learn about the importance of saving and spending. It is necessary for students to understand that not everyone receives the same amount of money even if, they work just as long as some one else, like Rosa's mother. These various activities would allow students to begin taking social action on job wages and how not all are created equal.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

"A Bad Case of Stripes" by David Shannon

Summary: This charming and memorable book tells the story of a young girl who is afraid of what others might think of her. Her favorite food is lima beans but she never eats them because her friends hate them. She is very concerned with fitting in with her friends. The story begins with the anxiety associated with the first day of school and how our character, Camilla, deals with that. While trying to pick out the perfect first day of school outfit, something odd happens, as her body is covered in stripes. The story continues as all doctors and specialists are called to help Camilla, until the cause of her illness is revealed at the end of the story.

Review and Classroom use: There are many good lessons associated with this story. Many students can find something to relate to and it can be easily worked into a classroom curriculum. The issue of students trying to fit in with their friends and/or classmates, being afraid of what people think of you, trying to find and appreciate individuality, first day of school jitters, the message of "be yourself," etc. The story was creative, light, charming, informative, sweet and did a good job of conveying its many messages. The illustrations are vibrant and eye-catching. Any student would love to explore this book before and after reading and/or hearing the story. It is a long story so it might be best suit to read over the course of 2-3 days. This is good for a 2nd-4th grade classroom.

This addresses the 1st and 2nd stages of Social Justice Education: (1) Self Love and Acceptance and (2) Respect for others.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Big Al and Shirmpy By Andrew Clements


Shirmpy is the smallest fish in the ocean but also the smartest fish there is. All shrimpy wants is to have friends but the none of the fish accept for Big Al want to be his friend because he is small. Shrimpy, Big Al and the other fish were playing a game tag. Big Al was “it” first, he maybe fast but he could not zig zag which was his disadvantage and and he tagged Shrimpy who was slow because he was small. Then Shrimpy became “it”. But he was to slow to tag all the other fish so he hid in a corner and he and Big Al were just tagging each other. All the other fish said that was not fair. Shrimpy left the game with his new friend Big Al. They travel all around the sea Big Al puffed himself up and showed Shrimpy how he could push rocks down into the “big deep” all of sudden Big Al was pushing a rock and his fin got caught in the crack and down he went into the “big deep”. Shrimpy got scared and swam to get all the fish to help Big Al. All the fish came and Shrimpy gave them orders to follow in order to help Big Al. They all worked together as a team and saved Big Al. Shrimpy told them to turn around and they all headed home to have a party that night for the guest of honor Shrimpy, “the little fish with the big ideas”.

My Review-

I really enjoyed reading this picture book. It has great illustrations and the wording is very simply and easy to comprehend. I also enjoyed the message Clements sends to the reader, it does not how big or small one is, they can still be smart, after all Shrimpy was the smartest fish. This book is a great book to have in classroom because it can bring up the idea how children feel when they are left out of something, how they can help problem solve and use their smarts like Shrimpy. It could also be used to discuss motivation for change.

In the class room-

-In the classroom I would use this book to bring up the topic of how all the fish come together to help Big Al despites their difference in size, and how all my students can come together and work as team to help each despite their difference. I would create a puzzle and give each student a piece of the puzzle and write one thing that they think is different about them and then have the students put the puzzle together to see how people with differences can all work together. This can also bring up the topic of the importance of being an individual or role model and speaking for what they believe. Students would understand that no matter what one looks like they are all capable of making a change because its what is on the inside that really matters.

-This book can all be used in teaching students out ocean life. Students could look up the different fish that live in the ocean and the importance they have to ocean life. The students can also join an organization that helps with keeping the ocean and beaches clean.

Social Justice Education

1)Self love and Acceptance

2) Respect for others

3)Social Movement and Change

4) Taking Social Action

Thursday, February 18, 2010

ANANSI THE SPIDER adapted and illustrated by Gerald McDermott

Anansi goes out on a tricky journey and finds himself at the mercy of Fish and Falcon. One of his six sons See Trouble; who can see trouble a long way off sensed that his father was in danger. He calls upon his five brothers; Road Builder, River Drinker, Game Skinner, Stone Thrower and Cushion to follow him so they can help their father. Each son uses his skill to save Anansi. Anansi is so proud that when he finds "A great globe of light," he wants to reward his son, the one who rescued him, but which son? Anansi goes to Nyame, "The God of All Things" and asks for guidance. Anansi and his sons begin to argue over who should get the reward. Nyame sees the bickering within the family and decides to keep the light in the sky for all to see.
A note from the Prologue:
"Folklore...Mythology...A people's legends...Traditional in Africa. Mythology transforms, making the ordinary into the magical. It brings beauty to the ways of man, giving him dignity and expressing his joy in life. Folklore prepares a man for adult life. It places him within his culture. With oral traditions, retold through generations, the social group maintains its continuity, handing down its culture.
My Thoughts:
I was drawn to this book for many reasons. In particular, I feel that it expresses the importance of tradition, culture and the overall idea that its okay to depend on people and your family at times of distress. So often we try to fix things alone, while independence is important, but there are so many ways in which people can lean on one another to strengthen that independence. This book covers two social justice domains; self-love and acceptance, as well as, respect for others.
In the Classroom:
- Generating conversations that may include one or more of the following: family, tradition, culture, helping others, something the student is good at, feelings, etc...
- Students can begin to think of a time when they needed help and were afraid to ask for it. From there they can build on their thoughts to think of how the situation could have turned out if they had received help from others.
- This book can be an introduction to a cultural studies curricular unit, tying in other countries that have cultural traditions.
For more information on Anansi adventures google: Anansi Folktales
To purchase this and other Anansi books:

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Is There Really a Human Race


Is There Really a Human Race?

Written by Jamie Lee Curtis

Illustrated by Laura Cornell


This is a wonderful book for children of all ages. This entertaining and humorous book is full of a young boy's thought provoking questions about the human race. The boy questions appear to be referring to the word 'race', solely in terms of an event such as a running race, however it is t the 'human race' and the idea of the controversial significance and identification of races within the human population that is truly being explored. This book is an excellent way to have student begin to of continue to discuss, question, and become more aware of, the beautifully diverse world that surrounds them, as well as the terrible injustice and inequality that exists because of these differences.

*This is book provides a great way to integrate social justice eduction into a classroom curriculum. All five stages of social justice education can explored and implemented using this story as the starting point.

I like this book because of it raises such important and difficult questions and presents them in such a way that children can begin to think about and understand these complex ideas from the more familiar and comfortable perspective of a running race. I also like that end of the book takes away the competitive edge of a 'race' and stresses the significance of the 'journey' and 'the process', rather than focusing only on the 'end result.'


- Children can think about how they have helped, and can help the human race

- Ask students to think about the meaning and definition of race.

- Celebrate the diversity of the human race. Have students study and share their cultures, ethnicities, languages, abilities, etc.

- Develop a system for students to become more aware of and recognize positive behaviors and actions in the class;

Recognize, share, and celebrate the positives.

For additional information about Is There Really a Human Race?, please see the following links:


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