Sunday, January 31, 2010

Jin Woo by Eve Bunting

Title & Author
Jin Woo
by Eve Bunting
To Purchase & More Information
Author Eve Bunting tells a story about a White family, including a Mom, Dad, and their son named David who is adopting a baby from Korea named Jin Woo. Initially, David does not like the idea of having another brother in the family because he likes the family the way its always been. Since a lot of attention is given to Jin Woo, David feels like no one loves or cares for him anymore. However, his mother has written a letter to David from Jin Woo's point of view, which explains to David that although there is a new baby in the family, he is still loved unconditionally. After the letter, David tries harder to help take care of Jin Woo.
My Response
This is a very typical story where a White family is portrayed as a model family that adopts a child of a different ethnicity. The Korean traditions that are mentioned in this story are accurate, however they are only briefly mentioned. The illustrations in this book can also be considered offensive because as we discussed in our book club and with Bree, the way that the Koreans were drawn makes them look crazy.
In The Classroom
This is a very weak book regarding multicultural education, however if I were to use it in my classroom, I would use it to discuss different types of families. Specifically, by studying the type of family that is portrayed in this book, the students will also learn about adoption and orphans, and how their lives might differ from those children who are orphans.
2. Respect For Others
- In the book, the Korean traditions of Jin Woo are respected although they are only briefly mentioned. Since each student is different, whether it is regarding their ethnicity, family, abilities, etc., this book teaches that to interact with others, it is important to learn about and respect other's background.

Tricyle Written by Elisa Amado Illustrated by Alfonso Ruano

This book is about a young girl named Margarita who lives in a big house with her family in Guatemala. Margarita enjoys climbing a tree in her backyard so she can look down at at her garden and the beautiful area that surrounds her house. Margarita's friend Rosario and her family live in "the shacks" on the other side of the hedge that surrounds Margarita's house. One day while Margarita is enjoying her view from the tree, she witnesses Rosario and her brother pushing her tricycle that she absentmindedly left in the hedge earlier to their own house. Later Margarita's mother asks her where her tricycle is and Margarita lies about its whereabouts. Margarita is plagued by this situation as she considers her friend's intentions, her sense of responsibility, and the negative comments she's heard about people of lower socio-economic status.

I like this book because I think it subtly examines social standing and class relations in a way that is comprehensible for young students and applicable to the diverse classroom. There is no overt message, so the book leaves room to explore its contents in different ways. With this book there are opportunities to discuss/learn about discrimination, stereotyping, social responsibility, etc. I believe if appropriately used, this can be an excellent tool in the classroom. Also, the illustrations are very beautiful and intricate.

This book could be used in multiple ways but it mainly could be an effective tool to study class relations. Often young children are unaware of the circumstances of others and rarely have the opportunity to address this concept and how it affects so many aspects of our lives. This book could be a great segue into a unit on developing nations or something very similar. It falls into the domains of social justice education because the book focuses on a young Guatemalan girl and her emerging consciousness of the gap between rich and poor people.

Although I enjoyed this book and believe it can be a useful tool in the classroom, after doing some research it became evident that many people don't share my sentiment. This book can be problematic and the teacher has to plan accordingly. Although the book does not directly say Rosario and her brother were stealing Margarita's tricycle, it is implied and could serve to only encourage stereotypes surrounding financially disadvantaged people. I would like to not assume this is the case in the story so I believe this book can still be used. Also when Margarita hears the prejudice remarks made regarding the people who live in "the shacks" one woman claims "They're all thieves. They should be shot." This is very strong language and means this book is obviously not for every classroom. So, on the surface this can seem like a superficial story that goes against the ideas of social justice education but I believe the knowledgeable and creative teacher can still use it and use it well in the classroom.

To purchase it or for more information visit:

Going Home By Eve Bunting

Going Home by Eve Bunting is a unique book that portrays a Mexican family that goes on a trip back to Mexico. The narrator of the story, Maria, is the middle child of three daughters. After having three children, Maria's parents immigrated to the U.S. in order to provide "more opportunities" for their daughters. Even though Maria was born in Mexico, and therefore her parents call it her "home," Maria's narrative reveals her confusion of whether to call it her real home. Maria describes her excitement and nervousness as they drive across the border and drive through other Mexican towns. Once she arrives in La Perla (the name of her parents' hometown), Maria realizes all the similarities and difference between La Perla and where she lives in the U.S. Even though Maria is young, she begins to understand how happier and more comfortable her parents seem at La Perla and realizes how much her parents have given up in order to provide more opportunities for their daughters. The book ends when Maria has this epiphany and her older sister tells her that their parents are planning to move back to La Perla someday. Maria understands this and smiles and thinks, "Good, it will be after our opportunities."

I loved this book because the illustration is colorful, unique, and reflective of Maria's Mexican culture. The background pages are also photos of real objects that are significant to the Mexican culture, such as dolls used in celebration of the Day of the Dead and hay-woven decorations. Unlike other books about immigrants that tell stories of how people assimilate to the American society, Going Home reveals the reality of many immigrants who only come to the U.S. for the opportunities but end up going back home because of their extended family. This is also a great book for students who are 1.5 immigrant generations who probably could relate to Maria's confusion and realization throughout the book. Additionally, this book is a great way to show the similarities and differences between two countries divided only by a border.

Uses in the Classroom
I would use this book mainly to teach students about immigration. The main vocabulary word that students will learn about will be opportunities - for that is the reason why most people immigrate to the U.S. Students will learn to answer questions such as: Why are there more opportunities in the U.S.? Why do people move to the U.S. when all their family and friends are back where they were born? How hard is it for immigrants to assimilate to the American culture (learning English, fitting in to society, etc). Students can learn about such topics through pretend activities and reading other stories about immigrants. The classroom can be transformed into a different country in which students will have to learn to communicate and fit into the norms of society without knowing the language or having knowledge of the culture. With upper grades, students can even learn about the U.S. law on immigration and citizenship, and what it means to fight for/against "illegal aliens" (and the significance of this label). This book can be used in subject areas such as ELA, art, social studies (culture, history, law), and social justice education.

More Information
For more reviews, uses, and tags for this book, go to:

Why Should I Save Energy? By Jen Green

Why Should I Save Energy?

By Jen Green

Illustrated by Mike Gordon

This book is part of the “WHY SHOULD I?” series, which includes books about different environmental issues and how children can help to help our environment. The books include: Why Should I Protect Nature?, Why Should I Recycle?, Why Should I Save Energy?, and Why Should I Save Water?

The book begins by a girl talking about how her family is careful about how they use energy but that they were not always careful. She describes all the ways in which her family used to use energy with no care and how it was very wasteful (including but not limited to leaving the lights on all the time and having the heat on full blast). It wasn’t until the little girl was playing with her friend at her house and they experienced a power outage that the girl realized the importance of energy. The book then goes into the many reasons why energy is precious and why we need to conserve it so we do not run out. The book dedicates a few pages to showing us what our lives would look like without power. They then discuss things that we can do every day to save energy and to make sure we never run out. At the end of the book, there are “notes for parents and teachers” which offer suggestions for reading the book with children (such as what questions to ask throughout the reading and how to engage children and ask them for their thoughts and ideas on how to save energy) and suggestions for follow-up activities (great ideas for teachers to use in a classroom after reading the book in a read aloud). There is also a list of six other books that would be good to read as supplemental readings with this text.

I think that it is very important to talk to kids about the importance of energy, what energy is, and what they can do to make a difference. Often, people think that “one person” will not make a difference in “saving our environment” but it is our goal as teachers to tell our students that as individuals, they are the first step to social action and social change. Reading a book like this in the classroom and having the students engage in activities encouraging them to go further with what they have read is a great way to show students first hand that they can cause change in their environment and make a difference.

Purchasing information:




Katie Taber: Through My Eyes by Ruby Bridges

  • 1. "Through My Eyes" is a nonfiction, first-person account of Ruby Bridges' experience of integrating William Frantz Public School. Bridges begins with a preface to her story, giving a description of her family life and childhood previous to her experience. At first, her father did not believe equality and change would ever come; her mother, on the other hand was convinced that Ruby receiving the best education possible was worth the risk. Eventually, Ruby recalls her first day at Willian Frantz (being escorted into the school by US Marshalls), her days spent with her teacher Mrs. Henry (Ruby was the only child in the classroom, since most of the white students' parents insisted they be removed from having contact with Ruby) and the riots in New Orleans occuring at the time of this Civil Rights Movement. I really enjoyed this book because it is filled with photographs of all of the real people involved as well as anecdotes and letters recalling exactly what was happening at this groundbreaking moment in history (letters from Mrs. Henry, newspaper stories, John F. Kennedy, Dr. Martin Luther King, and John Steinbeck). Even though this is a nonfiction work, Ruby Bridges is characterized as a strong, brave person who faced more challenges at seven-years-old than most people everhave to face in a lifetime.

2. I can think of many way to use this book in a classroom, first being to use it as a research tool in document-based research. I think it would also serve as an excellent model for students to create their own personal biographies "Through My Eyes" as a beginning of the year exercise to illustrate their own backgrounds. Since this book has so many ways of presenting information, students would be able to account their own histories in any form, whether it be poetry, photography with captions, narratives, or yes even comic strips. I also envision allowing students to personify other people from history an writing from their perspective while researching about that person's life. As a final presentation we could create a class "Living Wax Museum" and students would dress as that person and read their narrative.

3. This falls into social justice education because it informs students about the Civil Rights Movement from an eye-witness' point of view. There are also many other perspectives shared throughout the book, lending to the idea that there are always many sides to one story (i.e. Ruby's father believing that Ruby should not integrate at first). This story would fit perfectly with the activity we did in class about integration, assigning roles to different groups and making an argument for or against integration. This book directly connects and relates to the Social Studies unit of Civil Rights.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Karla Rodriguez: My Name Is Maria Isabel by Alma Flor Ada

My Name Is Maria Isabel

By: Alma Flor Ada Website for general information and purchasing information as well. Website for purchasing information


·This chapter book is about a little girl, Maria Isabel, who has to go through the usual challenges of being a new student. Her biggest problem, however, is to be called Mary Lopez by her teacher instead of the name she was born with and is supremely proud of-Maria Isabel Salazar Sanchez. To her, this name has so much meaning because of her grandparents and feels that it is one of the most important aspects about her. Throughout the book she struggles to find the courage to stand up for the way she feels and to be understood by her teacher.

· I like this book because it highlights the Hispanic culture which allows Latino students to feel empowered but also encourages respect and acceptance of other cultures since they are focused on as well. I also like that the book revolves around the issue of valuing student’s names and cultures and that it helps students and teachers to realize that these are extremely important aspects of a person that should be respected and understood.

· Currently, I am using Maria Isabel for a book club and will use it to teach literacy while integrating social studies, math, art, and issues of social justice. Social studies ideas: studying Puerto Rican people who have made a change in society, learning about Puerto Rico’s relationship with the United States. Literacy ideas: character analysis, reading comprehension strategies, learning of literary elements, persuasive writing, text to self connections, text to text connections. Math ideas: graphing the increase of Maria Isabel’s courage throughout the book. Social justice ideas: exploring their own identities (all of these students are of Hispanic culture), exploring methods of how they can be courageous, learning and exploring other cultures, learning about the importance of their names and culture, exploring and accepting other people’s holidays and traditions, teaching children conflict/resolution/communication strategies Arts ideas: creating a web of problems and how to get out of it and performing Amahl.

· Ways in which it falls in the domains of sje:

1. Children of Hispanic culture are encouraged to love and accept themselves.

2. Various cultures are represented in the book and encourage acceptance of other’s cultures, traditions, and holidays.

3. This book deals with racism and oppression.

4. The method in which Maria Isabel stands up for herself is through a courage driven, detailed essay to the teacher describing why her culture is so important and why devaluing her name and culture is like overlooking the biggest part of her. Students will see how these small social movements can easily be done within the classroom community.

5. This book doesn’t directly apply to this domain.

· This book can easily connect to the literacy curricular unit but not limited to the subjects that have been mentioned above.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Whoever You Are

Whoever You Are
by Mem Fox

For more information: (can be purchased through and any bookstores)

"Whoever You Are" is a book on peace and equality that lets children know that "whoever your are, wherever you are" people are just like you inside. It is a great book to read to teach young children diversity and acceptance. It represents a great range of cultures, ethnicities, and languages, yet it shows that we all have dreams, hopes, and needs. This is something children should be introduced to at a young age because they pick up prejudice and perceive the difference early. The more they are exposed to these types of texts, the more tolerant they will be as they grow up. I would use this book at the beginning of a school year, or in social studies to celebrate the diversity in my classroom. As an activity, the students can draw a self-portrait of themselves and write something about their appearance or culture. Their pictures and writings will be compiled into a class-book, and at the end, it will show that the core of students are alike.
"Whoever You Are" falls into the first domain of social justice education. The students will indirectly learn about their own culture, and clearly the book identifies self-love and acceptance. By celebrating the differences and realizing that human beings are the same inside, children will have respect for others and strengthen intercultural competence.
During my book club discussion, one of my members brought up a point that the illustrations may be stereotypes of race and cultures. The pictures show Mexicans riding on a donkey, Chinese wearing straw hats selling fruits, and Africans not wearing shirts. Although children may generalize from these pictures, I believe they don't carry derogatory implications nor do they depict certain groups as subservient or passive. The colorful illustrations and wonderful story line will catch the students' attention, and open their eyes up to diversity and acceptance.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Sojourner Truth's Step-Stomp Stride

This book is amazing to use for elementary grade level children when exploring issues of social justice. Not only does it discuss issues of racism it shares a story about another injustice Sojourner faced that is not as well known. This preliminary stance against sexism helped pave the way for other advocates for women's rights. The book touches on the 5 domains of social justice by allowing students to learn about their culture, respects others feelings, explore issues of social justice, understanding what actually happens while struggling for justice, and then developing tools to work for change.
For one, students will be able to learn about the phobias and racism that existed during slavery and how Sojourner fought against that oppression. She also pioneered the fight for women's rights and demanded respect for all the capabilities she had as a woman. Students will also be able to see that change does not come overnight, but, the seedling planted is what grows a huge tree over time, and that even if their goals are not accomplished today, there's always tomorrow, and always someone willing to pick up the torch to fight for social equality. Students will also be able to understand what roles they have in their homes, communities and schools and develop ideas and strategies about taking social action. No idea is too big or too small!
I really enjoyed the pictures in this book too. It stayed true to Sojourner's image. It was overall an amazing read. There are several lessons you can use with this one book too. For example, when discussing black history, one could use this book to explore justice issues of slavery and oppression and what ways are oppression made manifest today. Another use would be about women's rights and how women are often depicted as fragile and needy but Sojourner proved that that was not the standard. Then we can address issues of the constitution where it is written all men were created equal and why do they think the word women was left out. Was it deliberate? Maybe a change for justice would be to write an amendment and send it to Washington so that it can be changed.
I could keep going on an on, but I won't. Just grab the book and maybe we can put our heads together and develop a few lessons. :-)

Ten Boys Who Changed The World

Title: Ten Boys Who Changed The World
Author: Irene Howat
Buy It:

This book gives a brief history of ten men (never fear, there's another book in the series that talks about women!) who addressed social justice issues of their day. Some of my favorites were Billy Graham, who worked to bring about racial reconciliation in the deep south; George Muller, who started orphanages when he realized the children in his village were starving; and Brother Andrew, who worked for the freedom of those living in the Soviet Union. At the end of each chapter there is a brief page of facts that give background on the social justice issue being addressed and information on ways the reader can join the ongoing fight against this particular injustice. I loved this book because it not only shows children ways others have fought to right the wrongs they see in society, but also reminds them that these wrongs still exist and gives practical suggestions on steps they can take right now to emulate these great men.
From a social justice standpoint, this book is good because it presents heroes from a variety of cultures, including Puerto Rico and Argentina. It also presents examples of people who addressed issues in their own country and those who took on world problems. Each chapter talks about individuals and individual encounters rather than dealing with any racial, classist, gender, etc stereotypes.
This book would be an invaluable resource in a character study because it focuses on the character traits of the men as children that later influenced them to take on social justice issues. Students can study different aspects of personalities as well as common threads that they see in people who make a difference in their society.
I could use this book in a variety of ways to teach a variety of subjects. It can be used in a literacy or social studies context, of course, but individual chapters focus on other subjects as well. For example, the chapter on David Livingston focuses on his exploration of the continent of Africa and can be used to teach geography and get students excited about exploring. The chapter on George Muller includes a lot of math concepts as he struggled to pay for the food for the orphans he cared for and can become the basis for word problems. The applications of this book are as varied as the lives of the people in it!