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:


- (type in title in sites search bar)

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Thursday, February 11, 2010

I Have Heard of a Land by Joyce Carol Thomas

I Have Heard of a Land
by Joyce Carol Thomas

This book takes place in Oklahoma in the late 1800s, a time during which many people were moving west, including many freed slaves. All pioneers could own land in the Oklahoma territory, including women. There are no real characters in the text of the book, but the illustrations portray black families enjoying their lives in this new land. Joyce Carol Thomas grew up in Oklahoma and is descended from a group of westward pioneers like the ones described in the book.

The text takes the form of a poem. There is no punctuation and the phrase "I have heard of a land" is repeated at the beginning of every page. I think that because of this, the book could be integrated into a poetry unit. There are two pages of higher level text at the back describing more about the historical period, and I think this could be a springboard for a social-justice unit about this historical time in the west. I think it would be interesting to explore the migration of freed male and female slaves to the west during this time period - the oppression they faced at home and the struggles and oppression they faced along the way, both in terms of being female and in terms of being freed black slaves. It would fall into the 3rd and 4th stages of social justice education: "Exploring Issues of Social Justice," and "Social Movements and Social Change."

The Name Jar by Yangsook Choi

Unhei, a Korean girl who just moved to America, is teased by the children on the bus for her Korean name. When she reaches her classroom and is asked her name on her first day of school, she tells her classmates that she has not yet decided on one. To be helpful the children put their suggestions into a "name jar." Eventually the girl decides to keep her own name as one of her classmates takes pride in the new Korean nickname he has chosen, Chinku, meaning "friend."

This book is connected to the first two rungs on the SJE ladder: self-acceptance and acceptance of others' identities. The message that this book carries would serve as a community-building tool at the beginning of a school year, in any classroom. Since Unhei is given a stamp that represents her original Korean name (meaning "grace") students could do a study on Korean characters, even using them to rewrite their own names and, further, acrostic poetry.

The Empty Pot

Title & Author:

The Empty Pot by Demi

Purchase & More Info:
Barnes & Noble

The Empty Pot is a story about a boy who wants to be the Emperor's successor. The Emperor announces that in order to select a successor, he will distribute seeds to all the children in the land, and whoever grows the most beautiful flowers from them will be his successor. All year long the boy cares for his seeds, yet nothing grows. On the day they must bring their flowers to the Emperor, the boy brings him an empty pot while all the other children have beautiful flowers to offer. The Emperor chooses the boy as his successor because all of the seeds he gave the children were cooked and they all were liars.

My Response:
The Empty Pot is a okay book in my opinion. I didnt see any signs of racism in the story or in the illustrations, but that is also because it is a folk tale. I had the discussion with my book group about whether or not the illustrations are racist if they are depicting a much older time period. I think it is an interesting question and am not very sure of the answer to this. I think this book could be an okay starting point for discussions about different cultures.

In The Classroom:
While I liked the story, it can only serve as a Level 1 of SJE in the classroom. It is a good source of showing differences, and can be a good starting point on a discussion about who controls our history and such. As a folk tale that essentially teaches about honesty, why do we never hear of this, yet stories like The Boy Who Cried Wolf are so prevalent in our culture? I guess you could also turn this into some sort of political discussion about how Emperors used to rule, but this is a stretch and doesnt really make much sense from this book.

Tar Beach by Faith Ringgold

Tar Beach is a picture book about a young girl who lives with her family near the George Washington Bridge. In the story, Cassie dreams about flying wherever she wants and being able to give her family everything they cannot have because of their ethnicity.

Much of the story, which is fictional but based on Ringgold's life, includes elements linked to slavery and Civil Rights, making it great for social justice purposes. The pictures, based on a quilt by Ringgold on display in the Guggenheim, are amazingly colorful, which would help to draw young readers in.

This book could be used to work on student autobiographies and to have the students think about where they would fly to to help their families. It could also be used to help students integrate art with reading and writing, having them make their own quilts to represent something in their lives towards which they feel passionate. (There is a suggestion for this quilt in the back of the book!) Because of the topics it covers, somewhat subtly, this would be a good way to either introduce topics to students to have them think about how these major issues impact their lives or to use after some studying has been done, so that students are able to pick out the discrimination that occurs on their own and to discuss it, based on their newfound knowledge.

Within the stages of social justice education, this covers self-love and acceptance, respect for others, and exploring issues of social justice. The main character appreciates who she is and what she has, while thinking about those things that prevent her family from having all they want, so, by sharing this story with students, it is possible to foster a respect for other cultures, allowing students to see how similar they may be to Cassie and her family.

To purchase the book or for more ideas:

Mama Miti by Donna Jo Napoli

This story was definitely delightful and inspirational. Not only does it speak about the culture of a Kenyan tribe, it also talks about how a village of people, through the help of one woman was able to preserve their countryside once again.
This story spoke to me because it helps elevate students who are girls realize that they too can accomplish wonderful feats. The woman this book was dedicated to was a remarkable woman named Wangari Muta Maathai. She was the first African-American to win the Nobel Peace Prize peace in 2004. She was also the first woman from Eastern Africa to receive a PhD. With that PhD she was able to do do research that help transform her country.

Uncle Jed's Barbershop

Uncle Jed's Barbershop
by Margaree King Mitchell
Illustrated by James Ransome

Uncle Jed's Barbershop is the story of Sarah Jean and her favorite uncle, Jed. Uncle Jed is the only Black barber in the county and he travels all over giving people haircuts while trying to save money so he can open his own barbershop. Though he faces many struggles (Sarah Jean getting sick, the Great Depression), he is eventually able to open his own barbershop and fulfill his dream.

I really liked this book because of the inspiring story it told. In addition to covering some of the domains of Social Justice, it tells about a man who has faced many hardships in his life, but still won't give up. He continues to persevere and eventually is able to open up his own barbershop, which was his lifelong dream.

I think that this book could be used in many ways. It is set in a different time period, and could cover the racial prejudices that were taking place in the 1920s and 1930s, when Sarah Jean got sick and couldn't be helped at the hospital until the white patients had been seen. It could also be used for the Great Depression. I also think that this could be used to talk about community, or with a younger class, different jobs/roles that people have.

Self-love and Acceptance - Sarah Jean learns about her community/culture from her uncle and is shown pride and perseverance.

Exploring issues of Social Justice - This book talks about racism, when the white patients are treated before Sarah Jean, and briefly mentions how Sarah Jean's family is lucky because they own some land, but that a lot of people are sharecroppers.

Social movements and social change - I think that Uncle Jed's struggle, even though it mostly effected him, was him moving for social change. At the beginning of the story they had to travel 30 miles to get a haircut, but since Uncle Jed started cutting hair and eventually opened his barbershop, it changed the community.

Uncle Jed's Barbershop at Barnes and Noble
Uncle Jed's Barbershop at Amazon

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

How I Learned Geography by Uri Shulevitz

Stela Bastijancic

How I Learned Geography by Uri Shulevitz

To learn more about/purchase:

A young boy and his parents flee their country with only the clothes on their backs during the war, winding up as refugees in a new land with hot, dusty summers and cold winters. They are given shelter by strangers but the adjustment is difficult, with little food to eat and no toys for the boy to play with. When the father goes to the market one day to buy bread and returns instead with a large world map, the boy and his mother are confused and angry. But over the course of time, the map provides the boy with endless opportunities to use his imagination for forgetting about his hungry stomach and escaping to exotic countries.

In this book Uri Shulevitz draws on his memories of escaping from Poland to Turkestan during World War II and starting over in an entirely different social and economic setting. The text and rich illustrations give a powerful lesson in economics about how a child faces and deals with scarcity, hunger, and poverty.

What is special about this book is that the pictures can tell the story virtually by themselves. In one of the illustrations, the boy’s family appears off to the side, dressed in black, like mourners, exiles as they walk into the village where men sit in brightly colored clothes or with confidence walk the streets. It is also interesting that no other children can be seen.

I love how this story challenges readers to redefine or rethink what it means to be wealthy and what we think it means to be poor. Even though the Shulevitzes did not have much money to spend, certainly not on luxuries, their son was rich in imagination and passion, and what seemed to be a frivolous purchase turned out to be a life altering, enriching gift.

This is an excellent book for teachers to use in the classroom. The main themes addressed are poverty and displacement, in this case due to war. The book could be used to teach different cultures/geographic regions, and to research different locations and find out what you would need to know to travel/live effectively in those cultures. Topics such as refugees and immigration may be explored. The book could be used as part of a lesson with English language learners, who might find the story relatable to their own circumstances.

Rosa by Nikki Giovanni

Amazon Link:

This book is the story of Rosa Parks, and the incident on the bus. It includes a background on her life prior to the bus incident and her fame.

I like this version of the story because it shows the historical incident without the excessive herofication. Rosa Parks is portrayed as a typical woman living in her time, who simply becomes tired of the way she and African American people are being treated on the bus. The story goes on to introduce Martin Luther King Jr.

I would try to use this book for activities based on character development, sequencing, and more.

I believe this book falls into all 5 of the SJE categories.

I would use this book when studying African American History, studying important/influential people, as well as, United States history.

Hina Patel

A Girl Named Helen Keller by Margo Lundell

Amazon link:

This book is the story of Helen Keller's life. The story begins from her birth. It goes through the struggles she and her family went through, and the gradual understanding of Helen Keller's obstacles. And the change that can happen when a teacher gives her all and always keeps hope.

I like the book because it shows true difficulties and set backs families, like Helen Keller's family, can go through. It shows that there aren't always answers for everything that is happening. The ending of the story shows a small accomplishment, but an important start. Also, it briefly attends to her life after the overcoming of her difficulties. As a bonus, the last page has the alphabet in ASL.

If I were to use this book in my classroom, it could be used as an introduction to a curriculum on able-ism, and or important/influential people in the world.

This book would fall into the awareness domain of sje.

Hina Patel

Home To Me


Home to Me, Poems Across America

Selected by Lee Bennett Hopkins

Illustrated by Stephen Alcorn





The poems included in the book are set in a number of different locations across America, from the prairie, to the city, and more. Each poem has its own story to tell in a unique way. The colorful illustrations which accompany them add to the imagination and images pulled from the text.

Personal Response

I was excited to find this book because I felt that it was a way to make poetry personal for students, and yet universal at the same time. Poems can have many subjects, and this anthology collects snapshots of experiences across our country. Additionally, in the back there is a short explanation of each poet contributor that I think makes the poems meaningful.

Classroom Connection

Poetry is not just for April. I think that poetry is a beneficial medium for writing. This book can help to introduce poetry as well as develop author studies and work on developing poems in different styles. I also saw it as a way to incorporate the “Who I Am” poems from the beginning of last semester. While not as structured as those, it paints different images of where people are from. I also enjoy that it’s an anthology of poems, so that for a read aloud or shared reading the poems can be looked separately as well as in comparison to one another. It will help children recognize their own culture and backgrounds, as well as hopefully prove as a starting point to generate discussion about accepting others. From this book it is possible to move even further, discussing living experiences in other places, not only differences, but also where there may be inequalities; why they may be so, and how to make a change.

How My Parents Learned to Eat

By: Ina R. Friedman

Summary: In this story, a young girl explains why at her house, sometimes her family eats with chopsticks and sometimes they eat with forks and knives. She explains that when her parents met, her mother was a Japanese schoolgirl and her father was a sailor stationed in Japan. There, the two met and spent afternoons walking around together. However, neither of them knew if the other could eat with the utensils of their own cultures so the two never had food together. One day, the girl’s father found out he was leaving in three weeks and so he decided that he needed to have a meal with this woman he loved because he wanted to marry her. So, he asked her out to dinner and she said, “yes”. Worried he would make a fool of himself he learned to eat with chopsticks and similarly she learned to eat with a knife and fork. Finally, the two meet and have American food one day and decide on Japanese food for the next. The man and woman eventually got married and used both types of utensils in their house.

My Review: I think that this is a wonderful book that explores the idea of every person being different. The part of the story that discusses how the girl’s mother and father were both nervous to eat with the other because they did not know the cultural norms reflects on most people’s fear and uncertainty of other cultures. However, both of the girl’s parents worked individually to learn about the other’s culture. This story is wonderful because it reflects the normal uncertainties that people face about other cultures, yet shows how through understanding and education, understanding can become easier and interesting.

In the Classroom: This book is a great way to teach children that it is okay to be nervous about new and different cultures than one’s own, but through learning about it, people can become friends and understand one another better. I think that this book would be a great way to integrate a multi-subject study about culture and the different cultures in the classroom. By exploring the different cultures in the classroom through food, the students would have the opportunity to learn about different cultures as well as understand their own culture as well.