Thursday, October 30, 2008

Video Booktalk II-Acceleration

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Book Review-Persepolis

Persepolis, as the cover reads, is the story of a childhood. A childhood filled with protests, war, and revolutionaries, but told through a young adult’s eyes and thoughts. Through words and illustrations Marjane Satrapi tells of her experiences as a teen in Iran during the Islamic revolution. The reader watches as Marjane struggles to find her identity as a young woman in a world of turmoil while at the same time trying to figure our the people she loves and those that are intent on making their lives miserable. The readers feels involved in the story as if they were beside Marjane as she questions her faith, her government, and yes, even her father.

While Marjane is in the midst of a relentless revolution, the reader gets the chance to see all of this through a young adult’s experiences. She is still a normal teenager. While she is busy going to protests and hating having to wear a veil, she is also buying Michael Jackson buttons and posters of American rock stars are hanging in her bedroom. While it does not make the revolution any less severe it is nice to see it from her perspective. Young adults may not be able to identify with what she is going through, but they can probably identify with the way she thinks about the events and handles certain situations.

What Marjane does not write she shows through the illustrations of the graphic novel. In certain frames the pictures tell so much more than the words. They tell the information the author could not put into words, such as revolutionaries being tortured and the remains of her friend’s house that was demolished during an attack. For this reason and the concepts presented by Marjane, such as communism and religion, along with some strong language this book is more suited to older readers, probably high school age. Even with these age groups there will still be many concepts they will need explained and discussed.

Overall a beautifully written and illustrated book that will open the eyes of young adults and adults alike to the events Marjane and her friends and family witnessed and lived through.

You can view this book review at

Craft Lesson-Point of View

Materials: Getting Away with Murder: The True Story of Emmett Till By: Chris Crowe

Purpose: Point of view can change the way a reader reacts to and interprets a story. However, young readers sometimes have trouble using point of view in their personal writing. In this lesson students will take a look back (they will have already read the entire book) at the point of views Chris Crowe used to tell Emmett Tills story and how this impacted them as readers.

Script: In the fiction novels we have read the authors mainly told a story from one character’s point of view. In Getting Away with Murder: The True Story of the Emmett Till Case, Chris Crowe uses numerous points of view to tell Emmett’s story. Today we are going to look at these different pints of view, how they added to the story, and analyze how the reader’s reaction could have been different if the story had been told from a different point of view.

First, what is the purpose of point of view? (Allow students to answer then talk about how Crowe used different points of view to tell Emmett’s story.) As a class let’s list the people involved in the murder case.

  • Emmett Till
  • Mamie Till Bradley
  • Emmett’s Uncle, Mose Wright
  • Emmett’s Cousins
  • The white woman behind the counter
  • The killers, Roy Bryant and J.W. Milam
  • The Sherriff
  • The Attorneys
  • African American People
  • Southern White/Black People
  • The jurors
  • The judge
Students may come up with more, but this is a good start.

(To students) What do you think would have happened if the story had been told from a different point of view? What would your reaction have been if Emmett’s mother told the story or the sheriff? (Give students a chance to answer). Now, get into groups and write a portion of the story from different character’s perspectives. (Remind students to keep their writing classroom appropriate) When students are finished have them share their accounts of the story and discuss what it was like to write from different perspectives. Discuss how a story can become completely different depending on who is telling it.

If time permits, you may also want to discuss whether it was easy or hard to write using point of view and how students can use this technique in their own writing.

Getting Away with Murder: The True Story of the Emmett Till Case

I began reading Getting Away with Murder: The True Story of the Emmett Till Case before bed and I couldn’t stop reading until I had finished the book. However, my emotional reaction was so great that I could not sleep for hours after closing the book. Before reading the book I skimmed the pages and thought it was just going to a non-fiction book that would give me the facts, I as wrong. Chris Crowe, the author, did a wonderful job of not only telling the facts, but telling them in such a way that you felt the outrage as if you had been in Money, Mississippi during the trial after Emmett Till had been murdered.

I would not be opposed to using this book in the classroom. While I would definitely use it with older, high school readers, I think it is a great book to use in an English class while students are learning about civil rights in history. I would also use the book by itself. Students have the idea that all non-fiction books are boring, and this one would change their minds. Non-fiction is something students feel that they have to read in textbooks and for this reason they frequently dislike it. They would not feel that way about this book. While Crowe tells the facts, he writes them very well. He tells a story. He writes from so many different perspectives that with any other writer it could be confusing, but in Crowe’s writing it just makes the story clearer.

While I would worry about students’ emotional reactions to the book, I know that they would be able to handle it. It is definitely something I would bring up before, during, and after the reading. In addition, I think this book would be a great read-aloud. This is something students can take turns reading out loud or the teacher can read to the class. I think reading it as a class would make it easier to stop at certain parts and hold discussions.

Sunday, October 19, 2008


I enjoyed reading Persepolis. I think it is the story of a childhood that every young adult in America should read. The book was very entertaining and insightful all the way through. I am glad that Marjane Satrapi decided to write a little bit about the history of Iran before the book began because I think most students in America, as well as many adults like myself, do not know the full story of Iran. I think after 9/11 there has been a lot of hatred toward these people without knowing their background, who they really are, and what they actually stand for as people. I think it would really open student’s eyes and benefit them to read this book.
Aside from the significance to see another culture’s way of life, this book was very entertaining. While many parts were sad there was still the innocence of a little girl. I enjoyed how the reader was able to see things through her eyes. While she considered herself a revolutionary she was still a teenage girl. She still wanted to hang up posters of bands, go shopping and attend parties. I think this makes her story something younger readers can identify with. Not necessarily the turmoil of the country, but how she dealt with it.
I also enjoyed the emphasis she and her parents placed on education. It was her doorway to success. She knew this and in order to understand what was going on she read many books and kept herself updated on what was going on in the country.
Something I did not understand completely was her association with religion. At the beginning she spoke to and saw God all of the time and she wanted to be a prophet. While everyone doubted her and told her women could not be prophets she stood strong. However, after many bad things happened she told God to leave and never come back. I hoped that there would be something else with God in the story. I was hoping for kind of closure or a tie in to explain why she never spoke to him again. While it definitely showed her spirit and determination, I felt like I was left hanging after she told God to leave and nothing else was mentioned about this incident.
Also, the end of the story really got to me. While I had a feeling her parents were eventually going to send her away I didn’t think there was any closure in the either. I understand and agree that not every story can or should have a happy ending, but this one really left me hanging. She just left and then saw her father carrying her mother away. I wish that I could have known what happened after that.
I would recommend this book for higher grade level students. I don’t know if I would even bring it into a middle school classroom. I think high school students would know how to understand and use this information whereas younger students might not.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Diary of a Wimpy Kid

Middle school has never been something I wanted to relive. It is really an awkward time for everyone, but Kinney turns it into a laugh-fest. This book had me laughing long after I read it. From the cheese touch to the Christmas thank you letters I could not get enough.
When reading Diary of a Wimpy Kid I really felt like I was reading a middle school student’s diary. Jeff Kinney wrote in junior high dialect. Greg’s reactions and his thought are the same as an actual student. His disregard for his family and others (when his grandmother’s house was toilet papered and he didn’t worry about it because she is retired so she probably didn’t have any plans anyway) is just like students in middle school. Honesty is big part of this book. Greg is honest about how he feels just like others of his age. Due to these aspects of the book I think students will really enjoy it. They can relate to it because they go though these trials and tribulations everyday and many of them think like Greg does in the book. Many people above the age of 13 might be turned off by a book that is relatable to teens, however this is not one of those books. People of all ages will laugh out loud at Greg’s ideas and how he carries them out. Such as when he wanted to run for treasurer because he thought that “could totally change my situation at school.” He made posters that told stories about the other candidate. “Remember in the second grade how Marty Porter had head lice? Do you really want him touching your money?” When the principal told him not to make up stories he said that one was actually true and it almost shut the whole school down. Hilarious. Students, teachers, parents, administrators and more will laugh at this book.
Another wonderful addition to this book is the illustrations. They add dimension to the story. Every time I read about one of Greg’s incidents I would look at the illustrations and just laugh harder. While it is not so much a graphic novel, I think it could be categorized more as an illustrated novel. When Greg has convinced his little brother that the ball of string in his hand is a spider the pictures just make that situation funnier. I also think the pictures will help middle school age students to imagine what is going on in the story. Depending on what reading level they may be on developmentally, this could be a step to the next level.
All in all this book made me laugh all the way through. Not just chuckle, I laughed out loud and then I read it to others and they laughed just as hard. This is what students need sometimes, to laugh. Just like Greg’s their lives are filled with the traumas of being in junior high (which I am not making light of, it really can be a traumatic place) and this book will help them realize that sometimes it is better just to laugh. I would give this book to any middle school student. I might even read it out loud to early high school students just for fun. This is a book I will definitely have on my bookshelf no matter what grade I teach.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Daisy Kutter

I was pleasantly surprised by Daisy Kutter and the graphic novel in general. This was my first time to read a graphic novel and I was worried because I have never really taken to comic books. However, after reading how to read a graphic novel and beginning to read, it was just like reading any other book, with some slight differences. While I thought reading a graphic novel would be easier then a regular book I was wrong. Due to the addition of pictures there are just as many details to catch. If you simply read through the words and don’t pay close attention to the pictures you are going to miss a lot of important details and literary elements. Another element of the graphic novel I enjoyed was that it played out kind of like a movie while I was reading. You can really get into the picture details and hear the sounds the characters make. I think this is great for reluctant readers. Not just because there are pictures, but also because they have to pay attention to the pictures and the details as they would a traditional book.

Moving onto the story itself. Daisy was a great character. I enjoyed that she was real. At times you laughed at her sarcasm, other times you were frustrated with her, and even more often you were cheering her on. This would be a wonderful book for girls and boys alike. While the main character is a very strong and independent female character I don’t think that this will turn away boys. Every student could be a fan of Daisy Kutter. I do think that the graphic novel format will attract more boys than girls from the start, but also think girls will realize how these types of novels can be just as entertaining as a regular book. I also love that the story shows a strong female character. It shows adolescent girls that it is ok to have unique personality traits and flaws and be a strong woman.

I do think this is a more advanced graphic novel. I do not think I would give this book to any students younger than 6th grade, and even then I recommend it for higher grade levels. I think older students would be able to appreciate Daisy’s story more and are better able to notice the small details in the pictures and in what the characters are saying.

Another part of the book I enjoyed was at the end. I thought it was great that the author described the writing and drawing process for Daisy Kutter. For students who are interested in writing their own graphic novels, or just want to see how they are produced, this is great.