Sunday, November 23, 2008

The Poet Slave of Cuba Book Review

Juan Francisco Manzano’s story, told by Margarita Engle in The Poet Slave of Cuba, is one that will break your heart through his suffering and then mend it time and again through his hope and survival.

Through lyrical verse, Engle tells of Manzano’s life not only through his eyes, but also through the people that were connected to him whether through familial ties or servitude. Manzano’s first owner, Doña Beatriz, thought of Juan as simply a “poodle,” a toy to be played with and thrown away when no longer needed for entertainment. However, she did say that upon her death Juan would be free from slavery. This promise was not upheld by his new, cruel owner, La Marquesa de Prado Ameno, who felt that Juan should have been grateful for everything she “gave” him. Engle’s words and Sean Qualls’ images powerfully tell the reader the brutality and injustice Manzano faced as a slave.

Enlge has written an award winning book that will draw in readers of all ages. Readers catch a glimpse of the suffering Manzano and other salves faced daily in Cuba. Engle’s poetry gives a depth to the story that an informational biography may not have. Her poetic prose allows the reader to not only know Manzano’s story, but to also feel it.


You can find this review at the following web address:
http://my.barnesandnoble.com/communityportal/Review.aspx?page=Review&reviewid=1036479

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Craft Lesson-Poetry Content

Materials:
Red Hot Salsa by: Lori Marie Carlson, Students’ Writing Notebooks

Purpose:
Many students think that writing a well-written poem means making sure certain lines rhyme and including tons of literary elements. While these are important aspects of poetry, content is often overlooked. Some of the best poems are the best because of their content, which is rarely pointed out to students. In this lesson students will look at content in the book Red Hot Salsa and work on the content of their own poems.

Script:
Begin by having students share, in groups, their experiences with well-written poetry. What makes a good poem? What do you try to do when writing poetry?

Then explain that a well-written poem does not always rhyme and is not usually overloaded with figurative language. Content is a deciding factor in most good poems. To make sure everyone is on the same page, define content as a class. Then, have students open (or hand out a poem) Red Hot Salsa to a poem of your choosing and as a class decide the content and look at how the author conveyed that content (Invisible Boundaries by Ivette Alvarez on page 24 is a good choice). Do not settle for answers such as being young and Latino (which is on the front of the book), have students really dig deep and see the content the author is writing about.

Afterward, have students pair up and look at a poem from the book (it would be faster to assign poems to each group). After they have discussed the content as a group, have them share with the class. Have them talk about the content and how it affected them while they were reading the poem.

Now, have students go to their writer’s notebooks and find a poem they wrote, or have been working on. Instruct them to look at the content of their poem and make revisions. At the end of class have students share how their poems improved just by looking at the content of what they are writing.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Red Hot Salsa Journal

Again poetry surprises me in a very pleasant way! I absolutely loved Red Hot Salsa. I went through a mixture of emotions when reading this book. Every poem tells a different story about being Latino.

I enjoyed the code switching between Spanish ad English. This, as Carlson writes in the editor’s note, shows the language’s “hybrid linguistic beauty.” For many English language learners it is tough to speak their native tongue in schools because they are taught to speak English instead. This book helps to show ELLs (and other Spanish speaking students) that their first language is just as important. It is important to not only their background, but also who they are. It is a wonderful book for Latino students. Poems are included that not only talk about “being young and Latino,” but there are also poems that talk about being who you are, identity, stereotypes, living in the barrio, violence, Chicanos, and more. These are topics that have surrounded the Latino community for years.

This is also a wonderful book for English speaking students. It exposes them to another language and the experiences of Latinos. Many students get so caught up in their own lives that they don’t take the time to stop and realize what is going on with the other people around them. This book helps students see the same world they live in through another point of view. In the same way that this book is important for Latino young adults it is also important for young adults of other ethnicities and backgrounds. The history of Mexican-Americans is not something that is taught in schools on a regular basis, and this book opens the door for that to happen. While you can just take the poems at face value, the deeper you look at them the more you will learn about the Latino culture.

In addition, the poetry in this book is so beautiful and well written; it is a great book to use to teach poetry lessons. I enjoy that the poems are all by different authors–not only do you get many different perspectives you also get to see and show students many different types of poetry. You can show them that there is not merely one way to write poetry.

Video Book Talk-Getting Away with Murder

video

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

The Poet Slave of Cuba

I was not sure what to expect when I began reading The Poet Slave of Cuba by Margarita Engle. What I read was a book that broke my heart through the beauty of Engle’s words and the strength of Juan Francisco Manzano’s spirit.

In school I read very little poetry and for that reason I have always seen this genre of writing as out of my grasp. I never considered that I would like or even understand poetry. I think that many students today are the same way. In my experiences in school there was very little poetry introduced, and what was meant nothing to me. What I have come to realize is that you do not have be taught everything about poetry to read and understand it. You just have to be exposed to poetry that means something–poetry you can identify with. This book would have made me love poetry when I was in school and I think it can do the same for many students.

If Juan’s story had been told in a normal biography I don’t think I would have responded to it like I did. Of course it would still be a sad and terrible story, but through her poetry Engle put feelings into it that would have been absent from straightforward writing. The way she used different people to tell about Juan’s life really gave a lot of perspective. It showed how Juan’s mother, María del Pilar, felt about her life and what her son had to endure. The words of Doña Beatriz showed how she thought Juan was simply a “poodle,” a toy to be played with and thrown away when no longer needed for entertainment. It even showed how La Marquesa de Prado Ameno felt that Juan should have been grateful for everything she gave him and how he should never have been sad because it would have made her sad. The poetry showed the selfish and terrible woman that she was.

The parts of the book that showed the torture Juan endured by his master were very graphic and terrifying. They were graphic because Engle used terrifying words, but because she put Juan’s feelings into these scenes. Not only could you imagine what he was physically feeling, you really knew as the reader how he felt emotionally. Which was just as hard to bear as what was being done to him. Although, the scenes were graphic, I would bring this into the classroom. I would use it in a high school classroom to not only tell Juan’s story, but also to show how Engle told it though lyrical verse. I would use it show what we can do with our words when we know how to use them.

I would not merely use this in conjunction with a history lesson (although that would also be ideal). I would use this alone in a reading or an English classroom. I might even use it when studying biographies to show students that there is more than one way to write any story. I would want to bring The Poet Slave of Cuba into the classroom to show students how beautiful poetry can be and how beautiful and tragic Juan Francisco Manzano’s life was.


Sunday, November 2, 2008

Up Before Daybreak: Cotton and People in America


Living in West Texas makes cotton a big part of our everyday lives; however cotton is meaningful to everyone in the United States. It touches everyone every day, literally through our clothing, and other items we use every day. Many people also make a living from cotton. Up Before Daybreak: Cotton and People in America, by Deborah Hopkins, shows that Cotton has been important for every person since before the civil war.

Having worked in the cotton industry I thought I knew a lot about cotton and its history, after reading this book I found out I didn’t know even half of the history of cotton all over the United States. Hopkins does a great job of blending firsthand accounts with the history of that time. She tells about cotton through the eyes of the people that lived it, helping the reader understand this part of our history in a personal way. It helps them relate. Also, the pictures in the book were very telling. Through her research the author really showed what it was like to work in the cotton industry.

I enjoy how the author separated the book into two parts: before the Civil War and after. This helps to break up some of the information, since there is so much in a 104-page book. This would definitely help in a classroom, when trying to teach about a certain time period in cotton’s history. It helps the reader see the time line of cotton through words and pictures.

My only reservation about the book was that at times I would drift away from what the author was saying. For that reason I would not use this as a classroom set in an English class. I would use it for research, or certain sections for background information. However, in a social studies or history class I would actually use the book as a textbook when studying the civil war, slavery, and industry.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Video Booktalk II-Acceleration

video

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
http://search.barnesandnoble.com/Persepolis/Marjane-Satrapi/e/9780375714573/?/?tabname=custreview#TABS

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

Persepolis

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.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Acceleration

I had never read a young adult thriller before and I was a little apprehensive. All of my doubts were reversed after reading Acceleration. I would be excited to introduce this book into any high school classroom. I say high school because it was obvious to me while reading that this book is probably a little too advanced for a middle school classroom. It has some language and topics that I feel would not be appropriate for a younger crowd. However, I did feel that even though the book was a thriller and not really something that would happen to an adolescent, it was still very relatable. The characters were from a rundown neighborhood, but not anywhere dangerous. They had to work for extra money, which Duncan did at the subway lost and found. The characters were real and they had problems that every teenager has with their parents and friends. Duncan did not want to disappoint his mom; he would do certain things to make sure of this. His friend Vinny was very self-conscious about his hand and his body. Wayne was his other best friend that he sometimes did not like to invite certain places or to do certain things for fear of embarrassment. Many teenagers face these problems and can relate.

On the other hand, the way the main character spoke at times made me feel that he was a little older than his age. He was very intuitive about himself and others. Duncan knew that he had yet to get over not saving the drowning girl. He knew why and he knew that to make this feeling and the terrible dreams he had go away he needed to catch the writer of the diary. These types of thoughts made me feel that Duncan knew a little more about himself than most teenagers do at this point in their lives, but then again most teenagers would not go after a serial killer.

The book was a little slow until Duncan figured out who the diary belonged to. After that the book became nail biting and I could not put it down. I did not expect the diary writer to die the way he did at the end. The ending was kind of abrupt, but I don’t think it took away from the story. I think this is a book both girls and boys would be interested in reading.

Book Review-Standing Against the Wind

Customer Rating for this product is 4 out of 5 Beautiful Story
A reviewer, A reviewer, 09/23/2008

Patrice is taken by her mother from her grandmother’s house to live elsewhere. However, when Patrice’s mom is sent to jail she ends up living with her Aunt in Chicago. She is constantly doing chores to help out her aunt and taking care of her cousins. Meanwhile at school Patrice is being picked on by her classmates, in particular by a group of boys that hangs out outside her apartment complex. That group includes a certain boy, Monty, who asks Patrice to tutor his brother. Patrice and Monty become close friends. When Patrice has the chance to attend an African American Boarding School she does not know if she can make her dream happen due to the many obstacles in her path, but she finds strength in places she never would have expected. Traci L. Jones has written a wonderful story full of imagery and beautiful metaphors. It is easy to see why she won the Coretta Scott King Award. However, it is somewhat of a Cinderella story due to the fact that Patrice finds a lot of her strength in Monty. While this by no means makes it a bad story, it is something to think about when recommending to younger readers. I would recommend this book for grades 6-8. The story is a little young for high school students. Middle school students will be able to relate to many of the things Patrice goes through at school and at home. I would also recommend reading this book in a group setting rather than alone for younger students, this way you can talk about Patrice’s relationships and delve a little deeper into the Cinderella story aspect. However, these issues do not detract from the writing and wonderful language of this book. I would definitely recommend it.

You can see this book review at
http://search.barnesandnoble.com/Standing-Against-the-Wind/Traci-L-Jones/e/9780374371746/?tabname=custreview


Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Video Booktalk: Miracle's Boys

video

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Craft Lesson-Flashbacks

Materials: Miracle’s Boys by Jacqueline Woodson

Purpose: Many authors use flashbacks in their writing. Flashbacks allow the reader to see an event or action that happened in the past that is significant to the story. However, sometimes it is hard for young writers to work this element into their personal writings. Here students will be able to see many examples of flashbacks from the book and will see how writer’s begin a flashback.

Script: In the book Miracle’s Boys the writer uses flashbacks to show the reader what happened to Lafayette and his brothers in the past. This helps the reader to better understand what is going on in the present. Why else would a writer use a flashback in a story? (Wait for answers and discuss, some additional answers could be character development, unfolding a mystery)

Now, take a look at your book and think back. Where were some flashbacks that you remembered and why were they important to the story? Wait for answers and discuss. If students do not have a lot of answers here are some examples to look at together. Ok, let’s look at some flashbacks together. As we look at the flashbacks as a class let’s discuss why they are important to the story and what the story might be like if you didn’t know this information.

p.17
This is a flashback of Charlie explaining to Lafayette how to pray to St. Francis to protect all of the stray animals.
p. 72
This is Ty’ree having a flashback of the day his father died.
p. 99
The Flashback is the incident when Lafayette was punched in the eye and Charlie told him to just hang on until the pain went away.
p.109
This flashback shows Lafayette’s mother talking to him about freedom and he responds that he isn’t free because he can’t go out like his brothers.

There are many other flashbacks, these are just a few suggestions.

Now let’s look at what all of the flashbacks have in common. Authors use certain words or ways to lead into flashbacks. In this book the author begins most of the flashback with one of Lafayette’s memories. All authors begin flashbacks differently. Let’s brainstorm some words and phrases that might lead into a flashback. Let’s make a list in our writer’s notebook, remembering that these are not the only ways to begin a flashback, but they are something that will get you started when writing.
Examples of flashback transitions: once, long ago, yesterday, looking back, etc.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Miracle's Boys Reading Journal 3

This book was a very emotional one for me. There was a lot of loss and sadness for the characters and for the reader as you watch the brothers go through their grief and pain. However, I would recommend this book for adolescents for that very reason. Although loss is a very hard topic to talk about and deal with students need to be able to face it.
There were a few things that really caught my attention in Miracle’s Boys. From the beginning I noticed the character’s names and how they each had meaning. After robbing a store Charlie is sent to Rahway for two years and when he comes back he is a different person. For this reason Lafayette, his brother, begins calling him NewCharlie. If you notice it is spelled in the book as one name, because this is now what Lafayette calls him. Throughout the book he distinguishes between Charlie (pre-Rahway) and NewCharlie. When he is talking about the days before Charlie was sent away and before his mother died he still uses the name Charlie. I think he does this because he is still hoping his brother will come back. He never gives up hope. At the end there is a pivotal moment when Lafayette stops using NewCharlie and reverts back to Charlie. This moment happens when they are sitting on the stoop talking like they used to and Charlie says that he will not burn the pictures Lafayette has left of his mother. To Lafayette his brother is finally back.
Lafayette is named after his father who died before he was born after saving a woman and her dog from a frozen lake. Ty’ree (the older brother) was there when their father died and he feels responsible for their father’s death. When their mother died Ty’ree decided to stay home to care for his brothers and in a way I think he did this to make everything up to his father. I think this is the significance of Lafayette’s name in the story. By staying home from MIT and taking care of Lafayette he felt he could right what he thought he had done wrong when their father died.
Their mother’s name was Milagro, which translates to Miracle. In the end even though she died she was still the boy’s miracle. She is the reason Lafayette went back down to the stoop where Charlie was sitting, because he made her a promise not to fight with his brother anymore. She was one of the reasons the brothers became a family again.
Something else that caught my attention, but I did not fully realize it until the end of the book. I had feelings of anger toward Charlie nearly the entire book. Not because he robbed a store and went to Rahway, I had a feeling there was an underlying reason for him needing the money. I was angry because of how he treated Lafayette, like they were not even brothers.
Throughout the book Lafayette has flashbacks of Charlie, before he became NewCharlie in Lafayette’s eyes. Charlie had always had a soft spot for stray dogs. I always assumed this was because of how his father died, and partly I think it was. However, as the story goes on you realize that Charlie feels very alone. He was not there when his father died and he was in Rahway when his mother died. So, while Ty’ree feels responsible for his their father’s death and Lafayette feels responsible for their mother’s death, Charlie has nothing. While these are not good memories for anyone, he wasn’t there for any of it. He feels like he is nothing and he doesn’t matter. That was the significance, in my opinion, for his affection for stray dogs. He feels like he is nothing and had no one and they are kind of the same way, hence why he always wanted to help them. When he was younger he even tried to save a dog, but the dog ended up dying anyway and this made him feel even more useless. That is why at the end Lafayette keeps telling Charlie that it was not his fault the dog died. This was a parallel to their parent’s deaths. It was his way of letting Charlie know that none of this was his fault. That their parent’s deaths were not anyone’s fault.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

A Step From Heaven

This is great book for any classroom. Many classrooms today have students who have immigrated from another country. When reading A Step From Heaven, these students are able to watch Young Ju struggle with wanting to become an American and also being ashamed of that same want. Even non-immigrant students can share some of Young Ju's joys and her pain as they watch her grow into a young woman who can embrace her past and her future. It is also a chance for non-immigrant students to see what other students may be going through at school and in their personal lives.

In addition, the beautiful language of this book really catches the reader's attention from the beginning. What really intrigued me was the way An Na ended every chapter. Almost every chapter ended with Young Ju thinking inadvertantly about what she was learning through her experiences, good or bad.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Standing Against the Wind (RJ1)


In Standing Against the Wind Patrice is taken, by her mother, from a home she loves with her grandmother and ends up living with her aunt. In this new place she faces ridicule by her peers, harassment, and chores galore. She has a tough time standing up for herself, but everything begins to change when she meets Monty, a boy who lives in the same building as her aunt. With Monty's help and through her own strength she comes to have a voice of her own and chooses education over her current situation.

This book is wonderfully written and is a wonderful tool to show students that they can accomplish anything by going about it the right way and standing up for themselves.

I especially loved the way Traci Jones uses Patrice's surroundings,such as the wind and the facets of the salon to show time and again what she is up against and how she perseveres.