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Nonfiction Wednesday

Nonfiction Picture Book Wednesday is hosted by Kid Lit Frenzy and was started to help promote the reading of nonfiction texts. Most Wednesdays, we will be participating and will review a nonfiction text (though it may not always be a picture book).
Be sure to visit Kid Lit Frenzy and see what other nonfiction books are shared this week!

Nina: Jazz Legend and Civil-Rights Activist Nina Simone
Author: Alice Brière-Haquet
Illustrator: Bruno Liance
Published December 5th, 2017 by Charlesbridge Publishing

Summary: “To be young, gifted, and black.”

A stunning picture-book biography of the High Priestess of Soul and one of the greatest voices of the 20th century.

With evocative black-and-white illustrations and moving prose, readers are introduced to Nina Simone, jazz-music legend and civil-rights activist. Shared as a lullaby to her daughter, a soulful song recounts Simone’s career, the trials she faced as an African American woman, and the stand she took during the Civil Rights Movement. This poignant picture book offers a melodic tale that is both a historic account of an iconic figure and an extraordinary look at how far we’ve come and how far we still need to go for social justice and equality. A timeless and timely message aptly appropriate for today’s social and political climates.

ReviewAlthough Nina is just a taste into who Nina Simone was as it only introduces her talent as a pianist and shares her beliefs in regards to civil rights. Set up as a lullaby that Nina is singing to her child, the story recounts her love of music and learning about the racism within our nation as well as a story where she stood up to inequality at one of her piano concerts. The lyrics and illustrations are dreamy and perfectly fit the purpose of the story: to introduce and intrigue the reader when it comes to Nina Simone.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: I do wish that there had been back matter that went more in depth into Simone’s contribution to jazz and civil rights; however, without them existing, this nonfiction picture book allows for a perfect change for inquiry. Now that students have been introduced to Nina, have stations/centers focusing on different parts of her life, jazz, or the Civil Rights Movement.

Discussion Questions: 

  • How does the illustration on the bus use the idea of the piano to symbolize the relationship between White and Black citizens in the early 1900s?
  • What techniques do the author and illustrator use to make the book seem lullaby-eque?
  • How did the imagery of the single black chair symbolize the racism that occurred at Simone’s concert?
  • How does the author tie in Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Civil Rights Movement?

Flagged Passages: 

“‘The white keys are whole notes and the black keys are flats, or half notes,’ my teacher explained.

I asked why.

‘Because that’s just the way it is.’

Yes, that’s the way it was. White was whole. Black was half. It was that way everywhere and for everyone.

I could have held it against people. Or worse, I couldn’t believed I was worth less than other people.

Black people were nothing but half notes on a huge ivory keyboard.

But no. I did not agree with this.

The notes had to mingle and dance together in the air so these lies would disappear.”

Read This If You Love: Andrea Davis Pinkney picture book biographies, Jazz, Learning about the Civil Rights Movement

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The Dark
Author: Lemony Snicket
Illustrator: Jon Klassen
Published April 2, 2013 by Little, Brown

Guest Post by: Nichole Pitruzzello

Summary: Laszlo is afraid of the dark. But is the dark afraid of Laszlo? They live in the same house, with the same creaky roof, smooth, cold windows, and several sets of stairs. But the dark mostly stays in the basement…until one night, when it doesn’t. Laszlo walks through his house, as the dark converses with him, on a journey to overcome his fear.

Review: In his unique writing style, Lemony Snicket takes an eerie childhood fear and personifies the dark in a soothing way. John Klassen’s illustrations are a wonderful compliment to the story of Laszlo, using black space and warm colors to enhance the mood. I’m very impressed by the way they take a concept that many children fear, and transform it into a friendly, calming presence. I cannot wait to add this book to my library!

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: Teachers can use this book as a mentor text for a variety of mini lessons. Lemony Snicket personifies the dark, uses vivid language to talk about Laszlo’s house, and creates suspense through a blend of dialogue and narration. In addition, it’s an excellent book to teach a lesson about overcoming one’s fears. There’s so much that this book can add to a classroom!

Discussion Questions: What are some places that you are scared of, and why are they scary? Was the dark really scary? How did the dark help Laszlo? Why shouldn’t we be afraid of the dark? What should we do when we are afraid of something?

Book Trailer: 

Read This If You Loved: Go Away, Big Green Monster by Ed Emberly, Singing Away the Dark by Caroline Woodward, 13 Words by Lemony Snicket

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Henry and the Chalk Dragon
Author: Jennifer Trafton
Illustrator: Benjamin Schipper
Published April 4th, 2017 by Rabbit Room Press

Summary: In the town of Squashbuckle, just about anything can happen, and when Henry Penwhistle draws a mighty Chalk Dragon on his door, the dragon does what Henry least expects–it runs away. Now Henry’s art is out in the world for everyone to see, and it’s causing trouble for him and his schoolmates, Oscar and Jade. If they don’t stop it, the entire town could be doomed! To vanquish the threat of a rampaging Chalk Dragon, Sir Henry Penwhistle, Knight of La Muncha Elementary School, is going to have to do more than just catch his art–he’s going to have to let his imagination run wild. And THAT takes bravery.

About the Author: Jennifer Trafton is the author of The Rise and Fall of Mount Majestic (Dial, 2010) which received starred reviews in Publishers Weekly and School Library Journal and was a nominee for Tennessee’s Volunteer State Book Award and the National Homeschool Book Award. Henry and the Chalk Dragon arose from her lifelong love of drawing and her personal quest for the courage to be an artist. She lives in Nashville, Tennessee, where, in addition to pursuing her love of art and illustration, she teaches writing classes, workshops, and summer camps in a variety of schools, libraries, and homeschool groups in the Nashville area, as well as online classes to kids around the world. To learn more, and to download free materials, visit jennifertrafton.com.

Critical Praise: 

★“A delicious face-off between forces of conformity and creativity run amok, spiced with offbeat names as well as insights expressed with eloquent simplicity.” —Booklist (starred review)
★“A perfect title to hand to young readers looking for laughs along with a wild and crazy adventure.”
                                                                                —School Library Journal (starred review)

Review: I love any book that promotes imagination, and it isn’t too often that you find a novel that is all about keeping your imagination. Henry’s story is a Pleasantville one–he lives in a boring town and takes boring classes, but when he closes his door, his imagination goes wild. It is when his imaginative Chalk Dragon escapes and wrecks havoc on his school does the power of an imagination really start to show. 

On a side note, and only some of you will understand this, but the cover of Henry and the Chalk Dragon is matte and SO SOFT!

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: Along with a read aloud, the text gives lots of opportunities to discuss imagination, art, and creative writing. Also, chunking the text to fit the most opportune times will lead to some great writing and art prompts.

Discussion Questions: How did the principal end up the way he is? How do we know that he was not that way when he was younger?; Was Henry’s class/school doing the best thing to promote Vegetable Week?; Which adults understand Henry and his imagination? Which hinder him?; How does the power of Henry’s imagination cause havoc on the school? How does it save the school?; What does Henry’s chalk dragon coming to life symbolize in the grand scheme of things?; What is the lesson that the author is trying to teach us about imagination and growing up?

Flagged Passages: “Henry recognized the curve of those horns and the arrow-tipped tail. He recognized every sharp green flick of scaly skin, every zigzag of the bony spines running down the creature’s back. It was his dragon. Just as he had imagined it. Just as he had drawn it. Here it was, standing in front of him! There was something brand new in the world, and he had put it there!

There is a kind of fear that squeezes your heart with an icy hand and freezes you into a popsicle. But there is another kind of fear that is thrilling and hot, that makes your fingers tingle and your toes tickle each other inside your shoes until you want to leap over the Empire State Building. Henry was afraid with this kind of fear, and it felt good.

The dragon stared back at him–up and down, from his sneakers to his shiny helmet. It did not look afraid of Henry. It spread its wings proudly. It stretched its scaly neck as high as it would go. Its mouth widened slowly into a dragonish grin.

How long had Henry been waiting for this moment? Here he was, in his shiny suit of armor, with a sword in his hand. And here was a real live dragon–a dragon who could knock the house down with a few flicks of its tail, who could eat his mother for breakfast, who could send a ball of fire bouncing down the street. He knew exactly what he had to do.” (p. 32-33)

Read This If You Loved: The Journey Trilogy by Aaron BeckerHarold and the Purple Crayon by Crockett Johnson, Other picture books that spark imagination

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**Thank you to Barbara at Blue Slip Media for providing a copy for review!**

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Paint Me a Picture: A Colorful Book of Art Inspiration
Author: Emily Bannister
Illustrator: Holly Hatam
Published by Kane Miller EDC Publishing

Tell Me a Story: An Inspirational Book for Creative Writers
Author: Emily Bannister
Illustrator: Barbara Chotiner
Published by Kane Miller EDC Publishing

Summary: Paint Me a Picture equates color to mood, getting children thinking about the way they see and feel our colorful world.

Tell Me a Story lets children know that their words are important, that no matter the form, their stories are meaningful.

With simple rhyming text and accessible art, this book is a springboard for drawing and sharing stories, giving color to emotions, and kids permission to do, create, show and tell.

It delightfully, poetically, celebrates the joy and imagination in art in all its forms and inspires the storyteller in everyone.

Review: I love books that help students feel like they are artists, writers, or thinkers. I think creativity is such an important part of childhood and too often we are pushing kids to grow up too quickly and not learn how to be creative or we’re pushing kids to fit into a certain box instead of letting them think outside of the box. These books help kids see the joy in writing and creating. They celebrate creative thinking and writing and the colors of our world. They show how you can combine color and words to create something that others will want to read and see. 

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: Sometimes all a student needs is inspiration to create a story or piece of art work. These texts are those inspiration. They help students know that their story means something. That their words are something someone wants to read. That color can mean something. That their color choices when making artwork make a difference but that all colors are beautiful.

Discussion Questions: If you wanted to draw a picture that symbolizes sadness/happiness/laughter/anger, etc., what color would you use? What would you draw?; What is your favorite color? What does it symbolize to you?; To write a story, you first need to start with an idea, a place, or a thing. What would you write a story about?

Flagged Passages: 

Read This If You Loved: What Do You See? by Kyla Ryman, The Amazing Crafty Cat by Charise Mericle Harper, A Child of Books by Oliver JeffersThe Museum by Susan Verde, My Life in Pictures by Deborah ZemkeDoodle Adventures by Mike LoweryMy Pen by Christopher Myers, Mix it Up! by Hervé Tullet, Sky Color by Peter H. Reynolds, Art by Patrick McDonnell, Not a Box by Antoinette Portis, Seen Art? by Jon Scieszka, The Cat and the Bird by Geraldine Elschner

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**Thank you to Lynn at Kane Miller for providing copies for review!!**

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Happy book birthday to We Found a Hat by Jon Klassen!

we found a hat

We Found a Hat
Published October 11, 2016 by Candlewick Press

i-want-my-hat-back  this is not my hat

I Want My Hat Back
Published September 27th, 2011 by Candlewick Press

This Is Not My Hat
Published October 9th, 2012 by Candlewick Press

The first two books of The Hat Trilogy have enthralled readers for years. They have been read in many classrooms and in many bedrooms delighting millions of children (and adults!). Today we get to celebrate the final installment of the trilogy.

Summary of We Found a HatTwo turtles find one hat – and it happens to look great on both of them.

Q&A With Jon Klassen: 

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation and Discussion Questions: 

I am happy to share the teaching guide for the books that I had the honor of writing!

The guide can also be found here.

Happy reading!

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raymie

Raymie Nightingale by Kate DiCamillo is out today!

And we are happy to be able to be able to exclusively reveal the teaching guide.

Kate DiCamillo writes heartprint stories, and Raymie Nightingale is no different. Raymie Nightingale shares with the reader a story of three very different girls who all are enveloped in sadness for different reasons and need each other to find their way out. You will love Raymie and the Three Rancheros!

I had so much fun writing this guide, and I hope that many of you find the activities and discussion questions within it useful to you and your students!

Please note: There are some spoilers in the guide, so please be aware if you are reading the guide before reading the book.

You can also access the teaching guide here.

You can learn more about Raymie on Candlewick Press’s Raymie Nightingale page.

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Don’t miss out on this one!

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Bowls of Happiness

Bowls of Happiness
Author: Brian Tse, Illustrator: Alice Mak, Translator: Ben Wang, Editor: Nancy S. Steinhardt
Published: November 17, 2015 by China Institute in America

GoodReads Summary: Piggy’s mom loves her so much that she has decided to make a special porcelain bowl just for her. As mom makes the bowl, Piggy enters the world being painted on its outside. There she meets and learns about the animals used on these Chinese artworks and the messages of happiness and good-fortune that they convey.

Created by internationally renowned children’s book artists Brian Tse and Alice Mak, this book teaches children about Chinese artwork and culture and their universal spirit of generosity, love, and respect for nature. The lovable illustrations are coupled with photographs of porcelain art found in the Palace Museum’s collection. Children will learn about how bowls are made and be able to draw their own Bowl of Happiness after they have finished reading the story.

My Review: It was a lot of fun reading this book. It begins with an imaginative story reflecting the designs on a Chinese bowl. Then, in the second part, the book shifts to informational nonfiction. The author shares a variety of different bowls and their meaning. In the last portion, the readers are given instructions on how to create their own bowls. This book taught me a lot about these bowls of happiness, and I wanted to make my own bowl! Readers will enjoy learning about these bowls and will be intrigued to learn and research more.

Teacher’s Tools for Navigation: I would love to teach a book like this one. I’d have students begin by researching even more about these bowls, their symbolic meaning. Then, I might have the students create drafts of their own bowls. The book provides a wealth of information about the symbols and colors of bowls, and students could select their own designs and symbols. While their bowls would not be authentic and teachers would have to be careful to explain appropriation, it would teach the students to enjoy and appreciate another culture and reinforce their knowledge about the bowls.

Discussion Questions: What symbols do you find most interesting? If you could have any of the bowls in the book, which would you pick, and why?; What symbols are used in your culture? How might they compare to the symbols on these bowls?; Why do you think the author divided the book into such different sections?

We Flagged: “These two bowls were not used for eating. Chinese emperors used them for important rituals that paid respect to Heaven and Earth.”

Read This If You Love: Books about culture, history, art, or museums

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