Ape Quartet #3
Author: Eliot Schrefer
Published April 26th, 2016 by Scholastic Press
Summary: They grew up together. Now they have to escape together.
Raja has been raised in captivity. Not behind the bars of a zoo, but within the confines of an American home. He was stolen when he was young to be someone’s pet. Now he’s grown up and is about to be sent away again, to a place from which there will be no return.
John grew up with Raja. The orangutan was his friend, his brother. But when John’s parents split up and he moved across the country, he left Raja behind. Now Raja is in danger.
There’s one last chance to save Raja—a chance that will force John to confront his fractured family and the captivity he’s imposed on himself all of these years.
About the Author: Eliot Schrefer is a New York Times-bestselling author, and has twice been a finalist for the National Book Award. In naming him an Editor’s Choice, the New York Times has called his work “dazzling… big-hearted.” He is also the author of two novels for adults and four other novels for children and young adults. His books have been named to the NPR “best of the year” list, the ALA best fiction list for young adults, and the Chicago Public Library’s “Best of the Best.” His work has also been selected to the Amelia Bloomer List, recognizing best feminist books for young readers, and he has been a finalist for the Walden Award and won the Green Earth Book Award and Sigurd Olson Nature Writing Award. He lives in New York City, where he reviews books for USAToday.
Review: I think out of the three Ape Quartet books published so far, this is the one that is going to hit closest to home for many. It will make many readers uncomfortable and want to make a change. First, it takes place in the United States unlike Africa like the first two. Second, it really digs into an issue that is still very much prominent here–animal injustice.
I find Schrefer’s writing to be so beautiful yet so easy to read. He can pull you into his stories and makes you feel for not only his human characters but also his animal characters. He does such a tremendous amount of research for all of his books and with this one it brings the injustice of Raja alive.
I am a sucker for ape books. I find apes to be the most fascinating animals, and orangutans may be my favorite because they have these amazing eyes that just show me that they are so intelligent and deep thinkers. They are also introverts; I think I just relate to them in that way. This book brings orangutans to life through Raja.
As evident from Schrefer’s status as a two-time National Book Award finalist, his books can be used as a mentor text for just about any aspect of writing that you are looking for: characterization, imagery, voice, conflict, etc. Read any of his books, and you can pull out so much to discuss and use within the classroom. Additionally, there are some amazing ape books, including Schrefer’s other Ape Quartet books, that would make for an amazing lit circle opportunity or text set.
Review originally posted here on May 13, 2016.
Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: Last year, our whole-class novel unit was done using Hurt Go Happy and included a trip to Center for Great Apes. This year, I had a completely different type of novel planned, but my students begged to read more about apes (and visit CFGA again). After looking at all of the available ape books, I decided that Rescued was perfect for the standards I wanted to teach and also included orangutans instead of chimps, and orangutans are the other great ape at CFGA. After setting up a Donors Choose and getting funded (THANK YOU ALL DONORS!), Eliot Schrefer also so kindly contacted me and offered to send even more copies of Rescued to my students–wow! So much kindness! Now that we had a plethora of copies, I wanted to share the love, so I contacted my South Carolina middle school teacher friend, Jennie Smith, to see if she wanted to read Rescued with us and collaborate some how. I was so happy that she said yes!
Because I do love whole-class novels, but I also don’t like how a whole-class novel can also ruin a book with too much time spent on one book with way too many assignments during the unit. To try to fight this, I planned the unit quite simply:
- Each week the students were given a focus question on Monday that they could think about all week then answer on Friday.
- These focus questions are how we collaborated with Mrs. Smith’s class as well. My 1st and 2nd period posted their answers on Padlet and Mrs. Smith’s students would also post. The kids would then respond to each other.
- Focus questions:
- 1. What’s a big idea that’s emerging that’s worth talking about?
- 2. Is there a passage that struck you as important in developing a character or a conflict in the reading so far? Share the passage and explain.
- 3. What incident up to this point has had the most impact on the plot? How so? What did the characters’ response to this incident teach you about them?
- 4. There are many who argue that Great Apes are human-like, including the lawyer who will take apes as plaintiffs to demand rights. What are some examples in this section of Raja showing how close to humans he truly is?
- 5. How did the characters (specifically John’s mom, John’s dad, John, and Raja) change throughout the book? What other narrative elements helped shape their final persona? Find a piece of dialogue and a specific incident in the book that is evidence for your analysis of the character.
- The idea of focus questions was something I got from a talk by Kelly Gallagher and Penny Kittle at NCTE 2017.
- Because of one of the standards the unit was focusing on, we also looked at narrative elements, specifically dialogue, setting, and conflicts. Here is my scale for the unit:
- Throughout the unit, I would also stop to have students think about certain text-dependent questions. I tried not to do this too often to not slow down the narrative; however, I loved seeing my students’ thinking. We would then discuss these questions, but I like allowing my students to write answers first before discussing because it allows them to get their thinking organized. (I shared some of these text-dependent questions and an example of a student’s answers below.)
The Field Trip
Once again I was lucky enough to bring my students to the CFGAs. All students were able to attend this year, and they were so kind to donate to the Center goodies for the Apes–it always fills my heart to see the empathy in their hearts!
I have gone to the Center for Great Apes for years, and sadly this is the first year it rained. Luckily, we were able to get in a 90-minute tour to see the amazing animals who inspired Schrefer’s novel. To see more about the Center, the apes they’ve saved, and the amazing work they do, please visit http://www.centerforgreatapes.org/.
Author Virtual Visit
After reading Rescued, I was so happy to be able to give my (and Jennie’s) students an opportunity to interview Eliot Schrefer about the book. Each student wrote down at least one question they had for Eliot then in groups, the students chose their favorites, then based on these choices, we broke it down to 5 per class equaling fifteen interview questions altogether:
- Why did you start writing about apes in the first place? And how did you decide on the order of publication for the Ape Quartet?
- Do you like writing realistic fiction like Rescued or fantasy like Mez’s Magic better?
- Will you continue to write about apes now that you are done with the Ape Quartet?
- While the titles of your other books, Endangered, Threatened, and Captured, inspire a feeling of fear, the title Rescued inspires hope. Did this change in connotation of your title mark your different opinion about orangutans?
- Were you ever stuck in between two decisions while writing the book? When?
- Who do you think the antagonist of the book is?
- How did you come up with the whole “Raja bites off John’s finger” scenario?
- How did you come up with the concept of Friendlyland?
- How did you come up with the character traits for each character (Ex. Gary being a bad father)? Did you base them off people you know or knew?
- Can you tell us more about the corruption happening in Indonesia which allows palm oil companies to be able to keep burning down forests even though it is illegal?
- Do you feel that apes should be treated like human beings and given the same rights such as due process, land, etc. like the lawyer in the book?
- Was it hard for you to decide what would happen to Raja at the end of the book or did you know that you wanted Raja to be released into the wild instead of being kept at the sanctuary?
- Do you have a favorite sanctuary or zoo you’ve visited? Have you visited the CFGA?
- You used the word “merantau” which means “hitting a dead end and leaving one life to live another elsewhere” which pretty much sums up the theme of the book. Where did you come across this word?
- What writing tips can you give to students who want to be a writer?
We then did a Google Hangout with Mrs. Smith’s class and Eliot Schrefer on May 25th after school:
Some of my favorite answers/quotes from the visit were:
- Realistic fiction allows for a shifting antagonist.
- Wanted to help people realize that orangutans aren’t stuffed animals come to life.
- I don’t have characters first. I have stories first then make the best characters for that story.
- Apes should not be kept against their will.
- I used the idea of merantau to develop the plot.
- Advice: For any artistic pursuit, I encourage you to think of the long range range view. It is risky to put all expectations of self in one basket. Focus on the joy you feel when doing the art. Remember what brings you joy! And do research, take advice, and read.
Discussion Questions: These were the first five of the text-dependent questions I asked during our reading of Rescued as well as an example of a student response (color coded for RATE. R=restate, A=answer, T=text evidence, E=elaborate/explain).
- What can you infer about John and Raja’s relationship based on the first section?
- Why does John feel like he needs to go see Raja before he leaves?
- In the Q&A, the author says he “realized that a captive ape’s situation was similar to the plight of a kid during a divorce, getting swept along by the needs of powerful parents, at risk for being seen for what he represents instead of as a child with his own needs” (p. 251). How are John’s and Raja’s situations similar after the divorce? How are they different?
- Do you agree with the choice John and his dad are making? Why or why not?
- Why do you believe the author is beginning each part with a memory of Raja’s?
- How did the author foreshadow this scene (on pg. 99) earlier in the book?
Flagged Passages: “My telltale heart, the one I’d left behind.” (p. 38)
Read This If You Love: Eliot Schrefer novels: Endangered and Threatened, Hurt Go Happy by Ginny Rorby, Half Brother by Kenneth Oppel, The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate, Ivan: The Remarkable True Story of the Shopping Mall Gorilla by Katherine Applegate, Primates by Jim Ottaviani
Pink Is for Boys
Author: Robb Pearlman
Illustrator: Eda Kaban
Published: June 5, 2018 by Running Press
Goodreads Summary: An empowering and educational picture book that proves colors are for everyone, regardless of gender.
Pink is for boys . . . and girls . . . and everyone! This timely and beautiful picture book rethinks and reframes the stereotypical blue/pink gender binary and empowers kids-and their grown-ups-to express themselves in every color of the rainbow. Featuring a diverse group of relatable characters, Pink Is for Boys invites and encourages girls and boys to enjoy what they love to do, whether it’s racing cars and playing baseball, or loving unicorns and dressing up. Vibrant illustrations help children learn and identify the myriad colors that surround them every day, from the orange of a popsicle, to the green of a grassy field, all the way up to the wonder of a multicolored rainbow.
Parents and kids will delight in Robb Pearlman’s sweet, simple script, as well as its powerful message: life is not color-coded.
Ricki’s Review: I have two sons. I very much appreciate all of the wonderful girl-empowering books that have been published recently. I am constantly shooting up my fist and shouting “Hooray!” when these books are published. But as a mom, I appreciate even more the opportunities to tell my son, “Yes, it’s okay that your favorite color is ‘rainbow,'” “No, boys are not necessarily better at fixing things” (I’ll secretly admit that this one is actually true in our house—my husband is an engineer), or “Yes, it’s okay if your favorite Disney song is ‘Let It Go,’ even when you are the only boy in your class who thinks this.” (I should backtrack here and say that Moana is far better than Frozen.)
I have one more anecdote. The day after I read this book to my son, I went to a birthday party with my sons. My 19-month-old crashed into a boy who was about 2 and half. My kid, who is oddly resilient, popped right up, but the other boy cried. His dad said, “You need to man up. Boys don’t cry.” This kind of stuff has to end. It’s only with the publication of books like these that we will be able to defy these gender norms that drive me bonkers. Pink is for boys.
The basic (but well-conceived) drawings of this book make it shine. The point is clear—and younger readers will easily make sense of it. The characters are drawn as simple sketches and are understated. This makes the message all the more powerful.
Kellee’s Review: My son loves all the colors. Except, according to him, pink and purple. Where did this come from?! In my house, all colors are wonderful colors and girls and boys can like and do whatever they want, but he must have been told by someone ‘out there’ that pink and purple are girl colors, and Trent, wanting to be accepted, now felt he couldn’t like these colors. I try to counteract this notion in my house, but it is ‘out there’ that minds need to shift or I am fighting a battle so much bigger than I may be able to handle. When will we [general societal we] stop saying “You throw like a girl” as an insult or “Man up” as a way to tell kids to not cry?! I can teach my son to be a feminist, but until things like those stated above change, society will always be pushing against what I am teaching him at home.
Within the text, in addition to promoting the brilliance and beauty of all colors, I also truly appreciated how the characters were diverse in all aspects of the word and that the author purposefully rotated between girls and boys & boys and girls to show that neither deserves to go first.
Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: This book makes us itch to teach young kids. We would ask students to create their own versions (or posters) of this book. For example, they might create books called Crying is For Boys or Dirt is for Girls. As a secondary teacher, this book would be a great discussion starter about gender prejudice and assumptions in society.
Discussion Questions: How does the illustrator use simplistic drawings to better convey the meaning of the text?; How does the author convey the message implicitly and explicitly?
Read This If You Loved: Julián Is a Mermaid by Jessica Love, Red: A Crayon’s Story by Michael Hall, The Boy In the Dress by Michael Walliams, The Sissy Duckling by Harvey Fierstein
**Thank you to Casey at Media Masters for providing copies for review!**
My Magic Breath: Finding Calm Through Mindful Breathing
Author: Nick Ortner and Alison Taylor
Illustrator: Michelle Polizzi
Published May 15th, 2018 by HarperCollins
Summary: Do YOU have the magic breath?
Let’s see…Take a deeeeeep breath in…and BLOW it out…
My Magic Breath: Finding Calm Through Mindful Breathing
Author: Nick Ortner and Alison Taylor
Illustrator: Michelle Polizzi
Published May 15th, 2018 by HarperCollins
Summary: Do YOU have the magic breath?
Let’s see…Take a deeeeeep breath in…and BLOW it out…
…and like magic, you can feel better just by breathing! Sometimes it’s hard to feel happy. But with this interactive picture book, children breathe along as they learn how to make angry or sad thoughts disappear.
In a world that is sometimes too busy, with too many things going on, My Magic Breath will help steer children into a serene space of mindfulness, self-awareness, and balance.
About the Authors and Illustrator:
Nick Ortner is CEO of the Tapping Solution, LLC, a company with a mission to promote the natural healing method known as Emotional Freedom Techniques or “tapping” (a combination of Chinese healing practices). This is his second children’s book; his first was The Big Book of Hugs. He is also the New York Times bestselling author of The Tapping Solution, The Tapping Solution for Pain Relief, and the upcoming book The Tapping Solution for Manifesting Your Best Self. Nick lives in Newtown, CT, with his wife and daughter, June. You can find Nick at facebook.com/nortner.
Alison Taylor is an elementary school teacher and coauthor of The Big Book of Hugs. She writes to inspire young people, especially her beloved June and Harris, to find what makes them happy. She lives in Connecticut with her husband.
Michelle Polizzi is an illustrator and designer living and working in California. This is her second book working alongside Nick Ortner and Alison Taylor. She lives in the East Bay with her sons, Rowan and River, her husband, Nick, and their beloved Frenchie, Oscar, where they spend their days creating and inspiring one another. You can see more of her work at designbylovelyday.com.
Review: Deep breathing is a tool that I have taught my son to use to deal with frustration, anger, or sadness. This lesson was even more supported when Daniel Tiger taught him to, “When you feel so mad you want to roar, take a deep breath and count to four.” We use this mantra often to help him refocus when his brain is getting fogged by an emotion. Additionally, some of Trent’s favorite books are interactive picture books like Press Here! or Don’t Touch This Book. My Magic Breath combines these connections in Trent’s life into one! It not only promotes meaningful breathing in a fun way, it turns it interactive through the illustrations and second person narrative. This is going to be a book that is easily going to jump into our picture book regulars, and I cannot wait to be able to be able to tell Trent to “Think about what happened. Now keep it in your mind! Close your eyes and take a deep breath in. Now blow out your breath…”
Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: Anxiety is something that many teachers now find themselves talking to their students about because so much pressure and stress are on kids these days either socially, academically, or at home. My Magic Breath will be a perfect book to introduce at the beginning of the year then use throughout the year to help students understand and deal with their emotions.
- When do you feel the most anxious? Angry? Scared? Sad? Try using mindful breathing during these times.
- How do you picture your magic breath would look when you blow out during these times? What about a happy time?
Read This If You Love: Good Morning Yoga by Mariam Gates, The Moment Is Your Life by Mariam Gates, Moon by Alison Oliver, My Friend is Sad by Mo Willems, The Color Monster by Anna Llenas, Grumpy Bird by Jeremy Tankard
Be A King: Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s Dream and You
Author: Carole Boston Weatherford
Illustrator: James E. Ransome
Published January 2nd, 2018 by Bloomsbury USA Childrens
Summary: You can be a King. Stamp out hatred. Put your foot down and walk tall.
You can be a King. Beat the drum for justice. March to your own conscience.
Featuring a dual narrative of the key moments of Dr. King’s life alongside a modern class as the students learn about him, Carole Weatherford’s poetic text encapsulates the moments that readers today can reenact in their own lives. See a class of young students as they begin a school project inspired by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and learn to follow his example, as he dealt with adversity and never lost hope that a future of equality and justice would soon be a reality. As times change, Dr. King’s example remains, encouraging a new generation of children to take charge and change the world . . . to be a King.
“While the book is accessible as an inspiring primer on social justice and taking action, it also challenges more sophisticated readers to make connections between the art, the text, Dr. King’s life, the civil rights movement at large, and the continuing struggle to affect change . . .This book is sure to spark discussion and empower readers of all ages.” – Starred review, School Library Journal
“Thoughtful paintings of moving scenes are paired with brief, motivational reflections that evoke all the sentiment and fervor of the American civil rights movement.” – Foreword Review
“The book manages to make essential lessons in civic responsibility accessible to the very young reader.” – Booklist
“The historical scenes, painted in Ransome’s signature thick, saturated style, are infused with a powerful sense of narrative.” – Publishers Weekly
“The use of rich, realistic paintings with pencil detailing for King’s life contrasts with the brighter, simpler drawings for the contemporary children, giving a physical reminder that his work is ongoing.” – School Library Connection
Review: I am so happy that a book like this exists! It makes a beautiful connection between King’s history and how the same concepts can (and should!) drive us today. The book is very young kid friendly and is a great scaffold to talk about Dr. King or about kindness; however, it could also be used with older kids to infer and go deeper into the lyrical language Weatherford uses. I also loved how Ransome’s illustrations changed between King’s biography and the more contemporary school narrative.
P.S. As a teacher and a person who believes in kindness and equity and acceptance and friendship, I am so happy to see conversations like this happening so freely now! My students and I speak about injustice and prejudice and equity so often now when it would have been a stigma just a few years ago to even mention race or other social justice issues. It is important to talk about race in a non-prejudicial way with children to allow them to learn and grown and reflect. Sadly, it has been through horrific injustices that has gotten us to this point, but hopefully with our future generations having these types of conversations starting at such a young age, these injustices will stop.
Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: Have students look at each school spread (or split up the spreads between groups of students) and ask them to connect the ideals happening in the spread with something that King spoke about. This idea can also be used with the King spreads because it does not explicitly state what historical event each spread is representing, so students could look through King’s story and try to match each illustration and words with an event in his life.
- What was Dr. King’s dream?
- What are some ways you can fulfill this dream?
- Although he was speaking of a much larger issue than a classroom, how can King’s ideals be transferred to how we treat each other in the classroom?
- What events of King’s life were portrayed in the illustrations?
- What other ways could you BE A KING?
- Why do you believe the author wrote this story?
- What is the author trying to teach the reader?
- How did the author structure the story to reach her purpose and theme?
Read This If You Love: Stories of MLK, Jr.’s life, Books (historical fiction or nonfiction) about the Civil Rights Movement, Each Kindness by Jacqueline Woodson,
A Land of Permanent Goodbyes
Author: Atia Abawi
Published: January 23, 2018 by Philomel
Guest Review by Rachel Krieger
Summary: In a country ripped apart by war, Tareq lives with his big and loving family . . . until the bombs strike. His city is in ruins. His life is destroyed. And those who have survived are left to figure out their uncertain future.
In the wake of destruction, he’s threatened by Daesh fighters and witnesses a public beheading. Tareq’s family knows that to continue to stay alive, they must leave. As they travel as refugees from Syria to Turkey to Greece, facing danger at every turn, Tareq must find the resilience and courage to complete his harrowing journey.
But while this is one family’s story, it is also the timeless tale of all wars, of all tragedy, and of all strife. When you are a refugee, success is outliving your loss.
Review: This book is astonishing. In a world where people like to avoid talking about awkward things or situations that make us sad, this novel is completely, unapologetically honest. With every horror that Tareq experiences, you will find yourself crying with him, hoping with him, and loving with him. You will wish you could be with Alexia helping these people to find new lives. It is impossible to read Abawi’s story without reflecting on your own life, wondering what destiny would write about you.
If you know nothing about the refugee crises happening all over the world, this story will give you a glimpse into the lives of people struggling every day. Although it only looks into the lives of a few refugees, it gave me an idea of how different the life of a refugee is to my own. Atia Abawi’s story will make you reflect on your own humanity and actions, changing the way you think about the world and your own privilege.
Teacher’s Tool For Navigation: This is the perfect book to start a discussion about the situation in Syria. Since it is so essential to address current events regardless of the sensitive nature of those events, teachers should start conversations about this war-torn region. There are many young adult novels that address immigration, however, this one specifically follows the process of that immigration. It would be very beneficial to have students read a book like this and a book like American Street to look at very different stories of immigration with a few similar characteristics. This book in conjunction with others about immigration could be the perfect opportunity to discuss the idea of the danger of a single story.
This novel also offers a very interesting twist on narration. Since destiny is the narrator of this novel rather than one of the characters, there are small parts of the story that reflect broadly on war and humanity. It could be interesting to have students think about how this odd source of narration changes the story. They could even experiment with their own unique narrators, discussing how these odd points of view add or detract from stories.
Discussion Questions: What does the perspective switch add to the novel? Do you think a book like this is likely to encourage people to support this cause? How does Destiny as the narrator change this story? How would this story change if Tareq was a woman?
We Flagged: “Making it to Germany ended Tareq’s crossing and escape from war, but his new life as a refugee is just beginning. There are millions of Tareq’s, Susans and Fayeds, all in search of safety and kindness. I hope you will provide that warmth, be that helper, do what you can to make that world a better place. Because when I meet you—and I will—there will be reckoning. There always is.”
Read This If You Loved: Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Supetys, American Street by Ibi Zoboi, Picture Us in the Light by Kelly Loy Gilbert
I Am Gandhi
Author: Brad Meltzer
Illustrator: 25 Acclaimed Artists
Published May 8th, 2018 by Dial Books
Summary: Twenty-five exceptional comic book creators join forces to share the heroic story of Gandhi in this inspiring graphic novel biography.
As a young man in India, Gandhi saw firsthand how people were treated unfairly. Refusing to accept injustice, he came up with a brilliant way to fight back through quiet, peaceful protest. He used his methods in South Africa and India, where he led a nonviolent revolution that freed his country from British rule. Through his calm, steady heroism, Gandhi changed the lives of millions and inspired civil rights movements all over the world, proving that the smallest of us can be the most powerful.
Galvanized by Gandhi’s example of gentle, peaceful activism, New York Times bestselling author Brad Meltzer asked his friends in the comic book world to help him make a difference by creating this philanthropic graphic novel. Twenty-four illustrators–including many of the most acclaimed artists in comics today–enthusiastically joined the project, agreeing to donate their work so that their royalties can go to Seeds of Peace, a non-profit organization that inspires and cultivates new generations of global leaders. This extraordinary biography is a glorious team effort that truly exemplifies Gandhi’s selflessness and love for humanity.
The illustrators included are: Art Adams, John Cassaday, Jim Cheung, Amanda Connor, Carlos D’Anda, Michael Gaydos, Gene Ha, Stephanie Hans, Bryan Hitch, Phil Jimenez, Siddharth Kotian, David LaFuente, David Mack, Alex Maleev, Francis Manapul, David Marquez, Steve McNiven, Rags Morales, Saumin Patel, Nate Powell, Stephane Roux, Marco Rudy, Kamome Shirahama, Bill Sienkiewicz, and Abhishek Singh.
Kellee’s Review: I’ll be honest–when I first read on the cover that 25 different artists illustrated this graphic biography, I was worried that the stagnation of illustration styles would hinder the narrative of Gandhi’s life, but I was so wrong. Instead, by allowing each illustrator to give us their interpretation of Gandhi, his spirit instead flowed through the pages as it was obvious that his story had touched each and every artist, and the author, taking part in this graphic biography.
While reading, it was clear to me that Meltzer wanted Gandhi’s message of equality, peace, and kindness to scream at the reader, and this was confirmed when I read the Washington Post article about Meltzer’s inspiration. I believe Meltzer did a beautiful job not only telling Gandhi’s story but also showing that peace is possible in a time of tumultuous relationships but that the only way to truly achieve it is through similar activism as Gandhi.
Ricki’s Review: I read this graphic novel twice to myself and twice with my son. Further, I’ve read portions of it to my students. I can’t stop sharing it! I was blown away by the amalgamation of the 25 graphic novelists—it made for an absolutely stunning text. I appreciate the historical perspective that extends throughout the graphic novel, and I loved that the illustrations really make Ghandi’s story come alive. This is a book that I will share often and widely. If you haven’t read it, I recommend it highly—even if you already know a lot about Ghandi’s life.
Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: Have students connect Gandhi’s philosophies to those who influenced him and those he influenced. For example, in one of my literature classes, one person picked an author who was influenced by another (for example, Woody Guthrie was influenced by Walt Whitman) then the next student built on that (for example, Bob Dylan was influenced by Woody Guthrie OR Ralph Waldo Emerson influenced Walt Whitman) until a complete chain of influences were made. Then each student wrote an analysis paper showing how they were influenced then presented their findings (in order of influences) to the class. This same idea could be done here: Henry David Thoreau influenced Gandhi who influenced Martin Luther King, Jr. who influenced Barack Obama who influenced Cory Booker, etc. This idea could also be used just to look at the idea of peaceful protests that have changed the course of history: Gandhi, MLK, Black Lives Matter, Never Again, etc.
- What is the theme of Meltzer’s story of Gandhi?
- How did Gandhi change the course of history for Indians in South Africa and India?
- How did the 25 different artists illustrating the graphic novel affect the reading of the biography?
- How did Thoreau influence Gandhi? Can you infer how Gandhi influence Martin Luther King, Jr.?
- What was the importance of Gandhi’s march to the sea to hold salt?
- Why do you believe Meltzer chose the specific quotes he included in the back matter of the book?
“What Kinds of Storybook Characters Teach the Best Lessons?”
Do you want to teach your students prosocial behaviors? What are good ways to teach children about sharing, caring, helping, honesty, fairness, and responsibility? One popular way is through storybooks, which have been a part of children’s lives and schooling for hundreds […]
“What Kinds of Storybook Characters Teach the Best Lessons?”
Do you want to teach your students prosocial behaviors? What are good ways to teach children about sharing, caring, helping, honesty, fairness, and responsibility? One popular way is through storybooks, which have been a part of children’s lives and schooling for hundreds of years. Storybooks entertain, but they can also teach important life and moral lessons. But what are the best kind of characters in storybooks to teach children prosocial behavior? Does one type of character work better than another? Many stories for young children often contain animal characters who are anthropomorphized: they take on human characteristics and can talk, walk, eat, and get into all sorts of mischief too. A group of researchers at the Jackman Institute of Child Study in Toronto found that in a review of over 1000 children’s books, more than half the books featured animals, and only 2% were realistic depictions of the animals; in other words, 98% of the animals in over half of picture books feature anthropomorphized animals. People on all sides of the picture book equation – teachers, students, parents, authors, and illustrators – all have assumed that children are naturally attracted to animals and therefore in using anthropomorphized animals, a story may be more enchanting and its lessons more accessible to children’s young minds. And the bigger assumption is that children may be more likely to act in agreement with the moral of the anthropomorphized animal story.
But is this true? These same researchers – Nicole Larsen, Kang Lee and Patricia Ganea – realized in 2017 that no direct psychological or child development study had ever asked this question – are anthropomorphized animals better at promoting prosocial behavior in children compared to a book featuring human characters? The researchers realized that it was unclear as to whether children can learn prosocial moral lessons from stories with anthropomorphized animal characters and then act accordingly.
The researchers designed a study to help answer this very question: Can children learn prosocial moral lessons from stories with anthropomorphized animal characters? Do stories with anthropomorphized animal characters work better than stories with human characters at teaching kids lessons?
How did they study this? They first picked a book called Little Racoon Learns to Share by Mary Pacard. The book has a sharing theme and a moral lesson – that sharing makes you feel good. The story features anthropomorphized animals as the main characters. The researchers took the book and used Photoshop to create the same book, only with human characters instead.
All children in the study (males and females ages 4 – 6) had a vocabulary test first to make sure that they were all at a similar language ability level. Next, the children were allowed to choose 10 of their favorite stickers from a huge pile of stickers. They were then told that there was a child their same age that could not be there that day and therefore would not get any stickers. The children were told that they could share some of their stickers with this (imaginary) child by putting them into an envelope when no one would be looking. This was the pre-test or baseline measure to get a sense of their sharing level before they heard the book about sharing.
Next, students were divided into three groups of 32 children each. The first group heard the sharing story with the human characters. The second group heard the same story, but with the original animal characters. The third group, the control group, heard a story about seeds. The children in the control condition were also asked to choose between reading either a book about human characters or a book about animal characters. This question was asked to determine whether children would prefer to read the animal book or the human book when given a choice. If the argument that using anthropomorphized animal characters makes a story more captivating to young children is correct, then children should be more likely to choose the book about animal characters. I’ll cut to the chase on this one – the children in this control group picked each book equally – there was not a clear preference for the animal book over the human book.
After the three groups heard the book, the same sticker sharing task was given with new stickers (post-test). The researchers measured the differences in sticker donation before and after the story reading. Again, the researchers were wondering whether reading storybooks with a sharing theme could significantly increase children’s generous giving relative to reading the control story about seeds. More importantly, they examined whether the story in the animal condition with anthropomorphized animal characters and the story in the human condition with real human characters would have differential effects in promoting generosity in young children, that is, would the children share more stickers after hearing the sharing story with animals or humans, or would it even matter?
What happened? I bet you are very curious by now! Reading a book about sharing had an immediate effect on children’s sharing behavior: Children who read the book with human characters became more generous with how many stickers they donated to the fictional child. In contrast, there was no difference in generosity between children who read the book with anthropomorphized animal characters and the control book; both groups decreased how many stickers they gave.
Here is the chart I adopted from the study:
|Condition||Before the book: How many stickers did they donate?||After hearing the book: How many stickers did they donate?|
|Human characters||2.03 stickers||3 stickers ↑|
|Animals characters||2.31 stickers||1.7 stickers ↓|
|Control condition – book about seeds||2.14 stickers||2 stickers ↓|
Why did the researchers think this happened? Maybe children see anthropomorphic characters more as animals than humans. Maybe they are not able to interpret the anthropomorphic characters as being similar to themselves, and as a result, the lesson in the story is not absorbed. This does not mean that children should never hear stories with animal characters, but it’s important to keep this in mind.
Future research future should look at whether anthropomorphism in books has the same effect on older children as on younger children as this study was done on 4 – 6-year olds.
It’s fun (at least for me as a cognitive neuroscientist!) to think about storybooks from an academic perspective – maybe the assumptions we hold are not true – studying these assumptions in a systematic way can provide real answers and guidance for future generations of teachers and parents.
This post was adopted from the following article should you like to read it yourself: Larsen, N.E., Lee, K., Ganea, P.A. (2017). Do storybooks with anthropomorphized animal characters promote prosocial behaviors in young children? Developmental Science, pp. 1-9.
About the Author: Patty lives in Boise, Idaho with her husband, a zany awesome toddler, a dog named Pippa, and a dog named Spencer. She grew up in the Twin Cities and is a Minnesotan at heart (you betcha!). She has a BS in Psychology from the University of St Thomas and a PhD in Neuroscience from the University of Minnesota. She currently works in higher education. Her first book, Catalina and the King’s Wall, released May 5th, 2018 from Eifrig Publishing. At all hours of the day (and night) she can be found standing at her desk, helping her university run smoothly and working on her next children’s book. For fun, she likes to trail run, mountain bike, cross country ski, and hike. She is also a voracious volunteer for various local organizations.
Catalina and the King’s Wall
Author: Patty Costello
Illustrator: Diana Cojocaru
Expected publication: May 5th, 2018 by Eifrig Publishing
About Catalina and the King’s Wall: When Catalina overhears the king planning to build a wall, she fears her family won’t ever be able to visit. Catalina tricks the king into building walls that droop, drip, swirl, and swoosh away. But now the king demands an impenetrable wall. Luckily, Catalina has the perfect ingredients to bake up a family reunion! Through beautiful illustrations and enjoyable prose, kids learn how to stand by their convictions of inclusivity and kindness even when powerful people tell them not to.
Thank you, Patty, for a look at this study and for sharing your book!
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