Archive for July, 2011

Zebrafish

Zebrafish

 

presented by Peter H. Reynolds and FableVision

written by Sharon Emerson

drawn by Renée Kurilla 

graphic novel 

 

A sense of loneliness pervades the beginning of this graphic novel, which presents a glimpse of six young adult characters, most notably showing purple haired Vita and her older brother Pablo, who have lost their mother to cancer and live on their own, and activist Tanya, who is undergoing chemotherapy for leukemia.  Colors are muted grays, browns and blues, which combine with distant shots and silhouettes to create a feeling of isolation.

In late summer, Vita impulsively buys a used guitar and when the ambiguous middle/high school year begins, she holds a meeting to recruit for her new band, Zebrafish.  Friends Jay and Plinko, Tanya, and Tanya’s brother Walt stop in to audition, each for different reasons.  Although no one but Vita even claims to play an instrument, they soon hatch a plan to create a music video centered around Walt’s art and Vita’s guitar, to perform at a fundraising concert Tanya hopes to hold for one of her many causes.  As they carry out their plans, the members of the “band” find that they are becoming friends.  Images are more colorful and contain busy dialogue, leading to a more cheerful tone.

One day, Vita stops by Pablo’s lab at the hospital and runs into Tanya.  She is left in shock after learning that Tanya has leukemia.  Pablo shows her around his lab upstairs, including tanks of clear zebrafish that help him study potential cures for cancer.  He tells her about a PCR machine that he can’t afford, but that would speed up his research.  Vita decides that the concert is the perfect way to help fundraise for the machine that could help her friend.  When the day of the concert arrives, there is a full house.  All is well until, mid show, Vita’s dog bites through the power cord and everything goes black.  Vita carries through and finishes the show with wild applause from the audience, making school history. 

In the short, inspirational afterward, Peter Reynolds describes how change happens “to you or by you.”   He encourages readers to find something they care about and do something to make a difference.

Although Zebrafish can feel a bit fragmented, humor works its way into the more serious elements of the story to create an entertaining journey into friendship, band-creation, and taking action.  The diverse group of cool-looking kids and the colorful illustrations will instantly attract readers.  The message of social action is one rarely seen in graphic novels, and this may be the perfect book for readers who want older characters and need an empowering message.  Recommended for grades 4+ but includes nothing that would make it inappropriate for younger children.

Curriculum Connections:

Zebrafish revolves around cancer and cancer research.  On the book jacket, it states that a portion of the proceeds is being donated to Children’s Hospital Boston.  It also may be interesting to note that text and illustration copyrights also go to Children’s Hospital Boston.  What does this say about choices of the publishers and authors?  How do other businesses make choices about their products that can be beneficial to the community?

Kids love graphic novels.  There is something so cool about reading both words and images and I know I feel totally absorbed each time I begin a good graphic novel.  Have students create their own graphic novel, either based on Zebrafish (introduce characters, present problem, think of ways they can take action to fix it), relay information about an issue, or create their own story.

The characters in Zebrafish make a difference by using their talents and skills to raise money for a cause they believe in. Brainstorm a few ideas of ways every-day kids can use their strengths to support a good cause.

 

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Each Living Thing

Each Living Thing

 

by Joanne Ryder

illustrated by Ashley Wolff

 picture book

 

The outdoors is filled with creatures, both small and large, going about their lives in tandem with human activity.  Each Living Thing reminds us, in simple rhyming phrases, to watch out for every living thing on earth.  Each colorful illustration depicts different children going about daily life (carrying out recycling, planting vegetables, swimming, etc.) and encountering animals in their natural habitats.  Straightforward text encourages readers to do what they can to respect and care for each animal, reminding them to look out for “streaming ants who streak the dusty trails – please step around their sandy towers,” and to watch out for “toads who lurch and leap across the road – please stop to let them pass.”  The ending message to watch out for each living thing advises us to “Be aware of them.  Take care of them.  Be watchful.  Let them be.” 

Each Living Thing is a reminder of the importance of being mindful of all the living things around us.  Just right for young children who may not want to let animals pass without picking them up or taking them home, this book shows a respectful (sometimes wary?) view of wild animals and examines of our role as caretakers of the environment.

 

Curriculum Connections:

Before a nature walk, read Each Living Thing to children as a reminder of some of the animals they may see and of the respectful ways to treat these animals.  During the walk, point out the benefits of leaving these animals to do what they need to do (spiders spin webs that catch pests, etc.).

Have children create a guidebook for others on ways to be respectful toward wild animals. For example, a child could draw a picture or write instructions for capturing a spider with paper and setting it outside instead of killing it.

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One Hundred Is a Family

  One Hundred Is a Family

by Pam Muñoz Ryan,
illustrated by Benrei Huang

 counting book

How large or small is a family, and who makes up this core community with whom most of us spend the bulk of our lives?  One Hundred Is a Family is a rhyming counting book that takes readers from one to ten, then by tens to one hundred.  Each number shows a different family doing an activity together, such as “FIVE is a family planting seedlings in the ground,” and “SEVEN is a family keeping traditions of the past.”  Especially as numbers increase after 10, we see the make-up of a family changing into a community-family as, for example, “FIFTY is a family mending after an angry wind” and “SIXTY is a family sharing a neighborhood street.”  These illustrations show an entire community coming together to help each other or enjoy spending time together.

Cheerful illustrations depict multicultural characters engaging in a variety of activities.  There is a myriad of stories shown on each page, especially as the people increase with each number.  Readers will enjoy looking at every detail.  One Hundred Is a Family ends with its title connection:  “ONE HUNDRED is a family caring for the fragile universe…and making life better for every ONE on earth.”  This is a great book to share when celebrating family and community!

Curriculum Connections:

This book would be excellent to use in Community units, particularly for students in K-1.  Some pages show concepts that directly relate to other topics discussed in sustainability, such as bringing in a harvest, beautifying the neighborhood, and helping a neighbor in need.  Discuss ways in which every family is different, and ways in which communities are similar to families.

The book would be a great model for students to use to create their own counting book.  How do your school community members help each other?  Students can practice math skills by placing the correct number of people on each page doing activities that help a community function.  Keep the numbers low (drawing 100 people might get challenging) and bind the book to put in your school library for others to enjoy!

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