Archive for November, 2011

Something Beautiful

Something Beautiful

by Sharon Dennis Wyeth

illustrated by Chris K. Soentpiet

picture book

A young girl looks out her window into a trash-filled courtyard.  She leaves her house and walks around the neighborhood, seeing cruel graffiti, a homeless woman, and a dangerous dark alley.  She claims that her mother says that “everyone should have something beautiful in their life.”  She asks,  “where is my something beautiful?”

In school she learns the word “Beautiful.”  She thinks it means “something that when you have it, your heart is happy.”  When she walks around town later that day, she tells everyone she meets that she’s looking for something beautiful.  Every person in the diverse community is able to tell her about something that is beautiful to them.  Beautiful is a fried fish sandwich, a jump rope, an apple at the store, music, a smooth stone, a baby’s laugh, and even the little girl herself.

When she returns home, she looks around her at the bad things, then begins cleaning up the trash and scrubbing off the graffiti.  In her mind she plants flowers and gives the homeless woman a home.  She creates her own beauty in her community.

Realistic illustrations framed in interesting angles make this a rich visual treat.  As I was writing this review, a student peeked over my shoulder and asked what I was reading.  He asked if we would read it in class, and perhaps we will.  The spare text, hopeful message, and vibrant illustrations lend themselves well to create a wonderful and wonderfully usable book about revitalization.

Curriculum Connections:

Have students make a list of things that are ugly and beautiful in their community.  Is there a way to fix the ugly things?  What can kids do to help?  Why is it important to help?

Why does the main character decide to clean up the trash and scrub off the spray paint?  What do you think she will do if someone puts out more trash or makes more graffiti?

Some of the best parts of this book are the details – the fried fish sandwich or the beads in Rebecca’s hands, for example.  What details do you think help make the story come to life?  If you were to write your story about your community, what details would you include?

Advertisements

Leave a comment »

Addie On the Inside

            Addie on the Inside

             by James Howe

Addie Carle, activist extraordinaire, wakes worrying about states of matters: the state of the world, the state of middle school, the state of her relationship, the state of her friends.  Her voice is too loud for most people.   Her clothes are too blah for others.  And she tries her hardest to ignore whispers asking why he is going out with her.  But Addie has a rich internal mind, and she just can’t help caring about the world.

“I worry about/injustice and/ how to make the world/ a better place,/ because I contend/ that if you are not part/ of the solution,/ you are part/ of the problem./” she says in the second poem of this novel-in-verse.  “I worry how in the world/ the world will ever be okay. Then/I turn off my alarm/ and get on with the day” (p. 7, 9).

Addie wears duct tape over her mouth on her school’s first (unapproved) day of silence.  She responds emotionally to terrible news articles she reads, and isn’t afraid to say it aloud in class.  People don’t always understand her, and this book is rife with Addie’s internal turmoil about how own actions and thoughts and their discrepancy with others’.

With Addie, James Howe brings back one of his characters from anti-bullying groundbreaker The Misfits, offering a very personal look at a socially conscious middle school girl.  Recommended for middle schools (I probably won’t get this for my K-5), Addie On the Inside will appeal to students for its spot-on views of social dynamics, a respectful look at a middle school relationship, and a portrayal of Addie’s need to both fit in and find her own way.  Addie is hard not to like, although middle school students will also understand how others don’t “get” her.   Novels in verse are also a great choice for those who want light reading, but who are ready for real substance.

Curriculum Connections:

Questions for students-

How would Addie fit in in your school?  How would people react to the things she says?  What are some words you would use to describe her?

Do you think Addie approaches social change in a positive way?  What happens when she does or says something (like criticizing the abusive star , or creating a Gay Straight Alliance)?  How do her methods for approaching social change work or not work?  What are the best ways to create social change, and to be a champion at your school?

How does a novel written in poetry give us a different experience than a novel written in prose?  Is it more personal?  Easier to read?  Harder?  How could you go about writing your own novel in verse?

Leave a comment »