Posts tagged beautification

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?

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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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The Garden of Happiness

The Garden of Happiness

By Erika Tamar

picture book

    Marisol lives on a New York City block that has an empty, garbage filled lot nearby.  One morning in April, Marisol sees members of the community clearing it out.  They tell her that they are making a garden, and Marisol decides she wants to plant something too.  The garden plots have all been taken, but outside the fence she finds a tiny patch of ground where the sidewalk has cracked.  She picks up a seed from the pigeons and plants it in her little plot.  All summer long she waits, takes care of the seed, and wonders what the plant will be, until the morning when she arrives at the fence and sees a beautiful sunflower blooming high above her.  People in the community stop and smile at the flower, commenting on the ways the flower makes them think of the places they come from, whether Poland, Mexico, or right there in New York City.

As the seasons change, Marisol grows sad as she must collect the last remaining seeds of her dying plant.  All winter, she misses the sunflower.  Then, one day, Marisol is called to come quickly to see something.  Across the street, painted by teenagers in the community, is a beautiful mural of blooming sunflowers.  Under the towering flowers, bright in her red dress, is Marisol watering her growing seed.

The Garden of Happiness blooms brightly with colors and movement-filled illustrations on every page.  Community members play a large, positive part in Marisol’s story, and the growth of her sunflower is an accomplishment celebrated by all.  The Garden of Happiness celebrates one girl’s efforts to help something live and grow, while people all around her are also helping to make the community a more beautiful place.

Curriculum Connections:

The Garden of Happiness is a great book for gardening or community beautification projects.  The story could be read before beginning a garden or mural project meant to make the community beautiful.

The life cycle of a sunflower is depicted from seed until the plan dies and its seeds are collected by Marisol.  Read before planting flower seeds

Marisol also has a supportive community made up of people from all over the country and world.  A focus on diversity could show that even though people are from many different places, they all come together to clean up the city and they come together in their common experiences with sunflowers.

For a focus on the environment, the community works together to remove trash and make the earth healthy again.  Marisol and the rest of the gardeners take excellent care of the garden and take pride in their work and the upkeep of their community. 

Marisol shows that just one person can make a difference.  She doesn’t have a large piece of land or special seeds, but she cares for the earth  by making the effort to plant the sunflower and taking good care of it.



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