Posts tagged picture book

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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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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No!

No!

David McPhail

picture book


How much can you say with just one word? David McPhail’s almost-wordless picture book No! begins with a boy stamping an envelope addressed simply to “the President.”  He puts on his coat and travels down empty, war-torn streets.  Fighter jets streak overhead while tanks and soldiers appear on the road.  As the boy silently continues on his way, somber-faced people peer out of windows.  One man defaces a picture of the president, and a policeman and his wolf-like dog angrily chase him.  When the boy reaches the mailbox, there is a bigger boy (a bully) leaning against it.  The bully knocks off the boy’s hat, and the boy finally says the book’s one, powerful word, “No.”  “No?” says the bully, scratching his head.  As the bully leans aggressively toward the boy again, the boy then shouts “No!”  The bully is stunned by his word and sits on the ground while the boy mails his letter.

As he returns down the street he walked before, the boy sees the policeman smiling, and his dog licking the face of the man they were chasing.  The soldiers have wrapped presents in their hands instead of guns, and a tank pulls a farmer’s plow up a hill.  Planes release a parachute holding a bicycle, which the (former) bully and the boy untangle and ride together, finally friends.

Curriculum Connections:

Simultaneously dark and empowering, No! symbolically shows how one person can make a difference.  When the boy says “No,” and then sends his letter to the President, he affects an instant and perceptible change in the world.  Illustrated in soft, sketchy drawings in the tradition of Maurice Sendak, No! can spark discussions of ways we can change the world, and gives the message that immense problems can sometimes be changed by the simple act of standing up to things that are wrong and saying “No.”

While it is appropriate for all ages, No! may be best used with older students (grades 3+)when covering local or world conflicts that are overwhelming and discouraging.  There are many people in the world who have, in essence, said “no” to things they don’t believe in, and this book would be a good introduction to a biography unit on people who have stood up for the things in which they believe.

No! connects well with letter-writing campaigns and any movement toward social or political change.  Use it (specifically mentioning the letter to the president) to discuss of the importance of speaking up about ways to positively change the world in addition to saying no to negative actions or behaviors.

No! could also be appropriate when discussing bullying behavior and examining the ways bullying can escalate.  When the boy refuses to accept or internalize the bully’s behavior, he stops it.  While the bully exhibits negative behavior, he is still a boy, and a boy with whom friendship is still possible.  There is a parallel between the behaviors of one person and one political entity.

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Seeds of Change: planting a path to peace

Seeds of Change: planting a path to peace

By Jen Cullerton Johnson

Illustrated by Sonia Lynn Sadler

picture book biography

“Wangari had an idea as small as a seed but as tall as a tree that reaches for the sky.  Harabee! Let’s work together!’ she said to her fellow countrywomen…” (Johnson, page 24)

Wangari Maathai, Nobel Peace Prize winner in 2004, is known for her Green Belt Movement in Kenya, in which she enlisted hundreds of women to plant trees.  Together, they worked against corrupt officials and greedy businesspeople to improve the quality of life for all. Seeds of Change: planting a path to peace is the story of Maathai’s childhood as a precocious learner, her studies as a college student, her work with women and children in Kenya and, finally, her outreach throughout the world.

Curriculum Connections:

Biography units are widespread in education.  Studying Maathai’s biography would be a great connection with studies on environmentalism, social justice, and creating an effective movement.  This book also highlights the important work she did as a woman and for women’s rights.  The economic benefits for the women planting trees can be examined when looking at the sustainability of the movement itself.

Literature connections can be made with other biographies on Maathai, including picture book Wangari’s Trees of Peace by Jeanette Winter and, for high school students and adults, Unbowed, a memoir by Wangari Maathai.

Connections can be made when doing greening up projects and tree plantings, or as a positive approach to studies on deforestation and land-use or natural resource issues.  Humans cause damage, but can also help repair it.  We can learn much by being inspired, and Maathai does inspire!

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Nibbles: a green tale

Nibbles: a green tale by Charlotte Middleton

Nibbles: a green tale

 

by Charlotte Middleton

picture book

There is only one thing Nibbles the guinea pig loves more than soccer:  dandelion leaves!  Everyone in the town of Dandeville loves dandelion leaves just as much as Nibbles.  So what is a guinea pig to do when the population of dandelion leaves dwindles down to almost nothing?  Pay lots of money for just a few leaves?  Eat cabbage instead?  Cabbage-and-broccoli quiche just doesn’t have the same delicious ring to it…

The day Nibbles discovers one last dandelion leaf outside his window, he must make a very important decision.  Should he eat it all by himself?  Or should he think a little harder?  Nibbles goes to the library and finds information about dandelions.  He shields the dandelion, waters it, and picks off bad bugs.  He is so patient that even when his dandelion is perfectly blooming, he doesn’t eat it.  Instead, when the dandelion goes to seed, he climbs the highest hill and blows the seeds out across Dandeville.  Soon, fresh leaves begin to sprout and the sound of eating again fills the town.  But does Nibbles go back to life as normal, or does he try something new?

Curriculum Connections:

Nibbles deals with sustainability through brief looks at economics (the price of dandelions goes through the roof  when the number dwindles), social justice (Nibbles finds a solution that works to provide food to all guinea pigs), and the environment (Nibbles protects the plant so it can go to seed and grow again).

Students can look at resources in their local community and environment, and think about ways to protect those resources for others in the future. For younger students, taking care of trees or gardens, growing food for others, and exploring the role of farmers would help bring the idea from book to practice.  Nibbles is one “person” who makes a big difference by doing the responsible thing.

Older students can expand upon the intersections between environment, economy, and social justice, and explore those relationships further by looking at fuel consumption, mining, and practices that utilize our natural resources.  How does the cost of dandelions change when supplies dwindle?  How can we make sure to plan our resources for future use?  What happens if the cost of heating homes sky-rockets and not everyone can afford it?

So – how can we best take care of our last remaining “dandelions?”  This book gives a few answers, but an even bigger opportunity for conversations.

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