Posts tagged responsibility

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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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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Crunch

CrunchCrunch

Crunch

by Leslie Connor

fiction

What would you do if all the gas pumps ran dry?  For Dewey Marriss, that question suddenly becomes very important.  His parents are stuck up north on an anniversary trip and are unable to get back without fuel.  Dewey and his siblings – 18 year old artist Lil, 13 year old mechanical genius Vince, and five year old twins Angus and Eva – are stuck making it on their own.  Bicycles become the main mode of transportation in town, and as people bike up and down the deserted highway, the family’s small bike repair business suddenly booms.  Now, Dewey must figure out how to keep up with way too many bike repairs, deal with irritable customers, and figure out how to get through daily life without his parents’ help. Then, things begin to go strangely missing from the bike shop.  Can Dewey stay afloat with the business, take care of the twins, and solve the mystery of the thefts?  And when will his parents come home?

Crunch shows us a scenario in which people must adapt to living in a world with minimal fuel.  It deals with a modern situation with an old-fashioned feel, being both a mystery and a family story.  Dewey has a tight-knit family and community, and his newfound independence and responsibility show the ways in which this experience changes him.

Curriculum Connections:

How can we best deal with the challenges that come our way?  Dewey finds that bicycles are a great way to get around when gas runs low.  He discovers that even though the world changes, there are ways that communities can help each other and adapt to get what they need.  How would his experience have been different if he’d lived in a city?  The rural countryside?  How would your community come together to help people get along?

What challenges might we face in the future?  What are ways we can use our knowledge to overcome them, and how can we plan ahead to make our communities more sustainable? 

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