Thursday, March 26, 2009
Tuesday, March 24, 2009
"Rule 7: Make your story come alive by using all five senses"
and funny at the same time, this book is a brightly-illustrated, hilarious look at the writing process.
I love this book! With its bright colors, double-spread illustrations, lift-the-flaps, and simple messages, it's a real winner!
Even the youngest of listeners can rally to the environmental cause with this eye-catching book. The simplest of messages can be read to the very young,
"I use... [lift the flap!] both sides of the paper."
in smaller print, (artfully positioned to become part the illustration) there is a slightly more complex message,
"If everybody did this, it would greatly reduce the number of trees we use to make paper."
This book is fun with a purpose! Check it out!
ISBN: 978 0 06 0297879
The Porcupine Year, sequel to The Birchbark House and The Game of Silence, continues the adventures of an Anishinabe, or Ojibwe girl, Omakayas (Little Frog). In The Porcupine Year, so named for the porcupine “medicine animal” that befriends Omakayas’ brother, Omakayas is now twelve years old and is traveling with her family in 1852. The U.S. government is moving the native people ever westward, and Omakayas’ family hopes to join their relatives somewhere northwest of their homeland in current-day Minnesota.
In third person narration, The Porcupine Year recounts a year in the lives of the Anishinabe family. True to the Native American view of life as a circle, the book begins in spring and ends full-circle in the following spring. During that time, Omakaya’s annoying younger brother, Pinch, matures into a resourceful boy named Quill, Omakayas herself, earns a new name, Leading Thunderbird Woman, and the family endures hardship and adventure on the trail west. Native American culture is woven seamlessly into the story, and is experienced through context, rather than explanation. When Omakayas and Pinch narrowly survive a trip through dangerous rapids, the reader completely understands the symbolism behind Omakayas’ decision to leave her precious red beads on a rock by the river as a gesture of thankfulness. Native words are sprinkled liberally throughout the story, but few will send readers to the included glossary,
“’We should continue north, giiwedin,’ said Old Tallow. ‘Few chimookomanag have made their homes in the great woods and lakes. We don’t want them to kick us out again!’
‘I still think that my brother might come through this way,’ said Deydey. ‘This is our old stomping ground. We hunted here long ago, But now…’
‘Game is getting scarce.’
‘There is always good fishing on this lake. But I think we are camped close to the big path of our enemies, the Bwaanag. If their warriors come across us on their way back to their homes, after a raid – mad that they got nothing, howah! – we’d be in big trouble.’”
Native culture is also evident in the respect that Omakayas and the other children have for their elders. The Porcupine Year, is not, however, a novel that merely glorifies the Indian way of life and excoriates the Whites. Rather, Porcupine Year is an honest novel that treats each person individually. Although the whites are understandably blamed for the Anishinabe’s forced migration, the family readily takes in two white children that have been left homeless orphans after a fire. Omakayas’ father is half-white himself. Later, it is a relative from their own tribe that steals from Little Frog’s family, and members of the fierce Bwaanag tribe that kidnap members of the family. As in all cultures, there are good and evil people, and Erdrich does not shy from presenting both types.
Overall, however, The Porcupine Year is not a Native American story, it is the story of a girl…
The Porcupine Year is not as deep and soul-searching as the multiple award-winning, Birchbark House, but its faster pace and shorter length (193 pages) makes it more accessible to younger or less-avid readers. The Porcupine Year can easily be read on its own, without its prequels. Some Native American legends are included as stories within the story; a glossary of Ojibwe words and author’s notes conclude the book. Pencil illustrations are by the author. Highly recommended for fans of adventure, historical fiction, coming-of-age, and Native American books. Grades 5 and up.
Tuesday, March 17, 2009
All Stations! Distress!, generously illustrated in simple, yet serious watercolor and pencil drawings, is suitable for younger readers. It accurately recounts the gravity of the disaster without sensationalism, focusing instead on the historical facts, (100,000 people watched the initial launch of the Titanic, S.O.S. had only recently been adopted as a distress signal)
as well as the actions and words of individuals on board,
the famous and wealthy owner of Macy's, Isidor Straus started for the lifeboat reserved for women and children , "then returned to her husband, saying, 'We have been together for many years, and where you go I go.' "
The lifeboat went without her and both perished.
A bibliography follows the story. All Stations! Distress! : April 15, 1912: The Day the Titanic Sank fills a grade-specific niche. Grades 4 and up.
Monday, March 16, 2009
Thursday, March 12, 2009
I watched as an Asian speller rushed through tatami without the slightest hesitation, while a young Caucasian girl struggled with the word sombrero. An urban boy was stumped by forsythia, while another Asian speller easily spelled raj. My own daughter had no need to study bezoar (she knew it from the Harry Potter books) and ersatz (thanks, Lemony Snicket), but was stumped by sorghum, a grain originally from Africa. While we may be good cooks and often use molasses, our molasses is known only by its brand name rather than its source. If only she were a fan of historical fiction! ;-)
My point is, in spelling and reading, as in life, we are all limited by our cultural context; the more we can do to expand it, the wiser we will be.