The Contest: Nonny Hogrogian

 The Contest: An Armenian Folktale

Author/Illustrator: Nonny Hogrogian
Publisher: Greenwillow Books
Publication Year: 1976
Brief Summary: In this Armenian folktale, two thieves try to outwit each other in order to win the heart of Ehleeza.
Awards, Honors and Prizes: 

Ideas for using this book in classroom or library and/or brief notes on curriculum connections/content learning standards/Common Core, etc.:

  • Discuss folktales and its characteristics.  Read other folktales and see if students can pick out similar characteristics.
  • From the text, what can you tell about the main characters?  What are they like?

Special features included (if applicable) — index; timeline; author’s notes; further reading; etc. 

Accessed at: Thrasher Elementary Library

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Ashanti to Zulu: Margaret Musgrove

 

Ashanti to Zulu: African Traditions

Author: Margaret Musgrove
Illustrators: Leo & Diane Dillon
Publisher: Dial Books
Publication Year: 1976
Brief Summary: In this alphabet book, children learn about customs and traditions of 26 African tribes.
Awards, Honors and Prizes: 

Ideas for using this book in classroom or library and/or brief notes on curriculum connections/content learning standards/Common Core, etc.:

  • Social Studies: Africa — show students (or have them show) on the map where Africa is.  Can they find tribes on the map?  Discuss different aspects of African customs/traditions/daily life as discussed in the book.
  • Language Arts: Students make their own ABC book — work individually?  pairs?  groups? — about their city/town/state/country.
  • Read a state ABC book if available (for example, T is for Tennessee by E. J. Sullivan).  Talk about the culture/daily life discussed in the book.  How is it different from Ashanti to Zulu?
  • Study pictures in detail…what kind of animals are shown?  What kind of clothing is featured?  etc.

Special features included (if applicable) — index; timeline; author’s notes; further reading; etc.  Artwork is beautiful!

Accessed at: Thrasher Elementary Library

Jambo Means Hello: Muriel Feelings

 

Jambo Means Hello: Swahili Alphabet Book

Author: Muriel Feelings
Illustrator: Tom Feelings
Publisher: Puffin Pied Piper
Publication Year: 1974
Brief Summary: In this alphabet book, children learn about African culture and daily life through Swahili words.
Awards, Honors and Prizes: 

Ideas for using this book in classroom or library and/or brief notes on curriculum connections/content learning standards/Common Core, etc.:

  • Social Studies: Africa — show students (or have them show) on the map where Africa is.  Find countries where Swahili is spoken.  Discuss different aspects of African culture/daily life as discussed in the book.
  • Language Arts: Students make their own ABC book — work individually?  pairs?  groups? — about their city/town/state/country.
  • Read a state ABC book if available (for example, T is for Tennessee by E. J. Sullivan).  Talk about the culture/daily life discussed in the book.  How is it different from Jambo Means Hello?

Special features included (if applicable) — index; timeline; author’s notes; further reading; etc. Editor’s note about how art was made for the book.

Accessed at: Thrasher Elementary Library

The Funny Little Woman: Arlene Mosel

The Funny Little Woman

Author: retold by Arlene Mosel
Illustrator: Blair Lent
Publisher: Dutton
Publication Year: 1972
Brief Summary: A retelling of a Japanese folklore where a little lady tricks demons, steals their magic rice paddle, and become one of the richest women in Japan.
Awards, Honors and Prizes: 

Ideas for using this book in classroom or library and/or brief notes on curriculum connections/content learning standards/Common Core, etc.:

  • Discuss folklore and its characteristics.
  • Social studies: Japanese culture, religion

Special features included (if applicable) — index; timeline; author’s notes; further reading; etc.

Accessed at: Thrasher Elementary Library

Booktalk: Make Lemonade by Virginia Euwar Wolff

Audio Version: http://sisdrupal.cci.utk.edu/jlin21/sites/sisdrupal.cci.utk.edu.jlin21/files/booktalk_makelemonade.mp3

Title: Make Lemonade

Author: Virginia Euwer Wolff
Publication Information: New York – Henry Holt & Company, 1993
Age group: Ages 10 and up according to publisher, but I would recommend this for middle-schoolers and up
Topics: teen pregnancy, teenage mothers, single parent famillies, inner city poverty

Notes: Novel in verse form might appeal to reluctant readers; stream-of-consciousness style also makes text easy to read.  On several Best Books lists (YALSA, Kirkus, ALA, etc.) and winner of the Golden Kite Award, 1994.

Summary: Fourteen-year-old LaVaughn’s goal is to be the first person in her 64-apartment building to go to college.  She sets out to save for college and applies for a job babysitting for Jolly, a seventeen-year-old high school dropout with two kids by two different fathers.  When she sees the broken-down building (even worse than her own) and the disorderly and stinky apartment, LaVaughn is unsure how much she can help.  She takes the job anyway, and the two girls work alongside each other to reach their separate goals and build their own futures.

Booktalk (print version):

What do you do when life gives you lemons?  Make lemonade…right?  But what if your life is so bad you don’t even get lemons…in fact, what if you are handed only a few lemon seeds, and no matter how much you water them, talk to them, and give them sunlight, nothing grows?

Jolly’s life is bad like that.  In fact, she lives in a broken-down, smelly apartment, crawling with roaches and covered in grime and dirt, rotting banana goo and dried up creamed spinach.  She is sexually harassed at work and gets fired for it, so now she doesn’t even have money for the basics, like heat, electricity, food, and toilet paper.  Oh, and get this — Jolly’s only 17 and has two babies by two different fathers, both gone, and no, she can’t afford any diapers either.

This is how she describes her life (read from pages 107-108):

You know how the astronaut up there in space

he might have to go outside the rocket he’s in?

Like to make repairs or something?

Like they radio him up there

from down in Florida, they say he’s gotta go outside

and fix something?

Well, he’s hooked by his cord,

Like a big belly-button cord.

Right?  

Well, spose the hatch closes while he’s out there.

By an accident.

It cuts his cord.  Slices it right off.  He floats away.

See?  He floats out there.  Just out there.  You know?

Just out there, on and on.

See, even if they wanted to send somebody after him, they wouldn’t know

where to look.

He ain’t connected.  See?

Sounds pretty desperate, doesn’t it?  And it is, until Jolly meets LaVaughn, a fourteen-year-old girl who dreams of being the first person in her whole 64-apartment building to go to college.  She answers Jolly’s babysitting ad so she can save up for school, but what do you think she does when she shows up and meets Jolly and her sticky, screaming kids?  Will Jolly’s mess derail LaVaughn from her plans for the future?  Or will the two of them somehow get those lemon seeds to sprout?   You’ll have to pick up this book — Make Lemonade by Virginia Euwer Wolff — and find out for yourself.

Personal Comments: Make Lemonade is the first book of a trilogy, followed by award-winning True Believer (2001) and This Full House (2009).  Readers who enjoyed the first will want to read the rest of the trilogy to see what happens to LaVaughn.  Another book about teen mothers and poverty — Janet McDonald’s Coretta Scott King Award for New Talent winner Chill Wind (2002) — tells the story of 19-year-old Aisha, a high school dropout with two kids, find her way to support her family in New York City.  McDonald also wrote Spellbound (2001), which tells the story Raven, a teen mother living in the housing project, studying for a spelling bee that could lead to a four-year college scholarship.

The Judge: Harve Zemach

 

The Judge, An Untrue Tale

Author: Harve Zemach
Illustrator: Margot Zemach
Publisher: Farrar, Straus, Giroux
Publication Year: 1969
Brief Summary: A judge discounts five different people’s tales that they had seen an approaching monster, only to encounter it himself at the end.
Awards, Honors and Prizes: 

Ideas for using this book in classroom or library and/or brief notes on curriculum connections/content learning standards/Common Core, etc.:

  • What lesson did the judge learn at the end of the book?
  • Using the descriptions given in the book, draw the creature that the people saw.

Special features included (if applicable) — index; timeline; author’s notes; further reading; etc.

Accessed at: Thrasher Elementary Library

The Blues of Flats Brown: Walter Dean Myers

 

The Blues of Flats Brown

Author: Walter Dean Myers
Illustrator: Nina Laden
Publisher: Holiday House
Publication Year: 2001
Brief Summary: A junkyard dog named Flats runs away from his abusive master in order to play the blues.
Awards, Honors and Prizes: 

Ideas for using this book in classroom or library and/or brief notes on curriculum connections/content learning standards/Common Core, etc.:
  • Music: introduce the blues.  Play a CD of blues music.  Why do you think they call this music “the blues”?  Think about the lyrics and the melody…how does it make you feel?  Read together with Walter Dean Myers’ Blues Journey.
  • Discuss the reasons why Flats felt like he had to leave.
  • Why do you think Flat’s owner let him go at the end?

Special features included (if applicable) — index; timeline; author’s notes; further reading; etc.

Accessed at: Thrasher Elementary Library