The Keeping Quilt: Patricia Polacco

bookcover

The Keeping Quilt

Author/Illustrator: Patricia Polacco

Publisher: New York : Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers

Publication Year: 1988

Brief Summary: Patricia Polacco tells the story of her Jewish immigrant family and how four generations have been bound together by one homemade quilt. 

Awards, Honors and Prizes:

Sydney Taylor Book Award, 1988 Winner Younger Readers United States
Best of the Bunch, 1988 Association of Jewish Librarians
Not Just for Children Anymore!, 1999 Children’s Book Council
Recommended Literature: Kindergarten through Grade Twelve, 2002 California Department of Education
Teachers’ Choices, 1989 International Reading Association

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

  • Why do you think Polacco chose to keep only certain parts of the illustrations in color, while other parts remain in gray scale?  How did she use color in this book to highlight the theme of her story?
  • How has the quilt played a role in the characters’ lives? (Comprehension)
  • This story is a real story based on Polacco’s family.  Traci, Polacco’s daughter, was the last to get the quilt at the end of the book.  Can you make a prediction of who the quilt might be passed onto next?  How do you think the quilt will be used in this person’s life?  (Prediction)
  • What are some traditions Anna’s family keeps? (Comprehension)  What are some traditions your family keeps?  (Self-to-text connections)
  • Does your family have something that has been passed down from one generation to the next?  What is it and why is it important/special in your family?  Write a short story about it and illustrate. (Self-to-text connections)
  • Class Keeping Quilts: Have each student draw or write something that is important to him/her on a piece of square, colored paper. Connect all the squares into a “quilt”.  Have each student talk to the class about his/her square and its significance.  This could be done on actual quilting blocks that can be made into a quilt and given to the teacher/librarian as a gift.  (Art teacher)
  • Individual Keeping Quilts: Have each student make their own quilt (at least 9 squares).  What pictures/writings would they include?  Have students share about the significance of their drawings/writings.
  • Math connection: bring in some quilt samples or show the class pictures of various kinds of quilts.  What geometric shapes do students see in quilts?  Have students create their own quilting patterns using pre-cut shapes.

Tree of Cranes: Allen Say

Tree of Cranes

Author/Illustrator: Allen Say

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

Publication Year: 1991

Brief Summary: A young mother teaches her little boy (Allen Say) about an American holiday called Christmas and the tradition of decorating a Christmas tree.

Awards, Honors and Prizes:

Bay Area Book Reviewers Association Award, 1992 Winner Children’s Literature United States
PEN Center USA Literary Award, 1992 Winner Children’s Lit United States
Bulletin Blue Ribbons, 1991 ; Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books
Children’s Catalog, Eighteenth Edition, 2001 ; H.W. Wilson
Children’s Catalog, Nineteenth Edition, 2006 ; H.W. Wilson
Kaleidoscope, A Multicultural Booklist for Grades K-8, 1994 ; National Council of Teachers of English
Kirkus Book Review Stars, 1991
Notable Children’s Books, 1992 ; Association for Library Service to Children
Recommended Literature: Kindergarten through Grade Twelve, 2002 ; California Department of Education
Sharing Cultures: Asian American Children’s Authors, 2001 ; ALSC American Library Association

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

  • What are some of the mother’s feelings about America?  How can you tell?  Discuss the word “nostalgia” and “homesickness”.  The mother looks Japanese…why do you think she might be homesick for America?
  • Talk about Japan and its traditions and how these might be different from some of the traditions we have in the U.S.  Japanese people might not celebrate Christmas — why?  what do they celebrate instead?  Do you know of American families that might have different holiday traditions as well?  (e.g. Jewish families don’t celebrate Christmas either!)
  • Survey the class about different holiday traditions that the students hold at home.  Ask students why certain traditions are significant to their family — religious or not.  If students have unique traditions/celebrations, discuss how these might have come about.
  • Read alongside Grandfather’s Journey and Tea with Milk in sequence (Journey, then Tea with Milk, then Tree of Cranes).  Discuss how Allen Say based these books on his family.  His grandfather’s experiences is based on Allen Say’s life; his mom is the child in the first book, the young woman in the second book, and the mom in the third book, in which she taught Say about American Christmases.

Accessed at: Personal Library

Booktalk: Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys

Title: Between Shades of Gray
Author: Ruta Sepetys
Publication Information: New York: Philomel Books, 2011.
Age group: Middleschool and up
Topics: labor camps, World War II, holocaust, survival

Notes: 

Summary: On the evening of June 14, 1941, Soviet secret police tears through the door of the home of  fifteen-year-old Lina and promptly arrests the family without reason.  Separated from her father, Lina and her mother and younger brother are shoved onto a truck, and later, a train car marked “Thieves and Prostitutes”. They make their way to a Siberian labor camp, witnessing death and NKVD’s constant attempts to squash the prisoners’ spirits and forced to live under harsh, inhumane conditions.  Lina, an aspiring artist, fights for survival and vows to document the injustice that her countrymen is subjected to and the strength and hope they display.

Booktalk:

Have you ever wondered what a human life is worth?

How much would you give to spare your son, daughter, wife, husband, brother, sister, or parent from certain death?

Fifteen-year-old Lina is just a regular girl — a lot like you and your friends — who is ready for the summer to start.  She can’t wait to put on pretty dresses, makeup, and go on her first date, and is applying to art school to become an artist.

Lina is just a regular girl, but all that is about to change.  World War II has just started.

Here’s an excerpt on the night her entire world collapses:

(Read from Chapter 7)

They were taking Jonas.  My beautiful, sweet brother who shooed bugs out of the house instead of stepping on them, who gave his little ruler to splint a crotchety old man’s leg.

“Mama!  Lina!” he cried, flailing his arms.

“Stop!” I screamed, tearing after them.  Mother grabbed the officer and began speaking in Russian — pure, fluent Russian.  He stopped and listened.  She lowered her voice and spoke calmly.  I couldn’t understand a word.  The officer jerked Jonas toward him.  I grabbed on to his other arm.  His body began to vibrate as sobs wracked his shoulders.  A big wet spot appeared on the front of his trousers.  He hung his head and cried.  

Mother pulled a bundle of rubles from her pocket and exposed it slightly to the officer.  He reached for it and then said something to Mother, motioning with his head.  Her hand flew up and ripped the amber pendant right from her neck and pressed it into NKVD’s hand.  He didn’t seem to be satisfied.  Mother continued to speak in Russian and pulled a pocket watch from her coat.  I knew that watch.  It was her father’s and had his name engraved in the soft gold on the back.  The office snatched the watch, let go of Jonas, and started yelling at the people next to us.

Have you ever wondered what a human life is worth?  That morning, my brother’s was worth a pocket watch.

Lina and her family get to stay together…for now.  Read Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys to see how they manage to keep faith in the travesty that is committed towards them and their people.

Personal Comments: Students who are interested in WWII, labor/prison camps, and the holocaust can read Markus Zusak’s The Book Thief (2007), about a young girl living outside Munich during WWII and how she manages to learn to read and share stolen books with her neighbors.  Surviving Hitler: A Boy in the Nazi Death Camps by Andrea Warren  (2002) describes the Holocaust from the point of view of a boy survivor…might be interesting to note differences between a) boys and girls during WWII, b) Holocaust vs. labor camp experiences, etc.  Survivors: True Stories of Children in the Holocaust by Allan Zullo (2005) is a non-fiction title consisting of a collection of true survivor stories.  Due to the subject matter, all of these titles are suggested for middle-schoolers and up.

Crow Call: Lois Lowry

Crow Call

Author: 

  • Lois Lowry

Illustrated: Bagram Ibatoulline

Publisher: Scholastic

Publication Year: 2009
Brief Summary: A little girl gets reacquainted with her father after he returns from the war.

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 would it be like if your dad has to leave and serve in the war?  Why do you think Liz is unsure how to talk to her dad?
  • Informational books about wars — how did it affect families?

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

Accessed at: Thrasher Elementary Library

The Wall: Peter Sis

The Wall

Author/Illustrator: Peter Sis
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Publication Year: 2007
Brief Summary: Part picture book, part graphic-novel, with journal entries, maps, and comic-strip style illustrations, this book shows readers what life was like growing up during the Cold War under communist rule.

Awards, Honors and Prizes:

Ideas for using this book in classroom or library:

  • Social studies: Cold War, Iron Curtain (physical & symbolical), Communist/socialist, Stalin, Prague Spring of 1968, etc.
  • What do you think life would be like in that era?  How would your life be different depending on which side of the “wall” you lived on?
  • What does freedom mean?  What does freedom mean to the narrator?  Write an essay about what it means to be free for you.

Brief notes on curriculum connections/content learning standards/Common Core/etc.

  • Text-to-self connections
  • Text-to-world connections
  • Informational texts — inferences, drawing conclusions, making connections
  • Social studies: see above

Special features included (if applicable) — index; timeline; author’s notes; further reading; etc.
Accessed at: Thrasher Elementary Library

When I was Young and in the Mountains: Cynthia Rylant

When I was Young and in the Mountains

Author: Cynthia Rylant
Illustrator: Diane Goode
Publisher: Dutton Children’s Books
Publication Year: 1982
Brief Summary: Inspired by the memories of her childhood in Appalachia, Cynthia Rylant writes, in her first book,h about what it was like to live in the mountains with her grandparents and other relatives.

Awards, Honors and Prizes:

Randolph Caldecott Medal, 1983 Honor Book United States

Best Books:

Books to Read Aloud to Children of All Ages, 2003 ; Bank Street College of Education
Children’s Catalog, Eighteenth Edition, 2001 ; H.W. Wilson
Children’s Catalog, Nineteenth Edition, 2006 ; H.W. Wilson
Recommended Literature: Kindergarten through Grade Twelve, 2002 ; California Department of Education

State Provisional Reading List: 

Golden Sower Award, 1985; Nominee
Kentucky Bluegrass Award, 1984; Nominee

Ideas for using this book in classroom or library:
  • Do you have some favorite childhood memories or tradition that you and your family keep?  Start each sentence with “When I was young…”  Share with classmates.
  • Author study on Cynthia Rylant
  • Other books about Appalachia life
  • Discussion about different types of communities.  What kind of community does the narrator describe?  (Rural)  What is this community different or similar to yours?  (In the book, you have to get water from the well, go to the general store for food, etc.)

Brief notes on curriculum connections/content learning standards/Common Core/etc.

  • Text-to-text connections
  • Text-to-self connections
  • Social studies: types of communities

Special features included (if applicable) — index; timeline; author’s notes; further reading; etc. Lesson plan/autho study on Brain Pop Jr. http://www.brainpopjr.com/readingandwriting/authors/cynthiarylant/grownups.weml

Accessed at: Thrasher Elementary Library

Grandfather’s Journey: Allen Say

Grandfather’s Journey

  • Author/Illustrator: Allen Say

  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

  • Publication Year: 1993

  • Brief Summary: Say tells about his grandfather’s journey to America from Japan and feeling homesick for both countries.

  • Awards, Honors and Prizes:
  • Ideas for using this book in classroom or library:

    • Discuss immigration…what is it?  What might it be like if you have to move to a foreign country?  What are some difficulties you might encounter?  What are some good things that might come out of leaving for a new country?

    • What does the grandfather in this story miss about the US?  About Japan?

    • Students research their families background/heritage.  Are there students whose families — parents, grandparents, or further back — have immigrated to the US?   Students can make a poster about their culture.

    • Students can interview their parents/grandparents about their feelings about leaving their homeland.  Make a chart of what they miss about their homeland, and what they love about their new country.

    • Have you travelled outside of the country before?  What was it like?  What did you see/learn/experience?  Have students make travel brochures about a place they have visited and would like to promote to their friends (does not have to be outside of the country!).

    • What are some different modes of transportation?  The author’s grandfather traveled from Japan to California via steamboat.  Years later, when the author himself made this journey, do you think it was by the same mode of transportation?

    • Read alongside Tea with Milk and Tree of Cranes in sequence (Journey, then Tea with Milk, then Tree of Cranes).  Discuss how Allen Say based these books on his family.  His grandfather’s experiences is based on Allen Say’s life; his mom is the child in the first book, the young woman in the second book, and the mom in the third book, in which she taught Say about American Christmases.
  • Brief notes on curriculum connections/content learning standards/Common Core/etc.

    • Social studies connection — community, geography, immigration

    • text-to-world and text-to-self connections

  • Special features included (if applicable) — index; timeline; author’s notes; further reading; etc.: Scholastic lesson plan http://teacher.scholastic.com/lessonrepro/lessonplans/profbooks/grandfatherjn.htm

  • Accessed at: Personal Library