Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Becoming Naomi Leon

Title: Becoming Naomi Leon
Author: Ryan, Pam Munoz

Publisher: Scholastic, 2004
Genre: Novel, multi-cultural
Age Range:
4th grade and up
Awards: ALA Notable Children's Book, ALA Schneider Family Book Award, Book Sense Book of the Year Honor Book, 2004 Parent's Choice Silver Honor Award

Summary: I absolutely loved this book! Naomi Leon is a young girl that comes from a torn household. Her and brother, Owen, live happily with their gret-grandmother who has raised them for seven years. One day, their mother Terri Lynn (aka Skyla) comes back home. She has nothing to do with Owen and only wants Naomi. Owen has some issues with his legs and she wants nothing to do with a crippled. She doesn't care that he is as smart as everyone else. Owen has a weird obsession with transparent tape having to be on his shirt at all times (it's a comfort thing, I love it!) Naomi has the unique talent of carving soap (little does she know how much that will come in handy.) After almost being kidnapped by their mother, Gram takes the two kids, and friends, in Baby Beluga (their camper/home) to Mexico. Here, Naomi has the chance to meet her father, Santiago, who loves and adores both her and Owen very much. After going back to the States, the judge rules that Gram will continue to keep custody of the children. The father will take over once Gram dies, and Skyla can have scheduled visitations. By the end of the book, Naomi has become a lion! She discovers who she really is, understands her heritage, and appreciates the people in her life more than she could ever imagine.

Response: What an inspiring book! Never in my life have I read such a revealing book. For young readers, this book really delves into serious issues; child abuse, neglect, seperation, diversity, etc. Surprisingly, this book connected a lot to my own life. My real father left my mother when I was just an infant. I have never met him, but have always wondered about him (just like Naomi.) Fortunately, Santiago wanted to keep in touch and be a father. I am not sure if I would be so lucky. I guess that is one of the things that is holding me back. My step-father, who adopted me, has kind of become "Gram" for me and my mom. I never think twice about him being my Dad....after all, he raised me. However, I still have questions about my real, blood father. I think anyone would.

Anyway, this book even helped me deal with some issues. I really like how Ryan introduced these topics. She did not ignore that her mother slapped her and told Naomi that "there is more where that came from." She did not ignore that there was a six pack in the back of the car. I really like how Ryan put these topics in terms that children could understand, such as "smelled like gardenia and Gram's rum cake - but more like Gram's rum cake."

So many children would be able to connect with this book. Despite the fact that it is culturally diverse, many students come from broken homes and have surprisingly experienced topics that appeared in this book.

My favorite part of the whole book was the last chapter. I really like how Ryan allowed Naomi to sum it all up for the reader. The language was so poetic and beautiful. I really think that Ryan created a story that can be quoted and remembered for years.

Teaching Ideas: This would be such a great book to teach these controversial topics. Of course, teachers should approach it the appropriate way.

Another fun idea to do with this book is have students research their names. I love how throughout this entire book, Naomi discovers different parts to her name - and how she realizes how special it is.

"Becoming Naomi Leon" would be a great book to start the school year with. Have students research their names, and then throughout the year keep a journal of different things they find interesting in lists (like Naomi.) Encourage your students to come back to these time to time. This would be an excellent writing/ideas resource.


Monday, April 21, 2008

my favorite poems...

Here are some of my favorite poems from Kristine O'Connell George's "The Great Frog Race"

"Ghost Children"
I hear the quiet clank of the chains
against the pole.
The ghost children are swinging
in the moonlight.
Warm breezes and spring smells float
on slivered grasses.
Ghost mothers creak the wicker rockers
on the porch.
Talking softly as they weave their
honeysuckle dreams.
The children are swinging higher
into the trees.
Catching the moon between their knees.

Hovering and darting,
brightly iridescent,
wings scord like windowpanes,
this tiny piece of flying

"Metal Bucket"
No one remembers when
(or even if)
they ever bought one.

One day, it's just there,
sharp and shiny
in the sun. Proud.

A thin strong handle,
lip rolled just so for pouring,
smooth flat bottom for sitting.

Later, grayed and dented,
it is even friendlier,
loyal and steadfast.

A metal bucket
stays with its family
for life.

POETRY! (my favorite!)

Title: The Great Frog Race and other poems
George, Kristine O'Connell
Illustrator : Kiesler, Kate
Publisher: Houghton Millflin, 2005
Genre: Poetry anthology, picture book
Age Range:
2nd grade and Up
Awards: The Lee Bennett Hopkins Poetry Award

Summary: It is so hard to give a summary of a poetry anthology, but I will talk a lot about themes. George (in this book) writes about nature, specifically the midwest. She uses a lot of outdoor imagery and figurative language (this tiny piece of flying cellophane.) Although George's poems are often short, they are not simple. The illustrations help play into this. The book is covered with beautiful photographs, many are which full spreads. One of my favorite photos is the full page in "Weeping Willow" and "September." The bale of hay perfectly resembles a weeping willow. This helps shows the complexity in the this poem as well. One of the types of poems George uses is a concrete poem. Egg is a perfect representation of this. She also experiments with rhyme and free verse. Although she does use some rhyme, it is not "sing-songy." This, too, helps create the more serious literary effect. This is one reason I enjoyed her so much, because I could really get inside the poem and not be distracted by rhyme. As I have mentioned before, George definitely uses imagery. She paints a picture for the reader in almost every poem!

Response: I have never heard of Kristine George before, but I am so glad I did! I loved her work. She is so sophisticated in such a simple way. Her sense of language, literary elements, and the world around her all come together perfectly in this book. I don't think I have found a children's poet that I like quiet as much (besides Silverstein, he will always be my personal fav.)

Teaching Ideas: I am definitely going to go out and buy this book! I want to use it in my classroom all the time. It teaches so many wonderful things such as imagery, personification, and point of view. The hardest things for high schoolers to learn can be easily seen in this anthology.

I think one of the best ways to teach poetry is by reading some to your students everyday. Share a new poet with them. Share their work with each other. And share your work with them. One of the most uncomfortable things for me is to read my poetry a loud. By doing this everyday, you are creating an environment in which it is welcomed. I think this is the perfect way to get kids to enjoy it!

Also, don't forget to read the poetry aloud!! DONT MAKE KIDS JUST SIT IN THEIR DESKS! They will not understand rhyme, rythm, and meter! Here is George's website on just that!

now, go have fun!

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Author Emails!

So, I emailed David Almond, the author who I completed my "author study" on....and he emailed me back!

Here is what I emailed him...
Dear Mr. Almond, My name is Jeana Sigmon and I am a junior, Secondary English education major at Appalachian State University in Boone, North Carolina (USA). I am taking World Literature for Children this semester and we have to do an "author study." I have chosen, and completed, mine on you. While deciding who to complete my study on,my professor recommend that I read "Skellig." After doing so, I was so captivated! I loved the story so much that I continued reading. So far, in four weeks, I have read "Skellig," "Kate, The Cat and The Moon," "Secret Heart," "Kit's Wilderness," "Heaven's Eyes," and I am beginning "Counting Stars." I have never read anything like your works before. Since I am going to teach high school English next year, your books have really helped build my repertoire. Not only can males easily connect with your blurred magical/real life happenings, but females can easily get pulled in. Each of your books have wonderful elements that I will discuss with my future classes. I would love to have a unit planned around you and your works. I just wanted to THANK YOU for writing such thoughtful, imaginative pieces of literature. You have actually made me pause, and think about the everyday occurrences that I dismiss everyday. I read in one of your interviews that you do not claim to write fantasy, but instead you are a realist. You went on to say that the everyday world can be magical for children. I did not realize that I forgot this. How sad! Thank YOU for helping me realize this. Without imagination, this world can be a very boring place. I have attached the brochure that I completed on you and your works for my "author study" project. I also completed a visual display on "Skellig" and "Secret Heart," as well as a powerpoint on you. I look forward to reading "Savage" and all of your other works I have not gotten to yet. I am sure they will be just as enjoyable. Thank you for taking your time to read this, Jeana Sigmon

And here is what I heard back....
dear Jeana
thanks so much for your kind words about my work - and for doing your author study on me. Great to know that my work is being used so creatively so far from home! I've tried to download the attachment, but I can't for some reason. If there's another format you could send it in - a simple Word file maybe - then I might be able to. But don't worry if you can't. It's nice to hear from you. Good luck with your teaching. say hello to your students from me!
All best

So...I sent him another email (re-attaching the brochure).....

Dear Mr. Almond, Oh wow! Thank you so much for responding! You have no idea how much that means to me! You are so kind. I also wanted to let you know that I just finished "My Dad's A Birdman." I loved it! I think that is such an amazing book! I look forward to reading more books that are accompanied by graphics (Savage). I have re-attached the brochure. You should be able to open it now. I hope it depicts you the way you would hope. Thank you and take care, Jeana Sigmon

Now I am waiting to hear from him! I will let you know!

Here is a picture of him...Isn't he a doll?

The Mirror of Erised

The Mirror of Erised plays an important role in this later part of the book. Think about what the mirror symbolizes, the significance of the mirror to Harry Potter, and the theme captured by this mirror. Create a visual representation of what you would see in the Mirror of Erised along with an explanation of your image. Please post to your blog. :)
  • The Mirror of Erised is definitely one of the beautiful, magical elements Rowling creates. (I have no idea where she thinks of these things.) The mirror that reads, " erised stra ehru oyt ube cafru oyt on wohsi" really means, "I show not your face but your heart's desire." Harry sees his parents alive. If I were to look into the Mirror of Erised, I would see several things.
  • One of the things I would see is a family. By this point I would be married and would be holding a child. I have always wanted to be a mother and I hope that I have that opportunity one day.
  • The other thing I would see is a classroom full of happy students. I only hope that when I have my own classroom that the students will be happy and will be learning.
  • These are probably my two most desires. Hopefully, one day, I will have both of them!
  • (My camera was on the fritz, but I will post my picture as soon as it is back up!) Here are some temporary pictures for now....

Response to Harry Potter

  • Question: J.K. Rowling’s writing has often been referred to as being so descriptive that it is though you are in the theatre watching a play or a movie; her words create such vivid mental images in your mind. You will soon take on the role of a “Thematic Thinker” as you present important themes through this fantastical work of fantasy. As you have read, many novels classified as high fantasy embody the classic theme of the struggle between good and evil. Harry and his friends are part of this struggle as they face the evil of Voldemort in "another world." Part of the power of fantasy lies in the truths it reveals about the “real world.” Think about any of the many themes that are revealed in this book. For example: power of love, bravery, loyalty, prejudice, making choices/decisions, names and identities, dreams, truth, determination, fear, desires, rebellion/rule-breaking, success , or any other themes you think may be appropriate. Please blog about Harry Potter through these many thematic connections. Be specific and reference the book through specific examples.
  • Answer: One of my favorite examples of the "power of love" is when Hermione burns Snape's clothes to save Harry during the Quidditch match. I think it is so funny how Hermione always tries to be "big and bad" but deep down she is so caring. She is my favorite character, too! Success can be seen through Hermione as well. She is a girl who is smarter than all the boys. She can do so much! I think she is a great character to look up to. Choices and decisions are apparent all throughout the Harry Potter books. One of my favorites in the Sorcerer's Stone is when they make the decision to go find the stone. This has to be hard for them, but they do not want Voldemort to find it first. They are all so brave!

Harry Potter

Title: Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone
Author: J.K. Rowling

Publisher: Scholastic Inc., 1997
Genre: Fiction Literature, Fantasy, Novel
Age Range:
5th grade and up

Summary: This book has already become a fantastic hit that most people know about. Young Harry Potter is a child who is a living legend. He survived an attack by the horrible Lord Voldemort and ever since the wizard world has been buzzing about him. After fast forwarding 10 years, Harry is met by Hagrid, a huge man from the wizard world. Hagrid takes Harry to the Diagon Alley, the "main street" of the wizard world. He gets supplies he will need for school. While on the bus to Hogwarts (the wizard school that Harry will attend) he meets two people who will become his very best friends, Ron and Hermione. After a run-in with a troll, Snape, and Malfoy, Harry plays at a Quidditch match and almost gets into trouble. Snape tries to hurt Harry during the match. Hermione sees him doing it and sets him ablaze! (His clothes, that is.) While playing with the invisibility cloak one day, Harry sees the Mirror of Erised and sees his parents alive. This is one of my favorite parts of the book because he is taken a back and you never saw it coming. While on the quest for the sorcerer's stone, Harry has a run-in with Quirrell (who is actually Voldemort in disguise.) Quirrell is told to kill Harry, but with one touch of the magic boy he is burned. Dumbledore saves Harry and at the award banquet (surprisingly) awards Griffindor the house cup trophy!

Response: I read this book when it first came out in 1997. Since then, I have read three more of them and been an avid fan of all the movies. These books are so special and I really enjoyed taking a second look at it. Rowling is such an amazing writer that you really do catch something new each time. This is definitely a book (and series) that can be enjoyed through the ages. Rowling includes so many different elements that beginning readers and even sixty year olds can connect in what ever way they choose. The themes that encompass this novel also make it very special. Friendship and bravery are just a few that are my favorite. I personally think that this is an amazing book that takes readers to a new world they will not want to leave.

Teaching Ideas: I think there are several ways to approach this book. One of these ways is by talking about it being a banned book in many areas. This is a lesson you could do to use with that avenue. Since it is made into a movie, 3-5th graders could use this lesson to talk about differences in books and movies. Teachers could make this book a lot of fun. It also teaches really good literary elements such as foreshadowing.

I think this would be an awesome book to teach and if you haven't, you definitely should!