Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Nonfiction: Leonardo da Vinci by Diane Stanley

1. Bibliographic data
Stanley, Diane. Leonardo da Vinci. William Morrow and Company, Inc., New York, 1996.
ISBN: 0-688-10438-X

2. Brief plot summary
Leonardo da Vinci is a biography following da Vinci’s life from birth to death. Included are many of his most famous pieces of art as well as excerpts from his famous notebooks.

3. Critical analysis
This is a book for young and old alike. So many times books only focus on the actual pieces of art instead of what went into creating the art. In Leonardo da Vinci, Diane Stanley has looked at the man behind the canvas. Stanley has put together da Vinci’s life in a way that students can relate to. On the first page, students will see that da Vinci was not taught much past the basics in school, but he could create these beautiful pieces of art. The illustrations are set up to portray excerpts of his art within illustrations that Stanley has created. Included in different areas are also pieces of da Vinci’s infamous notebooks. In order to help students with some of the vocabulary, Stanley has included a pronunciation guide in the front. She also included a reference section at the end to lead students to more books about Leonardo da Vinci.

4. Review excerpts
a. Publisher’s Weekly: “ A virtuosic work.” (Starred review)
b. The New York Times Book Review: “A stunning account. A first class production in every way.”
c. ALA Booklst: “This is the best of the many children’s books on Leonardo.”
d. Awards:
A 1996 ALA Notable Book
A 1997 Boston Globe- Horn Book Honor Book for Nonfiction
A 1997 Orbis Pictus Award
A 1996 Publishers Weekly Best Books Award

5. Connections
a. Related books:
Leonardo da Vinci by Norman V. Marshall
What Makes a Leonardo a Leonardo? By Richard Muhlberger
A Weekend with Leonardo da Vinci by Rosabianca Skira-Venturi
b. Activities: This book could be used in an Art, Humanities, or Literature class. Specifically for Art, I would have students use this book to see the different directions an author can take, and let them decide which type they prefer from Leonardo. Diane Stanley has also written biographies on other artists from the Renaissance period, so students could compare and contrast the different artists of the time.

Nonfiction: Lungs: Your Respiratory System by Seymour Simon

1. Bibliographic data
Simon, Seymor. Lungs: Your Respiratory System. HarperCollins Publishers, New York, 2007.
ISBN: 0-06-054655-7

2. Brief plot summary
Lungs: Your Respiratory System takes a look inside one of the most vital systems in the human body. Starting from an intake of breathe, through the nasal cavity, down the trachea, and into the lungs, readers will follow the oxygen, as well as get the facts about what exactly your body does with each breathe you take.

3. Critical analysis
Lungs takes an extraordinary look inside the human body. Seymour Simon sets up the book to take readers from inhaling through all the steps our body takes to getting the oxygen it requires to survive. The front cover will grab the reader’s attention, but what will keep it will be the easy to understand way that Simon explains the science of breathing. The pictures will help the readers visualize each part of the respiratory system. Between the man sneezing and the photograph of a person's trachea, students will be fascinated what they see. The Glossary and Index keep the book very user friendly.

4. Review excerpt
a. School Library Journal: “The writing is concise and full of clear examples meaningful to kids.”
b. Booklist: “Although this book isn't quite as detailed as some of the author's previous texts about the human body, there's still plenty of information for elementary-school readers.”

5. Connections
a. Related Books:
i. The Brain by Seymour Simon
ii. The Heart by Seymour Simon
iii. Guts by Seymour Simon
b. Activities:
Great book to use in a science class. You could split the class into groups and have each group focus on a different human body system. Many of Seymour Simon’s books could be used as references.

Nonfiction: Shipwreck at the Bottom of the World by Jennifer Armstrong

1. Bibliographic data
Armstrong, Jennifer. Shipwreck at the Bottom of the World: The Extraordinary True Story of Shackleton and the Endurance. Crown Books for Young Readers, New York, 2000.
ISBN: 0-517-80014-4

2. Brief plot summary
In the fall of 1914, Ernest Shackleton and his crew sailed from England in the hopes of exploring Antarctica. As the weather turned and the elements were against the Endurance, survival was all that was on their minds.

3. Critical analysis
In Shipwreck at the Bottom of the World, Jennifer Armstrong has brought this exciting true story to life for young readers. In each chapter, Armstrong has carefully chosen specific events to describe and each page leaves you wanting more. The men aboard the Endurance had so much set against them, and yet the somehow “endured”. To add to the unbelievable story is amazing pictures taken by Frank Hurley. In Shipwreck, you have a nonfiction masterpiece that students will not want to put down until they have read the last page. Armstrong ends the book with, “Here’s to the long white road that beckons,/the climb that baffles, the risk that nerves./And here is to the merry heart that reckons/The rough with the smooth and nerve swerves.” This verse, from a New Zealand school song and one of Shackleton’s favorites, tells you so much about this amazing crew and their fearless leader. Armstrong has an obvious passion for this topic and has made Shipwreck a must read for young adults.

4. Review excerpts
a. School Library Journal: “"A book that will capture the attention and imagination of any reader."
b. Publisher’s Weekly: “Armstrong's absorbing storytelling, illustrated with dramatic black-and-white photographs, makes this an enthralling adventure."
c. Kirkus Reviews: “This unbelievable story is enhanced by the vigorous prose; from the captivating introduction through the epilogue, it is the writing as much as the story that will rivet readers."
d. Awards:
Orbis Pictus Award for Outstanding Fiction
ALA Notable Book for Children
ALA Best Book for Young Adults
Boston Globe-Horn Book Honor Book
Horn Book Fanfare
Publishers Weekly Choice of the Year's Best Books

5. Connections
a. Related Books:
i. Endurance: Shackleton’s Incredible Journey by Alfred Lansing
ii. The Endurance: Shackleton’s Legendary Antarctica Expedition by Caroline Alexander
b. Activities: The class could create a classroom timeline in order to help the students understand the timing of major events. I would also have the students focus on cause and effect of the major events.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Poetry: Stop Pretending: What Happened When My Big Sister Went Crazy By Sonya Sones

1. Bibliographic data
Sones, Sonya. Stop Pretending: What Happened When My Big Sister Went Crazy. HarperCollins Children’s Books, New York, 1999. ISBN: 0-06-446218-8

2. Brief plot summary
What do you do when your big sister suddenly starts hearing voices? What do you say to your friends? Cookie now has to go down the emotional journey that she never dreamed she would be embarking on to find the answers.

3. Critical analysis
In Stop Pretending, Sonya Sones takes a complicated and painful matter and puts these raw emotions down in a way that anyone can relate. Each poem brings the reader face to face with the realities of mental illness and the challenges that families face when it affects them. Cookie faces remembering what her sister was like before, and dealing with the reality of who she is now. In the poem “Tired”, Cookie says “I’m tired/ of having a crazy sister./ I am tired of being/ the sister of a crazy person.” Sones takes a sensitive topic and tells a story that anyone can relate too. The story is continued as the poems go from a very depressed state to one of hope. At the end of the book, Sones brings the readers into her experiences with mental illness and how she dealt with them. By doing this, readers will be able to delve deeper into each word and understand them on a different level.

4. Review excerpt
a. School Library Journal- “Unpretentious. Accessible. Deeply felt.”
b. ALA Booklist- “The poems have a cumulative emotional power. They record the personal and translate it into the universal.”

5. Connections
a. Activities: When teaching Purpose, you could introduce this book in order to show the students how to express. You could also use it to show voice.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Poetry: What is Goodbye? by Nikki Grimes

1. Bibliographic data
Grimes, Nikki. What is Goodbye? Ill. by Raul Colon. Hyperion Books for Children, New York, 2004. ISBN: 0-7868-0778-4

2. Brief plot summary
Jerilyn and Jesse’s big brother just died. As their parents struggle to put the pieces back together, Jerilyn and Jesse must cope with a new “normal”. Each topic is told from both Jerilyn’s and Jesse’s point of view so that we get see grief dealt with in different ways.

3. Critical analysis
In What is Goodbye?, Nikki Grimes has taken a topic that is so hard to talk about and written beautiful poems that focus on the new life of Jerilyn and Jesse. Each is trying so hard to get through the devastating loss of a sibling and each must do it their own way. Grimes gives the topic more depth by putting it in two different perspectives with each flowing and integrating so gracefully. In “Regrets”, Jerilyn writes,“ I yelled at him/that morning,/don’t ask me why./ My so-called reason/is small enough/to dance on the head /of a pin.” Jesse says in his side of “Regrets”, “I sneer into the mirror/ raging at the traitor standing there./ How could he go all day/ without thinking of his brother?/ Doesn’t he even care?” There is so much longing in each side. Add to “Regrets” the colored pencils drawing by Raul Colon. His illustrations add so much emotion and depth that you felt the grief coming through their eyes.

4. Review excerpts:
a. School Library Journal- “Grimes's novella in verse is a prime example of how poetry and story can be combined to extend one another.”
b. Kirkus Reviews- “Grimes addresses many areas of the grief process, often in a poignant fashion that is hard to witness; the boy hears his father crying in the night, for instance.”
c. Publishers Weekly- “Anyone who has experienced loss will recognize the gamut of emotions Grimes lays out here.”

5. Connections
a. Activities: In order to teach about expression, this would be the perfect book. It would also work well when discussing different points of view.
b. Children’s Responses: Keep in mind that some students have experienced this and to be sensitive to the topic.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Poetry: The Brothers' War: Civil War Voices in Verse by J. Patrick Lewis

1. Bibliographic data:
Lewis, J. Patrick. The Brothers’ War: Civil War Voices in Verse. National Geographic Society, Washington D.C, 2007. ISBN 978-1-4263-0036-3.

2. Brief plot summary:
So many times in war, all we know are the statistics. We do not know the people, emotions, controversies that happened on the battlefield. J. Patrick Lewis tries to bring a voice to the Civil War by writing poems from the different sides’ point of view.

3. Critical analysis:
When dealing with any war, many authors are either in your face with the gruesome details or too vague for anyone to really feel the book. J. Patrick Lewis finds the perfect balance in The Brothers’ War: Civil War Voices in Verse. With many different rhythms and lengths, Lewis brings a voice to a war that many people only see one side of. He then adds many different points of view and different battles so we get a feeling of how people and places felt, before and after the war. In the poem “The Raider”, Lewis writes it from John Brown’s point of view after he tried to take the armory in Harper’s Ferry. In the last stanza, he writes “In truth I am a white man/In sympathy a black./But for this rope, I might have seen/Us win our freedom back.” Each verse, each poem is haunted with the ghosts of the Civil War. In order to bring everything together, Lewis has paired each poem with a photograph taken during the Civil War. Students will be able to not only “feel” each poem, but they will also see firsthand the devastation that the Civil War caused.

4. Review excerpts
a. Publisher’s Weekly- “This heartrending collection of original poems paired with photographs by Civil War photographers makes real what statistics about war cannot-that the casualties of any war have human faces.”
b. Voya- “Teens will be captivated by the faces of these young soldiers-not so different from themselves-and teens who already have an interest in the Civil War will linger over each page.”
c. School Library Journal- “It is difficult to judge which is more haunting in this volume-Lewis's 11 poems or the historical photographs that illustrate them.”

5. Connections
a. Activities: This book would be great for a inter-curricular unit. While the Social Studies teacher is working on the Civil War, the Literature could have students analyze these poems. Then the English teacher could have students pick a battle and write a poem from one side’s point of view.
b. Related Books:
i. Ward, Geoffrey C. The Civil War: An Illustrated History. Knopf Doubleday
Publishing Group, New York, 1992.
ii. Murphy, Jim. The Boys’ War: Confederate and Union Soldiers Talk About the Civil
War. Houghton MIfflin Harcourt, New York, 1993.