Squanto’s Journey

November 16, 2008

During this Thanksgiving season, have a discussion about the Native American’s perspective on the holiday.  Having heard the author speak once at NCTE, Joseph Bruchac  wishes to keep the Native American culture alive.  He brings to light one Native American’s, Squanto’s, perspective through his first person narrative, Squanto’s Journety:  The Story of the First Thanksgiving.

 The Story of the First Thanksgiving

Joseph has an author’s note in the back, which gives some historical background to Squanto’s life.  We often read about he Pilgrims’ side of the story but rarely the Native American view.  Squanto was a vital piece to the Pilgrims’ success.

Squanto flashes back to how he was captrued, taken to Spain, and then returned six years later.  The first-person narrative summaries the trials of making peace and being cautious with the Pilgrims through the eyes of Squanto.  The vivid paintings by Greg Shed create a natural effect.  I almost feel like I’m watching a movie through his creation.

Joseph Bruchac is a great story teller from the Wampanoag Native nation.  Storytelling has been a part of his culture since the beginning, sharing heritage from one generation to the next.  We need to remember to pass along our stories to our next generation.  these stories honor the ones we love and teach our children lessons learned.

In the end of the book, the feat of the first Thanksgiving is celebrated.  All are thankful for the great harvest and also for the friendship between the English and the Indians.

Joseph Bruchac ends through the words of Squanto, “I pray that there will be many more such days to give thanks together in the years that follow.

Savorings for reading and in writing for Squanto’s Journey:

  • First-person narrative
  • Timeline
  • Reflection – “Though much was changed, I knew that I at last had returned to the land of my home.”
  • Character traits – Native Americans, Pilgrims, Englishmen
  • Compare/contrast – to other books, between the ways of the Pilgrims and Native Americans
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Nature Lovers

November 15, 2008

As I take a picture walk through the book Peepers by Eve Bunting, I’m drawn in to the colorful scenery illustrates so poetically by James Ransome

PeepersTwo sons accompany their dad on the Leaf Peeper Tours.  They are not enthused, but dutifully help their father.  To pass the time, the story is sprinkled with their kid-like antics.  “Behind their backs Jim moose-prances and makes antlers with his fingers.”  The boys are amused as the tourists sigh and ooohh about autumn’s beauty. 

Time passes and in the end, both boys begin to notice nature in its winter’s newness.  Both seem surprised, embarrassed, as they realize they’ve become like the Peepers.

 

Savorings for reading and in writing for Peepers:

  • Descriptive – “Aspens shower gold into the water.”
  • Similes – “Our bus crawls slow as a caterpillar.”
  • Kid’s realism – “Jim about busts laughing.”
  • Show don’t tell – “Jim and I roll our eyes.”
  • Passage of time – beginning of autumn until the leaves have all fallen
  • Reflection
  • Science – different types of trees:  “shagbark hickory trees, red-feathered sumac, speckled adlers

Winter Lullaby

November 14, 2008

Barbara Seuling shares the transition from fall to winter in the book Winter Lullaby.  The book’s structure is set as a question/ answer style.  Greg Newbold illustrates the simple text with such vivid illustrations. 

They almost look like photos.  Winter Lullaby

I love the way that nonfiction information is presented to the reader by asking the reader to think.  “When the breeze blows the petals off the flowers, where do the bees go?”  Upon turning the page, the reader is answered: “Inside their hives till spring arrives.”  I love the choice of words that bring to live nature’s science:  “When white frost creeps across the country meadow…”

Savorings for reading and in writing for Winter Lullaby:

  • Questions
  • Dependent clauses
  • Prepositional phrases – “across the sky
  • Time passage – fall to winter seasons
  • Science – hibernation, seasonal changes

Are We There Yet?

November 13, 2008

The age old question from children, “Are we there yet?”, causes parents to just sigh.  Even Hollywood jumped on the theme and created movies from it.  We can all relate.

Eve Bunting grabbed hold of the question and created a book with a more somber mood.  How Many Days to America?:  A Thanksgiving Story is about a family from the Caribbean who flee the country.  The story is told through the oldest son’s viewpoint.  Kids can relate.  They have listened to their parents whisper in the night like these children.  Hopefully, most kids have not had to go through the difficulties that this family goes through.

I believe twe need to teach our chldren to be compassionate to others and to be grateful for what we have.  Eve Bunting has created an avenue for discussion on this issue through this book.  She has also authored other books around sociological issues.  Using picture books, you can promote conversations and provide an avenue for synthesizing the story.  (Fly Away Home is another book to share.

Eve Bunting dedicates the book to “The children who came and to Marilyn Carpenter who shared their stories.”  I wonder who they are?  What I do know is that their stories inspired her to write this book.  Share that with your kids.

Side note:  I came across a website that has some teacher plans on multiculturalism.  It gives more detail that relate to How Many Days to America?:  A Thanksgiving Storyhttp://www.palmbeach.k12.fl.us/Multicultural/curriculum/Haiti/4th%20Days.pdf

Savorings for reading and in writing for How Many Days to America?  A Thanksgiving Story:

  • Wonderings – How would it feel to leave all your special things behind?
  • Inference – “‘I must have your wedding ring’, My father told my mother. (…)She did not speak.”
  • Repeating line – “How many days to America?”
  • Tension – “We were an hour from shore when the motors stopped.”
  • Connection/Compare – “Long ago, unhappy people came here to start new lives.”  Compare to the present day settling of the refugees coming to America.

‘Twas the Night before Thanksgiving

November 12, 2008

Dav Pilkey authored a fun text, ‘Twas the Night Before Thanksgiving,  that will delight any aged audience.  Based on the poem, ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas, Dav Pilkey ventures to imagine what children would be thinking prior to the Thanksgiving holiday.  Mmm, delicious turkey meat maybe?  This field trip adventure changes the minds of the children after becoming friends with the turkeys.  When someone finds Farmer Nuggett’s ax, “they clamored aloud in a chorus of cries.” His poetic story ends with the children saving the day.

Side note:  I wonder where Dav Pilkey came up with the turkey names.  Past TV characters?  “Now Ollie, now Stanley, now Larry and Moe, On Wally, on Beaver, on Shemp and Groucho!”

Savorings for reading and in writing for ‘Twas the Night Before Thanksgiving:

  • Hyphenated word – new-falled leaves
  • Use this text to examine the complexity of word usage between verbs, nouns, and adjectives:
  • Verbs – whistled, gobbled
  • Nouns – terrains, cockerels, clatter
  • Colon – in a list
  • Rhyming
  • Ending – allows the children to think of what they might be thankful for:  “So each one gave thanks for love and for living...”

A Plump Turkey

November 12, 2008

Teresa Bateman writes a cute poetic narrative about a community, who’s turkeys seem to disappear during the fall season in A Plump and Perky Turkey.  Jeff Shelly illustrates creative pictures, personifying the turkey as they sneak away.  Kids will find it funny.  The towns people of Squawk Valley are dismayed, and the idea of having an “arts-and-craft fair” featuring turkey art sparks the town.  They advertise in the forest asking for a turkey to be a model.

The turkey, Pete, becomes the center of attention.  It’s curious that the townspeople can only think of a turkey for its feast.  Jeff Shelly illustrates a pig throughout the story as an equally-concerned citizen.  I find that rather odd, considering ham can be an alternate meat at Thanksgiving.  The pig is just as happy about the prospect of turkey.  I think the illustrations themselves would create a curious conversation with your students.

Savorings for reading and in writing for A Plump and Perky Turkey:

  • Feelings – “downhearted and depressed
  • Vocabulary:  clever – “no turkey to be found.”  If you are introducing the word “clever”, this book explains the vocabulary word thoroughly.
  • Think Bubbles – “We’ll fill our fair with folks and fun and tons of turkey art.”
  • Alliteration – “plump, perky, pines
  • Past Tense Verbs – strutted, startled, intrigued, cheered, disappeared

America’s White Table

November 11, 2008

In honor of our veterans, Margot Theis Raven has written a beautifully moving piece called America’s White Table.  The American Legion and military events honor those men and women who have fought for our country.  Margot Theis Raven introduces this symbol of honor by writing a story of a mother telling a story to her three girls.  Each part of the table, from the white table cloth to the red rose, is explained.  She interweaves a repeating line:  “It was just little white table…“.  Margot also has the words of “My Country ‘Tis of Thee” throughout the bottom of each two page spread.

The story unfolds through the eyes of the oldest niece.  She learns what happened to Uncle John during the Vietnam War.  When the story ended, Katie wanted to do something special.  Her sisters drew him pictures and another wrote him a letter.  Uncle John comes and Katie realizes that she will promise “to put the words from my heart into a little book about America’s White Table.

Margot Theis Raven goes on and shares in the Author’s Note the history of the white table.  “A group called the Red River Valley Fighter Pilots Association or the River Rats set the first MIA/POW Remembrance Table.”  May we not forget the courage and sacrifice our veterans have given for our freedom.

Savorings for reading and in writing for America’s White Table:

  • Repeating line – “It was just a little white table...”
  • Story within a story – flashbacks
  • Time of reflection
  • Gathering stories from families – writing them down to preserve for future generations
  • Illustrations – the coloring changes during the flashback