March 17, 2018
Stories embedded into my heart are my favorites like Pricilla and the Hollyhocks by Anne Broyles. Although I came across this book in 2009, I still recall the richness of the words and the endurance of the character.
Across the Alley by Richard Michelson, illustrated by E.B. Lewis, is a new books to add to this favorite list of powerful stories. I have read it five times trying to comb the craft and I just sit in the story. Richard Michelson brings to life the friendship of two boys, one Jewish, one black, both separated by many cultural differences, but blend through nightly conversations through their bedroom windows. Not allowed to be friends during the day and in the open, the persist for the good.
Abe plays violin. Willis plays baseball. Through their nightly, across-the-alley window talks they teach each other their skill. Ironically, the switched activity becomes a natural talent for the other. Read how the boys rise above the grown-up expectations and bridge a friendship between their families. My guess is you’ll be cheering at the end like I did. Share this sense of hope with your students.
Willie’s real quiet now and I wonder if I said something wrong. Maybe he doesn’t know about the Nazis.
“My great-granddaddy was a slave too,” Willie finally says. “I never knew any white folk that were.”
Click on the link to view a preview of the book. My guess is you will be drawn to the story too. You can also listen to Jay O. Sanders read the book on this link (scroll midway down the page).
Share this 2 minute video with your students as he talks about writing fiction.
Savorings for Across the Alley:
- Figurative language/ Visualization
- Overcoming racial differences
- Sharing talents – the arts and sports blended
- Show not Tell – “My palms turn sweaty.”
- Sequence of pivotal scenes
- Sense of hearing – descriptive in order for the reader to feel as if they are watching and hearing the scenes unfold
February 4, 2011
David Adler once again shares a biography that will engage children. February is Black History Month, and Satchel Paige: Don’t Look Back is a great story to share. I love to find books that capture character traits I want my students to develop. This book shows the determination and stamina of a young man, Leroy Paige. He gained his nick name “Satchel” when he began working at age 7 at a train station. He would carry people’s bags, or satchels, by stringing them on a pole that ran over his shoulders. Leroy also went to work sweeping a baseball field. He loved the game and began practicing by throwing rocks. Satchel didn’t let his lack of resources stop his determination to better himself.
Satchel Paige played in the World Series for the Cleveland Indians on July 7, 1948. He was 42 years old. In today’s baseball market, most players are much younger and are just ending their careers in their forty’s. Not Satchel. He played baseball until he was 60 years old.
Savorings for reading and in writing for Satchel Paige: Don’t Look Back:
- Perseverance and Stamina
- Inferring – “Paige was overcome with emotion. His nerves, he later said, ‘were jumping every which way.’ He knew he wasn’t pitching just for his team but also for African-Americans everywhere.”
- Magic of 3 – “He stretched. He waited. He shook his fingers.“
- Semi-colon with a list
PES Library books
February 25, 2009
Enjoying the sport of baseball, I love learning about historical events that are reflective of the game. Angela Johnson shares a story told by a grandmama to her granddaughter in Just Like Josh Gibson (illustrated by Beth Beck). The story begins with a glimpse into Josh Gibson’s life playing baseball and hitting a ball out of the park. On that day, the grandmother was born.
Her papa “showed up […] with a Louisville slugger and a smile. He said his new baby would make baseballs fly, just like Josh Gibson.”
Grandmama continued to share how she learned to play well, but in those days, girls did not play baseball. Until… a boy broke his arm and couldn’t. Grandmama was the star of the game. The story ends with her passing the legacy on to her granddaughter.
An author’s note shares information about Josh Gibson. Surprisingly, it also shares about “one young lady during the 1950’s that did get to play with the boys though it wasn’t in the majors.” I’m intrigued by the information shared and plan to read more about these famous baseball-playing women.
Savorings for reading and in writing for Just Like Josh Gibson:
- Family stories – passing on the legacy
- Repeating phrase – “Grandmama says...”
- Close echo – “Those summer days were like magic as the balls sailed away, sailed away, gone.”
- Ellipse – “Too bad she’s a girl…. Until …”
- Author’s note – historical information
November 2, 2008
I often will read the dedications to get a glimpse of the author’s life. I wonder how the people named touched the life of an author. In Boxes for Katje, Candace Fleming’s dedication states: “To Mom, for sharing her life’s stories.” It roused my curiosity, and so looked for the author’s note. I was pleased to find on the end sleeve that Candace shares “A True Story about Boxes.” She states that the book is “based on events that really happened. In May 1945, my mother sent a small box to Europe.” Because Candace’s mother shared a story from her childhood, a book was created to touch people’s hearts. How many life stories do we have that will change someone’s life? More than we think. We need to teach our children that life stories are important to share and holding on to memories can create hope for someone else.
Boxes for Katje begins in Olst, Holland in 1945. Stacey Dressen-McQueen adds to the beginning text by illustrating another little girl, Rosie, mailing a package. A little girl named Katje receives the package from America containing four items: a bar of soap, wool socks, a chocolate bar, and a letter. Holland had been hit hard during World War II and the people’s needs were great. Candace Fleming states in her introduction, “They patched and repatched their worn-thin clothing, and they went without soap or milk, sugar or new shoes.”
Katje, from the start, unselfishly shares her gifts with her neighbors. In our country of plenty, even in this economic struggle, we take for granted so many of life’s pleasures. This book continues to show how Katje shares what she receives. She writes letters of gratitude to Rosie, who in turns creates more awareness with her community of Mayfield, Indiana. In the end, Katje sends a gift to her American friend, Rosie – tulips. Notice how Stacey Dressen-McQueen illustrates the before and after scenes of Mayfield, Indiana in the end sleeves. I think this book paves the way for discussion on philanthropy and thinking of others.
Savorings for reading and in writing for Boxes for Katje:
- Hybrid text – letters are displayed as the story goes from one scene to the next
- Illustrations – inlays from each country/community to see the events between the pen pals
- Highlighting scenes – creating a story with
- Passage of Time – the seasons and its hardships create the passing of time: “Weeks passed, and winter roared in, snow-deep and bitter cold, the worst winter anyone could remember.”
- Philanthropy – learning to give to others; excellent for Thanksgiving season
- Math connection and superlatives: comparison of packages beginning small and getting bigger each time; big, bigger, biggest