Wednesday, January 13, 2016

A Day that Changed America: Earthquake! (April 18, 1906) by Shelley Tanaka

Hardcover, 48 pages
Published July 26th 2004 by Hyperion 
On a Peaceful Spring Morning, Disaster Strikes San Francisco. On the early morning of April 19, 1906, the city of San Francisco was struck by a devastating earthquake that crumpled buildings, cracked water mains, broke gas pipes, and sent kerosene lamps flying. Fires quickly engulfed most of the city, leaving exhausted civilians to fight the flames with well water, sewer water, and old rags. Despite valiant rescue efforts, estimates place the death toll at around 3,000.
 Fantastic non-fiction book to add to your collection! This book brings to life the earthquake that struck San Francisco in 1906 through first hand accounts, pictures of the destruction, stories, maps and pictographs and much more. Readers are able to see what San Francisco was like before and after in the various neighborhoods from Chinatown to the outskirts. I love that there are also pictures of the artifacts that have been preserved so that you can see the damage that was done. It was fascinating to see how the people adapted to life immediately after the earthquake and subsequent fire. Cooking on makeshift stoves in the street just to survive? Wow. 

Lesson Ideas:
This book is broken into easy to read sections which would make it an easy read for students and teachers to use as a resource too! The pieces of the book can be broken apart for students to get a feel for what was going on at the time and then report back to the class (jigsaw method). 

This would also be a fantastic piece to use to show the culture of this part of America in the early 1900's. The pictures, graphics, maps, and other resources make for great conversation starters!

Reading Bucket Lists!

All teachers (no matter the subject area) have dealt with the students who don't like to read. We hear all of the excuses, we (mostly) patiently wait on the students to go through the reasons they can't read, and so much more. As a teacher of those who struggle with reading, I used to hear this daily. Did you notice that "used to" in the sentence? This year has been a game changer for me with my kiddos and their reading and I attribute it all to The Reading Bucket List!

Hope King at Elementary Shenanigans and Adam Dovico (both of whom have taught and are currently teaching at The Ron Clark Academy in Atlanta, GA) started spreading the word about something they were doing that was inspired by the work of Donalyn Miller's The Book Whisper: Awakening the Inner Reader in Every Child. I was immediately hooked! So when the day of teh periscope rolled around, I was glued to my phone!

You can read all about how the Reading Bucket List works on Hope's blog here, but basically the students are challenged to read 60 genres throughout the school year! I know some of you are thinking, "60? There aren't 60 genres!" Well, take a look at how Adam and Hope broke the box that we have been limiting ourselves into smithereens! It is amazing. I don't want to take their thunder away and they are both full of great ideas, so go check it out there!

I will show you a glance into my classroom with it, though. My students were hesitant at first because they were intimated by the number of genres. We are half way through the year and my students who didn't read a book (not a single one) last year have already read 20 or more genres! They love the challenge of finding something within the genre that matches the criteria, showing their friends what they are reading, and seeing what I am reading. I have my Bucket List posted outside my door and my students and all of the students in my school are able to look and see what I have been reading. I haven't been grading this, only promoting literacy. I may change that next year. Adam and Hope have done a great job of including in the resource pages for students to collect book titles and more, but since I had already started my year, I just maintained what we were already doing. (I already had a "Genre" column on my book list for my students and this is how they are keeping up with which ones they have read).

My kiddos have fallen in love with reading again because of this amazing resource! My librarian has even allowed me to post the genres in the Media Center for my students so that when they are in there they can double check what they need. Now we even have other students accepting the challenge because they have seen my kids reading such a variety! My faculty is going to be participating next year too! When our kiddos see that we are invested in it, they will take it and run. One of the things that is stressed in this by Hope and Adam and I point out to my students is that a variety of book formats can fit into each genre. They might not all be novels and that's okay!

Check out the Reading Bucket List and challenge your students! It is never too late. Start with it tomorrow and scale the number of genres back. You never know, they could get them all read!

Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys

Hardcover, 344 pages
Published March 22nd 2011 by Philomel Books

Lina is just like any other fifteen-year-old Lithuanian girl in 1941. She paints, she draws, she gets crushes on boys. Until one night when Soviet officers barge into her home, tearing her family from the comfortable life they've known. Separated from her father, forced onto a crowded and dirty train car, Lina, her mother, and her young brother slowly make their way north, crossing the Arctic Circle, to a work camp in the coldest reaches of Siberia. Here they are forced, under Stalin's orders, to dig for beets and fight for their lives under the cruelest of conditions.

Lina finds solace in her art, meticulously--and at great risk--documenting events by drawing, hoping these messages will make their way to her father's prison camp to let him know they are still alive. It is a long and harrowing journey, spanning years and covering 6,500 miles, but it is through incredible strength, love, and hope that Lina ultimately survives. Between Shades of Gray is a novel that will steal your breath and capture your heart.

There are few authors that could do wrong in my eyes, and Ruta Sepetys is one of these. Her writing is simply brilliant. I have to admit that I didn't know too much of the Lithuanian side of World Ward 2 until this book, but through Lina's story I am now completely in awe of what theses people lived through. I am sure my Social Studies teachers did a fantastic job teaching, but it just didn't sink in. Throughout this novel, I found myself laughing, crying, screaming and even praying! That is what good authors do. This book was simply profound. Lina is a character that everyone can relate to and will be rooting for. Her bravery is astounding and the way she tells her story is mind boggling. I loved this book from cover to cover and will definitely be reading it again. Absolutely stunning! 

Ruta Sepetys has an investment in telling this story because this is the story of her family. This video is a fantastic resource to introduce the novel and to tell the story of the Lithuanians from Ruta's research and from the people who lived through this. Her dedication to getting this story out and getting it right astound me! There are also teacher resources located on her website here for teachers to use. Our students must know this story, and it is up to us to share it with them!

Henry's Freedom Box by Ellen Levine

Hardcover, 40 pages
Published January 1st 2007 by Scholastic Press 
A stirring, dramatic story of a slave who mails himself to freedom by a Jane Addams Peace Award-winning author and a Coretta Scott King Award-winning artist.

Henry Brown doesn't know how old he is. Nobody keeps records of slaves' birthdays. All the time he dreams about freedom, but that dream seems farther away than ever when he is torn from his family and put to work in a warehouse. Henry grows up and marries, but he is again devastated when his family is sold at the slave market. Then one day, as he lifts a crate at the warehouse, he knows exactly what he must do: He will mail himself to the North. After an arduous journey in the crate, Henry finally has a birthday -- his first day of freedom.
This amazing picture book tells the amazing story of Henry Brown and his quest for freedom. This story, along with so many others, are the ones that show true American spirit. While telling the story, readers are treated to the amazing artwork of Kadir Nelson (AMAZING) which add utter magic to the story. This book is a fantastic read and one that can be used for a multitude of reasons. 
Lesson Ideas and more: 
- Teachers can use this book a Read Aloud to add to curriculum when teaching about this time period in American History. 
- Check out this great lesson from Melissa at Got to Teach! that uses Henry's Freedom Box to review plot elements. 
- This book is also a great piece for teaching the Notice and Note signposts or reviewing the signposts in context.  

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Enchanted Air: Two Cultures, Two Wings: A Memoir by Margarita Engle

Hardcover, 208 pages
Published August 4th 2015 by Atheneum Books for Young Readers

In this poetic memoir, Margarita Engle, the first Latina woman to receive a Newbery Honor, tells of growing up as a child of two cultures during the Cold War.

Margarita is a girl from two worlds. Her heart lies in Cuba, her mother's tropical island country, a place so lush with vibrant life that it seems like a fairy tale kingdom. But most of the time she lives in Los Angeles, lonely in the noisy city and dreaming of the summers when she can take a plane through the enchanted air to her beloved island. Words and images are her constant companions, friendly and comforting when the children at school are not.

Then a revolution breaks out in Cuba. Margarita fears for her far-away family. When the hostility between Cuba and the United States erupts at the Bay of Pigs Invasion, Margarita's worlds collide in the worst way possible. How can the two countries she loves hate each other so much? And will she ever get to visit her beautiful island again?
This beautiful memoir gives us a glance into the life of a child living in two worlds and trying to find herself in the midst of a world that is in chaos. Hearing from the first person narrative gives the reader a new perspective on a crisis that is sometimes overlooked. I loved this book from cover to cover and will definitely be using it in my classroom as not only a mentor text for poetry, but also in conjunction with my Social Studies teachers lessons when it comes time. I love the idea of taking pieces of her life as we are working through the historical context. Having a first person perspective through the events will definitely bring a new piece to our classrooms! Absolutely stunning piece!
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