Find great books for preschool, elementary, and middle school children and teens along with ideas of ways to teach with them in the classroom across the curriculum.
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This past month I've gotten a chance to write up lots of bits and pieces for the website. So here, in no particular order, are some great kids' books with links to related information on the web site.
Holiday Cooking Around the World by Kari A. Cornell. (2001, Lerner. ISBN 9780822541288. Order Info.) Nonfiction. 72 pages. Gr 4-12.
Take advantage of the popularity of celebrity chef cooking shows to engage your students in world cultures and history as well as math, chemistry, and nutrition. This title is one volume of the Easy Menu Ethnic Cookbooks series. It focuses on the winter holidays (December through March) and gives recipes along with a bit of cultural information from many countries accompanied by luscious photos. The instructions are clear and the choice of recipes diverse including low calorie and vegetarian options. The countries include China, Denmark, England, Ethiopia, France, Greece, Israel, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Norway, Poland, Russia, Senegal, Spain, Thailand and Vietnam along with North and East African regions.
Wave by Suzy Lee. (2008, Chronicle. ISBN 9780811859240. Order Info.) Picture Book. 34 pages. Gr PreK-1.
A young girl plays at the water's edge. With each wave she steps away or growls at it or signals it to stop or splashes in it until, while sticking her tongue out at one, the wave rises up and crashes down upon her leaving her drenched but surrounded by the seashells the wave has washed up.
The simple, wordless story is brought to life by the girl's expressions and the reactions of the silent Greek chorus of five seagulls who accompany her. The simple charcoal lines are reminiscent of Harold and the Purple Crayon, black on white with only the water a splash of blue watercolor paint.
You can see an example of an inside page spread on the author's website at:
This quiet wordless poem of a book will bear up well to repeated readings to younger children. Older art students can use it to study line, style and facial expressions. A gem. Read More including a link to our Featured Subject Literature-Based Classroom Unit on Oceans with activities, related books and links.
Actual Size by Steve Jenkins. (2004, Houghton. ISBN 0618375945. Order Info.) Nonfiction Picture Book. 28 pages. Gr PreK-3.
This outstanding nonfiction title is another of many wonderful books by Steve Jenkins. His torn paper illustrations created with handmade papers are exquisite and very engaging. In this title animals or parts of animals are shown life size. The eye of a giant squid fills a page and, believe it or not, is beautifully rendered with textured papers.
There are 18 animals (or parts of animals) here. The head of a 23 foot crocodile, the one ounce mouse lemur and the mouse eating Goliath frog. From the gargantuan to the miniscule they will all amaze.
What a fun way to start the selection process for kids needing to pick out an animal to research. This is also perfectly suited for the math curriculum with its many measurement opportunities. Be sure to add this to your offerings.
Other favorites by Steve Jenkins include, Biggest, Strongest, Fastest, Hottest Coldest Highest Deepest, What Do You Do When Something Wants To Eat You, How Many Ways Can You Catch a Fly, and Never Smile at a Monkey. Read More including a link to our Curriculum Category, Math with links to more articles.
They Called Themselves the K.K.K.: The Birth of an America Terrorist Group by Susan Campbell Bartoletti. (2010, Houghton. ISBN 9780618440337. Order Info.) Nonfiction. 172 pages. Gr 7-12.
By the end of the Civil War, battles and pillaging by Union soldiers had destroyed most of the farms and plantations in Tennessee. In this context of political and economic collapse in 1866 a group of former Confederate soldiers formed the Ku Klux Klan. Filled with ritual and secrecy, the organization began to inflict fear on the newly freed slaves and to "maintain order" by taking it upon themselves to punish anyone (mostly blacks) whom they felt were not keeping to their proper place.
The current proliferation of hate groups including active Ku Klux Klan groups makes it more important than ever to have a book such as this which describes in great detail their early years. It focuses primarily on the 1860's and 1870's with a chapter summarizing the period after the first wave of the K.K.K. and concluding with present day activities.
Bartoletti uses primary sources (newspapers, documented interviews, photographs and political cartoons) to great effect here. Her research is thorough and she writes about it brilliantly bringing it to frightening life for 21st century readers.
Bartoletti also wrote Boy Who Dared, Hitler Youth, and Black Potatoes among other nonfiction titles. Contains an index, Civil Rights time line, source notes, and a bibliography. This is also available as an audio book. Highly recommended. Read More including related books and links.
The Mitten Tree by Candace Christiansen. Illustrated by Elaine Greenstein. (2009, Fulcrum. ISBN 9781555917333. Order Info.) Picture Book. 32 pages. Gr PreK-4.
Sarah, an old lady, lives by herself. She misses her grown children and so, she watches the children who wait for the school bus near the big evergreen tree. Although Sarah smiles at them as she walks by, they ignore her. When she notices a little boy, dressed in blue, who can't enjoy the snow play because he has no mittens, she finds some blue yarn and knits a pair of mittens which she hangs on the tree at the bus stop. Nobody sees her do it but the little boy in blue arrives first at the bus stop that morning, and seems to know the mittens are for him.
A little girl in red with mismatched mittens is the next beneficiary and soon both the children and the old woman are involved in the game. No one sees her place the mittens. No one notices her watching as the recipient of each pair retrieves the bounty. Then on the last day before winter vacation, Sarah uses up all her yarn and brings a whole basket of mittens of many colors and patterns and hangs them all over the tree. The next day a basket full of beautiful wool yarn is sitting on Sarah's porch. It's all done without a word of communication passing between the children and Sarah but, as the book says, "To this day, Sarah knits mittens for all the children in her town. Every time her basket is empty, a new full one appears. Sarah doesn't know who the yarn is from. The children still don't know who the mittens are from. But someone must..." Watch the illustrations for clues. Read More including a link to our Featured Subject Literature-Based Classroom Unit on Winter with activities, related books and links.
This, at 128 pages, could best be called a wordless short novel. The sepia drawings have Van Allsburg style shading with its ability to create a slightly exaggerated 3D look on faces. Dozens of these faces stare out from the end papers clearly chosen to represent a wide range of cultures. The old-photo look places them sometime in the, perhaps not too distant, past.
As the story opens the main character is packing to leave his wife and young daughter. As they walk through their city to the train station we get the first indication that this is not going to be a literal telling. There are gigantic serpentine shapes weaving among the buildings. Dragons' tails?
This, however, is nothing compared to the surreal drawings which Tan uses to portray the country the immigrant arrives in. The confusing drawings do a brilliant job of allowing us to feel the newcomer's confusion and disorientation.
There are realistic renderings of the new immigrant experience such as when he first arrives and tries desperately to communicate in a page spread which consists of a series of upper body snapshots of the new immigrant. There are also fantastical drawings representing how a foreign land might appear to someone newly arrived.
Any classroom unit on immigration could benefit from careful readings of these illustrations. Try puzzling out what kinds of obstacles the illustrations depict. Shaun Tan has broken some new ground with this book. Read More including more books on immigration and links to immigration activities.
That's it for this issue.
- Rebecca Otis
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In Times Past
by Carol Hurst and Rebecca Otis
Integrating US History with Literature in Grades 3-8.
Enliven your US History curriculum!
Teach US History using great kids books.
By Carol Otis Hurst!!