Monday December 16th, 2013

It’s Monday! What are you reading?

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Join Jen from Teach Mentor Texts and Kellee and Ricki from Unleashing Readers and share all of the reading you have done over the week from picture books to young adult novels. Follow the links to read about all of the amazing books the #IMWAYR community has read! This is always my favourite way to discover what to read next.

I read a lot of mediocre books this week – not intentionally! But many were 2/5 or 3/5 ratings. I won’t share them here.

A few were standouts however and saved my reading week!

The Tree Lady by H. Joseph Hopkins and illustrated by Jill McElmurry

I will admit that I bought this book because I have been in awe of its gorgeous cover and I knew it was about an inspirational woman who transformed an entire city. Love it for its passionate celebration of nature. For its gorgeous illustrations. Or for its important historical journey back in time beginning in the 1860s with a little girl named Katherine Olivia Sessions. A little girl who brought lush, green life to the city of San Diego. A woman who studied science when other women and girls did not. A woman who took what she had learned it and applied it in the most important of ways and brought a city to life. And oh, that cover . . .

 The Tree Lady #IMWAYR There's a Book for That

Herman and Rosie by Gus Gordon

Just delightful. Intricate, amusing illustrations. A tribute to New York City, “groovy jazz music” and the importance of finding the one that “gets you”. Herman and Rosie is a treasure. A book that my students loved but so did my Dad. Something for everyone, that’s for sure. I think this book is like a bottle of fine wine – it just gets better with age. However, it should not sit on a dusty shelf. It should be explored and pored over multiple times. Read my student’s reviews here.

Herman and Rosie #IMWAYR There's a Book for That

Other books I enjoyed:

Two of Everything by Lily Toy Hong

Full of humour and fantasy, this story is all about a magical pot that makes double anything that is dropped inside of it. Double the coins, double the purses, even double the people! A perfect math book to inspire some work with doubles!

#IMWAYR There's a Book for That

Strega Nona’s Gift by Tomie dePaola

Ah, Strega Nona and Big Anthony- such endearing characters. This story captures a month long series of holiday festivals in Italy beginning with the Feast of San Nicola on December 6th.

#IMWAYR There's a Book for That

All-I’ll-Ever-Want Christmas Doll written by Patricia C. McKissack and illustrated by Jerry Pinkney

Set in the Depression, this story explores the importance of family. Three sisters long for a store bought doll in times when money is very scarce. The doll does not bring them the happiness they imagined, but they learn the value of time together.

#IMWAYR There's a Book for That

I have continued reading a holiday picture book every evening to my children as part of our book advent experience. These are the titles we read this week:

#IMWAYR There's a Book for That

I finished Matched written by Ally Condie

A dystopian YA novel that was a pleasant surprise. Yes, there are themes/similarities to other novels in this genre but enough felt fresh and interesting enough to really hold my attention. I have Crossed, the next in the series ready to begin tonight and look forward to reading it! Many philosophical questions pondered by the main characters. Not a book of extreme action – more an in your head kind of read.

Matched #IMWAYR There's a Book for That

“Stereotypes shrink your brain!”

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In preparation for Pink Shirt Day, we have been having discussions about bullying, stereotypes and how cruel and ignorant people can be. These discussions have  been inspired by many picture books that have helped us understand and explore stereotypes – particularly gender stereotypes. Over the past two days we have been making pink day collages based in part on Henri Matisse‘s collages. We have also been writing banners that question stereotypes.

The overall effect posted up on our hallway bulletin board is very powerful!

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Some girls really wanted to point out that generalizations about girls did NOT apply to them! Carmen explains that she doesn’t like wearing dresses or skirts!

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Catriona is also very clear:

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Boys also wanted people to understand that there shouldn’t be stereoptypes based on their gender. Sergio‘s words are powerful.

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Isa always sees the beauty in the natural world that many of us miss. His statement is an important one!

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Deandra reminds us that it is never too early to talk about our appearance and question the value we put on it. None of us have to be perfect but it is certainly sad when girls feel that pressure to look a certain way because they’re supposed to be “pretty.”

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These pieces were inspired by three great stories we read and talked about today.

William’s Doll by Charolette Zolotow. Illustrated by William Pene Du Bois.

William really wants a doll. His Dad thinks he should have a basketball. The boy next door calls him a “sissy” and his brother thinks he’s a creep. But William desperately wants a doll to care for and love. When Grandma comes to visit, she understands. She buys William a doll and makes his father understand that he is thinking of the whole thing in a limited way. William wants a doll to love, but also to “play” at being a father – learning to do all of the things he will need to do one day for his own child. Such a lovely timeless story that shakes up the stereotype that dolls are just for girls!

Oliver Button is a Sissy by Tomie dePaola

Everyone in Oliver’s life seems to struggle with the fact that he wants to dance instead of doing boy things like “. . . any kind of ball!” The boys from school are particularly cruel, writing hurtful things on the wall at school.

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Oliver never gives up his passion and shows everyone, even those boys, that someone who is true to themselves is a real star!

The Only Boy in Ballet Class by Denise Gruska and illustrated by Amy Wummer is a more recently published book addressing the same theme.

Tucker loves to dance. Lives to dance. Dances through life! This should be something to celebrate but of course the boys his age tease him for being different. His Uncle Frank is convinced he should be playing football. When Tucker is approached by the boys to be on the team for the championship game because they must have one more player, his Uncle agrees for him. Tucker manages to bring the team to victory by using his dance agility and grace to avoid being tackled. What is great about this book is that it doesn’t end here. The next page shows Tucker walking to his dance studio door and finding a pile of running shoes. The football boys who teased him have realized that ballet moves are pretty awesome and have come to join his class. Ballet becomes something cool and not stereotypically just a girl’s thing!

Our discussions were fantastic today. A few more important points:

* The title of this post was inspired by Catriona who wrote, “Your brain shrinks when you do steroetypes.”

*We had a very interesting conversation about why lego would market pink lego when girls already like lego!? They’ll like pink lego more? What’s with that?

*We did talk about why each of the books we read today featured a boy character being teased for doing a so called “girl” thing. What about girls who do “boy” things? Great question and on our “to read” pile tomorrow is Princess Knight but . . . It does seem that often girls liking/doing “boy” things is more generally tolerated than boys liking/doing “girl” things.

*The great thing I noticed? Stereotypes are not ingrained in these children’s brains like they were when I was a child! “Of course boys can dance,” they would comment easily. “Boys can like dolls and girls don’t have to! It’s just who you are!” Yes, we need to explore stereotypes. Yes, we need to talk about how ignorance leads to cruelty/bullying. But we can also be grateful that these children don’t just celebrate diversity. Diversity is, for the most part, what they know and expect.  Hoorah!