The gentrification and apartheid of children’s literature are concepts I mull over often. My third graders are currently working on Compare and Contrast Essays, using Christopher Myer’s Wings, and Lesa Cline-Ransome’s Before There Was Mozart. So this article is close to my heart as well as my profession. The link above takes you to his article, featured in today’s New York Times.
February 4 – Before There Was Mozart: The Story of Joseph Boulogne, Chevalier de Saint-George by Lesa Cline – Ransome. Illustrated by James E. Ransome.
Genre: Non-Fiction. Biography
Biography: Joseph Boulogne – knight (chevalier), fencer, composer, violinist, royal music instructor, Colonel in French Revolution, abolitionist. 1739 – 1799.
Historical Time Period: Mid-late 1700’s.
Geographical Relevance: 1. Guadeloupe Islands in the West Indies. 2. Paris, France. 3. Senegal.
Authenticity: The author, Lesa Cline-Ransome, and the illustrator, James E. Ransome, are wife and husband. Lesa was an avid writer while attending the Pratt Institute in New York, a professional marketing-writer, and developed a love of picture books during her graduate program in Education. Her husband first encouraged her to put her skills and knowledge into picture book form, and from there she would research the history of her subjects while her young children napped. James’ illustrations, also researched, make for a complete story. What is rare and wonderful to see, in major publishing houses, is the author and illustrator creating the book together. Ideas are in agreement – facilitating the book’s authenticity.
I hadn’t heard of this book, or the author, before I saw it in the window of The Book Rack in Arlington, MA., a little over a month ago. This book is rare in quality. The story is unique and has many layers: A boy, who’s mother was a first-generation slave captured from Senegal, yet was never a slave himself, because his father, the plantation Master, honored his son as his son. The father also acknowledged the mother. Joseph continually experienced both oppression and privilege throughout his life, making for a very dynamic position and perspective in the world. I recommend this book for all ages, although grade K2 and grade 1 will need some mindful scaffolding beforehand.
Thanks for reading The Picture Book Pusher.
Week of October 28 – November 1, 2013.
So this is what I plan on reading this week:
Behind the Mask by Yangsook Choi
“Halloween is coming. “What are you going to be?” the children ask one another. Kimin says he will be his grandfather. “Going as an old man is not very scary,” they tease. What the children don’t know is that Kimin’s grandfather was a Korean mask dancer.” – Choi
Jenny Reen and the Jack Muh Lantern by Irene Smalls. Illustrated by Keinyo White
Once upon a time,…there was a time of great tears…In this hardest of hard times there was still joy because there were children, children with round cheeks and round curls. Such a child was Jenny Reen. – Smalls
Picnic at Mudsock Meadow by Patricia Polacco
This was a Halloween that would go down in the annals of Mudsock Meadow. Not only had William shown uncommon bravery, but he had stopped, once and for all, the talk about Quicksand Bottoms. – Polacco
The Widow’s Broom by Chris Van Allsburg.
Out of a moonlit sky a dark cloaked figure came spinning to the ground. The witch, along with her tired broom, landed beside a small white farmhouse, the home of a lonely widow named Minna Shaw. – Van Allsburg
The Loud Book by Deborah Underwood. Illustrated by Renata Liwska.
I will read The Loud Book out of respect to the students’ anticipated sugar highs.
Thanks for reading The Picture Book Pusher
Skipped week 3. I was doing things.
My district has a new K2 curriculum. I’m cool with it. It’s not all encompassing, and pretty much all of it is practices that I’ve been doing in my classroom already. So I’m responding to implementing much of it a lot better than I’ve responded to any previous curriculums that I’ve been told to use. The first 6-week unit is, ‘Community’, beginning with the sub-theme, “friendship”. They recommend quite a few picture books, on friendship. I use different books on “friendship” other than the recommended list, but a few of them I will use. I will note if the read aloud choice was a suggestion from my district’s new K2 curriculum. If you see a lot of titles with the word ‘Friends’ in my weekly read aloud posts, you now know why.
Here’s what we read last week:
Everett Anderson’s Friend by Lucille Clifton. Illustrated by Ann Grifalconi.
True Friends by John Kilaka
Fresh Fish by John Kilaka
The Book of Mean People By Toni Morrison & Slade Morrison. Illustrated by Pascal Lemaitre
Da Goodie Monsta by Robert Peters
What The Teacher (me) is Reading, This Week:
Thank you for reading The Picture Book Pusher
The students so enjoyed having our principal come in and read Is Your Mama a Llama? by Deborah Guarino. Illustrated by Steven Kellogg
Tuesday and Wednesday
So many teaching moments in John Kilaka’s The Amazing Tree. The children were highly engaged in this story, and had so much to say about it that we read it the following day too. I will be definitely using this book again with the students.
The art teacher chose Thursday’s read aloud, Harold and the Purple Crayon by Crocket Johnson, to introduce the day’s art lesson. I wish I had some of their drawings to show you here, because the students did incredibly well with following the art teacher’s lead, and incorporating the ‘coloring-in’ technique that I had taught them the previous Tuesday.
One by Kathryn Otoshi. This treasure of a book will also be used throughout the year. Mindful anti-bullying allegory at its finest. We are already saying to each other, “What would One do?” and “Let’s be number One. Okay?”
In the Listening Center
Dr. Seuss’ books from last week stayed in the center, and I added some other great reads that included an audio CD of the story with the book. Other authors, take note, of how beneficial and appreciated an included book-on-cd is for teachers buying a picture book. Shout out to the following authors, who’s stories were able to join the ranks in the Listening Center:
Thanks for reading The Picture Book Pusher
Savitri: A Tale of Ancient India retold by Aaron Shepard, Illustrated by Vera Rosenberry
Published by: Albert Whitman & Company. Morton Grove, Illinois. 1992
Purchased: Free from the give-away shelf, at the South End branch of the Boston Public Library. The book is in practically new condition. I asked the librarian how they decide which books to give away, as there were several other wonderful books that I got for free that day including Chicken Sunday, The Chocolate Touch, and The Stories Julian Tells. The librarian said it is based on their check-out rate, or they were donated by patrons. If the books that a patron donates are not in excellent condition, or the library already has a sufficient number of copies of a title, then the books go onto the give-away shelf.
Back to Savitri…
I enjoyed reading this story. The pictures are beautiful and captivating. However, as I am a progressive teacher, I am still contemplating how I can use this book in my classroom. Two aspects of the story contradict my pedagogy: 1. – the reference to character Yama, god of death, as “his skin was darker than the darkest night.” I don’t use the word dark to represent anything negative, in my classroom. Dark is beautiful, and a coveted quality. Period. Any other use of the word, I hesitate to embrace. A god of death, is not something positive in the minds of 6 year olds. So associating a god of death with dark skin is contradicting to how I teach.
Yes, I could still use this book, and transform the words the way I want, but I’m not sure if it’s worth the effort, when there are other stories I can read. But there is something so beautiful about this book.
2. – I don’t view this story as a tale about independent women, even though it is a tale “of women far more independent than later Indian culture allowed.” In the story, the men have many wives, etc. There is reference to his “favorite wife” as being chosen to bare children. All these things are a part of history, and I don’t like to shelter my students from historical facts and historical perspectives, as long as they are introduced to them in a way that is empowering. At this time, I don’t know if I can invest the time to retell this story with the necessary insights and perspectives to empower my young students living in the 21st century.
Still, I give it an all around 5 out of 5 stars. I will not be keeping it on the shelves for my students to grab at their leisure. I will keep it in the classroom, however, in case there is a need for it, at a later time.
Thank you for reading The Picture Book Pusher.
” The literacy development of diverse learners warrants close attention….One concern is that despite the increasing ethnic and cultural diversity in our classrooms, the teaching force is composed predominantly of middle-class Anglo-Americans (Hoffman & Pearson, 2000)….When mainstream rules of communication are imposed on all, students from nonmainstream backgrounds often feel a sense of denial….. understanding these different types of diversity is important foundational knowledge that can help educators develop ethnosensitivity, a critical disposition for having success in reaching diverse populations. Although it may be unintentional, most mainstream U.S. educators have been made to believe that the cultural and linguistic norm of their background is to be maintained… (Farr, 1991). Such ethnocentrism needs to be replaced by an ethnosensitivity…” – (Yokota & Teale. The Administration and Supervision of Reading Programs. 2000).
The above excerpt is from diversity experts, Junko Yokota & William Teale. From their chapter in, The Administration and Supervision of Reading Programs, entitled: “Literacy development for culturally Diverse Populations” Chapter Thirteen.
As a first-grade teacher, in an urban school district, I pay critical attention to the literature my students are, or may be, exposed to. I agree with the above quote. As a collective, we educators need to replace our ethnocentric methods of instruction, with methods that are ethnosensitive. If we do not evolve in the ways that we need to, in order to truly be highly qualified teachers, then we will continue to propagate our classrooms with cultural mantras that obstruct the majority of our students from achieving their full potential. No other storybook, that I know of, embodies this ethnocentric propaganda quite like the picture book, The Country Bunny and the Little Gold Shoes, by DuBose Heyward. A book that is still read to children in Early Childhood classrooms, in the public and private sector alike.
I was first introduced to this story almost exactly one year ago. While working, for the day, in a K1 classroom. K1 is what we, in the education field, term students who are roughly four years of age; a year before entering Kindergarten. That day, in the K1 classroom, I was left a note by the head teacher, asking me to read this book to the students. Since this time, I have come across the book in two other classrooms, on display, ready to read to students in grades K2-Grade 1. Public schools.
Its allegory is oppressive. Its relevancy to today’s classroom is null. I’ll summarize the story for you, below.
The Country Bunny and the Little Gold Shoes
By DuBose Heyward. Illustrated by Marjorie Flack
Houghton Mifflin (1974)
The story begins, introducing us to the main character, Country Bunny. She hopes to be chosen as one of five Easter bunnies. The five Easter Bunnies are chosen by the wise old Grandfather Bunny.
“There are really five Easter Bunnies, and they must be the five kindest, and swiftest, and wisest bunnies in the whole wide world.” – ( Heyward, DuBose. Country Bunny and the Little Gold Shoes.Pg. 1 1939. Houghton & Mifflin.)
“One day a little country girl bunny with a brown skin and a little cotton ball of a tail said, “Some day I shall grow up to be an Easter Bunny – you wait and see!” ( Heyward. Pg. 2)
The illustrations are adorable. Old-fashioned idea of forward-thinking feminism that will tickle you in all the right places…it could become a favorite in our home.” – Amanda http://www.goodreads.com/review/show/23200213