Literature Links 9/2009
by Connect Staff
Remember Me: Tomah Joseph's Gift to Franklin Roosevelt, by Donald Soctomah and Jean Flahive (Tilbury House, 2009), is a well-written children's book about the relationship between Passamaquoddy elder Tomah Joseph and the young Franklin Roosevelt. From boyhood until age twenty-three, FDR spent summers on Campobello Island off the coast of Maine. His friendship with Tomah Joseph spanned all of that time. The elder taught young Roosevelt about wildlife, native culture, and the skills and crafts vital to survival. The last summer he saw Franklin, he gave him a birch bark canoe that is now on display at the visitors' center on Campobello. The story conveys the deep respect each held for the other, as well as much information about noticing life around us, making use of resources, and being aware of local history and tradition. This would be a great accompaniment to a study that integrates science and social studies,working with trees, or properties of natural materials.
All the Places to Love, by Patricia MacLachlan (Harper Collins, 1994), is a beautiful picture book that tells one boy's story of living with his family on a farm. Painted illustrations by Mike Wimmer add a timeless, dreamy feel to this reminiscence written by the same author who wrote Sarah, Plain and Tall. No time or place is given for the story, but it could be any rural area between 1930 and today. Each family member is described as having a certain attachment to a different place on the farm. The boy grows and eventually a sister is born. He shows her all the places to love that he was shown by other family members. The story promotes diverse perspectives and living in agricultural rhythm with an awareness of the seasons and animals. Six- through twelve-year-olds will enjoy this book.
Operation Redwood, by S. Terrell French (Amulet Books, 2009), is a very engaging young adult novel about a couple of friends who work together to take social action to preserve a fraction of the redwood forest. Issues of friendship, family, power to effect change, civil disobedience, loyalty, and conservation are explored in this well-written, at times humorous book. The story combines a sort of outrageous fantasy world of kids orchestrating plans to thwart the efforts of adults, but also shows how change is possible with knowledge, use of technology, creative problem solving, and determination. The actions of the characters are somewhat inspired by Julia Butterfly Hill, who sat in a redwood for over a year to prevent a huge company from cutting it down while logging the area for valuable timber. The story is engaging, informative, and intelligent, with characters we want to follow and learn about. This is an excellent ecology-based fiction for ages ten through fourteen.
From Dawn till Dusk, by Natalie Kinsey-Warnock (Houghton Mifflin, 2002), is a fabulously illustrated book with woodcuts by Mary Azarian. The author recounts her time as a young girl in the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont, on a large farm with siblings, parents, and grandparents. All the seasons are included. Mending fences, night fishing, picking apples, cross-country skiing, and (maple) sugaring are some examples of activities tied to the land and place. While this harks back to an earlier time, today's children, ages six through twelve, will certainly appreciate the banter between sisters and brothers, the descriptions of food and animals, and seeing what qualified as fun then compared to today (there are no computers or video games in the story). All that needed to be done, and all that could be done, kept them busy "from dawn till dusk." Kinsey-Warnock has also written On a Starry Night, and a young adult book, As Long as There Are Mountains, both dealing with similar themes.
Big Mama's, by Donald Crews (Greenwillow, 1991), is the story of a family who travels to visit the grandparents for the summer. Three days and two nights on the train land them close to the farm where they will swim, fish, hunt for eggs, eat fresh veggies and meat, and count the stars at night. The family makes the trip every year, so develops a lasting relationship with their grandparents' place. In an age when children have less unsupervised time outdoors, a story like this can serve to teach kids about how to be outdoors, how to explore, how to play, and how to be engaged rather than bored because "there's nothing to do." The story is most appropriate for children ages five through ten.
On this Spot: An Expedition through Time, by Susan E. Goodman (Greenwillow Books, 2004), is an intriguing picture book that examines New York City from the present day to 175 years ago, 350 years, 15,000 years ago, and even 220 million years ago. A predictable format relates information about the human population, flora and fauna, and geology through time. Illustrations by Lee Christiansen are lush and inviting. This book is a wonderful addition to a study of looking at a local place through time and will prompt all kinds of questions about the region in which your students live. Who lived there before Europeans arrived? What animals have lived there? How has the landscape changed? What stories can the local geology tell about the place? Third through sixth graders can gain great insights from this book.
Secret Place, by Eve Bunting (Clarion, 1996), is an oft-cited picture book about a small wild place in the middle of an urban setting. "In the heart of the city…low down, hidden, a river runs….Hardly anyone knows the river is here. Hardly anyone cares." But there are a few individuals who do know and care, especially a boy and his father. A few migratory birds make their lives there. The "secret" quality of place is explored through the senses and through different times of day. Watercolor illustrations by Ted Rand are quite beautiful, though what they depict (concrete, polluted air) are not usually thought of as beautiful. Children seven through eleven may be inspired to explore their own neighborhoods more closely after reading this story.
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