Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Genre 6 Fantasy - Rapunzel's Revenge

Rapunzel’s Revenge
Written by Shannon Hale and Dean Hale
Illustrated by Nathan Hale
New York, N.Y.: Bloomsbury
ISBN: 978-1-59990-288-3

This tale is about a maiden temporarily in distress, by being imprisoned in a tall low tree in an enchanted forest created by the woman, Gothel, she thought was her mother. She learns of her true identity and attempts to free her real mother from the mines. She teams up with a boy named Jack from Jack and the Beanstalk and through several escapades Rapunzel saves both of them by using her braids as weapons. From one encounter to another, she gets closer to her goal, she must battle several adversaries and Gothel in order to free her mother and all the other people in the village. Rapunzel’s vengeance is felt by the old lady Gothel as she triumphs in imprisoning her. Rapunzel saves the village, her mom and falls in love with Jack and his gold laying goose.


The story of Rapunzel attempt to deal with the power of intuition, as she has the reoccurring dreams about her life with a family, Gothel, her make believe mother, keeps telling her, “Ignore the dreams, my Dear and they’ll go away”. She tries but yet can not stop herself of dreaming. The motifs of this novel, magic, good versus evil, heroism, archetypes characters, and fantastic objects like Rapunzel’s hair make this a high fantasy novel. The illustrations are dark but colorful when need be and easy to understand, they compliment the story. The language is such that you can understand what is going on and the use of dialogue welcomes the reader to be part of the story. It is a delightful story with the western twist as the story setting is desert, Rapunzel and Jack dress in jeans sharing a horse ride to their destination and the use of her hair as a lasso at to the skill of a cowgirl. As Jack and Rapunzel team up to fight for a good cause, their friendship grows to a happy ever after ending to the story, with Goldy, the gold laying goose next to them.


The dialogue is witty, the story is an enticing departure from the original, and the illustrations are magically fun and expressive. Knowing that there are more graphic novels to come from this writing team brings readers their own happily-ever-after.

School Library Journal

This graphic novel retelling of the fairy-tale classic, set in a swashbuckling Wild West, puts action first and features some serious girl power in its spunky and strong heroine. Hale’s art matches the story well, yielding expressive characters and lending a wonderful sense of place to the fantasy landscape. Rich with humor and excitement, this is an alternate version of a classic that will become a fast favorite of young readers.


"The Hale team creates an engaging heroine....This novel presents entertaining girl power at its quirkiest."


"A dash of typical fairy-tale romance, a strong sense of social justice and a spunky heroine make this a standout choice for younger teens."



A wide selection of books that depict retellings of folk tales and fairy tales, as well as sample of books that tell folk tales and fairy tales in the traditional format

A list of books in this genre (retold folk narratives), including titles that may not be available in the classroom book display

Have student brainstorm to rewrite their own fairtale.

Discuss possibilities of where story can take place, what kind of characters could be put in the story and as you share ideas the emerging of plot and setting become evident.

Make list of various themes and different locations for stories to take place.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Genre 6 - Fantasy - Graveyard

Written and narrated by Neil Gaimen
Prince Frederick, MD : Recorded Books, 2008.
ISBN: 9781436158848

This novel is about a toddler left homeless by the murderers, one in particular by the name of Jack, whom stabs his parents to death. As the murderers are in his parent’s room the toddler get out of his crib and crawls down the stair out the front door that was left ajar and out to the graveyard, where the Mr. and Mrs. Owens, the graveyard carekeeper, find the boy. Not knowing where he came from, or who his parents were they give him the name of Nobody, Bod for short. It is here in the graveyard that Bod grows up and is taught by ghostly intellectuals of their times. His main guardian is the nocturnal Silas, who solicits the help of other ghost to help teach Bod lifes’ lessons when he is not around. He is given several special powers as he is given card blanc of the graveyard. As he growth into his teen years, curiosity begins to stir his mind and wonders what lies beyond the gates of the graveyard. Though warned by Silas and other ghostly guardians he escapades begin. With the Jack still at large and looking for the lad, escapades begin and Bod learns valuable lessons that were taught to him by his ghostly friends.


As you listen to the audio book, Gaiman uses different voices to differentiate between the characters in the book through subtle tones and inflections.. As he reads he is able to draw you into the story, like a good storyteller, like an Alfred Hitchcock introduction to his T.V. show. Gaiman has a good voice, paces himself well, and has very good diction. He knows just where to put the emphasis.
There is clear engagement with the characters as he vividly describes the ghostly guardians and the graveyard. Silas bringing in books for Bod to read, like The Cat in the Hat, paper and crayons, so as to teach Bod the letters of the alphabet. “Silas gives Bod the quest to find each of the twenty six letters in the graveyard-..”.
Later the life’s lessons of good and evil, Bod’s opportunity to fall in love and to fight for the righteous.
Listening to the audiobook helps with the listening to the brilliant version of "The Danse Macabre" performed by Bela Fleck on the banjo as the story tells of the dance of the Macabray, (dance of the dead).
With the background music, you have the sense of feeling the story. Reading audiobooks can be a good way to spend the time on your commute.


Unlike many readers, who give a dramatic performance rather than a reading, Gaiman's voice never changes overmuch, yet he conveys the range of characters and their emotions -- the obstinate but ritualistic call-and-response of a children's quarrel, the wry tones of a teenaged ghost-witch, the cold menace of a monster wearing a human face -- through subtle tones and inflections. It's like the audio equivalent of one of those old black-and-white horror movies, where the subtle play of light and shadow conveys as much of the atmosphere as the story itself. Whether you are getting this audiobook for a young person you know or for yourself, Gaiman's silver-and-shadow reading style is equally suited to both older and younger readers. The fact that the first chapter of The Graveyard Book plays out like an understated slasher film is only made creepier by Gaiman's dry and understated delivery, as if he were channeling Alfred Hitchcock telling a bedtime story. The second chapter of the story, in contrast, provides a break in the tension by providing an almost Dickensien story in which the ghostly inhabitants decide to adopt the foundling and name him Nobody, while Chapter Three, titled "The Hounds of God," is possibly even creepier than the first chapter.

Gaiman is a great reader. It's not just his cool accent, it's the way he gives his characters distinct voices ("he do the book in different voices") and knows just where to put the emphasis and the's all good. I've also recommended, wherever possible, catching him doing a live reading--because those are fantastic.

The story is about Nobody Owens, a young boy who starts the novel as a toddler that ends up in a graveyard late at night, all by himself. I’ll let Gaiman tell you how that happens, because the journey is all the fun here. Nobody Owens grows up, and Gaiman’s ghosts do all the parenting.
Gaiman also narrates, and like I’ve said elsewhere, he’s one of the few authors I’ve heard that could make a comfortable living as an audiobook narrator. I can’t imagine this audiobook being read by someone else, and I’m very happy that it isn’t.

Beloved master storyteller Neil Gaiman returns with a luminous new novel for the audience that embraced his New York Times bestselling modern classic Coraline. Magical, terrifying, and filled with breathtaking adventures, The Graveyard Book is sure to enthrall readers of all ages.


The Graveyard Book, by turns exciting and witty, sinister and tender, shows Gaiman at the top of his form…The story's language and humor are sophisticated, but Gaiman respects his readers and trusts them to understand…In this novel of wonder, Neil Gaiman follows in the footsteps of long-ago storytellers, weaving a tale of unforgettable enchantment.
The New York Times - Monica Edinger

Wistful, witty, wise-and creepy. Gaiman's riff on Kipling's Mowgli stories never falters, from the truly spine-tingling opening, in which a toddler accidentally escapes his family's murderer, to the melancholy, life-affirming ending. Bod (short for Nobody) finds solace and safety with the inhabitants of the local graveyard, who grant him some of the privileges and powers of the dead-he can Fade and Dreamwalk, for instance, but still needs to eat and breathe. Episodic chapters tell miniature gems of stories (one has been nominated for a Locus Award) tracing Bod's growth from a spoiled boy who runs away with the ghouls to a young man for whom the metaphor of setting out into the world becomes achingly real. Childhood fears take solid shape in the nursery-rhyme-inspired villains, while heroism is its own, often bitter, reward. Closer in tone to American Gods than to Coraline, but permeated with Bod's innocence, this needs to be read by anyone who is or has ever been a child.



Have student do the following activities.

- Gravestone Rubbing

- Epitaph Poems – define epitaph – have a discussion.

- Book Trailer- The short previews of coming attractions (known as trailers in the
movie industry) are a great way to entice an audience. Design a trailer
for The Graveyard Book and be as creative as possible. Think about
incorporating a script, costumes, props, sound effects, software
applications (such as PowerPoint), and a video camera.

Monster Trivia - Research some of the monsters featured in the book, such as
werewolves, witches, vampires, ghosts, and ghouls, and write trivia
questions about them. Some questions should be based on this particular
book, while others may draw from popular culture in general.

Supernatural Powers. Bod has several supernatural powers: the Slide, the Fade, and
the Dreamwalk. Invent a fourth supernatural power for Bod, draw a picture
of him, and label his four special abilities with captions.

Genre 6 Fiction - How I Live Now

How I live Now
Written by Meg Rosoff
New York, N.Y.: Wendy Lamb Books
ISBN: 9780553376050

This novel is about a 15 year old girl that has issues with her stepmother and her father ships her off to visit her aunt, whom she has never met, in England. It is here that Elizabeth, which is her given name, begins to be known as Daisy, by her cousins and those whom she meets in England. After living there for so many months, war breaks out and they are left to deal with the horrors of war. Daisy if finally, rescued by her father, and is taken back to New York, where all she thinks about is returning to Edmond and the rest of the family. It is in England that Daisy learns love, survival, have lasting friendships and learns to accept herself. Events are recounted candidly and keeps you wondering what will happen next.


The book opens with Daisy at the airport waiting to be picked up and be taken to her aunt’s rural English home. Living her whole life in New York, Daisy’s only measure of life is living in a big city. Edmond, her fourteen year old cousin picks her up at the airport, while smoking a cigarette, surprised that this behavior, she says “ I don’t say anything in case it’s a well-known fact that the smoking age in England is something like twelve and by making a big thing about it I’ll end up looking like an idiot when I’ve barely been here five minutes.” Her view of the world changes dramatically as the events of her stay at her British relatives begins to unfold. Her aunt lives in a farm with her family, three boys, Edmond, Isaac, Osbert and her daughter, Piper, who is 9 years old.

“The style of writing is called “skaz”, in which David Lodge in the Art of Fiction tells us is: a Russian word (suggesting “jazz and “scat”, as in “scat-singing”) used to designate a type of first person narration that has the characteristics of the spoken rather than the written word. In this kind of novel or story, the narrator is a character who refers to himself (herself) as “I” and addresses the reader as “you”. He or she uses vocabulary and syntax characteristic of colloquial speech, and appears to be relating the story spontaneously rather than delivering a carefully constructed and polished written account.” This style of writing is very young adult friendly and can be read as if reading a diary. Since the story is told by Daisy, her adventures in a country that is a stark contrast to her New York apartment living provides a place of refuge. Once there, Daisy settles in with her British relatives at the country farm and learns to enjoy life without any adults present. The happy and peaceful days are expressed by Daisy’s passionate and secret relationship with Edmond. Her aunt leaves them alone to attend a peace conference, war breaks loose and while she is gone, the invasion of England by an unknown enemy becomes real. The structure of the story is two fold, first part tells about, the farm, the war and about each family member, which will all be life changing moments, while the second part tells about the many years of war, after the war, and when Daisy returns to England.
Living at the farms becomes like a utopia way of living, with all different kinds of animals running around, no regulations or rules and life without adult intervention, living in their own little world away from city life only, an illusion that their home is the only safe place, and they continue to enjoy their summer. The utopia feeling is when Daisy awakes one morning to “everything was perfectly still and beautiful and I stared and stared expecting to see a deer or maybe a unicorn trotting home…” It is not until war comes to them via the army taking over their farmhouse, than they realize the severity of the situation, and as they are separated from each other, the fear of not seeing each other again. Daisy questions: How is anyone ever prepared for war” “ I didn’t really understand The Occupation because it didn’t seem like the kind of war we all knew and loved from your average made-for-TV miniseries.” The plot and setting intertwined as author describes the events of the war with vivid description of what was going on. The effects the war had on people like Mrs. McEvoy the military wife, who lost her husband and son, as she tell Daisy and Piper: “If you haven’t been in a war and are wondering how long it takes to get used to losing everything you think you need or love, I can tell you the answer is no time at all.” The effects the war had on Daisy and Piper as they struggled to find Edmond, Isaac and Osbert, as Daisy becomes Piper’s caretaker trying to find their way to get back home to the farm. Once finding the farm, the devastation of seeing all different kinds of flesh eating animals devouring the aftermath of the war changed Daisy to care for someone else other than oneself, finding herself and her role in the life with Edmond.

This is a very relatable contemporary story, told in honest, raw first-person and filled with humor, love, pathos, and carnage. War, as it will, changes these young people irrevocably, not necessarily for the worse. They and readers know that no one will ever be the same.
Kirkus Reviews

Central to the potency of Rosoff's the ominous prognostication of what a third world war might look like, and the opportunity it provides for teens to imagine themselves, like Daisy, exhibiting courage and resilience in roles traditionally occupied by earlier generations.

This riveting first novel paints a frighteningly realistic picture of a world war breaking out in the 21st century. . . Readers will emerge from the rubble much shaken, a little wiser, and with perhaps a greater sense of humanity.
Publishers Weekly

This first novel is intelligent, funny, serious, and sweet; a winning combination of acerbic commentary, innocence, and sober vision... Hilarious, lyrical, and compassionate, this is, literarily and emotionally, deeply satisfying.
The Horn Book

Rosoff’s narrative poise makes this a book for all ages.....A daring, wise, and sensitive look at the complexities of being young in a world teetering on chaos, Rosoff’s poignant exploration of perseverance in the face of the unknown is a timely lesson for us all.
People Magazine


Have students have book discussion about the following topics.
· Cultural difference
· Taboos about relationships
· Wars in England

Have students draw, make a model of design on computer or animate the utopic farm.

Fill the gap about what happened to Edmond.

Learn about English life during World War II.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Genre 5 The Game of Silence - Louise Erdrich

written by Louise Erdrich
ISBN: 0060297891

This book is about an Indian girl named Omakaya as she goes about her daily activities of chores and experiencing her daily tribulations. As she sees another Indian Tribe enter their village, she realizes that changes are about to happen. As she thinks, “Why have these people come to our village?”She experienced dreams that she could not understand what they meant but knew that things would be different and as she tries to tell her grandmother about her dreams, she learns that she must be left in the woods to fast and have the spirit guide her into understanding her dreams as this would be her gift. It is a story of her, her family and her people, as they struggles to understand why the white man must take their land, leaving them to search for another place to live.


The setting of this story takes place in 1850, by Lake Superior. It is well researched that the fact are delicately interwoven into the story, as the events are told by Omakaya’s point of view. As the story unfurls and the Ojibwa children are at play, readers will be able to relate with the pranks they play on each other. The authenticity of the facts makes the story enjoyable to read, as Erdrich paints vivid pictures of what is happening in each chapter; the Canoemaker: when her father Deydey and the old woman, Old Tallow needed a special kind of root to sew the sides of the canoe Erdrich writes:
“When he found the right jack-pine tree, Father offered a little tobacco, with thanks. Then he began to dig in the shade of the pine with Nokomis’s (her grandmother) iron hoe-the one she was proud of and guarded jealously. The roots followed the shape and direction of the tree branches, only they went under the ground. He lifted the roots up with his hands and a sharpened stick. When he had a nice long length, Father used his sharp hatchet to chop off the root. He took only a few roots from each tress so as not to hurt the tree.”
This makes one have the sense of actually watching the process. Erdrich's style of writing captures the dialect of the Ojibwa people in their names and as they converse with other Indian people. The theme becomes evident as the story develops showing love of family
( “Ombay,” said Nokomis to her now. Omakayas stood up and Nokomis, her grandmother, held out the blanket. Omkayas walked into it and put her face against the silky fur. “There will be plenty of time to enjoy this girt,” said Nokomis. “For now, roll it up and put it in your sleeping corner. I need your help in the words. Let’s go.”) the commitment of the people with each other, Omakaya’s having to except her gift of dreams, and excepting her place among the tribe. A glossary is included at the end of the book which is very helpful.


....” Older and more insightful, Omakayas begins to understand the elements of life more fully as she accepts her gift of telling dreams. Changes are coming to the Ojibwa people and she struggles to deal with all that she is experiencing and her dreams foretell....The action is somewhat slow, but Erdrich's captivating tale of four seasons portrays a deep appreciation of our environment, our history, and our Native American sisters and brothers.”

School Library Journal

.... Readers familiar with the first book will welcome the return of several richly drawn nonreverential characters, including Omakayas' pesky brother, her irritable mom, and her bold, tough mentor, Old Tallow. As Erdrich said in the Booklist Story Behind the Story, "Little House on the Lake" [BKL Ap 1 99], about The Birchbark House, her research into her ancestors revealed the horrifying history and also a culture rich, funny, and warm. In this heartrending novel the sense of what was lost is overwhelming.


"Full of humor, richness and heart." -- Wisconsin State Journal

"Memorable." -- Chicago Tribune


- Have the students discuss how culture affects perspectives in literature and analyze
Indian literature to identify and compare common human experiences within and
between cultures.

- Have the class discuss the oral tradition of Indian people. Their way of handing down
history, stories of events and lessons on life was through storytelling. Traditionally,
storytelling takes place in the wintertime.

- For each piece of Indian literature used, have the students discuss what tribe is
presented and locate the tribe on a map.

Make a report on how to make a Birchbark House, a canoe, how the Indians of that tribe fished or hunted for food, collected water.

Find Indian Folklore and tell the story using the Brown Paper Bag Guidelines.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Genri 5 - The Fighting Ground by Avi

The Fighting Ground
Written by Avi
New York, N.Y.: Harper Trophy

The book tells about a 13 year old boy named Jonathan who has the desire to go into battle and have the same experience as his brother and cousin. The story takes place in 1778 during the Revolutionary War when as Jonathan hears his father and friends talk about “the tyrannical British; their cruel mercenary allies, the German-speaking Hessians; and the hated Tories, those American traitors who had sided with the brutal English king.” Intrigue with the stories he was compelled to find out for himself. Jonathan’s adventure as a volunteer fighter becomes a 24 hour ordeal in which he experiences all different kinds of emotions, fear, anticipation, trust, loyalty, human kindness, and a desire to understand the rigor of fighting. His capture by the Hessians, his escape and then faced with the question of loyalty to the patriots or the human kindness he feels his captors. This experience that Jonathan goes through does not make him a hero or bring him any kind of glory, but it does change his view of the difficult decisions one has to make in these situations.


The book is written a historical style novel as it depicts the Revolutionary War of 1778 and the events experienced by the American Volunteers to do their part of fighting their country. Avi writes with such conviction of the historical setting and interweaves the plot, setting and theme in his style of writing. His description of Jonathan’s minute by minute ordeal, the heaviness of the musket he must carry and the conversations that took place as they marched to the place they were to encounter their enemy is so compelling that one feel being there. As Avi writes about the character, Jonathan, being 13 years old, his vulnerability to impulsive decisions he shows him following his desire to fight, disregarding his father’s warning;
“The bell tolled on. Jonathan, stealing glances at his father, touched his fingers to the glossy butt of the gun, liking its burly satin finish.
“Maybe you’d better get back to the house,” his father said. “Could be someone’s come on through with news. I’d need to know.”
Jonathan sprang up. Too fast.
“Jonathan!” his father cried. Grabbed by his father’s voice, Jonathan stood where he was.
“Don’t you – by God- don’t you go beyond!”.
His mother also warning him to go and find out what was happening she says;
“Just find out!” she called after him. “Then come on right back! You hear?”
Once at the tavern he is taken up by his impulse to go as others are volunteering and when the tavern keeper as him; “Going, are you?” the tavern keeper said before Jonathan could speak.
“Yes, sir.”
The dialogue embodied in the story makes it come to live and the sense of that era.
Avi writing Jonathan’s 24 hour experience through his eyes and his feelings made it more real. An enjoyable book to read.


The compelling story of a young boy's first encounter with war and how it changes him.

Publishers Weekly

“Avi has accomplished his intent: to have readers experience, minute by minute, what it’s like to be involved in war.”

School Library Journal

“A small stunner.”

Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books


Ideas for Reports and Papers
1. Research and report on the role of mercenary soldiers in the Revolutionary War.
2. During the Revolutionary War, minutemen were American civilians who agreed to be prepared to fight on one minute's notice. Research and report on the minutemen's role in the war.
3. Though more sophisticated than The Fighting Ground, Stephen Crane's Red Badge of Courage presents similar themes and incorporates similar techniques. Read Crane's work and compare it to Avi's novel in terms of literary techniques and the protagonists' experiences.

However, there are several activities that could work with the unit study approach, or just as activities for extending the book.

1. Library Resources: Add videotapes about the American Revolution that include the actual sounds of canon and musket fire on them. This will help the reader understand about all the sensory input that a soldier deals with during battle. How confusing and frightening it can be.

2. Field Trip Idea: Attend a battle re-enactment. These, even better than video, illustrate what Jonathon would have been going through. The canon and musket fire is very loud even though they use “fake” bullets. The smell of the gunpowder is also very potent.

3. One of the first ideas that comes up in the book is the idea of obeying your parents. Jonathon really wanted to be a soldier and he heard the tavern bell, but his parents had other ideas. You could cover the proverb “Obey your parents” and the consequences if you don’t.

4. Writing Activity: The Fighting Ground is written as an hour-by-hour chronicle. Have the children keep an hour-by-hour account of one of their own days. It could be for that day, or it could be memories from a special occasion. After it has been written, see if it recreates the memories of that day for you. Does it feel like you are actually re-experiencing the day. If not, give them the opportunity to had more description and personal observations.

5. Geography: The Fighting Gourd took place in New Jersey. Jonathon mentioned several places during the book. Take a detailed map of New Jersey and see if you can locate the places he named.

6. Geography/History: The activity in number five can be expounded on by studying the state of New Jersey and in particular about the state’s colonial period and any contribution it made to the American Revolution.

7. History: Who were the Hessians that were battling the patriots? What are mercenaries? What does mercenary mean?

8. Art: Jonathon describes the Hessian uniform in the book. Recreate what a Hessian uniform looked like and what color it was based on Jonathon’s description.

9. Writing Activity: Before reading the book, have the child write an essay on what they think of war and set it aside. After their essay have them write another essay on their feelings about war. Did the book change their feelings? In the second essay did they use the book to illustrate their feelings if they didn’t change?

10. What is a dialogue? Write a dialogue between two people, any two people, for practice. Then, once you get the concept, write an original dialogue between two characters in the book, perhaps two that didn’t meet in the book at all but were still part of the story.

11. The house Jonathon and the Hessians stayed in was a Swedish-style house. Draw a floor plan of the house as it was described in the book.

12. The Swedish-style house became the popular “log cabin” prevalent in colonial and pioneer eras of the USA. Make a three dimensional replica of a log cabin using whatever materials you have at hand. Even rolled newspapers can be used and then painted brown to look like wood.

13. Biographical reading: Additional reading can be accomplished by reading biographies of real life figures during the American Revolution. At the end of this article is a list of people you could chose from.

14. Physical Education: The musket that Jonathon carried weighed about 12 pounds. The longer he carried it the heavier it got. How long can you carry something that weighs 12 pounds before it gets to feel heavy?

15. Home Ec: Make Johnny cake. Its basically just your standard cornbread recipe fried up in a skillet like pancakes instead of baked in an oven. This is still a very popular bread in the south.

Teaching Ideas

(1) "Letters Home" After watching the movie Johnny Tremain, the students will write letters to their family, in the voice of Johnny. The students will describe the events they witnessed and experienced during the Revolutionary War.

(2) "Common Fears" Students create a survey to find out the most common everyday fears children face. The students distribute their surveys to other classrooms. When the surveys are complete, the students compile the results and create a graph of their data. The teacher will display the graphs to promote discussions about fears and courage. [Adapted from "Toliver's Secret" by Michael Foster in The Mailbox Bookbag. Greensboro, NC: The Education Center, Inc. October/November 2001, p. 37.]

(3)"Military Perspectives" Students will create a venn-diagram to illustrate similarities and differences between American and British soldiers. The students will use the following Web site as a resource for this activity:

(4) “Vocabulary” The vocabulary words can be added to the list or delete words according to your students’ needs. Page references are should be provided. When working with groups, you might encourage students to use context clues as well as picture clues where relevant for word meanings before using a dictionary, or integrate the words into your vocabulary program.

Genre 5 JIP - Historical Fiction

Written by Katherine Paterson
New York, N.Y.: Puffins Books
ISBN: 0-14-038674-2

It is about a boy who after several years of helping out in the poor farm, which happens to be the only home he knows, begins to question where he came from. It is during this time that events begin to happen to change for Jip. His desire to find out who his mother was and how he ended up in the poor farm. His friendship with the town lunatic, who was caged up and ends up at the poor farm with Jip and the caretaker shows a touch of human kindness. The lunatic, Put, begins to educate Jip of worldly things. Jip realizes the importance of learning, but is afraid of letting others know he can read. At this time in history, the poor and the slaves were not given the same opportunity to be schooled. Strangers come into town asking question of Jip and it is then that the teacher in school takes an interest in Jip’s welfare. When the strangers beginning to ask question in town, they feel that they have found the boy of the slave girl. The strangers make haste to capture the boy and to receive the reward for his capture. The teacher gives Jip a note to get help from the Stevens. Jip’s loyalty to Put (the man that became Jip’s friend) shows as he includes Put in his plan to escape without thinking of being caught. Eventually they both go on the journey, meet trouble along the way and Jip gets caught. Caught and feeling depressed because his friend Put was shot, while sitting in jail, he tries to think what would Put want him to do. Escape to freedom was the key and Jip managed to break out of jail and use the underground railroad to reach Canada.


The books depicts the mid 19th century life of 1895 and 1987 of the residents in Vermont. In the story the boy Jip lives on a poor farm, during this time period this was a very common practice. All orphans and or lunatics were sent off to a farm to be treated as best that the caretaker could. Use them as laborers or hired out to people. The description of the living quarters and Jip’s daily routine are so vivid that you can picture yourself being there. The theme and style are brought together as the dialogue between other tenants at the poor farm and Jip makes it more realistic. It gives you enough factual information to know to let you know what was going on. The historical documentation in the acknowledgments helps to set up and to understand the historical accuracy of the story. The facts and events are authentic in the story as during this time of history slavery was a big issue, right along with the slaves running away from their masters to obtain freedom. The Underground Railroad and other sympathy fighters provided passage to many slaves to escape to Canada.


When an aged lunatic named Putnam arrives at a poorhouse farm in rural Vermont in 1855, he is treated as little more than a beast by everyone except the orphan Jip, who himself arrived at the charity orphanage/asylum after being found abandoned by the roadside. Jip and Putnam become friends, then allies of a sort, as Jip struggles to improve his own lot and that of his friend Lucy, the unfortunate daughter of the late town drunk. This historical tale by Katherine Paterson involves its young protagonist in the great 19th century struggle between slave owners and abolitionists while sending him into a test of his own loyalty and courage. Paterson handles weighty issues with grace and verve, and does not shrink from terrible truths in this challenging novel for young readers. review

Abandoned as an infant, Jip West accepts his grim fate on a Vermont poor farm without question until a series of disturbing events changes his beliefs about himself and the people around him. The turning point occurs when, in the year 1855, Jip (who has a gift for "handling beasts and residents") becomes caretaker of a lunatic brought to the farm. The boy's growing friendship with the mysterious, moody man called Put coincides with Jip's discovery that his mother was a runaway slave. Tension mounts when Jip's biological father, the master of a Southern plantation, arrives to retrieve his "property." Like Paterson's Newbery-winning Bridge to Terabithia and Jacob Have I Loved, this historically accurate story is full of revelations and surprises, one of which is the return appearance of the heroine of Lyddie. While Jip's concerns provide insight into 19th-century society, his yearnings for freedom and knowledge are timeless. The taut, extremely readable narrative and its tender depictions of friendship and loyalty provide first-rate entertainment.

Pulishers Weekly

Paterson's companion novel to Lyddie (Lodestar, 1991) rewards readers with memorable characters and a gripping plot. Jip has been told that he tumbled off the back of a wagon when he was a toddler in 1847. He has been raised on a poor farm in a Vermont town, where he is an indispensable asset to the lazy manager and his equally lazy wife. The boy befriends the newly arrived "lunatic" Put, who is kept imprisoned in a cage because he is subject to violent, self-destructive episodes. Jip's life is quietly circumscribed-until a stranger plants the idea that his father might be searching for him. Although he has long fantasized that a loving parent awaits him, he sees the stranger as an unlikely messenger. His instincts prove correct when the man is revealed to be a slave catcher. Then Jip learns the truth about his past: his mother was a runaway slave. With the help of his teacher, Lyddie Worthen, and her sweetheart, Quaker neighbor Luke Stevens, Jip escapes to Canada, where he is welcomed as a free man into the home of a former slave whom Lyddie helped shelter in the earlier book. Paterson's story resonates with respect for the Vermont landscape and its mid-19th-century residents, with the drama of life during a dark period in our nation's history, and with the human quest for freedom. Fans of the previous book will relish meeting up with Lyddie and Luke again at a somewhat later period in their lives. Readers will be talking and thinking about this book long after they finish the last chapter.?

School Library Journal

Set in the 1850s, this story centers on a boy named for his supposed abandonment by gypsies and for his swarthy complexion. Jip lives on the local poor farm, doing chores and caring for the animals. He befriends a caged lunatic, ``Put''; a menacing stranger appears who inquires about Jip's background and turns the boy's life upside down. As he struggles to find answers, he is given the opportunity to attend school and is befriended by the teacher, whom readers will recognize from Lyddie (1991), and her Quaker sweetheart. Through this friendship, Jip is able to face his ancestry and the fact that he must escape or suffer dire consequences. As usual for Paterson, all the characterizations are penetrating--even the villains are interesting. An epilogue lets readers in on Jip's success in reaching Canada and his decisions as the Civil War begins. Unfortunately, the ending is abrupt: Put is sacrificed, and it is not clear what lesson Jip derives from putting his friend in harm's way. Regardless, this is fine historical fiction.

Kirkus Reviews


The Underground Railroad
Grade Levels: 6 - 8
·Students will use vocabulary related to the Underground Railroad.
·Students will identify key facts related to the Underground Railroad.
·Students will evaluate their personal responses to the Underground Railroad.
·Students will make a judgment about the morality of the Underground Railroad.

·The Underground Railroad Worksheet website and follow the directions to take the journey.
·Set aside time for students to gather as a group and share and discuss their activity worksheet responses.
·Challenge the whole group to discuss the moral issues (e.g., right vs. wrong) that the Underground Railroad posed.

·Use a checklist to assess students' understanding of the factual, legal, and moral implications of the Underground Railroad. Assign a point value to each item.
·Find a variety of assessment techniques to use with this lesson.

Extension Activities
·Choose from a large collection of cross-curricular activities for all grade levels.
·Explore outstanding lessons and activities in the Black History Month theme.
·Have students use the Internet to select slavery topics they are interested in learning more about. Direct students to work in small groups and conduct panel discussions on the practice of slavery.
·Have students find a timeline showing the order of events in the history of slavery. After studying the timeline, students can write questions about the timeline to quiz each other.

Related Links
·The Underground Railroad Vocabulary
·The Underground Railroad Teacher Checklist
·The Fugitive Slave Act of 1850
·The Underground Railroad Worksheet
·Three Comprehension Tests for To Be a Slave
·More Resources

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Genre 4 Nonfiction and Bio Simon

Animals Nobody Loves
Written by Seymour Simon - 2001
New York, N.Y.: Sea Star Books
ISBN: 1587171554
ISBN-13: 9781587171550

Up close and personal is how this book is written. Simon’s photos are vivid and in full colore that you can see the animal staring back at you. Myths are dispelled and the facts are presented in an easy to read fashion. It has just enough facts to keep you searching for more answers.

This book has 26 photos of creatures that one would consider scary, but Simon writes with precise and factual style that it makes readers to continue to want to read. The fact as to why, the Gila Monster is called a monster, is fascinating, it is called monster because of its terrible poisonous bite, not its size. The word monster, reminds me of a big animal, but this is not so of the Gila Monster. The facts that Simon presents on Rats is interesting, you might have to go live on top of ice covered mountains to be rat free.
Whether these animals are dangerous or not, readers will enjoy looking at the pictures. By using full page colored photos, the book becomes appealing, attractive and very inviting. If there were any myths about one of these animals, the facts presented will surely straighten thing out. It is a very easy to read informational book.


”The photos (and even the text) won't do much to change the reputation of animals such as the vulture and the rat, but there's no denying they'll draw a crowd and a chorus of "Gross." The pictures are fine, large, and in full color, as fascinating as they are repulsive and scary: the yawning jaws of a shark; a hyena consuming bloody food; a wasp enlarged bigger than a human fist, stinging a grasshopper. Simon puts forward some interesting facts and dispels a few myths about these 20 unlovable subjects, but report writers won't find enough material here, nor are there notes to lead curious kids on to more information. There's no question this will look great on display, but it will serve kids best when it's presented with more fact-rich natural histories.”


In an introduction to twenty animals with bad reputations, Seymour Simon asks readers to examine our prejudices and biases. You may never love a rattlesnake or a cockroach but perhaps you can understand and appreciate them for what they are. Simon's short takes on bats, octopuses, spiders, hyenas, fire ants and the like consist of two or three paragraphs about appearances, behaviors, habitats, reasons for the bad reputations and some facts or anecdotes. Simon does not follow any format but comments about aspects that interest him, which provides the reader with interesting facts but not enough information for use in report writing. Photographs are dramatic and appropriately gory when discussing buzzards or hyenas, for instance, and are clear in color and well focused. Occasionally one wishes for a label—is that a black widow spider or some other? What kind of bat is it that can carry off a mouse? These quibbles aside, Simon's book will feed some fears and allay others—yes, piranhas can strip a body in seconds, says Simon—and may spur children to seek further information. There is no index or endmatter to support the learner but the ending question asks readers if they've changed their minds about any animals as a result of this information and why—a good discussion starter and one worthy of continued consideration.

Children’s Literature

Prolific science-writer Simon provides a brief portrait of 24 animals he says nobody loves, noting in his introduction: "You may never love a rattlesnake, a cockroach, or an octopus-but this book may help you begin to understand and respect them for what they are." Included are the shark, bat, grizzly bear, cobra, spider, cockroach, piranha, and 14 other animals. Each gets a double-paged spread and a glossy, full-color photograph. The text provides odd facts and brief information, though without sources. For example, "In India, alone, cobras are reported to kill thousands of people each year, more than sharks all over the world do in fifty years." Or in discussing the vulture's powerful eyesight: "They can sometimes spot a dying animal forty miles away." Sometimes he gives advice: "If the bear is close or does see you, remain calm. Do not run. Instead, stand tall or back away slowly and wave your hands and speak loudly." Despite his introduction, Simon seldom notes the value of these disliked animals. For example, vultures and hyenas are extremely useful decomposers. While the eyeballs-to-eyeballs cover of a tarantula in full color will keep readers reaching for the title, it is useful for browsing rather than research.



Have students put the animal in categories.

Have students draw their favorite animal from the book.

Haves students find other books of similar topics.