Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Brother Eagle, Sister Sky

Brother Eagle, Sister Sky
by Susan Jeffers
[Multicultural Literature]
[Historical/Realistic Fiction]

Brother Eagle, Sister Sky is a powerful story set back when the Indian Civilizations made up what we now call America. The white European settlers started a brutal war against the Indians, during which they tried to take over the Indian's land. Chief Seattle was one of the most well-known and widely-respected chiefs in the Indian tribes. As the war was ending, one of the white Europeans posed an offer to Chief Seattle to buy all of the Indian's land. When the offer was posed, Chief Seattle spoke out about his feelings for the land. He said that the land, all of its creatures, and everything on it was sacred. His message supported gthe feelings of all of his fellow Indians, that the land should not be given away or taken for granted, rather that it should be preserved.

This story would be perfect to incorporate in a classroom, as it teaches a historical lesson as well as a lesson on taking things for granted. This story shows how much the Indians, and many of the people in our country's past, cared for and appreciated the land they lived on. They took nothing for granted, rather seeing it as a gift. I feel that upper elementary children could get alot out of this story, as could one of any age.

The Giver

The Giver
by Lois Lowry
[Modern Fantasy/Science Fiction]
[Chapter Book]

This book tells the story of a strange community, coincidentally called "the community." In this community, life is very different from the normal lives we live. Things are very orderly, straight forward, and planned. Little room is left for decision, choice, and spontaniety. In the community, there are many rules which everyone must adhere to. It is very plain and dull, as there are no colors, plants, animals, decorations, or sunshine. Members of the community have no recollection or memories of the past. The underlying goal of this futuristic society is to eliminate fear, pain, prejudice, and hatred. The story is told from an 11-year-old boy named Jonas. Jonas lives with his father, his mother, and his sister, Lily. Jonas is different than the majority of the members in the community. Jonas has powerful perception and often sees things change when he looks at them. During the Ceremony of Twelve, Jonas is assigned the highest position in society, the Receiver of Memory. The Receiver of Memory is the only person in the community who has memories of the past. While this person get to enjoy happy memories, they are the only person in the community with memories of pain, hurt, and sadness. Jonas is to receive these memories from the previous Receiver, who he is instructed to refer to as "The Giver." When Jonas starts to receive memories, he sees memories from before the community went to sameness. The retrieval of these memories leads Jonas to the realization that life in the community is rather boring and bare, when it could be much more exhilirating and meaningful. The lack of true life and experience begins to frustrate Jonas, and he relys on the Giver to express his frustration. During this time, the two form a special bond. The Giver helps Jonas plan to secretly flee the community so that all of the memories are released. The Giver agrees to help the community come to terms with these memories once they are released. Jonas ventures into "elsewhere" with only his fathers bicycle and a small supply of food. Jonas and Gabriel are hardly surviving their escape, as they are lacking food, energy, warmth, and sleep. A large snowstorm comes and they can no longer ride the bicycle, so they set out on foot. The two are nearly freezing when they come to a hill, and Jonas sees the sled that he saw in his first memory transmission. They go on an exhilirating sled ride down the hill and Jonas sees a lively, friendly village ahead of them. Jonas hears music and realizes that this village is celebrating Christmastime, and he has made it to the elsewhere that he had been searching for for so long.

The Giver would be a great book to use in an upper elementary classroom, as it is an intriguing story that has great potential when used in education. After reading the story with my class, I would have students pretend that the story ended when Jonas and Gabriel first saw the sled at the top of the hill and write their own ending. Another great activity would be to have children create their own community with unique rules and strange ways of life. This could help them practice the entire writing process, as they would have to brainstorm ideas, plan and sequence their story, create detailed characterization, and write and revise a rough draft all before they complete their final paper. If the resources are present, it could be taken even farther and children could illustrate their story and have it bound in an actual book. Overall I think that the Giver is such a rich story that the possibilities are endless.

Monday, March 29, 2010

The Talking Eggs

The Talking Eggs
by Robert D. San Souci
pictures by Jerry Pinkney
[Traditional/Folk Literature]

Rose and Blanche are sisters who live with their mother. Blanche is the mistreated youngest sibling who is generous, kind, and has heart of gold. Rose is much like her mother, as they are rude, ignorant, and spend their days fantacizing about wealthy lives in the city. One day, Blanche is sent to the well to fetch water for her mother and sister. While she is out, she runs into a weak, faint old woman who was struggling to stand up. The woman kindly asked for a sip of Blanche's water, and Blanche gave it to her without hesitation. When Blanche returned home, her mother and sister were so furious about how long it had taken her that they started beating Blanche, frightening her so much that she ran off into the woods. As she ventured through the woods she ran into the old woman who immediately saw her crying, comforted her, and invited her back to her home. As they went on their way, the old woman made Blanche promise that she would not laugh at what she saw. The next morning, the woman told Blanche to go to the chicken house and take any eggs that say "take me," but not to take any eggs that say "don't take me." She then said to throw the eggs over her shoulder when she got near home. When Blanche got to the chicken house, she noticed that the eggs saying "take me" were plain white eggs, but the eggs saying "don't take me" were beautiful eggs of gold an jewels. Although Blanche was tempted to take the beautiful eggs, she did as she was told and took only the eggs that said "take me." On her way home she threw them over her shoulder, only to find diamonds, rubies, gold, silver, silk dresses, satin eggs, and even a horse-drawn carriage sprouting from the eggs. When she arrived home, her mother and sister were so astonished and jealous of her new plenty that her mother instructed Rose to find her way to the woman's house the next day in hopes of having the same experience. Rose went to the woman's house, but followed none of her directions. When the woman told her about the eggs, Rose naturally took all of the beautiful eggs that she was not supposed to take. As she threw them over her shoulder on the way home, vicious animals erupted from the eggs and began to chase her all the way home. When they arrived home, Blanche had left and moved to the city to live in wealth. Rose and her mother continued to find the woman and her lucky eggs for the rest of their lives, but were never able to do so.

This story would be great to use in the classroom to teach students about character. It could be easily incorporated with a character education or "Do the Right Thing" program. Students would realize the importance of treating everyone with respect and always doing the right thing. They would learn that if you do the right things, good things will come to you without you having to search.