Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Does My Head Look Big In This?

Abdel-Fattah, Randa. 2008. Does My Head Look Big In This? New York: Scholastic  ISBN 978-0439922333

Amal is your typical 11th grader in most ways.  She likes shopping and boys and her friends.  But when she decided to wear the hijab full time and further explore her Muslim faith she must deal with preconceived notions and prejudices. 

Amal is a wonderfully developed character.  Abdel-Fattah has done an excellent job of showing the dynamic between Amal and her family.  The characters interact with each other in a way that is positive and loving and a direct contrast to the issues which she faces from her school.  Further, Abdel-Fattah manages to give information about the Muslim faith without coming across as preachy or boring.  She also manages to point out differences in cultures and home life of Muslims who share a faith, but not everything. 

Amal is forced to examine her own belief system while interacting with the beliefs of others who do not fully understand what it means to her to wear the hijab.  Along the way she makes many typical teenage mistakes such as lying to her parents and unfairly judging others while not wanting to be judged herself.
School Library Journal- While the novel deals with a number of serious issues, it is extremely funny and entertaining, and never preachy or forced.
Booklist-*Starred Review* - Without heavy preaching, the issues of faith and culture are part of the story, from fasting at Ramadan to refusing sex before marriage. More than the usual story of the immigrant teen's conflict with her traditional parents, the funny, touching contemporary narrative will grab teens everywhere.
(starred) "Determined to prove she's strong enough to 'wear a badge of my faith,' Amal faces ostracism and ridicule as she dons her hijab with both good humor and trepidation. . . .
(starred) "Using a winning mix of humor and sensitivity, Abdel-Fattah ably demonstrates that her heroine is, at heart, a teen like any other. This debut should speak to anyone who has felt like an outsider for any reason." --PUBLISHERS WEEKLY
Winner - Australian Book Industry Awards 2006 - Australian Book of the Year for Older Children
Notable Book - Selected as a Notable Book by the Children's Book Council 2006
Long listed for the UK Galaxy Book Awards 2006

Short listed for the Grampian Children’s Book Awards UK 2006

Visit the authors website:

Read other books by Randa Abdel-Fattah
Explore works by Arab Americans such as Naomi Shihab Nye

Learn about different kinds of head scarves worn by Muslim women at

Amal is Australian.  Explore Australia via the internet.  How might Amal's experience have been different if she was American?


10000 Dresses

Ewert, Marcus. 2008. 10,000 Dresses. Ill. Rex Ray. New York: Seven Stories Press.  ISBN 978-1-58322-850-0.
Bailey dreams about dresses every night.  10,000 dresses in all.  The only problem is that Bailey is a boy.  His parents don't understand but he finds a kindred spirit in a girl who loves to make dresses.

10,000 Dresses is a simple introduction to the concept of transgender.  Bailey, though technically a boy refers to himself as her and feels like a girl.  His parents and older brother tell him that these feelings are wrong or even gross, but he finds acceptance with Laurel who loves dresses as much as he does. 

While the story of ultimate acceptance is wonderful, the young audience for whom the book is intended will most likely be confused by the use of both he and she for Bailey.  Further, the artwork created for the book is very gender neutral which also complicates the issue.  Transgender is a complicated issue and this book could in fact cause more questions then answers.  However, the book is a wonderful starting point for children who are transgender or know someone who is transgender.

The first book of its kind, 10,000 Dresses has received wide critical acclaim, awards and honors from the American Library Association, and has become a staple of anti-bullying curricula throughout North America. It’s also been banned a few times!

"I had a graduate student come up to my reference desk the other day asking for picture books where the characters acted out non-traditional gender roles. When this happens (and it happens more than you would think) I tend to begin with the stories that can be interpreted multiple ways, like The Story of Ferdinand. Then I pluck out The Paper Bag Princess, Elena's Serenade, and William's Doll. The piece de resistance is our very special copy of X: A Fabulous Child's Story which you will not find circulating in just any library system, thank you very much. However, the book I most wanted to show off was 10,000 Dresses."—School Library Journal   "If you are a member of an LGBT family with young children, or the friend or ally of an LGBT family with young children, and want to expose your children to what the broad LGBT community looks like, you need to expose yourself and these children to the picture book 10,000 Dresses."—Pam's House Blend   "Bailey may continue to inspire families in new ways with her bravery and artistic vision."—Bay Windows, New England's Largest GLBT Newspaper   "Bailey is a wonderful creation, but then again so are the dresses she dreams up; the illustrations by Rex Ray have a sleek, artful look."—Edge Boston   "Marcus Ewert's 10,000 Dresses is a joyous book about self-acceptance and identity. It is also the only children's picture book that features an openly transgender protagonist, and does so with both sensitivity and celebration."—Philadelphia Gay News   "It is a wonderful story that lets you see the world through the eyes of a gender variant child."—Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG) Newsletter   "Great for any kid who knows someone who is different or who may feel a little different themselves sometimes."—Rainbow Rumpus   "This charming book offers a subtle and touching approach to introducing kids to the maze of gender identity." —GT/Gaytimes(UK)

Read an interview with the author at
Read Be Who You Are by Jennifer Carr (information on the book is found here

The Pirate of Kindergarten

Lyon, George Ella. 2010. The Pirate of Kindergarten. Ill. Lynne Avril. New York: Antheneum Books for Young Readers  ISBN 978-1-4169-5024-0.
Ginny loved school.  She loved reading circle.  But sometimes Ginny had trouble.  Things she saw moved.  And sometimes things she saw weren't even there.  But when a nurse comes to school to test everyones vision everything changes and Ginny becomes....the pirate of kindergarten.
The Pirate of Kindergarten is a wonderful introduction to differences.  Ginny appears to be just like all of the other kids in kindergarten.  But Ginny sees doubles and seeing a rabbit with three ears causes all kinds of problems.  The solution is a simple eye patch.  Which turns Ginny into a Kindergarten Pirate.  Her eye patch, rather than causing more trouble eases her way and allows Ginny to be "normal".
The chalk, pencil, and acrylic drawings of Lynne Avril allow the reader to see things through Ginny's eyes.  With double lines around chairs and moving letter, the illustrator effectively translates Ginny's frustrations to the reader.  Further, lending to the pirate concept, Ginny is always seen wearing nautical inspired clothing adding an element of foreshadowing.

  • ALA Schneider Family Book Award,
  • Volunteer State Book Award Master List (TN)

  • School Library Journal—Lyon's short, descriptive sentences set up the situation deftly
    Booklist-Even children who have not experienced Ginny’s problem will understand her occasional frustration and find it intriguing that one person can literally see the world differently from another. 

    Read another book about a child with an eye patch:
    Julia Chen Headley's The Patch (Charlesbridge, 2006)
    Visit the authors website:
    Visit the illustrators website:
    Complete an activity from the following website:

    Monday, November 19, 2012

    The Year of the Dog

    Lin, Grace.2005. The Year of the Dog. New York: Little Brown. ISBN-5

    The Year of the Dog is a story of Pacy and her search to "find herself" during the year of the dog. Pacy struggles throughout the year, but manages to find friendship and luck all the same.
    Grace Lin moves away from picture books and tackles her first juvenile novel with The Year of the Dog.  Pacy, or Grace to her school friends, is determined to discover her talents.  The year of the dog is supposed to be for discovering new friends and yourself.  Written with a diary like quality, The Year of the Dog is an easy read that will allow children to connect to Grace on a friendly, personal level. 

    Scattered throughout the book are short family tales that help to share the Taiwanese culture.  Within these short stories are cultural gems that help the reader to understand the customs and mannerisms of the Taiwanese American way of life.  Although the stories sometimes feel as if they have caused a disjointedness within the story as a whole, their value culturally is worth the slight off feeling which occurs. 
    • 2006 Fall Publisher's Pick
    • Starred Booklist Review
    • 2006 ALA Children's Notable
    • 2006 Asian Pacific American Librarian Association Honor
    • 2006 National Parenting Publications Awards (NAPPA) GOLD Winner
    • 2007-2008 Texas Bluebonnet Award Masterlist
    • 2007 Nene Awards Recommended List (Hawaii's Book Award Chosen by Children Grades 4-6)
    • 2007 Cochecho Readers' Award List (sponsored by the Children's Librarians of Dover, New Hampshire)
    • NYPL 100 Titles for Reading and Sharing 2006
    • Kirkus Best Early Chapter Books 2006
    •2006 Booklist Editors' Choice for Middle Readers
    •Cooperative Children's Book Center Choice 2007
    •Boston Authors Club Recommended Book
    •2007-2008 Great Lakes Great Books Award nominee
    •2007-2008 North Carolina Children's Book Award nominee
    •2007-2008 West Virginia Children's Book Award nominee
    •2009 Beverly Cleary Children's Choice Award (OR) nominee
    •2009 Pacific Northwest Young Readers Choice Award (WA, OR, ID)nominee

    Visit the authors website at
    What "year" were you born in?  Learn about the Chinese zodiac.
    What is the Chinese New Year?  Learn about it here:
    Read additional books about Chinese New Year:
    Holidays Around the World: Celebrate Chinese New Year: With Fireworks, Dragons, and Lanterns by Carolyn Otto (Jan 13, 2009)
    A New Year's Reunion: A Chinese Story by Li Qiong Yu and Zhu Chen Liang (Oct 31, 2011)
    Pacy is Tiawanese.  Learn more about Taiwan at
    Make a paper lantern to celebrate the new year.
    Make a snake craft to celebrate 2013 as the year of the snake (instructions at

    Tea with Milk

    Say, Allen. 1999. Tea with Milk. Ill. Allen Say.  New York: Houghton Mifflin. ISBN 9780547237473

    Tea with Milk is the story of Masako, or May to her friends in San Francisco.  May was born and raised in America, but must return to Japan when her parents decide to return home.  May must learn to assimilate into a culture which is hers and yet feels strange and out of place.

    Tea with Milk is written in a linear format.  It is the story of one young woman's journey away from one home and to another.  Say pays wonderful tribute to his mother and tells the story of two people who feel like outsiders and how they made a home. 

    Cultural markers run throughout the work.  Say incorporates the differences between Japanese culture and American culture seamlessly through May's homesickness and acceptance of her new home.  The differences begin to be highlighted on the first page of text.  "At home she had rice and mi so soup and plain green tea for breakfast.  At her friends' houses she ate pancakes and muffins and drank tea with milk and sugar" (p.4).  Perhaps the most striking cultural difference which is depicted is the different role and expectation of women between the two cultures.  May had planned to attend college, work, and live on her own in San Francisco. However, in Japan she is expected to learn to serve tea and marry well.

    Say helps to depict the sadness of May with his illustrations.  The illustrations progress from shades of gray and muted pastels to a firmer, darker landscape as May finds her way in her new world and creates a home for herself.  Traditional kimonos and school uniforms help to define the landscape and provide identifying cultural markers even without the text. 

    Say's masterfully executed watercolors tell as much of this story about a young woman's challenging transition from America to Japan as his eloquent, economical prose.- Publishers Weekly
    This is a thoughtful and poignant book that will appeal to a wide range of readers, particularly our nation's many immigrants who grapple with some of the same challenges as May and Joseph, including feeling at home in a place that is not their own.- School Library Journal
    This perfect marriage of artwork and text offers readers a window into a different place and time.- Library Journal(May)
    Painted with characteristic control and restraint, Say's illustrations, largely portraits, begin with a sepia view of a sullen child in a kimono, gradually take on distinct, subdued color, and end with a formal shot of the smiling young couple in Western dress. - Kirkus Reviews
    "Continuing to explore place and home, Say tells the story of his mother, first introduced to readers in TREE OF CRANES. Born in California to Japanese immigrants, Masako is miserable when she moves to Japan with her parents after high school. The illustrations capture Masako's unhappiness and also her eventual contentment as she learns to combine two cultures." Horn Book


    Read more about author Allen Say at
    Read an interview with the author at
    Have a tea ceremony.
    Explore Japanese culture.  Compare Japan to America.  How are we the same?  How are we different?

    The Name Jar

    Choi, Yangsook. 2001. The Name Jar. Ill. Yangsook Choi.  New York: Dragonfly Books. ISBN 9780440417996

    The Name Jar tells the story of Unhei, a young girl who has come to America from Korea.  Unhei wants to make friends but worries that no one will be able to pronounce her name.  She decides to have a name jar and choose a new name from the suggestions in the jar.  But, what name should she choose?

    The Name Jar is written from the perspective of a young Korean girl who is trying to decide who she is in her new home.  Unhei does not want to be made fun of for her name which is difficult to pronounce for her new classmates.  She decides to pick a new American name and begins to collect suggestions in her name jar. 
    Yangsook Choi does a wonderful job of incorporating Korean culture into the short picture book.  Unhei is giver her name carved into a block of wood which can be used as her signature when she is in Korea.  Also, she and her mother visit Mr. Kim's market where they purchase groceries to make traditional Korean food.  Choi also includes information about Korean traditions such as the use of a name master when selecting the name for a new baby. 
    The illustrations which were also done by the author depict wonderful diversity within the children of Unhei's class.  Each child has varied skin tones as well as varied hair styles and textures.  Unhei and her family have several authentic physical features which are common among Korean Americans.  Unhei's hair is smooth, black and straight.  Her eyes have a slight tilt to them.  And her skin is a lovely creamy tan.  Anyone who has had Korean friends will recognize that Unhei is Korean from the illustrations.

    WINNER 2003 Arkansas Diamond Primary Book Master List
    NOMINEE 2005 Arizona Young Readers Award
    "Cultural details freshen the story"- New York Times Book Review
    "Choi draws from her own experience, interweaving several issues into this touching account and delicately addressing the challenges of assimilation"- Kirkus

    Visit the author's website at
    Read an interview with the author at
    Have children select a symbol that represents their name.  Create apple or potato stamps of their symbol and have each child stamp their "name"
    Create your own name jar.  If you could choose any name for yourself what would it be?
    Research the meaning and origin of students names.

    Other books by Yangsook Choi:
    Behind the Mask, Frances Foster Books, Farrar Straus & Giroux, 2006 ISBN 0-374-30522-6
    Earthquake, Frances Foster Books, Farrar Straus & Giroux, 2001 ISBN 0-374-39964-6
    Gai See, Abrams Books for Young Readers, 2007, ISBN 0-810-99337-6 7
    Good-bye, 382 Shin Dang Dong, National Geographic, 2002, ISBN 0-7922-7985-9
    Landed, Frances Foster Books, Farrar Straus & Giroux, 2006 ISBN 0374343144
    New Cat, Frances Foster Books, Farrar Straus & Giroux, 1999, ISBN 0-374-35512-6
    Nim and the War Effort, Frances Foster Books, Farrar Straus & Giroux, 1997, ISBN 0-374-35523-1
    Peach Heaven, Frances Foster Books, Farrar Straus & Giroux, 2005, ISBN 0-374-35761-7
    Rice Is Life, Henry Holt, 2000, ISBN 0-8050-5719-6
    The Sun Girl and the Moon Boy, Knopf, 1997, ISBN 0-679-88386-X
    This Next New Year, Frances Foster Books, Farrar Straus & Giroux, 2000, ISBN 0-374-35503-7

    Tuesday, November 6, 2012

    Thirteen Moons

    Bruchac, Joseph, and London, Jonathan. 1997. Thirteen Moons on Turtle's Back: A Native American Year of Moons. New York: Putnam Berkley Group. Ill. by Thomas Locker. ISBN 0-698-11584-8

    This picture book includes 13 poems reflecting the 13 moons of the calendar year.  Each poem is a retelling of a different tribes moon legend.
    Each poem in this collection represents a different tribe or nations legend about a moon cycle.  Told as if an adult is instructing a child the poems are presented as a complete lunar cycle. The turtle is used as a guide and reminder of the lunar cycle due to the 13 scales which always appear on the shell.

    While each poem is well written and a beautiful interpretation of a legend.  The book falls short of providing any signfigant details of tribal life.  The illustrations are beautiful by themselves.  However, they do not provide any additional insight into the poems.  Further the illustration placement within the book further distances the picture from the text.  Each poem is located on the left hand side of the page with the illustrations seperated onto the right 3/4 of each layout.
    Notable Children's Trade Book in the Language Arts
    IRA Teachers' Choice Book
    Notable Children's Trade Book in the field of Social Studies
    "This unusual and intelligent book is an exemplary introduction to Native American culture with its emphasis on the importance of nature."- Publishers Weekly
    "dignified retellings of Native American legends "- Kirkus
    Have students explore and research one of the Native American tribes or nations that contribute a legend to the book.

    Do all turtles have 13 scales on their backs.  Have students research different types of turtles.

    Create your own turtle time calendar (download available at

    Find out more information about lunar phases and the effects of the moon on our planet.

    Read more by Joseph Bruchac.  An index of published works can be found on the author's website

    Sees Behind Trees

    Dorris, Michael.1996. Sees Behind Trees. New York: Hyperion. ISBN 978-078681357-5

    Near sighted Walnut can't shoot or hunt, but he can see what isn't there due to his other senses.  This earns him the name Sees Behind Trees.  His new skills and "powers" will be put to the test as he helps Gray Fire find his way back to a magical place and his own way home.
    Sees Behind Trees is a simply written tale of a young Powhatan boy on the cusp of manhood.  The novel centers around Walnut who is renamed Sees Behind Trees after a special test of manhood where he demonstrates his ability to see what isn't there by using his heightened sense of hearing.  Sees Behind Trees takes on a test to help Grey Fire find a magical place of his youth.  The journey is a life altering experience for the young man and provides an insight into the transition from boy to man. 

    Author Michael Dorris paints an authentic picture of life among the Powhatan people.  Simple inclusions of information allow the reader to have a true idea of the looks, sounds, and smells of the village.  Everyday cooking smells of pemmican, venison, and fish are included giving the reader an entry into the home life of Sees Behind Trees and his village.  Interwoven into the simple text are aspects of village life such as descriptions of clothing, bows and arrows, bluebird feathers in headdresses, and belief systems that include superstition.
    starred review- Publishers weekly- "thrilling"
    starred review- Booklist- "Brilliant and deeply humane"
    Kirkus- "Dorris has captured the angst that is part of the invisible doorway between childhood and adulthood"

    School library journal best book 1996
    Publishers weekly best book of 1996
    Book Links best book of 1996
    Learn about the Powhatan Indians at
    Powhatan Indians are famous for their interaction with the Jamestown settlers.  Explore their village life at
    The Powhatan Indians are one of the First Peoples of Virginia.  They lived in log and birch houses and traveled by canoe.  Have children create a canoe out of construction paper.

    Monday, November 5, 2012

    Rain is not my Indain Name

    Smith, Cynthia Leitich. 2001. Rain is not my Indian Name. New York: Harper Collins. ISBN 978-0-688-17397-5

    Depressed since the death of her best friend, Rain struggles to find her footing and happiness again by acting as the photographer for the local paper covering a Native American summer camp. 
    The story, told in nonlinear format, delves deep into the rediscovery of self from loss.  With the loss of her best friend Galen, Rain loses herself in grief.  Aunt Georgia's Indian Camp is not something that  Rain wants to do during the summer.  With only a few Native American families in town Rain often feels the burden of being different.  She rediscovers her identity and that of her culture through the lens of a camera and time with others who share her difference.

    Smith uses stereotypes within the novel to breach truths.  For example, when Rain things about Indian Camp she says it will probably be "a bunch of probably suburban, probably rich, probably white kids tromped around a woodsy park, calling themselves 'princess,' 'braves,' or 'guides'"(p. 12). 

    Journal excerpts scattered throughout the novel bring in an element of personal monologue to a character who is too distraught in her grief to share her feelings.  They allow an insight into who Rain is and who she is letting everyone see. 

    2001 Writers of the Year in Children's Prose by Wordcraft Circle of Native Writers and Storytellers.

    RAIN was also a finalist for the Oklahoma Book Award
    Featured at the Second National Book Festival, the Texas Book Festival, the St. Petersburg Times' "You Gotta Read This Book Club," 
    Included in GREAT BOOKS FOR GIRLS by Kathleen Odean.

    "A wonderful novel of a present-day teen and her 'patch-work tribe." (School Library Journal )

    “Rain's observations are appealingly wry, and readers …will find food for thought in this exploration of cultural identity. ” (The Bulletin for the Center for Children's Books )

    Kirkus Reviews: "Tender, funny, and full of sharp wordplay..."


    Students can check out an interview with the author and other items at

    Photography plays an important role in the novel.  Have students create a photo collage depicting who they are as a person.

    The children of the summer camp build a bridge.  Have students build toothpick bridges and see whose design is sturdier.

    Read other literature by author Cynthia Leitich Smith including:
    JINGLE DANCER by Cynthia Leitich Smith, illustrated by Cornelius Van Wright and Ying-Hwa Hu (Morrow/HarperCollins, 2000)(ages 4-up).
    INDIAN SHOES by Cynthia Leitich Smith (HarperCollins, 2002)(ages 7-up).
    SANTA KNOWS by Cynthia and Greg Leitich Smith, illustrated by Steve Björkman (Dutton, 2006)(ages 4-up).
    TANTALIZE by Cynthia Leitich Smith (Candlewick, 2007, 2008)(ages 14-up).
    ETERNAL by Cynthia Leitich Smith (Candlewick, 2009, 2010).
    HOLLER LOUDLY by Cynthia Leitich Smith (Dutton, 2010).