Monday, October 17, 2011

Chess Rumble by Gregory Neri

Here is a digital trailer for CHESS RUMBLE created by graduate student Sherrie Orr. It's available on YouTube via this link.

Gregory Neri

Gregory Neri won the Lee Bennett Hopkins Promising Poet Award in 2010. His recognized book is Chess Rumble (New York: Lee & Low Books, 2009).

Seeing Emily by Joyce Lee Wong

Here is a digital trailer for SEEING EMILY created by graduate student Kara Angell. It's available on YouTube here.

And here is a readers guide for SEEING EMILY created by graduate student Dana Brewster.

Wong, Joyce. Seeing Emily . New York: Amulet Books, 2005.
ISBN: 0810957574

Recommended Grade Levels: 6~9

Expectations are high for Emily Wu. Like most teenagers, Emily’s parents expect her to study hard and make good grades, work in the family restaurant and remember how to conduct herself. Her behavior and work ethic is grounded in the teachings of her Chinese parents who immigrated to the United States. Growing up somewhat isolated from other Chinese-Americans, Emily begins to struggle with balancing the expectations of her parents and her own desires. When a new boy moves to town and shows an interest in her, Emily begins to be secretive and defiant of her parents. However, through her relationship with the boy, Nick, Emily begins to better understand herself and her parents. She also learns to find her way as a Chinese-American and how she can blend the expectations of her parents with her own plans for her future.

Review Excerpts
“In free verse, 16-year-old Emily Wu, a talented artist, describes her daily life as she interacts with her Chinese immigrant parents; with her best friends, Nina and Liz; and with her first boyfriend, Nick. In the process, she lies to her parents, experiments with makeup, and, little by little, loses her values. Readers will smell the aromas of the traditional dishes that her mother cooks, see the vibrant colors of the mural she paints, and relate to the discussions she and her friends have about grades, parents, and boys. They will also sense Baba and Mama's concern when they decide to send Emily to visit her aunt in Taiwan, where she comes to the realization that she can be both Chinese and American. Rich in language and imagery, Seeing Emily is a good choice for fiction collections.” - School Library Journal

“Joyce Lee Wong's dazzling debut addresses the complexities of the contemporary Asian American experience, the pressures of American high school, and the age-old clash between teens and parents. This touching novel takes readers on a journey in which parents, peers and readers ultimately find new ways of seeing Emily. - GoodReads

“In a highly visual, eloquently wrought first novel, Wong conveys a Chinese-American girl's coming of age. In free verse, narrator Emily, a blossoming artist, expresses her observations of loved ones (her concerned mother and father; her two best friends, Nina and Liz) and familiar places (like the Golden Palace restaurant her parents own).” - Publisher’s Weekly

Awards/Honors Received
International Reading Association Lee Bennett Hopkins Promising Poet Award, 2007
Rhode Island Teen Book Award

Questions to Ask Before Reading
Discussion points for Pre-Reading
~ Ask students if they have ever done anything they knew their parents would
disapprove of. Were they openly defiant or secretive about it?
~ Do any of the students have parents who were born in another country? Are they resistant to the student acting ‘American’.
~ Have they ever made friends with someone they knew their parents would disapproveof?

Introducing Free Verse Poetry
~ Free verse poetry is free from the constraints of line length, rhythms, and rhyming patterns. It is used to create an intimate picture of thoughts, feelings, and motivations.
~ Free verse is not prose. It has patterns and is broken into stanzas.
~ There is a lot of imagery and figurative language present. Students should be familiar with how to identify these forms of writing before reading Seeing Emily.

Curriculum Connections
Character Analysis/Writing
~ Create a character map of Emily. Identify her feelings, behaviors, personality traits, and a physical description. Try to identify reasons for her behaviors.
~ Compare the characters of Nick and Alex. How do Emily’s feelings for each of these boys change over the course of the story?

~ Choose a passage from the book where Emily describes an animal in the mural and identify the figurative language used to describe the animal. What do you learn about the animal from the author’s writing?

~ Using magazines and online artwork, students create individual collages that reflect their personality and any struggles they are going through.

Social Studies
~ Identify the cultural values Emily’s parents possess that deal with her relationships and her behavior as a teenage girl. Compare them to your own. What are the differences? Similarities?
~Where does Emily travel to? Where is this in relation to her home in Richmond? Find descriptors of the location in the text.
~ Study the word ‘geisha’. How does Nick’s use of the word affect Emily? Is her reaction positive or negative? Support your answer using text passages. What does Nick’s use of this word reveal about his true feelings for Emily?

Relevant Web Sites
Asian-American Literature
~ Rhode Island Teen Book Award - Discussion Module
~ Resources for books about/from the Pacific Rim and South Asia for students.
~ Multicultural children’s literature publisher.
~ Scholastic article How to Choose the Best Multicultural Books. Includes a section on
Asian-American Literature.
~ Resource paying tribute to Asians and Pacific Islanders who have contributed to the
development of America.

Related Books
Na, An. A step from heaven. Asheville, N.C.: Front Street, 2001.

Namioka, Lensey. An ocean apart, a world away: A novel. New York, NY: Laurel-Leaf, 2003.

Gallo, Donald R. First crossing: stories about teen immigrants. Cambridge, MA: Candlewick Press, 2007.

Gillan, Maria M., and Jennifer Gillan. Growing up ethnic in America: Contemporary fiction about learning to be American. New York: Penguin Books, 1999.

Tan, Amy. The kitchen god's wife. New York: Penguin, 2006.

Yang, Gene Luen, and Lark Pien. American born Chinese. New York: Square Fish, 2009.

About the Author
Joyce Lee Wong is a second-generation Chinese American. After attending college in Taiwan, her parents came to graduate school in America where they met and married. They moved to Virginia where Joyce was born. In addition to being an author, Joyce Lee Wong is a lawyer educated at the University of Virginia School of Law and a teacher. Among her favorite Asian American young adult books are the titles Woman Warrior by Maxine Hong Kingston, Shizuko’s Daughter by Kyoko Mori, and Janet Wong’s Behind the Wheel. Joyce Lee Wong currently lives in Los Angeles where she feels fortunate to be able to participate in Asian-American activities, some specifically related to Taiwanese-American culture.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Joyce Lee Wong

Joyce Lee Wong won the Lee Bennett Hopkins Promising Poet Award in 2007. Her recognized book is Seeing Emily (New York: Abrams, 2006).

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Soul Moon Soup by Lindsay Lee Johnson

Here is a digital trailer for SOUL MOON SOUP created by graduate student Jennifer Boyd.


Here is a readers guide for SOUL MOON SOUP created by graduate student Kathey Smith.

Johnson, Lindsay L. 2002. Soul Moon Soup. Asheville, N.C.: Front Street.
ISBN 1886910871

Recommended Age Levels grade levels 6-8

Summary of Book
Author Lindsay Johnson used a free verse style to tell the story of a young girl who has parents that are not dependable. When the father abandons her and her mother her mother works hard to make end meet but is not successful. They find themselves homeless and living from shelter to shelter and the belongings in a suitcase which is lost. The girl’s mother seeks help by sending her to live with her grandmother whom she has never met. The young girl is worried about her granny mother’s behavior and if her mother will be back. While living with her grandmother she makes a friend who helps her not to lose her dream of drawing. She also discovers family secrets that her look at her mother in a different light when she returns.

Review Excepts
“A homeless child finds a measure of inner security, and mends fences with her weak, trouble mother, in this first novel, written in verse.”

“Phoebe’s story is told through a series of poems that elegantly capture the smells, noises, and fears that come with being on the streets and with living at Full Moon Lake with her grandmother. This is a wonderfully crafted book.” - Children’s Literature

“Soul Moon Soup is a sensitively told tale about homelessness and its devastating effect on children. Written in free-verse, it is the story of Phoebe, an eleven-year-old girl with a talent for drawing and eyes “wide-open… like two hungry mouths.” - The Five Owls

Awards/Honors Received
¬ Lee Bennett Hopkins Promising Poet Award, 2004
¬ Best Book- Best Children’s Book of the Year, 2003 : Bank Street College of Education United States
¬ YSLSA Quick Picks for Reluctant Young Adults Readers. 2003: American Library Association- YALSA; United States

Questions to Ask Before Reading
Invite students to discuss the following questions prior to reading Soul Moon Soup.

¬ Show students the cover of the book and the title ask students What may you conclude by just looking at the cover and the title?
¬ Do you know what the term homeless means?
¬ What are some ways that people may become homeless?
¬ How do you think people feel being in this situation especially children?

Suggestion for Reading Poems Aloud
¬ “Expression” invite the students participate in reading parts and over exaggerate lines which reveals an expressive thought by Phoebe or her mother.
¬ “Reflection” have students read Remembering Daddy p.16
by choral reading and think back about someone that they may remember something special about or just miss their present.
¬ “Readers Theater” invites students to choose parts and participate in reading aloud.
Follow up Activities

¬ Students may read “On the Job with Mama” p. 19 and write about a time when you have gone to your parents, grandparents, or any other relative or friends job and share what you did and how you felt, or write about how you think it would be if you have not gone to a job with an adult.
¬ In Phoebe’s story she meets a friend and this friend helps her gain her confidence back to draw. Write about a time your confidence needed rebuilding so you could do something you like and tell who helped you and how.
¬ Phoebe really misses her dad. Think about someone you really miss write them a letter explaining how and why you miss them.

¬ In this poem Phoebe’s mother had a hard time making end meet, she worked cleaning houses, research the salary of house keepers and maids for the present, five years ago, ten years ago, and fifteen years ago. Try to draw a conclusion of what Phoebes mother’s salary could have been.
¬ Discuss the symmetry of the picture on the cover.
¬ Phoebe loves her mother and misses her a great deal; she had a hard time waiting for her return. Think about someone you are waiting to return or think about if you or someone you love is waiting to leave make a calendar and use tally marks to mark the days until they return or the day until you leave.

Social Studies
¬ In the poem Phoebe and her mother stayed form shelter to shelter. Research different homeless shelters in the area and create a service project – example (donating coats and socks) to help homeless people.
¬ Create a list of statistics of homeless people in your area, compare to a nearby city.
¬ Create an organization at your school or in your classroom that offers resources to homeless children/families at you school (name the organization, list resources offered).

¬ “Rearranging the Pieces” p. 114- Read aloud the 1st paragraph and have students draw what they visualize in their heads from the words they hear.
¬ Phoebe thought art was important, she loved to draw. Pp.62-63 How does art make our lives better? Make a collage answering this question.
¬ Draw yourself with two faces like the cover of the book and share your explanation for your facial explanation.

¬ Phoebe did not have what she wanted or needed for her drawings. Sometimes in life we may not have what we want or need at that moment so often we must work with we have. Phoebe was in the country what are something she could have used to create are work or drawings. (rocks, mud, pine cones etc...) Find some of the items and create a product.
¬ Research materials that will serve as paint (flowers, food, juice etc.) discuss the process to transform into liquid with color to use for painting.
¬ Make footwear impressions this make various designs

Related Web Sites
Nation Coalition for the Homeless
This website if full of help information, resources, and other links that include fact sheets, advocacy, and an opportunity to donate.

Helplines and websites Homeless Link
Explore this site it is full of information to help stop and prevent homelessness as well as where to get help.

Facts about homelessness
This site provides information about starting a jean drive for homeless teens.

Related Books
Fiction about homelessness
Ackerman, Karen. 1993. The Leaves in October. Random House Children’s Books.

Banks, Lynne Reid. 2002. Alice by Accident. Harper Trophy.

Gunning, Monica. 2004. A Shelter in Our Car. Ill. By Elaine Pedlor. Children’s Book Press.

Nonfiction about homelessness
Wallace B. Barbara. 2001. Secret in St. Something. Books For Young Readers.

Whelam, Clora. 2000. Homeless Bird. Harper Collins Publishers.

Youme, Selavi. 2004. That is Life: A Haitian Story of Hope. Cinco Puntos Press.

Grimes, Nikki. 2006. Thanks A Million. Ill. By Cozbi A. Cabrera. Amistad.

Peters, Andrew Fusek. 2001. Out of Order: between-age poem. Ill. By Clive Goodyear.

Viorst, Judith. 1995. Sad Underwear and Other Complications More Poems for Children and their Parents. Ill. By Richard Hull. Antheneum Books for Young Readers.

About the Author
Lindsay Lee Johnson grew up in a family of storytellers. She thinks of words as her first and most enduring playthings. Ms. Johnson has worked as a newspaper reporter, editor, community education instructor, visiting author in schools, and free-lance writer of everything from business brochures to greeting cards and fortune cookies, but her heart has always belonged to fiction. She has written award-winning stories for adults and children and has published three books for children: Hurricane Henrietta, A Week With Zeke & Zach, and Soul Moon Soup. Ms. Johnson writes from her home in the east central Minnesota countryside, where she lives with her husband, four cats, and assorted other animals. She and her husband have twin daughters and four grandchildren.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Lindsay Lee Johnson

Lindsay Lee Johnson won the Lee Bennett Hopkins Promising Poet Award in 2004. Her recognized book is Soul Moon Soup (Asheville, NC: Front Street, 2002).

Monday, October 10, 2011

Moon Over Tennessee by Craig Crist-Evans

Here is a readers guide for MOON OVER TENNESSEE created by graduate student Katherine Gandre.

Crist-Evans, Craig. 1999. MOON OVER TENNESSEE: A BOY’S CIVIL WAR JOURNAL. Ill. by Bonnie Christensen. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company. ISBN 0395912083

Recommended ages 8 +
This journal brings to life the experiences of a 13-year-old boy and his father as they join the Civil War at Gettysburg. This three month journey is a life lesson about balancing physical, mental, and emotional well-being during the hardships of life (war). This boys memories of home give him (inner) strength and keeps him centered, focused, and able to cope with the daily grind and atrocities he witnesses first hand.
The author uses figurative language throughout the story – metaphor, personification, simile, onomatopoeia – to paint his pictures. He also incorporates several writing styles – imagery, understatement, symbolism – to underscore the grave and somber tones of war, “… rode from Gettysburg to Tennessee…saw…country weeping” (p 59).

2000 IRA Best Books

2001 IRA Lee Bennett Hopkins Promising Poet

2003 Lamplighter Award Nominee 

2003 IRA Teacher’s Choice

NY Public Library One Hundred Titles for Reading and Sharing

KIRKUS REVIEWS: "Exquisite, somber black-and-white woodcut illustrations accompany the poems; the images are often as lyrical as the text."

BOOKLIST: “The lyrical collage of men and war invites comparison with Gary Paulsen's Soldier's Heart (Booklist's Top of the List choice for 1998),…. An evocative book, written with language so vibrant it begs to be read aloud.”

PUBLISHER’S WEEKLY: “haunting black-and-white woodcuts capture a broad emotional range. A casual scene of soldiers and horses resting under a tree on their way to battle offers a marked contrast to a searing image of men with lanterns searching for bodies on the abandoned battlefield”

BOOK REVIEW: “While the story is filled with action, it is mainly one of emotions and understanding.”

SCHOOL LIBRARY JOURNAL: “This book is an evocative work, capturing the voice of innocence and hinting at the horrors of war.”

BOOK REPORT: “This book would be an excellent addition to any collection, not only for its descriptions of the Civil War and the emotions surrounding death, but because it is an excellent example of the use of journals. “

Who fought in the Civil War?
Do you have a family member who has been in a war and has shared their experiences with you?
At your age, how would you feel about leaving home – leaving your family – to help others in a war?


Past/Present: Have one student read the stanza that are about the past; have another student read the stanzas about the present.
• April 30, 1863
; May 3, 1863; 
June 10, 1863
Narrator/Dialog: Have one student read the descriptive lines; have other students read the dialog.
• May 6, 1863; 
June 19, 1863; 
July 3, 1863
Present/Dream: Have one student read the stanzas that are about the present; have another student read the stanzas that are dreams.
• July 15, 1863
Different voices: Have different students read each stanza.
• July 22, 1863

Social Studies/Art Research Project: Flip calendar: divide class into 5 groups to represent the 5 years of the Civil War, 1861-1865.
• Each group will generate one year calendar with the names of 9 battles recorded on their dates.
• If the Union won, the information should be recorded in Blue.
• If the Confederacy won, the information should be recorded in Gray.
• Additional information will be added at the bottom of the calendar for each side: Generals in charge, number dead, number wounded, total number involved.
• The top page of each month’s calendar will be a picture of life during the Civil War (examples: camp life, battle, slave life, map, flags, important people, etc.). Maps and flags must be hand-drawn; other illustrations can be found in books or on the internet.

Writing assignment: Play music of the time period and have students write in their own journals (for 10 min) for 5 days. Each entry should include a date, location, weather conditions. Each day assign them a topic to write about: traveling, practicing for battle, camp life (eating/sleeping, taking care of animals), a battle, going home (alone).

Math assignment: Provide factual information and then make up a mathematical word problem (example: 1000 soldiers fought, 250 were killed, 600 were wounded; What percentage did not get hurt?) Other ideas include distances traveled, battles won/lost, etc.

Best of History Web Sites:

Pro Teacher Directory:

The Civil War Homepage:

Civil War:

Civil War Battles by State:

Social Studies for kids:

Civil War Journeys:

Beatty, Patricia. 1987. CHARLEY SKEDADDLE. New York: Morrow. ISBN 0-688-06687-9.
Beatty, Patricia. 1995. JAYHAWKER. New York: Beach Tree Books. ISBN 0-688-14422-5
Beatty, Patricia. 1993. TURN HOMEWARD, HANNALEE. New York: Beach Tree Books. ISBN 978-0-688-16676-2
Brill, Marlene Targ. 1998. DIARY OF A DRUMMER BOY. Brookfield, Conn. : Millbrook Press. ISBN: 0-7613-0118-6.
Collier, James Lincoln and Christopher Collier. 1994. WITH EVERY DROP OF BLOOD. New York: Bantam Doubleday Dell Books for Young Readers. ISBN: 0329077376.
Denenberg, Barry. 2003. WHEN WILL THIS CRUEL WAR BE OVER?: THE CIVIL WAR DIARY OF EMMA SIMPSON. New York: Scholastic. ISBN 0-439-55517-5.
Hunt, Irene. 2002. ACROSS FIVE APRILS. New York: Berkley Jam Books. ISBN 0-613-95390-8.
Murphy, Jim. 2003.THE JOURNAL OF JAMES EDMOUND PEASE: A CIVIL WAR UNION SOLDIER. (Series: My name is America). New York: Scholastic, Inc. ISBN 0-439-55537-X
Pinkney, Andrea Davis. 1999. SILENT THUNDER: A CIVIL WAR STORY. New York: Jump at the Sun/Hyperion Books for Children. ISBN: 0786804394.
Reeder, Carolyn. 1997. ACROSS THE LINES. New York: Atheneum Books for Young Readers. ISBN: 0-689-81133-0.
Rinaldi, Anne. 2004. GIRL IN BLUE. New York: Scholastic. ISBN 978-0-439-67646-5.
Robinet, Harriette. 1995. IF YOU PLEASE, PRESIDENT LINCOLN. New York: Atheneum Books for Young Readers. ISBN 068931969X.

2005. YOUNG HEROES OF THE NORTH AND SOUTH. Peterborough, NH: Cobblestone. ISBN 9780812679014
Bircher, William. 2000. A CIVIL WAR DRUMMER BOY: THE DIARY OF WILLIAM BURCHER, 1861-1865. Mankato, Minn.: Blue Earth Books. ISBN 0-7368-0348-3
Hendrix, John. 2009. JOHN BROWN: HIS FIGHT FOR FREEDOM. New York: Abrams Books for Young Readers. ISBN 9780810937987.
Smolinski, Diane. 2001. KEY BALLTLES OF THE CIVIL WAR. (Series: Americans at War. Civil War). Chicago: Heinemann Library. ISBN 1-58810-097-9

Fleischman, Paul. 1993. BULL RUN. New York: HarperCollins Publishers. ISBN 0060214465.

Lewis, J. Patrick. 2007. THE BROTHER’S WAR: CIVIL WAR VOICES IN VERSE. Including photographs by Civil War photographers. Washington, D.C.: National Geographic. 1426300360.

Ntozake Shange. 2009. WE TROUBLED THE WATERS: POEMS. Paintings by Rod Brown. New York: Collins. ISBN 9780061337376.