Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Author Study - Roald Dahl

Introduction to Author Study:
As part of our Children’s Literature class, we are to complete an author study on one of many children’s literature authors. I was not an avid reader when I was younger, but when I did read books, a portion of them came from “literary genius” Roald Dahl. I was excited to learn more about Roald Dahl since I had the pleasure of reading and re-reading several of his children’s books; those you will see in my Annotated Bibliography. I even discovered two cookbooks based on his vividly creative food choices described in many of his books. At the end of the study, we are to create activities that go along with the books of our chosen author. With his classic books turning into movies; “Matilda,” “James and the Giant Peach,” “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory,” etc., we learn more about Dahl’s successes and his underlying messages in all his children’s literature. I hope you enjoy learning about Roald Dahl as much as I enjoyed learning more about him and immersing myself in his wonderful children’s literature.
Background Information:
On September 13th, 1916, in Llandaff, Wales, Roald Dahl was born of Norwegian parents. During his childhood, he lost his father at three years old, but referred to him in his book “Boy.” It was only his mother who took care of him; Roald was her only son. He remembered and loved his mother so well; he made a tribute to her in his book “The Witches.” His mother told great tales of Norwegian creatures, which enhanced his love for stories and books at a young age.
School made Dahl unhappy, but his good times, addressed in his autobiography, “Boy,” linked to “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.” At boarding school is where he met the all-powerful Matron, a character he portrayed as “Mrs. Trunchball” in “Matilda.” His unhappy times in school greatly influenced his writing.
After schooling, World War II broke out and he joined the Royal Air Force and became a fighter pilot. In Dahl’s autobiography, “Going Solo,” he depicts his life during the war.
In 1942, the start of Dahl’s writing career became apparent. His first children’s book, a picture book, was “The Gremlins,” not “James and the Giant Peach,” as the common misconception. It was not until the 1960’s when Dahl’s career as a children’s book author began, after he became a father and wrote short stories for adults.
Dahl’s first 15 years in his writing career was for adults. His first “story” was “A Piece of Cake,” which was written for the Saturday Evening Post; which he wrote frequently for and many other magazines. Dahl won the Edgar Award from the Mystery Writers of America three times for his adult writing.         
While Dahl wrote for adults, he is most famous, of course, for being a children’s author, which he is more pleased of with his accomplishments. His book “James and the Giant Peach;” published in 1961, came about from his frequent bedtime story-telling for his daughters. His second book, “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory,” became a quick success, even releasing a movie based off of the book. From notes of David Gritten, he describes Dahl’s books as “strong on plot and instilled with a tremendous sense of mischief, insist on seeing the world through children’s eyes, and often portray adults as silly, uncomprehending or insensitive; no wonder kids love them.” Dahl became incredibly successful throughout the world, writing more than a dozen children’s books. His books represent modern fairy tales where powerless children triumph over evil adults.
In 1990, unfortunately Dahl was diagnosed with a rare blood disorder which caused him to die on November 23rd at 74 years old. Even though he is now gone, his advocacy for reading and popularity of books still continues to grow throughout the world.
Resources: - Welcome to the world of Roald Dahl! This is the official website of Roald Dahl. You can explore his books and stuff; a list and summary of all his books, treats; games and activities about his famous treats, and the man himself; biographies, interviews and pictures of Roald Dahl. - The Roald Dahl Museum and Story Centre is an award-winning and family-friendly Museum with fun and fact-packed galleries all celebrating Roald Dahl and his great works. Here is a video trailer of the museum: - Are you a fan of Roald Dahl? So are the creators of this site. “This website is devoted to both types of his writing and features resources for everyone from young readers to school teachers to older devotees.”

Fab 4 Reflection

The Fab 4 was an assignment where we, as students, were able to use our Children's Literature textbook, "The Joy of Children's Literature" by Denise Johnson, to analyze chapters in the book that we found informational and interesting to us. The 4 chapters that I chose were Picturebooks: Beyond Words and Illustrations, Traditional Literature, Poetry, and Diverse Perspectives in Children's Literature. With each chapter, we were to analyze the chapter as a whole, critical issues, teaching connections and list 3 books that embraced that category; picturebook, 3rd-4th grade and 5th-6th grade literature.
What I learned from the Fab 4 was how to analyze various genres of literature and have more of an appreciation for such. Such analyzation has immersed myself and broadened my eyes to new aspects of literature. I hope that when I am a teacher, I can introduce literature to my students in this engaging and knowledgeable way.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Diverse Perspectives in Children's Literature

What does diversity mean? “The ability to see other cultures and life experiences is important in developing children’s perspective, insight, and possibilities as they progress to becoming citizens of the world.” (Johnson, 2012, p. 305). By taking a look at multicultural literature, we examine more closely at the quality of cultural content. When students immerse themselves into multicultural literature, they become more motivated to read, and have a deeper understanding and appreciation for their own culture and the culture of others.
Critical Issues:
There are 3 categories of diverse perspectives inside multicultural literature; cultural diversity; African American, Latino/Latina Americans, Asian Americans and American Indians, religious diversity; American Indian Spirituality, Hinduism, Buddhism, Judaism, and Islam and other diverse perspectives; Aging, Gender Equality, Exceptionalities, Language, Social Diversity and Family Structures.  When picking multicultural literature, it’s always important to evaluate and select a book that’s appropriate to the message you are trying to convey, especially avoiding any racism and sexism views you or your students may have. There are 8 steps on how to analyze children’s books for racism and sexism. These steps can be found on page 320-323 of “The Joy of Children’s Literature” book by Johnson.
Teaching Connections:
As teachers, one of our roles in literature is developing the literacy of our students. One way we can develop literacy is through the Principles of Critical Literacy. These principles focus on issues of power and promote reflection, transformation, and action, focus on problem and its complexity, has strategies that are dynamic and adapt to the contexts in which they are used and disrupts the commonplace by examining it from multiple perspectives. We can also connect multicultural literature across the curriculum in reading and language arts, social studies, science, and math by providing “examples of how critical thinking in a diverse society leads to a deeper understanding and knowledge of cultures, religions, or perspectives and, in turn, leads to reflective decision making. (Johnson, 2012, p. 331).
Literature Examples:
Taking Visual Impairment to School by Rita Whitman Steingold, 2004, Grades: 1-2/Picturebook 
Lisa, a young girl who is blind, tells her story of what it’s like to not see and even those with a visual impairment, like low vision. Since she’s blind, she’s learned how to use her other senses to live a normal life. She uses her sense of hearing at the movies, her sense of touch by reading Braille, and her sense of smell through flowers and her sense of taste through her meals. She’s learned how to walk with a cane, play the violin, and function on her own with the help of friends and family.

Meet Josefina: An American Girl by Valerie Tripp, 1997, Grades: 3-4
Meet Josefina is the story of Josefina Montoya and her family; Papa and her sisters, Anna, Francisca and Clara and their life on a rancho in New Mexico. After Mama passed away a year ago, life on the rancho has been difficult, but everyone is contributing to the chores at hand. One day, everyone anxiously anticipates the arrival of Abuelito. As he comes, he surprises everyone by bringing a guest, Tia Dolores, Mama’s sister. With their arrival, comes a fandango, a dance party, gifts, ideas and surprises. Even though life on the rancho has been difficult, but reminiscing on the good times with Mama and keep their spirits high, has made life a much more pleasant experience.

Everybody Cooks Rice By Norah Dooley, 1991, Grades 5-6 
While Mom was cooking dinner, Carrie, a young girl, was always asked to go search for her brother Anthony. While looking for Anthony, she entered many of her neighbors houses, families from Barbados, Puerto Rico, Vietnam, India, China, Haiti, and her own, Italian. She and her brother discovered that while everyone was from different places, everybody cooks rice.


Poetry is “the distillation of experience through the concentrated use of language and form that creates rhythm, sounds, image, and meaning in a way that helps us see the new in the ordinary.” (Johnson, 2012, p. 232). Having children engage and immerse themselves into poetry at an early age will benefit most from this form of literature. These children will also have a remarkable understanding of the genre as they learn to read and write on their own.
Critical Issues:
Poetry can be seen in many different ways. Knowing the types of categories of poetry will help in not only your understanding of the literature, but in your students as well. The categories of poetry are Mother Goose and Nursery Rhyme, Jump Rope Poems, Folk Poems, Lyrical, Narrative, Free Verse, Nonsense Verse, Sonnets, Ballads, Limericks, Concrete Poems, Haiku, Poetry Novels and Other forms/Elements of Poetry, such as Rhythm, Rhyme/Sound Pattern, Imagery and Shape. Also, learning how to evaluate and select poetry by Readability, Subject Matter, Language and Form is important when finding pieces that reflect the student’s own experiences and emotions as well as those of others.
Teaching Connections:
On page 236 of “The Joy of Children’s Literature” book by Johnson, there are many ways we, as teachers, can bring poetry into the classroom for the students and for ourselves. For the students, we can read aloud, encourage poetry writing, explore poets, etc. For the teachers, we can stay posted on new releases; collaborate with other teachers, etc. There are also several guidelines we can follow that are steps we can take when writing poetry with children. Found on page 258, some steps include selecting a purpose for writing, share, celebrate and reflect, publish, etc. Lastly, for connecting with the curriculum, in math, we can look for patterns, in geography, we can explore history and historical figures, and in science, we can capture factual information with vivid pictures.
Literature Examples:
Big Red Barn by Margaret Wise Brown, 1995, Grades: 1-2/Picturebook
In the big red barn, there were lots of farm animals; pigs, horses, sheep, donkeys, geese, goats, a scarecrow, field mouse, rooster, pigeon, hens and eggs, cows, cats and dogs, but no children today, they were away. They all lived together and played all day. When it was night, they all went inside the barn to sleep.

Many Luscious Lollipops by Ruth Heller, 1998, Grades: 3-4 
This book takes your ordinary things and adds/explains why adjectives, comparatives, superlatives, proper adjectives, articles, possessives, demonstratives, predicate adjectives enhance what you are trying to explain.

Poetry for Young People: Langston Hughes by David Roessel & Arnold Rampersad, 1994, Grades: 5-6
Since this book had a lot of various poems by Langston Hughes in it, I decided to pick his most famous poems/theme, which was about African-American Identity; My People, Dream Variations, Afro-American Fragment, Words Like Freedom, Still Here, Drums.

Traditional Literature

“Traditional Literature, also known as folk literature or oral literature is the canon of tales, stories, and poems of a people that have been passed down by word of mouth through many generations.” (Johnson, 2012, p. 118). From oral tellings to written literature, many of these tales encompass themes and values that are universal for all ages and have become culturally diverse around the world.
Critical Issues:
I believe it’s important when discussing Traditional Literature to be aware of the many, yet sometimes disagreeable, Categories of Traditional Literature. These include Fables, Myths, Legends, Religious Stories, Tall Tales, and Folktales. There are also subgenres of Folktales, which are Pourquoi (Why) Tales, Beast Tales, Cumulative Tales, Fairy Tales, Realistic Tales, Noodlehead/Jack Tales, and Trickster Tales. We may also discuss the Criteria for Evaluating and Selecting Traditional Literature in Cultural Considerations and Literary Considerations.
Teaching Connections:
There are many opportunities for Reader Response when it comes to Traditional Literature. For our students, we can provide discussion, oral storytelling, have them write their own versions of the tales and support English Language Learners by directly relating literature to their own experiences. On page 137, we see a table of information on how to model storytelling for children that may be helpful in the classroom. Lastly, we can make several connections across the curriculum through social sciences; historical analysis, language arts; everyday vocabulary, art, advertising, and science; mathematical principles.
Literature Examples:
Paul Bunyan by Steven Kellogg, 1984, Grades: 1-2/Picturebook
This book is an American tall tale of Paul Bunyan, a hero, who crossed the United States with his great lumber crew. Along with his blue ox, Babe, and his crew, they endured many great adventures; building on land, making friends and enduring hardships that slowed their journey down from Maine to California. In the end, a celebration was made for a travel well-made. Now Paul and Babe reside in the Alaskan Mountains, continuing their adventures.

Tops & Bottoms by Janet Stevens, 1995, Grades: 3-4, Caldecott Honor Book
This story links with the traditional fable of “Tortoise and the Hare.” Bear owned a lot of land due to his hard worker and smart business bear father. Hare lost his land due to a bet he made with Bear’s father after, what is implied, the Tortoise and the Hare race. Hare, poor and wanting to fix the situation became business partners with Bear, using his land for harvesting crops. Each season, they would choose on tops or bottoms for crops, but Hare always cheated Bear from the wealth of the crop. In the end, Bear harvested his own crops and Hare bought back his land from the profit of his crops.

Mufaro’s Beautiful Daughters by John Steptoe, 1987, Grades: 5-6/Picturebook, Caldecott Honor Book
Mufaro, a happy man, had two beautiful daughters; Nyasha, who was kind and considerate and Manyara, who was selfish and bad-tempered, but no one saw that except her own sister. One day, the great king invited “The Most Worthy and Beautiful Daughters in the Land,” for one to marry him. Both daughters set their own path in different ways, but what you discover is that “The Most Worthy and Beautiful in the Land” is the one who seeks not only happiness within herself, but for the good of others.

Picturebooks: Beyond Words and Illustrations

“A picturebook unlike an illustrated book, is properly conceived of as a unit, a totality that integrates all the designated parts in a sequence in which the relationships among them are crucial to understanding the book.” (Johnson, 2012, p. 73). Picturebooks span various genres and touches the way readers create meaning from the text. From books where words are left out and the picture encompasses the meaning of the book, we can learn to appreciate the importance pictures in a book can have.
Critical Issues:
When discussing picturebooks, it’s important we know what kind of categories of picturebooks there are. We have Mother Goose Stories, Concept Books, Alphabet Books, Counting Books, Wordless picturebooks, Toy books, Pop-up books, Easy-to-read books, Picture storybooks, and Postmodern picturebooks. Along with these categories of picturebooks, there are different styles of illustration, such as representational, surrealistic, impressionistic, cartoon, expressionistic and native/folk art. We can also use media in these illustrations; paint and graphics. Lastly, by using various crafting techniques; leads, figurative language, making a long story short, repetition of a sentence or phrase, and understatement, we can convey our written meaning in the text.
Teaching Connections:
“Picturebooks can play an important role in children’s language and literacy development by enriching their learning experiences through storytelling, elaborating on concepts, or conveying information.” (Johnson, 2012, p. 97). Ways us as teachers can help in this important role is by making meaning from picturebooks and learning how to read picturebooks. There are also a variety of ways children can respond to such readings; modeling and discussion, literature response journal, making books, drama; reader’s theater and research; author/illustrator study. Lastly, we can make connections across the curriculum. In math, a picturebook can help relieve a child’s anxiety on math subjects. In science, a picturebook can show children the vibrancy of their surrounding world. In art, a picturebook, like a pop-up book, can show the creativity of what art can do. Lastly, in history, a picturebook can make connections between past events and present events.
Literature Examples:
A Sick Day for Amos McGee, by Philip C. Stead, 2010, Grades 1-2/Picturebook, The Caldecott Honor Book and Best Illustrated Children’s Book Awards: The New York Times Book ReviewA dedicated zookeeper of the City Zoo, Amos McGee, spends time with his friends, the elephant, the tortoise, the penguin, the rhinoceros, and the owl every day. When he wakes up sick one day, his friends come to visit, comfort and take care of him at home. 

A Chair for My Mother by Vera B. Williams, 1984, Grades 3-4/Picturebook, 1984 Caldecott Honor Book
A young girl, Rosa, and her mother, a waitress, work at the local diner, Blue Tile Diner. Every day after work, they take theirs tips and save their money in a jar. After losing their house and possessions in a fire, they lost something they needed most, one big, comfortable chair that both can enjoy, including grandmother. After saving and saving and turning their coins into cash, they were able to be a big, comfy chair and found the perfect one that all could rest after a hard day’s work.

American Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang, 2006, Grades 5-6/Graphic Novel, 2007 Michael L. Printz Award Winner, 2007 Eisner Award Winner Best Graphic Alubm – New, 2006 National Book Award Nominee
“Jin Wang starts at a new school where he's the only Chinese-American student. When a boy from Taiwan joins his class, Jin doesn't want to be associated with an FOB like him. Jin just wants to be an all-American boy, because he's in love with an all-American girl. Danny is an all-American boy: great at basketball, popular with the girls. But his obnoxious Chinese cousin Chin-Kee's annual visit is such a disaster that it ruins Danny's reputation at school, leaving him with no choice but to transfer somewhere he can start all over again. The Monkey King has lived for thousands of years and mastered the arts of kung fu and the heavenly disciplines. He's ready to join the ranks of the immortal gods in heaven. But there's no place in heaven for a monkey. Each of these characters cannot help himself alone, but how can they possibly help each other? They're going to have to find a way--if they want fix the disasters their lives have become.”  

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Exceptional Readers! Welcome to my Children's Literature Blog!

Hi everyone! My name is Victoria Massimo, a junior, going to be senior, at Florida Gulf Coast University in Fort Myers, FL majoring in Special Education. For our Children's Literature class, we are to create a blog that "focuses on children's literature and respond to chapters from the textbook;" "The Joy of Children's Literature" by Denise Johnson." This blog will also contain our Annotated Bibliography and our Author Study. "The purpose of the blog is for students to create an online portfolio of recommended examples of children's literature as well as make teaching connections to such literature." I hope you enjoy this blog as much as I will enjoy connecting in community with other classmates who will become our future teachers! :)