Harlem (Walter Dean Myers)

This poem, written by Walter Dean Myers, is a collection of thoughts about Harlem. The word phrasing, along with the brilliant illustrations (warranting its Caldecott Honor and Coretta Scott King medal status) expose readers to the "spirit" of Harlem, including its music, art, and everyday life.


The Magic Gourd (Baba Waque' Diakete)

This is a Mali folktale about Brother Rabbit receiving a magical gourd from Chameleon, and the adventures the magic gourd brings to Rabbit and his village. Sprinkled throughout this picture book are gorgeous illustrations, many of various pieces of painted pottery from Mali. I also really loved the inclusion of Bambara (the language of Mali) terms. At the end of the book is a glossary of Bambara terms, songs of praise, and explanations of the bogolanfiniw (or mud cloth) patterns found in the illustrations on platters and tiles.

An Untrue Tale by Harve Zemach: The Judge (Harve Zemach; Ilust. by Margot Zemach)

I came across this book while on the floor in the nonfiction section of my library, and loved it! It is a short, rhyming story of various individuals coming before the judge and are trying to convince him of a coming surprise. The watercolor illustrations are very clever, and each picture presents new information about the different people and their situations. In one picture, a man with a wooden peg leg is trying to persuade the judge to let him go, but the way the pictures are drawn we can see that the man is only pretending to have a peg leg. To add to the hilarity of the illustrations, the people in the book are called Nincompoop, Ninnyhammer, Dimwit, and Dunce. I can just see my kids rolling around on the carpet laughing!



Sing Down the Moon (Scott O'Dell)

Sing Down the Moon is an incredible portrayal of a (yet another) nasty snapshot of United States history involving the treatment of various Indian tribes in the west. O'Dell follows a young Navajo girl throughout her daily chores of herding sheep, when she is captured by Spanish slave traders, being reunited with her tribe, and their subsequent "relocation" (along with hundreds of thousands of other Native Americans). I tell you, the way the Indians were treated by the US Government in the 1800's was despicable. There are prominent and eery similarities between the Holocaust and the Trail of Tears or The Long Walk.
I definitely anticipate using this with students. The way Sing Down the Moon is written presents students with a rare inside look into this aspect of American history.



On Becoming Toddlerwise, by Gary Ezzo

It has been 3 months since I returned Toddlerwise to the library, so I am going strictly by memory here. I won't be able to list specifics, but I will give my overall opinion of the book.

Babywise is the strongest resource for parents in the Ezzo series. Toddlerwise was okay; good, not great, 2.75 stars out of 5, etc.

Don't get me wrong, there are many practical tips for helping to guide your toddler through this very confusing stage in life, especially if you are working with your first child and haven't been there yet. I did, however, find it lacking in some areas.

Mom...and Loving It, by Laurie Hilliard and Sharon Autry

This is hands down one of the best books for mothers today. It is written in a simple and very practical format, without any loss of Biblical principles and their application to today's busy moms. In every chapter there are guiding questions that lead you to examine why you do what you do for your husband, your kids, yourself, and gives very concrete suggestions for making you stop and appreciate motherhood as the blessing and opportunity that it is. Throughout the book, you analyze guilt grenades (like lack of family time, dealing with angry outbursts, and the stay at home or go to work debate), the effect of the media on us and our families, and the effects of kids on marriage. I especially liked the appendix at the close of the book with a list of many great resources listed. ;)

The Crucible, by Arthur Miller

This is one of those books that I've heard mentioned many times in conversation, and seen on all the "Classics" book lists. It's a nice, concise play of about 100 pages that is all about the Salem "witch" trials back in the 1600's. I don't remember diving too deeply into that topic when I was in high school, but I hope that kids today are presented with the opportunity to do so. In this play, Miller shows how village people would cry out against one another for simple purposes of gaining access to their land, in retaliation of a dispute over the sale of livestock, or (now it gets juicy) an adulteress weasling her way into her lover's arms by getting rid of his wife. I think this was a nice presentation of just how sick and twisted people can be, regardless of their presupposed piety.

A study of this book will ultimately lead to the question of the appropriateness of theocracy. The Governor and Ministers in this play have been given ultimate ruling and authority (based on their opinion of "God's Law"), and they could not have fouled it up more than they did. Theocracy itself isn't a horrible thing; man's very flawed interpretation and implementation of it, however, is.