1.17.2008

Children's LitBlog 1

Wong, Janet S. Apple Pie 4th of July. Illus. Margaret Chodos-Irvine. Orlando FL: Voyager Books/Harcourt, Inc., 2002.
Our young narrator doesn't understand exactly why her family is keeping their store open on the 4th of July while everyone else in the neighborhood attends the Independence day parade taking place just down the street, so close in fact that the unnamed girl can see and hear it from the front door to the family business. And when she smells apple pie wafting from an upstairs neighbor's, the chow mein and sweet-and-sour pork smells coming from their kitchen seems just that much more out of place, and she becomes ever-more-so frustrated because according to her, "No one wants Chinese food / on the Fourth of July" (5). Never mind that folks do drop in throughout the day: they are not there for the food, she reasons, but for "soda and potato chips" (9) and other items for their own celebrations. All the while, she and her family are missing out on the parade! And having to eat the food that no one came in to buy. She dismisses her parents' steadfastedness because they are not American: her parents were not born in the States and so it makes sense then that "they do not understand all American things" (14). But oh, the lessons she'll learn by night's end. Perhaps what I find most appealing about this picture book is how the illustrations by Chodos-Irvine so perfectly mesh with Wong's text from beginning to end. The girl's frustration is so very obvious in the opening illustration. She just doesn't understand why day in day out her family just cannot blend with American customs and celebrations, instead choosing to stay open for business except on Christmas. Her look softens toward the end; as a matter of fact, she must have learned her lesson (that sometimes we have to think of others rather than ourselves) because even though we see she is present, she disappears into the background: we see her hand turning the sign on the door to Closed and later into the shadows on the rooftop with so many other folks.

Wong, Janet S. Buzz. Illus. Margaret Chodos-Irvine. Orlando FL: Voyager Books/Harcourt, Inc., 2000.
Buzz I love because it is so very playful (did you catch the color of the mother's socks there at the end and the visual and textual circle we travel as a result?) and for how both poet and illustrator teach us that there is art in the common, the every day. Furthermore, can you see, as future teachers (and parents and older siblings or aunts and uncles) the myriad ways we can use this book to teach a ton of stuff to our kids in and outside of class. Don't be fooled into thinking this is an overly-simple book. It is deep, the kind of deep I don't mind getting into way over my head. I love it!

Tunnell, Michael O. and James S. Jacobs. Children's Literature, Briefly. 4e. Upper Sadle River NJ: Pearson/Merrill Prentice Hall, 2008.
Most impressive about tonight's reading, I feel, is the distinction the authors make between unengaged and engaged reading, classifying the former as "the reading of necessity," the latter as personal motivation (4). In my own experiences as a reader, I want to recall that as a child I loved to read, in and outside of class; I was benefiting in so many ways, especially in my language literacy growth; but man, I was also having so much fun: See Pug Ren, Wet Albert, and other titles. Reading became a chore when my teachers failed to marry necessity and enjoyment. Instead, I got the impression that, in terms of reading, the fun was over. And now, having read a ton of literacy theory and conducted some informal research on my own, I can see clearly what Tunnell and Jacobs mean when they speak to the differences between being an engaged reader and an unengaged one. If we, as teachers, encourage this sort of engagement in our own students.

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