Friday, February 27, 2009

The Man Who Walked Between the Towers

Mordicai Gerstein wrote and illustrated this story that is a tribute to a daring man and the towers. As I read the account of Philippe Petit's plan and follow-through of this exciting and dangerous act I felt a little nervous. Heights have that effect on me. Petit was a quarter of a mile high when he completed the walk from tower to tower on the morning of August 7, 1974. He stayed on the wire for over an hour and even lay down to rest for a short time. Several pages of the artwork shows the beautiful and breathtaking view from the top of the towers. One page depicts his walk from steeple to steeple of Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris with great detail. Two other pages open up and fold out into a four page spread. This must have been a pretty exciting scene to behold for onlookers below on the streets of New York City. As I read this book I tried to imagine what I was doing back in 1974. I believe that Philippe Petit's year may have been a bit more exciting than mine!

Thursday, February 26, 2009


I read this book to my third grade students. I had knowledge of Rosa Parks but didn't know much of the story behind her challenge. As I read to my students we stopped and talked about the difficulties and suffering that took place at that time in history. Of course, the students could not believe that people were treated with such disrespect or that segregation could ever have existed. We also discussed the Supreme Court ruling and its message that we are all equal under the law. I really appreciated the background information given about Mrs. Parks. Her fight for equality started on a day like any other. She was able to leave work early and planned to make a nice meatloaf dinner for her husband. The bus ride home was life-changing for Rosa and people all over the world. This truly amazing woman who said "No" took a stand for for what is right and just. Nikki Giovanni tells the story beautifully and Bryan Collier's stunning collage and watercolor illustrations are the perfect companion to her words.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Sector 7

Sector 7, a Caldecott Honor Book written by David Wiesner, relies solely on the illustrations to tell the story of a boy that takes a fantastic journey from the top of the Empire State Building to a station in the sky that gives clouds their destination for the day. The boy's imagination and creative drawings stir up some trouble with those in charge of cloud arrivals and departures. As I "read" Sector 7 it reminded me a bit of Chris Van Allsburg's work. Where does he come up with those incredible ideas? Wiesner's illustrations and story idea gave me that same thought. I really enjoyed the glimpse into his magical world. Children and adults will remember, as I do, a time when they gazed at the sky and searched for fanciful shapes, pictures, and animals. Students would have a fun time writing their own version of the story for Sector 7.

Zen Shorts

I had absolutely no idea what to expect when I read Zen Short's. Of course, the title is a play on words - the panda, Stillwater, wears shorts. There are also "short" Zen/meditation stories within the picture book. Stillwater appears outside the house of three children. Each child shares an adventure with Stillwater, their new neighbor. Stillwater tells stories about life, the choices we make, and our perceptions about life. I really enjoyed the illustrations. The story about the children is illustrated with watercolors and the "shorts" are drawn in ink. Jon J. Muth, author and illustrator, captures the wide-eyed curiousity and excitement of a toddler (on tiptoes) that cannot believe his eyes! I have a nephew that has that same "tiptoe" excitement when he is trying to share something incredible. Muth's illustrations in the short "Uncle Ry and the Moon" also made me smile as I read about a robber - illustrated as a raccoon. I will remember to read this book to my third grade students when we talk about fables and other selections that encourage the students to think about the author's purpose for writing. I also found the Author's Note at the end of the book very helpful. Muth gives a short history of "Zen" and explains that his characters' names come from Japanese and Zen history.

My Friend Rabbit

This story, written and illustrated by Eric Rohmann, about Rabbit and Mouse is a wonderful reminder of friendship and how, as children, we loved to be around and worshiped our older brothers, sisters, cousins, neighbors, etc. The illustrations are such an integral part of the story and show the fun and excitement that Mouse gets to experience just by being part of Rabbit's life. I had older cousins and thought their lives were so much more interesting and exciting than mine. Rabbit, like any older and wiser friend, has a plan. The plan does not work as anticipated, but Mouse knows that Rabbit means well and realizes that the "trouble" they encounter is worth it because he gets to spend time with Rabbit. My Friend Rabbit could be used to introduce cause and effect and students familiar with The Napping House will appreciate the antics that lead to the tumble at the end of the book.