Module 13: Drama by Raina Telgemeier

Book Cover Image:

drama
 Image Credit: Campbell County Public Library. (2015) http://www.ccpls.org

Book Summary:

Callie’s life is filled with middle school drama of all sorts.  She thinks she really likes Greg, but Greg is pining over Bonnie, who seems to want nothing to do with him.  When Greg and Callie kiss, she thinks life can’t get better; when he ignores her the next day, she thinks life can’t get worse. Drama! Thankfully, she has her best friend, Liz, and her love of theater to distract her from the rejection. This year, the school is producing Moon over Mississippi, a musical; Callie knows she won’t try out for acting parts, but she is dying to try her hand at set production.  Callie has a close group of friends in the theater, and makes new friends when twin brothers become involved.  Through the drama of romantic ups and downs, set failures, a disastrous eighth grade formal, and even a bothersome little brother, Callie knows the “show must go on.”

 APA Reference of Book:

Telgemeier, R. (2012). Drama. New York: Scholastic/Graphix.
 

Impressions:

I didn’t think I would enjoy Drama, as I don’t read many graphic novels.  However, I quickly became engrossed in the story and the visual images:  reading this novel made me remember how I loved comic books when I was younger.  Telgemeier tells the entire story, of course, in dialogue between characters, supplementing their conversations with pictures that reveal facial expressions, postures, and mannerisms that help the reader understand each character. She handles sensitive material about sexual orientation matter-of-factly, making that part of the story, but not the focus of the story. In the end, she’s created a likeable middle school female character, one whose passion for her hobby and strong friendships helps her develop a self esteem that isn’t dependent on romantic relationships.

Professional Review:

“Like Telgemeier’s previous graphic novel, Smile (a 2010 Boston Globe–Horn Book Honor Book), this new one will appeal to a wide range of readers. Seventh-grader Callie Marin loves musical theater, and though she isn’t much of a singer (which she good-naturedly proves to all in a hilarious scene), she expresses and fulfills her passion by working as a set designer for the school drama club. Her second year on stage crew turns out to be fraught with drama, on and off the set. Not only is the musical a love story, but in real life Callie has a crush on eighth-grader Greg, whose younger brother (and fellow stage-crew member) has a secret crush on Callie. Greg, however, is dating Bonnie, who dumps him for her costar in the play, West, who eventually dumps her for the boy whom Callie has just begun to like. Then Greg asks Callie out. Phew! But Telgemeier handles it all with aplomb and, despite the romantic drama, nothing happens beyond a few innocent kisses. She gets her middle-school characters just right–from kids who, like Justin, are gay and know it (“Gay? You can say it! I don’t mind”) to those who, like Callie, wouldn’t recognize a gay guy if he clasped his hands and squee-ed over musical auditions, as Justin does when they first meet. As in Smile, Telgemeier’s graphic artist skills make this novel a pleasure to read and re-read; of special note is her thoughtful use of the page turn–for surprise, for a pause, for emotional effect. “

Review Source:
Brabander, J. M. (2012, September-October). Drama.  [A review of the book Drama by R. Telgemeier.]The Horn Book Magazine, 88(5), 108+.  Retrieved from Literature Resource Center.

Library Uses:

This graphic novel can be part of several book displays:  displays about cartooning and graphic art;  displays featuring LGBTQ young adult literature; or  displays about theater production.

Module 6: Cowpoke Clyde and Dirty Dawg

Book Cover Image:

cowpoke clyde

 Image Credit: Campbell County Public Library. (2015) http://www.ccpls.org.

Book Summary:

Cowpoke Clyde has finished cleaning his house and is ready to enjoy a bowl of hot soup, when he notices that Dawg, his faithful companion, needs a bath.  Clyde gathers the necessary supplies, alerting Dawg to his plan, and sending him scurrying out of the house into the ranch yard.  On each double-page spread,  Clyde tries to catch Dawg, but only succeeds in soaking the cats, the hog, the mule, and himself.  Finally, Clyde gives up and decides he’ll just take a relaxing soak under the moon.  As Clyde quits chasing and starts crooning, Dawg can’t resist jumping in the bath with his owner — causing Clyde to realize he doesn’t have to fight with Dawg to get him clean.

 APA Reference of Book:

Mortensen, L., & Austin, M. (2013). Cowpoke Clyde and Dirty Dawg. Boston, MA: Clarion Books.
 

Impressions:

 I thought Cowpoke Clyde and Dirty Dawg was an excellent book. It featured interesting illustrations and a fun rhyme.  Each double-page illustration gives a small preview of what’s to come on the next page, helping children with prediction skills.  The illustrations also lead off the right-hand side of the page – encouraging the page-turn to continue the story.  The rhyme of the text is a second way that prediction skills are strengthened, as each rhyme concludes with the next page’s main word; it’s easy to imagine reading this with a child, and having them yell out the word to finish the rhyme – engagement!  Finally, the ending of the story demonstrates a change in both Cowpoke Clyde, who gives up forcing his dog into the bath, and Dirty Dawg, who decides bathing with his master isn’t so bad, after all.

Professional Review:

“At the end of a satisfying day, Cowpoke Clyde decides that the only thing he’d forgotten to clean was his “ol’ Dawg, his faithful, snorin’ friend,/all caked with mud from end to end.” However, corralling Dawg is definitely not a snap, and Clyde’s continued efforts result in a cumulative disaster of frantic chickens, flying feathers, spilled soup, biting fleas, a slippery hog, hissing cats, and a braying mule, all “gettin’ soaked” instead of Dawg. Even the hog gets a wide-eyed close-up here. Finely crafted acrylic scenes contain a wide range of angled perspectives and shadows within Clyde’s tiny shack and outside on the ranch. Cartoon figures cavort across the spreads and escape their frames. Rhyming couplets reveal a cowboy twang of missing final “g’s.” A first purchase for most libraries”

Review Source:
 Elam, M. (2013, April) Cowpoke Clyde and dirty Dawg. [A review of the book Cowpoke Clyde and Dirty Dawg by L. Mortensen] School Library Journal, 59(4), 138.

Library Uses:

Read aloud with kindergarten students, allowing them to complete each couplet with the rhyming word.  Tell them that, most of the time, a clue to the correct word can be found by carefully studying the picture on the preceding page.

Module 4: The Giver by Lois Lowry

Book Cover Image:

giver
 Image Credit: Campbell County Public Library. (2015) http://www.ccpls.org.

Book Summary:

In The Giver, Lowry presents a society in which members’ lives are carefully controlled to allow no pain, no sadness, and no deviation from accepted standards.  As they approach the age of twelve, young adults are assigned to a role of service within the community. Jonah, the main character, is assigned to the role of Receiver.  He begins to apprentice to an old man known as the Giver, whose role is to store all the memories of the society, so that the individual members do not have to face past pain or fears. (The Giver had been the Receiver until this point.)  As Jonah spends time with the Giver, he learns the memories of a world with chaos, pain, and disorder . . . but also love, beauty, music, and passion. Up until his apprenticeship, Jonah has accepted the rules of his community without question.  However, as his awareness grows, Jonah realizes that his society does not always value human life. He takes a huge risk and rejects his community, all to save a baby boy named Gabe who has been temporarily living with Jonah’s family. Lowry leaves the novel with Jonah quietly escaping on a bike, with Gabe in a carrier.

 APA Reference of Book:

Lowry, L. (1993). The giver. Boston, MA: Houghton-Mifflin
 

Impressions:

As I read The Giver, I made many connections between this novel and the dystopian Young Adult novels that have been so popular for the past three or four years.  I believe The Giver actually paves the way for these later novels:  the description of the tightly controlled society that maintains a utopian perfection through sinister means reminds me of The Hunger Games, the Divergent trilogy, the Matched trilogy, and more.  Moreover, Lowry’s use of an adolescent character to gradually become aware of the flaws in the society foreshadows the development of these later characters as well. However, I would say Lowry achieves her ends more masterfully, and I admire her skill as a storyteller.  Jonah’s developing awareness mirrors that of the reader; I didn’t realize what would happen to Gabe until the point in the story at which Jonah realizes his fate. I also love how Jonah’s quiet rebellion against his society, his unannounced escape on the day of the Ceremony, stands in contrast to the more violent rebellions of later dystopian novels.

Professional Review:

‘FROM the start, readers are on notice that “The Giver” is something unusual: “It was almost December, and Jonas was beginning to be frightened. No. Wrong word, Jonas thought.”

In prose that is appropriately flat yet expressive, the narrator recalls a time when Jonas was really worried — in an upcoming ceremony, he and all the other 12-year-olds in his highly structured community would receive their life assignments. Jonas ponders the correct use of language.

“Apprehensive, Jonas decided. That’s what I am.” But readers will be engaged.

Ms. Lowry has been embraced by a generation of American children for her humorous series about Anastasia Krupnik, but it is her haunting and unpredictable serious novels — among them her first, “A Summer to Die” (1977); “Number the Stars,” which won the 1990 Newbery Medal; and now “The Giver” — that help make her work so rewarding.

Even children who’ve never heard the word “allegory” could be swept up in the story of young Jonas, who, while boyish enough to be likable, is a model member of his regimented community. In addition to speaking precisely, he apologizes readily for minor infractions, and reveals his feelings at family dinner every night and his dreams every morning. When those dreams show the first evidence of “Stirrings,” he is given a daily pill to control matters. Jonas’s friend Asher has been taking the pills for some time, and although Jonas has been curious, “it was the sort of thing one didn’t ask a friend about because it might have fallen into that uncomfortable category of ‘being different.’ Asher took a pill each morning; Jonas did not. Always better, less rude, to talk about things that were the same.”

Although sameness is presented positively at first, there are clues that suggest malevolence. A hungry youngster who inadvertently asks for a “smack” instead of a “snack” is whacked across the knuckles with the “discipline wand.”

When Jonas is apparently skipped over at the life-assignment ceremony, it’s obvious that something big is up. “Jonas has not been assigned,” the Chief Elder explains after a tense wait, “Jonas has been selected . . . to be our next receiver of memory.”

The crowd buzzes. Jonas, however, is puzzled. While it’s an exalted position, no one knows what the receiver of memory does. Suddenly given a schedule with no time for play, and forbidden to discuss his training, Jonas is also exempted from rules pertaining to rudeness and dream-telling. Most appalling, however, is the final statement on his training sheet: “You may lie.”

Meeting the old man known as the Giver, Jonas is startled to see walls lined with books. He thought books contained only rules. Gradually, in what is part mysterious communication with the Giver and part revelation, Jonas learns — in order to become his community’s conscience — all the things it has done away with. Colors, a new experience, are especially fascinating to him.

” ‘Why can’t everyone see them? Why did colors disappear?’

“The Giver shrugged. ‘Our people made that choice, the choice to go to Sameness. . . . We gained control of many things. But we had to let go of others.’ ”

Set apart by his station, Jonas faces a lonely and desperate struggle with evil disguised as sameness, and ultimately, armed with knowledge of emotion as well as sensation, he makes a challenging choice. Despite occasional logical lapses, “The Giver,” a powerful and provocative novel, is sure to keep older children reading. And thinking.’

Review Source:
Ray, K. (1993, Oct. 31) Children’s Books. [A review of the book The Giver by L. Lowry] The New York Times, October 31, 1993, Books. Retrieved from http://www.nytimes.com/.

Library Uses:

Many libraries offer a combined book discussion/movie activity as a dual evening program. The Giver would be an excellent selection:  hold a book discussion for patrons one evening, and a viewing of the movie on a second evening.  Schedule one of these evenings to coincide with the library’s Banned Books Week activities in late September.

Module 3: Locomotive by Brian Floca

Book Cover Image:

FLoca locomotive
 Image Credit: Campbell County Public Library. (2015) http://www.ccpls.org

Book Summary:

Floca’s nonfiction picture book takes the reader on a journey across the United States, on the newly-constructed transcontinental railroad.  Floca begins his work with background information about the building of the line, and then follows travelers on  the long journey across the continent to California.  Along the way, the reader learns about the steam engines that powered across the country; about the daily, mundane details of railway travel; about the various characters who work the railroad and keep the trains running. Illustrations depict everything from the massive steam engines, to the workers and travelers on board the train, to the dusty towns along the way.   In addition to the story of Locomotive, Floca adds rich front- and back-matter for further reading and exploration.

APA Reference of Book:

Floca, B. (2013). Locomotive. New York: Antheneum Books for Young Readers.
 

Impressions:

Locomotive both won the Caldecott Medal in 2014, and was named an honor book for the Robert F. Sibert Informational Book Medal.  Floca’s work demonstrates the use of illustration to both educate and entertain.  In Locomotive, the illustrations of the trains are larger than most of the other illustrations in the book, sometimes even disproportionately: the train images take up entire pages, while images of entire towns fill only a small part of a page. In this way, Floca conveys – with complete historical accuracy – that in 1869, the railroad was king, and the people and towns along its way only existed to serve it. Images of the train, the people who work on the railroad, and the passengers are colorful and full of detail and movement.  Conversely, the images of the rail towns are dry, drab and desolate. Adding to the effect of the illustrations are the fonts of the actual text.  Floca utilizes large, elaborate fonts to depict varying  effects in the story: noise, growth, effort, or resolution.  In this manner, Floca teaches readers how text can be altered to convey additional emotion or meaning — an important concept in our visually-oriented world.

Professional Review:

From School Library Journal:  “It all started with “a new road of rails/made for people to ride” where “covered wagons used to crawl.” Almost 150 years ago–just after the Civil War–the completion of the transcontinental railway radically changed both this country’s landscape and the opportunities of its people. The book traces the advent of cross-country train travel, focusing on an early trip from Omaha to Sacramento. As in Moonshot (2009) and Lightship (2007, both S & S), Floca proves himself masterful with words, art, and ideas. The book’s large format offers space for a robust story in a hefty package of information. Set in well-paced blank verse, the text begins with a quick sketch of “how this road was built” and moves abruptly to the passengers on the platform and the approaching train. The author smoothly integrates descriptions of the structure and mechanics of the locomotive, tasks of crew members, passing landscapes, and experiences of passengers. Simply sketched people and backgrounds, striking views of the locomotive, and broad scenes of unpopulated terrain are framed in small vignettes or sweep across the page. Though a bit technical in explaining engine parts, the travelogue scheme will read aloud nicely and also offers absorbing details for leisurely personal reading. Substantial introductory and concluding sections serve older readers. There’s also a detailed explanation of the author’s efforts and sources in exploring his subject. Train buffs and history fans of many ages will find much to savor in this gorgeously rendered and intelligent effort.”

Review Source:
Bush, M. (2013, July 15). Pick of the Day: Locomotive. [Review of the book Locomotive by B. Floca] School Library Journal. Retrieved from http://blogs.slj.com/.

Library Uses:

Use Locomotive with 3rd or 4th graders to start a writing/publishing unit including elements of graphic design. Talk about how the bigger, more elaborate fonts convey meaning:  how should these words be read aloud?  What about words that are italicized?  How do the different fonts add to the mood of the story?  After discussing the visual elements of the text,  have students alter the text of a piece of their own writing; use Microsoft Word to vary fonts and sizes, according to the intention and mood of the text.

Module 2: Ramona the Pest, by Beverly Cleary

Book Cover Image:

Ramona3
Image Credit:
School Library Journal. (2012) http://blogs.slj.com/

Book Summary:

Ramona’s older sister, Beezus, always tells her she’s a pest. So do all of Beezus’ friends; they also tell her she’s a baby. However, Ramona is about to show them all that she’s a big girl, not a baby or a pest:  today is her first day of kindergarten! And so begins this classic story about one of Cleary’s most beloved characters, Ramona Quimby.  Ramona’s adventures during her first few months of kindergarten reveal the delights and challenges of being five, and of starting school:  learning that “present” does not always mean “gift”; having to wear hand-me-down rainboots; and being able to scare everyone at the Halloween parade with your witch mask — even yourself!  Ramona even loses a tooth at kindergarten; but her family doesn’t find out for days, because Ramona’s not sure kindergarten is the right place for her.  Try as she might, Ramona has a hard time not being a pest, and she’s worried that not even her teacher can tolerate her behavior anymore.

APA Reference of Book:

Cleary, B. (1968). Ramona the pest. New York: W. Morrow.

Impressions:

This book presents a delightful view of kindergarten through the innocence of a five-year-old girl. Ramona Quimby is curious, loud, stubborn, and delightful. . . Beverly Cleary perfectly captures this sort of gifted child.  The story of the Halloween parade both humored and moved me: the idea of being unknown terrifies most people, not just five-year-old children.  Cleary’s weaving of this very real fear with the Halloween activities reveals a depth of understanding of child psychology.  I loved Ramona’s character and understand why Cleary has earned so much acclaim for her children’s books.

Professional Review:

From School Library Journal:  ‘ In Anita Silvey’s 100 Best Books for Children, she says that “Critics have described Ramona the Pest as a girl’s experiences in meeting the Establishment.” Which just makes me think that a book called Ramona Vs. The Man would have made perfect sense. Someday, sad to say, we’ll see someone take Ramona and turn her into a teenager. If they’ve any sense at all, they’ll make her one that wears combat boots. . . .

. . . Of course Ramona had appeared for years in Cleary’s other books. Silvey says, “Cleary thought about Ramona the Pest for fifteen years before writing the book. In a New York taxi in 1953, her editor suggested that Cleary develop a story about Ramona, a minor character in the Henry Huggins books. She dismissed this idea and continued to work on other projects. But she found that Ramona, until then making only cameo appearances, began to take on a life of her own. So in 1968, Beverly Cleary picked up a sheet of paper and began with a title, Ramona the Pest. ‘The story of Ramona’s clash with the school system, her eagerness for attention, her stubbornness, her misunderstandings, her fears, her longing to love and be loved, almost seemed to write itself’.” . . .

. . . .A critic in Young Readers’ Review commented: “As in all her books about the boys and girls of Klickitat Street, Mrs. Cleary invests [Ramona the Pest] with charm, humor, and complete honesty. There are some adults who can remember many incidents from their early childhood; there are few who can remember how they felt about things and why; there are fewer who can communicate these feelings. And fewer still who can retain the humorous aspects. Mrs. Cleary is one of those rare ones. . . . Even boys and girls who dislike stories about children younger than themselves enjoy the incidents in which Ramona makes a pest of herself. . . . Ramona has never been funnier and has never been so sympathetic a character. . . . As usual, this is standard Cleary first-rate entertainment.” ‘

Review Source:
Bird, E. (2012, June 4). Top 100 Children’s Novels #24: Ramona the Pest. [Review of the book Ramona the Pest by B. Cleary.] School Library Journal.  Retrieved from http://blogs.slj.com/.

Library Uses:

Choose Ramona the Pest as a library read-aloud story for kindergarten through second graders.  Use the story as a springboard for discussion about how going to kindergarten has changed since the book was written (1968), and how the experience has remained the same. With first or second grade students, have them write or talk about  their own expectations for kindergarten, and what surprised them. Enjoy the humor in the book.  Extend the experience by reading Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel and other classic titles referred to in the story, or include these in a display.

Module 1: Interrupting Chicken by David Ezra Stein

Book Cover Image:

Stein interrupting chicken

Image Credit:  Campbell County Public Library. (20150) www.ccpls.org

Book Summary:

When Papa tells little red chicken that it is bedtime, Chicken tells Papa that he forgot a story. Papa agrees to read a story, on the condition that Chicken doesn’t interrupt this time. Papa begins to read the first story, Hansel and Gretel; however, Chicken knows the danger the characters face at the witches house, and immediately jumps into the story, interrupts Papa, and warns Hansel and Gretel, effectively ending the story.  Papa warns Chicken not to interrupt again, and begins a second story . . . and, Chicken interrupts to warn the characters yet again. By the third interruption, Papa decides to take a different approach, and suggests that Chicken tell HIM a story . . . . which leads to the happy ending Chicken has been planning all along.

APA Reference of Book:

Stein, D. (2010). Interrupting chicken. Somerville, MA: Candlewick Press.

Impressions:

In Interrupting Chicken, David Ezra Stein takes a humorous look at a perennial parenting problem: putting to bed a child who still has more energy than the parent!  Stein offers a unique twist on the problem with a precocious little chicken who, familiar with each tale, interrupts the story to warn or reassure the characters . . . leaving the exhausted father with an incomplete bedtime routine.  As a parent, I empathized with Papa; as a reader, I chuckled at Chicken’s in-the-nick-of-time interruptions. I liked how the story revealed so much about how a child learns to love reading, without being didactic.  A child begins to love to read when that activity is part of her everyday, comforting routine, and when reading provides an opportunity for quality time with a parent or loved one. A child grows in their love of reading when stories become familiar to her, and when she develops relationships with the characters; Chicken clearly cares about Hansel and Gretel, Little Red Riding Hood, and Chicken Little, and Chicken Little. Finally, a child’s developing love of reading leads naturally to her own creative expression, as it does with Chicken’s comforting, NOT dangerous, bedtime story for Papa.  Both the humorous story and the colorful, detail-rich illustrations helped me thoroughly enjoy Stein’s book.

Professional Review:

“In a picture book that is as charming and comic as Pouch! (Putnam, 2009), Stein again represents an affectionate parent’s trials with a vigorous child. At bedtime, despite a rooster papa’s best efforts to share classic fairy tales with his daughter, Little Red Chicken’s soft heart means she can’t help but jump into each story to warn Hansel and Gretel and then Red Riding Hood about impending danger, and to assure Chicken Little: “Don’t panic! It was just an acorn.” In each case, the story abruptly ends, wearying the father with what to do next. When he convinces his daughter to compose her own story, she fills four pages with preschool-style spelling and drawings about a chicken putting her papa to bed, but her tale is interrupted by Papa’s snores. At the end, the pair cuddle together, asleep. Stein’s droll cartoons use watercolor, crayon, china marker, pen, and tea. The rich colors of the characters perfectly contrast with the sepia pages of the storybooks. This is one of the rare titles that will entertain both parent and child.”

Review Source:

 Van Vleck, G. (2010, July 1). Reviews. [A review of Interrupting Chicken by D. Stein] School Library Journal, 56(7), p. 69.

Library Uses:

Use Interrupting Chicken in a storytime puppet show.  Using chicken puppets, have one person hold the book and show the pictures while two helpers act out the lines of Papa and Chicken Little.  Be sure to dramatize Chicken Little’s concern for the characters as he interrupts; using humor will help children engage with the story.