Wednesday, December 3, 2014

The Pirate of Kindergarten

by George Ella Lyon
illustrated by Lynne Avril
Lyon, George Ella. The Pirate of Kindergarten. Ill. by Lynne Avril. New York: NY: Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2010. ISBN 9781416950240

Plot Summary
Ginny is a kindergarten student who has double vision. The problem is she doesn't know it. She is constantly tripping over and bumping into things, and therefore gets made fun of. It isn't until the clinic performs vision tests, that her double vision becomes apparent to the adults and herself. Ginny believed that everyone saw things the way she did, so she never said anything. After going to the eye doctor she finds out she needs to wear a patch and later glasses to see clearly. She embraces the patch and does everything she couldn't do great before.

Critical Analysis
The combination of Lyon's text and Avril's illustrations make this a wonderful teachable moment book. While creating a story on a character with a vision disability, Lyon completed a cute, humorous and informational book. The text is simple yet detailed. The story is told through narration and includes quotes from the characters. 

Avril's illustrations make this book come to life. She used chalk pastels mixed with acrylic medium and prismacolor pencils to create the colorful drawings. Readers may get dizzy when looking at some of the illustrations because they are drawn the way Ginny sees. She has double vision, so images of chairs and people are drawn as doubles. Once Ginny learns of her vision problem and starts wearing the patch, the illustrations are all clear. This is an amazing way to put the reader in the characters shoes, or eyes for this book. 

This a great read aloud for ages 4 to 8. Some students my even be able to relate to the story through similar vision problems or other impairments. There is also a great lesson in overcoming and embracing your problems.

Review Excerpts
  • Lyon's short, descriptive sentences set up the situation deftly, and Avril's astute chalk, pencil, and acrylic drawings of 'two of everything' provide a vivid window into Ginny's pre-treatment world." -School Library Journal
  • "Based on Lyon's own experience, the sensitively written story radiates empathy and good humor." -Booklist

Similar books.
  • The Patch by Justina Chen Headley
  • Jacob's Eye Patch by Beth Kobliner Shaw and Jacob Shaw

Ask Me No Questions

by Marina Budhos
Budhos, Marina. Ask Me No Questions. New York, NY: Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2006. ISBN 9781416949206

Plot Summary
This is a story about fourteen- year-old Nadira and her family who emigrated from Bangladesh. They are living in New York City and hoping to become legal U.S. citizens soon. Currently they are living in the states on expired visas. Their lives turn upside down after the 9/11 terrorist attacks. In their attempt to cross the Canadian border, Nadira's father is arrested. It is now Nadira and her older sister, Aisha's job to carry on like normal without both their parents. When her sister falls apart, Nadira has to step up and be the strong one to bring her family back together.

Critical Analysis
This moving story consists of finding one's identity, patriotism, family, and what it meant to be Muslim in America after 9/11. Budhos' does an excellent in describing Nadira's feelings and emotions throughout the story. While readers will feel sympathy for the characters, the settings throughout the story could be more detailed. I couldn't really visualize the settings while reading. To me that was the only down fall of the book. In chapter five, Budhos makes the connection to the title, "Ask me no questions. Tell me no lies." This is the policy at the girl's school. At the end of the story there is an "Endnote" from the author. This is where Budhos describes the actual events that led to her inspiration for this work of fiction.

The culture of the characters in the story is apparent throughout. From names, food, and vocabulary readers can experience the Muslim American culture. Budhos does not provide a glossary, so readers may need to look up some words to know their meaning. Most of the non-English words are italicized Nadira never mentions her father's name but calls him Abba. One can assume that this name means father, but I had to look it up to find out for sure. In Arabic, Abba means father. Nadira's family is described as modern thinking Muslim Americans. Nadira, Aisha, and Ma do not wear scares on their heads.

I would definitely recommend this book for all middle school libraries and public libraries. Readers will gain insight and understanding into the struggles Muslims faced after the 9/11 terrorists attacks. 

Review Excerpts
  • "...this is an important facet of the American immigrant experience, worthy of wider attention." -School Library Journal
  • "...the events of the novel are powerful enough to engage readers' attention and will make them pause to consider the effects of a legal practice that preys on prejudice and fear." -Publisher's Weekly
  • "The teen voice is wonderfully immediate, revealing Nadira's mixed-up feelings as well as the diversity in her family and in the Muslim community." -Booklist
More books with similar stories and hardships.
  • Does My Head Look Big In This? by Randa Abdel-Fattah
  • Habibi by Naomi Shihab Nye
  • Lost Boy, Lost Girl: Escaping Civil War in Sudan by John Bul Dau and Martha Arual Akech with Michael S. Sweeney and K.M. Kostyal

Mommy, Mama, and Me

by Lesléa Newman
Illustrated by Carol Thompson
Newman, Lesléa. Mommy, Mama, and Me. Ill. by Carol Thompson. Berkeley: Tricycle Press, 2009. ISBN 9781582462639

Plot Summary
This is a simple story of a day in the life of a young toddler. The toddler describes what his/her mommy and mama does with them.

Critical Analysis
Lesléa Newman's easy text consists of one sentence per page. One every left page of the book is a sentence about what the toddler's mommy, while every right page is about the toddler's mama. This is the main point in the story where the LGBTQ culture is expressed. The story has a nice flow with the end rhyme on facing pages. The story shows readers that happy families come in all varieties, including having two mommies.

Carol Thompson's illustrations are colorful and bright and definitely enhance the impact of the book. In all the drawings the toddler's mommy has short, curly, dark brown hair with earrings, and it's mama has red hair that is pinned up. The toddler has short curly brown hair. I haven't mentioned the toddler's gender because I am actually not sure. Newman does not mention a gender in her text, and Thompson's illustrations lean toward boy but it could be a girl. I see this as another cultural marker, no matter how subtle it may be.

Review Excerpts & Awards
  • "The soft, realistic illustrations expand the simple texts." -School Library Journal
  • "The bright colors (a green claw-foot tub has froglike feet) and pleasing verse offer a simple lesson about love that same-sex parents should embrace." -Publisher's Weekly
  • 2010 Stonewall Honor Book Award
Read aloud Daddy, Papa, and Me created by Newman and Thompson