Go, Little Green Truck!
Go, Little Green Truck! is a vibrant book that can be used several ways in a K-2 classroom. When discussing how a fiction book works, we talk about how most fiction books have a problem. Tying in prediction, we also talk about the possible solutions to the problem. This book has a classic problem of a character not feeling appreciated. This problem can also be paired with the need to discuss classroom culture and making sure everyone feels a part of it. Like the Gray family finding a way to appreciate Little Green, we need to make sure all members of our class feel like a part of our community. Go, Little Green Truck! is also a welcome addition to a unit on taking care of the environment and finding ways to recycle. Many kindergarten classes teach a unit on farm life so this book fits nicely there too.
Nothing Ever Happens On 90th Street
- Neighborhood/Community: What is the difference between a neighborhood and a community? Is 90th Street a neighborhood or a community at the start of the story? At the end? In what ways? What is the result of everyone’s new relationship at the end of the story? This story is set in an urban environment. Is a story like this one possible in the suburbs or the country? How would it be different? How would it be the same?
- Multiculturalism: How does the fact that the people of 90th Street come from different ethnic backgrounds enrich the neighborhood? What do these people contribute to the life of the neighborhood?
- Intergenerational: The people of 90th Street are all different ages. What is their relationship to one another? What are the advantages and/or disadvantages of having people of varying ages living near one another?
- Imagination/The Role of the Writer or Artist: What does one need to do in order to write a good story? Is daydreaming important? Is imagining important? Is thinking important? Is looking and listening important? What does Eva do to get ideas? What do the neighbors advise her to do? What part of this story really happens? What part happens in Eva’s imagination? All of it? Some of it? None of it? Is there one correct answer to this question?
- Activities: Have students write their own story (fiction, nonfiction or a mix of both) about an event that occurs on their own street or in their own building (if they live in an apartment house). Have them show how the people of the story might come together to solve a common problem.
- Have students list the various writing tips that are included in this story and possibly use them to create their own story.
- Have students write a story that starts off realistically and then becomes imaginary.
- The illustrator of this book used a combination of collage (pasted papers--old newspaper, wallpaper, magazines, fabric, etc) as well as ink and paint and drawing to create the illustrations for this book. Have students make their own collage/drawings illustrating the neighborhoods they live in, and, ask them to write a short description of their neighborhood.
- Have students write a menu of foods they might have in a class restaurant based on their own ethnicity/ancestry/race.
The Boy Who Loved Words
This delightful picture book will inspire its readers to celebrate language and look for new words wherever they go. Words. Selig loves everything about them—the way they taste on his tongue (tantalizing),the sound they whisper in his ears (tintinnabulating!),and—most of all—the way they stir his heart. And he collects them voraciously,the way others collect stamps or seashells. But, what to do with so many luscious words? Surrounded by doubters, Selig journeys forth and discovers that there is always some-one searching for the perfect word . . .a word that he can provide. This enchanting tale celebrates language, the gift and gusto of words, and one boy’s larger-than-life passion.
Here are two PDF links to curriculum activities for The Boy Who Loved Words:
F is For Freedom
- History: Amanda and Hannah's story takes place in 1850 before the Civil War. How was life different then? What are the chores children their age do today? What were they then? How were Amanda's chores different from (or the same as) Hannah's chores on the plantation? What was the big difference? What about the new law about returning slaves to their owners? We are taught that we should obey the law. What do you think about the fact that Amanda and her family break the law? What does Amanda's father say about breaking the law? Was it only Northerners who helped escaping slaves, or did some Southerners help? In some of the final moments of the story, there is a mysterious man at the end of the tunnel who helps Hannah and her family escape. Where do you think he comes from? Are there any other instances in history in which people took risks and hid other people in order to save their lives? What about the Jews in World War II? Did anyone help them? Are there any more recent instances of people taking risks to keep other people safe?
- Multicultural: Hannah and Amanda come from two different races and cultures. How often did such people meet in 1850? What is similar/what is different about their backgrounds? What special things do each of them know that they can teach the other?
- Literacy: What would it mean if you were not allowed to learn to read or write? What could you do without words? What couldn't you do without words? Hannah's mother says, "Reading is freedom." Her father says, "The thoughts in books are powerful strong, stronger even than chains." Why do you think it was dangerous for slaveowners to allow their slaves to learn to read and write?
- Imagination: Who has a big imagination? When does she use it? When does she decide she shouldn't use it?
- Friendship: Amanda & Hanna become good friends. How easy or hard is it to become friends with someone whose life is different from your own? What is the nature of friendship? What other people become friends in this story?
- Activities: Do some reading about the Civil War. Read about some of the heroes of the Underground Railroad. Do you know about Harriet Tubman? Frederick Douglas? Sojourner Truth? Read The Diary of Anne Frank.
- Have students write their own story about someone who is, on the surface, different from them, but with whom they've become friends. Or, have them write a fictional story on the same subject.
- Write something about Charlie Meecker. Do you think he was intentionally trying to help Amanda's family get Hannah's family to safety?
- Hannah and Amanda hide in "The Hole." Have students write about a secret place or a hiding place they have made, discovered, or made up.
- Have students write an imaginary diary of what it would be like for them if they were escaping to freedom, or, what it would be like if they were helping to hide someone.
- Hannah makes a doll for Amanda. Amanda's mother made Coey Yocks for Amanda a long time ago. Have students create their own doll or animal out of scraps of fabric, found objects, etc.
The House of Joyful Living
illustrated by Terry Widener/published by Farrar, Straus & Giroux
- Author Study: The author, Roni Schotter, describes this book as “semi-autobiographical.” Before Roni was married, her last name was Goldberg, so the parents in this story, Mr. & Mrs. Goldberg, are her parents and the girl in the story with “cabbage-curly hair” is the author herself. When Roni was born, her parents lived in an apartment building in New York City whose nickname really was The House of Joyful Living, probably because of its Roof Garden. On that roof, there was a goldfish pond, an outdoor shower, flowerbeds and grass, even a small fenced in area where grownups could play Handball. For the first several years of Roni Schotter’s life, she lived with her parents in a one-room studio apartment in The House of Joyful Living, enjoying the Roof Garden and the kind and generous neighbors who loved to gather there. All the characters in this story are based on actual people and the story uses their real names. When Roni’s mother gave birth to her first sister, Iris, Roni, her parents, and the new baby sister moved to Brooklyn, New York where, a couple of years later, her next sister, Wendy, was born. She was sad to leave The House of Joyful Living, but happy to have two sisters (once she got used to them!).
- Community: What does it mean to be a community? Is The House of Joyful Living a community? How so? Is “giving” part of community? How do the people in The House of Joyful Living show that they are giving people? What do they do? How does working play a part in community? Is a family a community?
- Sharing: How is giving related to sharing? What do the people in The House of Joyful Living share? How do they share with one another? With others? What is it that the girl in the story, Roni, finds difficult to share? Does a family have to share?
- Multicultural: Though unstated, the people who live in THJL are of various races and ethnicities. Can you guess where their ancestors and families come from? Are communities made up of people who are the same, or are they made up of people who are different?
- Food: What foods do the different people in The House of Joyful Living cook? At the Roof Party, when everyone brings their different kinds of foods, do you think they go together?
- Activities: Make a Community Map or Chart. Draw Pictures and Label: the different communities you are part of. Is your family one? Do you belong to a church or a temple or a mosque? Is that a community? Is school a community? Your neighborhood? Your city or town? Your state? Your country? The world?
- Discuss the various ethnicities, religions and races of the people in your classroom. Find out what kind of food your ancestors liked to cook and eat. Draw it. Describe it. Ask someone to cook it and bring it in to share.
- Write a story about how you feel about a sister or brother or someone you have to share with. What is hard about it? What is easy and fun?
- Think about something you might share with others in your community. Something you have? Something you can make? Something you can collect? See if you can find a way of sharing with others around you. Hint: It might even be a poem, a story, a drawing. Who could you share that with?
Mama, I'll Give You the World
illustrated by S.Saelig Gallagher
- Multicultural: Though unstated, this is a story that includes characters of many different backgrounds. Mr. Anselmo is an Italian/American, Mrs. Malloy is an Irish/American, Hazel Mae Dixon and Walter are African/Americans, Mrs. Fogelman is Jewish/American, Mrs. Rodriquez is Hispanic/American, Mrs. Koo is Asian/American, Georges is a European/American, Rupa is a South Asian/American, Luisa and her mother are indeterminate—up to the reader!
- Walter’s World of Beauty—a microcosm of the world: Why do you think everyone calls the beauty shop “the World” for short? Is Walter’s World of Beauty a “world within a world”? How so?
- Community: What does it mean to be a community? Is the beauty parlor a community? How so? What do we hope for in a community? Is “giving” part of community? Who gives to whom in Mama, I’ll Give You The World? What do they give? Is it anything you can buy?
- Imagination: : Does Luisa use her imagination in this story? Hints: What does she do with cut paper and scissors? What does she imagine when she writes her story for school? Who does she pretend her mother is as she colors Mrs. Koo’s hair? Who does Luisa pretend she is when she brushes her mother’s “long, thick curls”?
- The Importance of Education: How does Luisa’s mama feel about education? What is the evidence/How do you know? Why does Luisa’s mother feel this way?
- Activities: Make a collage portrait of someone who cares about you or about whom you care.
- Write about someone you’d like to give something to. What would you give them? Why?
- Write a story about something magical that might make someone you care about happy.
- Discuss the various ethnicities and religions and races of the people in your classroom. Find out what kind of food your ancestors liked to eat. Draw it. Describe it. Have someone cook it and bring it in to share?
- Discuss the ways beauty parlors or barber shops are magical places? What kind of changes occur in beauty parlors or barber shops? Do peoples’ feelings about themselves change? How?
Captain Bob Sets Sail
- Imagination: This is a story about how anyone with a good imagination can transform the ordinary into the extraordinary. Does Bob need a lot of equipment for his adventure? What does he need? What objects does he use in his adventure? Does he use his imagination to turn the people around him into something or someone else?
- Word Play: Bob loves to play with words. What are some examples of how he uses words to have fun? Does he like to rhyme? Does he like to put words together that start with the same letters? Do the students have any favorite words that they love the sound of? Are there any words they can think of that sound good together?
- Activities: Have students imagine their own adventure in a tub with soap or other ordinary items. What can they imagine happening? Can they imagine turning the ordinary items into extraordinary, imaginary ones?
- Have them create some imaginary sea monsters that they then name and draw. Write or tell what they do. Put a child in with the sea monster. What does the child do with the sea monster? Do they go anywhere together?
- Multicultural: Though unstated, this is a story about an ethnic family, probably from Eastern Europe, who makes clothes for all kinds of people, e.g. a Passover suit for Mr. Gold, an Easter dress for Mrs. Reilly, a pair of trousers for Mr. De Mello. Who lived in cities in the past? Now?
- Role and Importance of Imagination, Dreams, and the Artist: Theo and Uncle Gurney are dreamers. When Theo should be marking patterns with tailor’s chalk, he is instead drawing imaginary machines. When Uncle Gurney should be cutting nice, neat shirts, he’s creating “gabardine gazanias” and “herringbone horses,” and wild-colored shirts. The rest of the family doesn’t understand them. Do people sometimes misunderstand dreamers and artists? Is Mama proud of Theo? What is the evidence? (Have the children look at the walls of the tailorshop.) In the end, Gurney has combined hard work with imagination and produced something special. Are daydreaming and imagination important? What about hard work? What’s the right mix?
- History, Westward Expansion: Like many people at the turn of the century, Uncle Gurney decides to go West to seek his fortune. The rest of the family soon follows, settling in what is probably California where, Uncle Gurney believes, new ideas grow “as fast and as easily as plums do on trees, and the air is warm and light and sweet with the scent of jasmine and oranges.” How did life compare with the urban east then? What was the lure of heading west?
- Intergenerational: There is no generation gap between Uncle Gurney and Theo. They share love, a special understanding, and the gift of imagination.
- Activities: Children can make two and three-dimensional art--drawings of their own imaginary machines and/or construction of their own imaginary machines. They can name them and write a description of their use or how they work.
- Have students write their own stories about an artist and/or daydreamer.
Related Books: (See A Fruit & Vegetable Man, Captain Snap & the Children of V.L, 90th St, Capt. Bob.)
Captain Snap & The Children of Vinegar Lane
- Rumor, Gossip, Thinking For Oneself: The grownups of Vinegar Lane--Otto Phelps & Penina Boyle--tell the children of Vinegar Lane to have nothing to do with Captain Snap because he lives so differently from the rest of the people of Vinegar Lane. It’s the children who are wise enough to ignore rumor and gossip and find out the truth about who Capt. Snap really is. How much should anyone listen to rumor? How much to gossip? How much should anyone think for him or herself?
- Multiculturalism and Differences: If someone is different, in this case, Capt. Snap, do you steer clear of them as some people on Vinegar Lane suggest, or do you find out who they are as individuals? (See related section, above)
- Intergenerational: Captain Snap is an elderly, shy, cantankerous man, but the children and adults and eventually all the people of Vinegar Lane befriend him.
- Shyness: Captain Snap is shy, Curly Jess is shy. What do Curly Jess and Capt. Snap do that shows they’ve overcome their shyness? How is it hard to be shy?
- The Role of The Artist: Captain Snap is revealed to be an artist and the children begin to call him “Captain Scrap, the artist of Vinegar Lane.” What is the evidence that he is an artist? To what extent is an artist different from other people? Is everyone an artist or only certain people? Are artists only people who paint or sculpt? Is it possible to be an artist in anything one does?
- Recycling, Environmental Studies: Captain Snap recycles chicken bones, old umbrellas, old record players, etc. into wonderful creations and inventions. Has anyone ever done this him or herself? Does anyone know anyone who does this sort of thing?
- Activities: Make imaginary or practical machines out of found or recycled objects.
- Have students write their own stories about someone strange, or about an artist, or about courage.
A Fruit And Vegetable Man
- Immigration: Ruby and Trudy Rubenstein came in a ship “50 years ago across the sea to make a new life in America,” though unstated, probably from an Eastern European country. Sun Ho and his family have come recently, in a plane “across the sky to make a new life together in America,” though unstated, from an Asian country, probably Korea. Book can open up discussion or writing about “making it” in America through hard work and “taking care” as Ruby does and Sun Ho learns to do.
- Neighborhood, Community, Familiar Sights: Can be tied in with a trip to a local produce market where children can ask questions about how the produce is obtained, selected, where it comes from, how it is cared for and arranged.
- The Role of the Artist: Discussion of what it is to be an artist. Ruby is considered an artist by the people of Delano Street. Are artists people who work in studios with paint or clay or are there also everyday artists among us? Is it possible to be an artist in anything one does? What does it mean to be an artist?
- Multicultural: Though unstated, Ruby Rubenstein is of Eastern European, possibly Jewish heritage. Sun Ho and his family are Asian, probably Korean. The people of Delano Street are African-American (Old Ella), Irish (Mary Morrissey), etc. A story about community, mutual concern, interdependency and the value of shared lives.
- Activities: (See Neighborhood above) Visit local produce store or section in supermarket.
- Art: Some schools have designed bulletin boards as fruit & vegetable stands with the children cutting out fruits, etc. and arranging them in their own special way and titling it_____’s Fruit & Vegetable Store.
- Have students write their own story about someone new to this country or someone who owns a store.
Related Books: (See Dreamland and Captain Snap and the Children of Vinegar Lane)
Rhoda, Straight and True
Multiculturalism: Though not specifically about other races, religions, and cultures, this is a book about differences. The Mancy family is different from the people of MacNeeley Street and everyone is suspicious of them. The Roses are also different and again, everyone is suspicious of them. If people are different, should we automatically be suspicious of them?
- Intergenerational: Rhoda, ultimately, becomes friends with Mrs. Mancy (“Old Lady Mancy”) and with Mr. and Mrs. Rose. In the end, she discovers that she admires them and can learn from them.
- Rumor/Gossip/Thinking For Oneself: Who is the voice of rumor and gossip in this book? (Mr. Pruitt) Should we always believe what we are told? (Is Mr. Pruitt correct about Mrs. Rosalsky? Could he be wrong about other things?) What does everyone say about the Mancys and “Baby Nicotine”? About the Roses? Is it true? Any of it? All of it? None of it? What do people believe about Mrs. White? Is it true? Any of it? All of it? Many people in this book claim to know the truth about many things--Mr. Pruitt, Hattie’s parents, Mr. Keller, do they? Which children in this book think for themselves? Rhoda? Jerome? Mary Jane? What is the risk of going against the group? What happens when you think for yourself? What is the loss to Rhoda in this book? What is the gain? What do students think they would do in the same situation? Would they go along with the group? Has anyone had a similar experience?
- History/The Era of the Cold War: What was the “cold war”? When did it occur? Why did it occur? What did people fear? What are the signs of the cold war in this story? (air raid drills, watchtowers, dog tags, suspicion, fear of Russian spies, etc.)
- The Effects of War/War and Its Aftermath: What actual war was going on during the time of this story? Where was the war taking place? Hattie feels her brother, Victor, is a hero and that when he returns he will take care of things. What happens when he returns? What is wrong with him? Why do you think he behaves in the way that he does? How does that make Hattie feel? Does war have an effect on people? Is it always the same effect? Does anyone know anyone who fought in World War II? In Vietnam? In the Gulf War? How did they feel about it? Is there another war in this book? What about the one in the Lot? How does it start? On purpose? By accident? What is the cause of that war? How do wars start? Are there alternatives to war or are they necessary?
- Friendship: There are all kinds of friendships in this story. Who is friendly with whom at the start? Later on? Are any of the friendships surprising? What is the nature of friendship?
- Activities: Do some reading about the cold war or the Fifties. What was the history? Who was president? Who was vice president? Who were the popular singers of the time? What did people wear? What cars did they drive? What did things cost?
- Have students write their own stories about someone they were “mean” to. About how it felt when someone was mean to them. About cliques. About having the courage to think for oneself and go outside a group. Have them write about a special place that has some meaning for them (like Old House).
- About someone who seemed strange at first and then proved to be special. There are many possibilities.
A picture book about Doo-Wop Pop, who introduces the children of a school to the special joy of the music called Doo-Wop. “Sha-bop. Sha-bop. The fun won’t stop.”
Elijah Earl is used to keeping to himself. He's not the only one-- Alishah hides behind her head scarf, Jacob keeps out of sight, Luis hides behind a book, and Pam Pam is the shyest of them all. But when the school custodian the children call "Doo-Wop Pop" steps in, everything starts to change. Doo-Wop Pop, once an a cappella, rock- and-roll star, teaches the children to listen to the sounds in their world, write them down, and turn them into doo-wop, their OWN poetry and music.
- Intergenerational: How can younger people learn from older ones? How can older people learn from younger ones? What does each generation have to offer the other?
- Music: What is Doo-Wop music? See if you can find out. What equipment do you need to sing doo-wop music?
- Community: What does this story say about sharing? Friendship?
- Follow this link for a Teacher’s Guide and Activities