A special guest article by Kadir Nelson, originally published in the September/October 2008 issue of Horn Book Magazine.
Marianthe’s Story: Painted Words / Spoken Memories written and illustrated by Aliki
The story of a young immigrant girl from an unnamed country is told in a pair of back-to-back picture books. The first describes Marianthe’s adjustment to her American school; the second (arrived at by flipping the book over) allows the girl to tell her own story of why she and her mother came to this country. Aliki’s drawings are warm and expansive, giving heart to the somewhat purposive text. Grade level: K–3.
Ramona the Pest written by Beverly Cleary, illustrated by Lois Darling
Eight- or nine-year-olds who can look back upon their kindergarten days will smile knowingly at Ramona’s first encounters with school life. Ramona does not submit to the process of education without a struggle, and the skirmishes, vividly described, will remind the young reader of the child he once was (or wished he had dared to be!). The author has a sure instinct for the thought and expression of five-year-olds. Grade level: K–3.
Although I love to write about books, I am a teacher, not a writer. My favorite writers create worlds out of their imaginations; what I try to create, every August, is a new community of children, one I hope will be strong enough to make it through the school year. Secretly, I have another hope: I hope the children will remember second grade as one of their best years. I hope they will remember me the way I remember my teachers — those from my childhood and those who come alive in the books I love.
Each year, right before school starts, I organize my classroom library, pulling out the chapter books I like to read to the class during the year and finding the picture books I use during the crucial first weeks when my students and I are settling in. What kinds of books am I drawn to? My favorites are books about school. You would think I would be sick of them, especially since some are schlocky and idealistic — impossible to live up to — but you would be wrong. Books about school give me some common ground with my class to talk about my expectations for the year. Though fictional, the teachers in these books inform my teaching every day.
Our September special issue on School is out, and you can view selected articles on our website. Make sure to try the quiz by Monica Edinger and Roxanne Hsu Feldman–it’s harder than it looks. I’m leaving tomorrow for Sedona to marry the other one off; I’ll be sure to steer clear of the legendary cougar […]
>Over on the PUBYAC listserv, Jan Hanson of the Longview Public Library in Washington is looking for it: “A HS teacher called and is asking for ideas of books that illustrate a teen with passion, as in “a passion for dancing” or a “passion for football.” I love this query; it’s requests like these that […]
We’ve just emailed the latest issue of Notes from the Horn Book, which this month covers new books about school, nature study and space; some good recent chapter books, and five writers’ (and an editor’s) own summer reading choices. Sign up now! And, especially for teachers, this issue provides a link to TeachingBooks.net that gives […]
>Child_Lit has been unusually lively the last couple of weeks, with discussions of The Dark is Rising, Love You Forever (again), gypsies, and gay-seeming children all perking along nicely, but what has intrigued me most is a thread inspired by a post from GraceAnne DeCandido, who has given me permission to reproduce it here: Dear […]
>The discussion about Shakespeare reminds me of something a friend of mine said she was going to do while taking some extended leave from employment: she was going to read Ulysses, because she thought it was something every educated person needs to have on their read-that list. Maybe, if I’m on a very small, very […]
>Child_Lit is currently enjoying one of those pearl-clutching reports about the abysmal state of American education, this one taking on colleges that do not require English majors to take a course in Shakespeare but allow them to study such horrors as queer theory and children’s literature. Let’s start with the sheer–and shrill–irrationality of comparing required […]
>Editing an article for an upcoming issue of the Magazine, I needed to find some information about Lucy Fitch Perkins’ The Dutch Twins, and found via Google a digital library which contained it. The Baldwin Project is a real time-sucker of a place–that’s a compliment–and after reading about the Twins and their ever-informative mother ( […]