Genre- Historical Fiction

Title: A School for Pompey Walkerpompey-walker

Author: Michael J. Rosen

Publisher: Harcourt Brace & Company

Date: 1995

Age Level: Elementary (3-4) or Upper (5-6)

Summary: “At the dedication of a school named after him, an old former slave tells the story of his life and how, with the help of a white friends, he managed to save money to build a school for black children in Ohio by being repeatedly sold into and escaping from slavery.”

Strengths: I thought the book was very descriptive about a life of a slave. I like that it was from his own account, I think it makes you feel more for the character. I love the illustrations. I like that this book is positive. I think in so many books about slavery they are always very negative. This book shows how a bond between a white man and a slave help to build a school for black students.

Concerns: I think the way in which the story is told with Pompey Walker telling the story but also talking to the students (shown in italics) is confusing. I think some kids may be turned off because they are confused. This book is descriptive so some of the hard times may be hard for students to comprehend, when Pompey Walker gets beaten.

Classroom Use: This book would be great if assigning students projects or a paper. The teacher could give this book to a student and have them read the book, but also do more background research. This would be great to have when doing a unit on Slavery. Again, its nice to point out that this book has a positive mood, so it might be neat to have students research other slaves that had contributions or other stories out there.

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Published in: on March 10, 2009 at 4:49 pm  Leave a Comment  

Genre- Historical Fiction

song-of-treesTitle: Song of the Trees

Author: Mildred D. Taylor

Publisher: Dial Books for Young Readers

Date: 1975

Age Level: Elementary(3-4)

Summary: A young girl’s father is away for work during the depression, when a man offers her grandmother pratically no money to cut down the trees on their property. The young girl, Cassie, is very fond of the trees and hears them sing while others claim it’s just the wind. Her father returns just in time to keep the man from cutting down all the trees.

Strengths: I loved that the book was an easy read and would be great for all types of readers. I thought it was a great representation of what times were like during the depression and especially for African Americans. I thought it was great that the book showed some racial inequalities, but in a way that wasn’t so harsh for readers.  The illustrations are simple, but enough to give a visual of what is going on in the story.

Concerns: I had a hard times with keeping up with the names. I thought it was especially difficult with Big Ma and Mama. I kept getting confused if they were talking about mother of grandmother. I also had a hard time with Stacey being a boy, Cassie’s brother. I didn’t like how the book ended. It was still kind of sad even though they got Mr. Anderson to leave. I wish there would have been some kind of happy note to end on.

Classroom Use: I think this book is short enough that you could either read it to the students or have them read it and have a class discussion about it. It is a great representation of the hard times during the depression and how still African Americans were not seen as being equal to whites.

Published in: on March 10, 2009 at 4:34 pm  Leave a Comment  

Genre- Historical Fiction

train-to-somewhereTitle: Train to Somewhere

Author: Eve Bunting

Publisher: Clarion Books

Age Level: Elementary (3-4) or Upper (5-6)

Date: 1996

Summary: “In the late 1800s, Marianne travels westward on the Orphan Train in hopes of being placed with a caring family.”

Strengths: The text in the book is really moving. As you read the book, you feel like you are a fly on the wall watching as everything is going on. You also put yourself in the childrens shoes and feel their emotion. I like the page spreads, all text on one side and the illustration on the other. The full page illustrations really go along with the text and help explain what is going on. I think this is helpful for students not that do not quite understand the Orphan Trains.

Concerns: As I was reading the book, some parts are really sad. The story itself is about something really scary to students, being alone without parents. I think this is something students should be aware of though and the book is a great way of showing them how the time period was for orphans. However, the book did give a sense of hope that Marianne would either find her mother or be adopted.

Classroom Use: This would be a great book to read to students. I personally had no idea about these Orphan Trains. The class could do a unit about these Orphan Trains and discuss why their were so many orphans and what they think about the orphan trains, good or bad.

Published in: on March 10, 2009 at 4:05 pm  Comments (1)  

Genre- Historical Fiction

Title: Seesaw Girlseesaw-girl

Author: Linda Sue Park

Publisher: Clarion Books

Date: 1999

Age Level: Elementary(3-4) or Upper(5-6)

Summary: Impatient with the constraints put on her as an aristocrat girl living in Korea during the seventennth century, twelve year old Jade Blossom determines to see beyond her small world.

Strengths: I thought the author was very good at describing the life women had during seventeenth century Korea. I thought it was a great example of how other cultures view social class.  I thought it gave a great visual of what life was like and how younger girls didn’t quite understand why it was that way. I like the ending of the book, although it was not what I expected I thought it was creative. Jade found a way to see something she wanted to while still following the rules.

Concerns: The book is geared toward female readers, which would be hard to use as a book the whole class reads. I also didnt like how Jade dealt with all the stereotypes of how womens lives were in this time. While reading, I was expecting Jade to stand up for her freedom.

Classroom Use: This is a great book to introduce students to different cultures. The setting of this book is in Korea where many women don’t have the freedoms that they have here in the U.S. This book could be used in a unit about Asian culture. This book would also be good to have in the classroom for girls to read.

Published in: on March 10, 2009 at 4:04 pm  Comments (1)  

Genre- Historical Fiction

henrys-freedom-boxAuthor: Ellen Levine

Title: Henry’s Freedom Box: A True Story from the Underground Railroad

Publisher: Scholastic Press

Age Level: Elementary (3-4) or Upper (5-6)                     

Date: 2007

Summary: A fictionalized account of how in 1849 a Virginia slave, Henry “Box” Brown, escapes to freedom by shipping himself in a wooden crate from Richmond to Philadelphia.

Strentghs: I enjoyed how the book showed both negative and positive life events of being a slave. The tone is happy when Henry gets married and has children, but sad when Henry’s family is sold. The book also ends on a happy note with Henry reaching freedom. The idea of sending yourself to a different state through the mail is interesting and could create a great classroom discussion. After reading the book myself, it made me want to research Henry “Box” Brown to learn more about his story.

Concerns: The book shows a lot of pain that might be hard for the students to understand. Henry is sold and taken away from his mother and then his own family is sold and taken away from him. I do not know how students would react to this and especially the fact that Henry doesn’t ever find his family. I also thought some parts of the story line were choppy. I think it was to make it short, so students would stay interested.

Classroom Use: The book could be an opening activity for the Civil War and slavery. It could be a good start for a research activity for older grades. The teacher could read the book about Henry. The class could discuss how Henry was so  desperate to reach freedom that he mailed himself to Philadelphia. The teacher could talk about how many slaves did unique things to reach freedom. Then the teacher could assign a research project where students could work in groups to research a particular slave and the unique way they reached freedom.

Published in: on February 4, 2009 at 4:48 pm  Comments (2)