Tag Archives: Shaun Tan

Top Ten Tuesday – Top 10 Books to Explore Themes of Immigration and Refugees

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With the recent events in the US, immigration has become an increasingly important topic to explore and discuss with our students.  I am currently working with a grade 6 class at my school exploring immigration through picture books.  Many of these books are based on the authors’ family experience and  are the perfect opportunity to discuss the many issues surrounding immigration: different reasons why people leave their homes to seek new land (the “pull” – some are drawn to new opportunity; the “push” – others fleeing war and oppression); refugee camps; the challenges of adjusting to so much “newness” – country, friends, language, school, culture.  And yes,  Donald Trump was brought up in today in our class discussion.

At at a time when we need to be talking about and modelling kindness and celebrating diversity,  here are my top 10 picture books about immigration and refugees.

                                                     

                                                             1. I’m New Here – Anne Sibley O’Brien

The school where I teach is made up of over 30 different cultures so this book is a must have “connect” book for our library!  We follow three immigrant children as they face the challenges of adapting to their new school and community while trying to maintain their  language, identity and sense of “home”.  Thoughtful, heartfelt and realistic with simple text and colorful illustrations. 

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Here I Am – Patti Kim

What must it be like to move far away from your home, across vast waters, to another country, culture and language?  Through this wordless picture book, we experience this  adventure through the eyes of a young Asian boy as he experiences the unknown city streets and cityscapes for the first time.  Gorgeous illustrations.

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2. The Arrival Shaun Tan

Beautiful, haunting, wordless picture book told from the perspective of a new immigrant. We see and experience everything he does  –  the heartbreak, fear, confusion, and enlightenment.  Sometimes strange, surreal and magical – this is a must share immigration book.

3. Sami and the Time of the Troubles Florence Parry Heide

Lebanon Civil War from a young boy’s point of view. Sami and his family spend much of their time in the basement trying to keep safe while the fighting goes on right outside his home.  To pass the time, they share happy memories.  This book is beautiful, moving and filled with hope.   Amazing illustrations.

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4. Gleam and Glo – Eve Bunting

Narrated from the perspective of an eight-year-old boy, this story is based on an amazing true story of what happened in a village in the 1990s as the Bosnian war.  The family  flees, leaving behind their home and belongings.  They spend time in a refugee camp and return to find their home destroyed, but their pet fish thriving and multiplying in their pond.  Beautiful, hopeful, inexpressibly sad – a must-read book.

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5. Stepping Stones: A Syrian Refugee Story – Margriet Ruurs

This unique picture book was inspired by the stone artwork of Syrian artist Nizar Ali Badr, discovered by chance by Canadian children’s writer Margriet Ruurs.  Stunning artwork, a simple, poignant story about a Syrian family’s departure from their homeland written in both English and Arabic, and a wonderful story behind the story.

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6. Adrift at Sea – A Vietnamese Boy’s Story of Survival – Marsha Forchuk Skrypuch

This is the beautiful true story of a family’s survival in the face of overwhelming odds as they leave Vietnam in search of a new life.  In 1981, just at the end of the Vietnam war, sixty Vietnamese refugees, among whom is six-year-old Tuan Ho and his family, endure days at sea in horrific conditions. They are eventually rescued and finally reach Canada.  The amazing life-like illustrations and large format makes it an engaging read-aloud.  I appreciated the historical facts and real photos of Tuan in his family included at the back of the book.

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7. Let’s Go See Papa! = Lawrence Schimel

This is a powerful story that many of my students made connections to.  Told from a young child’s perspective, it  is about what it’s like to have an absent parent living and working overseas and then to have to leave your home, country and those you love for a new life.

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8. How I Learned Geography – Uri Shulevitz

This story is based on the author’s own boyhood when his family lived as refugees after  fleeing war-torn Poland at the onset of WWII.  One evening, instead of their ration of  bread, his father brings home a world map.  After the initial disappointment, the young boy see that there are places in the world beyond his home, allowing him to dream and imagine beyond his hardships.

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9. Four Feet, Two Sandals – Karen Lynn Williams

Taking place in a camp in Pakistan for Afghan refugees, this is a story of friendship, sharing and compassion.  When relief workers bring used clothing to the refugee camp,  two young girls race to grab whatever they can find, and discover they each have one sandal from a pair of shoes. Through their plan to share the shoes, the two become friends.   Powerful, heartbreaking and gives voice to the refugee experience.

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  One Green Apple Eve Bunting

This is a powerful and meaningful story about a Muslim immigrant trying to find her way in a new school without friends or words to connect to.   Important book about inclusion and one that we will be using for “point of view”.

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Anna and Solomon – Elaine Snyder

This is a true story of author Elaine Snyder’s grandparents’ immigration from Russia to the U.S. in 1897. It is a fascinating story of patience, understanding, and love. After Anna and Solomon are married, they choose to leave Russia during the Czar’s persecution of the Jews, and immigrate to the USA.  Having only enough money for one ticket, Solomon goes first.  After working hard to earn enough for a second ticket, he sends for Anna, only to discover she sends her brother.  Four more attempts bring 4 other family members, until eventually, Anna and Solomon are reunited.

Thanks for stopping by!  What are your favorite books about immigration?

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Filed under Diverse Children's Books, immigration, New Books, Picture Book, Social Studies, Top 10 Tuesday

Picture Book Month – Celebrating my favorite PB’s for Intermediate/Middle Grades

IMWAYR                      b4f78-pb2bmonth2blogo

It’s Monday and I’m happy to be participating in a weekly event with a community of bloggers who post reviews of books that they have read the previous week. Check out more IMWAYR posts here: Jen from Teach Mentor Texts and Kellee and Ricki from Unleashing Readers

“A children’s story that can be enjoyed only by children is not a good children’s story in the slightest.” —C.S. Lewis

Are picture books are not just for Primary students?  No, no, no!  In fact, there are MANY picture books far too sophisticated and complex for younger students.  Over the years, I have been astounded and moved by the rich conversations and deep thinking that emerges from sharing these books with older students.  They also include many powerful themes with topics that link to content areas.   I love using picture books to model different comprehension strategies and the fact that they are shorter in length means that I can read them for single lessons.

Soooo… today I am happy to celebrate my favorite picture books for your older readers…

Voices in the Park

Voices in the Park – Anthony Browne

Anthony Browne is a brilliant author/illustrator and this is one of my favorites of his.  I love the way he combines sparse text and detailed illustrations to tell his story, while always leaving spaces for our thinking.  I often use his books to practice inferringVoices in the Park follows four different narrative voices  (depicted by Browne’s signature gorilla characters) as they visit the same park one day.  What makes this book special is that, although at first glance it appears a simple story, it explores many adult themes including poverty, class and diversity.  Anthony uses different “voices”, font, language, body language, color and backgrounds to represent the different characters.  This is a book with many layers – and a perfect invitation for close and careful reading. 

Flotsam

Flotsam – David Wiesner

David Wiesner’s known for his highly inventive, creative wordless picture books.  This book earned him the Caldecott in 2007.   In in this story, a young boy, while searching for  flotsams (any floating object washed up on shore) on the beach, discovers an old-fashioned underwater camera.  The roll of film inside reveals some remarkable and magical surprises!  Breath-taking illustrations that can be poured over again and again.  A perfect book for practicing inferring with older students.  Delightful!

Sparrow Girl

Sparrow Girl – Sara Pennypacker

This book is based on a true event that happened in China in 1953 during the rule of dictator Mao Tse-Tung when he “declared war” on the sparrows.  Over a 3 day period, he ordered every person in china (women, children, the elderly) to take to the streets and make as much noise as possible to scare away the sparrows.  The result was horrific, as the sparrows were so frightened by the noise that they had heart attacks and fell down dead from the sky.   This event led to a famine that killed between 20-30 million Chinese over the next 5 years.  This is the story of a young girl who saves 7 sparrows and hides them in her barn.  This book would be a wonderful anchor to introduce students to different forms of government.

Mr. Peabody's Apples

Mr. Peabody’s Apples – Madonna

Madonna’s re-telling of an ancient proverb is one I often use to practice how sometimes a book can “transform” or change our thinking in some way.  The story centers around Mr. Peabody, a popular teacher and baseball coach in the small town of Happville.  When one of the children on his team witnesses what he believes is Mr. Peabody stealing an apple from a local deli, he begins to spread the rumours that his coach is a thief.  This book has stimulated a great many thoughtful classroom conversations about the consequences of spreading false rumours.   Lauren Long’s illustrations are amazing – especially the last page… “What can you infer from those few leftover floating feathers?”

Bully

Bully – Patricia Polacco

The amazing Patricia Polacco targets middle school students in this excellent book.  While there are many books about school bullying, this is the first I’ve read that focuses specifically on cyber and facebook bullying.  This is an important book to share and discuss with your middle school students – and a great book for practicing making connections. 

The Stamp Collector

The Stamp Collector – Jennifer Lanthier

Wow – this thoughtful book is truly beautiful – to read and to look at. A book that celebrates the power of stories and how they bind us together and set us free.  This is the story of a two friends – one grows up to be a prison guard, the other a writer imprisoned for something he writes.  Great to explore issues of government oppression and freedom of speech with older children. This book is haunting – it will stay with you long after the book is finished. 

Fox

Fox – Margaret Wild

This book is dark, disturbing and haunting –  definitely NOT for younger students.  A magpie with a burnt wing, a one-eyed dog and a jealous fox.  Even after the book is finished, it will stay with you for a long time.  I have had amazing journal responses from students after reading this book – so many unanswered questions.  The word choices, the art, the story – by far one of the BEST picture books in my intermediate collection!

The Arrival

The Arrival – Shaun Tan

The Arrival is a stunning wordless graphic picture book.   Shaun Tan captures the experience of an immigrant brilliantly.  The story follows the journey of a man leaving his family and his home country to his arrival in confusing new world.  The reader experiences the fears and challenges of this man as he tries to make his way in a new land, unfamiliar with the language and customs.  It is a surprisingly moving story of hope – perfect for questioning and inferring. 

Underground: Finding the Light to Freedom

Underground: Finding the Light to Freedom – Shane Evans

The story of the underground railway, told through the eyes of voices of the slaves.  While there are few words on each page, the reader is left to infer much of the story.  As the slaves begin to “find the light”, so too, do the illustrations become brighter.  I love using sharing the words of the poem with students first without telling them the title or showing them the pictures and invite them to infer the possible meaning of “Freedom”

The Promise

The Promise – Nicola Davies

Nicola Davies is one of my favorite Nonfiction picture book writers so I was excited to see this book when it came out last year.  It is a “pay it forward” type of story  of hope, of renewal, of promise.  In a colorless city where the people have become as ugly as their surroundings, a young girl steals a bag from an old woman and makes a promise to plant what is inside the bag… acorns.   As trees begin to grow, green joy is spread throughout the desolate city and others are inspired to also do some planting of their own. The mixed media artwork  takes the reader from darkness to light as the change in the girl also begins to change the world around her.  I love Nicola Davies simple, direct language and message. 

The Composition

The Composition – Antonio Skarmeta

Wow – this powerful picture book for older students was originally published in Spanish.  It tells the story of Pedro, who lives in a police state and is forced to choose between his own family and the state.  One day,  a policeman comes into Pedro’s class and asks the students to write a composition about what their families do at night. The pressure on children to betray their own parents brings fear and terror to Pedro and his classmates;  many know their parents meet at night in secret and are planning some kind of a revolt.   I love to pause and ask the students – what would you do?  A  final note explains what it’s like to live under a dictatorship.

Just a Dream

Just a Dream – Chris Van Allsburg

Chris Van Allsburg is a master story teller.   He seems to tell a story by not telling us the story!  In other words, he crafts his stories carefully to allow spaces for our thinking.  His books are my “go to” books for teaching and practicing inferring with intermediate students.  While ANY book by Chris Van Allsburg could be on this list, I chose Just A  Dream because of it’s subtle but important message about the environment.

To This Day: For the Bullied and Beautiful

To This Day: For the Bullied and the Beautiful – Shane Koyczan

Spoken word poet, Shane Koyczan provides us with a glimpse into his childhood of bullying and ridicule through this powerful book adaption of his poem.   Raw, heartfelt and inspirational – his words bring hope for all those who have been bullied.  This is a must share with your middle school students.

 

Thanks for stopping by!  What are your favorite picture books to use with Intermediate and Middle school students?

 

 

 

 

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Filed under Infer, It's Monday, What Are You Reading?, making connections, Picture Book, Reading Power, Transform, wordless

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? – New Titles from Favorite Authors

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It’s Monday and I’m happy to be participating in a weekly event with a community of bloggers who post reviews of books that they have read the previous week.  Check out more IMWAYR posts here: Teach Mentor Texts and Unleashing Readers

It’s been a while since I did a IMWAYR post.  April was a VERY busy month for me – the last full push of Pro. D. for the school year and I presented a lot of workshops.  Fortunately, May is not nearly as hectic so I hope to be able to post more regularly.

Here are a few titles I am excited to share – with several new releases from some of my favorite authors!

The Day I Lost My Superpowers – Michaël Escoffier

This book is DELIGHTFUL and would be a perfect book to add to your Mother’s Day collection!  The story is about a little girl who discovers she has “super powers” (her imagination at work!).   But when the super powers begin to disappear after a mishap,  she looks around for someone who might be able to help her get them back.  Lo and behold – who possess an amazing array of her own “super powers”?  Her superhero mom!  I love how the touching, yet subtle message of the special bond between parent and child.  The illustrations are charming and I really like the way the book doesn’t force a message but does so gently and with humour.

Have You Seen My Dragon?

Have You Seen My Dragon? – Steve Light

This book is a combination of a counting book, search and find book and story that is well worth a close read.  A boy searches through the city for his dragon and finds many interesting treasures along the way (20 to be exact!)  The detailed black and white ink drawings are well worth  exploring and I think students will enjoy joining in on the dragon search!  I liked reading the author’s note at the back where he explains how he got the idea for the story:  When he was a boy growing up in New York, he used the imagine that the steam coming up from the street grates was dragon smoke!

Nurse Clementine

Nurse Clementine – Simon James

I enjoy Simon James books – simple text and lovely colored ink illustrations.   His latest book is definitely one to use for practicing making connections with younger students.  I think many would be able to connect to the main character, Clementine, who is thrilled when she receives a nurse’s outfit and nurses kit for her birthday.  (I certainly remember when my son desperately wanted a doctor kit!)  With cap on and kit in hand, she proceeds to “fix” all the injuries in her family.  Her younger brother refuses her services until he gets stuck in a tree.  Sweet, simple, predictable – and a great read-aloud for early primary.

The Beginner's Guide to Running Away from Home

Beginner’s Guide To Running Away From Home – Jennifer Larue Wuget

In my new book Nonfiction Writing Power, one of the structures I explore is Instructional writing.  So I’m always on the look out for anchor books that teachers can use which model the language and form of instructional writing.  Guidebooks and handbooks are a great examples so I was excited to find this new title to add to my book list!   This humourous book has everything you will need to successfully run away – from what to pack to where to leave your note.  The character reminded me a little of Judith Voirst’s Alexander – a kid who is just at the end of his rope.  The illustrations have a Pixar feel that I think would appeal to kids.  This book is definitely for a slightly older crowd – I think gr 3-5’s will really appreciate the humour.

Poem Depot – Aisles of Smiles – Douglas Florian

I have a bad habit of using the word “favorite” too often when it comes to books!  But I would say that Douglas Florian is definitely my favorite children’s poet.  I am drawn to his humour, his creativity, his art.  I love that his poetry books are collections around a specific theme  – seasons, mammals, dinosaurs, baseball, pirates, trees, bees, space… you name it and he has written a poetry book about it!   I love that he explores different poetic devices and forms so that I can use them to help me teach poetry to my students.   In his latest book, Florain captures the everyday humor of kids’ lives with a collection of great read-aloud nonsense poems that are sure to keep you and your students laughing.

If – Rudyard Kipling   Illustrated by Giovannia Mamna

“IF” is a poem that Rudyard Kipling wrote for his 12 year old son in 1909.  (Sadly, his son would die a few years later in WWI)  It is an inspiring poem of life lessons – encouraging and thoughtful advice.  It’s a poem I could read over and over and think about it differently each time.  I remember reading the poem in high school but of course now, my experiences as an adult and a parent invite a completely different interpretation.  The watercolor illustrations are stunning.  While the tone and language may be challenging for independent reading – I can see how this poem would stimulate rich discussion, connections and inferences if guided as a shared read-aloud.

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Gravity – Jason Chin

Jason Chin is a remarkable.  Somehow, he manages to explore thought provoking concepts in a very accessible way.  In this book, he explores the concept of gravity – What makes things “stay put” on earth and not float away?  Why do things fall from above when we drop them?   As in his previous books, Redwood, Coral Reef and Island, his illustrations are captivating and mesmerizing.  I loved the simple text and larger print.  This would be an excellent book to introduce a unit on space or to invite questioning.

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Rules of Summer – Shaun Tan

Wow! Wow! Wow!  How can you not open up a book by Shaun Tan and not be completely blown away by the creativity, the depth, the layers of thinking that it invites?   In this new release he once again manages to challenge the mind and the imagination with his new book.  If any of you reading this are looking for a new book to teach INFERING – this is it!  AMAZING!  The book portrays two boys – and the lessons they each learned during the summer.  Each double page spread is one lesson – an image and a simple sentence – open to many interpretations.   There is a dark quality to the lessons as you go deeper into the book and this is certainly a book intended for an older audience.  Captivating illustrations with so much detail – a remarkable book!

The Rosie Project – Graeme Simsion

Our book club pick this past month was The Rosie Project.  For those of you who may not have read this clever, quirky charming love story – you should.  I don’t think I have laughed so hard reading a book – EVER!  At one point I was reading it on the plane and was literally shaking with laughter,  tears pouring down my cheeks.  Laugh out loud funny one minute and touchingly beautiful the next.  I fell in love with the hero Don Tillman –  the socially awkward genetics professor who narrates the story.  Don believes he is not wired for romance and not capable of the social rituals necessary for true love.  He is, we infer, on the spectrum of Asperger’s but doesn’t realize it.  At 39 he decides it is time to settle down so he  designs “The Wife Project” – a comprehensive and lengthy questionnaire to try to find the “perfect match”.  Enter Rosie – on a search of her own – who fails just about every question on his test but somehow manages to turn Don’s world upside down.   5 stars, 2 thumbs up, and gets a coveted place on the top shelf of my book case – where only my very favorites get to live!

And that’s what I’ve been reading lately!  I’d love for you to leave your thoughts about these books or any that you have been reading!

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Filed under Connect, Infer, It's Monday, What Are You Reading?, Mother's Day, New Books, Picture Book, Poetry, Reading Power