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Reading & Math
Three Fun Picture Books

Let’s look at 3 picture books about math: David Adler’s Fraction Math, Stuart Murphy’s Spunky Monkeys on Parade, and Greg Tang’s Math Fables. All three are beautiful books, ones that children will enjoy. Each would be fun to read to a child; all are about basic math skills.

Each takes a very different approach. These books can be used to lead children through math skills. Sharing these books and  maintaining a child’s interest and excitement may require and understanding of each book’s strengths. Our purpose is not to judge any of these books. Each would be an appropriate book to share with a young child.

Let’s start by identifying how these books are different and review each book, suggesting ways that each book could be a fun way to help children appreciate reading and math.

Fraction Fun

In many ways, this book is more like a “graphic novel.” The concept of fractions is fairly abstract. Many believe that children are not ready to work with fractions until the 4th or 5th grade. Adler’s book is not your typical picture book. It is a non-fiction book that presents a fairly sophisticated topic in a fun, visual manner. Like most picture books, it is likely to be enjoyed by 4-8 year olds. The colorful, imaginative, fun presentation will keep children’s attention.

The depth of the presentation is certainly beyond most picture book. Don’t be surprised if the concepts seem advanced.  This book presents concepts, don't worry whether or not a child is fully ready for everything in the book; the point is not to make children “experts.” The book introduces important math concepts. As a child becomes older, this book could be a useful reference tool, something to "revisit" and review.

Fraction Fun would also be a great way to present fractions to older, visual learners. Of our three books, this is the most content rich.   Children beyond 8 will enjoy and benefit from the way concept of fractions are presented.

Spunky Monkeys on Parade

Of our three books, this one is what one would expect from an outstanding children’s picture book. The illustrations are wonderful, spanning the 2 page spreads. The text is light – a few sentences are all that the illustrations need to tell the story. The story is exciting, implying action and movement throughout. This book is a celebration of pictures, words, and numbers with just enough silliness to encourage giggles.

Probably this is the book that very young children will enjoy the most. It is also the one that young children are likely to pick up and try to read. There is never more than a sentence on a page and the rhythmic, rhyming verses are clearly illustrated in the artwork. Using the pictures as a guide, children can sound out these words, perhaps filling in a few of their own if they get stuck.   The book counts by one's, then two's, three's, and  four's; skip counting.

Spunky Monkeys on Parade presents some sophisticated math, however. Implied in the skip counting are the concepts of multiplication, division, and factors of 2, 3, and 4. This book contains a helpful section at the end for adults, sharing ways that the lessons in the book can be expanded to help a child learn more about numbers.

Math Fables

Actually a series of 10 very short stories, this book uses brilliant, deep colors and a variety of favorite animals to introduce children to numbers. The book shows animals in groupings. Two birds are each looked at individual, 1 and 1. Three turtles are looked at, 1 and 2. Four squirrels are broken down into 3 and 1.

This continues up to ten, each number being illustrated as a whole, and then broken down into a grouping. While Math Fables does not directly talk about addition, it is clearly implied, preparing children to do more than count.  Each story in the book also talks about important life and social skills – true to its name, the animal stories are fables, showing how to live together and get along.

In terms of text, there is more than Murphy’s Spunky Monkeys on Parade, but less than Adler’s Fraction Fun. The stories are written in rhyming verse. Each page represents a wonderful, colorful piece of art that is broken down to clearly illustrate each part of each fable. As a result, the book will provide children with many ways to look at numbers and verify that the different groupings always represent the same number of animals that each story starts with.

Like Spunky Monkeys on Parade, Math Fables contains a short section that tells children how they can use the book to extend their number skills. This last 2-page spread shows the entire set of animals from each story, lined up for a parade. This provides an opportunity to practice the counting presented in the book, adding a few more "tricks," such as counting backwards from 10.

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Nonfiction Picture Books
A Comparison of 2 Bibliographies of
Dr. Martin Luther King
by Bill Breitsprecher

  • Happy Birthday, Martin Luther King by Jean Marzollo and illustrated by J. Brian Pinkey. Scholastics, Inc., 1993 (16 pages). This book presents a compelling look at the life and death of Martin Luther King. The main aspects of his life and struggles for civil rights are covered in an abbreviated format for young readers. The foreword includes suggestions for "softening" the impact of his murder when reading the book to children.
  • A Picture Book of Martin Luther King, Jr., by David A. Adler and illustrated by Robert Casilla. Holiday House, 1989 (16 pages). David Adler, a popular children's book author, has written a series of picture books about important American figures. While this book emphasizes his childhood and families, it also encourages readers to imagine what racism and segregation would feel like and documents his struggles for non-violent change up to and including his assassination.

Real life stories read and sound to children like fiction books - so they represent an excellent way to teach the concept of fiction and nonfiction to young readers. Publishers and educators have also recognized the value that this format provides when introducing social issues and multi-culturism. Increasingly, these books are written and published to reflect important figures that are part of a typical school's curriculum.

A good biography has to be authentic - in the past, this was not always the case. A trend towards more factually based biographies began in about the 1980's and continues to this day. Like all children's literature, biography does more than introduce students to language arts, people, and facts about their lives. They provide a framework to develop critical thinking skills. One important way to utilize biographies in school is to have students compare and contrast 2 biographies that they have read that present the lives of one person.  Let's examine each of these books in terms of:

  • Subject choices to include about Martin Luther King, Jr.
  • Accuracy and authenticity of each portrayal
  • Style of each picture book
  • How Martin Luther King, Jr. is characterized
  • Use of theme to interpret the subject while maintaining and accuracy

Both Happy Birthday, Martin Luther King and A Picture Book of Marin Luther King, Jr. are picture books that are directed to young audiences. School Library Journal identifies the former as being appropriate for Preschool to Grade 2 and the latter for Kindergarten to grade 2. Both are written to rely on the pictures to tell a major part of the story. presented. This paper will look at the contributions of the author and the illustrator to the overall work.

Subject

Both books choose the same subject - the life and death of Martin Luther King, Jr. Jean Marzollo (Happy Birthday, Martin Luther King), chooses the following aspects of his:

  • When he was born, how much his parents loved him
  • Education
  • Becoming a pastor like his father
  • His work as a pastor with an emphasis on helping people in need such as sick people in the hospital
  • His work advocating for non-violence
  • His role in changing laws about segregation
  • The "I Have Dream" speech
  • His assassination
  • Tombstone
  • His legacy promoting freedom

David Adler (A Picture Book of Martin Luther King, Jr.) chooses aspects of his life such as:

  • Place in history as a great American leader
  • When he was born and information about the rest of the family
  • Things he enjoyed in his youth
  • How one day white boys told him they would no longer play football with him because he was black
  • How he felt about being abandoned by his white friends
  • Segregation in Atlanta, where he lived
  • How he learned to read and enjoyed books about black leaders
  • Success at school, including college
  • Marriage to Coretta Scott
  • His role as a pastor in 1954 in Montgomery, Alabama
  • The arrest of Rosa Parks for sitting down on a bus in the "Whites Section"
  • The protest he led as a result of Rosa Park's arrest
  • An attempt to bomb his house
  • How he advocated loving our white brother and "meeting hate with love," even after an attempt on his life
  • How the protest lasted almost a year, but resulted in change
  • Moving back to Atlanta in 1960 and leading peaceful protests against segregation
  • The "I Have a Dream" speech
  • Winning the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964
  • His role in changing segregation laws
  • How he advocated for peace even when peaceful protests were met with violence
  • Assassination in Memphis, Tennessee; identifying James Earl Ray
  • His dream of a world free of hate, prejudice, and violence
  • The last part of his epithet, "I'm free at last"
  • Important dates in the life of Martin Luther King, Jr.

The J. Brian Pinkney's illustrations in Happy Birthday, Martin Luther King scratchboard colored with oil pastels. They convey a feeling of strength and illustrate Martin Luther King, Jr., as a gentle, loving man. While the pictures are beautiful and effective, they tend to hide the race of the parties being depicted. Each topic that Jean Marzollo has chosen is illustrated with a 2-page spread. This partially accounts for the more limited nature of the book and accounts for School Library Journal's inclusion of PreKindergarten in its suggested grade level.

Robert Casilla's illustrations in A Picture Book of Marin Luther King, Jr. are watercolor paintings. He effectively uses this medium to direct viewers to each illustration's subject and conveys a variety of moods and emotions throughout the book. Each topic chosen by David A. Adler is illustrated with a 1 page drawing, which accounts for School Library Journal's suggested grade level of Kindergarten to 2nd Grade.

Accuracy and Authenticity

Each book contains accurate and authentic facts about the life of Marin Luther King, Jr. Neither books contain attributions to the source of the information contained in the book, nor does either suggest sources for additional reading. This would be typical of picture book biographies. The illustrations in each book appear to feature people in authentic dress and surroundings for the time, place, and setting. Each book presents its story as an impartial 3rd party.

The illustrations in Happy Birthday, Martin Luther King, might cause some to question if the impact of segregation is accurately and authentically presented. Marzollo does not address the impact of segregation on people's lives at all - merely mentioning that there were laws about what black people and white people could do. This writer believes that the accuracy and authenticity of Dr. King's life suffers from the way Marzollo and Pinkney have minimized how race and segregation, impact people's lives. While this book does celebrate Martin Luther King, Jr. as a great American leader, how can children appreciate his role in history without some mention as to how people suffered under segregation? How can children appreciate his role in history without mention of the resistance his peaceful civil rights movement met? Even considering that this book is targeted towards younger children, this seems to be a significant problem with Marzollo and Pinkey's work.

The illustrations in A Picture Book of Marin Luther King, Jr. identify the race of each person illustrated and convey a sense of the emotions for each of these persons. If Martin Luther King's greatest legacy was how he brought about changes in American society through the use of nonviolent protests and advocacy of civil rights for people of color (and non-whites), then Adler and Casilla have presented a much more accurate and authentic portrayal of Martin Luther King.

Style

Each book is written in a smooth style with each section of text and illustration logically leading to the next. The narrative tone of each is that of a outside observer and one gets the sense that one is listening to someone describe each picture. Adler has included much more in his narrative that takes his work beyond merely describing simple aspects of Dr. King's life that are readily understandable to young children. By comparison, Marzollo's writing is sparse and only highlights the most basic parts of the King story in the broadest of terms. In each case, the style is appropriate for the genre (historical picture book), because the text guides the reader thought the book and the pictures extend the text.

Marzollo has not quoted anyone, including Martin Luther King - though does include a full quote of his epitaph. Adler sprinkles a few quotes from Martin Luther King throughout his book and, interestingly enough, chooses to only quote the last line of his epitaph. The difference here may be attributed to the different audiences each book is intended for, Marzollo writing for the needs of younger children.

Characterization

When reading the text of Marzollo's work, the life of Dr. Martin Luther King comes across as "flat." Pinkney's pictures set the tone and present Dr. King as a warm, caring person. Perhaps this is appropriate for the youngest of readers, but the pictures can only carry this so far. The characterization of Dr. King's murder is reduced to being "…shot and killed in 1968." The illustration for this statement is a scratchboard, oil pastel picture of a young family at Dr. King's grave.

The book's foreword suggests that, for some young children, even this might be too traumatic and tells those that read this book to children to consider saying, "died." This writer believes it is a mistake to assume that the pictures overcome the simplicity of the text and would not recommend this book for any but the youngest of children, because the achievements of Martin Luther King, Jr. cannot be appreciated without more of an understanding of the suffering that segregation caused and the anger and violence that Dr. King had to overcome with his non-violent principles to start the civil rights movement. While the book ends by quoting Dr. King's full epithet, "Free at last, free at last! Thank God Almighty; I'm free at last (and the picture clearly display the simple text on his gravestone), nothing in this book really explains from what Dr. King has been relieved of.

Adler's book is written to introduce children to the pain of living under segregation. It describes young Martin crying when he comes home and tells his mother that the white boys won't let him play football anymore. His mother tells him about how Africans where brought to America in chains and sold as slaves and that even though they had been set free, some people still did not treat blacks fairly. The characterization of Dr. King's murder includes a powerful watercolor that mimics a famous photograph of people on the balcony pointing in the direction of the shots as Dr. King lies dying while an aide covers his head wound with a handkerchief. The accompanying text identifies James Earl Ray as hiding nearby, pointing a rifle, firing a gun. Within an hour, King is dead.

Adler's narration and Casilla's powerful paintings characterize King as a compassionate human being who was deeply moved by his people's suffering. Likewise, the challenges and struggles of mounting non-violent protests and the hostility and hate that he and his followers had to endure are presented in a way that frames his role as an American leader. In this writer's opinion, anything less cannot possibly stand as a tribute to Dr. King's life and accomplishments.

Theme

Happy Birthday, Martin Luther King uses his birthday, now a national holiday, as a theme to introduce Dr. King to children. If one accepts that it is meant for only the youngest of children, perhaps the simple characterization of Dr. King's life is appropriate with the theme. The book identifies Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s birthday as January 15, 1929 on its very first page and then proceeds to make simple statements about his life with illustrations that extend the simple narration. In many ways, this book is nothing more and nothing less than an observation of an American leaders birthday presented in a manner that tells children, in the simplest of ways, why that day has been declared a holiday. This writer believes the theme is used effectively and would make a great read to young children (PreKindergarten) to observe the annual holiday that celebrates Dr. King's legacy as an American hero.

A Picture Book of Marin Luther King, Jr. uses the theme of an illustrated celebration of Dr. King's life and legacy as an American leader. The information presented is upbeat and uses descriptions and illustrations of Dr. King's family, leadership role during the Montgomery bus strike, and his 1963 march on Washington DC to give readers a sense of the man's integrity, conviction, and ultimate sacrifice. Adler and Camilla have effectively used the picture book format as a theme to present a collage of information that provides readers with some insights into the strength, dignity, and courage of a great fallen leader.

Recommendation

Unless this was going to be read specifically as an introduction to the national holiday for Dr. Martin Luther King with prekindergarten children, this writer would not recommend the book, Happy Birthday, Martin Luther King. Adler's A Picture Book of Marin Luther King, Jr. is a much richer look at Dr. King's life and the start of the civil rights movement. Adler's work will allow young listeners/readers to revisit the book and draw new meaning as they get older. Not only does Adler's book present more facts and details, it provides its audience with a glimpse into the times, trials, and tribulations that Dr. King and African Americans have endured. This writer believes that Adler's work could be read to the same young readers as Marzollo's, though the reader might want to simplify the narrative to conform with the needs and abilities to the listening children.

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Picture Book Review: 
Mama Cat Has Three Kittens
Written and Illustrated by Denise Fleming
by Bill Breitsprecher

The idea that, within a family, one child prefers to act differently is a recurring theme in children's books. This story features Mama Cat and her three kittens, Fluffy, Skinny, and Boris. Mama Cat does the things that you would expect a cat do, wash her paws, walk on stone walls, sharpen her claws, chase leaves, dig in sand, and take the proverbial "cat-nap."

Fluffy and Skinny stay close to Mama Cat and copy what she does. Boris, on the other hand, seems to take little interest in Mama Cat's activities - preferring to snooze. Eventually, Mama Cat, Fluffy, and Skinny tire - and now its Boris's turn! The book ends with a playful plot twist that is sure to be a hit with the toddlers for whom the book is intended.

The book's simple phrases break down the action, using repetition to lead children to anticipate the next event. When being read out loud, the reader can easily engage children to participate by asking them what they think will happen next. This approach will add drama and heighten the enjoyment of the surprise ending.

Beautifully illustrated (covered more in detail later in this paper), each picture not only features the cats, but contains trios of other creatures including: caterpillars, ladybugs, snails, and bumblebees. A mouse pokes his head in from time to time, being careful to not attract the attention of the cats. These visual elements introduce another plot line in the story. This book should be a real "hit" with the "read to me" crowd, up to 5 years old.

Honors and Awards: Mama Cat Has Three Kittens

  • ALA Notable Book, 1998

  • 1998 Charlotte Zolotow Award, Highly Recommended Title

  • New York Public Library's List of One Hundred Titles for Reading and Sharing

  • Nick Jr. Magazine, Ten Can't Miss Classics, 2000

About the Author

Denise Fleming is an artist that lives in Toledo, Ohio with her husband, David, her daughter, Indigo, seven cats, and one dog. She loves her animals and her cat, Gigi, was the inspiration for Mama Cat.

Her father built furniture when she was young and Denise and her sister were always creating things in her father's workshop or producing plays and events like "spook houses" for the neighborhood. In the 3rd grade, she participated in classes at the Toledo Museum of Art and had paintings featured in an international art exchange program. Her first published work was used as a cover of a teacher's magazine.

She continued to seriously study art in high school, won several awards there for her work, and continued her education at Kendall College of Art, where she met her husband, David, who is also an artist. They were married after graduation and started working on a variety of projects. Because they prefer to work as freelance artists, the two have taught themselves all types of skills from carpentry to furniture building.

Illustrations

The book is beautifully illustrated with vivid pictures; bright, bold colors; interesting textures; depth; and character. The illustrations are created with colored cotton fiber pulp and stencils. The resulting stylized artwork is unique and gives her books a flavor of their own. Working with this medium, Denise Fleming is able to pepper her pictures with extra touches of eye-catching colors. Mama Cat, for example, is a black cat, but Fleming uses speckles of blue and bursts of fuchsia to give her a multidimensional appearance. Cat lovers will especially appreciate the way Ms. Fleming has captured the majestic nature and individuality of felines. Combining her pulp painting techniques with different shades of fluorescent colors, the cat's eyes glow and command viewers' attention.

The pictures in this book are large enough to be readily seen and appreciated from across the room - a real advantage with "story time" reading groups. The artist skillfully uses composition to draw attention to the activities of Mama Cat, Fluffy, and Skinny. For most of the book, Boris is napping off to the side, but his tabby orange fur makes sure that he stands out too. The backgrounds used are all a delight to behold and the illustrations make each page an adventure.

Since she started working with pulp painting (creating paper), she has primarily focused her energies on this medium. Her brilliant, vivid images are created by mixing colored paper pulps and pouring them through hand-cut stencils. She believes that her artwork has now come full circle - from startling, bright and colorful paintings from her youth; through realistic and detailed images, and now back to the types of images she imagined and created in her childhood.

Revisiting the stylistic drawings of childhood is why Ms. Fleming uses pulp paper. She admires the expressive large shapes and vibrant colors in children's paintings and believes this technique helps re-create those feelings. When using traditional materials and brushes, she states that she cannot capture the adventure and brilliance of children's artwork. She says that she gets ideas for her work from words the rhyme, phrases, animals, or colors in her garden.

Creating the Illustrations: Pulp Painting

All the images for her books are created by pouring colored cotton pulp through hand-cut stencils. This results in images that are set in hand-made paper - the paper is the picture and the picture is the paper. The results are truly stunning and lend a dreamy feel that captures the imaginations of her readers.

Each image that accompanies Mama Cat Has Three Kittens is created with cotton rag fiber that has been beaten to a fine pulp and suspended in water. Adding pigments and chemicals, the pulp has been colored and textured. This serves as her "paint." Squeeze bottles and cups are used to apply the processed pulp to her underdrawings of hand-cut stencils.

Sound like fun? Check out Denise Fleming's Web site. There is a link that describes her papermaking process in detail. In April of 1999, Fleming conducted a seminar on her techniques at the Baltimore County Public Library. Step-by-step directs and illustrations of the process are available at the Baltimore County Public Library's Web site.  

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Happy Birthday to You, by Dr. Suess. 

When you're a kid, what day is more fun then your BIRTHDAY! Sure, holidays like Halloween or Christmas are fun, but you have to share them with everyone else. A birthday, however, is a special celebration JUST FOR YOU! In this book, readers find out about a wonderful place called Katroo, where a birthday is really a special time for you. A Birthday Bird makes sure that the day is special and memorable.

Written in typical Dr. Seuss whimsical poetic style, the vividness of the descriptions as well as his stylistic drawings are sure to delight readers of all ages. It starts with a blaring blast from a Birthday Honk-Honker and meanders through lands filled with Funicular Goats and Hippo-Heimers. And to think, we believe that we are doing something special for someone when we buy him or her a birthday card.

A birthday is a celebration of oneself - and in Katroo, one proclaims to the world, "I AM I, ME, I AM I!" The over-riding theme of Dr. Seuss's Happy Birthday to You is that we all have a right to be and belong. This positive message rings throughout the verses and illustrations. After re-reading this book (I enjoyed it as a child as well), I have to wonder why so many of us start to downplay our birthdays as we get older.

More Great Birthday -Themed Picture Books! 

  • Albert's Birthday, written and illustrated by Leslie TryonPatsy Pig plans a surprise birthday party for her friend Albert, giving careful instructions to all their friends--but then she forgets to invite the guest of honor!
  • Birthday Blizzard, by Bonnie Pryor and illustrated by Molly Delaney.  The worst snowstorm in 20 years spoils Jamie's plans for her seventh birthday party and occasions a rather ordinary picture book. Blizzard conditions mean no electricity, no heat, and-Jamie thinks-no fun. But then the adventure begins.
  • Bunny Cakes, written and illustrated by Rosemary Wells.  In his most hilarious escapade yet, Max learns a invaluable lesson--in his irresistible way! For Grandma's birthday, Max wants to make her an earthworm birthday cake. His sister Ruby is going to make an angel surprise cake with raspberry-fluff icing. When Grandma ends up with two cakes, guess which one
  • Bunny Party, written and illustrated by Rosemary Wells.  When Ruby invites seven stuffed toy guests to Grandma's birthday party, each time she counts the number of places at the table, another guest has mysteriously appeared. Is Ruby having a bad counting day, or is Max playing tricks? Full-color illustrations.
  • Jimmy Boa And The Big Splash Birthday Bash, by Trinka Hakes Noble and illustrated by Steven Kellogg.  Jimmy's birthday party at SeaLand turns out to be a big splash when everyone ends up in the big tank
  • Some Birthday! written and illustrated by Patricia PolaccoWhere is the cake with the candles? And the presents? Not only has the family apparently forgotten Patricia's birthday festivities, but her dad suggests they take a trip to one of the scariest places on earth--home of the Clay Pit Bottoms Monster!
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More About Dr. Suess

Born as Theodor Seuss Geisel in Springfield, Massachusetts, he earned a doctorate in literature at Oxford University in 1927. He started his writing career submitting cartoons and humorous articles for Judge, which was at that time a leading humor magazine.

Inspired by the rhythm of a ship's engine while traveling to Europe, he wrote his first book, And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street. Forty-three publishers promptly rejected it before a friend intervened and published it in 1937.

In 1954, a report about children's literacy, published in Life, stated that many kids weren't learning to read because there were not interesting books for them. His publisher sent a list of 400 words that were deemed important for children to learn. Geisel pared it down to 250 (an amount it was believed that 1st graders could master) and wrote a book with 220 of those words - The Cat in the Hat.

In 1960, humorist Bennet Cerf bet Geisel that he could not write a book with less than 50 words - a bet Cerf lost when Geisel succeeded in producing Green Eggs and Ham. Dr. Suess's legacy includes a Pulitzer's Prize in 1984, three Academy Awards, and almost 50 children's books (which he authored and illustrated). Perhaps the most enduring of these accomplishments is the joy of reading that Dr. Seuss's books continue to bring to new generations of children.

Complete Listing of Dr. Suess's Children's Books

  • And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street.  Marco is in a pickle. His father has instructed him to keep his eyes peeled for interesting sights on the way to and from school, but all Marco has seen is a boring old horse and wagon. Imagine if he had something more to report, say, a zebra pulling the wagon. Or better yet, the zebra could be pulling a blue and gold chariot. Marco's story grows ever more elaborate.
  • Bartholomew & the Oobleck.  The King, tired of rain, snow, sun and fog, commands his magicians to make something else come down from the sky, but when oobleck falls, in sticky greenish droplets, Bartholomew Cubbins shames the King and saves the kingdom.
  • The Butter Battle Book.  Engaged in a long-running battle, the Yooks and the Zooks develop more and more sophisticated weaponry as they attempt to outdo each other.
  • Cat in the Hat.  Two children sitting at home on a rainy day are visited by the cat in the hat who shows them some tricks and games.
  • Cat in the Hat Comes Back.  The Cat in the Hat leaves a big pink ring in the tub and moves it from place to place with the help of his alphabet friends.
  • Cat in the Hat Songbook.  A hit parade of critters and the ever-loving fun songbook from The Cat in the Hat.  It features Seuss's brilliant lyrics married to the tiptop score of Eugene Poddany, who also had a hand in composing the Grinch tunes.
  • The Cat's Quizzer.  The Cat in the Hat challenges readers with seemingly silly questions: Do pineapples grow on pine or apple trees? Do roosters sleep on their backs or sides? Kids will pick up a host of oddball facts, have fun juggling sense and nonsense, and exercise their imaginations.  
  • Daisy-Head Mayzie.  Young Mayzie McGrew becomes a worldwide sensation when a daisy grows out of the top of her head, and everyone attempts to get rid of it.
  • Did I Ever Tell You How Lucky You Are?  Compared to the problems of some of the creatures the old man describes, the boy is really quite lucky.
  • Dr. Seuss's ABC.  An alphabet book with zany drawings and nonsensical verse provides an entertaining way for small children to learn the letters and their sounds.
  • Dr. Seuss's Sleep Book.  Tells, in verse, what happens when all ninety-nine zillion nine trillion and three creatures in the world go to sleep.
  • The Five Hundred Hats of Bartholomew Cubbins.  Each time Bartholomew Cubbins attempts to obey the King's order to take off his hat, he finds there is another one on his head.
  • Foot Book.  Bright and Early Board Books presents The Foot Book, Dr. Seuss's wacky book of opposites in a format just right for little hands.
  • Fox in Socks.  A collection of tongue twisters that is "an amusing exercise for beginning readers.
  • Great Day for Up!  Rhymed text and illustrations introduce the many meanings of "up".
  • Green Eggs and Ham.  Sam-I-Am mounts a determined campaign to convince another Seuss character to eat a plate of green eggs and ham. Limited vocabulary but unlimited exuberance of illustration.
  • Happy Birthday to You.  Describes a birthday celebration in Katroo presided over by the Birthday Bird.
  • Hop on Pop.  Pairs of rhyming words are introduced and used in simple sentences, such as "Day. Play. We play all day. Night. Fight. We fight all night."
  • Horton Hatches the Egg.  When a lazy bird hatching an egg wants a vacation, she asks Horton, the elephant, to sit on her egg--which he does through all sorts of hazards until he is rewarded for doing what he said he would.
  • Horton Hears a Who.  A city of Whos on a speck of dust are threatened with destruction until the smallest Who of all helps convince Horton's friends that Whos really exist.
  • How the Grinch Stole Christmas.  The Grinch tries to stop Christmas from arriving by stealing all the presents and food from the village, but much to his surprise it comes anyway.
  • Hunches in Bunches.  A boy has a difficult time making decisions even though there is a vocal bunch of Hunches to help him.
  • I Am Not Going to Get up Today!  A boy is so sleepy that he vows nothing will get him out of his morning bed, neither peas and beans nor the United States Marines.
  • I Can Draw It Myself: By Me, Myself with a Little Help from My Friend Dr. Seuss.  A delightful coloring book where childrend are encouraged to finish and color drawings that Dr. Suess has conveniently "started."  The direction are all in the whimsical, rhythmic, rhyming style that we expect from Dr. Suess.
  • I Can Lick Thirty Tigers Today & Other Stories.  The Cat in the Hat tells us three zany stories-in-verse about his son, his daughter, and his great-great-grandfather.  
  • I Can Read with My Eyes Shut!  In Seuss's familiar rhymed couplets and illustrations, the Cat in the Hat shows Young Cat some wonderful stuff about reading with both eyes open.
  • I Had Trouble in Getting to Solla Sollew.  The hero of this hilarious tale discovers that in attempting to avoid trouble one often encounters even greater difficulties. Seuss fans will be enthralled.
  • If I Ran the Circus.  A young boy imagines the fantastic animals and incredible acts he will have for his greatest of all circuses.
  • If I Ran the Zoo.  Young Gerald McGrew thinks of all sorts of unusual animals he'd have in a zoo.
  • King's Stilts.  Every afternoon King Birtram raced around the palace on a pair of old red stilts, until they were stolen. An uproarious tale.
  • Lorax.  In this cautionary tale of greed and environmental destruction, the lovable Lorax tries to save the Truffula Forest and its inhabitants from disaster at the hands of the cantankerous Once-ler.
  • McElligot's Pool.  A boy imagines the rare and wonderful fish he might catch in McElligot's pool.
  • Marvin K. Mooney, Will You Please Go Now.  In merry verse and illustrations, Marvin is asked to leave by every conceivable means of transportation.
  • Mister Brown Can Moo, Can You.  Mr. Brown is an expert at imitating all sorts of noises.  This is a great book to read to young children and have them repeat the sounds.
  • My Book About Me.  This book has an unusual interactive twist--you make it up as you go along. On each page there's something new to complete, from "I weigh ___ pounds" to "My teeth. I counted them. I have ___ up top. I have ___ downstairs." It's a simple idea, but with a surprising amount of educational value--getting children to name their home country, to recognize and draw in the color of their own eyes, learn their telephone number and address, to name favorite clothes, foods, and colors, and more.
  • Oh, Say Can You Say?  A collection of nonsensical tongue twisters.
  • Oh, the Places You'll Go!  In this joyous ode to life, Dr. Seuss addresses graduates of all ages--from nursery school to medical school--and gives them the get-up-and-go to move mountains with the unrivaled exuberance and charm that have made Dr. Seuss books favorites for years.
  • Oh! The Thinks You Can Think!  A mad outpouring of made-up words, and intriguing ideas. "Contains one of Dr. Seuss's solid-gold morals, the joy of letting one's imagination rip".--The New York Times.
  • On Beyond Zebra.  A wonderful book that tells children about the fun letters of the alphabet that come after "z."
  • One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish.  More of Dr. Suess's fun poetry, kids will love verses like, "Did you ever fly a kite in bed? Did you ever walk with ten cats on your head?"
  • Scrambled Eggs Super!  Starring the same perky boy who captured Thing One and Thing Two in The Cat in the Hat, this is a first-person tall tale about cooking. Peter T. Hooper is bored to bits by his mother's habit of always making scrambled eggs out of hen's eggs.
  • The Seven Lady Godivas. An adult book of humor by the famous children's book author. Originally published in 1939, this revisionist farce attempts to rectify the "shameful" story of "a big blond nude trotting around the town on a horse" and Peeping Tom, the "illicit snooper."
  • Shape of Me & Other Stuff.  Rhyme and silhouette drawings introduce the shape of bugs, balloons, peanuts, camels, spider webs, and many other familiar objects.
  • Sneetches & Other Stories.  Includes four humorous verse fantasies: The Sneetches, The Zax, Too Many Daves, and What was I Scared of?
  • There's a Wocket in My Pocket!  A host of inventive creatures help beginning readers recognize many common "household" words
  • Thidwick, the Big-Hearted Moose.  The story of a moose who was too hospitable for his own good is told in verses which march in double-quick time. The pictures are scenes of happy confusion.
  • Yertle the Turtle & Other Stories.  Includes three humorous stories in verse; Yertle the Turtle, Gertrude McFuzz, and The Big Brag.
  • You're Only Old Once!  Not a children's book, Dr. Seuss lightens the aches and pains of growing old with his inimitable wit and wisdom. In this new defense against aging, we follow our hapless hero through his checkup with the experts at the Golden Years Clinic.
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Multi-Cultural Literature for Teenagers:  Acknowledging the
Strength and Richness of Human Diversity

Like it or not, the world is full of people and countries that do not live their lives or view the world as typical Americans do. Is this a problem? I don't know, but it really is just the way things are. Have you ever tried to discuss personal religious beliefs with a group of people that hold different faiths? If so, maybe you saw that people can hold strong views about what they believe.

Now imagine you were having the same type of discussion of personal views with people from around the world. Do you think there would be even more disagreement? Now please consider this, who has the right to judge, which views are "correct" and which ones are "wrong." Once we make that judgment, what good does it do? Sure, America is an economic and military superpower and we have allies and friends all around the world - but does that mean that everyone else wants to be just like us?

And have you considered this, can the rest of the world be just like us? Could this planet actually support the ambitions of a 2-car household and all the things that many Americans take for granted? The answer is NO - there simply are not enough resources in the world for everyone to live like Americans.

So how do different countries and cultures live their lives and what to they believe in? Remember, we have to share this planet with them regardless. Currently, we are fighting wars in Iraq and Afghanistan - for those people and for many of our troops, it is an ugly situation. Can we eliminate some of these problems by having a better understanding of how others see the world? Is there value in understanding other's point of view?

That is what multiculturalism is all about. Its a philosophy that acknowledges the strength and richness of human diversity.   It is not about who is good or bad - it is about finding something positive that can be used to build understanding. Do you think we would be at war if everyone involved had a better appreciation of each other's attitudes, values, and beliefs?

When we look at other cultures, we obtain more insight into our own lives and culture. One way to think about our own life is to learn more about others. Today I would like to present three books to you that are set in Pakistan and Afghanistan. Each of these books offers one perspective as to what it would be like to grow up in that culture.

Suzanne Fisher Staples wrote the first two I would like to talk about. She is an interesting writer because of her background in journalism. She was a reporter in and worked with people in Pakistan, where these first two books are set. She has the gift of presenting complex ideas in a simple, straightforward way that does not pass judgment.

In an interview with Teenread.com, she talks about her writing and multiculturalism by saying, "We're born accepting, but we learn to fear. The difficult thing is getting adults to give up their fears so they don't pass them on to their children. Literature, film, visual arts, television, magazine articles, music - these express what we all have in common. Art makes the differences among cultures appealing."

Shabanu: Daughter of the Wind.

This award winning book (Newbery Honor, ALA Best Book of Young Adults, New York Times Notable Book of the Year, Horn Book Fanfare) propelled the author into the YA Lit spotlight. This is a remarkable feat, because it is her first book and the author, Suzanne Fisher, states in a Teenreads.com interview that she states, "I never decided to write for teens. I simply write my stories, and that's how they're published."

Her stories are compelling - and based on real people and situations. In this book, set in the Cholistan Desert of eastern Pakistan, a young woman shares what it is like growing up in a traditional society. Do you know where Cholistan is and what the country of Pakistan is like? This book offers an inside look into that region of the world and nomadic, desert culture yet still speaks to issues that Westerners should be able to relate to.

As you can see, this family lives a humble life in the desert, yet they seem content. How do they cope? And what do they mean when they talk about "If god had blessed you with sons?" What would it be like growing up as a young woman in this society and how would that compare and contrast with the lives of young women in America? The answers to these questions would make a fascinating class discussion. In the process, I am sure that most of you will enjoy this book.

Haveli

This sequel to Ms. Staples award winning book, Shabanu: Daughter of the Wind, picks up the story 5 years later - but don't worry, they need not be read in sequence to enjoy either book. Stories about poor peasant girls marrying into nobility are common in folklore and fairytales. Perhaps this book is compelling because it occurs in a traditional culture where women do not expect to have the rights and freedoms that many in the West take for granted.

The main character, young Shabanu, has married an elderly, powerful clan leader. While he adores his youngest wife - he has other wives in the household that despise Shabanu and her young daughter, Mumtaz. This book contains many of the same fascinating story lines as the first book, Shabanu, but examines those issues through the eyes of Shabanu as an adult.

The Breadwinner

Deborah Ellis wrote this last book. She works as a mental health counselor in Toronto and is an advocate for Women for Women in Afghanistan, which is an organization that works to help Afghan girls in the refuge camps in Pakistan receive an education. All royalties from this book are donated to that cause.

Because the war in Afghanistan and the war on terrorism are ongoing struggles that some predict will require American intervention for years, if not generations, understanding this part of the world is important. Just what is the Taliban and what would it be like to live under their command? This YA Lit masterpiece provides some insight from the perspective of a young woman.

The extreme religious views of the Taliban prevent women from appearing in public without totally covering their bodies. Even then, they are not allowed out without a male escort. What would it be like to survive in such a situation, especially if the man of the house was arrested without charges? How would a mother and her daughters survive? Read this book to find out.

Conclusion

Many believe that understanding different cultures is the key to resolving conflicts across cultures. Novels like Shabanu: Daughter of the Wind, Haveli, and The Breadwinner provide insight into the lives of people living in other countries by going beyond presentations of historic and contemporary facts - these books offer a look through the eyes and minds of different people. If it is important to acknowledge the strength and richness of human diversity, then realistic fiction like the books I have shown you today can be powerful tools to enhance understanding of both other cultures and that of our own. But don't take my word for it - why not read one of these books and decide for yourself. I'd love to hear what you think.

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