Tag Archives: 1-2


Title: Eraser

Author(s): Anna Kang

Illustrator/Photographer: Christopher Weyant

Publisher and Year: Two Lions, 2018

Number of Pages: 38

Tags: Fiction, Fine Arts, Friendship, Picture Book, K-1, 1-2, 2-3, Sarah Luce

Genre: Fiction

Descriptive Annotation:

Eraser is a story about school supplies that all work together to create projects and complete homework, but Eraser feels left out and unimportant. Many of the other utensils exclude Eraser from meetings and activities so she eventually decides to run away. She meets the Rough Drafts and they all admire her and show Eraser her worth and how useful she is. The rest of the school supplies also realize their need for Eraser and she comes back to the desk and is included into the group. Students reading this book will enjoy it more if they have a grasp of puns and word play.

Classroom Application:

This text could easily be used to reinforce inclusion within the classroom. Nearly all students are aware of the importance of erasers and they understand that all their school supplies have individual uses. That can be a great way to show that just like school supplies, all students are unique and bring different talents and valuable experiences to the classroom.

Linguistic and Cultural Diversity Analysis:

This book represents a culture and an atmosphere of inclusion. I could easily open with an activity, asking students to use a pencil with no eraser to do something where they would need to erase. After reading the book, I would also focus on the idea that all students can be included because they all bring something useful to the classroom, just like Eraser says, “I DO create. I create second chances” (page 24). The setting and characters allow the book to be easily related to, as most, if not all, students have experience using school supplies. The story is also funny, holding students’ attention, like when Scissors says, “I don’t run. EVER” (page 7).


Skin Again

Author(s), Illustrator/Photographer: bell hooks; illustrated by Chris Raschka.

Publisher and Year/Number of pages: Disney-Jump at the Sun Books, 2004, 30 Pages.

Genre: Fiction, Picture Book.

Descriptive Annotation: The cover features two pastel drawings of children’s hands (one white and one black) clasping each other over the image of a patchwork quilt of skin colors. Also included is a heart-shaped icon on the quilt itself, and all of these are shown in pastel colors. This is a combination of both standard unifying imagery used by mankind for millennia, and the use of children’s hands as innocent figures who don’t notice superficial man-made differences, which can be seen for the entirety of the picture book .

Skin Again is the heartwarming story of a group of kids getting along famously despite their exterior differences, as they continually are told by the narrator, bell hooks, that “The skin I’m in is just a covering. It cannot tell my story” (hooks, pgs. 2-4). As the story goes on, it is evident that while this story is short on words due to its targeted young audience, it has plenty of heart, and indeed makes looking inside others’ hearts a key point of focus for the reader: “If you want to know who I am you have got to come inside” (hooks, p. 14).  The whole of the story is about acceptance and loving others no matter what they may look like, and realizing that others are always coming from different places in their lives (and in the world) from you. Growing up in a predominantly white and Asian suburb of Chicago, Palatine, I wish I had had more books like this one to read, as they might have helped ease some of the tensions that arose between the northern and southern halves of the town based on race and class. Others should have read this as well, because even one person reading the book could have made a difference. Absorbing and understanding the messages described in this story would foster better understanding in any community, and seeing such harmonious relations between different races would be a useful antidote to our current racially-charged era. These lessons would certainly be useful for students reading this novel in the primary school classroom.

Classroom Application: In the book Skin Again, the characters are children of different races, based on the makeup of our nation, which would be ideal for instructing students from less racially or ethnically diverse communities. Different people from different settings are exposed to different realities on a daily basis, and that is more or less the theme that the book conveys. For instance, the last line of the book sums it up nicely: “For we are all inside made up of real history, real dreams, and the stuff of all we hope for when we can be real together on the inside” (hooks, pgs. 25-29).  This demonstrates how people should simply be authentic with each other as well, as authenticity is key in forming long-term relationships. This is a teachable moment, since it’s hook’s way of saying that race and racism, or discrimination of any kind, is arbitrary. It’s not only bad for the human race to think this way-it can be fatal, as we saw at Charlottesville last year. In short, we need less racism in the world, and this book here offers a way to start the anti-racist process at an impressionable age.

Linguistic and Cultural Diversity Analysis: hooks covers the interactions between children of different skin colors in a unique and innovative way, making sure to include culturally sensitive clothes and hair for the children of each race without overdoing it in the story. Not many people have used a picturebook format to do so before, or in this manner that acknowledges the categories of race without letting them get in the way of harmony between disparate peoples: “The skin I’m in looks good to me. It will let you know one small way to trace my identity” (hooks, pgs. 11-12). This is necessarily true- the author’s motivation was to do exactly this when they wrote the text. Exasperation with people not being able to get this message with traditional mediums of literature likely drove bell hooks to write this book, and that is why 14 years later, this is still an excellent (but still largely singular of its type) piece of work.  Another important message in this picture book is that the idea of forming perceptions based on race is misguided and skewered to a certain degree: “You can find all about me-coming close and letting go of who you might think I am” (hooks, pgs. 19-20). On those pages, a young black and young white boy are both pointing at one another from opposite pages, which is a metaphor for the pointing of fingers that happens all too much in today’s world. Such a metaphor may seem blatant and unnecessary to certain readers, but in the context of the age group that is reading this book, it is understandable that it is included to help eliminate biases at a tender age.

Muktar and the Camels

Author(s)/ Illustrator/Photographer: Janet Graber, Scott Mack

 Publisher and Year Number of pages: Henry Holt and Company, 2009, 29 pages.

Genre: Fiction

Descriptive Annotation: The cover features an artistic rendering of the protagonist, Muktar, with a camel, done in some lovely shades of watercolors that are throughout the book. There is a brown camel on a navy-blue background, and the shirt Muktar is wearing is a similar shade of blue, perhaps leading the reader to infer that Muktar himself is a fixture of the natural world as well, not disturbing the equilibrium that Mother Nature has set. As for the book itself, it involves the engrossing story of Muktar, a Somalian refugee who has found a refuge in Kenya but still misses his homeland and the tending of camels he used to do there. Muktar gets his chance to take up his old passion when a traveling librarian, Mr. Mohamed enters the refugee camp in Kenya in which he resides. Mr. Mohamed reached the town the camp is a part of, Garissa, by camel back, and soon Muktar’s troubles are alleviated somewhat by the presence of the three camels-a new, dynamic trio of mammalian friends. The teacher of the school Muktar attends, Mr. Hassan, always called him lazy and shiftless before in the classroom, but stops doing so now that he sees the young man’s ability to take care of Mr. Mohamed’s camels so well. Luckily for the reader, despite the complex geopolitical situation in East Africa, the story contains universal themes -feeling like an outsider, trying to fit in when in a new place, and getting a true sense of belonging in unfamiliar locales. This is accompanied by the equally universal themes of those three bad things hanging over your head until there is an activity or valve to release the feelings of loneliness and isolation that can easily plague even the most levelheaded person. There is some background information provided at the end to help the precocious reader truly enjoy this story as well learn about the turmoil Somalia has gone through since 1993, and how it has exacerbated the flow of refugees out of the nearly lawless country.

Classroom Application: A central theme is the acceptance of others despite their differences, and the description of world events make this an ideal text to teach those lessons to students. The author and illustrator demonstrate that stigmatization isn’t the best avenue to pursue when new or different people enter your community, and how the children best learn this lesson would be up to the teacher. The passion shown by the main character in pursuing his goal of camel tending and acceptance from his peers in the camp (and Kenyans in general) is certainly a good lesson for teaching purposes. One possible lesson after reading the book would be to follow the news coming out of two current conflicts-Syria as mentioned in the Stepping Stones review, and Yemen-or even Somalia, which is still run by a weak government, and tie that into classroom curriculum. Students will also hopefully recognize, as Mr. Hassan does at the end of the story about Muktar, that we all have a purpose on this Earth, and at some point, we all need a person to “take care of the…ornery beasts” (Graber, p. 25) in our lives.

Linguistic and Cultural Diversity Analysis: The book’s setting is along the Kenyan-Somalian border, and the unique cultural blend formed in that region in recent years due to the combination of cultures from refugee movements is depicted and would be great material for a social studies-type course. The traditions of the Somali peoples that originally only stayed in Somalia have dispersed everywhere from Nairobi to Minneapolis, and are now present in the fabric of each city’s social structure. Graber explains this concept to the reader through the character of Muktar, who is an orphaned young man that ran away from a war-torn country with his nomadic family. Tragically, he was the only one who made it out alive, and his “…mother and father rest in graves beneath piles of stones” (Graber, p. 6). The Somali people from Muktar’s region of the country have always been committed to maintaining and supporting their camel herds, and Muktar’s father hammered that lesson home whenever he could: “Camels first. Always camels first. Camels are treasure” (Graber, p. 5). His zeal that he got from his late parents to take care of these animals convinces Mr. Mohamed to take him on his travels across the continent, and Mr. Hassan allows it when he sees the boy so happy about caring for the animals rather than depressed about his situation.

We’re all wonders

Author(s) Illustrator/Photographer: written and illustrated by R.J. Palacio

Publisher and Year Number of pages: Alfred A. Knopf, 2017, 29 pages.

Genre: Realistic Fiction

Descriptive Annotation: The cover features a simple artistic rendering of a boy with a facial deformity inside a giant white astronaut’s helmet, very similar to the cover artwork of another famous book by R.J. Palacio, Wonder, which features similar cover artwork in a less elaborate design. The lush sketches featured on the cover continue for the whole of the book, and the results are pleasing to both the eye and the heart. As for the book itself, it involves the story of Auggie Wonder, the protagonist of Wonder, who is used to being an ordinary kid that just happens to have an extraordinary face, and a lovable dog named Daisy. Whenever Auggie is sad about how he is not the same as other kids at his school, he is reminded by his family of his true potential: “My mom says I’m unique. She says I’m a wonder. My dog, Daisy, agrees!” (Palacio, p. 10). Eventually, despite this encouragement, Auggie has to decide whether or not to face the bullies who say cruel things about his condition face to face, or take a break from it all. Auggie goes with door number two: “It hurts my feelings. It hurts Daisy’s feelings, too. When that happens, I put on my helmet. I put Daisy’s helmet on, too. And then we blast off!” (Palacio, pgs. 14-18). Out in space, Auggie gets a much better perspective of how big the world is, and sees that “Earth is big enough for all kinds of people” (Palacio, p. 24). He takes this knowledge back down to his fellow kids, and they start to realize that they, too, are all wonders in their own special ways and should treat another with care and respect. No background knowledge is necessary to enjoy this book, but leafing through this wholesome tome may spark an interest in the full novel to be read, which is never a bad flame for an educator to spark.

Classroom Application: Since the book makes the mutual respect of all an enormous priority by depicting kids of completely different backgrounds on the playground and in its text, it’s an ideal text to teach lessons on being decent to one another and not bullying. The author/illustrator also demonstrates that sometimes it is right and just to withdraw from a situation to decompress and take stock. Direct action towards bullies is never good if pursued in anger; one must “look with kindness and…always find wonder” (Palacio, p. 29). One possible lesson after reading the book would be to tie it into school anti-bullying campaigns, and then also review the classroom bullying standards and see if they need to be revised in any way, shape or form. Students would also do well to recognize, as Auggie does, that minds can be changed, and perceptions altered, and how to best go about changing them is always dependent on the situation.

Linguistic and Cultural Diversity Analysis: The book is diversely cast; on page 8, children of every race and faith are depicted with a high degree of accuracy and tact. The unique cultural blend of each school, therefore, can easily fit into the framework of the picture book and be used to great effect in any classroom, regardless of subject. Palacio does a great job explaining how tolerance works to the reader through the simple depiction of all the different groups peacefully coexisting; the only outlier is Auggie, and eventually, the children overcome that difference as well.

Kate Shelley: Bound for Legend

Author/Illustrator: Robert D. San Souci, Max Ginsburg

Publisher and Year Number of pages: Dial Books for Young Readers, 1995, 30 pages.

Genre: Nonfiction

Descriptive Annotation: The cover features a detailed artistic rendering of a girl with a brown coat, tan straw hat, and an orange, glowing oil lamp typical of the mid-to-late 1800s when the book is set. The lush paintings of Iowa featured inside the book continue for the whole of the narrative, and the results are pleasing to both the historian in me for their accuracy and to my inner child due to their exciting events that really drew me in. As for the text itself, it involves the story of Kate Shelley who manages to warn another train hurtling down the tracks to her farm that there has been a wreck at her family’s property and that they need to stop in order to avoid an accident. She is an ordinary kid that just happens to have been in the right place at the right time and is eager to help in any way she can to prevent a preventable tragedy. When Kate sets off on her journey to stop the second accident, she is not helped by anybody. Despite that, she manages to locate some survivors from the wreck, and crawl over the slippery, 700-foot-high railroad bridge that leads to the other incoming train. She does so with full knowledge of the danger that awaits her: “A misstep would send me down below the ties into the flood that was boiling below. I got down on my hands and knees, carrying my useless lantern and guiding myself by the stretch of rail” (Souci, p. 18-19). Eventually, Kate makes it to the station and warns the men inside of the accident waiting to happen, collapsing soon afterward from the exhaustion her ordeal: “Much later she would learn that the train had been halted forty miles to the west, at the edge of the storm. The passengers were safe” (Souci, p. 22). Out in the cold, there are still railroad workers in trouble, and Kate gets up from her resting spot and goes out with the men from the station to help save their lives. Lucky for her and them, the rain and wind that had been blowing that whole time and causing all the trouble stops. This allows a safe rescue of the workers and for Kate to get some real rest, which lasts for a long while until she can get her strength back up: “It was nearly three months before Kate’s strength came back. During this time as she lay in bed, she was greeted by the trains that blew their whistles when they passed the Shelley farmhouse” (Souci, p. 27). She takes this and many other commendations for her bravery in stride, not yet realizing the full power of her actions in a time of need until much later in life. The father of Kate is very proud of his daughter, as is the state of Iowa and most of the country at the time.

Classroom Application: Since the book makes the idea of selfless sacrifice for others and mutual respect of all people an enormous priority, it’s an ideal text to teach lessons on being decent to one another and how to step up when the situation demands one do so. The author/illustrator also demonstrate that direct action towards a problem that needs solving is best, and always good if pursued correctly; one must work hard and think creatively in order to accomplish a “deed bound for legend” (Souci, p. 1). One possible lesson after reading the book would be to tie it into Pay It Forward campaigns, and then also review the classroom bullying standards and see if they need to be revised in order to be more selfless. Students would also do well to recognize, as Kate does, that while actions are important, the intent is what really saves the day.

Linguistic and Cultural Diversity Analysis: The book is set in Iowa, but not in the present-day that we are necessarily used to. There isn’t much of a unique cultural blend of the North American continent in those days, but the differences from our modern-day society come through in the names and clothing of the characters, and could be used to great effect to teach about the historical and present significance of the railroad industry in any history classroom, regardless of grade level. Souci does a great job explaining all this, and his words should definitely be heeded when it comes time to plan your lessons.