Tag Archives: 2-3

Our People

Title: Our People

Author:  Angela Shelf Medearis

Illustrator: Michael Bryant

Publication/ Year: Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 1994

Number of Pages: 25

Tags/ Themes: Culture, Family, Historical Fiction, K-1, 2-3

Genre: Fiction

Descriptive Annotation: This book is written from the perspective of the daughter, telling about what her father has told her about the history of their people. She recounts how they built pyramids in Africa, or were kings or queens or poets or artists in villages. She tells how they came across the ocean to explore the new world—this is only on one page and it is my biggest problem with the book. The way the author writes about this mass migration sounds like it was voluntary and for an adventure, not because of slavery. She does talk about slavery later, which is good, but this one part made me raise my eyebrows. The girl recounts how people were freed of slavery and went on to learn and invent things and get jobs. For each of these parts of her history she shares, she says how she wishes she could have been there to help. The book ends with her father telling her that she has a great future in front of her, and will continue bringing great things for their people.

Classroom Application: I probably would not use this book as a part of a lesson persay, but I think that a lot of the content is good for students to have access to in the classroom. It shares how creative, strong, and resilient people from African descent are. It helps teach students to be proud of their heritage, regardless of if you are the minority or not. While I have a bit of an issue with that one page described above, I think that the lesson of the book (being proud of who you are) is very important.

Linguistic and Cultural Diversity Analysis: The illustrations in this book are beautiful. They take up most of the page, and are realistic and colorful. They both illustrate the history of their people while also showing the little girl and how she dreams of big things. I think that it is really important to have books in the classroom that are about all kinds of different people and cultures, and I think this book does a really good job of showing how much this culture has overcome.


Equal Schmequal

Title: Equal Shmequal

Author: Virginia Kroll

Illustrator: Philomena O’Neill

Publisher/Year: Library of Congress, 2005

Number of Pages:  32

Tags/Themes: Animals, Fantasy, Math, Picture book, K-1, 2-3, Rebecca Cauthorn

Genre: Fiction

Descriptive Annotation:  This book is about a group of animals who are trying to figure out how to make equal tug of war teams. At the end of the book there is a special note with the literal definition of the word equal. This is important because they talk about different kinds of equality throughout the book, equal number, equal size, equal weight, equal effort, etcetera. Students would not necessarily need to have any background knowledge of this book, but I would make it a point to make sure that they understand what the word equal means by the end of the book.

Classroom Application:  This book would be a good way to introduce a math lesson on what it means to be equal. Because it discusses numbers and halves, it would be appropriate for a younger audience. Additionally, I would use  part of the text which I disagree with to create a mini lesson. At one point, mouse says, “Equal means fair”, which I definitely do not agree with. I understand, for the purpose of the book, why the author said this. However, in the classroom setting, fair is not always equal because different students need different accommodations! So I would still use this book to help introduce the concept of equality in terms of math, but I would use that part to show that Mouse wasn’t right about that all the time.

Linguistic and Cultural Diversity Analysis: At the beginning of the book, Mouse is watching children play on the playground. The illustrator portrayed them as being many different races. This is important because the ethnic makeup of the classroom is likely to be diverse, so by using books which also show diversity it helps students understand that it doesn’t matter what color you are! The language in the book is easy to read, as demonstrated in this line, “Bear walked out from the trees. ‘What do you want to play?’”. However, the size of the text is on the smaller side and there is a lot of text on each page which could make it challenging for some students in lower grades. This book might be a good one to read out loud and have kids make predictions about what is going to happen next.


Wagon Train: A Family Goes West in 1865

Title: Wagon Train: A Family Goes West in 1865

Author(s): Courtni C. Wrights

Illustrator/Photographer: Gershom Griffith

Publisher and Year: Holiday House; 1995

Number of Pages: 30

Tags: Adventure, Culture, Family, Historical Fiction, Picture Book, 2-3, 4-5, Sarah Luce

Genre: Historical Fiction

Descriptive Annotation:

Wagon Train is about an African American family that travels west in a wagon train after being freed from slavery. Along the way, they encounter dangerous animals, brutal weather, and Native Americans. The story ends with the hope that the family will safely make it to California. There is an Author’s Note on the first page talking about the treatment of African Americans and how they too travelled west, despite the lack of records of their experiences. Students would find it helpful to know about the Oregon Trail and the Westward Expansion.

Classroom Application:

This text would be perfect for reinforcing material taught about the Oregon Trail and Westward Expansion. It could be used in the middle of a unit to give students a window into the hardships and experiences these settlers faced. It is also a good text to use to reinforce that not just White people went west, but so did many African Americans after the Civil War.

Linguistic and Cultural Diversity Analysis:

Wagon Train not only represents the culture of westward settlers and those living in covered wagons as they travelled, but also the culture of African Americans who set out on the same journey. These people had an even worse expedition, because they could not “join one of the big trains leaving Independence, Missouri” (page 8). Being in a smaller train meant less support from others and more danger. Because “few could write diaries to record their experiences,” this book is important in showing students what the journey west was potentially like for African Americans (page 1). If I used this story in the middle of an Oregon Trail unit, I would introduce it as a story about a group of people who were not well documented, but were an important part of the movement nonetheless.


The Hanukkah Trike

Title: The Hanukkah Trike

Author(s): Michelle Edwards

Illustrator/Photographer: Kathryn Mitter

Publisher and Year: Albert Whitman & Company; 2010

Number of Pages: 21

Tags: Culture, Diversity, Family, Fiction, Holidays, Picture Book, K-1, 2-3, Sarah Luce

Genre: Fiction

Descriptive Annotation:

The Hanukkah Trike is a story about a young girl and her family as they celebrate Hanukkah. They light the menorah, make traditional Hanukkah food, and retell the story of the Maccabees. Gabi, the daughter, receives a tricycle that she names Hanukkah, and she takes it out the next day to ride it. When she falls off, her father reminds her of the story of the Maccabees and how brave they were, and eventually Gabi learns how to ride her trike. This story doesn’t require much prior knowledge, since the story of the Maccabees and the origination of Hanukkah is explained in the story, although some familiarity with Jewish culture would be helpful.

Classroom Application:

This text could be used to reinforce lessons on Hanukkah, as part of a holiday unit and teaching about other cultures. This story also addresses the idea of being brave, which is something that classes could talk about as an SELS. This story could be used to introduce students to trying again after failing or picking yourself back up after something goes wrong.

Linguistic and Cultural Diversity Analysis:

The Hanukkah Trike is all about Jewish culture and their holiday, Hanukkah. In areas where there is not a huge Jewish population, many students may not know about Hanukkah or how it is celebrated. This story addresses common traditions, like making latkes. The text shares how “Gabi helped Daddy grate the potatoes. Mama made the batter and fried the latkes golden and crisp” (page 5). The book also shares the story of the Maccabees, their victory, and “the miracle of the light that burned for eight nights” (page 9).


A Storm Called Katrina

Title: A Storm Called Katrina

Author(s): Myron Uhlberg

Illustrator/Photographer: Colin Bootman

Publisher and Year: Peachtree Publishers; 2011

Number of Pages: 37

Tags: Animals, Culture, Diversity, Emotion, Family, Fiction, Picture Book, 2-3, 4-5, Sarah Luce

Genre: Realistic Fiction

Descriptive Annotation:

In A Storm Called Katrina, a young boy and his family try to survive Hurricane Katrina when it hits their home. They travel through the rising waters to get to the Superdome. When they get there, conditions worsen and Daddy can’t find Louis Daniel and Mama. Daddy eventually finds his family when Louis Daniel plays his cornet in the middle of the Superdome. Special features include information about Hurricane Katrina in the back of the book. Students might need background information about the hurricane to fully understand the story.

Classroom Application:

This story could be used to teach students about the detrimental effects of hurricanes in a science lesson. The story shows the effects the hurricane has on the main character’s home and town, and the statistics in the back of the book give students information about hurricane destruction as well. It could also be used to teach perseverance and bravery in the face of crisis. The family braves a massive, historical storm and still decides to return to their home to face the aftermath of the storm. 

Linguistic and Cultural Diversity Analysis:

A Storm Called Katrina represents the culture of the people of New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. There were a lot of emotions surrounding this time and region and so it follows that there were many responses to the event. Some people were angry and worried about taking care of themselves, like the “men that started fighting over a water bottle” (page 23). There were also people who were helping as many as they could.  There were people who evacuated, but also people who never expected the storm to get so bad. One woman said, “I’ve lived around these parts for fifty years…and I ain’t ever seen nothin’ like this” (page18). I would introduce this book to students, asking who has ever heard of Hurricane Katrina or knows anyone who was affected by it.


A Gift From Abuela

Title: A Gift from Abuela

Author(s): Cecelia Ruiz

Illustrator/Photographer: Cecelia Ruiz

Publisher and Year: Candlewick Press, 2018

Number of Pages: 30

Tags: Culture, Diversity, Family, Fiction, Picture Book, K-1, 2-3, Sarah Luce

Genre: Fiction

Descriptive Annotation:

This book is written mainly in English but it has some Spanish vocabulary throughout the story. A Gift from Abuela is about a grandmother and granddaughter who spent a lot of time together when Niña was a little girl. As she got older, they grew apart and Abuela wanted to get Niña a present, so she tried to save a little money each week but eventually she fell on hard times, did not have any extra money to save, and forgot where she had hidden her saved money. The currency in Mexico changed, and the money Abuela had saved became worthless. One day, Niña found the worthless money and she and Abuela used it to make a craft they used to make when Niña was a young girl.

Classroom Application:

This text could be used in the classroom to reinforce a lesson on Mexico or a lesson on basic Spanish vocabulary. At younger ages, many students may have never left the country, so this story could give them a glimpse into Mexican culture. It could also give an insight into Mexican history, as the book mentions life in Mexico becoming increasingly difficult and the government changing the currency.

Linguistic and Cultural Diversity Analysis:

This book clearly represents the culture of Mexico and the people who live there. The illustrations show a Spanish town with shops that have Spanish names, while the story tells of favorite things to do and eat in Mexico. Abuela “liked teaching Niña how to make papel picado banners” (page 5) and at the end, “with the old bills, Niña and Abuela made the most beautiful papel picado banners” (page 27). I would ask the students if anyone had ever been to Mexico or knew someone from Mexico, or ask if anyone could speak Spanish or knew a few words of it. I could also simply just ask the class what prior knowledge anyone has about Mexico.



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).


Waiting for Normal

Title:  Waiting for Normal

Author(s): Leslie Connor

Illustrator/Photographer: N/A

Publisher and Year: Harper Collins, 2008

Number of Pages: 290

Tags: Award Book, Chapter Book, Emotion, Family, Fiction, 2-3, 4-5, Sarah Luce

Genre: Realistic Fiction

Descriptive Annotation:

A young teenage girl, Addison, and her mother move into a trailer in a rundown area outside of the city after Mommers, Addison’s mother, divorces Addison’s stepfather. The story follows Addison for about a year as she navigates a new place, new school, and changes in her family dynamic. The story touches on things such as perceived mental illnesses, physical illness like cancer, and learning disabilities, giving students a glimpse into what life is like for people who deal with those things. It also has characters that are deep and are not featured much in literature, like families dealing with divorce and separation, as well as characters that are a part of the LGBTQ+ community. Students reading this book may encounter bigger words they do not know (as the main character keeps a vocab notebook) but the words are often defined and explained as a part of the plot.

Classroom Application:

This book would be more useful in teaching life lessons to students, rather than academic lessons. It could teach inclusion of others, through looking at the inclusion of a character that is gay or the way Addison is accommodated and included in her Stage Orchestra class, given her dyslexia. It could also be used to discuss more deep things, such as the affect of cancer on a person, the pain of grief, or the impact of a family being split apart.

Linguistic and Cultural Diversity Analysis:

This story represents the culture of being poor in a rundown town in America. It gives the reader a look at what it is like to live check to check from Addison’s perspective, like when she says to her hamster, “‘Well, Pic, given the size of me and the size of you, if food is wealth, you’re the queen today’” (page 238). It also shows one perspective of what it is like to live with a person who potentially has a mental illness. I would have this as a book in my classroom library and explain it to students as a book that talks about real-world experiences that many people face in their lives, like cancer. Soula, one of Addison’s friends from the corner minimarket, tells her, “‘You’re seeing the worst of it, Cookie…This is cancer. And it stinks’” (page 65). This book was written relatively recently (2008) so it is more intentional about discussing big topics in today’s society, such as mental illness and inclusion.


Emmanuel’s Dream

Title: Emmanuel’s Dream

Author: Laurie Ann Thompson

Illustrator: Sean Qualls

Publisher and Year: 2015 Schwartz & Wade

Number of pages: 40

Tags/Themes: Award Book, Culture, Diversity, Non-fiction, 2-3, 4-5, Evan White

Genre: Africa, Biography, Non-Fiction, Children’s, Cultural, Picture

Descriptive Annotation: Emmanuel’s Dream is about a young boy, Emmanuel, who was born with one good leg in Ghana, West Africa.  His father left the family, but his mother supported him.  Emmanuel would shine shoes for money and bought a soccer ball to play with the school children.  Through this, the school kids respected Emmanuel playing soccer with one leg.  When he became older, Emmanuel went to the city of Accra to work for money.  In the city, he would get discriminated against for having a disability.  He decided he would buy a bike, ride it across and share a message of how people with disabilities can achieve great things.  He rode his bike over 400 miles and became a national image.  Film crews followed him to share his message.

Classroom Application: This text reinforces geography and culture.  The book shows how the boy lives in West Africa, an area the students probably won’t know much about. The story demonstrates Social and Emotional Learning Standards by demonstrating skills related to achieving personal and academic goals.  Emmanuel didn’t let society tell him what he could and couldn’t do.  He created a personal goal of showing his country people with disabilities are strong, and he accomplished it using his skills and using external resources, like getting a film crew and a bike.  This stretches the students mind by showing them they can be strong by destroying harmful norms in their society in ways that are small and unique to the individual student.

Linguistic and Cultural Diversity Analysis: This book shows the society of Ghana.  It can foster inquiry of how students from across the globe have strong goals and can achieve them, even when their society is trying to dictate how they should act. “Shopkeepers and restaurant owners told him to go out and beg like other disabled people did.  Emanuel refused. Finally, a food stand owner offered him a job and a place to live” (17).  With a little support, he was able to achieve his goal. “The farther Emmanuel rode, the more attention he got. Children cheered.  Able-bodied adults ran or rode along with him.  People with disabilities left their homes and came outside, some for the very first time.  The young man once thought of as a cursed was becoming a national hero” (30).  Emmanuel was changing the norms and culture in Ghana for how to view people with disabilities, and was met with enthusiasm for his actions.  In Ghana, the book shows the citizens view people with disabilities harshly, telling them to beg, or even abandoning them.  Emmanuel was changing that culture climate.  I might introduce this book by showing the students what Ghana is like, showing the students the landscape, grasslands, narrow highways, and the rain forest.  I think seeing the landscape will have the students think the bike riding is more impressive than the book depicts .  The book mostly shows Emmanuel talking to people, but I also want to the students to see how tough riding a bike would be to appreciate the work while reading or listening.

Grandmother’s Dreamcatcher

Title: Grandmother’s Dreamcatcher

Author: Becky Ray McCain

Illustrator: Stacey Schuett

Publisher and Year: Albert Whitman and Company, 1998

Number of pages: 32

Tags/Themes: Culture, Family, Fiction, 2-3, Evan White

Genre: Children’s, Cultural, Realistic Fiction, Picture Books, Native Americans, Family

Descriptive Annotation: A little Chippewa girl is dropped off at her grandmother’s house while her parents look for a new house.  While the girl stays over, she has night terrors.  Her Chippewa grandmother decides to teach her granddaughter how to make a dream catcher.  As they were crafting the dream catcher, the grandmother told a story about how the dream catcher came to be.  The “Great Spirit” sent a vision to a tribal member on a spider creating a giant web to catch all the bad dreams.  Once they made a dream catcher, the little Chippewa girl stopped having night terrors and made two more dream catchers for her parents.  At the back of the book, there are instructions on how to make a dream catcher.

Classroom Application: I would use this text to reinforce art and culture of Native Americans.  I think this book tells a feel-good family story that teaches about the significance of dream catchers.  In the story, the grandma explains how the dream catcher is important to their family and cultural roots.  Then I would teach the students the differences between Native American dream catchers and American dream catchers.  Typically, American dream catchers are more complex and flashier, while Native American dream catchers have beads and feathers, nothing flashy or anything for aesthetic purposes.  This could be a good time to talk about respecting Native American culture and how making dream catchers more ascetically complex is disrespecting their culture.   I also think this story would be really good with compare and contrast.  There are different origin stories for the dreamcatcher, and it could be a fun compare and contract unit to read different stories on how the dreamcatcher was created.

Linguistic and Cultural Diversity Analysis: This story represents Native American culture but more specifically the Chippewa story of the dream catcher’s origin story.  This story fosters a respect for Native Americans and respect to their values and little aspects of their culture. The students would learn a little history of the origin of dream catchers . “So her grandmother did what our people still do.  She asked the Great Spirit for help, and she was given a vision of a dreamcatcher circle.  It had feathers on it just like yours and mine, but inside was empty.  When this grandmother hung the dreamcatcher above the grandchild’s head, a spider came down and made the web inside.  All the child’s dreams were then caught in that web to go to the Great Spirit.  Only the sweet dreams were permitted to go back to the girl” (16).  I think you can have a discussion on how values and cultural ideas get passed down to continue and how individuals can support cultural values, like how the grandma taught her granddaughter .  Then in the story, the little girl makes a dreamcatcher for her parents to continue their cultural values. “Each day, Grandmother and I are busy with our work.  We sew beads on leather to make hair ties for Mama.  Grandmother takes me fishing, and I find a special feather just for Daddy.  We make a dreamcatcher for mama and Daddy” (27). To introduce this book, I would ask the students what they know about dream catchers and their origins and how they imagine them.  They could draw or describe what they have seen in their lives.  The drawings or description can be used to compare after the book and looking at traditional dream catchers.