Tag Archives: 3-4

A Boy and A Jaguar

Title – A Boy and A Jaguar

Author(s) – Alan Rabinowitz

Illustrator/Photographer – Ca’Tia Chien

Publisher and Year – Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company, 2014

Number of pages – 30 pages

Tags/Themes – Rylie Loux, Animals, 3-4, Emotion

Genre – Biography, Non-Fiction

Descriptive Annotation: This story is a biography about the authors journey through life, from boyhood to adulthood, feeling restrained by his disability (speech impediment). He says he can only speak fluently when he is singing or when he talks to animals. He promised his pets and a jaguar at the zoo that he’d grow up to “be their voice and keep them from harm.” In college, he received assistance to help him speak fluently, formalized his study of animals, and eventually developed a specialization in wild cats and jaguars. A question and answer at the end of the book provides readers with additional context for his work, conservation efforts, and stuttering.

Classroom Application: This is a perfect resource for engaging students in a science lesson involving animals and wildlife. An example of how to connect this story in the classroom would be to have students study a specific endangered animal through writing, drawing, or speaking. Then have them talk about what is being done around the world to protect various endangered species and what we they can do to help. This story also supports students to listen and look closely, to wonder about the power of their own voices, and to consider issues of conservation and discrimination from a new perspective. This connects to the classroom to show that everyone is different in their own special way and there should never be bullying or inequity demonstrated in the classroom.

Linguistic and Cultural Diversity Analysis: This book represents the students knowledge of endangerment of animals. This is the scientific lesson that is being presented in the story. The other major moral of this story is the understanding of disabilities and their effects on people’s lifestyles. This story is presented in a way that is relatable for students and also connects to their emotions. “Animals can’t get the words out, just as I can’t. So people ignore or misunderstand or hurt them.” This quote relates to both of the main ideologies that are presented. The author uses the animals to help the young boy describe what he is going through. This may help students see how disabilities are not looked at as a negative, but they are able to connect it to something else. This also presents an idea of equity in the classroom. This story shows students that they are all different, but special in their own way.


Picturing America: Thomas Cole and the Birth of American Art

 Author(s)/Illustrator/Photographer: Hudson Talbott

 Publisher and Year Number of pages: Nancy Paulsen Books, 2018, 31 pages.

Genre: Nonfiction

Descriptive Annotation: The cover features an artistic rendering of Thomas Cole at work on one of his superb paintings of the Catskill Mountains in Upstate New York. The depiction demonstrates the way the sun sets at night on those majestic mountains. The artist who is pictured made the American art scene a respected one on the international stage, and his pieces are as well-known today as any Monet or Picasso. As for the book itself, it is a brilliant storybook that involves the engrossing story of a young English boy, Thomas Cole, who is forced to flee his homeland as a result of the ongoing Industrial Revolution there (late 1700s-mid to late 1800s). Thomas, our protagonist, is a boy who is used to his beautiful English countryside home life with his mother, father, brother Sami, seven sisters, and his grandpa Jed. Family life for him is consistent and comfortable. However, as the author notes, “Thomas’s father had to close his workshop because he could not make goods as cheaply as the big factories” (Talbott, p. 5). England is the only home he’s ever known, and when the Industrial Revolution comes to the village, he and his family must flee the land they love so much to make it in the American wilderness by boat from Europe. The family ends up in Steubenville, Pennsylvania, leaving four of Thomas’s seven sisters behind in the Old World, as the family only had money for the three sisters and the Cole parents to take a stagecoach. Thomas follows them on foot, and befriends a travelling portrait painter upon his arrival and learns how to paint. His passion takes off, and soon he is the toast of the worlds both New and Old, inspired by journeying up and down the Hudson River and funded by his first patron, a Mr. Thomas Bruen. It would be beneficial for the reader to learn why and how Cole’s career got started; the additional information, plus the background knowledge provided in the text, would help the reader to enjoy this story better. The language is pretty simple, but also profound in its own way when describing the devastating impact of industrialization on ordinary Americans and Englishmen, particularly Thomas and his family.

Classroom Application: It is an ideal text to teach lessons on the aftereffects of industrialization, since too often the media and history books solely focus on the big incidents that occur with the process of industrialization itself instead of the human impact, and its unsuitability for the long run. Good stewardship of the environment, and being able to appreciate beauty via subtle art as Thomas Cole exhibited in his paintings is the lesson I learned from this book. The author subtly demonstrates that treating your environment with dignity and respect results in a better world, rather than the outright sabotage through rapid buildup and environmental issues that resulted from the First Industrial Revolution (1760-1840). The best avenue to pursue is to educate others as Cole did, and help save “…the environment while there (is)…still time” (Talbott, p. 30). How the children best learn this lesson, of course, would be up to the teacher. The passion shown by the main character, Thomas Cole, in pursuing his goals of making a new, truly American art form and saving the environment from then encroachment of machines is certainly a worthy trait for teaching purposes, and could be tied into the environmental protection movement of the 1960s-present in a history classroom setting. Students could be taught laws or US Supreme Court decisions that allow discrimination against the environment, or in the past discriminated against it, and how to go about changing them.

Linguistic and Cultural Diversity Analysis: The book is set in England and Upstate New York, and its cultural influences will be very familiar to many readers in Illinois. Instead, focus on the unique American art schools formed over the 2 centuries we have been a united, independent country and expound on them to a large extent. This would also be great for an art course, as the artists who followed Cole such as Asher Durand and Frederic Church help reflect the artistic traditions of the USA since our independence in 1776: “It was the first art movement that was truly born in America” (Talbott, p. 30). Even though they weren’t part of the group that originally settled the area thousands of years ago, Cole and his devotees started to capture the natural beauty of the Eastern United States before a large portion of it was lost to the forces that built up the factories out East, making the region into what it is today.

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.