Title: Dewey: The Small-Town Library Cat Who Touched the World
Author(s): Vicki Myron with Bret Witter
Publisher and Year: Grand Central Publishing 2008
Number of pages: 271
Tags/Themes: Animals, Chapter book, Emotion, Family, Friendship, Non-fiction, 2-5, Joe Marras
Descriptive Annotation: This is a very easy read with no prior knowledge needed. The story of Dewey Readmore Books is very heartwarming. A very young Dewey was dropped into the drop box of the library in Spencer, Iowa on the coldest night of the winter. He was found the next day by librarian and author Vicki Myron. She nursed Dewey back to health and decided to keep the furry fella. Dewey was a mainstay at the library for the entirety of his 19 years only leaving on holidays and long weekends to go home with Vicki Myron. Dewey helped Myron through tough times as she dealt with a bout with cancer and a divorce from her husband, but Dewey helped everyone. Myron says that Dewey had a profound gift of knowing who needed him the most and giving that person the love and affection they needed.
Classroom Application: I think that the best application for this book is to reinforce the importance of helping out those that need a pick me up. Everyone goes through down times and who knows how long those times will continue without a good friend or furry companion to help them through it all. I think Dewey can teach anyone of any age a valuable lesson that it doesn’t always take words or a conversation to give someone what they need.
Linguistic and Cultural Diversity Analysis: “There were no two ways about it, Dewey led a charmed life. But Spencer was also lucky, because Dewey couldn’t have fallen into our lives at a better time.” (page 22) This couldn’t have been more true for the author and “mother” of Dewey Vicki Myron. She needed Dewey as much as Dewey needed his food and water. She had been through so much and Dewey was just the one that helped her through it and made it all worth it for her. This is a very easy read, no troubling words and very happy throughout the story. Dewey became so well known, his story was even heard by people in Japan. A filming crew even came from Japan to get footage of Dewey in their documentary about animals, “Dewey was almost fifteen years old and he was slowing down, but he hadn’t lost his enthusiasm for strangers.” (page 218) No matter how old or slow Dewey became he never lost his enthusiasm for people. He would still greet people with the same fire he always did. I think this shows a good lesson to show that no matter how you may be feeling on a particular day to never lose your kindness because you’ll never know who it can reach.
Author(s): David Small
Illustrator/Photographer: David Small
Publisher and Year: W. W. Norton & Company 2009
Number of pages: 329
Tags: Graphic novel, Emotion, Family, Memoir, 4-5, 6-8, Joe Marras
Genre: Graphic novel, Memoir
Descriptive Annotation: This graphic novel starts with David as a child and he explains the forms of expression for his mother, father, brother, and himself. David’s forms of expression is drawing, which is obviously very fitting, and getting sick. David gets sick at a young age, which he later finds out was cancer and resulted in one of his vocal chords being taken out. Sharing this story in a graphic novel seems like the perfect way to do so because of how David likes to express himself and then not being able to talk very much because of the cancer. It is obvious that his family has communication issues, and they aren’t a close family. David has to face a lot of harsh realities all by himself because there is no love and support from his family, but he doesn’t let that stop him from finding eventual freedom.
Classroom Application: This story is very well expressed through illustrations. I think a story like this can show that graphic novels are a valuable way to express a story and learn. This story also shows the negatives of non-communication. David’s family does not communicate or express themselves to each other and that grew to resentment. It shows that communication is vital, which is a valuable lesson for young readers.
Linguistic and Cultural Diversity Analysis: I think that this story can open up a valuable discussion about how important communication is. David wasn’t able to express himself to anyone because they were not there for him to do so. They did not open that line of communication which can lead to resentment like it did for David to his mother whom showed him no love or affection. “Mama had her little cough… once or twice, some quiet sobbing, out of sight… or the slamming of kitchen cupboard doors.” (page 15) This set the tone of his mother being quiet and keeping to herself for the entire story. That was her sound, her expression, and she never strayed off of that too much. Another quote that really keeps the tone of non-affection and that shows the relationship that he and his mother had is on page 255, “I’m sorry, David it’s true. She doesn’t love you.” This comes from David’s therapist that he drew as the rabbit from Alice in Wonderland. It is just the brutal reality that David had to face that his mother does not genuinely love him and the only time she showed anything for him was when she found out he had cancer and she thought that he wasn’t going to make it. It’s terrible that he has to hear this, but this is really when it really gets brought home for David that it really is true.
Title: Dear Primo: A Letter to My Cousin
Author: Duncan Tonatiuh
Publisher and Year: Abrams Books for Young Readers 2010
Number of Pages: 27
Tags: Award Book, Culture, Family, Friendship, K-1, Joe Marras
Descriptive Annotation: This is a very simple story about two cousins, one that lives in Mexico and one that lives in New York City, that write each other letters telling each other what they do in their lives. They have many similarities in what they do, but they can differ on how they do them. They both are very interested in one another and want to have their Primo, cousin in spanish, visit them sometime soon.
Classroom Application: This can be used to show similarities among kids throughout the world. Both kids went to school, had recess, went to the store/market, but they just differ on how or what they do while there. In New York they play basketball at recess, but in Mexico they play soccer, but they are both playing games at recess! This can also be used to introduce students to the spanish language as there are many spanish words throughout the story as well as pictures labeled so they can know what the word means.
Linguistic and Cultural Diversity Analysis: This book represents Mexican and American culture, but I can see how it can be used to show that kids across the world are more alike than they know. “Every morning I ride my bicicleta to school.” “I ride the subway to school. The subway is like a long metal snake, and it travels through tunnels underground.” They both go to school, but they get there differently, and they are both exciting ways of getting to school. In Mexico his favorite meal is quesadillas, and in America his favorite is pizza. It brings to light the similar things they do, and shows that they do them in different ways sometimes and that is perfectly okay and exciting.
Title: Stone Soup
Author: Jon J. Muth
Publisher and Year: Scholastic Press 2003
Number of Pages: 28
Tags: Family, Friendship, K-5, Joe Marras
Descriptive Annotation: Three monks were traveling down a mountain road and saw a village that had noticeably been through a lot of things such as famine, floods, and war. These hard times had made the villagers suspicious of their neighbors and people began to lose friendship. When the monks came into the village everyone had gone inside and locked their doors to keep the monks out. So to counter the villagers the monks decided they would teach them a lesson on happiness by making stone soup. The monks gathered tools and started a fire and a young girl came up to see what they were doing, so they asked her to help them find three stones, but then they realized they needed a bigger pot, and so the young girl got a bigger pot from her mother. As more people saw what was going on outside they came out to inspect, and then the monks said they needed more ingredients that they did not have, so the villagers banded together and filled the soup with so many ingredients and everyone brought something and it turned into a small village festival where the villagers talked and shared stories and became friends again.
Classroom Application: This story shares a good lesson that everyone has something to bring to the table, whether it be carrots for a soup or a pencil for class. It shows to never shut people out because the people can bring so many things to you and the world so give everyone a chance to show what they can bring. It is captivating how something as simple as stone soup brought a village that had be separated back together in just one night. It shows that it just takes the effort.
Linguistic and Cultural Diversity Analysis: This book could be used as a good introduction to monks. Although this book doesn’t specify where the monks are from or any of their beliefs it shows that they spread happiness, “What makes one happy, Siew?” They are genuinely concerned and interested about what makes people happy so they go and explore it and help a broken village come together. The villagers, much being of different professions, at the beginning of the story did not fraternize with each other, but by the end they had unlocked their doors, “Then they unlocked their doors and took the monks into their homes and gave them very comfortable places to sleep.” They had previously locked their doors and tightened their windows shut to the monks, but the monks changed them and brought the good out of them.
Title: The King’s Commissioners
Author: Aileen Friedman
Illustrator: Susan Guevara
Publisher and Year: Scholastic Press, 1994
Number of Pages: 26 Pages
Tags: Math, Fiction, Family, K-1, Joe Marras
Descriptive Annotation: This story is about a king that has hired many commissioners to be in charge of certain silly tasks such as for flat tires, chickenpox, and foul balls. He had hired so many that he began to lose count and lose track of who was in charge of was tasks. So the king had his royal advisors summon all commissioners and have them walk through so that he and his two advisors can count. The king’s daughter comes in and distracts him in the middle of his count so he lost his count, but at the end he had his two advisors count still. His advisors try to explain their tally marks to him, but he does not understand it until his daughter arranges it in a better way for him, and she finally explains it and he figures out how many commissioners he has.
Classroom Application: This is a good story to show applications of math in the real world. In this story they used three different ways of tallying all of the people they counted, so it help shows multiple ways of counting which would be good for young students.
Linguistic and Cultural Diversity Analysis: This is set in old times when kings and queens were still prominent, so I think that this is a good way to introduce more math concepts to young students because they probably still read and watch a lot of things involving monarchies. The tone of this book is very light and has a nice father daughter relationship which students should be able to relate to. It is also very silly, “First came the Commissioner for Spilt Milk. He’d been very busy when the Princess was a baby.” There are a lot of goofy commissioners in the story which are very entertaining. Another quote to show the daddy-daughter relationship is, “Let me, Daddy, let me,” pleaded the Princess. The King looked down at his eager daughter and sighed. “All right, my dear.” ” The king was getting frustrated, but the Princess was there to help explain it to him. The love between them is obvious and very affectionate.
Title: Shin’s Tricycle
Author: Tatsuharu Kodama
Illustrator: Noriyuki Ando
Publisher and Year: Doshin-Sha 1992
Number of Pages: 30
Tags/Theme: Culture, Emotion, Family, Non-fiction, 3-8, Joe Marras
Descriptive Annotation: This story is about a family in Japan during World War 2. Shin is a three year old boy that really wanted a tricycle but because of the war a lot of the toys and other metal in Japan went towards making tanks and other war materials. Then his uncle came in and brought him his old tricycle and Shin was ecstatic. He was outside playing with it one day and then the unthinkable happened, a nuclear bomb was dropped on Hiroshima. Shin was trapped and his parents had to free him, he was breathing but his two siblings weren’t as lucky. His parents cared for him until he died shortly after. This is a true story, Shin’s tricycle is in a museum in Japan to remind everyone that war is not the answer.
Classroom Application: This story could be used to show kids the effects of war on everyday citizens, and also on World War 2 and the effects of dropping the atomic bombs on Japan. This is a tragic story, but it is true which makes it land very hard.
Linguistic and Cultural Diversity Analysis: The book itself isn’t too difficult to read, but the content is very hard hitting which is why it might be more appropriate for older kids that are learning about World War 2, “Wars are always brutal. No matter who starts one, innocent people always die-even children like Shin.” Shin was a real boy and he died just before his fourth birthday. It’s a tragic story and it’s very sad to read, “Maybe if enough people could see Shin’s tricycle, they would remember that the world should be a peaceful place where children can play and laugh.” Hoping Shin’s tricycle being put on display at a museum will help people realize that peace is essential.
Title: Be the Change: A Grandfather Gandhi Story
Author: Arun Gandhi and Bethany Hegedus
Illustrator: Evan Turk
Publisher and Year: Atheneum Books for Young Readers 2016
Number of Pages: 36
Tags/Theme: Adventure, Culture, Family, Non-fiction, K-5, Joe Marras
Descriptive Annotation: The main character is Gandhi’s grandson and he accompanies his grandfather on his trips. His grandson follows all of his grandfather’s teachings and the story focuses mainly on their vow to be non-violent and not waste. Then one day while walking home he through his pencil away into the field, which was wasteful, and he didn’t think there was anything wrong with it. When his grandfather found out he made him go back and find it and then taught him how being wasteful can lead to violence. His grandson then knew that it was important to follow his grandfathers teachings and keep his vows.
Classroom Application: This story could be used to introduce Gandhi and also to not be wasteful because Gandhi in the story shows the impacts of being wasteful. Gandhi shows him that it can affect others and that it is important to keep your vows as well.
Linguistic and Cultural Diversity Analysis: This book shows some of the teachings of Gandhi and the importance of them. The two things that are focused on are to not be wasteful and be non-violent. Gandhi explains to his grandson that his actions can affect other people. Before Gandhi talked to him he did not realize what his actions could do, “Soon I could see how throwing my pencil away could hurt others.” Gandhi showed him how throwing and wasting his pencil could eventually hurt others teaching his grandson that it is important to not waste things. The tone of this book is very light and Gandhi is trying to help his grandson learn throughout the story. At the end of the story he tells him, “Be the change you wish to see in the world, Arun.” This was one of Gandhi’s sayings and shows how he dedicated his life to teaching others.
Title: In the Time of the Drums
Author: Kim L. Siegelson
Illustrator: Brian Pinkney
Publisher and Year: Hyperion Books for Children 1999
Number of Pages: 30
Tags/Theme: Award Book, Culture, Family, Historical Fiction, K-5, Joe Marras
Descriptive Annotation: There is a older woman, Twi, and her grandson, Mentu, and they are on an island near the Teakettle Creek where ships often land to bring slaves to work on the islands plantations. Mentu was born on the island, but Twi was born in Africa and longs for her home. She teaches Mentu a lot of his culture and to respect and cherish his culture. One day a Spanish ship lands with Ibo people on it and they are singing for their home, and it rings hard with Twi and calls to her. It urges her to journey home, so she joins hands with the Ibo people and leads them into the Teakettle Creek and walk down and through the water towards their home. They soon disappear in the water and hopefully to their homes.
Classroom Application: This story is good for the class probably during Black History Month, but also any time of the year. This book can introduce slavery, but also teach about how important it is to hold on to culture and cherish and celebrate it and never let it go no matter how hard things get.
Linguistic and Cultural Diversity Analysis: This story is a Gullah tale that has been passed down orally for generations, so this story shows another culture and can introduce slavery to younger kids, and also African cultures, “Because then the old ways will try to grow weak inside of you. Don’t let ‘em! Takes a mighty strength not to forget who you are. Where you come from. To help others remember it, too.” Twi is telling Mentu that it is important to remember who he is and how important that is and to not forget it no matter how hard things get. I think this is an important lesson to remember and celebrate cultures.
“ “we are home! We are home!” the people drummed. But they were far from home.” This helps show that this book has a sad, but real and truthful tone. The author doesn’t dress anything about slavery up, and shows it in its true colors which I think makes the message so much stronger and real.