CLRB from Previous Semesters

Here is the link to the CLRB from 2012 with the link to the blog from 2013 embedded:

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The House on Mango Street


Title: The House on Mango Street

Author(s): Sandra Cisneros

Cover Art by: Edel Rodriquez

Publisher and Year: Random House (1984)

Number of pages: 110

Genre: Realistic Fiction

Descriptive Annotation:  The House on Mango Street is told from the perspective of a young woman growing up in a Hispanic neighborhood in Chicago. Her family is poor and she has conflicted feelings about their home. Each chapter of The House on Mango Street is written as a standalone story. Sometimes the chapters are totally isolated and sometimes the characters are recurring. Many of the chapters are about people who are trapped on Mango Street due to the circumstances in their life. The narrator tells the story of growing up on Mango Street- describing people she meets, growing up, being sexually assaulted, and eventually moving away from Mango Street. At the end of the book the narrator writes that she has now moved away from Mango Street and is writing so that she can achieve some separation from Mango Street though she is now going back for those who were not able to leave.

Linguistic and Cultural Diversity Analysis: Linguistically The House on Mango Street is as much poem as story. Each chapter is much like an extended poem, very rhythmic and descriptive. The narrator has a very strong voice that carries through the entire book that makes many of the chapters very emotional. The language in this book uses fairly simple words, but holds extremely complex ideas. Culturally, everyone described in this book is fairly poor. The main character, and many of the characters described in the book are Hispanic. Additionally, much Hispanic and Latino culture is described throughout the book. The narrator is a close friend with two white girls from Texas. The narrator also describes black and Asian people in her narratives. This book has many feminist undertones, the author goes through maturation as the book progresses, and compares herself to other girls and other women. As many of the girls the author grows up with get married or become involved, the author finds that she wants to move away from Mango Street and go her own way.

Interdisciplinary Connections: This book would be a wonderful resource in an art class. Each chapter has a very distinct mood and rich imagery- a great project would be to assign students different chapters and have them create a visual book with an image for each chapter. Additionally, this would fit in well with a social studies class for older grades- students could use the book as an example of the experience of first and second generation Americans living in an impoverished divided neighborhood.IMG_0529

Other Information:  I completely enjoyed this book. I think some of the chapters would not be suited for every class of students- but I think many of the chapters in this book could be taken out and isolated and used with many classes. I think that this is definitely a middle school level book overall (though, yet again, there are certain chapters that have the potential to be used with younger grades). I think that this book would really resonate with a lot of students; young women, students with diverse backgrounds, and students who enjoy poetry and writing. Overall, I think this book has a very valuable story to tell- and would be a tale of hope and self-sufficiency that many students could benefit from.

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My Life With the Wave

The Wave

Title: My Life With the Wave

Based on the Story by: Octavio Paz

Translated and Adapted by: Catherine Cowan

Illustrated by: Mark Buehner

Publisher and Year: Lothrop, Lee, & Shepard Books (1997)

Number of pages: 30

Genre: Fiction

Descriptive Annotation:  In My Life with the Wave the unnamed protagonist visits the ocean with his family. At the ocean the boy makes friends with a wave. The boy decides to bring the wave home with him on the train. The wave comes to live with the boy. At first everything goes well, the wave and the boy play together and the wave is happy. But as the year goes on and winter comes the wave gets sad, and begins to grow cold and angry- upsetting life at home. Eventually the wave grows stormy and angry and brings sea monsters into the house. The boy’s mother decides the wave must go back to the ocean. The wave became so sad that it turned into ice. The boy and his father take the wave back to the ocean. In the final scene from the book the boy looks out the window and decides that a cloud would make a better friend.

Linguistic and Cultural Diversity Analysis: This book uses fairly complex words for a picture book. This book is very descriptive and uses wonderful, descriptive words that really make the wave come alive. Culturally everyone pictured in this book is white and the family in the book is middle class.  IMG_0540

Interdisciplinary Connections: This book would pair well with a science unit abut the seasons. The wave in the book takes on different moods depending on the season. Students could discuss what the ocean is like during different seasons and discuss how different aspects of nature change with the weather.

Other Information:  I loved this book. It was one of the more creative children’s books I have read. I think many students would be completely fascinated by the surreal aspect of bringing a wave home as a sort of pet. Additionally, the language in this book is wonderful and vivid. I would love to use this in a literature class as an example of descriptive language, a creative narrative, or as stimulation for a readers’ response.

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How I Survived Fifth Grade


Title: How I Survived Fifth Grade

Author(s): Megan and H. William Stine

Cover Art by: Susan Tang

Publisher and Year: Troll Associates (1992)

Number of pages: 92

Genre: Realistic Fiction

Descriptive Annotation:  How I Survived Fifth Grade is written from the perspective of fifth grader, Elliot. Elliot is the smallest boy in fifth grade- he has been getting made fun of his entire life. In fifth grade Elliot gets put in the same class as the school bully, Justin Ambrose. Many of the students in Elliot’s class begin to join in on teasing Elliot. However, Elliot has one friend, Carlo. Carlo and Elliot spend a lot of their time together- Carlo has a series of schemes to try to get into the Guinness Book of World Records. When Justin continues to bully Elliot, Elliot and Carlo begin to take Karate lessons in an effort to toughen up Elliot. However, the scheme doesn’t work because Elliot is still not big enough to take on Justin. When Elliot comes back from Christmas break his teacher has been replaced by a new teacher, Mr. Oakes. Mr. Oakes assigns the class a project to make a video in a group. While Elliot is working on the project several of the people in his group begin teasing him. Mr. Oakes comes over and confiscates the tape. Mr. Oakes councils Elliot on how to deal with Justin and ultimately Justin becomes friends with Carlo and Elliot.IMG_0522

Linguistic and Cultural Diversity Analysis: Linguistically this book is very rich- Elliot makes many word plays and is very playful with language. The words in the book are fairly challenging and the text is of average density per page. Culturally, everyone in the book seems to be middle class. Elliot has highly educated parents. There are no physical descriptions in the book of the characters (other than Elliot), and race is not discussed. All of the names in the book are traditionally Caucasian names with the exception of Carlo.

Interdisciplinary Connections: Elliot and Carlo have a mission to collect money so that Carlo can fund his mission to get in to the Guinness Book of World Records. This mission could be connected to math class, names from the book could be used in math problems and students could create their own business plan to fund a project of their own.

Other Information:  I really enjoyed this book. How I Survived the Fifth Grade is the quintessential campy chapter book. However, I don’t necessarily think kids today would like this book. It was published in 92 and many of the things described in the book (beepers, computer technology) are now outdated. Additionally, the portrayal of the relationship between Elliot and Justin is unrealistic and possibly damaging to a student who is being bullied. I think the easy resolution of the problems between Elliot and Justin is unrealistic- and I don’t like that this book perpetuates the stereotype that all bullies are just misunderstood and lonely.

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I Survived the Battle of Gettysburg, 1863


Title: I Survived the Battle of Gettysburg, 1863

Author(s): Lauren Tarshis

Cover Art by: Steve Stone and Tim Hall

Publisher and Year: Scholastic (2013)

Number of pages: 106

Genre: Historical Fiction

Descriptive Annotation: I Survived the Battle of Gettysburg, 1863 is about a young black boy named Thomas and his younger sister, Birdie. At the beginning of the book Thomas and Birdie are on a farm in Virginia, they are playing outside when Thomas sees some men coming to the farm who bought his good friend, Clem. Thomas is scared that the men will take him away from his sister so he and his sister run away from the farm. Thomas and Birdie don’t get far before some Confederate troops catch up with them. However, the Confederate troops are only concerned with some Union soldiers who are also in the forest. When the Confederate troops have a Union soldier cornered in the woods, Thomas saves him. The soldier, Henry, decides to take Thomas and Birdie with him to look after them. Thomas and Birdie travel with Henry’s unit to the Battle of Gettysburg. Thomas gets injured at the battle and wakes up in a hospital bed several days later. Henry and Birdie are both safe.  At the end of the book Henry takes Birdie and Thomas with his to his home in Vermont where they live and learn to read. IMG_0527

Linguistic and Cultural Diversity Analysis: Linguistically, this book is a fairly simple read. The words in the book are fairly common words and there is relatively little text per page for a chapter book. There is a content area reading at the end of the book about the Civil War- this portion has more technical language but is written in a conversational tone. The book is written from the perspective of a black newly freed slave during the Civil War. There is tension between black people and white people throughout the book. Other than Thomas, Birdie, Clem, and a platoon of black soldiers seen from afar everyone else in the book is white.

Interdisciplinary Connections: This book would be a great fit in a unit about the Civil War. This book could lead to discussions about the different perspectives in the war. Additionally, students could use this book to identify technology differences between the Civil War and war today. Overall, this book would relate well to any unit about war because it is an engaging narrative about what it is like to be in a battle from a young person’s perspective.

Other Information:  I enjoyed this book. I think it would be a book that many students would enjoy. This book is exciting, engaging, and offers a perspective of the Civil War that students would be able to relate to.

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I Survived the Shark Attacks of 1916


Title: I Survived The Shark Attacks of 1916

Author(s): Lauren Tarshis

Cover Art by: Steve Stone and Tim Hall

Publisher and Year: Scholastic (2010)

Number of pages: 87

Genre: Historical Fiction

Descriptive Annotation:  In I Survived the Shark Attacks of 1916, main character Chet is a young boy living with his uncle who owns a diner in New Jersey. Chet’s friends come into the diner and show Chet a newspaper article about a shark attack off the coast of New Jersey that ended in a man being killed. Many of the locals think that this is a made up article, because they think that sharks don’t attack people. However, an old sea captain sitting in the diner contests that sharks will attack people. Chet meets his friends at the creek later and his friends play a trick on him, pretending to be sharks. To get back at his friends Chet pretends to be a creek monster several days later and his friends stop talking to him. After several days of not speaking with his friends, Chet decides to meet his friends down at the creek. When he gets to the creek his friends are happy to see him, but Chet sees a dark fin racing after one of his friends. Chet dives into the creek and helps get his friend to safety- however, gets hold of Chet’s leg. After a few more days Chet wakes up in the hospital. His leg will heal but he will have a limp. The book ends with Chet making up with his friends and Chet’s uncle offering to share ownership of the diner with Chet’s parents so that they can all live close to each other.

IMG_0524Linguistic and Cultural Diversity Analysis: Linguistically, this book uses fairly common words and has very few words per page for a chapter book. There is a section at the end of the book that contains the historical foundation of this book- this portion is written in a conversational tone despite being content area reading. Culturally, everyone in this book is white and of similar income. There is some tension between different generations in the book. The main character Chet struggles against his parents and some of the townspeople see the old sea Captain a senile old-timer.

Interdisciplinary Connections: I Survived the Shark Attacks of 1916 would be a good book to relate to a science unit about sharks. Students could examine misconceptions about sharks and how these views had to be re-evaluated; additionally students could try to determine why the sharks moved up into the creek from the ocean.

Other Information:  This book was enjoyable. It was an extremely easy read (it only took me 30 minutes to complete). I think many students would find this book easy and enjoyable as well. Because the book is written from the perspective of a young boy it contains much information that would be relevant to students’ lives. Additionally, the danger element of the shark attack would make this book a very exciting read. Overall, I really enjoyed this book and feel it would appeal to many students.


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Here Come the Aliens

Here come the aliens

Title: Here Come the Aliens

Author(s): Colin McNaughton

Illustrated by: Colin McNaughton

Publisher and Year: Candlewick Press (1995)

Number of pages: 27

Genre: Fiction

Descriptive Annotation:  In this book a group of aliens are set to invade earth. On each page the aliens and their mission is described. At the end of each page the saying the aliens are coming is repeated. At the end of the book, when the aliens are just about to attack, the aliens find a picture of a class of four-year-old kids, which they find so terrifying they turn around and leave.IMG_0536

Linguistic and Cultural Diversity Analysis: This book uses very common vocabulary and has few words per page.  Each page of the book rhymes and ends with the repeated line “The Aliens are Coming.” Culturally, the book shows many different types of aliens- aliens of every color, shape, and size imaginable. However, the aliens and the humans find each other’s looks to be scary- something that brings to mind cultural fear of the “other.”

Interdisciplinary Connections: “Here Come the Aliens” could be used in a music class to teach about the uses of rhyming and repetition in communicating meaning in songs. Additionally, this book could be used in math class for students to identify aliens that are symmetrical and asymmetrical.

Other Information:  This book was a cute, easy read. The pictures and story were engaging, and I think the surprise at the end of the aliens being afraid of the kids would be really fun for students. I think almost any student would enjoy the book. Finally, I think this book would be perfect to read aloud with a young child due to the lyrical nature of the book.

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The Brave Little Bunny

The Brave Bunny

Title: The Brave Little Bunny

Author(s): Linda Jennings

Illustrated by: Catherine Walters

Publisher and Year: Dutton Children’s Books (1995)

Number of pages: 25

Genre: Fiction

Descriptive Annotation: In The Brave Little Bunny, Millie, a rabbit that lives in a hutch with her family, wishes to experience life outside of her hutch. One day the door to her hutch is left open and Millie wanders off into the wild. She loves the fresh grass and open spaces but doesn’t know what to do when a fox sees her. Another rabbit, named seventy-six, comes to her rescue and Millie escapes. Seventy-six introduces Millie to his family but they are suspicious of her because she is a pet rabbit. Millie returns to her hutch and finds that the door has been shut. Millie thinks about waiting for someone to come back and let her in but realizes she doesn’t want to return to the hutch. Seventy-six finds Millie and the two run off into the forest together and eventually have bunnies of their own.

Linguistic and Cultural Diversity Analysis: Linguistically, this book is not very difficult. The words are common and there are a moderate number of words per page. Culturally, there are no people in this book and the location is not tied to a single culture. However, the wild, dark haired rabbits in the book are suspicious of Millie who is a light haired rabbit and unlike them. This holds a cultural undertone due to the differing colors of the rabbits’ fur and the different knowledge the rabbits have due to their upbringing.

Interdisciplinary Connections: This book could be integrated into a Science unit about the seasons- the book very obviously takes place in Spring (flowers are blooming, baby bunnies are exploring). Another application of this book could be to relate it to animal lifecycles (the bunnies are born, the bunnies explore on their own, finally finding a mate and having their own rabbits). IMG_0538

Other Information: I really enjoyed this book but would never use it as an instructional tool in the classroom. The story was ok- but not particularly rich in detail or action. However, I absolutely adored the illustrations in this book, they would make a great calendar. I do feel that this book would appeal to many girls. The illustrations paired with the story make it a light, enjoyable read for students.

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Mei Ling In China City


Title: Mei Ling in China City

Author(s): Icy Smith

Illustrated by: Gayle Garner Roski

Publisher and Year: East West Discovery Press, 2008

Number of pages: 39

Genre: Historical Fiction.

Descriptive Annotation: Mei Ling in China City is told from the perspective of a young Chinese-American girl, Mei Ling. Mei lives in Los Angeles in the touristy China City neighborhood and her parents own a popular Chinese restaurant. Mei begins the story by writing to her friend, Yayeko who is Japanese and was forced to move into an internment camp. Mei talks about all the culture and preparations for the Moon Festival taking place in China City. Mei visits the temple and a few shops while preparing. At the end of the story Mei and her friend are selling Chinese Opera tickets and American Flags to raise money for the United China Relief Campaign when a famous actress, Anna May Wong gives them $300 for the charity. The end of the book has a short section about the different historical topics covered in the book, along with pictures taken during the time.

Linguistic and Cultural Diversity Analysis: This book has a good assortment of racial diversity, Chinese, Americans, and Japanese people are all pictured in the book. There is a lot of Chinese culture represented in the book in various forms, some Japanese and some American. I particularly like that at least two cultures are represented in each illustration in the book. Linguistically, the names in the book are all Chinese and Japanese names. The words in the book are fairly common and the text is of moderate density for a picture book. However, the informational section at the back of the book has much denser text and more difficult words, making it a higher reading level.IMG_0542

Interdisciplinary Connections: This book would be a great fit in a social studies class. There is a wealth of social studies topics to cover in relation to this book. This book would fit in well while studying immigration, WWII, racial inequality, world religions, and traditions. Additionally, this book would fit in nicely with an art unit because both Chinese Opera and Chinese actors are discussed in the book. Additionally, the artwork in the book could inspire many art projects such as creating paper lanterns.

Other Information:  I didn’t particularly care for this book. I found it to have no discernable plot. If I were asked to identify a climax or resolution to this story I would not be able to do so. I think that the author had a lot of great things she wanted to put into this book, but it ended up feeling like little bits of Chinese culture were being thrown on each page for no reason other than to throw bits of Chinese culture on each page. If I was not familiar with both this time period and Chinese culture I think I would have found this book impossible to follow. I wish that the author had centered her story on a single idea she brought up – the internment camps, China City, tension between Chinese traditions and American traditions, feet binding, offerings in Buddhist temples, Chinese Opera, Chinese-American actors, the list is truly endless. Instead, these subjects were mentioned in a superficial way that felt confusing and superfluous. Additionally, it was confusing to me that much of the book talked about The Chinese Relief Campaign but it was never made clear why they needed relief in the book- the war was mentioned but not who they were at war with. I found this to be a very strange choice coupled with the discussion of Mei’s friendship with her Japanese friend, though the author may have made this choice to make the reader feel that this tension meant nothing to the young children’s friendship I think it landed as feeling disingenuous. Though I did not care for the text of this book, the illustrations were beautiful. I think the pictures in this book could have stood alone without the text (and may have even told a more coherent story).

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Joey Pigza Loses Control

Joey Pigza

Title: Joey Pigza Loses Control

Author(s): Jack Gantos

Cover Art: Beata Szpura

Publisher and Year: Scholastic, 2001

Number of pages: 196

Genre: Realistic Fiction.

Descriptive Annotation:  Joe Pigza Loses Control centers on its title character, Joey Pigza, who is a young boy with ADHD who’s best friend is his Chihuahua, Pablo. At the beginning of the book, Joey is with his mom on his way to his dad’s house for a visit. Joey has never met his dad before and he spends the car ride worrying about what type of person his dad is, and wondering if he can get his parents back together. When Joey arrives at his father’s house he meets his dad and his grandmother for the first time. As his mother leaves she reminds Joey to wear his patch (to treat his ADHD) and to call if his father begins drinking or he wants to come home. Joey is simultaneously entranced and fearful of his father. Joey’s dad has ADHD and is extremely obsessive. Joey’s dad places him on a youth baseball team, which he coaches. As the summer progresses, Joey does very well on the baseball team but is begins to have trouble when his dad decides to take him off of his patch. The book ends with Joey spiraling out of control, calling his mom and leaving his dad’s house to come home.

Linguistic and Cultural Diversity Analysis: This book does not include any racial diversity. However, the entire book is about, and told from the perspective of, someone with ADHD. Additionally, it is very apparent that all of the characters in this book have hard lives (medical problems, going to jail, struggling with alcohol) and are not financially well off. Linguistically this book is very rich. The words are not overly difficult; however, the language in this book is very descriptive and playful. The main character, Joey, often has trouble understanding figurative language and his interpretation of such language is often very comical. Finally, this book includes much symbolism- often comparing events and characters to storybook characters.IMG_0531

Interdisciplinary Connections: This book would work well with an art unit. Because the main character is often not seen as he would like by the world, a good art connection could be to have students create a portrait of what is going on inside their heads- much like the picture we see develop as we read the book. Additionally, I think this book would be great to use at the beginning of the school year or if there were problems with bullying. Joey Pigza Loses Control gives a wonderful, vivid image of what it is like to struggle with school, family, and your own mental state. I think it could be a great tool for a class to use to understanding each other.

Other Information: I love this book. I think it is one of the more valuable books I have read. I personally think that students in Education 257 should be required to read this book. It provides a vivid image into the mental state of a child who is struggling internally, trying to work around family problems, and is mislabeled and misunderstood by many with whom they interact. I think many students would like the wacky and honest Joey and many students who have problems with their home life would relate to this character. I think that this book would not work in every class or with every student due to some of the mature content, such as alcohol, smoking, and occasional violent undertones. However, I think for some classes and some students this book would provide either an insight into a perspective they may never have or a voice that could speak to them about something they may be afraid to talk about with others.

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