Author: Stephanie Spinner
Illustrator: Meilo So
Publisher and Year: Alfred A. Knopf 2012
Number of pages: 38
Alex the Parrot is a short chapter book with pictures that describes the life of the African Grey Macaw Alex and his handler Irene Pepperberg. It tells of Irene’s experiments with Alex in order to prove that birds are smart creatures capable of understanding human concepts such as colors, numbers, and shapes.
This book functions as a window or door into the scientific community. The main culture addressed and discussed in the book is that of Irene and her experiences and observations in the scientific field. At many points in the book, it is discussed that Irene has to do certain things in order to ensure that her research will be respected. The book displays scientific culture as something that is easily understandable to children and explains processes Irene follows in a way that is easier for students to understand. The pictures themselves do little to add to the story itself but enhance the overall experience of the book.
The text is broken into smaller three to five sentence paragraphs and each page typically has two to five small paragraphs on it. Having the text broken up in such a way is conducive for a children’s literature book because it allows children to digest the harder information in smaller doses. The pictures are done in a sort of watercolor style and while the humans seem more cartoonish, Alex and any other animals look very realistic. This adds to the readers understanding and visualization that all the events discussed in the books actually occurred. The illustrator uses large pictures and bright colors to capture attention of the reader. The illustrator also uses humor in some instances to break up larger portions of text and keep the reader interested.
The book itself is a truthful retelling of Irene’s experiment and discusses Alex’s death and his death’s impact on the future the experiment. This book is a good tool to use and have in a classroom and is suitable for many ages. This book can function as a stepping stone into discussion of many different aspects of the scientific field. Some examples include experimentation hypothesis process, validity of an experiment, or the general topic of animal brain function. Overall, this book can serve a way to get children interested in scientific topics.
Author: Elinor J Pinczes
Illustrator: Bonnie Mackain
Publisher and Year: Houghton Mifflin Company 1993
Number of pages: 28
One Hundred Hungry Ants is a sort of retelling of the song “the ants go marching” children’s nursery rhyme. In the book, 100 ants are marching to a picnic and do not want to be late otherwise they will miss the food. The smallest ant brings up the idea that they should form shorter lines so they can all get there faster. Unfortunately, every time they rearrange it is a mess and the ants waste time. By the time they reach the picnic, all the food is gone and the 99 ants are upset with the smallest ant for making them late.
Overall, this book does not have much cultural context to it. It could be argued that the idea of a picnic is one of a certain set of values and may have specific cultural context, but because it is not from a human’s perspective but rather an insect’s perspective, it doesn’t fit into a window, mirror, or door category. While it could be a good tool to use when discussing multiplication, it is mainly an ideologically superficial book with not much deeper meaning. Because One Hundred Hungry Ants only has a superficial ideology, this makes it a helpful book to have in one’s classroom.
Not all the books used in a classroom need to have a deeper meaning, and the fact that this has little meaning besides being a fun story allows your students to learn from just the events that take place, rather than paying attention to cultural values that take place in the book. Because of the repetitive nature of the text it would be simple to use it in the context of multiplication. Every time the ants change positions is an example of different multiplications. Because the ants change position into different lines, these lines can be used to show multiplication and factors such as: 1 times 100 is 100, 2 times 50 is 100, 4 times 25 is 100 and 5 times 20 is 100. Overall, this book does not have much cultural significance of cultural depth but could be used as a helpful math resource in a classroom.
Author: Cindy Neuschwander/ Marilyn Burns
Illustrator: Liza Woodruff
Publishing Information: Marilyn Burns Education Associates, 1998
Number of Pages: 30
Genre: Picture book
Amanda Bean is a little girl who loves counting. Her teacher tries to convince her to learn multiplication but Amanda refuses until she has an amazing dream about counting a huge number of things. She realizes that multiplication is very helpful.
This book serves a purpose of giving children basic mathematical common sense about numbers and operations. It functions as a door for children to be interested in math by introducing Amanda Bean who “counts anything and everything” (P. 10).
I found the book problematic in the following two ways. Firstly, Amanda Bean seems to lose control of counting and I do not think it is a healthful habit. For example, “I am Amanda Bean and I count anything and everything” (P. 10) and “Now I must count the yarn, too!” (P. 21), such verses show a couple of times. It might mislead children to think that to love math is to count all the time. Psychologically, it is not proper to encourage children to “count anything and everything” (P. 10). Secondly, one of the ideologies the author conveys is that everything is quantifiable since Amanda Bean is able to “count anything and everything” (P. 10). However, in the real world, a lot of important things are not quantifiable such as love and friendship. It is also important for children to know that life is not all about counting.
Perceptually, the book use bright colors a lot which demonstrate Amanda Bean’s enthusiasm towards math. The images are not framed. Therefore, children can easily participate in the counting process. In her dream that she needs to count many things, the illustrations become chaotic and repetitive which means that the character is gradually losing control. Structurally, there is not any obvious separation between the text and images. Ideologically, this book promotes academic interest and conveys the idea that math is everywhere. Absorbing knowledge and being innovative can help people do better in academia. Besides, this book stresses individuality by mentioning the word “I” all the time. However, the book also points out that “I” is not necessarily correct all the time. “I” need help and accepting help could help “I” do things quicker and better.