Saturday, January 19, 2013

Turtle in Paradise by Jennifer L. Holm Resources

Maybe it's just me, but don't some books just push you away? No, wait, that's not right. Let me rephrase that. Sometimes there are books that are so engaging that they send readers off to other resources to learn more about their subject matter. Better?

Turtle in Paradise by Jennifer L. Holm was one of those books for me. Turtle's story sent me off to learn more about the Florida Keys, 1930's comic strips, paper dolls, an old guy named Papa, places like Pepe's and Papa Joe's, mail order houses, Shirley Temple, and historic hurricanes. My curiosity was was also fueled by several trips over the years to the Keys and a fascination with their history.

So I did some digging, learned a ton of information, took a couple pictures, and decided to share those resources with my students during our next read aloud. Posting various book resources to a school blog for students began with The Watsons Go To Birmingham - 1963, and continued with The Strange Case of Origami Yoda, Alvin Ho: Allergic to Girls, School and Other Scary Things, and When You Reach Me, but Turtle in Paradise is the first time I did a whole book. (Wonder was the second time.)

Here a link to my original review of Turtle in Paradise, and here is a chapter by chapter guide to our read aloud resources. I hope you find them helpful.

Chapter 1-2
Chapter 3
Chapter 4
Chapter 5
Chapter 6
Chapter 7
Chapter 8
Chapter 9
Chapter 10
Chapter 11
Chapter 12
Chapter 13
Chapter 14 
Chapter 15
Chapter 16
Chapter 17
Chapter 18

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Wonder by R. J. Palacio Journal Entry

Dear Mr. Wilhorn,

I’m reading Wonder by R. J. Palacio and I’m telling some character traits for Jack. I thought I had a pretty good idea about Jack, but my opinion might be changing.

Jack is respectful and empathetic. When I first met Jack it was when he gave Auggie a tour of the school. Charlotte mostly jabbered on and on and Julian was sort of a jerk. But Jack kind of stuck up for Auggie. He told Julian to shut up. Jack also smiled at Auggie and gave him some helpful advice, telling him that he would need to talk. It's like he understands what Auggie is going through as the new kid in school.

Jack was a friend to Auggie. Once school started, Jack sat with Auggie during class. They walked between classes together. When the eighth grader ran into Auggie and was like, “Whoa!!!” they thought that was hilarious. Jack said it looked like that dude peed his pants. They shared jokes together in class. One time they were laughing about Auggie getting plastic surgery, when Auggie said, "This IS after plastic surgery!" and they had to get separated by their teacher. Jack laughed with Auggie and supported him and they could joke together about serious things.

[Third character trait includes partial spoilers. Highlight to read.]

Now I think Jack is two-faced. Everything I said about Jack was true, but now it seems like it has all been an act. He’s really different from what he’s shown Auggie. On Halloween Auggie came into the class in a costume different from what he said he was going to wear. No one knew who he was. Then he sat at different desk. He overheard Julian and Jack talking. Julian encouraged Jack to just ditch Auggie. Jack said that teachers put him in the seating chart by Auggie, and then he said that if he looked like Auggie he’d kill himself. Two-faced jerk. (Sorry, but that's how I feel.)

Brian Fifth Grader

That journal entry was written in class with the fifth graders. A few days later I gave them this teacher response. We didn't write a follow up, but it did lead to a great discussion.

Dear Brian,

Now that you have read Jack’s part, I’m curious what you think about him. You gave two positive character traits and a negative one. Which are right? Which are wrong? Have you learned anything else about Jack to show you the correct traits?

Mr. W.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Navigating Early by Clare Vanderpool

The latest novel from Clare Vanderpool, Navigating Early, arrives in stores today. Had I known about her Newbery-winning debut novel, Moon Over Manifest, before its publication, I’d have recommended you get your hands on it as soon as it was available. This time, thankfully, I have that opportunity.

At the end of World War II, Jack Baker, Kansas born and raised, son of Colonel John Baker, Sr., is suddenly dropped at a boarding school in Maine after his mother’s death. Used to the steady flatness of Kansas, the roiling ocean makes Jack sick the first time he lays eyes on it.

It’s the perfect analogy of Jack’s new life. What once was steady and firm is now constantly moving and unstable. Everything is different. Well, except for the fact that his father is still absent due to his military obligations.

At Morton Hill Academy, Jack meets Early Auden, a unique student who shows up to class sporadically, who lives in a custodian’s workroom rather than the dorm, and sees a story in the infinite, non-repeating decimals of pi. Like Jack, Early has also lost a parent. His father.

And both boys are lost, or in danger of getting lost, as they seek solid reassurances to hold onto in life. Early holds to the belief, irrationally, it seems, that his brother made it home safely from the war and is only lost himself, despite what the military has informed the family. Early looks for comfort in Pi’s story revealed to him in the numbers of 3.141592653589793238...  Jack looks to Early for guidance, first as his coxswain when rowing, and then as they journey together. As Early seeks stability in his quest, Jack seeks stability with Early.

Navigating Early has many layers. Readers get Jack’s and Early’s stories, obviously. Then there’s Pi’s story, as told by Early, about how Pi journeyed away from home. When Jack is drawn along on Early’s own journey, parallels between both begin to appear. There are great bears, colorful characters both dastardly and kind, both lost and found, and hoped-for yet elusive answers to difficult questions.

The best way to discover Jack and Early’s story is journey with them. Leave the comfort of your couch and journey the Appalachian Trail with them searching for a great bear, difficult answers, and stability. At the very least, you’ll find a great story.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

The Year of Miss Agnes by Kirkpatrick Hill Journal Entry 3

Dear Mr. W,

In the chapter I just read from The Year of Miss Agnes, there is an important theme that Fred tells the reader. When Bokko brings Fred’s lunch to school, Miss Agnes says that she must start coming to school too. Fred says, “it’s better to kick some instead of just sinking.” She said this after they learned about sign language for deaf people and reading for blind people. That’s called Braille, but she didn’t say that. Anyway, the point was that when you are in a difficult situation - in the story it’s being deaf, but they mention being blind too - you can either give up (sink) or kick some (try to stay above water). I can use this lesson when I’m frustrated, like with school work or with other people. It’s easy to just give up, but it takes work and effort to try. I want to try.

The genre of the book is historical fiction. First of all, it takes place in Alaska in 1948. The students are all surprised that the teacher is wearing pants. All the women wear dresses and skirts, not pants. They were talking about a war that just ended, and that was World War II. The older folks, like the grandparents, talked about living with only what you could find, hunt, or make, but now stores are opening and they can order things from catalogs. Their school only has one classroom with all grades. They don’t have Smart Boards or electronics, just old books and fat crayons. One crayon was even called “flesh” which made no sense to them because nobody they knew had skin that color. They don’t make that color anymore.

Brian Fourth Grader