Thursday, January 30, 2014

Where the Wild Things Are....

     One of my favorite memories as a mother was sharing my love of reading with my children. I was buying children's books even before they were born. Once they became old enough (at least I thought they were old enough--they were child genius!) we would head to story time at the local library, Barnes & Noble, or Zainy Brainy. Afterwards we would pick beautiful books to take home and read. One of my son's favorites was Maurice Sendak's Where the Wild Things Are. I am not sure how many times we read it during those special preschool years, but I know it got us through the potty training months. It was then that I started to notice that boys wanted to read different books than girls. Even during the preschool years it was always easy for my  daughter to find books that she couldn't wait to read, however it was a different story with my son. I had to use my detective skills to find books that interested him. First, the illustrations had to be eye catching with bold, bright pictures pictures or something unique that you would not expect to see. Miss Spider books were a huge favorite. The more inappropriate the title the higher his interest level would be. Blood, boogers, and potty talk were favorite subjects--he read his Captain Underpants books till the pages actually fell out. Finally the stories had to be mostly about the character's actions and very little about their emotions--Encyclopedia Brown with his detective cases was a favorite series. Where The Wild Things Are was my introduction to the interest and needs of boys readers. It fit all of my son's criteria with a monster on the cover, the word "Wild" in the title, and a story of a bad, little boy that gets the chance to run away. It was perfect!

     The illustrations in Where The Wild Things Are are the first thing that I noticed about the book. They have a child like quality to them. The colors are soft and not jarring however you quickly notice a monster or wild thing sitting under the trees looking sad and lonely. As you move through the book you see pictures of a little boy, Max, dressed in his monster costume doing what monster do--acting like a wild thing. When the "little wild thing" is sent to his room a bed and a full moon dominate the room suggesting that magic might be on it's way. Then page by page Max's room turns into a jungle and he begins a fantasy voyage. The illustrations show rough seas and scary monsters yet they remain soft and almost dream like in quality. Max's expressions show that he is in charge of the whole situation and not a bit scared of his new surrounding. Several pages allow only the pictures tell the story of "the wild rumpus". Finally you see Max, King of the Wild Things, looking a little sad and lonely. He says his goodbye and then has clear skies and smooth water to sail safely home.The last picture shows Max looking more like a little boy than a wild thing smiling about his warm supper still waiting for him. The large bed and the full moon still hint at the magical trip that King of the Wild Things had taken. Maurice Sendak uses the pictures in the story to help the reader infer the whole story.       

     While the illustrations allow your imagination to run free, the book uses words to carry the story along. You see the pictures of Max in his wolf suit causing trouble till "his mother called him "WILD THING!"" and he dared to say "I"LL EAT YOU UP!" which earned him a trip to bed with no supper. The limited number of words combined with the pictures allow you to see that Max isn't sorry for his behavior and his defiant attitude helps him to "escape" to a fantasy world. The flow of the words in the story helps create rhythm in his adventure. Max's surely attitude captivates the Wild Things so they "made him king of all wild things." Even though he enjoys the power of the "wild rumpus", he soon realizes "Max the king of all wild things was lonely and wanted to be where someone loved him best of all."  The smell of "good things to eat" is enough for him to give "up being king of where the wild things are" and pull him back home. Once home Max is back to being a sweet little boy.

     As a parent you realize that Max's horrible behavior is probably because he is overly tired and really needs a nap. When you see the large bed in his room you can infer that after he storms around his room for a while he will eventually drift off to sleep. The soft illustrations and soothing words help create the dream like feeling of the land of the Wild Things and the Wild Rumpus that take place in the story. The most heart warming part of the story is that despite Max's horrible behavior, he knows that his mother loves him and she'll forgive him for his mischief.

Where the Wild Things Are

Sendak, Maurice. Where Th Wild Things Are. 2nd edition. First Harper Trophy, 1963. Print.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

The Man Who Walked Between the Towers

     The first time I heard of The Man Who Walked Between the Towers was this year when a colleague suggested it while we were doing our usually last minute search for a way to remember 9/11. I briefly glimpsed the cover and the art work immediately caught my eye. The view looking down from the tight rope gives you the idea of how tall the Towers where and the obstacles (who would have thought of seagulls!) the tightrope walker faced. It draws you into the story and makes you want find out what happens. I like how it talks about the young man seeing the building rise into the sky and then compares them to the iconic steeples of Norte Dame Cathedral.  It predicts the future fame of the Twin Towers. The art work they goes on to show how the Philippe, the tightrope walker and his friend sneak into the Towers, it makes it look whimsical. Next the dark night pictures from the roof looking down onto a sparkling city add excitement to the story. As the dawn breaks the city comes alive and you can see Philippe's sense of freedom walking on the wire. The faces of the people show their amazement and the police officer's frustration with the tightrope walkers actions. Finally he finishes his performance and is given an appropriate punishment for breaking a rule--performing for children in the park! The author and illustrator worked together to create words and pictures that work together to help the reader visualize the story. It also gives the reader the understanding that the Towers where an important landmark in the city before their tragic ending.

     To me this story is an excellent way to open a conservation about 9/11, especially with younger children. It represents a time when an adventure seeking young man could sneak his way to the top of the cities tallest buildings and the world could stop and watch. You could use it to focus discussion on how our world has changed from then to now. Then the Towers where the center of city life, employing thousands of people. Now they represent one of our country's greatest tragedies. Younger students could that the Towers where more than just an event and older students could discuss the topic of personal liberty and how has it changed since 9/11. I see the book not just as a picture book, but as an excellent teaching tool.    

The first step.....

     As with any new adventure or challenge the first step is always the hardest. So here I go starting my very first blog! I decided to take Diverse Children's Literature for two reasons. The first beginning the positive experiences that I have had with all of young William & Mary teachers that I have had the pleasure of working with in the last 3 years. Their excitement and knowledge of reading has "Wowed!" me. I feel that I have learned as much from them as I hoped they learned from me as the "experienced teacher". The second reason is I believe that teacher should never stop learning and growing. The more that I can bring to my classroom, the better readers my students will be over time. I want reading to be a joy for them and not a requirement.

     When my colleague & I talked about and signed up for this class I was thrilled with the thought of a new adventure, maybe even the start of a new career. However as the first day of class approached nervousness began to creep into my mind. Would I be able to keep up? How would I juggle my classroom and classwork? What if everyone else knew all the answers? You know all the normal perfectionist fears. The wonderful thing was that once I looked at the reading list all those fears were washed away. When I saw Blueberries for Sal, The Story of Ferdinand, Caps for Sale, and Bedtime for Frances I was taken back to the books of my childhood. My grandmother was a  teacher and when she retired my brother and I inherited her whole class library. We spent hours reading to ourselves and each other. The next titles I noticed where the ones that I had read to my own children. Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? Where the Wild Things Are, Good Night Gorilla, and many more had filled our milk crate on our weekly trips to the library and story time. When I reached the list of novels I recognized the titles of books that not only had my own children read, but also books that I had introduced my students to in literacy circles and classroom read aloud. A simple list has reminded my of all the pleasure and joy that reading a good book can bring. Now I can't wait to go back and reread the books of past and expand my horizons with new literature so that I can install that love of reading to my students. I got this!