This blog is for teachers, parents, librarians and the general community. Purple Ninjas is about books and the literacy connections that can be made to reading, writing, mathematics, science, social studies, art and music. Reading and writing once were considered to be separate skills; however, today reading and writing are also processes that facilitate learning in content areas.
Summary: Alice Roosevelt was headstrong, famous for her unconventional behavior and the oldest child of President Theodore Roosevelt. Alice did things her way and earned the nickname “Princess Alice.”While her father was in the White House she kept a pet snake, rode a pig and roller skated down the White House hallway. After Alice married and left the White House, she continued to be an unconventional force in politics.A brief author’s notes provide further bibliographical information.
The first thing I noticed was the cover of the book where Alice is sitting on a desk and has a green snake wrapped around her arm. In the background you see her father scratching his head as if he doesn’t really know what to do with her. How many times have my own children seen me scratching my head in exasperation trying to figure out what I should do next? The illustrations are delightful, humorous and action filled throughout the book. I think children will love the fact that Alice doesn’t always conform to the rules just as they sometimes don’t conform to the rules either.
“Teddy knew how to handle being vice president of the United States. Then when President McKinley died suddenly in 1901, Teddy took charge and learned how to handle being president. But Teddy Roosevelt didn’t always know how to handle his oldest daughter, Alice.” (Unnumbered page)
“Alice we don’t eat asparagus with gloves on.” (Unnumbered page)
“Alice, that’s not how to ride a bicycle.” (Unnumbered page)
“But handling Alice and her pet snake was not so easy. The snake’s name was Emily Spinach: Emily after Alice’s very thin Aunt Emily and Spinach for her green color.” (Unnumbered page)
Connections to Writing: Expository— (1)While Alice lived in the White House she had many different kinds of pets: dogs, birds, cats, and a snake. Think of your favorite animal you might like to have as a pet and describe that animal. (2)
Connections to Writing: Narrative—(1) Pretend your mother or father became president of the United States and you have just moved to the White House. Write a letter to your best friend back home telling him all about the wonderful things you were able to do on the first day of your new home. (2)If you lived in the White House you probably would be able to order any of your favorite foods. Write a menu of the foods you would like to have served to you while you live in the White House.
Connections to Social Studies: (1) This book can serve as means to research the White House and how the building has changed from the original building.
Topics Covered: Children who lived in the White House, Teddy Roosevelt, Alice Roosevelt
Wilson Kimeli Naiyomah is a student in New York studying to be a doctor during the time of 9/11. He returns to his native Kenya shortly thereafter and tells and the Maasai children a story that has “burned a hole in his heart.”In Kenya the cow is a symbol of life and Niyomah asks the elders of his tribe to bless his cow to give to help the people of America.Altogether 14 cows were offered that day as a symbol of hope and healing for a grieving American nation.
I am always looking for new books to read and share with students. Many stories about 9/11 have emerged in the last few years, but I had not heard of the story of Wilson Kimeli Naiyomah. I think it was the title that drew me to the book first, then I recognized the author (love her books….The Yellow Star: The Legend of King Christian X of Denmark is my one of my favorites); however it was the illustrations by Thomas Gonzalez that kept me turning page after page. Look at the last illustration in the book and you will be surprised at what you see in the child’s eyes.
Read Together:grades K-12 Read without help: grades 3-12 Read With:The Little Chapel that Stood (A. B. Curtiss, 2003); FIREBOAT: The Heroic Adventures of the John J. Harvey (Maira Kalman, 2002).
Snippet of Text:
“Buildings so tall they can reach the sky? Fires so hot they can melt iron? Smoke and dust so thick they can block out the sun? The story ends. More than three thousand souls were lost. A great silence falls over the Maasai.” (Unnumbered pages)
“They treat their cows as kindly as they do their children. They sing to them. They give them names. They shelter the young ones in their homes. Without the herd, the tribe might starve. To the Maasai, the cow is life.” (Unnumbered pages)
Connections to Writing: Expository—(1) Write about the factors that contributed to the Maasai’s to nomadic lifestyle. (2) Compare and contrast your lifestyle and the lifestyle of the Maasai tribe. (3) Create an ABC book about Kenya and/or the Maasai tribe.
Connections to Writing: Narrative—(1) Create a found poem using words and phrases in 14 Cows for America (2) After reading, students will write a personal connection response in journal. Share in small groups then ask for students to share writing in a whole class setting. (3) Write a journal entry, from the point of view of Wilson Kimeli Naiyomah, as he remembers that awful day of September 11, 2001.
Connections to Social Studies:
This book can serve as a catalyst for a research project on Kenya and the Maasai tribe: culture, geographic location, shelter, diet, music and dance and clothing.
Topics Covered: Compassion, generosity, cattle, 9/11, Kenya, Maasai, nomadic people, South Africa, Naiyomah Wilson Kimeli, gifts
Summary: A detailed explanation of how food is digested as it travels along the digestive system in the human body.
Personal thoughts: Simon’s books never stay in my classroom library. Both boys and girls will enjoy this book, although, I’ve had many a boy not want to put it back on the shelf when the bell rang. (Many of Simon’s books have disappeared off my shelves over a number of years. If I didn’t own the book, I might be tempted to take it home and not return it either.) I’ve read several of Simon’s books and never cease to amaze me the quality of actual photographs included in his books.
Snippet of Text: “When you swallow food, it doesn’t just fall down into your stomach. In fact, you can eat standing on your head (don’t try it, though; you might choke) and still get food to your stomach. Food is pushed along by two sets of muscles that line the esophagus. The muscles tighten and relax, pushing food along the tube—something like squeezing a tube of toothpaste. This movement is called peristalsis.” (Unnumbered page)
“Point to your stomach. Surprise! It’s not behind your belly button, but higher up, tucked just beneath the left side of your rib cage.” (Unnumbered page)
Connections to Reading:Activating background knowledge, Making connections, Vocabulary, Author’s purpose
Connections to Writing: Expository—The human body is an amazing machine that is made up of several body systems. Write a composition about the role of the digestive system in your body.
Connections to Writing: Narrative— (1)Create a Top 10 list of why the digestive system is important to the human body; (2) You are a piece of bread and you love to travel to new places. Create a dialogue piece between two pieces of bread traveling along in the digestive system.
Connections to Art: Create an ABC book about the digestive system.
Summary: Ginny loves school, especially reading. Her eyes play tricks on her; in fact, everything she sees has a double. Ginny runs into chairs and tables and her classmates laugh at her clumsiness. It is only during a routine school vision check up that it was found she has double vision. Her persona changes after the doctor prescribes an eye patch—the pirate of kindergarten.
Personal thoughts: I pulled this book from the library shelf because of the title. I have a grandson who just finished kindergarten, and he loves all things about pirates and pirate treasure. Thinking this might be a book I could read aloud, I pulled the book from the library shelf. It was not what I had expected; it was so much more! I love how the author bases this book on her own childhood experience and the colors the illustrator uses invites me to keep looking at the illustrations.(By the way, he and his younger brothers love the book; we even had to fashion an eye patch for all three boys to they could be pirates.) I think this would be a book to use in the classroom to talk about diversity.
Read Together:grades K-3 Read without help: grades 2-4 Read With:The Patch, Justina Chen Headley (2007); My Travelin’ Eye, Jenny Sue Kostecki-Shaw (2008).
Snippet of Text:
“Ginny loved Reading Circle. Getting there was hard, though, with all those chairs. She knew only half of them were real, but which ones? She always ran into some. Someone always laughed.” (Unnumbered pages)
“Then came Vision Screening Day. Ginny was a little scared when they lined up to go into the gym.She did fine at first reading letters on the white chart. The nurse put a black spoon over one eye and asked her to name the letters. She could do that. With one eye, she only saw one. It was the same when he covered the other eye. But when the nurse said, Now use both, Ginny froze.” (Unnumbered pages)
Connections to Reading: Prediction, Author’s Purpose, Questioning, Visualizing,Connections to the Text
Connections to Writing: Expository—Your little brother or sister has just found out they need glasses. You can remember what it was like to wear glasses for the very first time. Write an expository composition to your brother or sister about the things you like about glasses and the things you don’t like about wearing glasses (pros and cons).
Connections to Writing: Narrative— (1)Write a whole class Acrostic Poem describing Ginny.
Connections to Health: Eating nutritious foods is an important part of a healthy diet to in order to keep your eyes healthy and strong. Research ten (10) fruits, nuts, vegetables and fish that will keep your eyes strong.
Summary: At a very young age, Art Tatum loved to play the piano. Musically inclined and born virtually blind in one eye with very limited sight in the other eye, he first plays at home, then in church, cafes, in bars, and eventually one the radio. After being heard on the radio, Art travels all over the country to play as a professional jazz musician becoming one of the world’s most acclaimed jazz pianists.
Personal thoughts: I absolutely love this book. While in the bookstore, and looking for another book, I saw this book on the shelf and picked it up to read. Written and illustrated by the author, you can feel the music of Art Tatum through words and illustrations.I immediately thought of other great musicians who are visually impaired:Ray Charles, Stevie Wonder, and Roy Orbison.
Snippet of Text: “My father never says much about my music, but I know he’s listening. Sometimes he even dances. Though he hardly moves, I can feel his big feet shake the floor. His rhythm matches mine, and I imagine I’m playing with a bass player tap-tapping his feet and slap-slapping his fingers. When I start Memphis Blues, my father pulls my mother from the kitchen, throws her apron on a chair and swings her across the floor until she laughs in spite of herself.” (Unnumbered page)
“Now when I play, my fingers can do everything I want them to. I can make them whistle, I can make them sing. I can play one song and then weave another song in and out and through it.” (Unnumbered page)
Connections to Reading:Activating Background Knowledge, Making Connections, Asking Questions, Visualizing, Author's Purpose
Connections to Writing: Expository—Everyone has that listens to music has a type that is their favorite. Think about the music you like to listen to and explain why you like listening to it. Be sure to include a few of your favorite artists and the songs you like to hear them sing.
Connections to Writing: Narrative—(1) Pretend you are Art Tatum and write several (2-3) entries in your journal/diary as you travel from performance to performance. (2) Write a To-Do list of things that need to get done before your next musical performance.
Connections to Art: Create a collageabout a famous musician Connections to Social Studies:Jazz music was an important part of the early 20th Century. Research jazz as it pertains to World War I and World War II, The Roaring Twenties and the Great Depression.
Summary: Perhaps one of the greatest Western mathematicians of all times, Leonardo Fibonacci was born in Pisa, Italy around 1170. Fibonacci was a whiz at math, in fact; he thought about numbers all of the time that he appeared to be daydreaming.While on a trip with his father to a city in northern Africa, Fibonacci noticed merchants using a new numeral system borrowed from the Hindi in India, rather than the traditional Roman numerals. As an adult, Leonardo wrote a book about the Hindi-Arabic numbers, but he is most remembered for his number pattern called the Fibonacci sequence, a special numbered pattern that appears in nature.
Snippet of Text: “You can call me Blockhead. Everyone else does. One day when I was just a boy, Maestro wrote out a math problem and gave us ten minutes to solve it. I solved it in two seconds.” (pg.5-6)
“My father took me to live in a city called Bugia in northern Africa. In my new home, I noticed the Arab merchants didn’t use Roman numerals. They used numerals they borrowed from the Hindu people of India. Back home, we wrote this: XVIII. Here, the merchants wrote this: 18. See how much easier it is? I wanted so much to learn about these numerals.” (pg. 21)
Connections to Reading:Activating background knowledge, Making connections, Set purposes for reading
Connections to Writing: Expository—Describe how you feel about solving math problems.
Connections to Writing: Narrative—(1) You have just found out Fibonacci has died. You want to honor him by writing an obituary (2) Write an Acrostic Poem
Connections to Art: (1)Draw a picture of all you know about mathematics. (2) Design a bumper sticker about Fibonacci sequence.
Connections to Science: The Fibonacci sequence emerges in nature and found in a variety of flowers and trees, generally associated with some kind of spiral structure. For example, the leaves on a stem of a flower or a branch of a tree many times grow in a corkscrew, spiraling around the branch as new leaves form further out. Look at plants and flowers that illustrate the Fibonacci sequence: pinecones, pineapples and sunflowers.
Topics Covered: Fibonacci sequence, mathematics, mathematicians, Roman and Hindi-Arabic numbers
Summary: Set during the Civil War andbased on a true incident in the author’s own family history,Pink and Say is a story about interracial friendship of two young boys, Sheldon Curtis (Say) and Pinkus Aylee (Pink) both who are members of the Union Army.Say is injured on the battlefield and Pink finds him, takes him home to his mother, Moe Moe Bay, where he and mother nurse him back to health. Before Pink is fully recovered, marauders come to Moe Moe’s house and both boys are captured and sent to Andersonville Prison.Pink was hanged and Say lives to tell the story that is passed on from generation to generation.
Personal thoughts: I still get goose-bumps after reading this story no matter how many times I read it. I love reading the book aloud to students as many of them have never heard Pink and Say. I am always elated when I find that Say returned home, married, had a family and lived a very long life. There is such loss and sorrow when I read that Pink died just a short time after entering Andersonville Prison. A powerful book to read aloud.
“I watched the sun edge toward the center of the sky above me. I was hurt real bad. For almost a year I’d been in this man’s war. The war between the states.Being just a lad I was wishin’ I was home.
My leg burned and was angry from the lead ball that was lodged in it just above my knee. I felt sleepy and everything would go black. Then I’d wake up again. I wanted to back to our farm in Ohio and sometimes when I’d fall into one them strange sleeps, I’d be there with my Ma, tastin’ baking powder biscuits fresh out of her wood stove.
Then I heard a voice. For a moment I thought I was fever-dreamin’, but then I felt strong hands touch my brow, splash water I my face.” (unnumbered page)
Connections to Reading: Activating background knowledge, Making connections, Anticipation Guide
Connections to Writing: Expository—Friendships are very important to middle school (elementary and high school) students. Write a definition of what your friends mean to you and be sure you include examples.
Connections to Writing: Narrative—(1). Imagine yourself as a battlefield reporter for the Union Army and interview Pink and Say (2) Write a simulated journal/diary entry, for at least two days, from the point of view of either Pink or Say. (3) Create a Found Poem using words in the text.
Connections to Art: Illustrate and create an ABC book about the Civil War
Connections to Social Studies: This book can serve as catalyst for a research project for older students who are studying the Civil War. Students may work by themselves, pairs, or in groups of four to research the causes of the Civil War, Abraham Lincoln, Andersonville Prison, leaders of the Union or Confederate Armies.
Topics Covered: Civil War, friendship, slavery, soldiers, kindness, heroes, hope,