Posts filed under ‘Jewish Authors’

84. Chicken Sunday by Patricia Polacco

chicken sundayRetell: Easter is around the corner and Miss Eula wants a new hat to wear to church.  Her grandchildren and her young neighbor decide to ask Mr. Kodinski if they could work at his hat shop to earn extra money.  On the way to his shop, he mistakes the children for vandals.  They come up with an interesting way to earn back his trust as well as earn enough money for a new hat.

Topics: reputation, hats, chutzpah, Easter, vandalism, gifts, Holocaust survivors

Units of Study: Personal Narrative, Memoir, Social Issues, Talking and Writing About Texts

Tribes: mutual respect, personal best

Habits of Mind: thinking flexibly, creating-imagining-innovating, persisting

Reading Skills: questioning, inference

Writing Skills: zooming in on small moments, repeating powerful lines

My Thoughts: If you follow this blog daily, you’re sick of seeing entries about Patricia Polacco.  I can’t help it.  I love her work.  Since I’m currently in the Personal Narrative mindset, her work naturally comes to mind.  The illustrations in this book can be powerful teaching tools.  Throughout Chicken Sunday, real photographs appear in the background.  This shows that Polacco thinks about significant people in her life and then writes stories about them. I love how Mr. Kodinski’s story can be inferred through the illustrations.  Previously, Miss Eula alluded to the fact that he wanted a peaceful life after suffering so much.  The text never states specifically why he had a difficult life.  The illustrations give you the information.  Tattooed on Mr. Kodinski’s arm are six blue numbers, revealing that he survived the concentration camps.  This book shows students how readers can reread a text and peal a different layer of meaning with each reading.

September 18, 2009 at 11:15 pm Leave a comment

71. The Bee Tree by Patricia Polacco

the bee treeRetell: When Mary Ellen becomes bored of reading her grampa takes her on a hunt for a bee tree.  People from the community join them as they run through the Michigan countryside chasing bees.  By the end of the bee tree chase Mary Ellen learns that there are many similarities between chasing knowledge through the pages of a book and chasing bees.

Topics: reading, outdoors, adventure, grandparents, community, knowledge

Units of Study: Realistic Fiction, Personal Narrative, Authoring an Independent Reading Life

Tribes: personal best

Habits of Mind: responding with wonderment and awe

Reading Skills: monitoring for sense, interpretation

My Thoughts: I like reading this book at the beginning of the year when we author our own independent reading lives.  I think this year I want to keep referring back to the book when we have particularly juicy conversations.  When students ask interesting, provocative questions I could refer to them as ‘honey questions’.  I need to make a banner with Grampa’s words:  “[Adventure, knowledge and wisdom] do not come easily.  You have to pursue them.  Just like we ran after the bees to find their tree, so you must also chase these things through the pages of a book!”

September 5, 2009 at 9:07 pm Leave a comment

59. My Ol’ Man by Patricia Polacco

my ol' manRetell: When she was growing up, Patricia Polacco spent the summers with her father and her grandmother.  In this charming book, Polacco tells the story of the time they found a magical rock that helped them cope with hard times.

Topics: divorce, summer, dads, grandmothers, storytelling, layoffs, magic

Units of Study: Personal Narrative, Memoir

Tribes: attentive listening

Habits of Mind: responding with wonderment and awe

Reading Skills: prediction, monitoring for sense

Writing Skills: using commas in lists, crafting meaningful introductions

My Thoughts: Patricia Polacco is one of my favorite authors and I often read several of her books during the Personal Narrative unit.  Most of her books are inspired by moments, people, and places in her life.  In the beginning of My Ol’ Man, there are authentic photographs from Polacco’s childhood.  This book would be great to read as you are teaching how writers use artifacts to generate notebook entries.  When writing about people, my students often make lists of what they like about a person.  This book will be great to use as a mentor text to help students move from list writing (“My dad likes tacos.  My dad takes me places.) to narrative writing (“One time my dad brought out this book of stamps.  I’ll never forget the time when my dad took me for a ride in his 1947 GMC truck.”)

August 24, 2009 at 2:15 pm 2 comments

49. Fireflies in the Dark: The Story of Friedl Dicker-Brandeis and the Children of Terezin by Susan Goldman Rubin

fireflies in the darkRetell: Learn about the amazing life of Friedl Dicker-Brandeis, who taught art to children in the Terezin Camp during the Holocaust.  The book includes several photos, drawings, paintings and writings from her students, many of whom did not survive.

Topics: art, holocaust, ghetto, Terezin, Nazis, school, poetry, drama, resiliency

Units of Study: Personal Narrative, Nonfiction, Content Area Reading and Writing, Social Issues

Tribes: personal best, mutual respect

Habits of Mind: persisting, thinking flexibly, creating-imagining-innovating, thinking interdependently, remaining open to continuous learning

Reading Skills: envisionment, determining importance, interpretation, inference

Writing Skills: launching writers notebook, zooming in on small moments

My Thoughts: One can learn many lessons from this book.  I am impressed by Dicker-Brandeis’ devotion to learning.  When she discovered that she would be sent to Terezin she chose not to bring items for herself, but art supplies for the children she knew would be in the camp.  Through art her students were able to both escape and record the horrors around them.  Though I don’t plan on teaching a unit about the Holocaust this year, I may choose to read a portion of this book when emphasizing how writers notebooks can be powerful places to record our memories, our thoughts and our struggles.  It is important for our students to realize that their experiences, just like those recorded at Terezin, are important and should be recorded.

August 14, 2009 at 9:20 am Leave a comment


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