Thursday, September 15, 2016

Book Review: Blue Eyed Doll

Book Review by Barb Szyszkiewicz

 Blue-Eyed Doll by Deanna K. Klingel

Did you think that the custom of classroom pen-pal letter exchanges and sending “Flat Stanley” on trips around the world made its educational debut in the 21st century? Deanna Klingel’s novel Blue-Eyed Doll tells the story of a very unique cultural exchange that took place 90 years ago!

This fascinating historical novel transports the reader to 1920s California, where students collected dolls to exchange for dolls from students in Japan, and follows the collectible dolls into World War II and its aftermath. Don’t miss Ruth Mary, the gutsy main character–she’s terrific.

The novel begins with feisty Ruth Mary, an eight-year-old, bargaining with her father for the chance to participate in the classroom doll exchange. Her siblings find clever ways to help Ruth Mary succeed in her mission, and many surprises result after the choice of a unique doll wearing eyeglasses.

While I was well aware of the prejudice, imprisonment and other hardships faced by Japanese-Americans during World War II, I had no idea that Asian-Americans in the Western US experienced similar bigotry two decades before the war began. This is an aspect of American history of which I knew virtually nothing. Deanna Klingel, in this novel, explores the general mistrust of all things Japanese that was a hallmark of life in the western states at that time, and one missionary’s attempt to foster friendship and peace.

Readers will be intrigued to learn how prevalent the religious influence was in the public schools and public life of our nation in the 1920s. The author leads the reader on a journey into a time period not so distant from our own, but a very different one.

Blue-Eyed Doll is appropriate for middle-school students and up, and would be a fine classroom read-aloud for students in third grade and up. Don’t dismiss it as “just for kids,” though! Grown-up readers will enjoy it as well; in fact, the author recently read the entire novel to the residents of a nursing home.

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Pictures of Me by Marilee Haynes

ISBN#: 978-0819860194
Publisher: Pauline Books and Media

Blurb:  Eleven-year-old Annie must complete a self portrait for the end-of-year project-and present it to the class. Annie's fear of public speaking isn't her only problem. Two of the girls in class seem to enjoy making life miserable for everyone; Taylor, her best friend, is having trouble at home; and Lacey, the new girl, can be nice but Annie can't quite figure her out. With forty-eight days until the end of the school year and the looming project, Annie and friends have to grow and be willing to face who they are-and who they want to be.

Pictures of me is a perfect display of what middle can be like for some children. I think anyone who has ever dealt with a bully or a difficult person could relate to Annie. In the book, Annie and her friends, while coming up with the perfect self portrait for their "Fifth Farewell," learn about themselves and each other in the process. 

I loved how three dimensional the characters were in this book. Each of Annie's friends had a real story to them. They weren't just the supportive friends. They were children struggling with real life issues.  I loved how three dimensional the characters were about their problems and showed the struggles they had in making their decisions.

An excellent addition to the book is the discussion questions at the end. They are great conversation starters about bullying, friendship and learning about ourselves. These questions could be a great culminating activity in the classroom. 

I thoroughly enjoyed Pictures of Me and recommend it without reservation.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Donna Gentile Nifty Thrifty Bible Crafts

Nifty Thrifty Bible Crafts
Donna Gentile
ISBN: 0-9888356-0-6
Cover Art: Diane Bay
Religion/Christian Ministry/Children

Purchase Link: Amazon 

Short Book Blurb:

Parents! Need to jumpstart your children’s creative juices? Teachers! Do your students love making crafts? Crafts that are fun yet easy on your budget? Nifty Thrifty Bible Crafts: Animals of the Old Testament includes 32 reproducible craft patterns such asGive God Your Best Photo Frame or Rooaar! What a Cool Gift Bag! Each craft highlights low-cost materials, E-Z Step-by-Step Instructions and Teachables (a new Christ-character for each craft). Children will also fall in love with the 16 attention-grabbing, animal-narrated Bible stories. As they listen closely for clues to guess the animal narrating the Bible story, they learn a new Christ-character quality such as being kind, respectful or helpful.  Great resource for home, Sunday school, VBS, Homeschool or any time!  (ages 5-10).

This is a book of Bible-based crafts for children. Each craft features:
Supplies  list: -these are usually common household, recyclable or school supplies
Preps -  quick and simple preparations for the craft
E-Z Step:  clear and easy directions
Teachables: This special section often has a bible verse prompt to help children practice “Godly character qualities. ”

Donna Gentile put together a wonderful crafting resource for parents and teachers to have when they want to use a craft to enforce Christian values such as obedience, forgiveness and love. There are 32 reproducible crafts in the book. Every craft is tied to a Bible verse in the Teachables section of the page. 

In addition, there are 16 lovely Bible stories told throughout the book. Each Bible story is followed by two crafts that each focus on a different Christian value.  The crafts use common, inexpensive household items to reinforce the Bible stories and verses in the book and make them even more memorable. These crafts are a great stand alone lesson or culminating activity surrounding the used Bible verses. 

I do recommend reading through everything thoroughly if you are using it in a Catholic school, as scripture is take from the NIV version of the Bible and some lessons may need to be reviewed before presenting them in that environment. However, over all these are wonderful and engaging activities to do with the children.   The book does a magnificent job in inviting the children to contemplate God's Word.