Module 4 is about Newbery award winners from the 1920′s to today. I have chosen to review one from the 1990′s, Number the Stars, and one from the 1960′s, A Wrinkle in Time.
Number the Stars
Two young girls in Denmark who are best friends find themselves in a scary situation when Nazi Germany invades their hometown of Copenhagen. Ellen and her family are Jewish and Annemarie and her family are sympathizers to the Jewish people. Ellen’s family is secreted away and Ellen is disguised as Annemarie’s long-lost sister. The book has many tense moments for these girls, but has a satisfactory and uplifting ending.
This book was the right amount of history and story. I feel like a young American reader could get a grasp of the realities of that situation in Europe in WWII while still relating to the characters and enjoying the story. Lois Lowry is really good at writing for the elementary age level. Her book The Giver remains one of my favorite books from my childhood.
I found an article about an author that respects Number the Stars in the way that it teaches about history.
“Kokkola (2003) laments that fiction is frequently used in the classroom to do the job of history lessons. This practice is risky, because children do not know enough nor have enough genre sensitivity to see how art distorts history. Since literature on the Holocaust serves widely in a decidedly didactic role, her preference is to promote factually trustworthy children’s books such as Lois Lowry’s Number the Stars” (Sokoloff, 2003).
This is pretty high praise, though I feel it is deserved.
One use for this, which is probably the obvious use, is that this book can be used in a classroom as a supplement to a history lesson over the holocaust. I also think that this book can be used in public libraries to promote awareness on children in war-torn areas. Many young people today in places like Syria and Egypt are experiencing hard times and this would be a good book to get American kids to relate to their situation.
A Wrinkle in Time
A misfit girl, Meg, her brother Charles Wallace, and her friend Calvin meet up with the mysterious Mrs. Whatsit, Mrs. Who, and Mrs. Which who send them to the planet Camazots to recuse Meg’s father from the Dark Thing that has consumed that planet. This romping adventure ends with Charles Wallace getting captured and Meg defeating the Dark Thing with her power to love.
I can now see what all the fuss was about when my friends read this book in elementary school. I didn’t care for the high fantasy cover of the book back then, thinking it would be boring. Now I love fantasy and science fiction books and rather enjoyed the story. The science in it is advanced and yet explained in a way that even a child could understand.
I felt like I could identify with Meg and how she initaly feels at odds with her smart family. My parents are both computer people and I have always leaned more toward English and Art.
This book seems like the kind of thing that will stand the test of time. In a way it already has, simply because it was very popular at my elementary school in the mid 1990′s and it was written in the 1960′s.
“What’s the book trying to say? In her April 12, 2004 New Yorker profile of L’Engle, Cynthia Zarin said of the book, ‘Published in 1962, it is—depending on how you look at it—science fiction, a warm tale of family life, a response to the Cold War, a book about a search for a father, a feminist tract, a religious fable, a coming-of-age novel, a work of Satanism, or a prescient meditation on the future of the United States after the Kennedy assassination.’” (Bird, 2010).
I love this review, because it shows how far and wide this book has touched people.
This book would be a great book to include in an empowering book series. You could also include Tamora Peirce’s books and the Harry Potter books as a why to show young kids that they can come from anywhere and achieve anything. The series could also have a field day aspect where kids get to do physical activity in addition to mental activity.
Bird, E. (2010, April 9). Top 100 Children’s Novels (#2). School Library Journal Online. Retrieved from http://blog.schoollibraryjournal.com/afuse8production/2010/04/09/top-100-childrens-novels-2/.
Kokkola, L. (2003). Representing the Holocaust in Children’s Literature. New York: Routledge.
L’Engle, M. (1962). A Wrinkle in Time. New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux.
Lowry, L. (1989). Number the Stars. New York: Laurel Leaf.
Sokoloff, N. B. (2003). Representing the Holocaust in Children’s Literature. The Lion and the Unicorn, 30 (1), 139 – 143. Retrieved from http://www.library.unt.edu/find-articles.