"I have always imagined that Paradise will be some kind of library." ~ Jorge Luis Borges

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

ReedALOUD: Her Right Foot

I got emotional the first time I read Her Right Foot with students, and as a testament to the powerful message in this book, I felt equally as emotional when I shared it with the eighth and final class this week. This book is a call to action and my students and I are inspired to heed that call. 

Dave Eggers conversational approach quickly engaged my students and kept them tuned in until the end.  Facts about the Statue of Liberty are sprinkled with humor that elicited the appropriate chuckles along the way. Her Right Foot is a reminder of our history as a nation and a call to ensure that this monument to liberty is able to fulfill her role as welcomer to those who come to our shores. We are a nation of immigrants and the multicultural landscape represented in the art reminds us of this history. The art created by Shawn Harris is evocative and powerful, yet also matches Eggers' humorous moments. The mixed media collage brings additional depth to moments both serious and light.  

These collage figures feel somehow more alive and active.

Here you can see how effective Eggers' conversational approach engages the reader. I enjoyed playing up the fibbing aspect.

I love that this Parisian is not impressed or affected by that looming statue.

A perfect marriage of narrative and art. The students loved the body language of these French workers and the absurdity of the task.

My students appreciated the new science knowledge here. Harris' art is so interesting here. The collage, color, and way the art spills beyond the art makes it all feels more three dimensional and real.

I love this spread. Enough said.

And here, Eggers received the laugh he hoped for and deserved. They completely connected with his humor. These two pages, with their absence of art draw the reader into a space that feels intimate, almost like we are leaning in to hear better.

This moment of zeroing in on her right foot begins the shift in the narrative, from conversationally informative to thoughtful ponderance.

Once more. Love this. Enough said.

Eggers invites readers to wonder why she is on the move, and after exploring theories and facts, offers this reminder.

You're emotional too, right? 

This book is a call to action to help others. I used it as a way to get students talking about one of our school rules: taking care of others. I reminded the students that we are a community of learners, but more than that we are a community of diverse learners and a diverse community of learners. I asked them, "What action will you each take to ensure that our community is a welcoming, safe, and comfortable space for all learners? What will it look like and sound like when you are taking care of others?"

Here are some of their responses.

On having dinners in interesting spaces
A cool connection that I made the first time that I read the book, and which I shared with my students, is this idea of having dinners in sculptures. In 1853 or 1854, about thirty years before Bartholdi held his dinner in the Statue of Liberty while she was being constructed, Benjamin Waterhouse Hawkins held a dinner in his partially constructed dinosaur. You can read more about that meal in The Dinosaurs of Waterhouse Hawkins.

ReedALOUD: Smoot, a rebellious shadow

This first few weeks in my school library are spent creating community. We talk about how to make our library a welcoming, safe, and comfortable space for all learners. Part of this conversation revolves around our school rules: Take Care of Yourself - Take Care of Others - Take Care of Our Environment. Getting students to dig deep within themselves to think about these things is always easier with just the right book.

Smoot A Rebellious Shadow, written by Michelle Cuevas and illustrated by Sydney Smith allowed the students to consider both themselves and others as learners in our library. In Smoot, we are introduced to a shadow that yearns to live a life where jumping and skipping and living in technicolor are possible. This shadow dreams to live to a life more daring than the one his boy feels comfortable living. I am always pleased when an author allows young readers to step outside themselves and consider a different perspective, but even more so when students are given a new perspective on a familiar thing, like How does your shadow feel about the life you live?
Michelle Cueves' writing is spare and lyrical. This shouldn't be misconstrued for a lack of depth. As in her other books, Cuevas makes the reader care deeply for her characters. We want Smoot to succeed. We want his boy to be less afraid of life. The combination of lightness and depth is matched by Smith's line, which flows from broad brush strokes to detailed drawings. 
Smith's art places the focus on Smoot and fills his world with familiar scenes. For those of us who like to play with our shadows this book captures that energy, there's a looseness to the art, which makes it playful. 
Onto our story! One fateful day, Smoot inexplicably separates from his boy and in this defining moment Smoot chooses to follow his hopes and dreams and courageously sets off to explore their neighborhood.
You'll notice that Smoot's boy is peaking from behind the bench and was by the gate in the image above. Smith keeps the boy in view throughout the story, reminding us of the importance of their partnership.

Other shadows are inspired by Smoot's courage and begin to follow their dreams. 

This is one of my favorite pages. I am a rock hound, so this character appeals to me. I love this old city and how the castle rises from it. It looks like these buildings want to get in on the fun too.

Understanding that there can be consequences for these actions, Smoot goes back to make things right and helps the shadows and their partners find a way to find the courage to live their hopes and dreams. I think readers will be thinking about building rocks into castles and least this reader will.

Of course, one last person needs to find that courage.

I asked the students to think about their own hopes and dreams. I asked them to think about what they needed to do to take care of themselves to make it come a reality. I asked them to think about how they could take care of others so they, too, could achieve their hopes and dreams. I asked a lot of questions...

They did some big thinking. 

They shared their thinking.

I explained that they would share their thinking in a Smoot-like fashion. On the black (or shadow) paper the students wrote how they would take care of themselves and on the white (or person) paper, they shared how they would take care of others. On the table with the black paper I put out white oil pastels and on the table with the white papers, I placed black sharpies.

This window will be a great visual reminder of their thinking.

More about the book from the publisher
"A brave shadow finds a more colorful life in this joyous picture book by the acclaimed author of The Uncorker of Ocean Bottles and illustrator of Sidewalk Flowers.

Smoot the shadow has been living a yawn-filled life for years. His boy never laughs and never leaps, so Smoot never does either . . . until the day he pops free, and decides to hit the road in search of the life he dreams about. And as he enjoys his first colorful day—singing, dancing, and playing—other shadows watch him, and they become brave, too. The frog’s shadow takes the shape of a prince, the dragonfly’s shadow that of a dragon. Even the rock’s shadow gets in on the excitement. But what will become of the timid beings their shadows have left behind? Will they finally be inspired to find their own daring?"

**This review is based upon an advanced copy of the book that I received from the publisher.