Sunday, May 5, 2013

Two Picture Book Reviews: Ellington Was Not a Street and Because I'm Your Dad

I read two picture books this week that I absolutely adored.

Ellington Was Not a Street by Ntozake Shange, illustrated by Kadir Nelson

Based on Shange's poem "Mood Indigo", Ellington Was Not a Street is a gorgeous picture book full of moments from Shange's childhood when the influential African American minds such as Duke Ellington, Dizzy Gillespie, and W.E.B. DuBois, gathered at her house.

 There are many opportunities for students to make inferences and build background knowledge in this book. Scaffolding could be built with older students by sharing just the poem first, then showing them the poem with Kadir Nelson's stunning illustrations, and finally, reading the author's note at the end which lists and explains all of the men mentioned in the poem.

The meaning of "Mood Indigo" and even the picture book itself won't completely make sense for kids without background into who the men were that are mentioned in the poem.

Because I'm Your Dad by Ahmet Zappa, illustrated by Dan Santat

I'm already thinking of the two ways I can use this book as a mentor text:

1) Mother's Day is coming up next weekend. Have students write "Because you're my mom" pieces.

2) This is an example of an entire book using one of Jeff Anderson's infamous AAAWWUBBIS (As, Although, After, When, While, Unless, Before, Because, If, Since) introductory elements and therefore can be used to show students how they can correctly use because at the beginning of a sentence so that it's not a fragment.

But let's also look at how downright adorable this book is. After reading it, I have come to the conclusion that Ahmet Zappa is the dad every kid deserves to have. He clearly adores his daughter Halo and it shows through in this tearfully sentimental and also chuckle-inducing story. 

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