Jun 19, 2010

Multicultural - International Literature Book Reviews:

Stolz, Joelle. 2004. The Shadows of Ghadames. Delacorte Books for Young Readers. ISBN 0385731043

At the end of 19th century, an eleven-year-old Libyan girl named Malika is readying herself for adulthood with the other women who are confined to the rooftops. An unexpected house guest begins to challenge Malika’s traditional values that were instilled by her very traditional parents.

Critical Analysis:
Malika is like any other young girl growing up. She has an annoying brother whom she argues with daily, she has an overprotective mother who keeps secrets from her, and she has a father who is the head of the household. Malika is beginning to learn that her role as a daughter and young lady will be changing. She is almost of marrying age, and soon she will be confined to the rooftops with the other women. The rooftops are where the women trade their goods and trade gossip. The men are confined to the streets for their business and for only a few hours a day do the women and men co-mingle. When her father is away on a business trip, Malika’s mother and her father’s other wife find an injured man in a nearby alley. The women decide to bring the man back to health in their home even though they are forbidden to have guests while their husband is away. The guest, Abdelkarim, is confined to the pantry as daily lives on the rooftops continue. After a few weeks, Abdelkarim heals and asks if he can teach young Malika to read and write in Arabic. This practice is usually not permitted because Malika is a young girl. Malika’s mother agrees. After a few days pass, it is decided the man must flee before Malika’s father returns from his business trip. The only escape for Abdelkarim is to dress in a woman’s veil and flee during a festival. Although Abdelkarim protests for a moment, he realizes it is the only way to escape unnoticed.

Life in 19th century Libya was uncomplicated. The women live on the rooftops taking care of the children, hosting other guests, and going about their daily business. The men are down below trading and bartering goods. Malika’s household is very traditional, and only when the injured man arrives, are those traditions being tested. Malika’s mother believes helping an injured person is above the strict laws of her household. Over time, Malika begins to wonder about other parts of the world and the role women play. Do women move to the side in alleys when a man approaches? Do women remove and hide all of their jewelry when the man is away on a trip? Do families eat only what is necessary and never indulging when the man is absent from the home? Malika asks herself questions that other girls around the world ask. The true question is: how would my life be different if I lived somewhere else?

The Shadow of Ghadamas gives insight into a world full of customs and a traditional Muslim household. Although I enjoyed the story overall, there were a few issues. When Malika’s father returns from his trip, he gives Malika a telescope to look at the stars. For me, this symbolizes Malika’s curiosity to other parts of the world. This is a strange gift from a man that was described as a very unwavering man. I think it was too coincidental that as the women care for a man who should not be in the house, the father is realizing that times are changing, and possibly women’s roles. It seems too nicely packaged for me. Also, the reader is led to believe that Malika could possibly have a crush on the man Abdelkarim. We do not learn of Abdelkarim’s age and have no idea if these thoughts are appropriate. After all, Malika is eleven and Abdelkarim was described as a fully bearded man. Finally, as soon as Malika begins to take Arabic lessons from Abdelkarim, the story suddenly ends. For me, the conclusion of the story was rushed and more time should have been spent with Malika and Abdelkarim. Although there are a few issues, this book offers an insightful look into a part of the world that is making national news. Hopefully, young adults will compare their lives with young Malika and possibly see that there are more similarities than differences. Recommended for ages 12+.

Mildred L. Batchelder Award, 2005
ALA Notable Children's Book, 2005

“Setting her tale at the end of the 19th century, Stolz not only weaves the sights, sounds, and daily rhythms of life in Ghadames into a vivid tapestry, she creates a cast of distinct characters, each of which displays a unique blend of strengths and weaknesses, as well as sometimes unexpected intelligence and compassion.” Kirkus Reviews

“The story of an outsider who unsettles a household and helps a young person to grow is certainly nothing new, and some of the lessons here are purposeful. But Stolz invigorates her tale with elegant prose and a deft portrayal of a girl verging on adolescence.” Booklist

Abdel-Fattah, Randa. 2008. Does My Head Look Big in This? Scholastic, Inc. ISBN 043992233X

Have children place Ghadames on a map? What is nearby? Estimate how long it would take to travel by land and foot to the neighboring towns.

Fox, Mem. 2004. Where Is the Green Sheep? Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. ISBN 015204907X

The search is on for a missing sheep.

Critical Analysis:
We are introduced to the blue sheep and the red sheep, but the question remains: Where is the green sheep? We meet all sorts of sheep, but there is still no green sheep. Sheep are presented in a wide variety of activities; swinging, sliding, clowning, and sunning. Still, there is no green sheep. While all the other sheep are busy we find the green sheep sleeping.

With the use of fuzzy sheep, international writer Fox presents a (mostly) rhyming book of opposites. Although not every activity is an exact opposite or exact rhyme(train vs car), the reader will understand the relationship. Seeing sheep playing in a band and being shot out of a cannon will keep young readers engaged as the search for the missing sheep continues. Rhymes come easy and illustrations by Judy Horacek portray the happy-go-lucky attitude of the sheep. Judy also incorporates a Gene Kelly reference for the rain sheep. Although children will miss this classic movie spoof, adults will easily recognize the reference. This book would be great for a read along and storytime. The reader can move the book closer to the audience for the ‘near sheep’ and raise the book high for the ‘up sheep’. Recommended for ages 3 -6.

Children's Book Council of Australia Awards, Book of the Year Winner, 2005
Speech Pathology Australia Winner, 2005
Crichton Award for Children Book Illustration, 2005
ALA Notable Children's Book for Younger Readers, 2005
Kids Own Australian Literature Award (KOALA) Winner - Picture Book, 2006
Young Australian Best Book Award (YABBA) Winner - Picture Book, 2006
SA Kanga Awards Winner, 2006
Hornbook Fun Fair List

“In this neat and satisfying wedding of text and art, the squat, square format uses wool-white backgrounds to display much of the amusing pen-and-watercolor pictures.” Booklist

“Parents intrigued by Fox's ideas about early literacy (as expounded in Reading Magic, for example) will find this book a useful vehicle for putting her suggestions into practice.” Publisher’s Weekly

“A welcome addition to the year's flock of easy-readers.” School Library Journal

Fox, Mem. 2008. Ten Little Fingers and Ten Little Toes. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. ISBN 015206057X

Craft: have children glue colored cotton balls onto sheep-shaped paper.

Activity: have children read the story with their sheep from the craft and act out (if possible) the actions of the sheep. Up, down, near, far, etc….

Fox, Lee. 2010. Ella Kazoo Will Not Brush Her Hair. Walker Books for Young Readers. ISBN 080278836X

Ella Kazoo refuses to brush her curls. Before she knows it, her long locks have taken over!

Critical Analysis:
Ella Kazoo is in a battle of wills with her mother concerning her hair. Ella likes her hair wild and natural, but her mother prefers it neat and tidy. Ella likes it frizzy and big, but her mother prefers it sleek and pulled back. Ella begins to hide when her mother tries to brush her hair. Ella would rather skip in the rain and dance in the sunshine than brush her hair. She even goes as far as to hide her hairbrush in a drawer and bury it in the garden. All the while her mother is begging for her to take care of that hair! Over time, Ella begins to notice that her hair is beginning to have a mind of its own. Her hair is so long and unmanageable that clothes, toys, and even trash are caught in her hair! Ella is sent into a panic and decides that something needs to be done about her long locks.

Originally published in Australia, Ella Kazoo is a timeless story of a mother and a stubborn daughter. The mother wants the daughter to do something, and the daughter refuses. This occurrence can be found in any household, in probably every country. Young children will respond to the wild exaggeration of Ella's hair (her hair is as long as the page), and parents will appreciate that Ella's mother was right along; Ella needed to brush her hair. Illustrations by Jennifer Plecas add to the comedy of a frustrating situation. Ella’s hair gets wilder as the story unfolds, and Ella’s mother grows more and more exasperated. Recommended for ages 3-6.

Children's Book Council of Australia Award Winner

“Young readers just might get the message that holding their ground in a battle with mom may not always be in their own best interest.” School Library Journal

“Many families will relate to a stubborn child who refuses to brush her hair; Ella Kazoo offers a humorous take with a fine solution.” Kirkus Reviews

Palatini, Margi. 2003. Bedhead. Simon & Schuster Children's. ISBN 0689860021

Hirschman, Jessica Elin. 2006. Tangle Tower. Cookie Bear Press. ISBN 0970115563

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