Wednesday, January 29, 2014

The Man Who Walked Between the Towers

When I first heard the title of this book, I thought I had read it before.  It seemed so familiar to me, but as I got into the story, I realized that I had never read it.  I would have definitely remembered it if I had. 

I expected The Man Who Walked Between the Towers to portray the tight rope walk, but I didn't expect it to do so in a manner that made me go back to the day that the towers fell. I didn't expect to feel nostalgic about the morning I watched the twin towers fall. I mean, this was a story about fun, about adventure, about doing something no one else had done. But, as I was reading, I was thinking about how it was a story that will be one of its kind, because it is a story about something no one else will ever be able to do. This would be a great introduction to a conversation about September 11th with a class of students who are learning about that time in history.

The author and illustrator really made me, as the reader, understand who Phillipe Petit was. From the beginning of the book on, it was obvious that Phillipe was a fun loving, adventurous man, who enjoyed performing for others. For him, the leap from walking a rope between trees to walking a rope between buildings was an easy decision. When reading, I could feel his confidence about what he was about to do. He showed that risk was okay, and that, sometimes, you must follow your heart and your dreams.

I enjoyed the framed pictures in this book and how they depicted the events in time order. The illustrator did a great job of connecting the missing pieces through illustrations. I felt like it was a similar feel as a graphic novel, being able to connect events in the book through the pictures, when they weren't fully explained with the text. This book helped me understand the importance of attending to the pictures more. It is not something I always did in the past, and it showed me how much of the story is told within the illustrations.

This is definitely a book that could be used in the classroom. What he did was so outrageous, that it would hook the students' interest about the towers, which would help lead to a deeper discussion.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

The Summer My Father Was Ten

When initially looking at this book, I had a completely different idea about what it was going to be about. Looking at the cover, you see a boy in a field with a baseball and glove, so in my mind, I thought I would be opening up a book about a father's tale of a childhood baseball season. I was wrong. This book was so much more.

The Summer My Father Was Ten is an inspiring story about right and wrong. It was a story about doing good, when the people around you don't always choose to. It's about forgiveness and what that means to children and adults.

Through the first few pages of the book, I wondered how the introduction of Mr. Bellavista had anything to do with the father playing baseball (as this was still what I expected the book to be about). He explained where Mr. Bellavista lived and all of the vegetables he grew. The author kept me curious by giving an elaborate introduction to Mr. Bellavista and his home, only to then explain how the kids would call him "Old Spaghetti Man." This is when I began to understand that this book was going to be about more than a summer full of baseball.

The summer his father was ten, his father made a poor decision, but a decision many ten year olds might make. He went into Mr. Bellavista's garden and used the tomatoes as baseballs. They ruined the tomato garden. The author and illustrator created a fantastic picture using words and illustrations, depicting the joy the kids had when they were playing, and then on the next page, the remorse his father had when Mr. Bellavista caught them. Showing his father on the left side of the book, further back and drawn smaller than Mr. Bellavista, gave me the understanding that he was incredibly sorry about the actions he took.

It was towards the end of the book that the characters were able to show the values I wrote about at the beginning -- right and wrong, doing good things and forgiveness. The boy asked to rebuild the garden with Mr. Bellavista, when none of his friends seemed to care about it. Mr. Bellavista showed forgiveness by allowing him to rebuild with him and even brought many of the vegetables to his family.

This book depicted how a friendship could be built in unlikely places and how the lessons learned in your childhood could shape the rest of your life. It allows for the reader to think about the author's words and really look at the facial expressions of the characters to understand how they are feeling in this situation and determine for themselves how they may have acted and reacted in a similar situation. It was a good read, and worth sharing with kids at any age.