Friday, May 2, 2008

The Moon and I

Betsy Byers, The Moon and I
Simon & Schuster, 1991
Biography, Snake Stories
Ages 9-12

Betsy Byars is an author and one day she is sitting on her porch at her log cabin reading over what she had just written.  She, for no real reason, looked up into the rafters of the porch and there was a black snake coiled around a beam.  Very quickly she becomes attached to the snake, quite protective over it.  That day she continually checks to see if the snake is still there, and each time the snake is till lazily laying around on the beam.  All of the sudden Betsy gets caught up in what she is writing and spends a few hours without checking on the snake..  To her dismay, the snake is gone when she finally looks for him again.  
When Betsy was little she always dreamed of growing up and working in a zoo and keeping all the baby animals.  She and her best friend, Wilma, would play zoo in her Betsy's backyard.  One day while they were out looking for more animals to add to their "zoo" they found a nest of eggs under a woodpile.  They decided that they would each take two eggs and leave the rest in the nest.  So they each picked up two eggs and put them in their mayo jars.  She described the eggs as elastic and tough, nothing like a hen's egg, they were almond white and smooth.  Almost as soon as Wilma got home her sister told her mom that she had put the eggs in their sock drawer and her mom flushed them down the toilet.  
A week later Betsy's egg started to hatch, it took a whole day until it had finally hatched.  It turned out to be a bull snake and she had to let it go, since it is posionus.  
While later when Betsy was back at her cabin working she ran outside to try and find the snake, by this point she had named it Moon, she finally found it.  Moon was backup against a corner by the neighbors cat, Betsy yelled at the cat and she went running home.  Moon was still a little shaken up by the encounter with the cat, he finally got over it and slithered away.  She did not see Moon for another little while.
Finally one day she saw Moon on the back porch.  The dog went walking by and scared Moon off the porch.  He left a third of his body still on the porch and Betsy went to touch his tail.  She had a desire to know what he felt like.  Well Moon did not like the fact that she did this so he struck at her, he only got her hand once but struck three different times.  
Three weeks later she saw Moon again and followed him into the woods.  While she and her husband were trying to find him, they realized that he was right under her feet.  Her husband and her managed to pick him up but both Betsy and Moon freaked out.  After only a few minutes she dropped him and Moon hurried away.  
One day on her way to the cabin she saw a blacksnake dead in the road, stopped and picked it up and put it in a paper bag in her backseat.  While she was driving she started to hear the crinkle of the bag moving and freaked out, with good reason.  She pulled over to the side of the road because she was scared that if the snake got out of the bag and touched her leg it would cause her to get in a wreck.  A man stopped to help her and they determined that the snake was dead so he dumped it in the ditch and went on his way.
Betsy hadn't seen Moon in a month until one day her husband told her that he was lying out in the driveway enjoying the sun.  She went out to watch him, he did not mind being watch as long as she stood still.  That same day a little boy came up to her door and tried to sell her a black snake he had caught.  She ended up buying it from him for $10 but then set the snake free.
A while later she went shopping for her dog's birthday and found a snake that was for sale in the pet store.  She knew right then and there that she was going to buy it, and she did.  She was so excited since she has wanted a snake since she was 7 years old.  A dream come true

I just randomly stumbled up this book in the library one day, I had never heard of her and thought it might be an interesting read.  The book turned out to be alright, not one of my favorites for sure but not terrible by any means.  It was basically just a biography that did not really flow together very well.  She had some funny little anticdotes about her childhood included which made it quite entertaining!  I would not suggest this book, per say, but it could be used it doing projects on biographies.  Aside from that there really is not much to say about this book, not much to it either.

Monday, April 28, 2008

The Day I swapped my Dad for two goldfish

Words: Neil Gaiman
Pictures: Dave McKean
HarperCollins Children's Books, 1997 and 2001
K & up

There was a boy who one day was left alone by his mother with his little sister and his dad.  His dad was reading the news paper and not paying attention to waht was going on around him.  He and his little sister went outside to play, she with her Barbie dolls and he trying to put mud down her neck, then his friend Nathan came over.  
With him Nathan brought a bowl with two goldfish in it.  He really liked the fish, thought they were quite "neat" and so he offered to swap Nathan something for it.
He offered Nathan transformer robots, baseball cards, books, a punching bag, a penny whistle that gave his mom a headache, a spaceship that no longer floated in the tub, a puppet, and his Clownie that he slept with every night.  Nothing seemed to satisfy Nathan, so he thought and thought and thought. He gets brilliant ideas about two or three times a week.  "I'll swap you my dad", Nathan replied with "That's not a fair swap.  I've got two goldfish, and you've only got one dad."  He went on the explain how much bigger his dad was than two goldfish and how he can swim better than a goldfish, even though his little sister disagreed.  So Nathan decided that he would trade for his dad.  His little sister warned him how mad their mom would be when she got home, but he took no notice of this warning.
When their mom got home she started to look for her husband but all he could talk about was his new goldfish.  She looked everywhere for their dad and finally untied his little sister, took out the sock in her mouth, and asked if she knew where he went.  As little sisters always do, she told her mom what he had done with their father.  Well their mother being furious told him that he was not to come home until he had their father, and the little sister was to go along too, "Fancy allowing your brother to swap your father for two goldfish and a bowl. The very idea."
Off to Nathan's only to find out that he swapped his father for a guitar from Vashti Singh, so off they went to her house. Once they got there they discovered that she had already swapped him for a gorilla mask.  Off they went to Blinky's, and what a long walk it was!  Along the way his little sister put the mask on and he made fun of her, but when he put it on she told the policeman that he had escaped from the zoo, well at this the policeman yelled at him, making his sister laugh at him.  Blinky had a very big house and when they rang the doorbell a butler came and answered the door, he asked "Whom shall I say is calling? Me. I said. And me, said my little sister."  Well Blinky comes down and makes the butler give them some ginger beer (which they did not really like) before he showed them Galveston, a fat white rabbit with one black ear.  So they took Galveston and went to Patti's house.  How excited everyone was to have Galveston back, even the Queen of Melanesia (who was there visiting) shouted in excitment!  Finally they took the bother and sister duo to the back of the house where there was some chicken wire around a rabbit house and in the middle of it sat their father.  He was simply sitting there eating a carrot and reading his paper.  He opened the door and his father crawled out covered in grass. 
Finally on their way home!  Father kept eating his carrot and reading his paper all the way there.  When they got home their mother was very angry, she made her husband take a bath and put all his clothes in the laundry.  While his Dad was in the bath his mother began to tell him off, she made him promise that he would never, ever trade their dad for anything ever again.  (But he never promised about his little sister, HA)

I must say this is the most fantastic book I have read to date! Oh my, just the very thought of it!  In the back of the book you can read how the book was inspired.  One day Gaiman said something to his son that made him angry and he lashed back with "I wish I didn't have a dad! I wish I had...."  Apparently his son thought about this for a bit and finally finished his thought with "I wish I had goldfish!"  Well everything just went from there, the idea started coming and so Gaiman went to his computer and wrote the first couple of sentences but then did not know what to do next, so he simply saved in on his computer.  A few years later he got stuck on writing a tv script and went looking through his computer to see if there was anything interesting there.  He found the first to sentences of this book, all of the sudden he just knew where he wanted to take it.  After writing it he gave it to McKean to do the illustrations, which I might add are out of this world!  They are so fun and interesting!  I could stare at each page forever and probably never see all that is on it.  It is mixed media, collages of photographs, hand-drawn images, and the typical style of McKean.  There is no way to describe what they look like, it is something that you just have to see for yourself!  I could see children absolutely loving this book and wanting to read it again and again!  The fact that he swapped his dad for goldfish is hilarious and it just seems to be something natural that always happens, no one finds it weird.  In fact, the children keep passing him along!  What a world it would be if we could swap people for things such as goldfish! It would be easy to read this book and pay close attention to the illustrations, then have the students make collages of their own out of all sorts of mixed media that can be easily found in the room, or even in the art room.  It would be so fun!  It would be such an open assignment that I am sure the creativity would flow out of the children and onto the paper!  This is most DEFINITELY going to be in my classroom!!  I also and not the one who discovered it.  My roommate was in the library, I guess looking at the picture book section I had showed her recently, and found this book and like the illustrations (being an Art major) and checked it out!  Then I found it in the living room and decided to give it a look, and lo-and-behold I feel in love with it!

(Which everyone should check out, he is one of a kind)

The Boy Who Saved Cleveland

The Boy Who Saved Cleveland
James Cross Giblin
Micheal Dooling, illustrator
Henry Holt and Company, 2006
Ages 9-11

Ten year old Seth Doan loved to read, his favorite story was Abraham and Isaac.  He read this story from the family bible that had been brought with them on the long journey from Conneticut, the only book that they brought with them to Northern Ohio.  However much he loved to read he did not have a lot of time to read because he was always busy with chores, they ranged from hauling water into the house, to clearing the land, to fishing.  Today was a special day, his father let him stay inside and read while his older sister, Mercy, when out to help their parents weed the cornfield.  Back when they lived in Conneticut his mother was the one always encouraging him to read, ever since they moved to Ohio she did not want him to read and said that his father was too easy on him.  One reason why his father was so easy on him was because he was the last living son.  His older twin brothers, Ethan and Matthew, died of lung fever back when they lived in Connecticut.  He also had a baby brother named Thomas, he died two months earlier due to colic.
Seth's special day was cut short when suddenly his mother screamed and his father rushed Mercy into the house and laid her on the bed, she had the Shakes & Fever and fainted while working in the field.  His mother had to stay inside and take care of Mercy so Seth ended up having to go and work anyways.  In order to make it more interesting Seth pretended to race his father at pulling weeds.  One second he saw his father and then when he looked up again he did not see is father.  He yelled for him and went running over to where he was weeding, to find him on the ground, much like what had happened to Mercy.  So, his father also went to lay down in the bed, this sent a sense of dread over Seth.
They had a simple life out in Cleveland, ate mostly corn, squirrel, rabbit, fish, wild fruit and berries.  Since they relayed so much on corn they had to make trips to the mill quite often.  The next day his father was still too ill to go to the mill so Seth volunteered to go, even though it was up hill the whole way.  Cleveland was very small, only three cabins were there yet and it was founded by a Mr. Carter.  Seth missed his life in Connecticut, he had friends there and no one here was his age.
On his way back from grinding the corn, Seth ran into Lorenzo Carter.  Lorenzo gave Seth a squirrel to take home and give to his other to cook in stew, he told Seth that they had to stay well and take care of everyone.  This made him very excited, Lorenzo, the giant of the settlement had treated his as an equal.  When he got home he could tell that his other was coming down with the illness as well.  He helped her make dinner and fed it to the rest of the family, even though no one really had an appetite.  That night Seth had a bad dream that everyone in his family, except him, had died in a snow storm.  He awoke in a cold sweat.  
The next day his father was too sick to go to the mill again so Seth was getting ready to go when he heard someone at the door.  It was Mrs. Stiles, her husband had also become sick and was unable to go to the mill, she asked Seth if he could grind corn for them as well.  He also had to do it for the Carters as well because they had also become ill.  Now he had three bags of corn to grind.  He did this everyday for two weeks, carrying three bags up hill, grind them, carry them back down, and deliver them to the other families.  One time he heard a bear coming so he froze in place and did not more, thankfully the bear when on his way after determining that he was not a threat to him. 
Since his family was sick not only did he have to take care of the corn for everyone in the settlement, he had to do all the chores around the house. He hauled water in to bath them, made food for them to eat, took care of their needs as best he could, and listen to what they had to say, even if it made no sense.  The hardest conversation he had to listen to was his fathers.  His father was talking about if he died Seth had to take the rest of the family back to Connecticut where his Grandfather and Uncle could take care of them.  Seth begged his father not to talk in this way but his father made him listen.  Seth became so worried that he could not sleep and had to sit up and read out of the bible till he fell asleep.
One afternoon when Seth got back from the mill, he was surprised to see that Mercy was out milking the cow, she looked much more like herself than she had in the past two weeks.  He was very greatful to have her help so that he could rest before dinner time.  Next morning when he woke up he had a little bit of a chill as he got dress but he shrugged it off, he knew he had to go to the corn mill again in order to feed and take care of everyone.  Mercy noticed something different and asked if he was alright, he lied and told her he was fine.  He set out on his everyday mission to the mill, this time the bags seemed heavier than normal and he had to rest more often, but he still made it and ground the corn.  On his way back however, he had a seizure and fell down.  Next thing you know he was back in his cabin laying in the big bed, he had no idea how he got there.  His father told him that he had found him after he did not return and that Mercy had carried the corn meal back.  Seth had the chills for three weeks, by this time everyone was better.
They decided to celebrate the fact that no one had died and everyone was better.  So one day in September they all made food and went down to the lake to celebrate.  Out of no where come to strange men, they said that they had cut a road from Cleveland to a city that was 70 miles away, they started in early May and just arrived there in September.  As a token of everyone's appreciation, they presented Seth with a book.  This was the best gift he would have gotten!  All he wanted to do was go off somewhere and start his book on Robinson Crusoe.

I had never even heard anything about his book or the author, I simply found it on the bookshelf in the IMC when trying to locate another book.  After reading the Author's note at the end that not only was this a story of a brave little boy, it is also based on a true story and the character in the book is a real person that lived in Cleveland, as were most of the other characters.  Seth's family arrived in Cleveland in 1798 and were among the first settlers of the area.  Before Ohio became a state in 1803, it was part of the Western Resene of Connecticut.  The land was first surveyed in 1796 by a man named Moses Cleaveland, he was the one that established the settlement and also what it was named after, with out the "A" of course.  The illness they talk about, shakes & fever, also know as ague, was a type of malaria.  It came to Cleveland in the summer of 1978 and was most likely brought in by mosquitoes. The real Seth actually kept everyone alive, just like the story tells.  When he grew up he was a county sheriff, and he lived to see Cleveland grow from three cabins to one of the largest cities. 

This book would be excellent if the class were doing a study on a person who helped contribute to the society they lived in, a history project.  The student, after reading the book, could look up and see if they could find out anymore information on Seth or the settlement of Cleveland.  It could be presented to the class or just as an assignment for a history lesson.


Let me tell you about me,
Children love me,
You're a child.
All my heads are green and handsome.
All my eyes are red and wild.
All my toes have claws upon them.
All the claws have hooks.
I blow smoke through all my noses.
It is hotter than it looks.
All my tails have points upon them.
All my teeth are sharp and blue.
I won't bite you very badly.
I am fond of you.
All my scales are shaped like arrows.
They will hurt you if you touch.
So, although I know you love me,
Do not pet me very much.
- Karla Kuskin
From Eric Carle's DRAGONS DRAGONS & other creatures that never were
Published by Philomel Books in 1991

The main reason I chose this poem, aside from the fact that Eric Carle illustrated it,  is because I know that if I were a child this would have been one that I loved.  I have always liked dragons and this is a comical take on what a dragon might say to a child.  There is a rhyme scheme to this poem but I did not identify it at first it appears to go AABCBDEFEDGAGHIAI.  So it is not exactly the most rhyming poem but it does have the element of the end words rhyming somewhat.  There are also repeated phrases like "All my".  This poem also offers up a strong visual image of a dragon, just by reading it is very easy to see a dragon is ones mind.  It has a columnar form to it.  There is not much depth to the poem, just something fun for a child to read.

A mouse with a lioness's voice

Pam Munoz Ryan
Scholastic , 2004
5th grade and older
Fiction, Realistic, Multicultural

What's in a name? "A rosy by any other name would is still a rose"(Howard Trachtman, I believe). 
The first thing that Naomi is worried about is her name, Naomi Soledad León Outlaw. Naomi, Owen and Gram live in Baby Beluga, a Airstream trailer. Gram was an expert 
at naming things for exactly what they looked like. They lived in Lemon Tree, CA but this upset Gram because
there was not one "citrus" in sight. The Spray'n Play was one of their favorite places to go, it was a 
car wash-deli-playground combination. Now Owen could fool people based on the way he looked, they thought
he was in lower grades because his head tilted to one side and was bent down to his shoulder, also one of his 
legs was sorter than the other so he walked funny but, he got the best grades in his class. Gram had always told
them that if they had positive thinking that you could make things happen, she called it "self-prophecy". One of
the things that Naomi is best at is making lists and she had a list for just about everything! I wonder why she
always had these lists, sort of therapeutic I would guess. I think it might help her deal with things, especially the
things that she does not understand or want to remember or even perhaps control in a sense. You find out later
in the story that she had many problems when she came to live with Gram those 7 years ago, I wonder if while
seeing the counselor they suggest that she keep list of things to help her deal with the world around her. You
could get your students to start to make list of anything, something that is important to them, the project
could run the rest of the school year and you could revisit the idea behind the list and have to children think
about everything they put into the list and why they put it there. If it were me, I would not tell them, but it
would be a confidential thing that they would not have to turn in. The things that Naomi makes list about tend
to be things that just about every child worries about or thinks about from time to time. Her example could
help the children in your class room to deal with things in their lives.
Naomi eats lunch in the library, even though according to the rules this is not allowed, but the librarian, Mr.
Marble, allows the few students that are there to eat at the tables. Naomi loves to read and find things to add to
her lists and things that would make good new lists and Mr. Marble would help her out with finding this info.
You find out that Gram is not their grandmother, but actually their great-grandmother. This does not effect
the children at all nor does it seem to bother Gram. To me it seemed that at first people gossiped about it but
they stopped after they realized that it was the best thing for everyone involved. I also love how this is part of
the story, there are children everywhere, and probably in the everyday classroom, that live with their aunts and
uncles, grandparents, who know. I love that it makes it seem almost "normal" and it is not a negative thing at all
that they live there. It could make a child feel better about the situation that they live in. They also live in a
trailer park in one of the smallest ones there, and they do not care one bit about it, they are very happy living in
Baby Beluga! I am sure that every year there will be a student that had this kind of living situation, not exactly
the same but something similar for sure, yet again making the not feel so bad about it. When they first came to
live with Gram, Naomi was not talking and her hands shook all of the time, she did not remember what had
caused it but Gram had a solution, just like she did for everything. Gram tried to keep Naomi's hands busy at all
times, as well as her mind. So Naomi started to carve bars of soap and it appeared to help tremendously! One
day after Owen had finished his homework he walked over to Naomi and asked her how she knew what to carve
in the soap, "I imagine what's inside and take away what I don't need". We find later that this is exactly what her
father said about carving as well. I love that Naomi already has this preconceived notion about her carving and
how she comes up with what to do even before she ever meets her dad.
All of the sudden on day, completely out of the blue their mother turns up at their doorstep! Terri Lynn came
right up to them and half expected them to remember her. She had changed her name to Skyla Jones since her
boyfriend, Clive told her he did not like Terri Lynn. One thing that struck me as very, very odd about this part
of the book was how she hugged Naomi for the first time in seven years and the only way I know how to show
how it happened is to just use exactly what Naomi says. "I walked over to Skyla and she put her hands on my
shoulders, keeping me at arm's length. She did that sort of leaning-in type of hug, with a quick cheek-to-cheek
touch. It was not the I-haven't-seen-you-in-seven-years type of hug that I would have expected." I wondered
why she would hug her children like this when it was the first time in so long but later I read the real reason why
she wanted to come back and get her children, or Naomi. One of the first things that Skyla noticed about Owen
was the fact that he had a piece of clear tape on his shirt, she tried to pull it off but was quickly stopped by a yell
from Gram and Naomi. They explained how it was a comfort thing he does. Yet another thing that I do not
understand why it happened and even after finishing the book I am still not sure why he does this... Naomi
quickly figured out that the return of their mother was going to be a life-changing experience. There were two
reasons why Naomi came to this conclusion, 1) Gram and Fabiola were going to miss Wheel of Fortune for the
first time in 743 nights in a row and 2) Gram marched out of the trailer with her curlers still in her hair, a thing
she never does.
The reason that they had the name Outlaw attached to their names was for Gram, she wanted to form some sort
of family structure since they were going to be living with her. It was never done legally but just to make her
and the children feel better. At least that's what I think.
Right off the bat Skyla did not fit what Naomi had pictured a mother to look like, but she did have a memory of
her father and Mexico. She remembered him saving them from a flooded motel room and taking them to the
church to be safe durning the storm, she remembered his shirt tasting salting and smelling of soap. To help get
her mind off of the storm, her dad carved and elephant out of soap and gave it to her. She feel asleep and never
saw him again.
What would be going through your head if you saw your mother for the first time since you were a baby? Do
you think you would be excited or scared or something else?
Skyla went shopping and bought Naomi some clothes since Gram had always made her clothes, but she did not
get anything for Owen, but he did not seem to mind. Skyla also did her hair and did a French Braid, Naomi
loved it! The next day she wore her hair in the braid and the new clothes that her mother had gotten for her.
The same day a new student came to their class, Blanca Paloma, and she sticks to Naomi right away. On the
playground, Blanca comes up to Naomi and starts speaking Spanish, she had assumed since Naomi looked
Mexican that she must speak Spanish, but she did not. Naomi feared that this would cause her to lose Blanca as
a friend but she was proven wrong. Blanca attached herself to Naomi and they spent the rest of the day
together, she even went to eat lunch in the library. She was quite different from Naomi, very outspoken and
always asking questions. At this point I am scared and excited for her. I fear that Blanca will end up not being
friends with Naomi or that they will become great friends. I hoped the latter was correct, and sure enough I
was right! So excited for her, her first real friend. Naomi thought that it was her new look that brought her
good luck, she had her mother to thank for that, so she thought.
Skyla promised that she was going to go with the children to their parent-teacher conferences which made both
of the extremely excited. This part always really worried me because Skyla had not really proven that she could
be reliable to do such important things. Well the day came for their meetings and Naomi and Owen, along with
Blanca and her mother, waited for Skyla to come. Naomi and Blanca wanted their mothers to meet. Finally
Blanca's mother had to go to work at 2:30, which was the time Naomi was supposed to be meeting with her
teacher. They wait and wait and wait, finally at 5 Ms. Morimoto found them and took them into the office to
where Ms. Dominguez tried to call Gram. They finally got a hold of her and she came to pick them up. Trying to
cheer them up, Gram took them to the Spray'n Wash, but it did not make Naomi feel better. Why do you think
this did not cheer her up when this was her favorite place to go? Would it have cheered you up if you had been
in that situation? This is what I had feared and predicted would happen, I can not believe that a mother could
do something like this to her own children. Espiecially since she just got there and was wanting to spend time
with them and even volunteered to go to the meetings. I am really afraid that this happens in the world today
I just do not know what I would do or feel if this sort of thing happened to me. I feel that I would lose a lot of
trust in my "mother" and I hope that I would not have a desire to see her again. Although I understand why the
children did still feel a connection to her. I am able to sympathize with Naomi because of the way that Ryan
writes her thoughts in the sentences, you come to be one mind with her some of the time. It is really hard for
me to understand and feel what it would feel like to be in that situation but I can almost grasp what it would be
like just from Naomi's thoughts.
After asking Gram several questions about what Naomi had over heard about her mother, she discovered that
their father had been sending them money several times a year. Naomi became very frustrated at this, she does
not understand why "grown-ups" feel the need to keep things from children, why they think that they can not
handle the information. Naomi exclaimed how she could have written him letters but Gram told her that she
had tried several times but they always came back and never reached him. It was impossible to find out where
he was living since he never gave his return address.
Three nights later Skyla turns up again at the trailer, she wanted them to come and see what she had brought
with her. She acted like nothing happened, something Naomi did not understand, and got everyone to come 
out to see what she had gotten. Her excuse for not coming back for so long was that she and Clive had gone to
Palm Springs for a long weekend. Then she told them that she had invited him over for Thanksgiving dinner.
Finally they saw what she had gotten this time, a bike! One of the expensive one, according to Naomi, just what
every kid would want, especially Owen. It is not possible that she did this just out of the kindness of her heart, 
she did this to make up for her running off and not going to the meetings. She was trying to buy them off with
stuff, and it worked on Owen for sure. All he had wanted was a bike to ride and sure as shit that's what she got
him. Everyone was to happy and excited to be angry at her any longer. However when Naomi tried to thank
her for what she had done, Skyla snapped at her and told her that she needed to speak up and that when she
met Clive she would talk louder and thank him for everything he had paid for. Naomi did not understand what
had just happened, she feared that she was in trouble, she was full of all different questions. What had just
happened was very troubling to her.
Well Thanksgiving came around and so did Clive and he was broad and thick, wearing a leather jacket with his
hair pulled back into a ponytail. Everyone started arriving, including Lulu (Fabiola's dog) which set off Clive
from the start, so she had to be taken home. All of the sudden Skyla hits everybody with the notion that she
and Clive want to take Naomi with them to live in Las Vegas to live with them and Clives daughter, Sapphire.
Everyone rejects to the idea from the get go, and Naomi's hands start to shake. Gram gets her to help take the
dishes to the kitchen to try and distract her from what had just happened. After pissing everyone off throughly
they end up leaving as soon as dinner is over. Would you want to go and live with Clive and the mother you just
meet for the first time in 7 years? Every thing that Skyla does just amazes me more and more, I just can't even
begin to fathom have such ideas and presenting them in front of all the guest. To top it off the only reason they
appeared to want her was so that she could basically babysit Sapphire. Despicable.
Well it is time for Owen to go to his doctors appointment but Gram is going to have to cancel because she had to
work on a wedding dress that is going to be picked up the following day and needs major work. So being the
mother trying to win over children, Skyla offers to take him, along with Naomi, to the doctors. Well while they
are there she starts to freak out, yells at Naomi for talking to quietly and then runs to the bathroom, coming
back smelling of Gram's rum cake. When the Dr's tell Skyla that there is nothing to be done until Owen is an
adolesent, she starts to freak out and yells at the doctors, and she ends up storming out of the hospital and
drove too fast all the way home. Well once they got there Naomi was supposed to call Gram and tell them that
they were back, but Skyla tells her to drop the phone and to sit down. She yells at them both for embarassing
her at the doctors office and tells Owen that he is going to have to stop putting tape on his shirts, and just
continued to yell at her about everything. Well Naomi finally gets up the courage to talk back to Skyla and it
makes her so mad that she slapped her across the cheek, leaving a perfect imprint of her hand. They finally
manage to get away and run towards Fabiola's house. When they get there she bursts into tears,understandably
and Owen recounts the story. An argument ensues between the adults and Skyla threatens to go to court to try
and get her children back. It is so hard for me to imagine acting like that towards a child. I know that Skyla had
many problems but I still can not even begin to imagine hurting my own child, not that i have any but still... You
feel so sorry for Naomi, you can feel her pain and her anger at her mother, and it is all rightfully so.
One morning Naomi wakes up and thinks that there is an earthquake and freaks out and wakes her brother up,
she continues to yell for Gram until, they figure out that it is not in fact an earthquake but the trailer going
down the highway. They find out that they are going to Mexico for the famous La Noche de los Rabanos, they
will miss two extra weeks of their Christmas vacation but Gram had already called their teachers to let them
know what was going on. Before they left Gram had gotten temporary Gaurdianship from the judge in town.
Do you think this is a smart thing on Gram's part? What do you think the reason she did this was? I think this is
a brilliant idea on Gram's behalf, it should help to protect the children from their mother.
When they arrive in Mexico they go to the house of Fabiola's sister. After being introduced to the family
everyone hugs them. This was not something they were accustomed to since they did not know each other and
in Lemon Tree this did not happen. After being there for a while and getting to know everyone, the family
started to think about what they were going to carve for the festival, it was only 12 days away. She felt happy to
be in Mexico, relieved. The main reason that they made the trip to Mexico was in hopes of finding their father,
to see if he would help them deal with Skyla. They caught wind that the cheese lady that worked in the market
had married a Leon, so they went down to the market to talk to her. She had indeed married a Leon, so they
exchanged number and she told them that she would inquire about their father from her husband and call them
and let them know what she found out. Throughout the story when they get to Mexico, Ryan starts to use real
Spanish words to identify things, she always tells the reader what the word means. "We walked through the
uneven streets of Barrio Jalatlaco to el mercado, the market." Also with some words she spells out how to
pronounce the word: "Quseillo." "Keh-sill-owe". This helps children to learn new words in a different language
it helps to submerge the reader into a different culture, just making this a great multi-cultural book! The cheese
lady calls and tells them that she in fact has not information on Santiago, their father. The children, including
Ruben (Graciela's son) start to call people in the phone book who have the last name of Leon. Well one Sunday
they finally get a call back but, Graciela is the one that answers the phone. The adults discover what they have
been up to and have to pay them back since the phone call was long distance and cost quite a bit of money. The
plus side was that they found someone who knew their father, it was their great aunt Teresa.
They go and visit her and she shows them a picture of Santiago when he was a boy, he looked exactly like Naomi
and even she could tell. The find out that for the past 100 years a Leon has entered in the carving festival and
that their father had come to everyone except one. So Teresa predicted, with much confidence, that he would
come this year as well. Hearing all of this would be an exhilerating feeling! One can just feel the excitment that
Naomi and Owen feel at the prospect of meeting their father and getting help from him so that she does not
have to go and live with Skyla and Clive. I love how Ryan gives more of the Mexican culture with each passing
chapter, you learn a little something around every bend.
Finally the festival and its festivities begin! One night they go on a walk around town that is a Christmas
tradition for them. It makes a range of emotions occur for Naomi, she is so happy that she realizes why her dad
loves the festival so much! She just can not wait to see him. The men finally decide what they are going to carve
and announce it one morning to the family. It is going to be a huge "tree" with all sorts of animals hanging off
of it as if they were the leaves and on top is going to be a lion, the king of beasts. They had been inspired by the
soap carvings that Naomi had been doing. Another example of integrating the Spanish language into this book
is when Naomi is asked if she wants to go to the market or stay home and help the men carve, "Aqui" said
Naomi. "Here." Graciela rolled her eyes. "Bueno, como quieras. As you wish." A little while later the truck
appears with the radishes and they begin to carve at once, even Naomi started to carve animals for them. Owen
and Ruben were assigned the job of misting the radishes so that they would not dry out. The last day of carving
Naomi is given a big radish and is told that she is to carve the lion for the top of the structure, she knew at once
that this was a huge honor.
The day of the festival they ride into town in the truck and unload everything at their table, then Bernardo went
to go walk with the women down to the festival. She told Bernardo that she wanted to stay and help set every-
thing up. He tells her that she cannot, she must go and look at all the other tables and inquire about her father.
They found many people who knew him, but none of them had seen him recently. They were almost back to
their table and saw a huge crowd around it. Finally the judges came around and scored everything, then the
party began and everyone relaxed. Finally came the time for the judges to announce who were the winners of
the year. When it got to their category there were so shocked to find out that they had made 2nd place! They
had never gotten in the top three before! After everything was over and they started heading home, a man
came up to congratulate Bernardo, but suddenly he turned around and started running, Gram told Naomi that
that was Santiago. Naomi started to run after him but could not catch up and had to return to Gram. It is good
luck to get a piece of one of the winning categories and to try to cheer Naomi up she is given the Lion that she
had carved.
When they got home they heard a rustle in the trees and realized that there was no wind that could be causing
the flowers to fall off of the tree. Then out of no where Santiago come out. Owen ran forward but Naomi was
planted to the ground, she could not move. Owen started jabbering to their father and when he mentioned her
name, Santiago looked up at her. She burst into tears, Santiago picked Owen up and came over the Naomi and
pulled her close into him. She was crying into his chest and she could taste the familiar sea salt on his shirt, and
smell the soap. When they stood up there was not a single dry eye in the whole place. When he found out that
Naomi had participated in carving for the festival, his face lit up with pride. The spent a lot of time together
over the next few days until Naomi, Owen, and Gram had to return so that they could meet with the judge to
see what was to be their fate. Santiago agreed to help them and wrote a letter telling all about their mother and
how he recommended the stay with Gram, also that he wanted to start having visits with them on holidays and
Well once they get back to CA, they must go and meet with the judge. Of course when Skyla walks in she acts as
if she is a wonderful mother who misses her children. After hearing from all of the adults and looking at all of
the letters everyone had written in favor of the children staying the Gram, the judge wanted to speak to Naomi.
When she gets up to the seat next to the judge at first she is not able to say anything, but then she remembers
what she dad told her about being brave. All of the sudden she starts to recount everything that had happened
with Skyla and everything that she had been told. When asked if she wanted to go live with her mother she said
flat out, "No.". She said every word in front of Skyla and Clive. I can't imagine having to do that, sit in front of
your mother and tell a judge that you have no desire to live with her and her boyfriend. She really did take to
heart everything that her father told her, for the first time she spoke out and loud about what she wanted and
how she felt! It must have been such a release for her! I feel like it would have been an exhausting task to do!
One thing that children can take from this is how brave Naomi ends up becoming! She stands up for herself
even against her mother. I hope that a child that I ever encounter never has to go through this but, that is not a
realistic thought, especially in these days, but if the child has read this book it might encourage them to be
brave and stand up for what they want and need!
The judge decided to grant custody to Gram, especially after finding out that Skyla only want to take Naomi and
not Owen as well, the judge did not believe in splitting up siblings that have lived together all of their lives. They
could not have hoped for a better resolution to this disaster in their lives. Naomi when back to school with
many things to tell her new best friend, Blanca. At lunch she met the new library kid and showed Mr. Marble
her soap carvings, he was very impressed by what he saw. He asked her if he could put them in the display for
open house next month. Of course she agreed, seeing how this was a dream of hers, the display was seen by
everyone and they were also so excellent that no one could resist but to look at them every time.
Everything ended in the perfect way to suite Naomi and her family (which does not include Skyla or Clive) and
she was very happy. They went every year to the festival and to visit their father, a promise made that was never
to be broken. Naomi finally grew into her name, which was one of her biggest fears.
In my opinion I think this is an excellent of a multicultural book that I would want all of my classes to read. I
almost cried at some parts. This is the kind of book that you can really get into and really start to feel for the
characters! I honestly had to hold back tears when they first met their father, for real not in the square. I do
not know how Naomi could not have cried. I think Ryan did a superb job writing this book and she is most
definitely going to be an author that I keep in my classroom. Not only do you attach yourself to the characters
but you are also put into a culture that is more than likely different from the one that you grew up in, you learn
things about the culture, they were things that I never knew. I think learning about different cultures is a
quintessential part of a persons life, I think it helps us to break down prejudices at an early age, if they are
exposed to different cultures and types of people when they are younger. The introduction and incorporation
of the Spanish language is done beautifully in the book, it always makes sense and seems appropriate! You can
also see how Naomi and the rest of her family are beginning to pick up on the language, which is oh so very true
if you are submerged in the culture. Over all I can not say ONE bad thing about this book, give me more of her
books to read and I will gladly dive right in!