The Wright Sister: Katharine Wright and Her Famous Brothers

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Title: The Wright Sister: Katharine Wright and Her Famous Brothers Author: Richard Maurer Illustrator:  n/a
Publisher: Brookfield; Roaring Brook Press

Genre:  Biography Level: Upper Number of pages: 127 Pub. Date: 2003

Summary:

This story tells the life of Katharine (Katie) Wright from her birth, through her brother’s success to her death at age 54.  Katharine was an extremely intelligent college graduate who became a teacher. Later she was an instrumental part of her brother’s success, believing in them and even becoming a part of their company for a period of time. She died young after coming down with pneumonia.

Critique:

This book is a factual portrait of Katharine Wright’s life. It even uses direct quotation from her. The book cites its sources and does a good job of portraying the facts without any biases. Another thing that adds on to this book are the pictures of Katie and her family and friends as she grows up. This makes the book both more visually appealing and adds some context to what it’s talking about. This book admits a small portion of Katie’s life but sums it up so that nothing is left out. The book also mentions many of the cultural and societal norms at the time to put Katherine’s life into context. Overall very well done.

Response:

Before finding this book, I didn’t even know that Orville and Wilbur Wright had a sister. After reading this book, I was surprised that she isn’t portrayed more in the history books since she actually worked for the Wright brothers for a while. Furthermore, she was a prominent figurehead in society and met two US presidents. When talking about women of history Katie gets left out and I think this is wrong. The bias of many history books keeps out these great women, which would be wonderful role models for young girls.  I hope that I will now be able to teach my future students a more well rounded version of history.

Assignments:

Before: Study the Wright Brothers.

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Faithful Elephants: A True Story of Animals, People and War

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Title: Faithful Elephants: A True Story of Animals, People and War Author: Yukio Tsuchiya Illustrator: Ted Lewin Translator: Tomoko Tsuchiya Dykes
Publisher: Boston; Houghton Mifflin Company

Genre: Biography  Level: Intermediate Number of pages: 30 Pub. Date: 1988

Summary (Use your own words; 3-4 sentences; setting, characters, plot, conflict, resolution):

During World War Two, bombs were dropped every day on countries all over the world. Japan decides that they must put all of the animals in their zoo down so that if the zoo were destroyed the animals wouldn’t get out and destroy the city. They realize that starvation is the only way to put down the elephants because they couldn’t poison them. The elephants are hard to put down and their trainer suffers watching them. Today in the zoo there is a monument honoring the elephants that had to die for war.

Critique:

This book is a biographical fiction. There are no quoted sources and no way of knowing if this actually happened. Although it says it is a true story many question this. However, this story is based around a real zoo, a real time period and the author says it is a true story so we must consider it a biography.

Response:

This book is really sad. While reading this book I could not believe that they killed their elephants by starvation. It is so inhumane. I was horrified. I had never thought about how the zoos would be impacted so intensely by the war. Animals would be dangerous to people but it still seems wrong to me that they would have to be killed. Also this book has led me to wonder if animals in different areas also had to be put down because of the war.

Another thing to mention is that many question the truth of this story. Below is an article about this controversy.

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Assignments:

After: Students will research how different zoo’s were effected by war through out history.

Barack Obama: Son of Promise, Child of Hope

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Title: Barack Obama: Son of Promise, Child of Hope Author: Nikki Grimes Illustrator: Bryan Collier
Publisher: New York; Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers

Genre: Biography Level: Intermediate Number of pages: 40 Pub. Date: 2008

Summary:

This is the second edition of this book the first only goes through Obama wining the democratic caucus. It tells the story of Barack Obama from birth until he won the presidency in 2008. Two more versions of this book have been published after this one covering his Nobel Piece Prize and the other going through him winning the election in 2012.

Critique:

This book is a Fictional Portrait and is based off of Obama’s memoirs. The story is written in a style so that it is like a fictional mother telling her son about President Obama. Each page has a little commentary of the mother son pair. Because the facts of this come from Obama’s Memoirs the book is accurate and each update of the book keeps it from being outdated.

Response:

When I was researching about this book I found out that Nikki Grimes almost turned down the opportunity to write it. She was very busy at the time and told her agent no more books. A couple of weeks later he told her about this and because it was a big deal she decided to wait a while before turning it down. She started researching a realized the project was so wonderful for publicity she had to take it. She ended up having to write the entire 1st draft in three weeks.

Assignments:

After: Students will create picture books mimicking this style about one of the other presidents. Instead of informing a son students can write about informing a parent or friend.

Abraham Lincoln

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Title: Abraham Lincoln Author: Amy L. Cohn and Suzy Schmidt Illustrator: David A. Johnson Publisher: New York; Scholastic Press

Genre: Biography Level: Beginner Number of pages: 38 Pub. Date: 2002

Summary:

This book discusses the life of Abraham Lincoln from birth to his death. Rather than discussing just the facts that are normally of interest in a classroom, this book discusses Abe’s appearance and his love for reading.  The book ends showing the Lincoln memorial and talking about after a busy life Lincoln finally gets to rest.  

Critique:

This biography is a fictional portrait of Abraham Lincoln’s life.  While it is based on facts, there are no primary sources used in the book. The quotes from the book are made up and we have no way of knowing if the events in the story happen exactly as the book says they do. While this book does talk about much of Abraham Lincoln’s life there are some gaps. For example the book leaves out that Lincoln looses his son, it doesn’t talk about Gettysburg and the book leaves out the building of the Lincoln memorial even though it is featured in the book. If these events were added this book would become a better  biography.

Response:

I like the fact that this book focused on more than just his presidency. This helps to give a bigger picture to Abraham Lincoln’s life. Also the last page with the timeline helps to give a larger overview of what Abe’s life looks like. Some of these dates are not discussed in the book so this timeline helps to tie together his life from what the book discusses and any previous knowledge students have.

Assignments:

            During: Students relate what happens in Abe’s life to things they have experienced in life.  

 

What’s Their Story? Cleopatra

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Title: What’s Their Story? Cleopatra Author: Haydn Middleton Illustrator: Barry Wilkinson Publisher: Oxford; Oxford University Press

Genre: Biographies Level: Intermediate Number of pages: 31 Pub. Date: 1997

Summary:

This book gives a summary of Cleopatra’s life. It skips over a lot of her early life and mainly talks about her life after she marries her brother Ptolemy in 51 BC. The book discusses how she meets Julius Caesar and Marc Antony and has children with both of them. Finally, it explains how she kills herself rather than become prisoner to the Roman General Octavian.  

Critique:

This book is a Fictional portrait of Cleopatra. While it seems to be based on careful research, there are no primary resources. Without these resources there is no way of knowing if the events happened the way Middleton says that they do. On the other hand, this book is more fact than fiction meaning that it is not a biographical fiction.

Response:

I have a large previous knowledge of Cleopatra, and have even taught a class about her two years ago. I find that this book sticks to the facts relatively well. While it leaves out some facts about her life, like her three sisters, it doesn’t stretch any facts in the text. One problem I have with this book is that they describe Cleopatra as tricking the Roman generals into loving her. This is a biased opinion that the Roman’s spread during the time period. Inn actuality there is no way of knowing if Cleopatra loved the men or not. Another problem with this book are the illustrations. Wilkinson portrays Cleopatra with straight black hair with bangs. This is a normal mistake and is based in are preconceived notions about Cleopatra. In fact Cleopatra wore wigs with curly hair.

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However, despite these problems I believe that this book gives a relatively strong portrayal of Cleopatra if paired with other literature on her.

Assignments:

Before: Discuss the assumptions about Cleopatra and the accuracy of any previous knowledge of Cleopatra.