Picture Book Resources
The Farmer and the Clown by Marla Frazee
A little clown falls off a passing circus train and a lonely farmer takes care of the little one till his family comes back for him. It's a sweet wordless story about an old man who lets his crustiness crack to a smile in the presence of a little lost boy. They are wonderful companions for a day. And the joy with which the family recovers the little guy is cheering too.
- Inconvenience & Compassion: The farmer could have reacted very differently to having his routine interrupted. Have students brainstorm various ways the farmer could have reacted, and then what the farmer got out of being nice to the little clown.
- Refugees: You can easily tie that last Inconvenience & Compassion discussions into a lesson/discussion about refugees and their host families too. How do they think the little clown felt about being separated from his home and family? How do they think refugees feel about having to leave their home and sometimes friends and family? What were the pros and cons the farmer faced when helping the little clown? What are the pros and cons of helping refugees?
- What To Do if Lost: This book provides a good opportunity to talk to kids about what they should do if they are ever lost.
- Writing (any Language): Since the book is wordless, it easily lends itself to a writing activity. Have students practice writing dialogue and imagine what the farmer and the little clown said to each other.
- Geography: Maps helped inspire Uri and distract him from his troubles. This is a good book to use when talking about the benefits of studying geography and maps; Uri's story demonstrates they can go beyond the typical directional usage.
- Poland: If you are studying Poland, this would be a short book to read and introduce a famous Polish person the students may actually have heard of.
- Autobiographies: A nice short book to use when talking about autobiographies or to demonstrate different forms autobiographies can take.
- Caldecott Award: This book won a Caldecott Honor in 2009. If you're talking about art awards or literary awards, you can include this book and/or artist.
- Mood & Art: Shulevitz directly correlates the illustrations and his mood in the story. Students can talk about why he chose the different color schemes and how they can convey emotion in their artwork.
- Refugees: Uri's book highlights some of the very real hardships that refugees face because of their displacement and reasons they have to run away from their homeland. WWII is over, but what wars/conflicts are currently going on causing people to leave home? Uri's dad has trouble finding work, and the family has trouble getting enough food. Though this happened many years ago, how were their problems similar to problems faced by today's refugees? If you want to extend this, have student research ways that will help refugees and still respect them as people.
- WWII: There are lots of good books out there for WWII studies, and this is one of them.
- Life Experience & Future Work: Uri Shulevitz has several published picture books. After reading this book, challenge students to read more of his books and ask them how they think his life experiences have influenced his artwork (he actually answers some of this in the back of this book).
- Map Skills: Have students research where most refugees today are fleeing from and find those places on the map.
- Africa: Modern Africa doesn't show up too often in fiction, but it does in this book. A good tie-in if your class is studying Africa.
- Darfur Genocide: This novel makes the news stories about Sudan and the Janjaweed attacks come alive, but does so tactfully. It would help students better understand what has been/is going on there, and is a bit more fun to read than a boring news article.
- Refugee Cities: Amira provides readers with a first person view of what it is like in a refugee city and what drives people there. Have students discuss if they would like to live in a refugee city, why or why not. If students feel motivated, research ways to meaningfully help those in refugee cities.
- Psychology & Refugees: Many refugees, like Amira, are dealing with past traumas. It's a good opportunity to discuss with Psychology classes how trauma can affect people. Amira deals with it by going mute. How can you best help people like her? You could challenge students to find a way to make people more aware of how best to help people with past trauma in their lives.
- Education: Amira longs to be able to go to school, but her mother's cultural opinion that school isn't for girls is holding her back. Many students complain about having to go to school. Have them imagine what they would feel like in Amira's culture and whether or not they really mean what they say about wishing not to go to school. You can also easily tie this in with Malala and her fight for education rights for girls in her similar culture.
- Refugees: Nnewt's town is attacked simply because they are non-scaled. The Lizzarks are scaled (reptile-ish) and are bent on wiping out those who don't have scales (amphibian-ish). Ask students why we'd classify Nnewt as a refugee. Discuss what kinds of things can force people to become refugees. Compare and contrast Nnewts plight with modern real refugees.
- English classes: I've been looking around to see if TenNapel comments on his inspiration for this series. So far I haven't found anything. Some of the patterns of speech come off a bit Shakespearean, not that they are hard to understand, they just seem fancy and formal and Shakespeare-inspired. Also, Nnewt's journey starts to take on elements of other epic journeys in literature. It'd be fun to compare/contrast Nnewt and Odysseus or Pilgrim or others who have gone on epic journeys.
- Empathy: Have students discuss how Nnewt felt about leaving his home and family. Do they think real people feel the same or different when they are in a similar situation?
- Reptiles vs Amphibians: These two orders of Animalia are frequently confused. This book highlights one of the traits that distinguishes the two orders, the presence of scales on reptiles. It would make remembering the differences that much easier, because Nnewt definitely will stick in minds.
- Government & Refugee Policies: Many of the Kraus' headaches were caused by government regulations and policies, have students research past and present refugee policies by a few countries. Get your government students to brainstorm some of the things governments have to consider when deciding how many refugees to allow.
- Past vs Present: They say the purpose of studying history is to learn from the past. Reading this, it is staggering how few children were saved during WWII by the United States versus how many died during the Holocaust. The 50 children saved by the Krauses was the largest group of refugees to come to the US during WWII. Today's refugee issues seem startlingly similar, have students compare and contrast WWII refugee issues with present ones and debate whether or not the US learned from the past or not.
- Sacrifice for Strangers: The Krauses went through a lot for these fifty strangers. Ask readers how much they'd be willing to go through to save the lives of fifty people they'd never met.
- WWII: This is a part of WWII history that often doesn't come up, and gives an interesting peek into the inner workings of the U.S. government at home during that time.
- Vietnam War: For those doing a unit on the Vietnam War, this provides an insider perspective of the conflict and what it was like to live there during that time period.
- Refugees: This book highlights some of the hidden issues refugees are facing. Have students research what happens to engineers, doctors, professors and successful business men when they are resettled. How many of them are able to practice the profession in which they were successful at home? Also, discuss some of the challenges that refugee children face in adapting to a new culture.
- Refugees in Boats: Those escaping Vietnam are not the only refugees who end up floating around in boats. The stats in this book are horrifying about the survival rates of those who look to escape certain death via boat. Where are people escaping by boat currently, and how many of them are typically surviving today? Again, students can debate whether coutnries have learned from the past or not.
- Autobiographies: If you're looking for good modern autobiographies, add this one to your list.
- Human Rights Issues: This is a quieter human rights issue, in that it doesn't often make the news. Have students research other human rights issues that numerous people are currently facing, but are not well known. They can also research who is helping and how they themselves can best help.
- International Relations: This book brings up several very interesting international relations issues. It's a good resource to get students interested in international relations and explore careers in this field.
- Refugees: This book has numerous interesting insights into the plights of refugees, it's too many to list here. There's lots of ways this could be used to spark debates, discussions, research, and service projects. Two issues that I had never thought of before were the plights of the children of North Korean refugee women and Chinese men, since they have no official nationality they can't easily be adopted and they are often abandoned. Also, many North Korean refugees are so accustomed to being told what to do they have to learn how to make decisions for themselves and how to have initiative, and they really find freedom overwhelming. It's a problem most Westerners can't even fathom.