You’ve got to love a picture book that praises the magic of books and stories, and for me, it’s a bonus that it’s written by a former professional athlete. The story is fairly straightforward: looking into his magic hat, the magician in Malcolm Mitchell’s story is able to find that just right book for every child. Sounds like some great teachers I know!
I love sharing Malcolm Mitchell’s own story with my students too. There are some good articles and news features about him and his desire to grow academically and personally by becoming a better reader once he got to college. He actually visited the bookstore and looked for books he might enjoy reading. My favorite story is the one where he approaches a stranger to ask for a book recommendation and ends up finagling an invitation to her book club. He read the book and attended that meeting and many more book club meetings during his time at the University of Georgia. Mitchell went on to play wideout for the Patriots for one memorable rookie season before an injury effectively ended his football career.
But now he is an author with Scholastic and runs a foundation devoted to promoting literacy.
Patricia MacLachlan’s What You Know First is one of my favorite picture book writing prompts. There is something about the powerful language of her picture book and the prompt “write about what you knew first” that brings out some of the best quick writing my students produce all year. I have read this book aloud to students probably 15 times, and there are a couple of lines that still give me goosebumps.
Indigo’s Star is the second in Hilary McKay’s Casson family series. It picks up right where the first left off, though the focus of the plot nominally shifts to the one boy in the family, Indigo, who is being targeted and bullied at school. You could certainly read Indigo’s Star without having read Saffy’s Angel first, but why would you want to?
Pashmina is a quick and engaging read about Priyanka, a Indian-American teenaged girl who is trying to learn more about her family inheritance and heritage. Her quest to understand where she comes from is made more difficult by her mother’s refusal to talk about family back in India. Priyanka discovers a magical pashmina scarf which transports her to a magical version of India. The art transitions to beautiful full-color spreads whenever anyone wears the scarf.
I did enjoy Pashmina, but I also found it underdeveloped and rushed. Chamani has a lot of plot points to juggle here–high school issues as Priyanka tries to distance herself from her Indian heritage; family drama with her mom; more family drama with a longtime family friend who has been a father figure to her but is now cutting back on his commitment to Priyanka because he’s having his own child; Priyanka’s budding career as a comic artist; the magical pashmina scarf; even a trip to India to visit her mother’s sister. There’s a little too much going on and none of the threads is fully realized.
Zaretta Hammond’s Culturally Responsive Teaching and the Brain blends theory and practice to provide an overview of the paradigm shift that teachers need to make in order to teach in culturally responsive ways that will be more inclusive for all students. I loved that this is not a toolbox of strategies to debut on Monday morning but rather a deep dive into what neuroscience and cultural theory has to teach us about being better teachers. I also loved that this is not a book about adding a layer of multiculturalism to your classroom but rather a guide for building the “intellective capacity” of underserved children. This book gave me so much to think about. It’s short but so rich. I know it’s one I’ll want to reread.