Her Right Foot

 

Regional focus:  The United States

Author:  Dave Eggers

Illustrator:  Shawn Harris

Genre:  children’s literature

I recently spent 5 days in Houston, Texas.  I’d never been to Texas and while I had a few preconceived notions of the Lone Star  State, my prototype of the region was ambiguous at best.  Prior to my visit to Houston, the top five images that came to mind  were:

  1. Cowboy boots
  2. George Bush
  3. Oil
  4. BBQ
  5. Pace Picante Sauce

Some months ago I had seen “Anthony Bourdain:  Parts Unknown”  the Houston TV episode, hence, I knew that the state had more to offer than nachos and cowboys–don’t get me wrong, I love nachos and cowboys–but I also love culture and diversity.  

At first sight, Houston appears to be suburbia at its finest.  Track houses with square gardens expand throughout the city, Target, Barnes & Noble, and Whole Foods are abundant, and mega-highways create maze like structures.  On the surface, Houston doesn’t seem different from other US cities that have “grown up” in my lifetime.  I could have been in my childhood suburb of Valencia, CA or in Tempe, Arizona.  

However, behind the suburban veil, Houston displayed a surprisingly more authentic persona.  

My first lunch was at an Indian restaurant, and at the table next to me, a group of friends chatted vibrantly in Spanish.  At night, I ate at Mai’s Vietnamese Restaurant  and spotted at least 10 different cultural groups.  While shopping at Target, I heard Portuguese, Spanish, Polish and other languages I couldn’t decipher.  

Not only did these cultural groups exist in the same environment, they also seemed to co-exist…that is to say, to live together, work together, speak together, while maintaining their cultural identity.  

One of my favorite pastimes is perusing  book stores in new cities, hence when I stumbled across a book store in a shopping center, I was lured into the wonderful world of stories and illustrations in the children’s section.  On display was Dave Egger’s, Her Right Foot, a profound children’s book that was published last year.  Egger’s story brings to life the history of the Statue of Liberty, and on a much broader level, speaks of the statue’s symbolism of welcoming  immigrants with love, grace, and empathy.  The current news is daunting, and I am not naive in thinking that immigration today is “a bowl full of cherries.”  However, when visiting places in the United State like Houston, where cultural diversity exists and in many ways thrives, I feel a tiny bit of recoil to the angst I often experience when thinking of the boundless hardships that current  immigrants encounter in the “land of the free.”  Her Right Foot expresses the powerful message of acceptance that our statue proudly stands for, and as Entertainment Weekly so perfectly stated, “a friendly reminder of how America can be at its best.”

About:

Her Right Foot tells the story of how the Statue of Liberty came to be one of the most famous landmarks in the United States and shares an array of fun historical facts of her creation. In addition, Eggers zooms in on Lady Liberty’s right foot, that is in constant motion, alluding to the idea that she is always moving, always acting, never stagnant in her plight to protect our values of equality, freedom and diversity.

What I love:

  • Her Right Foot is a story that children of all ages will delight in, and that adults will treasure.
  • Her Right Foot reminds us of the origins of the United States, a country rooted in the journey of immigrants.
  • Harris’ illustrations, made with cut paper and ink, are playful and vibrant.

Themes: immigration, freedom, acceptance

Discussion:

  • Why do you think people for different countries might  immigrate to the United States?
  • What is freedom?  Why is freedom important?
  • Would you like to visit the Statue of Liberty?  Why or why not?

Connections:

  • The Statue of Liberty is a symbol (an image that represents and idea or concept) of liberty and freedom.  Design your own symbol of liberty.  How would you represent liberty in an immense  statue?
  • Harris uses paper and ink to create his illustrations of the Statue of Liberty.  Experiment with collage (cutting and gluing paper scraps together) to create your own version of the Statue of Liberty.
  • IMG_7650
  • Investigate why the Statue of Liberty is green.  The statue was originally a dull brown when it was inaugurated in 1886.  What happened?  You will find an explanation here  and can even conduct your own experiment to see how the statue slowly changed from brown to green.

Unknown-4

Nine O’ Clock Lullaby

Last summer, I had the opportunity to travel to India with my eldest daughter, Emma.  On our journey from Guatemala, we stopped in New York and Dubai, and passed through  many time zones.  When we finally arrived at our destination, we were 11.5 hours ahead of our friends and family back home (yes, India is one of the few countries that has a .5 hour change in time).  Emma and I marveled at the concept of her sister preparing for  the day to begin as we were putting on pajamas .  We wondered what her grandmother in Belgium was doing when is was 9:00 PM in India, and what her cousins in California were up to as we gazed at the stars over the Himalayas.  When it’s 9:00 PM in Guatemala, what time is it in your home?

Regional focus:  The Whole Wide World

Author:  Marilyn Singer

Illustrator: Frane Lessac

Genre:  children’s literature

Discover what is happening around the world in different time zones. A young girl learns that when it′s 9 P.M. in Brooklyn, it′s 10 P.M. in Puerto Rico, and midnight on the mid-Atlantic. Far from the busyness of New York traffic, the Puerto Rican night is filled with conga music, sweet rice, and fruit ice. In India, villagers begin their morning chores as well… ropes squeak, buckets splash, and bracelets jangle. Meanwhile, in Australia, a sly kookaburra is ready for a noontime feast.

What I love:

  • A great book to explore the concept of time zones, which is abstract for children.
  • The rhyming in the book is fun to read.
  • Illustrations are bright and colorful.

Themes: world exploration, time zones, culture

Discussion:

  • How can it be day in some countries and night in others at the same moment?
  • Are there any countries from the story that you would like to visit? Why?
  • What does 9:00 PM at night look like in your house?

Connections:

  • Make a time book and investigate what might be happening in four different countries at one particular time. Illustrate or write about what scenes might be occurring in the different countries.
  • Explore, what does breakfast look like in your country and in another country?
  • Make your own clock with a paper plate. Talk with a friend about what you do at different times of the day.
  • Look at a world map. Predict what time it is in different regions of the world.

The Golden Rule

When I read the current events of our world, I often feel overwhelmed by the challenges facing us as a global community. As an early childhood educator, I wonder, “what if our world leaders were required to return to kindergarten and learn the empathy basics, like The Golden Rule?” I don’t mean to simplify politics and struggles that run deep in history, but what if… Today I celebrate a timeless world classic about one simple rule.

Regional focus:  The Whole Wide World

Author:  Ilene Cooper

Illustrator: Gabi Swiatkowska

Genre:  Children’s literature

This book is a gentle reminder of a timeless rule for parent and child, Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.  Everyone knows a version of the Golden Rule. But what does it really mean? And how do you follow it? In this simple yet profound book, a grandfather explains to his grandson that the Golden Rule means you “treat people the way you would like to be treated. It’s golden because it’s so valuable, and a way of living your life that’s so simple, it shines.” Though it may be a simple rule, it isn’t easy to follow. Fortunately, following the Golden Rule is something everyone can do, which means that every person-old or young, rich or poor-can be a part of making the world a better place.

What I love:

  • The book has gorgeous and intriguing illustrations.
  • The book uses child appropriate language and stories to explore a challenging theme.
  • The story is a useful teaching tool for teachers with diverse student groups.
  • The Golden Rule can be used as a powerful introduction to exploring delicate current world events.

Themes: values, world culture, compassion, empathy

Discussion:

  • In your own words, describe the golden rule.
  • Have you recently practiced the golden rule? When? Why?
  • Have you recently seen an adult practicing the golden role? Who? When?  Why?

Connections:

  • Make a collage using recycled newspapers and magazines of people practicing the golden rule.
  • Ask adult friends to share world stories from history of people practicing the golden rule.
  • Create a play/theater of characters practicing the golden rule.