Book and Lesson Ideas for 5th Graders
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- Lesson Plans
- Book Reviews
One Day Lesson Plans
(© 1994 NIE Curriculum Guide in The Montana Standard)
This one day lesson explores the America as “melting pot” analogy of diversity. Students discuss his/her own cultural heritage as a springboard into a discussion about the modern immigrant experience. Teachers are asked to clip newspaper articles about recent immigrants so students can imagine what life is life for these new Americans. As a follow-up activity, teachers can arrange for a recent immigrant to speak to the class about what it is like to leave one country for another.
(©1996 Indiana University - Center for Adolescent Studies)
This short exercise helps students understand that fear of immigrants has existed throughout United States history and that our culture has survived and is enriched by each new wave of immigrants. Further extension activities include examining the cultural diversity within the U.S. and the contributions of each group and writing a relrect response paper on the activity.
(© 2004 Independent Television Service (ITVS))
In this lesson on alienation, students listen to a poem read in a different language and then asked to write about how they felt during the reading. The poem is then read in English and students reflect on the personal emotions associated with being an outsider. Students will learn to empathize with new immigrants who encounter the isolation of living in a new land.
One Week Lesson Plans
(© 2008 American Immigration Council )
Students write special invitations to local immigrants and set a decorated place for said immigrant at a special banquet table. Students interviewed immigrants and then decorate cups, plates, bowls and placemats to reflect his/her culture. Students also write an expository essay honoring the immigrant's life. The project enables students to identify the reasons immigrants come to the U.S., hear about their journeys, research and write a narrative essays and most importantly, to appreciate and understand the immigrant experience.
(© 2004 Independent Television Service (ITVS))
Through research and a list of notable immigrants, students will identify a myriad of contributions immigrants have made to the nation, reflect on the value of these contributions and assess how knowledge of immigrant contributions influences personal perspectives. America was founded by foreign-born immigrants, and it continues to benefit economically, politically, and socially from immigration. Recognizing what immigrants give to this country will help students more fully understand the virtues of diversity and multiculturalism.
(© 1998-2008 National Geographic Society)
This lesson will help students understand key concepts of human migration through the examination of maps and migration patterns. Students will research and document the impact of migration on a region's cultural landscape. They will examine migration patterns on a global and national scale as a class and then apply that understanding to telling a migration story about their own community.
One Month Lesson Plans
(© 2008 American Immigration Council )
The goal of Digital Natives=Digital Storytelling is to have students identify their own ancestry and understand the important role immigrants have in developing our nation. By using the latest technologies and literacy-based activities, students will become cognizant of what issues caused people to leave their former lives behind, the problems involved in adapting to a new world, the cultural richness they brought to this country and how these characteristics have endured time to enrich our lives.
(© Amy Price, Teacherlink)
Through Who Belongs Here? An American Story, students will discuss how immigrants may feel when leaving their homeland and arriving in another country. The book discusses how American citizens react to immigrants and how this land has benefitted from immigration through technological advances and diversity. Students might also explore what it means to be an American by reading about another’s immigration experience.
(© 2004 Independent Television Service (ITVS))
First-person narratives about immigration experiences are enlightening—providing, personal and poignant insight into individual immigrant stories. In this lesson, students read oral histories, conduct interviews to gather first-hand stories about immigrant experiences and determine new immigrants' common experiences.
How Tia Lola Came to Stay
By Julia Alvarez. Dell Yearling Books, 2001. 160 pages.
When Miguel's crazy Tia Lola comes to visit from the Dominican Republic, he instantly knows that his life is never going to be the same. As Miguel struggles with his parents' divorce and his recent move to rural Vermont from New York City, he is not sure that he needs the wacky presence of his unusual Spanish-speaking aunt added to the chaos in his life. However, he soon realizes that his flamboyant and colorful aunt is just what he needs to spice up his life and bring his family together.
How Tia Lola Came to Stay is an uplifting and funny story that upper elementary students will enjoy. Through Julia Alvarez's beautiful descriptions of Tia Lola's exotic cooking, lively music, and vibrant storytelling the reader will be captivated and entertained while learning about Caribbean culture. Possible discussion themes include: family, divorce, tolerance, culture and immigration. This funny and smart book will make a great addition to any classroom library.
Ashes of Roses
Mary Jane Auch. Laurel-Leaf Books (Random House), 2002. 246 pages with author's note.
Ashes of Roses begins with the Nolan family's arrival at Ellis Island. Rose Nolan, her parents, and two of her three siblings are permitted to enter the country, but her baby brother is refused entry for medical reasons. Rose's father and brother return to Ireland while Rose and the rest of her family stay in New York. The family tries to adjust to life in the United States, but eventually Mrs.Nolan returns to Ireland, leaving just Rose and her younger sister Maureen in New York. The rest of the novel tells the story of the girls' experiences living and working in New York. The novel brings in many historical elements, including the infamous fire at the Triangle Shirt Waist Factory, to tell a realistic story of working-class immigrant life in early twentieth-century New York. The reading level makes this book appropriate for middle-school students, while the interest-level makes it appropriate for high-school students as well. TESOL students may recognize parts of the story that are familiar even to modern-day immigrants and therefore this novel may also work well for high-level TESOL students.
By Patricia Beatty. Harper Trophy, 1981. 192 pages.
Following family tragedy in Mexico, Lupita and her brother, Salvador, illegally smuggle themselves into the United States, in order to find work supporting their mother and siblings. Lupita soon discovers that America is not necessarily the land of hope and opportunity that she had expected. Together, brother and sister face difficult labor, the challenge of a new language, and the looming presence of la migra- the immigration police. Although each day is trying, this spunky girl maintains the belief that manana- or tomorrow will be a better day.
While Lupita Manana explores familiar immigration issues such as learning a new language and feeling like an outsider, it also does something different by addressing illegal immigration from the perspective of a young Mexican girl. This book could serve as a great prompt for classroom discussions and would make a good addition to any classroom library.
The Journey That Saved Curious George
By Louise Borden, illustrated by Allan Drummond. Houghton Mif?in Company, 2005. 80 pages.
Louise Borden's fascinating account of the journey, the authors of Curious George made when the Nazis invaded France. H.A. Rey and his wife Margret, who were both Jewish, made their escape with the only means of transportation available to them, bicycles. Forced to travel light, the Reys packed a few belongings as well as the manuscripts of their books, including "The Adventures of Fi?", later to be renamed "Curious George". This manuscript was with them as their journey led them to the United States, which became their refuge and permanent home. This exciting author study is complemented by a combination of photographs of the Reys, illustrations from H.A. Rey's children's books, and original illustrations in the style of H. A. Rey by Allan Drummond.
Dreaming Of America: An Ellis Island Story
By Eve Bunting, illustrated by Ben F. Stalh. Troll Bridge Water Paperback, 2000. 32 pages.
Teenage Annie Moore and her two younger brothers sail from Cobh, Ireland to be reunited with their parents who had immigrated to America three years earlier. Arriving in New York Harbor, Annie would be the first immigrant to be processed at Ellis Island on January 1, 1892, her fifteenth birthday. To commemorate this event, matching statues of Annie and her brothers stand at the quay in Cobh Harbor and on Ellis Island. Dreaming of America is a fictionalized account of Annie's journey to America. Through Annie's story, Eve Bunting, an Irish immigrant herself, explores the hopes and fears of millions of others, who like Annie, made their homes here and helped shape our nation. Vivid illustrations and archival photographs will add to the young readers understanding of this time and events in our history.
By Andrea Cheng, illustrated by Ed Young. Lee and Low, 2005. 40 pgs.
Shanghai Messenger is a beautiful book of poetry written by Andrea Cheng and paired with the lovely illustrations of Ed Young. The poems and drawings work together harmoniously, as they tell the story of young Xiao Mei, who is half American and half Chinese and her experiences upon visiting family in Shanghai. Xiao Mei is excited and intrigued about visiting her Chinese family; however she is nervous about the meeting her strange relatives as well as dealing with cultural differences. Ultimately, she learns to appreciate her Chinese heritage through her many experiences in Shanghai, from traditional hair braids, to making wontons and even learning about Tai Chi. Upon returning to the United States, Xiao Mei isfilled with pride and appreciation for both her Chinese and American cultures. This is a fantastic book for children ages 9-12 years old, clearly readers will enjoy the book's lovely cadence as well as its thoughtful and heartfelt story and delicate drawings.
Mai Ya's Long Journey
By Sheila Cohen. Wisconsin Historical Society Press, 2004. 80 pages.
This true story of a young Hmong girl and her family's journey from a refugee camp in Thailand to life in Madison, Wisconsin was written by the child's ESL teacher. Mai Ya Xiong, now 25 years old and her family's first college graduate, spent her first seven years trapped in Thailand after her parents narrowly escaped from Laos. Her father had fought against Communists in a secret army developed by the United States Central Intelligence Agency. Life in Wisconsin challenged the young immigrant girl to keep a balance between her Hmong culture and American ways. The biography includes a concise look at Hmong animist beliefs, traditions and customs that date back 5,000 years. Photographs of Mai Ya growing up illustrate her story and corroborate an already authentic account. Mai Ya Xiong exemplifies the "can-do" attitude Americans have come to revere in our immigrant stories. The book, complete with timelines, glossary, index, appendix and reading group guidelines, enables students to experience Mai Ya's contemporary journey in its historical context.
Behind The Mountains (First Person Fiction Series)
By Edwidge Danticat. Scholastic Inc., 2004. 192 pages.
Living in rural Haiti, Celiane Esperance, her mother, and brother Moy anxiously await the cassettes Papa sends them from New York each month. Forced by economic circumstances to seek work in America, Papa has been gone for three years and the family anticipates joining him when the proper visas can be arranged. While visiting an aunt in Port-Au-Prince, Celiane and her mother are nearly killed by a bomb, leaving them more determined to join Papa. Just as there are always more mountains behind the mountains, however, the family finds that there are more challenges to face when they are reunited with Papa in New York. Celiane shares her feelings about her family and experiences through the diary she was awarded by her teacher in Haiti.
Beautifully written by Edwidge Danticat, recognized by The New York Times as one of our best young writers, Behind The Mountains explores the themes of coming of age, family relationships, separation and reunification, as well as immigration and cultural identity.
Behind The Mountains is one of the books in the Scholastic First Person Fiction series exploring the experiences of teenagers of various backgrounds who immigrate to America.
The Journal of Otto Peltonen: A Finnish Immigrant By William Durbin. A Dear America Book, Scholastic, 2000. 170 pages.
In 1905, fifteen year old Otto, his mother and two younger sisters, leave the grandparents behind in Finland to join with his father who's laboring in an iron ore mine in Hibbing, Minnesota. The poor family suffers through an excruciating voyage only to land in a squalid mining camp where Father faces mortal danger six days a week below ground. Otto eventually joins his dad in the mines as the family scrimps and saves to buy a farm. The harsh life, fueled by corruption and corporate callousness, gave rise to the organized labor movement that eventually unionized our mining industry.
Author William Durbin, a high school English teacher in Hibbing, recreates the dismal world that many of the 250,000 Finnish immigrants faced a hundred years ago after escaping the Russian Army and trying to get a foothold in the American dream.
By Marilyn Freeman. New York: iUniverse, Inc, 2003. 42 pages.
The journey described in the book Pasquale's Journey is a familiar immigration story. The opening of the novel finds Pasquale and his family waiting at home in Italy for word from Pasquale's father who has traveled to the United States ahead of them. When Papa finally sends for the family, Mama must sell the family farm and prepare the family for the voyage. The long, difficult sea passage does not diminish the family's happiness upon arriving in the United States. Papa's gift to Pasquale at the very end of the story is an apt metaphor for the promise that awaits Pasquale, and other immigrants, in the United States. The reading level and content matter make this book an appropriate choice for intermediate-level (grades 3-4) elementary school students. The book is also well-suited for TESOL students at any level.
The Stone Goddess
By Minfong Ho. Scholastic Inc., 2005. 208 pages.
Twelve-year-old Nakri and her family live comfortably and happily in Phnom Penh until their lives are forever altered by the civil war in Cambodia. Forced out of their homes by Khmer Rouge soldiers, the family flees to safety in the country home of their grandparents. Their security is shattered again when the father and three older siblings, including Nakri, are sent away to forced labor camps. After years of deprivation and loss, Nakri is reunited with members of her family, only to be forced to move again, first to refugee camps in Thailand and finally to a new life in America. Compassionately written, The Stone Goddess explores themes of family and culture, war and death, hope and renewal.
The Stone Goddess is one of the books in the Scholastic First Person Fiction series exploring the experiences of teenagers of various backgrounds who immigrate to America.
We Are Americans: Voices of the Immigrant Experience
By Dorothy and Thomas Hoobler. Scholastic Nonfiction, 2003. 192 pages.
Grades 4 and up
We Are Americans is a coffee table book for the classroom, presenting the history of American immigration chronologically, from the new theories of prehistoric immigration to the groups arriving in the present day. Using archival images, artifacts, data charts, and personal narratives, the book explores the factors responsible for immigration, the hopes of immigrants, the hardships of the journey, and adjustments to a new culture, as well as the contributions these new Americans made to our nation. While they learn about the groups and individuals from every culture and continent that formed our country, students will find connections to their own immigration history. This well researched and well produced book offers a detailed index and a further reading list, and is an excellent resource for a study of immigration.
Living as a Refugee in America: Mohammed's Story
By Helen Howard. World Almanac Library, 2006. 48 pages.
Now in an American high school, Mohammed, 15, tells the story of how he fled the Taliban in Afghanistan and wandered through Iran and Turkey before coming to the U.S. with his mother, brother and sister. Living as a Refugee in America weaves Mohammed's story with facts about Afghanistan's recent history and discusses the plight of refugees driven by war and famine across the world. The moving first person narrative, printed in italics, features full-color, captioned photos of Mohammed, his family and friends. It also discusses issues such as discrimination, cultural barriers and maintaining dual identity. This non-fiction book contains a glossary of helpful vocabulary as well suggestions for how students can take action to help the displaced by providing an annotated list of international human rights organizations to contact.
By Ann Jaramillo. Roaring Book Press, 2006. 144 pgs.
The desperate story of Miguel and his younger sister Elena struggling to escape poverty in southern Mexico to join their parents in California is E.S.L. teacher Ann Jaramillo's first novel. Fear of starvation and a longing for family drives these two teenagers into the dark gauntlet of illegal immigration. Violence, corruption and narrow escapes keep the ordeal fast-paced and scary. The siblings survive the journey and face further disappointment through deportation. Compelling and suspenseful, the story exempli?es the plight of countless poor people looking for a better life across the border. While the media argues the big picture of illegal immigrants including jobs, employers, security, fences, mass round-ups and amnesty, Jaramillo looks at the issue from ground level through the eyes of two children with few options. It's a perilous adventure best saved for at least junior high school age students.
Memories of Sun: Stories of Africa and America
Edited by Jane Kurtz. Greenwillow Books, 2004. 243 pages.
Grades 5 and up
In Memories of Sun, we hear the stories of children who currently live in various parts of Africa, Americans living in or visiting Africa and Africans living in America. Divided into these three distinct sections, the stories express a variety of cultural experiences as well as the imprint these cultures have on the children who inhabit them both. Some stories are touching, some humorous and some heartbreaking. All are unforgettable.
Jane Kurtz, a self described "third culture kid," was born in the U.S. but raised for most of her childhood in Ethiopia. In Memories of Sun, she has created an anthology of twelve stories and three poems that speak in the voices of children who share that duality of culture. The back of the book contains an informative section about the authors. Students will find much to learn and relate to once they read these powerful stories.
Drita, My Homegirl
By Jenny Lombard. Putnam Juvenile, 2006. 176 pages.
Drita My Homegirl is the story of Drita, a Muslim Albanian refugee who has immigrated to New York City from war-torn Kosovo. Drita longs to make friends in school, but faces difficulty due to her limited English. Drita My Homegirl is narrated through alternating chapters told from the perspective of two fourth graders, Drita and Maxie. As their stories unfold, their unlikely friendship grows against the backdrop of both girls feeling a bit like outsiders. Drita is trying to deal with immigrating as well as her mother's depression, and at the same time she is also struggling to fit in at school. Maxie, on the other hand, appears to be a fun-loving comedian at school, but she too is struggling outside of school as she attempts to deal with the death of her mother. As these unlikely friends come together, the themes of family, friendship, and love resonate. Drita My Homegirl is appropriate for grades 3-5 and would be an excellent title read aloud that could be used to engage students in group discussions.
Twist of Gold
By Michael Morpurgo. Egmont Books, 2004. 304 pages.
Two Irish children, hounded by starvation and plague, escape the potato famine, and leave behind three dead siblings as well as a dying mother to venture by sailing ship to America in search of their father. The kids find themselves working the streets of Boston before heading west across the continent via riverboat and wagon train to find their father and no-longer dying mother. (Wait. How'd she get well and go from Cork County to California?) Sean and Annie endure crooks, shipwreck, and getting stranded the desert; but they prevail.
Besides the inexplicable use of apostrophes for quotation marks, the problem with this book is its loose connection to historical accuracy. It's a fast-paced fantasy adventure story that fails to capture a realistic portrayal of the American immigrant experience.
The Irish Dresser
By Cynthia Neale. White Mane Publishing Company, 2003. 100 pages.
The Irish Dresser is fantastic historical fiction which tells the story of Ireland's Potato Famine that occurred between 1845 and 1850. Told from the perspective of thirteen year old Nora McCabe, the reader experiences her family's struggle to survive. Nora decides to escape by hiding in her family's dresser aboard the ship, fantasizing about food and a better life. The reader experiences the difficult journey experienced by over two million Irish through Nora's touching story. Surely, students will be engaged by the McCabe family's tragic and difficult voyage to America in search of food, as well as Nora's vivid and descriptive voice. The Irish Dresser is an exciting story about the reality of taking risks and facing the unknown. This title will make a fantastic read aloud and could be enjoyed by students in grades 2-6.
Zayda Was A Cowboy
By June Levitt Nislic. Jewish Publication Society, 2005. 74 pages.
Nislick's book tells of her grandfather when he immigrated to America as part of the "Galveston Plan", an effort to bring Jewish immigrants to the western United States in the early 20th century. Framed as a story within a story, Zayda's unusual immigration story is told to his grandchildren when he comes to live with them. Zayda describes his life with his family before he is forced to run away to avoid conscription into the Czar's army which, as a Jew, would have led to cruel treatment, even death. After leaving his small Russian town, Zayda made his way to Bremen, Germany where he worked to earn the fare for a ticket to America. Landing in Galveston, Texas, Zayda, whose name was changed to Mike Benson, is greeted by a representative of the Jewish Immigrants Information Bureau, who helps him find a job as a ranch hand. As the story unfolds it describes Zayda's life on the ranch, learning to speak English (and Spanish, as many of the other ranch hands are Mexican), and working on a cattle drive from Texas to Kansas City where he settled and became part of the Jewish community.
Dear Miss Breed
By Joanne Oppenheim. Scholastic Non?ction, 2006. 288 pages.
Grades 6 to adult
In telling the story of Clara Breed, the children's librarian of the San Diego Public Library and her devotion to the Japanese American children, once her patrons, who were incarcerated in prison camps during World War II, Joanne Oppenheim reminds us not only of a shameful and pain-?lled chapter in American history, but also how as individuals we can often make a difference. The story of this remarkable woman and her relationship with her children is told through the letters the children wrote, testimony given to the Commission on Wartime Relocation and Internment of Civilians in 1980-81, recent interviews and correspondence with the now adult children, as well as news accounts from the war period. Dear Miss Breed is an accessible account of World War II for children ages ten and up, and would be a wonderful guide to spark discussions with children about democracy, freedom, war and Nikkei history in America. Thoughtful parallels can be drawn between the events in Dear Miss Breed and events in our own times.
By Pam Munoz Ryan. Scholastic, 2000. 288 pages.
Set during the Great Depression, Esperanza Rising is a lovely story of self-acceptance in a foreign environment. As told through the perspective of young Esperanza, the book begins with the characters comfortably living luxurious rancho life in Mexico- that is until Esperanza's father is tragically killed. Following his death, Esperanza and her mother have no other choice but to immigrate to California in order to find work. Thus begins their journey of assimilation within a new country and social class. Having lived a privileged life, it is not easy for Esperanza to remake herself while adjusting to life as a migrant farm worker.
Teachers will appreciate the book's connections between the cultural, economical and political issues of California during the 1930's. This fantastic coming of age story corresponds with a historical backdrop of strikes and the labor movement, government sweeps, and injustice. Pam Munoz Ryan's fascinating book is based upon her maternal grandmother's experience of immigrating to California from Mexico. Esperanza's struggles and her ability to rise above her difficulties will surely spark conversation within the classroom. This book is great for whole class reading and as a link to exploring historical connections.
By Kashmira Sheth. Hyperion Books for Children, 2004. 192 pages.
Inspired by the author's own experiences, Blue Jasmine tells the story of a teenager who immigrates from a small town in India to a large American city. Leaving behind the comfort of her loving extended family and friends, twelve year old Seema Trivedi moves to Iowa City when her father accepts a new job offer. There she learns not only a new culture and language, but also that in America, like India, one must look past the façade to discover the true value of people. While Blue Jasmine examines many familiar immigration issues such as fear of being the outsider, cultural duality, and difficulty of learning a new language, Kasmira Sheth's novel fills a void in children's literature by presenting this story from an Indian teenager's perspective. Since very little children's literature exists on the topic, this award winning book is a welcome addition to classroom libraries.
Finding My Hat
By John Son. Scholastic, 2003. 192 pages.
An outstanding addition to Scholastic's excellent First Person Fiction series, Finding My Hat, tells the story of the Parks, a first generation Korean-American family, in the 1970s and 80s. Told in vignettes from the point of view the eldest child and only son, the story, traces Jin-Han's life from his first memories at the age of two to his mother's death when he is a teenager. Jin-Han and his family move from Chicago to Memphis to Houston as the family struggles to find a place for themselves in America and Jin-Han struggles to find his own identity, "his hat," from among his Korean traditions, his American attitudes, and his own special gifts. The vignettes are often hilarious, as when pre-school Jin-Han wets his pants, or pre-teen Jin-Han discovers girls, while the incident recalling Jin-Han's mother's tragic illness and death is poignant and moving. This engrossing novel captures the universal aspects of Jin-Han's coming of age, as well as, the experiences of an immigrant family adjusting to life in the United States. A valuable feature of the series is an afterword in which the writer describes his or her own experiences of immigrating to the United States. The reading level and subject matter make this book appropriate for seventh through ninth grade and TESOL students. It would work well as reading for social studies and English in studies of culture, immigration, point of view, character development, and style.
By Shaun Tan. Arthur A. Levine Books, 2007. 128 pgs.
In this wordless graphic novel, through magnificent illustrations, Tan captures the disorientation immigrants may feel toward their new surroundings. It depicts the journey of one man who seems both accepted and rejected by his new country. The only writing is in an invented alphabet, which motivates the viewer to feel confused just like the immigrants must feel when they encounter a strange new language and way of life. A feeling of tolerance and acceptance is presented throughout the story and transcends race and ethnicity. The youngest readers and the most sophisticated will find this book interesting. This book is an excellent conversation starter in any mainstream or ESL classroom.
Flight to Freedom
Ana Veciana-Suarez. Scholastic, 2002. 240 pages.
Another wonderful addition to Scholastic's superb First Person Fiction series, Flight to Freedom, tells the story of the Garcia family who in 1967 flee from Cuba to Miami, Florida. The story is told through the diary entries of thirteen-year-old Yara Garcia. In Cuba Yara hates the compulsory youth work camps and the strict food rations. However, once Yara is in Miami, she misses the family left behind in Cuba, and she struggles with family tensions, a new language, and a new school. While Yara's father joins an anti-Castro group and insists that the family will soon be back in Cuba, Yara, her mother, and her sisters slowly adjust to their new life and opportunities in America. The story is absorbing, with believable characters and informative detail. An effective feature of the series is an afterword in which the writer describes his or her own experiences of immigrating to the United States. The reading level and subject matter make this book appropriate for seventh through ninth grade and TESOL students. It would work well as reading for social studies and English in studies of culture, immigration, point of view, character development, and style.
Escape from Saigon: How a Vietnam War Orphan Became an American Boy
By Andrea Warren. Farrar, Straus & Girouox, 2004. 110 pages.
At the end of the Vietnam War, an eight-year-old "Amerasian" boy named Long flees his country and finds a loving home with his adoptive family in Ohio. The author recounts the story of Long's life-from his birth and early childhood, shadowed by his father's abandonment and his mother's suicide, to boyhood in Saigon with his loving yet struggling grandmother who eventually makes the agonizing decision to put him up for adoption. Long, now age nine, becomes part of Operation Babylift, the US- coordinated effort that evacuated more than 2,000 children from Saigon in just three days in 1975. This photo-essay from Long's emotional point of view is interspersed with just the right amount of history. Escape is ideal for middle and upper grade classrooms studying various immigration themes including lost heritage, poverty, separation and family relations.
Brothers in Hope: The Story of the Lost Boys of Sudan
By Mary Williams, illustrated by Gregory Christie. Lee and Low Books, 2005. 40 pages.
As the result of renewed fighting in Sudan in the mid 1980's, thirty thousand orphaned, homeless boys were forced to walk almost one thousand miles through eastern Africa in search of refuge. Based on true accounts as told to her by some of these Lost Boys, Mary Williams' story describes the experiences of eight-year-old Garang, as he seeks safety after his village is destroyed by war.
Unable to find his family, Garang wanders down the road where he joins thousands of other boys, who like him, were spared because they were tending their family animals when the war came upon their villages. Organizing themselves into groups, the boys travel east to Ethiopia, hunting for food, caring for younger ones, and avoiding the soldiers along the way. After finding safety in an Ethiopian refugee camp, the boys are forced to flee again, this time to Kenya, when war erupts in Ethiopia. Eventually, some find safety in the United States. This inspirational story of courage and survival provides students a starting point for a deeper study of the effects of war on civilian populations, especially children.
In her Author's Note and Afterword, Mary Williams describe her experiences with these children that inspired her to write their story and create a foundation to support their adjustment to life in America.
The Orphan of Ellis Island
By Elvira Woodruff. Scholastic, 1997. 174 pgs.
A class field trip turns into the adventure of a lifetime when young Dominic Cantori, an orphan, visits Ellis Island. Uncomfortable with all of the discussion about ancestry during the field trip, Dominic wanders off from the group, falls asleep in a utility closet, and soon finds himself swept away to another time and place. This time travel trip takes Dominic to Italy in 1908 where he befriends three orphaned brothers. He discovers the harsh conditions that compelled people to leave their homes and seek refuge in the United States. Dominic joins the brothers as they leave Italy and he experiences first hand what it felt like to travel as a steerage passenger aboard a ship to America. Upon entering New York harbor he is elated to see the Statue of Liberty and soon discovers the challenges immigrants faced at Ellis Island. When Dominic returns to the present he has developed a deeper appreciation of the struggles of those long ago immigrants and welcomes the opportunity to be placed with a foster family that is eager to adopt a child like him.
American Born Chinese
By Gene Luen Yan. First Second, 2006. 233 pages.
Grades 6 to 12
American Born Chinese is a graphic novel that cleverly takes readers through a journey that combines three storylines and three characters into one idea. The stories merge into a single narrative that looks at stereotype, immigration, and assimilation. The graphic novel interweaves Chinese mythology with the American Dream. Students are sure to enjoy the images and text through the quick moving stories. Teachers will find the book surprisingly useful as a springboard for discussions about discrimination, tolerance, stereotyping and immigration.
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