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Review & Lesson: Weslandia (1999)

WeslandiaWeslandia by Paul Fleischman

Wesley is a thinker and a dreamer.  He is an outcast.  Other kids pick on him and he has no friends.  So Wesley creates a world all his own, a world he calls Weslandia.  Weslandia begins as a small garden and develops into a community.  Wesley grows his own food, creates his own sport, and even makes up an entirely new language (with an 80 letter alphabet!).  By using his knowledge and putting his energy toward something productive, Wesley finds that he is able to find true happiness and make friends.

This would a great book to teach children about civilizations, however I recently used it for another reason: to teach kids how to be a thinker.  There is no stronger tool, I feel, for teaching our students than the books we read to or with them.  I like how this book honors Wesley being himself, how Wesley’s brain and smarts help him find his happiness, and how by not being afraid to think outside the box and do something other people wouldn’t do, Wesley was able to teach others and make friends.  Attached is the lesson I wrote for grades 3-5.   -Marika

3-5 Thinker Lesson

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Review: Secrets of Selkie Bay (2015)

selkieSecrets of Selkie Bay by Shelley Moore Thomas

Years ago I saw a movie called The Secret of Roan Inish. It was a story of Ireland, family, and selkies. That story stuck with me through the years and the Irish folklore of selkies continues to fascinate me, so when I saw this title available to read and review in advance through NetGalley, I jumped on it. I was not disappointed.

Set in an Irish seaside town, Secrets of Selkie Bay tells the tale of three girls and their Da trying to pick up the pieces after the disappearance of their mother and wife. Questions abound, adding intrigue to the story. Is it possible that their mother is a selkie, and has found her seal coat and returned to the sea? Why won’t Da spend the money in the sugar jar despite their financial distress? Could there really be an enchanted island in the mist, home of selkies and buried treasure?

I look forward to purchasing this title for our library and book talking it with our students. How many of them have heard of selkies, I wonder? Shelley Moore Thomas did an excellent job developing the characters in the book, touching on themes such as loss, family and the environment, and creating an air of magical mystery in a seaside town.

The book is not without flaws. I usually love covers done by Gilbert Ford, but this one is lost on me.  The seal drawings look pained and sad. Overall, however, this is book I will recommend highly to my students!

-Erin