Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Turn it Around Tuesdays - A Nation's Hope

On the eve of World War II, African American boxer Joe Louis fought German Max Schmeling in a bout that had more at stake than just the world heavyweight title; for much of America their fight came to represent America's war with Germany. This elegant and powerful picture book biography centers around the historic fight in which Black and White America were able to put aside prejudice and come together to celebrate our nation's ideals.
~ Summary from GoodReads 

Last week I shared A Nation's Hope:  The Story of Boxing Legend Joe Louis with my fourth graders.  By coincidence we had just read two other Kadir Nelson-illustrated books:  Henry's Freedom Box and Mama Miti.  My students were riveted by this story.  Although they are in fourth grade, they don't have a lot of background knowledge about World War II (curriculum-wise, I mean) but nonetheless the importance of this American versus German boxing match-up was not lost on them.

Here's one of the reasons I love my job:  I told them that this book was probably being considered for a Caldecott Medal and after finishing the book I said, "So, what do you think the chances are that this book will win the Caldecott?"  Hands went up.  "85%", "97%", "95%".  They took my question quite literally, as you can see!

My fourth graders made some very astute observations about how realistic the pictures were, how Kadir Nelson seems to illustrate books about African Americans, how Kadir Nelson's name seems to be before Matt De La Pena's name on the front cover, and there was much discussion over how much the text and the pictures complimented each other.  Many students agreed that this was a book where the words and the pictures were equally powerful.

I know my students would love it "100%" if this book won a Caldecott and so would I.

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