Nonfiction Picture Book Wednesday
Here at Teach Mentor Texts we are always looking for more ways to support teachers! We've found that teachers seem to be constantly on the lookout for great nonfiction. We know we are! To help with this undying quest for outstanding non-fiction, we are excited to participate in Nonfiction Picture Book Wednesday hosted by Kid Lit Frenzy and The Nonfiction Detectives. Every Wednesday, you'll find a non-fiction review here - although it may not always be a picture book review. Please visit Kid Lit Frenzy to see what non-fiction others have to share, too.
Author: Charles E. Smith, Jr.
Illustrator: Bryain Collier
Publisher: Candlewick Press
Publication Date: November, 2007
Genre/Format: Non-Fiction/Poetry-Picture Book
GoodReads Summary: A dynamic author-illustrator team follows the three-time heavyweight champ through twelve rounds of a remarkable life.
"Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee. . . . I’m the prettiest thing that ever lived!"
From the moment a fired-up teenager from Kentucky won 1960 Olympic gold to the day in 1996 when a retired legend, hands shaking from Parkinson’s, returned to raise the Olympic torch, the boxer known as "The Greatest" waged many a fight. Some were in the ring, against opponents like Sonny Liston and Joe Frazier; others were against societal prejudice and against a war he refused to support because of his Islamic faith. Charles R. Smith Jr.’s rap-inspired verse weaves and bobs and jabs with relentless energy, while Bryan Collier’s bold collage artwork matches every move — capturing the "Louisville loudmouth with the great gift of rhyme" who shed the name Cassius Clay to take on the world as Muhammad Ali.
What I Think: Energy and determination fill the pages of this unique picture book. In twelve different "rounds", Smith has written a poem for different stages n Muhammad Ali's life. I discovered many things about Muhammad Ali that I didn't know before. I was especially drawn into the rhyming poems. The rhyme was used effectively to give a specific rhythym and cadence to the whole book. It is pretty amazing how the poetry seems to match who Muhammad Ali was as a person. Like I said, there is energy and also a fluid rhythm that seems to personify Muhammad Ali's personality and style in and out of boxing.
I really enjoyed this book. I didn't know that it was going to be a collection of poems until I opened it but I love the choice to write poems. I think there is a chance that lengthy prose would not have been as effective in capturing the essence of Muhammad Ali in a picture book. I definitely recommend this book to use when talking about author's purpose. I would ask students to think about what decisions that author had to make when writing this book. Some questions I might pose would be:
*Why do you think the author chose to write this book in poems?
*What do you notice about the poems?
*How does the rhyme and rhythm in the poem help you visualize Muhammad Ali?
*What was the author's purpose in using poems that rhyme to narrative Muhammad Ali's story?
To continue this conversation, I would then read Jimi: Sounds Like a Rainbow: a Story of the Young Jimi Hendrix by Gary Golio and talk about the decisions the author and illustrator made in writing that book. Both books seems to exude the very qualities that each man is known for. The story of Jimi Hendrix's childhood is illustrated with vivid, fluid artwork that seems to capture his personality. Likewise, the text is very descriptive and colorful and also has a certain rhythm to it that seems to bring Jimi Hendrix and his creativity to life. I think by focusing conversation on the author's purpose when reading both of these books, students would recognize how an author is very discerning and purposeful about decisions that he or she makes when writing a book. Also, at some point, I think it would be great to how a video clip of Muhammad Ali fighting or an audio of Jimi Hendrix's music to bring these people to life. This would help students see and decide for themselves if the author's work did truly personify each of this historical figures.
Read Together: Grades 5 - 12
Read Alone: Grades 5 - 12
Read With: Jimi: Sounds Like a Rainbow, a Story of the Young Jimi Hendrix by Gary Golio, other books about Muhammad Ali, other books illustrated by Bryan Collier
Snatch of Text:
"Confident teenager already in control
of mind, body, and spirit,
on the road to your goal,
using mouth, skill, and fire
to fulfill your desire
to become a pro boxer,
you set the limits higher
by pushing opponents
with words before a fight,
launching verbal jabs
and trying to ignite
fear in them
and interest in you,
young Cassius Clay..."Reading Strategies to Practice: Activating Background Knowledge, Making Connections, Author's Purpose, Reading Fluency
Writing Strategies to Practice: Descriptive, Rhyme, Rhythm, Compare and Contrast, Mood, Tone, Cadence
Writing Prompts: Write about a time in your life when you truly felt like you were acting like yourself - maybe it was with families or friends when you felt you could really let loose and be yourself. Be conscious of the choices you make as you write the story - how does choosing to write in a paragraph form versus a poem change the story you are telling? Try to capture how you felt at that moment in your writing be using descriptive language but also with the format you use.
Topics Covered: Determination, Audacity, Strength, Will, Hardship, Integration - History, Equality, Energy, Beliefs, Religion
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