*Click on each title for a downloadable Readers Guide.

Readers Guide: Desert Song

Johnston, Tony, Young, Ed ill. Desert Song. San Francisco: Sierra Books for Children, 2000. Recommended age levels 5 to 12.

1. Book Summary:
Bring the experience of night falling on the desert through these lyrical words revealing the hidden night-life of the desert. The rhythmic poems  use onomatopoeia and musical phrasing to reveal the sounds of night in the desert such as the coyotes howl and more.  Richly colored illustrations accompany the text to reveal the stark beauty of the desert landscape.

2. Review excerpts/awards:

Book Links (A.L.A) 10/01/01
Booklist starred 10/01/00
Kirkus Review 09/15/00 "Pictures and text are gentle and poetic, suggesting the mystery of the desert at night, where all is not as quiet as it might first appear."
Publisher's Weekly 9/25/00 "Johnston (The Barn Owls) lyrically evokes the end of desert heat and the beginning of shadows at the close of day as Young's (Lon Po Po) opening spreads of a sky aflame in yellow hues give way to orange.
School Library Journal starred 12/01/00 " ...illustrations create images that are as haunting and rich as the language. From dusk to dawn, a treat."
Wilson's Children 10/01/06

3. Questions to ask before reading:
Ask students to discuss the following questions:
*What is a desert? What do you think the title of the book, "Desert Song", means?
*What time of day do you think this poem takes place? Why do you think that is the time of day? (when asking this question, make sure students can see the cover of the book.)
*If the poem is set at night, what kinds of animals and sounds do you think you will hear and see in the desert?
*Do you think poetry can tell a story?  Why or why not? This book is a poem that tells the story of a night in the desert.
4. Suggestions for reading poems aloud:
Have a different student read each stanza of the poem. You can have the poem displayed using an LCD projector or have copies of the poem for each student. Another way to read the poem is to have each stanza on an index card (in a numbered order) and pass them out randomly. Student then will read their portion of the poem at the correct time.

5. Follow up Activities (writing, art, science, etc.):
Music/Listening Connection
Play a piece of relaxation music or new age music that has nature sounds in it, such as Sounds of the Rainforest. Have students listen to the music and identify the animals and other sounds that they hear. Then have them discuss the creatures and sounds that they heard. Did it make them think of anything? What?

Writing/Language Arts
 Use the poem and pictures as a writing prompt for animal night life in the desert. "My night as a bat..."

Science Connection
Have students talk about the desert biome and the animals that live in the desert. What adaptations and camouflage to animals use to survive in the desert? Is there more activity in the desert during the night or the day? Explain your answer.

Art Connection:
Collaborate with the art teacher and have students create a scene from the book using different materials such as paint, bits of paper, map pencils, etc.

6. Related websites/blogs
This article features information on the plants, animals, and people of the desert. You can take an Internet field trip or visit other desert sites. Also features a review and a teacher guide.
Learn about the four types of deserts: hot and dry, semiarid, coastal, and cold with this key facts and information. Includes links to other biomes: aquatic, forest, grasslands, and tundra.
You can click on animals that can see in the dark and learn more about them. This site contains resources and a teacher's guide.
This page will link you to numerous video clips of deserts located throughout the United States.

7. Related Books (poetry, nonfiction, fiction):
Gibbons, Gail. Deserts, Holiday House Inc, 1999.
Munro, Roxie. Desert Days, Desert Nights, Bright Sky Press, 2010.
Williams, Terry Tempest. Illuminated Desert, University of Utah Press, 2008.
Bash, Barbara. Shadows of the Night: The Hidden World of the Little Brown Bat, San Francisco: Sierra Books for Children, 1993.

Readers Guide: My Mexico-Mexico Mio

Johnston, Tony, Sierra, F. John ill. My Mexico~México mío. New York: PaperStar, 1996. Recommended age levels 5 to 10.

1. Book Summary:

A collection of poems inspired by the culture, art, stories, and anecdotes of Mexico. Written in both English and Spanish, this is a great volume of poems that might represent an idyllic childhood in Mexico. 

2. Review excerpts/awards:

Book Links (A.L.A.) 5/01/99
Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books 7/01/96
Catholic Library World 3/01/97
Elementary School Library Collection 3/01/98
Horn Book starred 9/01/96  "The overall impression is one of sunbaked cheerfulness, warmth, and color ably reinforced by Sierra's pastel-tinted artwork."
L.A. Recommended Foreign Language 11/01/97
School Library Journal 4/01/96 "Sensitive, soft but bright illustrations in pencil over watercolor depict Mexican scenes in 16 double-page spreads. Printed over the backgrounds are 18 poems in both English and Spanish"
Wilson's Children 5/01/97
NCSS Notable Children's Trade Book in the Field of Social Studies

3. Questions to ask before reading:
Ask students to discuss the following questions:
*Look at the cover of the book and the title. What do you think this book is about? Do you think it is in more than one language? What two languages?
*What are some Spanish words that you know? (make a list with the English meanings) Do you think we will see any of these words in the text? If so, which ones?
*What does the cover illustration make you feel? Why does the illustration make you feel this way?

4. Suggestions for reading poems aloud:
"Houses", "Corn", "Walls", "Street Dog", and "Where Are the Now" can be read in chorus or as an echo reading.

Have Spanish speaking students read the Spanish versions of the poems and teach the nonSpanish speaking students how to pronounce unfamiliar words. They can even partner together to teach another student how to say the Spanish poems.

"Trucks" can be read with the students choral reading the refrain, "Up the hills and down the hills".

5. Follow up Activities (writing, art, science, etc.):
Writing/Language Connection:
Students can write a poem. Then partner with another student, who speaks another language, to translate the poem. A free translation website can also be used.

Art Connection:
Draw a pastel folk art picture to accompany the poem students write.

Social Studies Connection:
Have students complete a mini-discovery project on Mexico. Students can look for 6 interesting facts about Mexico and present the information in a poster, brochure, PowerPoint, or digital story.

6. Related websites/blogs
Come have a look at Mexico!  Basic facts, history, geography, country map and flag, major cities, economy, and a gallery of photos are found on this site.
Study Mexico at a glance. The site from the CIA World Factbook opens with a map and links to geography, people, government, economy, communications, transportation, etc.
Get up close and personal with the language and culture of Mexico. Multimedia presentation includes video clips with Spanish transcripts and English translations. A valuable resource for anyone considering a trip to Mexico City!
Learn about the Ancient Mexican history of art and the influences that their daily lives and culture had on the art. View many pieces from the Collection of the National Museum of the American Indian.

7. Related Books (poetry, nonfiction, fiction):
Berg, Elizabeth. Festivals of the World: Mexico, New York: Cavendish, Marshall Corporation, 2010.
Sexton, Colleen. Mexico, Bellwether Media, 2010.
Mora, Pat, Sanchez, Enrique O. ill. Confetti: Poems for Children, New York: Lee & Low Books Inc, 1999.
Ada, Alma Flor, Silva, Simon ill. Gathering the Sun: An Alphabet in Spanish and English, New York: Harper Collins, 2001.

Readers Guide: Voice from Afar: Poems of Peace

 Johnston, Tony, Guevara, Susan ill. Voice from Afar: Poems of Peace. New York: Holiday House, 2008. Recommended age levels 10 and up.

1. Book Summary:

Johnston's 26 poems speak of the horror, devastation, heartbreak, hope, etc of war and possible peace. These poems are told from the voices of ordinary people in war torn areas. Johnston's poetry evokes a desire for peace.

2. Review excerpts/awards:

Book Links (A.L.A.) 10/01/09
Booklist 12/15/08 "Children will want to discuss these honest poems, which explore both incomprehensible war and unexpected peace."
Horn Book 04/01/09 "This well-intentioned effort is emotional and raw but accessible. Soft abstract images in acrylics and oils on textured canvas bring humanity and immediacy to the poems."
Kirkus Review 10/15/08 "Twenty-six verse vignettes convey with urgency and emotion the harsh realities of a world strafed by war but yearning for peace" 
Publisher's Weekly 11/10/08 "The poet sharply invokes the products of war: poverty (of a dog: "His ribs are the slats of a small ark"), violence ("The body remains,/ crumpled in the street") and grief."
School Library Journal 12/01/08 "Johnston offers thoughtful responses to war's senseless violence."
Wilson's Children 07/01/09
Wilson's Junior High School 01/09/10

3. Questions to ask before reading:
Ask students to discuss the following questions:
*Look at the book cover and title. Predict what you think the poems will be about.
*What emotions do you feel when looking at the cover illustration? Explain.
*Have any of you been in a war or armed conflict? If so, what did you feel? If not, what do you think you would feel in that type of situation?
*What does peace mean to you?

4. Suggestions for reading poems aloud:
Choral or echo read "Voice from Afar", "If Only", "Hope", and "Let Us Weave".

Individual students can read the haikus, "Friend", "On the Road", "Overheard in a War Zone", and "Gone".

Students can partner read the other poems in the book. They can read alternating lines of the poems.

5. Follow up Activities (writing, art, science, etc.):
Writing/Language Arts:
Students can write a free verse or haiku poem about a terrifying experience or a poem about peace. Students can reflect on their 9/11 experience.

Social Studies Connection:
Have students look at current war torn countries. Have them find the causes of the conflict and discuss possible solutions to the conflict.

Art Connection:
Collaborate with the art teacher to enable students to draw a picture that reveals their feelings about one of the poems in the book that affected them the most.

6. Related websites/blogs
Peace It Together brings youth from Israel, Palestine and Canada together to share stories and create films. The films aim to educate themselves and others about the Israeli-Palestine conflict and to open up lines of dialogue about peace. The films can be viewed on the site and are quite powerful. They sell additional materials on a DVD for use in secondary and post-secondary classes.
There are five teaching units on peace education on this site, ranging for ages 8 to 14+. Topics cover ecological awareness, tolerance, social justice, global citizenship, etc. There are many links in the resource area for United Nations documents and to other excellent websites.
This is the official website of an international organization with the goal of promoting lasting peace by showing youth from around the world how to live with diversity in understanding.
Do Something is a nationwide network of young people who know they can make a difference in their communities and take action to change the world around them. As part of Do Something, young people are asked what they want to do to make things better and then given the resources and support to bring their unique vision to life.

7. Related Books (poetry, nonfiction, fiction):
Hines, Anna Grossnickle. Peaceful Pieces: Poems and Quilts About Peace, New York: Henry Holt and Co, 2011.
Parr, Todd. The Peace Book, New York: Little Brown Books for Young Readers, 2005.
Leaf, Munro, Lawson, Robert ill. The Story of Ferdinand, New York: Penguin Group, 1936, 2011.
Cali, Davide, Bloch, Serge ill. The Enemy: A Book About Peace, New York: Random House Children's Books, 2009.