Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Yasmin's Hammer

Title: Yasmin's Hammer
Author: Ann Malaspina  
Illustrator: Doug Chayka
Copyright Date: 2010

Genre: Fiction
Theme: child labor, education, Bangladesh 
Grades: 3-4
Awards: the 2010-2011 Asian/Pacific American Award for Literature,  Horace Mann Upstanders Children's Literature Award, Honor Book, Best Children's Books of the Year by Bank Street College of Education, Notable Children's Books by Smithsonian Magazine 


Once living near a paddy field in Bangladesh, Yasmin and her family move to the city of Dhaka after a cyclone destroys their home. In order to pay for their home there her Abba (father) must run a rickshaw, her Amma (mother) cleans in a wealthy home, and Yasmin and her sister Mita work breaking bricks for concrete. Yasmin has dreams of going to school, but whenever she tells her parents they say, "Not yet." One day she starts receiving tips from her boss for her hard work and she saves her money under her bed.

What is she going to purchase with her secret stash of money and will her family be able to help her live her dream of going to school? Read this book to find out.

Pre-reading Activity

Before reading this story, it might be a good idea to give your class a bit of background on Bangladesh. Locating Bangladesh on a map or globe and showing how far away it is and the geographic features of the area will help students place Yasmin and her family into their view of the world. 
Because this story deals with child labor, it might also be a good idea to give your class a bit of an age appropriate introduction to this idea. This can be as simple as explaining that in some places of the world, families may be so poor that they need their children to get jobs in order to help pay for things instead of letting them go to school. You might want the class to share with a partner how they would feel if they had to go do hard work everyday instead of coming to school. Would they be more or less happy?  

Post-reading Activity

After reading this story, students can take some time to compare their lives to those experienced by children in Bangladesh. They can complete a Venn Diagram comparing life in their town to Yasmin's life in Dhaka including discussing the types of jobs, language, transportation and opportunities for children. They could then use this graphic organizer to make a writing piece discussing the similarities and differences between their life and Yasmin's. 
This book also provides an Afterword and links to websites that discuss Bangladesh and the countries efforts to end child labor in that country. With teacher guiadance, students may investigate further into the cause and plan an awareness campaign or fundraiser in their school to help out children like them in other countries have the opportunity to get an education.
Author and Illustrator

Yasmin's Hammer was written by Ann Malaspina. She is the many historical and mulitcultural books including Phillis Sings Out Freedom and Heart on Fire: Susan B. Anthony Votes for President. After visiting Southern Asia and seeing the children first hand and learning more about the plight of brick chippers in the news, Malaspina was inspired to write a book about the over 200 million children who going to school was just a dream. She currently lives in New Jersey. (Source: book jacket and here.
Doug Chayka was the illustrator for Yasmin's Hammer. He works as a freelance artist for clients such as   Eerdmans Books for Young Readers, Henry Holt Books for Young Readers, and Houghton Mifflin. He has illustrated five other children's books, including Yanni Rubbish and The Secret Shofar of Barcelona. He currently lives in Florida. (Source: book jacket and here.)

This book is a safe and interesting way to introduce a tough reality (child labor) to younger students and provide opportunities for them to begin learning about and trying to solve some of the world's problems. It is a great book about hope for a better life, even when things are tough. I highly recommend it.

If you are interested in purchasing this book, click here.

Cora Cooks Pancit

Title: Cora Cooks Pancit
Author: Dorina K. Lazo Gilmore
Illustrator: Kristi Valiant
Copyright date: 2009
Genre: Fiction
Theme: cooking, family
Grades: K and up
Awards: the 2009-2010 Asian/Pacific American Award for Literature


Cora is the youngest child in her Filipino American family. She loves being in the kitchen watching her mother create the foods her grandfather (Lolo) taught her to make. However, whenever she tries to help, her older siblings get to do all of the "grown-up jobs." One day her siblings are all busy and Cora gets her chance to be her mother's assistant in making a dinner of pancit for her family.

How did she do with all of her "grown-up jobs" and did the family like the pancit? Read this book to find out along with a recipe so you can cook along with Cora.

Pre-reading Activity

You can help your students access their prior knowledge of the feelings Cora is having by asking them to think about a time in their life where they wanted to do something but were too little. Maybe they wanted to use tools to help fix something, get to go on a big kid ride at an amusement park, or have the responsibility of owning a pet. How did they feel while they were told they were still too young to do these things and how did they feel when they finally were allowed to?

Post-reading Activity

Students can connect their lives with Cora's by thinking about a special food their family likes to eat together. They can then write a short piece on the ingredients and steps need to cook this meal. Teachers can evaluate these recipe stories for clarity, sequence, and organization.

It could also be a really neat thing if the teacher were to collect these recipes and create a class cookbook that can be printed for every students' family to use at home.

Author and Illustrator

Cora Cooks Pancit was written by Dorina K. Lazo Gilmore. Gilmore is a big fan of cooking, particularly foods she grew up with in her Filipino-Italian family. She's wanted to write children's books since she was a child. Believing that "children need to see themselves in books," she has focused on writing books with multicultural protagonists and families, including Children of the San Joaquin Valley and Stone Soup: A Hmong Girl's Journey to the United States. She currently lives in California. (Source: book jacket and here.)

Kristi Valiant made her illustrating debut on Cora Cooks Pancit. Valiant was the magnum cum laude of her  class from the Columbus College of Art and Design before working for an educational publisher and then illustrating children's books. She has recently published her first children's book as an author and illustrator, Penguin Cha-Cha. She currently lives in Indiana. (Source: book jacket and here.)


I really enjoyed this book. Cora is a girl that I feel most children could relate to; frustrated with being too little, overjoyed when she can help, nervous about whether her work is good enough. Although the smells and tastes weren't there, the illustrations brought the food and cooking to life, and have put pancit on the short list of foods I'm going to try making at home. Great book.

If you are interested in purchasing this book, click here.

Friday, September 7, 2012


Hello there,

My name is Mr. Molloy and this is my blog. Since this is my first post, I'm going to introduce myself and explain why I'm making this blog.

I'm a teacher of elementary aged students, who is currently working on his masters degree in literacy. For one of my classes, I've been asked to set up this blog to discuss children's literature.

So for the next few months I will be posting about various children's books. I'm going to be discussing their story, artwork, authors, and illustrators. I'm also going to try and provide some activities that can be used if the book is used in the classroom. I'm going to be writing about a variety of books I find during my grad courses, ones I read and loved from my childhood and others I stumble upon while working in schools and visiting libraries.

My hope is that this blog will be interesting to any students, educators, parents, or other readers, and will be helpful to them in discovering great children's literature to read and share with others.

Thank you for your time, and welcome to my blog.

Mr. Molloy