Archive for Social Studies

Watch Out for Flying Kids

Written by Cynthia Levinson

Everyone loves the circus!  What better way to bring young people together from across cultures that might not otherwise every meet one another. Certainly, they would not understand each other.

This beautifully done, fascinating book tells of just such a program call the youth social circus. It is an arts education program that brings nine teen-aged troupers from two circuses together. They learn professional level skills of juggling, twirling burning hoops and entertaining audiences all over the world. At the same time, they are learning from one another about rural, suburban, and city life. They are learning about tribal customs of the Middle East, Jewish traditions in Galilee and inner-city life in St. Louis.

It is a wonderful example of learning about others by walking in their shoes, or, in this case, dancing and performing in their shoes. The students learn about each other in down time and by traveling together. The photographs were taken during the project and show lifelong friendships being made.

This would be a wonderful addition to every middle school, high school and public library. Teachers and librarians will fulfill many core curriculum standards in English, Social Studies, Literacy, and Geography by reading and discussing this text with students. It could easily lead to an Eagle Scout project or some sort of graduation project.

Even if it doesn’t bring about another encounter, it will begin worthwhile thoughts and dialogue concerning how we treat people from another culture and how we might get to know them better in the future.

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  • Watch Out for Flying KidsTitle:  Watch Out for Flying Kids
  • Author:   Cynthia Levinson
  • Publisher:  Peachtree, 2015
  • Reviewer: Elizabeth Swartz
  • Format:  Hardcover, 216 pages
  • ISBN:  978-1-56145-821-9
  • Genre: Nonfiction, Circus
  • Grade level: 5 to 8
  • Extras: Photographs throughout, Index, Lengthy Author’s Note

The Boy on the Wooden Box

Written by Leon Leyson

Leon Leyson was one of the boys on Schindler’s list. As explained in this memoir, he was so small at the time that he had to stand on a box to reach the buttons and dials of the machine he was operating. This sad, but not graphic depiction of the Holocaust, is important for fifth grade readers, sixth grade readers and beyond,

It is important that the world not forget what happened in our recent history. But it is also important that it be told in such a way that will not cause nightmares or fear of exploring the world. Lesson does an excellent job of separating the German people from those in the Nazi party. He trusted Germans before the war and returned to Germany after the war.

A remarkable thing about this memoir is the strength of hope exhibited and the resiliency of this young man. Again and again it seemed he would never see his family again. Over and over he was put in a line that would lead to his death. But still he survived. Thanks to Oscar Schindler. Most people were unaware of the heroic deeds of that one man until a movie was made. However, students in grades five an up might not be aware of the film.

As students, teachers and librarians continue to read and teach The Diary of Anne Frank, they should also be reading and teaching this memoir. This story continued on past the ghetto, the camps, and the death. Perhaps because of his age, young Leon was able to pick up his hopes and dreams and immigrate into the United States. He continued on to live a happy and productive life. For decades, his own children did not know the story of his being a Schindler’s boy in his teens.

How thrilled Leon was, though, in the fall of 1965 in Los Angeles, to have Oscar Schindler recognize and remember him.

This book will fulfill multiple literacy skills as well as history and social studies requirements in the core curriculum and should be part of every school library collection.

  • Boy on Wooden BoxTitle: The Boy on the Wooden Box
  • Author: Leon Leyson
  • Publisher: Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2014
  • Reviewer: Elizabeth Swartz
  • Format: Hardcover, 256 pages
  • ISBN:  978-1-4424-9781-8
  • Genre: Memoir
  • Grade Level: 6
  • Extras: Photographs, additional resources for learning about the Holocaust

Follow Your Money: Who Gets It, Who Spends It, Where Does It Go?

Written by Kevin Sylvester and Michael Hlinka
Illustrated by Kevin Sylvester

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The times they are a changing. In today’s world selling and buying has become as easy as turning on the computer and going to any of the hundreds of online merchants — Amazon being the largest and best known of them all. Although there are built-in safeguards, theoretically even young children can make purchases on the net (log into their parent’s account, for example.) This book’s purpose is to empower its readers with the knowledge to understand the whole money cycle.

In easily comprehensible language the authors explain the complex web that starts with the creation of a product and ends with its final dissemination. The book is a series of examples of everyday goods and produce, organized under headings that sixth graders, and up can relate to. The first study is an analysis of a breakfast consisting of bacon, eggs, bread and juice, and the numbers are eye-opening.

On a $3.00 packet of bacon the farmer’s profit is just 10c. Of course all numbers are estimates, but the ratio of total cost to profit remains about the same. The authors start the journey by advising us that the “prices in the book are only estimates…so don’t go into your local store and say ‘Sylvester and Hlinka tell me this apple should only cost 10c.’”

And it is a journey of discovery as the readers learn of the various costs at each stage: creation, distribution, retail to the customer. Why does the price of gas affect the price of every other thing? What is the gold standard? These are interesting discussion points, leading easily into economic theory. For the younger readers teachers can build reading activities around the chapters dealing with things they are familiar with, like milk, and juice, and books and backpacks.

Worth and value, credit and debit cards, bank operations, the readers gets an overview of all elements of everyday life, and becomes a more informed consumer. Definitely a book for school and library reading lists.

Additional Resources:

  • Follow Your MoneyTitle: Follow Your Money: Who Gets It, Who Spends It, Where Does It Go?
  • Author: Kevin Sylvester and Michael Hlinka
  • Illustrator: Kevin Sylvester
  • Publisher: Annick Press, 2013
  • Reviewer: Anjali Amit
  • Format: Paperback, 56 pages
  • ISBN: 978-1-55451-480-9
  • Genre: Nonfiction, Social Studies
  • Lexile Score: 1120