Resources 24.2

Children’s Books

Journey of Dreams

By Marge Pellegrino
(Frances Lincoln, 2009)
250 pp. $15.95

Drawing from testimonies shared by refugee families from Guatemala, Pellegrino has written a gripping novel of 12-year-old Tomasa and her family, who flee for safety as their village is burned to the ground. While traveling north, they see how big landowners quickly take over the farmland after the indigenous people who have lived there for centuries are killed or forced out by soldiers. Every night of their journey, Tomasa’s father shares legends and family stories as he did each night in their village. After a harrowing border crossing into Mexico, Tomasa’s family finds help from the Sanctuary Movement. The book ends with their arrival in the United States. Journey of Dreams can introduce young adult readers to the experience of Central American immigrants and the long journey north, which is even more difficult today.

Marching for Freedom: Walk Together, Children, and Don’t You Grow Weary

By Elizabeth Partridge
(Viking, 2009)
72 pp. $19.99

Designed for upper elementary and middle school, this coffee-table-style photo book tells the story of the Selma to Montgomery March in 1965. The narrative and many of the dramatic photos focus on the role of children, a number of whom have oral histories available for further reading. The book ends almost too neatly with the signing by Lyndon Johnson of the Voting Rights Act. However, a teacher or parent could clarify that the struggle for justice continued—and, in fact, still continues.

Fire in the Hole!

By Mary Cronk Farrell
(Clarion Books, 2009)
170 pp. $15

In the late 1800s in an Idaho mining town, a young boy named Mick struggles between his father’s desire for him to be a miner and his own interest in becoming a journalist—a tale set in the context of the conflict between the miners and the mine owners. This well-written story, based on a nearly unbelievable incident in U.S. history, shows just how desperate the conditions were for mining families, how the company unfairly detained citizens for very long periods of time (a miners’ Guantanamo), and how black troops were sent by the federal government to restore order. While Mick’s dad is detained, his mother dies in childbirth, and Mick has to work as a scab to feed his siblings. The book might have done a better job clarifying the role and importance of the unions, but it is a welcome addition to the small but growing collection of historical fiction that addresses issues of working-class struggles and unions. Other such books that upper elementary and middle school teachers will find useful include Bread and Roses, Too, by Katherine Paterson and Dragon’s Gate by Lawrence Yep.


Anti-Bias Education for Young Children and Ourselves

By Louise Derman-Sparks and Julie Olson Edwards
(NAEYC, 2010)
166 pp. $30

For the past 20 years, the first edition of Anti-Bias Education has been the single most influential text on early childhood anti-bias education. This long-awaited, updated edition adds new chapters, voices from the field, and questions for reflection throughout. As the introduction states, “Anti-bias work provides teachers a way to examine and transform their understanding of children’s lives and also do self-reflective work to more deeply understand their own lives.” Anti-Bias Education for Young Children and Ourselves is an essential resource for any educator who wants to achieve these goals.

Teaching What Really Happened: How to Avoid the Tyranny of Textbooks and Get Students Excited About Doing History

By James W. Loewen
(Teachers College Press, 2009)
264 pp. $21.95

Loewen is best known for Lies My Teacher Told Me, which opens with the statement that the way history is taught from grades 4 to 12 “typically makes us stupider.” Teaching What Really Happened shows how the study of history can reverse this trend. He focuses on key narratives in history, including “presentism” and “chronological ethnocentrism.” In a chapter on the “tyranny of coverage” he suggests that history teachers pick 30-50 key topics to teach. This allows a focus on the trees rather than thousands of twigs of information. Of course, this requires challenging the high stakes state history tests that often drive a “trivial pursuit” of names and dates.


Scarred Justice: The Orangeburg Massacre, 1968

Produced by Bestor Cram and Judy Richardson
(Northern Light Productions, Independent Television Service, and National Black Programming Consortium, California Newsreel 2009)
57 min. $49.95

While most teachers know that students were killed at Kent State in 1970, few know about the murder of students at Jackson State, and even fewer about South Carolina State College in Orangeburg. In Orangeburg, two years before the Kent State murders, 23 students were injured and three were killed—most shot in the back by the National Guard and state police while involved in a peaceful protest. One of the protesters, Cleveland Sellers, was arrested for inciting a riot and sentenced to a year of hard labor. Now president of Voorhees College, he was the only person to do time. This excellent documentary brings to light this untold story of the Civil Rights Movement with candid interviews of those who still defend the shooting, and of those who were shot. It also provides high school students with a good understanding of the Black Power Movement in the context of the Civil Rights Movement.


Labor and Monopoly Capital

By Harry Braverman
(Monthly Review Press, 1974)
360 pp. $19

This Resources column is reserved for new books, but we were recently reminded of Harry Braverman’s classic work Labor and Monopoly Capital by, of all places, The Wall Street Journal, which declared it one of the five best books on labor. The Journal’s commentary underscored the relevance of Braverman’s book for making sense of what is happening to the teaching profession these days, Here’s their explanation: “In this masterpiece of economic reflection, Harry Braverman shows that the central thrust of so-called ‘scientific management’ is to dumb down jobs to the point where they can be performed by unskilled workers, who don’t need to be paid as much. An early result of this approach was the assembly line. Today, the logic that Braverman exposed has crept into many quarters of the white-collar world. Members of a learned profession are reduced to clerks, their personal judgment replaced by a system in which their actions are predetermined from afar. Ask a bank loan officer whose career spans the past 10 years, or any doctor who works in managed care. Welcome to the proletariat, Doc!” Read Kelly McMahon’s article in this issue of Rethinking Schools, or so many others in recent years, and one can see that the teaching profession is affected by the management strategies that Harry Braverman named and critiqued over 35 years ago. The relevance of Labor and Monopoly Capital to education is more pronounced than when it was written.

Compiled by Deborah Menkart, Bob Peterson, and Bill Bigelow.