- Partner Picture Walks and Storytelling. Wordless picture books are terrific tools for helping children develop their oral language and emergent reading skills. Have pairs of students sit side by side, each handling one side of the book (i.e., one handles the Australian story, while the other handles the Moroccan story), and encourage them to walk through the illustrations and tell the stories of what is happening on each page to each other. They can take turns with each page, or take turns telling an entire story. To emphasize the book’s celebration of two cultures and languages, encourage students to tell their stories in another language if they feel more comfortable doing so.
- A Day in Our Lives. Using Mirror as a model, have each student create a picture storyboard of the events in one day of his or her life, from morning to bedtime. Share the storyboards with each other. What is similar and different about each student’s day? Encourage them to ask each other questions to learn more about their unique families, customs, and practices.
Mirror as Inspiration for Creative Writing. Many writers are inspired by pictures to write stories and poems. Have students narrate the stories of each boy in writing, or have them pick a specific collage to serve as a springboard for other types of creative writing. Remind them to pay close attention to the visual details that Jeannie Baker provides and to incorporate them into the written piece. If any student is an English Language Learner, encourage him/her to write in his/her native language—or perhaps create a dual language piece just like Jeannie Baker. Take the pieces through the entire writing process and throw a publishing party at the end so that everyone’s writing can be shared and celebrated.
Exploring Diverse Daily Customs. Mirror shows people experiencing the similar events in diverse cultural contexts (e.g., eating breakfast and dinner, going shopping). Have students select another daily event and research what it looks like in different cultures, countries, cities, or geographical areas—or share what it looks like if they have firsthand experience with it. For example, they could explore what nightly rituals children go through as they get ready for bed, or what chores they need to do after school or on the weekends. What objects, tools, and materials do they need? What procedures do they follow? Who else is present? What kinds of clothes do they wear? Have students present or role play what they’ve learned once they are experts on a particular daily custom. You can also look to the Around the World series by Ann Morris (see Further Explorations section below), which presents similar studies about everyday materials, customs, and practices in diverse cultures.
Weaving and Crafting Stories through Artwork. Jeannie Baker’s collages are not the only works of art in this book that tell stories. The handwoven carpets that appear are another medium through which communities tell stories. Research how these carpets are made, from the practical considerations of supplies and labor to the creative and communicative thought with which the carpets are crafted. How are they similar or different across cultures? How are they similar or different to other cultural artifacts, such as quilts, woven mats, or pottery? Students can also try their hand at creating some of these creative artifacts and put together a display for the whole school to enjoy.
- Representations of Family Structures. Families sit at the heart of the two stories in Mirror. Study the representations of each family. Who is in each? What are their daily roles and responsibilities in the family? How are those depictions in line with conventional representations of families? Who else can make up a family unit, and how might the stories go if told from their perspectives? Reconstruct the stories in Mirror around their experiences.
- Representations of “Other” Cultures.An important issue to contend with when reading about diverse cultures is the question of how their representations appear to readers. Are they set up dichotomously—in other words, is one culture portrayed as “normal” and another as “strange” or “exotic?” Is one depicted as “civilized” and “prosperous,” while another appears “primitive” or “backwards?” If so, what makes them appear that way? Is this an accurate representation of the different cultures? What stereotypes exist within the depictions? Why might that be so? Have students discuss these questions, explore other portrayals of everyday life in Australia and Morocco, and perhaps even establish penpal or email correspondence with fellow students in these countries to exchange information and learn directly from each other.
- Carpet Weavers and Fair Trade. Read the following article and watch the accompanying video on the struggles that carpet artisans face in Morocco to earn a fair wage for their work: http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/morocco/091022/moroccan-carpet-confidential. Or, consider the fact that most handwoven carpets are actually made by child labor (see http://www.goodweave.org/home.php). Have students research the carpet trade from the gathering of raw materials to the purchase and display of the final product. What costs are involved? Who has an investment in the trade? More importantly, whose interests are served throughout the process, and where does the money involved in the carpet trade come from and go? Continue researching ways to make the process more socially just, and economically sustainable for all parties involved, and encourage them to formulate a social action project around this topic.
Jeannie Baker’s website
The Art of Oriental Carpets
Thematic Units and Lesson Plans on Morocco
Multicultural Education Internet Resource Guide
Aliki. (1998). Marianthe’s story: Painted words and spoken memories. New York: Greenwillow.
- Two stories in one book tell the story of Marianthe’s arrival in America and her experiences at a new school and with a new language. One story is written in third-person, and the other is written from Marianthe’s first-person perspective.
Anno, Mitsumasa. (1986). All in a day. Ill. by Eric Carle, Raymond Briggs, Nicolai Ye Popov, Akiko Hayashi, Gian Calvi, Leo and Diane Dillon, Zhu Chengliang, Ron Brooks, and Mitsumasa Anno. New York: Philomel.
- Ten internationally famous artists illustrate a day in the lives of children across eight different countries.
Baylor, Byrd. (1978). The way to start a day. Ill. by Peter Parnall. New York: Aladdin.
- Lyrical prose describes how diverse communities across time and cultures greet the rising sun each morning.
Dorris, Michael. (1999). Morning girl. New York: Hyperion.
- Set in 1492, Taino siblings Morning Girl and Star Boy take turns describing their lives on a Bahamian island and narrating their experience of the arrival of Christopher Columbus.
Morris, Ann. (1989-2000). Around the world series. New York: HarperCollins.
- Each book in this nonfiction series explores a single concept–such as bread, weddings, and homes–across a variety of cultures and communities.
Zenatti, Valerie. (2008). A bottle in the Gaza Sea. New York: Bloomsbury.
- The story of the email correspondence and eventual friendship between two teenagers on either side of Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Brown, Monica. (2005). My name is Gabriela/Me llamo Gabriela: The life of Gabriela Mistral/La vida de Gabriela Mistral. Ill. by John Parra. Flagstaff, AZ: Luna Rising.
- A poetic picture book about the first Latina woman to win the Nobel Prize in Literature. Told in Spanish and English.
Cohn, Diana. (2002). ¡Si, se puede! Yes we can ! Janitor strike in L.A. Ill. by Francisco Delgado. El Paso, TX: Cinco Puntos Press.
- A child’s account of his mother’s participation in the 2000 janitor’s strike in downtown Los Angeles and his own efforts to help the cause. Told in both Spanish and English.
Hayes, Joe. (2003). The day it snowed tortillas / El dia que nevaron tortillas. Ill. by Antonio Castro Lopez. El Paso, TX: Cinco Puntos Press.
- A series of folktales told in Spanish and English.
Lee-Tai, Amy. (2006). A place where sunflowers grow. Ill. by Felicia Hoshino. San Francisco: Children’s Book Press.
- A young girl searches for meaning and hope when her family is relocated to a WWII internment camp. Told in both Japanese and English.
Yazzie, Evangeline Parsons. (2005). Dzani Yazhi Naazbaa’ /Little woman warrior who came home: A story of the Navajo long walk. Ill. by Irving Toddy. Flagstaff, AZ: Salina Bookshelf.
- The story of a Navajo girl forced by U.S. soldiers in 1856 to leave their home in Black Mesa and go on a 450-mile walk to Fort Sumner, NM. Only after 13 years of hardship are the Navajo allowed to return to Black Mesa. Told in Navajo and English.
Alalou, Elizabeth, and Alalou, Ali. (2008). The butter man. Watertown, MA: Charlesbridge.
- A picture book about a child’s Moroccan-born father and an important story from childhood that he shares with his family.
Knight, Margy Burns, and Melnicove, Mark. (2000). Africa is not a country. Ill. by Anne Sibley O’Brien. Minneapolis, MN: Milbrook Press.
- Part informational book, part collection of narrative vignettes, this picture book disrupts the overgeneralization that Africa is made up of one group of people and celebrates its incredible diversity of countries and cultures.
Lester, Alison. (2005). Are we there yet? San Diego, CA: Kane/Miller.
- An eight-year old’s story about the three-month road trip she takes around Australia with her family to learn about the country’s diverse people and places.
Wordless Picture Books
Baker, Jeannie. (2004). Home. New York: Greenwillow Books.
- An urban neighborhood undergoes environmental renewal, as viewed through a bedroom window.
Banyai, Istvan. (2005). The other side. San Francisco, CA: Chronicle Books.
- A creative collection of images, colors, themes, and patterns that offers readers an entertaining challenge about perspective.
DePaola, Tomie. (1978). Pancakes for breakfast. San Diego, CA: Harcourt Brace.
- A charming tale of an elderly woman with a mind set on making pancakes for breakfast, who goes to great effort to gather all the necessary ingredients.
Lee, Suzy. (2010). Shadow. San Francisco, CA: Chronicle Books.
- A little girl discovers a world full of imaginative characters and events in the shadows of a light bulb.
Lehman, Barbara. (2004). The red book. New York: Houghton Mifflin Books for Children.
- A magical book tells the postmodern story of the children who find it and read it over the years.
Weitzman, Jacqueline Preiss. (1998). You can’t take a balloon into the Metropolitan Museum. New York: Puffin.
Just another of Wiesner’s fabulous fantastical stories that celebrates the imagination and wonder of author and readers.
About Grace Enriquez
Grace is an associate professor of language and literacy at Lesley University. A former English Language Arts teacher, reading specialist, and literacy consultant, she teaches and writes about children’s literature, critical literacies, and literacies and embodiment. Grace is co-author of The Reading Turn-Around and co-editor of Literacies, Learning, and the Body.
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