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Caleb's Crossing

Notes from Ms. Johnson, Hoover High Honors Literature Teacher:

My Honors American Literature eleventh graders participated in One Book, One San Diego's 2014 reading event sponsored by KPBS. The adult book selection this year was Caleb's Crossing by Geraldine Brooks, and the elementary selection was The Jingle Dancer by Cynthia Leitich Smith. We thank KPBS for their contribution of Caleb's Crossing books and a book-binding machine used to produce our very own children's books.

Jingle Dancer is a lovely children's book about a young Creek Indian girl who wants to dance in the upcoming powwow. She watches videos of her grandmother dancing and learns the dance, "but she has a problem - how will her dress sing if it has no jingles?" Jenna asks several special women in her life if she can borrow some jingles off of their dresses in order to participate in the dance. Jingle Dancer was read by the third-grade classes at Rosa Parks Elementary. (Quote from Jingle Dancer book jacket.)

Caleb's Crossing is a book about Bethia Mayfield, a "restless and curious young woman growing up in Martha's Vineyard in the 1660s" and "Caleb, the young son of a chieftain." Bethia and Caleb have secret adventures in the woods of Martha's Vineyard where Caleb teaches Bethia to hunt, track, and gather, and Bethia teaches Caleb to read and write. Themes of the book include the roles of women in society and the rights of women and Native Americans to an education. (Quote from Caleb's Crossing book jacket.)

After reading both Caleb's Crossing and Jingle Dancer, my students decided to write children's books about Bethia and Caleb and their adventures as children and adults growing up in the 1660s. They noticed that in both books it is important for children to see the value of all traditions and respect the customs of all cultures. Both books talked about Native American heritage, hard work, girls achieving their goals, and being proud of who we are.

Students came up with their own themes and messages for children. They want children to know that both boys and girls can persevere to accomplish their dreams and become anyone they want to become. They want children to know that no one should be bullied for how they look or what they believe in. They believe that education should include stories from every culture and tradition. They believe that equal education and career opportunities should be open to all people, no matter their culture or gender.

These children's books were written and illustrated by five groups of students within Mrs. Johnson's fourth period Honor's American Literature class. They read and gifted the five books that were crafted from this event to the 3rd grade classes of Rosa Parks Elementary on May 12, 2014.

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