‘Mercedes and the Chocolate Pilot’ – Tuesday’s Look at this Book!

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* Every Tuesday we introduce you to a favorite book from our secret book room, and give you a unique “recipe for fun” this week over on our Book Cook page.

 

Today’s great book: Mercedes and the Chocolate Pilot written by Margot Theis Raven and illustrated by Gijsbert van Frankenbuyzen (2002, Sleeping Bear Press)

The Author’s Website:  http://www.margotraven.com/Pages/default.aspx

The Illustrator’s Website:  http://hazelridgefarm.com/books.html

Awards:  2003 Children’s Choice Award; IRA 2002 Midwest Independent Publisher Merit Award; and the 2004-05 Children’s Crown Honor Award – 2004-05 Show me Award

Time to Read: we read it just before bed and it took about 10-15 minutes with a few extra minutes to talk about the history and read the epilogue.

Summary:  from the inside cover…A true story of the 1948 humanitarian rescue mission, the Berlin Airlift, and the candy that dropped from the sky…[The story of] a seven-year old girl named Mercedes who lived in West Berlin during the airlift and [Lt. Gail S. Halvorsen] who came to be known as the Chocolate Pilot.

Best Quote from the Book:  “The memory of this day would stay with her for the rest of her life.”

Our View:  This book is among our newest finds and is already a treasure in our book room.  This is a truly powerful tale of history and children that is beautifully illustrated.  It is not only a work of art, but of literary worth and will take your breath away as you read the conclusion of the story and hear what has since happened to each of the people in the story.  The girls and I read this book just before bedtime and it propelled us into a discussion of war and worry and children and life in difficult times.  It is also a glorious story of chocolate and the magic that it can work even in difficult times.  The heroes are plentiful in this wonderful book.

Remember to visit our Book Cook page for the recipe – Wild Blue Yonder Chocolate Cake!  – created by the kids for this particular book.

Are you sure this is true?

Girls Little House Prairie

Outside of my life as a dad and husband, there are few things I love more than teaching students in our education department at the local college here in town. Most of them are nearing the end of their degree and about to receive their teacher certification when they enroll in the course I teach on social studies and science in early childhood education. They are so energetic and passionate about their upcoming life as a teacher, and the things they learn out there in real classrooms during their field experiences and practicums and student teaching are truly a treasure to all of us in the department.

Among the assignments included in my class is one about learning what children already understand about a particular subject. We ask our students to get out there in real classrooms and talk with young children about a topic and see what they know and what they want to know and what they need to know about that particular topic. This kind of information, a pre-assessment, is very helpful to us as classroom teachers when we go about putting together units and lesson plans for young children today, and it is always eye-opening and one of my favorite assignments to grade because the responses are always different and funny and interesting to hear the honest talk that children so happily and freely give in such assignments.

One of my favorite responses to this assignment occurred just last year. A student read to us her wonderful interview and assessment of the children in an elementary classroom where she was working that semester. Here’s what she wrote, “I asked the children to close their eyes and…imagine not having any electricity, running water, iPods, TV, and transportation. I then talked to them about Laura Ingalls Wilder and gave the class background information about her. I gave the children directions by asking them to draw a picture or write down any things that they found interesting [as I read] an excerpt from Little House On the Prairie. After I finished reading, the children asked me different questions and one [child said], ‘Are you sure this is true?’ I assured them that it was.”

To open up a dialogue as this gifted teacher did and have a child respond, “Are you sure this is true?” – what a conversation starter! I don’t think we could ask for more from a book.

As much as I love reading books to my children that are clearly fiction, this child’s response makes it clear that we need to be reading all kinds of things with them and that includes great historical novels and intriguing non-fiction works from the past and present. For me, the Little House series revolved around Farmer Boy. I loved that book, still do, and I remember my 6th grade teacher, Zola Evans, reading a chapter to us every day just after lunch and recess.

Every good book holds a moment of opportunity for its readers. Whether you are a child or an adult, there will come a subtle minute when you pause in the middle of a great paragraph and look up from the page and wonder – could this really be true? No wonder people like books.