Monday, November 8, 2010

Across the Alley

Written by Richard Michelson, Illustrated by E. B. Lewis
Multicultural Children’s Picture Book: 2-6 
Stars: 5 (out of 5)

Summary: This is the story of two young boys who live right next to one another, but are not allowed to play together. Once everyone in their houses have fallen asleep, the boys open up their windows and form a strong friendship across the alley.

            This book is likely one that many kids can relate to. Often, children are the victims of their parents’ stereotypes. Thus, such children are forbidden from interacting or playing with a child of a different race, religion, ethnicity, etcetera, but do not understand why. To children, this other child is just someone who is seen as a potential friend or playmate. Children are able to look past differences and play with one another, not yet clouded by society, judgment, and issues of power. Similarly, for these two boys, sharing between their windows is nothing more than a friendship. While the boys are forbidden by their parents and grandparents to interact with one another, the two share late at night when everyone else is asleep. This story is powerful in that it is a view of differences from the eyes of a child. To children, who are not yet jaded, difference in insignificant and often something that goes unnoticed. In the end, the boys are caught, but instead of being scolded for their actions, they are rewarded and provided an opportunity to show off their new talents. I particularly like the way that the ending is handled, for often, endings of similar stories result in upset parents, only furthering the animosity and differences.
            The two boys in the story share their talents and passions with one another. One child plays the violin, while the other is a baseball player. The violinist teaches his baseball friend how to play the violin, while the baseball player teaches the violinist to catch a baseball. This book would provide an opportunity for my students to explore their own talents, and to share those with the rest of the class. By giving each child an opportunity to share something that they are passionate about or particularly good at, all of the students could learn from one another. This would be a time for those who might be minority students, ethnically different, racially diverse, religious or nonreligious, female or male, etcetera, to share with one another. This experience would broaden students’ awareness of other cultures, hobbies, and important aspects of their classmate’s lives. 

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