Friday, May 27, 2011

Henry and the Kite Dragon - watching kids work out their problems (ages 5 - 9)

Today we read a wonderful story with our 2nd graders that took unexpected turns, surprising and delighting all of us: Henry and the Kite Dragon, by Bruce Edward Hall. Henry is getting harassed and bullied by Tony, and we were sure that they were going to start fighting, but that's not what ended up happening at all. It's a great story, one that you'll enjoy reading with your kids and that's great to think about afterwards.
Henry and the Kite Dragon
by Bruce Edward Hall
illustrated by William Low
NY: Philomel, 2004
ages 5 - 9
available on Amazon and at your local library
Henry Chu lives in Chinatown in the 1920s, in New York City. He loves to get dumplings, go to the city's smallest post office and play with his friends. But his favorite thing to do is help Grandfather Chin create and fly beautiful kites. But Tony Guglione and his friends from Little Italy (the next neighborhood over) keep throwing rocks at the kites and then tearing them to pieces. Henry gets angry, so angry, but Grandfather Chin sets about to make an even more impressive dragon kite.

Finally, Henry storms down to the park where Tony and his friends are playing. Listening to the story, we could empathize with Henry and we were sure they were going to start fighting. But when Henry confronts Tony, he learned that Tony was worried the huge kites were chasing away the pigeons he kept as pets. It was a great "ah ha" moment for the class as they realized that Tony wasn't really a bully, but only wanted to protect his pet.

This story is based on real events from Bruce Edward Hall's father's childhood in New York City. As Kirkus Reviews notes in their starred review, this story "subtly teaches that bigotry and hatred is often based in ignorance." William Low's illustrations brings you into the story, and gave a wonderful sense of the majesty and magic of Grandfather Chin's kites. Low varies the perspective, sometime showing the bredth of the New York skyline and soaring kites and other times coming up close as the children and Grandfather Chin work on their creations. Our students really enjoyed how they could see these characters growing and finding a solution to their problems.

This brings to mind Brothers, by Yin, another book that show friendship can go beyond the discrimination or barriers you might think are there to start with. Brothers is set in San Francisco during the Gold Rush.

The review copy came from our school library. If you make a purchase using the Amazon links on this site, a small portion will go to Great Kid Books (at no cost to you). Thank you for your support.

Review ©2011 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books.

1 comment:

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