Below is an annotated list of children's literature for the elementary classroom. The books are organized by the Six Elements of Social Justice Curriculum Design (Picower, 2007). It is based on work by pre-service teachers at Montclair State University. They have read and reviewed these books and provided insights into how they can be used in K-5 settings.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008


Tricyle Written by Elisa Amado Illustrated by Alfonso Ruano

This book is about a young girl named Margarita who lives in a big house with her family in Guatemala. Margarita enjoys climbing a tree in her backyard so she can look down at at her garden and the beautiful area that surrounds her house. Margarita's friend Rosario and her family live in "the shacks" on the other side of the hedge that surrounds Margarita's house. One day while Margarita is enjoying her view from the tree, she witnesses Rosario and her brother pushing her tricycle that she absentmindedly left in the hedge earlier to their own house. Later Margarita's mother asks her where her tricycle is and Margarita lies about its whereabouts. Margarita is plagued by this situation as she considers her friend's intentions, her sense of responsibility, and the negative comments she's heard about people of lower socio-economic status.

I like this book because I think it subtly examines social standing and class relations in a way that is comprehensible for young students and applicable to the diverse classroom. There is no overt message, so the book leaves room to explore its contents in different ways. With this book there are opportunities to discuss/learn about discrimination, stereotyping, social responsibility, etc. I believe if appropriately used, this can be an excellent tool in the classroom. Also, the illustrations are very beautiful and intricate.

This book could be used in multiple ways but it mainly could be an effective tool to study class relations. Often young children are unaware of the circumstances of others and rarely have the opportunity to address this concept and how it affects so many aspects of our lives. This book could be a great segue into a unit on developing nations or something very similar. It falls into the domains of social justice education because the book focuses on a young Guatemalan girl and her emerging consciousness of the gap between rich and poor people.

Although I enjoyed this book and believe it can be a useful tool in the classroom, after doing some research it became evident that many people don't share my sentiment. This book can be problematic and the teacher has to plan accordingly. Although the book does not directly say Rosario and her brother were stealing Margarita's tricycle, it is implied and could serve to only encourage stereotypes surrounding financially disadvantaged people. I would like to not assume this is the case in the story so I believe this book can still be used. Also when Margarita hears the prejudice remarks made regarding the people who live in "the shacks" one woman claims "They're all thieves. They should be shot." This is very strong language and means this book is obviously not for every classroom. So, on the surface this can seem like a superficial story that goes against the ideas of social justice education but I believe the knowledgeable and creative teacher can still use it and use it well in the classroom.

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