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, February 12, 2013


Author: Leontyne Prince
Illustrators: Leo & Diane Dillon
Grade Level: 4th-6th 

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Summary:  This story tells the tale of a beautiful Ethiopian princess singer who was captured and taken from her family and home by the Egyptian army.  While imprisoned there, she struggles to survive as a slave, finds love, and yet ultimately meets a tragic ending.  It is a story filled with culture, emotion, love and loyalty, unique characters, and complex relationships.
      For years the Ethiopians and the Egyptians have been at war with one and other.  Because of the danger the conflict brought upon the citizens of the land Princess Aida's father,King Amonasro, kept her confined to their castle.  However, being young and restless Aida disobeyed her father's commands and  wandered into the countryside.  Unbeknownst to Aida a raiding party of Egyptian soldiers was in the same area and the Egyptian soldiers seize the opportunity to capture the unguarded princess and her friends.  What follows is a struggle between two families, two nations, and two cultures.  Readers will see the growth of a young woman as mature decisions are made and enjoy an entertaining story full of plot twists.

Element 1:  Several important aspects of Element 1 are touched upon in this book.  The main character and the supporting characters are all racial and ethnic minorities.  The setting takes place in a foreign country and continent.  The characters speak with pride about their land, their country, and its people.
     This is a great opportunity for Black students to engage with a novel where characters that might look like them are both the lead and ancillary figures in the story.  Students and African or Middle Eastern descent may also become increasingly interested in a story that takes place in and around their ancestral home.
      The setting and timeline for this story can easily be incorporated into a Social Studies class while focusing on these Social Justice elements.  A unit that focuses on Egypt or East Africa can easily use this book as a tool to tie history and social justice together.
Lesson Plan

This book lends itself to numerous potential lesson plans in history, social studies, music, or drama.

Here is a Lesson Plan that will serve as a guide for the class performing the book/opera as a play.

Further Reading:

This book is in fact an adaptation of the famed 1871, written by the Italian, Giuseppe Verdi.  It is a work of historical fiction and has been performed in the US through the present day.  

About the Author:  

Born in segregated Mississpi in 1927, Leontyne Price identified greatly with the character and story Aida.  She is a world renowned soprano opera starlet and experienced her breakthrough performance in 1957 performing the lead role of Aida in San Francisco.  Tours throughout the US and Europe followed.  She eventually won numerous awards, including 19 Grammy Awards.  The jacket of the book speaks about her connection to Aida and can certainly be used to stimulate class discussion. 


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