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.

Monday, February 15, 2016

A Place Where Sunflowers Grow
Author: Amy Lee-Tai
Illustrator: Felicia Hoshino
To purchase or get more information:
“A Place Where Sunflowers Grow,” is a story of a young girl named Mari and the feelings and struggles she experiences while living in an internment camp in Utah. The story begins with Mari and her mother staring at the ground waiting for the sunflowers they had planted to grow. As she waters the ground, she begins to remember the life she and her family were forced to leave behind.  Mari is unsure as to why she and her family were sent to the internment camp and because of her sadness and confusion, she has difficulty drawing during her art class. As Mari struggles to acclimate to life in the internment camp, she gains support and encouragement from her parents, Aiko- a classmate in her art class, and her art teacher who helps Mari to not only find a topic to draw about, but helps her to find something to be happy about again. With the help of her art teacher and the growth of her sunflowers, Mari was not only able to find something that comforted and brought happiness to her life at the camp, but she was able to feel hope for the life waiting for her when she and her family would finally get to go home.
How does it represent Element 3: Exploring Issues of Social Injustice?
Element 3: Exploring Issues of Social injustice is reflected in this book because it tells the story of the injustices and racism that many Japanese citizens living in the United States experienced during WWII. Japanese citizens were forced to leave their homes, work, family, and friends and move to these internment camps because of an irrational fear and racial prejudice during the war. This book will help students understand not only what people in the internments camps experienced, but through Mari, they will gain a better understanding of what people in these internments camps felt when they were forced to leave their communities. Although students may not have experienced the same exact situation as Mari, students may have had an experience where they have been unfairly treated. Those feelings that the students felt can be used to help them relate to Mari and the feelings she was feeling.
How would you use the book?
After reading the book, students may have a lot of questions about WWII and the Japanese internment. The teacher may want to discuss with students what the Japanese internment was and why it occurred. The teacher should be prepared to describe and answer questions about WWII and why the United States was afraid of the Japanese living in the United States. Students in pairs or groups can share with each other about the many feelings Mari was experiencing and why she was experiencing those feelings. The teacher can assign one feeling to each group or pair and have them write what the feeling was and why Mari was feeling that way. Students could then present their ideas to the class and the teacher could place each piece of paper on a larger chart. Teachers can also have students think about situations when they felt they were unfairly treated or judged and then help students make connections with Mari and the story.  
Students can then make a sunflower and in the middle of the flower, students can draw and/or write about something that gives them hope or brings them comfort or happiness in difficult situations. 
*The book is written in English and Japanese.


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