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.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Maus I: A Survivor's Tale: My Father Bleeds History

Author and Illustrator: Art Spiegelman

Grade Level: 6-8

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Summary: Art Spiegelman uses a comic book to share a story about the Holocaust, its survivors, and the ancestors who live with the history of such injustice. With mice representing Jews and cats representing Nazis, Maus narrates the experiences of Art's father Vladek. Alternating between the past and present, the text describes Vladek's life in pre-war Poland as a well off young Jewish man married to Anja, his first wife and Art's mother, as a soldier and prisoner in an Auschwitz camp, and finally as a survivor and immigrant. Weaved throughout the story are the complex and conflicting feelings Art developed as he interviewed his father.

Element: Three, Issues of Social Injustice
Maus exposes students to a historical example of religious intolerance through a personal narrative of a Holocaust survivor. Furthermore, the story provides an immediate example of how the historical roots of oppression affect the lives of people today. With teacher guidance, students can begin to understand some causes of the Holocaust and the impact the event had on societies across the globe for years to come.

Activity: Working at first individually and then in pairs, students consider a time in their lives when they felt priviledged or discriminated against solely because of their gender, race, religion, etc. Each student writes a paragraph or two describing the experience before s/he trades with another student. Together, they read one another's paragraphs and discuss them using teacher directed sample questions. Discussion topics might include, "Why do you think you were treated that way?" "Put yourself in the other person's shoes. How might the situation have looked to him/her?" "If you could go back, how might you change your response?"

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