Children's Literature Reviews for Teaching History

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Friday, March 25, 2011

Leon's Story

Title: Leon's Story          
Author: Leon Walter Tillage  
Category: First Person Account

Topic: The Jim Crow Era, Sharecropping
Grade Level: 5-6
Students: Mostly struggling or reluctant readers with just a few strong readers
Rating by: Veronica in Vermont
(In Veronica's comment below, she offers excellent suggestions for how to connect Leon's Story with the lives of students today.)

Historically Accurate?
(4) Yes and also includes historical notes, primary sources, etc.*
(3) Yes
(2) A few inaccurate or misleading portrayals
(1) Not a bit
*This is a first person account.

An Engaging Story?
(4) Almost all students will beg to keep reading
(3) Most students will get caught up in the story
(2) Some students will read ahead by mistake
(1) Students will groan when the book is mentioned

Prompts Discussion?
(4) Students will still be talking about it in the hallway
(3) Will prompt discussion about major issues in the past as well as today
(2) Will prompt discussion about the characters and the events in the book
(1) Will not prompt discussion

(4) Everyone - even the most reluctant readers – can get on board*
(3) Can be used for a whole class read
(2) Can only be used with a small high-powered reading group
(1) Recommend only to students that love reading
*This would also work well as a read aloud in an elementary classroom.

Age Appropriate Content?
____Too mature
_X__Just right
____Too simplistic

A Comment from Veronica: 
This is a deeply moving autobiography.  His personal accounts will never leave your memory. To help put his story into context we created a timeline that included the Constitution (to clarify who had rights and freedom?), the slave trade, Civil War, Emancipation, Jim Crow south, voting rights, the Civil rights movement (MLK, Rosa Parks), and connected it to present day with our school bullying/harassment policies.

It invites rich discussion and exploration of the ideals upon which our  country was founded, Abe Lincoln, freedom rides, sharecropping, the separate but equal policies of the Jim Crow South, geography, perspective, "Are certain people better than others? What criteria would you use?", and presents a myriad of opportunities to make text to self connections. 

Amazon's Product Description:  
"Leon Tillage grew up a sharecropper's son in a small town in North Carolina. Told in vignettes, Leon's story is one of racial prejudice and hatred. It is also the story of a strong family and the love that bound them together."

Link to Reviews on Amazon
Link to Quizzes and Activities about Leon's Story by EduHelper
Article about the author Leon Walter Tillage in his hometown paper, The Baltimore Sun
Buy this book from your local bookstore via Indie Bound

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