Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Smoky Night by Eve Bunting Illustrated by David Diaz

Smoky Night by Eve Bunting and illustrated by David Diaz is a controversial book,but I'm not sure why. I realize the prejudice and rioting are not light subjects, but this book did not portray it offensively. In fact, there were elements of this book that promoted acceptance and the importance of getting to know others. In times of need, it often becomes clear that certain biases are wrong and are disproven.
In this book, a little boy and his mother live in an apartment building in a town where riots (I assume racial) are taking place outside their window. One interesting aspect of the book to me was that while these people were outside, the little boy explained that he and his mother won't go to a certain store because it is owned by a woman who does not look like them. This got me thinking. Even people who are being treated unfairly often have their own stereotypes of others who are not like them. Therefore, this book did a good job pointing that out. Later on, this was stereotype was eliminated. When the apartment begins to burn down, the boy realizes he has lost his cat. His neighbor, who owns the store, has also lost her cat. The cats have never gotten along, but once the fire has been stopped, a fire fighter brings the two cats to their owners. He explains that the cats were suffering together and had joined forces to help the other. If these cats could get along, the owners should be able to as well. The boy's mother extends an invitation to Ms. Kim (the other woman) to come over once they return. The book ends preaching a message about accepting others for who they are and appreciating them.
The illustrations in this book were unlike anything I had seen before. Part of the picture was a cartoon (typical), but surrounding the cartoon, there were real looking objects from everyday life that often related to what was being discussed in the text. I thought this was a neat element of this book.
I would recommend this book to others, but it was not my favorite. I could see how it could be controversial (rioting/prejudice), but it was nothing that really struck me as alarming or too detailed. I think there are other books out there that present this message but could do so in a more effective way.

1 comment:

  1. That's interesting that this book was considered "controversial". Maybe it was considered too scary or just not something people wanted to approach? Dealing with prejudice in a mature and respectful way is what we should be aiming for as teachers. Sometimes it's hard to know how to address prejudice, so I'm glad you found a book that can help start a discussion.