One day during a class meeting a student told the class she was interested in social justice issues. Another student added she wanted to learn about Ukraine. The funny thing is I don’t even remember what we were talking about, but I heard them.
Later on, I was reading NCTE’s CLA blog and read about this book (If you buy the book from the link, all proceeds are donated to the UNICEF Ukranian Relief Fund). As soon as I learned a Ukrainian husband and wife team created it, I was all in.
This book cast a spell on my students. They’re bodies vibrated on the rug as they waited for the book to end so that they could launch into conversation about it.
The first aspect they noticed was how the book plays with light and darkness. Before war begins in Rondo, the illustrations are bright and colorful. Then, war begins and the pages are dark. After, students noted the illustrations were lighter again, but not nearly as vivid as they had been before the war began.
Next, we launched into a discussion of the personification of war. Not only do the creators do a marvelous job of personifying War in the text (note how they capitalize it), the illustrations are so masterful that an MFA thesis could be written about them.
Unfortunately, one of our administrative assistants announced on the loudspeaker that the day was ending and we had to wrap up the conversation. We didn’t even get to what I wanted to talk about which was the use of flowers as symbols throughout the book.
But not everyone left the rug to pack up. Some students rushed at me to get a closer look at the book, specifically at the illustration below.
“Look at the eye on the tank,” one student shouted.
“There’s it’s mouth underground,” another one added.
“Check out the gears on the arm,” another student chimed in.
Finally, a student who has had to face innumerable challenges in their life, one who had yet to ask me for a book bounded up to me. “Mrs. Narita,” they said. “May I take that book home?”
And that is why I teach.