Saturday, February 2, 2008

Tar Beach

Title and Author: Tar Beach by Faith Ringgold

Link to where you can purchase book:

Summary: Tar Beach is the story of a young girl named Cassie Louise Lightfoot whose imagination and wishful thinking allow her to fly all over New York City and transcend boundaries (both economic and racial) that she normally wouldn't be able to. Her family often spends nights on the rooftop of their building, which is affectionately dubbed 'Tar Beach'. From Tar Beach, Cassie does her daydreaming, and " with stars and skyscraper buildings all around me, made me feel rich, like I owned all that I could see." At 8 years old, Cassie already has a deep sense of right and wrong and she uses her 'flying' to help her fix the problems in her life. For example, her dad is denied acceptance into the labor union because he is half-Black/half-Native American and so she flys over the union building and "buys" it for him. The book has an overall inspirational tone that permeates throughout the story. Through her imaginings, Cassie becomes empowered to go after what she wants and deserves and sees the beauty in the places around her.

Reflection: I really liked this story. Not only were the illustrations beautiful and rich in colors and prints, but the story evolved from being one about a little girl with an overactive imagination to one about a girl trying to make her world a better place for herself and her family. I would recommend this book to anyone, child and/or adult, because it raises several important issues about race and class but frames it from a child's perspective. Even though she is addressing these issues, they still have an innocence attached to them in that if you believe in something enough, maybe it will come true.

Book Use/Activities/Curricular Units: This book really lends itself to many different topics. It could be used during a unit on Families and/or Traditions because the book outlines a lot of activities that Cassie's family does together. Students can design their own quilts depicting their families' experiences. Faith Ringgold was inspired tremendously by her own family's history and their experiences with quiltmaking is evident in each page. The book also contains a few historical references such as the exclusion of Cassie's father from the labor union because of his racial background. This book could serve as just one example of many of the injustices committed against minorities in this country but on a much more personal level.

Flying to Freedom: Tar Beach and The People Could Fly

Making Multicultural Connections Through Trade Books

Faith Ringgold's Official Website

Art Lesson Plan: Tar Beach

Domain of Social Justice Education: (1) Self-love and Acceptance: Students describe, analyze, and explore the different traditions in their lives and with their families and use that as a lens to understand Cassie.

(2) Respect for Others: Students learn elements of African-American folktales and of other methods of storytelling as well as learning about the experiences of groups of people different than themselves.

(3) Exploring Issues of Social Justice: The book introduces issues of racism and class and highlights how discrimination does not always happen in the most obvious ways but through everyday interactions.

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