A Thirsty Fox Getting Its Tail Cut Off & Naked Ghostly Geese

After looking at a variety of books relating to economics, Dr. Stohr made a point to read two books from the collection that may seem to have questionable storylines and/or illustrations. The first book was One Fine Day by Nonny Hogrogian, which is a retelling of an Armenian folktale story about a thirsty fox that gets its tail cut off by a woman (who also refuses to sew the foxes tail back on) after she catches it drinking her milk. Although I believe its important to include diverse literature; as an adult, I can’t help but view this literature with some negativity regarding the concept of animal cruelty, which made me feel a bit uncomfortable. Thus, my immediate thought was not to consider including this book as it might send messages about negative treatment of animals. Yet, I am still unsure of which way I’m leaning more toward on whether to include this diverse literature in my future classroom instruction. The second book Dr. Stohr read was Agatha’s Feather Bed: Not Just Another Wild Goose Story by Carmen Agra Deedy. I appreciated the honesty in providing readers and Agatha the reality of where the feathers came from, but the illustrations of naked ghostly geese might feel frightening for some students, regardless of the message that “everything comes from something.”

A combination our most recent class discussion and Erika’s post on book banning led me to the question: “Are there resources that provide educators with diverse, un-bias children’s literature that focus on the topic of economics?” And, fortunately, I came across a variety of booklists on the Social Justice for Change website for educators to consider.

Link: https://socialjusticebooks.org/booklists/

Further, as I explored the “Economic Class” booklist, I noticed that there were some of the same books from Dr. Stohr’s collection included within this booklist , such as A Chair for My Mother and Tia Isa Wants a Car.

Are there books within the “Economic Class” booklist from the Social Justice Books website that you might consider including in your economics-related lessons? Further, as you explored the other booklist topics, are there specific books from other booklists within this website that you might consider including within other lessons pertaining to social studies, and does the literature you came across provide cross-connections between other core subjects? Also, have you found other websites particularly helpful in providing un-bias literature on any topics within elementary social studies?

7 thoughts on “A Thirsty Fox Getting Its Tail Cut Off & Naked Ghostly Geese

  1. Thanks for this post, Morgan. I love the link to the Social Justice Books reading lists! There are many favorites on the Economic Class list. I’d love to include books like _A Chair for My Mother_ in a classroom library. I also think you could have a lot of fun doing economics lesson plans with books like _Click, Clack, Moo_ and _Tar Beach_.

    I was actually browsing at the bookstore last night with my family, and we saw _Watercress_ by Andrea Wang and Jason Chin on the shelves. It’s about a Chinese-American family who stop by the side of the road to pick watercress during a road trip through Ohio. I really loved that one because it asks children to think about food, economics, and culture all at once. My own daughter is pretty far removed from the way I grew up, but every time I cook Appalachian food for her, we have these kinds of conversations about food, money, and why people cook the food that they do. My family always ate tomato gravy when I was a kid because meat is expensive and we always had jars of canned garden tomatoes on hand. (Same thing with macaroni and tomatoes instead of macaroni and cheese.) My daughter loves to cook and prides herself on eating a wide variety of foods so the notion of scarcity or cooking with only a few ingredients because you can’t afford anything else really blows her mind!

  2. Hi Morgan!

    Thank you so much for your blog post and for including a very useful link to books of various categories. I have read “A Chair for My Mother” before and would LOVE to use the book in my class. Some other interesting ones from the link that I looked into included “A Shelter in Our Car” (which I used for an assignment in my Diverse Learners class), “Mama I’ll Give You the World,” and “The Fair Housing Five & the Haunted House.” I also loved seeing that there was a lot of diversity in characters and culture in the selection of books.

    One website that I found for books about social justice is https://www.weareteachers.com/books-about-social-justice/

  3. Morgan,
    Thank you for your post! I agree with you that some of the books mentioned may have included topics or ideas that might be worrisome for youngsters. I think these books are appropriate when used with age groups that can handle the content and view it from a more mature lens. I think 4th or 5th graders studying economics would have no problem addressing the two books you mentioned that Dr. Stohr shared. I think the economic concepts are good ones and the storyline might actually have some shock or silly value that will resonate with older children and help them remember complicated economic concepts. I think simply adressing the animal cruelty and frightening image of the naked goose and discussing the issue is better than avoiding the books entirely. I think you only need the correct audience of older students that can discuss the issues and the nuggets of education gold within the books. We all have different teaching styles and so some teachers may choose not to use those books, which I understand. That was my perspective of them. Sometimes unforgettable stories like that make the economic aspect we are trying to teach stick with students better. I think the issue lies in traumatizing younger students who are not mature enough to handle it.
    Thank you, Morgan for sharing your perspective!

  4. Morgan,

    Finding appropriate and diverse children’s literature is certainly more challenging than I would have imagined. When choosing books, I certainly plan to consider what I think my students are capable of understanding. As teachers, we may use a book one year that does not work well; we can always learn and adapt as we go.

    I have found the Social Justice for Change website invaluable. I love that they organize diverse books by both category and age! I am also very excited that they also have an economic booklist. One book I may use is A Chair for my Mother by Vera B. Williams, a story that really resonated with me as a child. Each Kindness is another book I recognize (previously used in Henrico County) that I may utilize. The website certainly provides books with multidisciplinary options. When working on my bibliography, I used the website’s American Indian link, which I recommend. Before we even talked about in class, I also found Debbie Reese’s blog, which I also think is a wonderful resource.

    https://americanindiansinchildrensliterature.blogspot.com/

    Thanks for sharing!

  5. Morgan, I, too found it hard to listen to the story where the fox’s tail was cut off but I grew up with Disney stories and nursery rhymes both of which have terrible things happening in each and every story and not always with a happy ending. Poor Grandma gets eaten by the wolf in the Little Red Riding Hood version that I heard. In the song, Rock-A-Bye baby, the baby falls down…cradle and all! Don’t even get me started on Humpty Dumpty!

    I do think there is value in teaching these and other stories from an educational perspective. I believe in protecting our children for as long as possible but at the same time, I also think we need to prepare them for life and sadly, life does not always include a happy ending. Parents and educators need to assess their own children to be able to determine what’s appropriate and how to deliver it. Watering down stories to me is a form of lying. Not everyone always wins. Life lessons are learned in school as well as on the playground. As educators, we need to hold hands and assess our students for readiness but we also need to take the role of preparing our students for life. I don’t think books should be read in isolation. Discussion is key. Explanation is necessary. Understanding is gained by deep probing and research. Yes, in my opinion, difficult books may be included in education but not in a vacuum but rather with care and sensitivity.

    Specifically in relation to social studies, I think the most interesting take-away from the class discussion was the idea that almost any book can be used to discuss the concepts of economics. It’s all in how it’s discussed. As for books that tackle difficult topics, I think we are in a good place in terms of publishing where diversity is celebrated and is now being brought into the mainstream. Certainly I think this is one positive that’s come from so much negative. Literature seems to have taken the lead!

    https://www.socialstudies.org/professional-learning/using-relevant-childrens-literature-elementary-social-studies-classroom

    This link provides a brief overview of how important social studies literature is today!
    -Erika

  6. Hi Morgan,

    Thank you for being honest about your thoughts on the books; I think they were very human responses you might expect from many of your students. Thank you too for sharing the book list from the social justice website; economics/finances can be challenging topics to talk about as adults, trying to 1. share information on the topic and 2. acknowledge the different living/financial situations you may see in the classroom is critical.

    I remember when we were learning about economics in elementary school, we spent a while talking about bartering/trading. As a grade-wide project, each student was tasked with creating their own item(s) for “sale” this included making paper advertisements, setting prices, and creating a project. All the classes then met in the “market” and had a huge trading and bartering festival, which helped bring the vocabulary to life (and was loads of fun)!

    Some of my favorite books from the list (that I would like to use)

    Sunday Shopping by Sally Derby Miller

    ¡Si, Se Puede! / Yes, We Can!: Janitor Strike In L.A. by Diana Cohn

    The Paperboy by Dave Pilkey (I like this especially as my dad worked as a paperboy growing up and saved up to buy his first electric guitar. Subsequently, the put a quick blurb and photo of him and his guitar in the paper!)

    A Shelter in our Car by Monica Gunning

    Night Job by Karen Hesse

    A Chair for My Mother by Vera B. Williams

  7. Hi Morgan!

    Thank you for your post this week. I also felt uncomfortable when we read “One Fine Day”. I think it shows a negative picture, but also, children might find the whole idea funny which is something I would not want to encourage because, in real life, it is not funny. With “Agatha’s Feather Bed” on the other hand, I actually thought it told a good and funny story, but you definitely have to know your students before reading it and teach them about what happens in the real world.

    I really loved the website that you linked! I think it does a great job of organizing books, making it easy for you to find what you need. I also think it is a great way to expose teachers to a variety of books for a diverse and healthy classroom library. One of the books that I would use in my room in any type of school is “The Lunch Thief: A Story of Hunger, Homelessness, and Friendship.”

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