Something Beautiful (1998), written by Sharon Dennis Wyeth & illustrated by Chris K. Soentpiet, was a wonderful story. The drawings are very nice. In fact, the little girl on the cover, the title character, actually looks like a little girl in my daughter’s class.
I bought this book because it reminds me of the children in my class. Their environment is not the most beautiful, safe, or encouraging place to be. When I saw this book, I knew that I had to buy it and share it with them.
I read this book in response to one of the Open Court stories that we were working on right before break called ” Food from the ‘Hood,” a 4th grade OCR story that detailed the story of the positive beginnings in the aftermath of the 1994 riots in South Central Los Angeles. It is the story of Crenshaw High’s student run business that inspired other schools to start their own business. They have a brand of salad dressing in the store aptly title “Food from the ‘Hood”.
The accompanying journal question, “Can I start a business that helps my neighborhood and make a profit? We discussed possible businesses and then they wrote in their journal. This post could get so long because we really did a lot with this book and the other stuff we were working with, so I will save that for another day and another post. So, as a lead in to this story and as an addendum to my student’s daily writing journal assignment, I asked the students if they could start a business that could help out their neighborhood, when one of my students said that the neighborhood was ugly and there was nothing they could do to clean it up. The students then started telling me about the neighborhood crack heads and the alley where cars race by so fast they can’t walk by without fear of being run over. It was at this point that I told them that I had a book for them since this story is much like their own. Some of them remembered it from last year, but there are some who weren’t in my class last year who really wanted to hear it. This little picture book speaks volumes about children living in horrible circumstances who make the best of their situation.
The title character focuses on a pretty little brown girl who thinks her neighborhood lacks something beautiful. She thinks that because the neighborhood is fraught with crime, homelessness and poverty. One thing, she discovers while hunting for something beautiful, is that there is beauty all around. After walking past the homeless woman sleeping on the street, and after running past the alley where her mother told her never to stop, she finds something beautiful in Miss Delphine’s fish sandwich, in the neighborhood children jumping rope and dancing, Mr. Lee’s fruit stand, old Mr. Sims’ beautiful smooth stone, and her little baby cousin Carl.
However, all of that hope is dashed when she goes back home, sits on her stoop and sees the word Die in bold red letters. Well, she decides to do something about it. But, can one little girl make a difference? Do you think she can? Read it and find out for yourself is she does.
So, as usual, this post has gotten way longer than I wanted it to be. So, I will end it here. Until next time people!