|Purple House Press, September, 2014|
Back-to-school was a time of conflict for me when it came to selecting read-alouds in the early days. How to choose among SO MANY titles, each so powerful and engaging, each for different reasons? I could hardly wait to share them all. Given my druthers I'd have spent all the first days of school alternating between read-aloud and silent reading ALL DAY LONG, every day.
That's unrealistic, so I compromised by finding countless ways to feature important titles throughout the day, ALL YEAR LONG.
When new titles crossed my path I judged when and how I could share them with my students. Some were book-talked, some displayed with "new additions", and the best were read aloud.
COLORS OF THE WIND, The Story of Blind Artist and Champion Runner George Mendoza, by J. L. Powers, is just such a book. It's illustrated by the paintings of Geroge Mendoza, the subject of this book, with line drawings by Hayley Morgan-Sanders effectively incorporating small segments of his paintings on each text page. This biography is unlike any other I've read, yet it has a quality shared by the best: it inspires.
The title and subtitle give the facts, but the crisp, spare text, vibrant paintings, and inset line images are even more powerful than the facts.The backmatter elaborates on the details and includes photos of George Mendoza running and painting, which makes this an excellent title to use with older readers as well as young. His life choices and successes clarify that blind does not necessarily mean sightless, while the story makes it clear that differently-abled is not the same as disabled.
His sight may have been impaired by a degenerative disease, but his vision is pure and inspiring. Life's circumstances are beyond our control, but the paths we follow in those circumstances are choices we DO make. George's choices are inspiring and as brilliant as his art.The visual impact of Mendoza's art is made even more impressive by the story of how he was inspired to attempt painting.
The titles I featured during the course of the year had no lack of intriguing and impressive characters, but this one earns a place on the list. I've shared thoughts about others in previous posts, including sports figures (here, and here) artists (here, here, and here) as well as differences in abilities (here).
Now my choice is to share this title with other teachers and families in hopes that they will find a place for it in their reading lives. Mendoza's story isn't one that's made the headlines, but it's a perfect example of the truth that fame does not equate with significance or value.
Something to think about, right? If you agree, please help spread the word about this new release.