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Teaching with The Journey That Saved Curious George
recipients: Sandra Sullivan, St. Pius X High School, Nebraska
Sandra Sullivan, a Modern Literature teacher at St. Pius X High School in Lincoln, Nebraska, received a mini-grant to purchase sixty copies of The Journey That Saved Curious George: The True Wartime Escape of Margret and H.A. Rey, written by Louise Borden and illustrated by Allan Drummond. The book came to Ms. Sullivan’s attention after she attended an event held at the Lincoln Public Library by Beth Seldin Dotan, Director of the Institute for Holocaust Education in Omaha. Two other teachers at St.Pius X were also able to use the books in their classes, as part of a unit addressing the effect of conflict on people during wartime. Other texts included in the unit were The Cellist of Sarajevo, The Balkan Women, and selections from For Whom the Bell Tolls and Left to Tell. Yet after attending the Nebraska Summer Satellite, Ms. Sullivan was uncomfortable with what she saw as a gap in the curriculum at her school and sought to incorporate a text that touches upon the Holocaust. As she says, “since my unit as a whole is about the effects of war on humankind, I could think of no better way to bring the effects of war home to the young than by exposing them to a story that will help them see how the tragic loss of life in the Holocaust could have stolen a piece of their own childhood. Curious George is an icon for young readers in the United States and the work of Margret and H.A Rey could have been easily lost to the world had they not escaped Paris… The recent novel and film Sarah’s Key has sparked some interest about France and WWII among youth and discussing the plight of these artists will further that interest since this book also contains a wealth of information about the history of France during WWII.”
The three-day lesson plan for this adolescent book included discussion, a worksheet that students filled out for historical background and reading accountability, and a project that involved making caricatures of themselves holding a list of 10 items they would choose to take with them if they were required to flee from their homes. Art teacher Laurie Rodaway also used the book in a unit on Illustration in conjunction with a local art center’s focus on heroes in 2013. Ms. Rodway moved students toward developing sketches of someone they consider to be a hero in their lives, with a focus on including heroic actions, not just a static portrait.