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A Brooklyn P.S. teacher writes:

I read The Little Giant today to my first grade class and it sparked one of the best discussions we've had this year. First of all, they LOVED the book and were totally fascinated by it. Even before we read the book, talking about the title, they had such interesting ideas about what it meant to be "a little giant." We first talked about what it meant to be "ignored" and what that felt like. And we talked about why Angelino was ignored. And one of my students said that it reminds him of how black people were treated before the civil rights movement (we did a lot of Martin Luther King in Jan.) because Angelino was being "judged" because of how he looked. So, then we talked about what it meant to "judge" someone, and how judging people can be unfair (and somebody else said it reminded them of how Chrysanthemum felt). And of course, we talked about how Angelino was different, and the other giants didn't like him cause he was different. A lot them shared experiences being friends with someone that was different from them and how that felt.

But the most interesting part of the discussion, and something we haven't really talked about at all this year, was about labelling -- how Angelino and Osvaldo looked the same but they had different labels. We talked about how labels don't tell who we really are inside and they can be confusing or hurtful. And we talked about different ways we label each other. One example, being "boy" and "girl." And I said, some people don't like being labelled a boy or a girl. And then finally this little boy in my class who has been grappling with gender issues all year, (and is growing his hair out), said quietly, "I feel like a girl inside." And none of the boys laughed at him! And it was so interesting what he said -- about watching "girl" movies, and asking his mom for dolls. And the kids didn't even THINK of making fun of him. And I felt like it was such a RELIEF for him to articulate it for the first time. And especially to feel the support of his classmates! My class is already fascinated by war so they were intrigued when the giants and dwarfs started fighting. And we talked about why they were fighting, and did they even know why they were fighting? And were they fighting each other because they were different and that scared them? And I think they really got it, when they stopped fighting cause they realized that they weren't all that different. Anyway, the book really opened up a lot of ideas to them, and a lot of questions, "Can a boy marry a boy?" And "Can a black person marry a white person?" and on and on. So, I just wanted to say thank you. I think its a really powerful book and it has so many messages, but doesn't come off at all as being didactic because the story (a love story really) itself is so elegantly told.