BY EVE BUNTING
Part One: Bibliographic Information
Bunting, E., Diaz, D., Wallerstein, W., MacElwee, K., Diaz, D., D’moch, L. (1994) Central Graphics., Tien Wah Press Sdn. Bhd. Smoky night. San Diego: Harcourt Brace.
Genre: Picture Book, Contemporary Realistic Fiction
Interest Level: Grades PreK-3
Reading Level: Grade level Equivalent: 2
Part Two: Response to the Book
Predictions: The subtle mentioning of Daniel’s cat, Jasmine, and Mrs. Kim’s cat not getting along and his mother’s refusal to shop in Mrs. Kim’s market influenced me to believe that they would somehow unite toward the end of the story.
Thoughts about craft: The illustrations in this book are extremely intriguing. The use of only dark colors fits the story line perfectly. I think it is neat that the illustrator used the same colors to represent all of the characters, making it difficult to determine their races, thus demonstrating the insignificance of color and race, and instead focusing on the many similarities that people share. Also, I enjoyed the combination of collages and acrylic paintings used throughout the book. The background of each page contains a collage symbolizing important ideas mentioned in the story. The pages on the left contain content, while the pages on the right consist of paintings used to depict the actual scenes of the story.
Thoughts about particular issues raised in the book: The issues raised in this book surround those of race, peoples’ tendencies to stereotype, and the violence that results from anger-all of which are all too relevant today. Stereotypes form from the concept of race which I believe is a term and idea that is learned over time, which I strongly believe should be “unlearned” and “untaught”. It is a concept that continues to divide people and cause unnecessary feelings of distress and hatred. Although the book describes the LA riots, which resulted from the Rodney King beating back in April of 1992, connections can be made to current events, as we continue to see a trend in issues surrounding police brutality against blacks which have also resulted in violence leading to riots.
After reading this story to children, I would ask them to respond, using their journals, to the following prompt: Write about something ugly — war, fear, hate, or cruelty–but find the beauty (silver lining) in it.
Plot: This book surrounds the April, 1992 riots that resulted from the Rodney King beating after four white officers were acquitted of all charges. When two hostile neighbors are forced to rush out of their property due to fires, each of them lose their pet cats in the large crowds on their way to a church hall where they find shelter. Upon their arrival at the shelter, Daniel asks one of his neighbors whom was also at the shelter, Mr. Jackson, if he had seen his cat, Jasmine. When Ms. Kim, the hostile neighbor hears Daniel, she asks Mr. Jackson the same about her cat. Soon after, a firefighter enters the church hall with two cats, one under each of his arms. One belonged to Daniel and the other, to Ms. Kim. The firefighter tells them that he found the two cats together, holding paws. When a woman at the shelter places a bowl of milk on the floor both cats run over and drink from the same bowl. This inspires Daniel’s mother, and Ms. Kim to disregard any differences, past or present, and move forward as friends.
Setting: The story takes place in Daniel’s apartment, the church hall, and the streets of Los Angeles.
Theme: Friendship, tolerance, conflict, overcoming differences.
Point of View: While author Eve Bunting received criticism for her inability to experience the riots firsthand, as a South Central resident, I feel that her attempt to tell a story through the eyes of a young boy growing up in an urban area was not only courageous but thoughtful on her part. In writing this book, Bunting cautiously exposes children to violence in an appropriate manner while at the same time teaching the importance of friendship and overcoming conflict.
Objective: Given art materials, the student will be able to design his / her own collage representing an important event in his / her life.
Guiding Questions: 1. What did you take from this story? 2. What is significant about the cats in the story? 3. What did Daniel and Jasmine teach the grown ups at the shelter?
Activity: After reading Smoky Night as a class, the teacher will instruct students to reflect on their past and create a collage that symbolizes a significant time in their life. Once all students have completed their projects, they will share their pieces with the class and hang them on the classroom wall.