Joan of Arc
by Diane Stanley
Publisher; Harper Collins, 1998
Classification: Biography, nonfiction
Interest Level: 3rd-8th. Reading Level: 6.3.
This is a biography of Joan of Arc. She was a 15th century French girl who claimed to hear voices telling her to lead the French army against England. Joan was given only a year to accomplish her task according to her voices. Her efforts to save France ended with her death on May 39, 1431. She met her death not on the battlefield but instead was burned at the stake as a witch.
Diane Stanley has created yet another picture book biography that uses illustrations to add in the subject of the actual text. The illustrations are done in a style that looks like a medieval tapestry. The cover begins this type of of illustration and it is carried out in the text. Each page of text is bordered and has a small illustration at the top of the page. The picture draws the reader into the page of text to see how it in fact relates to the information on the page.
The note about the 100 years war prior to the actual text is very helpful for the reader of this biography as a source of background knowledge. This is followed by a pronunciation guide that supports the fluent reading of the text. There is a map that helps the reader put into perspective the setting for this life. After the biography Ms. Stanley further supports the student with additional information about Joan and her struggles in court and her final sainthood.
Ms. Stanley uses visual access features very successfully in this information rich text. These, of course, would include the illustrations as well as the map.
The verbal access features include a bibliography and a list of materials recommended for younger readers. She uses a sequential organization that the reader can follow once they discover this. However, there is no table of contents to help the reader so one must scan the pages to determine the way the text is set up. The only clues are the pictures that accompany the text, there are no titles to help.
All quotes from the book are taken from actual transcripts of her trial and not just a literary device. this speaks to the accuracy of the facts presented in the text.
Publishers Weekly (January 7, 2002) "Appealing to the audiences intelligence and imagination this book stimulates an interest in both its particular subject , Joan of Arc, and history in general."
In the beginning the scaffolding support for students in the 3rd-5th grade will probably need to be high. The text is information rich and would not be a good text to read in one setting. The background of the 100 years was is a critical piece the student must have in order to fully appreciate the like of Joan. This can be done using the first two pages of this text about the war in a stand alone lesson before introducing Joan to the students.
Sharing the illustrations with the class and discussing them would be a good introduction before the actual reading. Sharing the pronunciation guide with the students in the form of a large poster to go over words that might cause the reader difficulty will help the reader focus on the text and not on struggling with unfamiliar words. If students are to read this text on their own it would be helpful to have a recording of the pronunciation for them to listen to before reading.
If you choose to read this text with students each section could be read during a class period and then the students could create an open window web to note important information. This web should have four windows and a door that open. The labels for each are; who, what, when,where, and why.. Each section could be given a title by the students to organize the information. Once the text is complete the students could use the webs and created titles to produce a medieval tapestry that represents the important people, events, places in the life of Joan of Arc/