Friday, July 10, 2015


Title:  Weslandia
Author:  Paul Fleischman
Illustrator:  Kevin Hawkes
Publisher: Candlewick Press, ©1999
ISBN:  978-0-7636-0006-8
Grade Level:  K-5

Book Review:  With Camp Snowball 2015 just a few days away and this text having served as the primary text for Camp Sunshine 2012, it seems fitting to write an entry for Weslandia.  Wesley is a misunderstood young boys whose passion for learning facts and whose unwillingness to go along with fashion fads and popular foods make him something of an outcast.  That is until the summer he creates a civilization complete with its own food, sports, alphabet, and number system. The story includes a sustainability theme as Wesley seeks to use each element of the crop he creates:  juicing the fruit,  roasting the roots, weaving the stalk and seasoning with the leaves.  Replete with dynamics--the sophistication of a civilization, Wesley's understanding of himself, his growing number of friends, and Wesley's happiness--this story will result in rich dialogue among students and provide numerous opportunities to apply systems thinking tools and concepts.
Systems Thinking Connections
Habits:  Considers as issue fully and resists the urge to come to a quick conclusion.
This is not an easy habit to see in practice.  In fact, it is far easier to find occasions when a quick decision leads to an unintended consequence, but Wesley, the story's main character is a good example of practicing this habit.
Tools:  As mentioned in the review,  there are many dynamics in this story, which lend themselves well to behavior over time graphs.  These dynamics range from very simple things like the character's happiness, suitable for younger children, to the sophistication of the civilization, a topic that would push the thinking of older students and send them back to the text to look for evidence.
To further develop the idea of what constitutes a civilization and what contributes to its development students could use a stock flow diagram. The story focuses on some very specific elements of a civilization:  language, numeration, food, shelter and clothing.  The discussion could include whether or not this is a stock without an outflow.  Once an element of a civilization has been created, can it ever be completely "uncreated?"  Or do things like innovation, disregard of tradition, power of another civilization actually erode the quality of a civilization?   All of these ideas could be linked in an interdisciplinary unit on ancient civilizations.   Learners could seek evidence in the civilizations being studied to find additional support to answer questions like what contributes to the development or a civilization or what causes a civilization to diminish?  

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