Smoky Night
by Eve Bunting, illus. by David Diaz
book talk

author/illustrator study

classroom connections

list of related books

web activity


Harcourt Brace, 1994

1995 Caldecott Award

ALA Notable

School Library Journal Best Book of the Year

Parent's Choice Award winner

Book talk

A young boy watches with his mother and his cat from their apartment window as looters roam the streets. Soon their own building begins to burn and as they leave they discover the cat has disappeared! The neighbor Mrs. Kim, who is disliked because of cultural differences, is also missing her cat. The community gathers in a shelter to escape the fire and the looting. Though the subject might be upsetting if not handled with care, the book addresses issues young people are actually confronted with and presents a child's eye view of the Los Angeles riots. The story does end hopefully with the two cats teaching the humans a lesson about getting along. Diaz' collage art compliments the storyline, reflecting both the debris of the looters and the warmth of the community.

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Author/Illustrator study

Eve Bunting:

Eve Bunting moved to the United States from Northern Ireland in 1958 with her husband and three children. The family settled in California. Her writing career started after she took a creative writing course at a community college. First she wrote retellings of Irish folktales but soon branched out in numerous directions. She has now authored more than 150 books ranging from picture books to young adult novels.

She is the recipient of numerous awards for her books including the California Young Readers Medal, School Library Journal Best Book of the Year Award, the IRA Teachers' Choice Award, the 1997 Regina Medal, and the Caldecott (for Smoky Night.).

Eve Bunting currently lives in Pasadena, California, and is a writing teacher at the University of California, Los Angeles.

David Diaz:

David Diaz started drawing illustrations for a weekly newspaper in San Diego, California. Over the years, Diaz has worked on numerous editorial and design projects.

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Classroom connections

These ideas are general and would have to be refined to suit the grade level and the particular students:

Art -- Create a collage to represent a certain mood. What types of materials could be used in the collage to present this mood? Does the way the objects are arranged change the feelings conveyed?

Writing -- Write about a time you were frightened. Was it the occurrence which frightened you or the unknown?

-- Write from the cat, Jasmine's perspective. How did the cat escape from the fire? How did Jasmin met up with the other cat?
Discussion -- The rioting in Smoky Night is not really explained. What reasons might there have been for the looting and burning? How could something like this happen? What could be done to prevent such occurrences in the future?

Creative Dramatics -- set up the class as a publishing house deciding whether to publish a controversial book. Give individuals roles as editors, public relations, graphic design... and have a meeting about the pros and cons of publishing such a book.

-- have a school board meeting with students in role as concerned parents, community members, the author/illustrator, board members... and discuss why the book is or isn't appropriate for the classroom.
Social Studies -- Investigate instances of rioting in the United States. What do these riots have in common? How are they different? Are certain areas more prone to rioting? How have communities responded after the rioting?
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List of related books

Other books by Eve Bunting:

Other books illustrated by David Diaz: Some other picturebooks which deal with violence, or war: Some other picturebooks with cats:
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Web activity

Rosewood masacre 1923

Tulsa Race Riots CNN

Haymarket Riot 1886 Chicago Library

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