Happy Memorial Day Everyone!
I’m enjoying my summer vacation like NEVER before. The BEST thing about summer is not having to get my 3 kids up and ready for school by 7am!
My first link-up is a double-dip (you know me!). It’s part of my It’s Monday, What Are You Reading? link-up and I’m also using it for a social studies mentor text link-up since it’s my FAVORITE historical fiction novel to teach!
I start my 8th grade year by reading this novel. The lexile is 990 so it’s a good choice for my 8th graders. It is absolutely FULL of historical allusions (and Shakespeare, too), figurative language, and SYMBOLISM. My favorite subject in school was always history, so I absolutely love reviewing the 1960’s with my kids as we read this one. It’s very “Forest-Gumpy” as it takes you through many of the same events that the movie does. It’s a fabulous coming-of-age story and I think ANYONE could love this book no matter the age. So GO AHEAD and add it to your own summer reading list, even if you don’t teach middle schoolers!
Quick plot summary: Holling Hoodhood is in 7th grade in 1968. His house sits RIGHT in the middle of Long Island, New York. In one direction live all of the Catholics in the city, and in the other direction live all of the Jewish people of the city. Holling is the only student in his class that is Presbyterian. This means that on Wednesday afternoons when half of his class goes to Cathechism and the other half goes to Hebrew school, he is left alone with Mrs. Baker, his English teacher, whom he swears hates him. If it weren’t for Holling, she would have Wednesday afternoons off, and it’s clear she isn’t happy being stuck with him. At first she puts him to work doing chores for her, and later ends up deciding to use the afternoon to teach Holling Shakespeare. I’m no Shakespeare fan and the allusions are simple enough for ME – and your students – to follow. This wholesome story takes you through Holling’s entire school year, full of ups and downs. Each chapter lasts one month and includes its own mini-plot structure with a new conflict, resolution, climax, and all.
My *favorite* activities to do with this book include watching the Duck and Cover video that was shown in schools during this time and discussing the threat of an atomic bomb attack. When we read the last chapter, the protagonist talks about his fear of having to be part of the Vietnam War draft in a few short years, so I hold a mock draft in my classroom in which everyone’s name and birthday is written on the board and we watch the ACTUAL 1969 draft and find out who’s going to war. Love, love, love this book! All of the videos mentioned are available on Youtube unless they are designated as Brain Pop.
commercials from the late 1960’s and discuss differences (especially society’s
view of women) between then and now. This will come up later in the novel with
the dispute between Holling’s sister and his father.
and briefly discuss.
Vietnam War and discuss.
summary of Romeo and Juliet so that students can understand allusions in this
chapter. Watch “Romeo and Juliet PLOT 60 Seconds Recap” and discuss.
Jesse Owens.” Show and discuss MLK “I Have a Dream” speech.
shown in schools “Duck and Cover” and discuss atomic bomb drills. Have
students assume the position under their desks for a few minutes to simulate
atomic bomb drill.
Vietnam War draft, draft dodgers, etc. Using the original 1969 broadcast, stage
a simulation of the Vietnam War draft. Write names of students drafted (based
on their real birthdays) on the board and discuss.
Whether you have read The Wednesday Wars or not, you MUST read Okay for Now. It is so beautifully written and is one of those books that will make you gasp, hold your heart, and cringe as you read about Doug Swietech’s life. In The Wednesday Wars, Doug Swietech was the class bully and screw-up who was always getting himself into trouble (along with his delinquent older brother) and failing classes in school. In Okay for Now, Gary D. Schmidt gives Doug a voice and shows you his life and what has made him that way. I have to say that this is my absolute FAVORITE BOOK IN THE WHOLE, WIDE WORLD. Yep. I’m even counting adult books. You don’t have to have read The Wednesday Wars at all to jump right in to Okay for Now. There is nothing you’ll miss. Go read this book. What are you waiting for?!
Which leads me right into the book I finished last week, What Came From the Stars by Gary D. Schmidt.
As you can tell from the posts above, this author is one of my all-time favorites and definitely worthy of Master Status in my book (get it? ha). So AS SOON AS I saw he had a new book out, I bought it WITHOUT EVEN READING THE BACK. Yes, I did. I’ve *GOT* to stop doing that! Turns out, this one is a science fiction/fantasy book. Yeah. Huge disappointment there. But, I figured Master Schmidt would come through for me. Nope, not so.
Here’s the Goodreads summary: The Valorim are about to fall to a dark lord when they send a necklace containing their planet across the cosmos, hurtling past a trillion starsall the way into the lunchbox of Tommy Pepper, sixth grader, of Plymouth, Mass. Mourning his late mother, Tommy doesn’t notice much about the chain he found, but soon he is drawing the twin suns and humming the music of a hanorah. As Tommy absorbs the art and language of the Valorim, their enemies target him. When a creature begins ransacking Plymouth in search of the chain, Tommy learns he must protect his family from villains far worse than he’s ever imagined.
Eyes glazed over yet? Yep. Most of the book was like that for me. Half of it takes place in a high-fantasy or sic-fi world with confusing characters and hard to understand events and happenings. The other half takes place on earth where Tommy and his family are having problems of their own – mainly that his mother recently died. I somewhat enjoyed Tommy’s half of the story, but all that other junk kept getting in the way and confusing me. In the end I really didn’t care all that much what happened to Tommy.. as long as the book ended soon.
Dear Master Gary D. Schmidt,
I love you. Please go back to writing fabulous historical fiction. You’ve left me so confused.