I’m the middle child in a series of three sisters, and while I don’t know what it’s like to be a twin, I can certainly relate to the sibling relationships that Katherine Paterson and Sundee T. Frazier have depicted in their middle grade books. Sometimes it’s hard to figure out who you are when you feel like you’ve been defined by your siblings for so long. Paterson won the Newberry Award in 1981 with Jacob Have I Loved, and Frazier’s 2010 novel, The Other Half of My Heart, offers diversity to the familiar tale of two sisters. Below is background information, contextual information, reading strategies, discussion questions, activities, and resources to be used for a unit on these two novels. I hope students and teachers alike can find fruitful conversation (and maybe even themselves) in these novels.
This semester, I had the opportunity to work with one of my classmates to lead discussion on Angie Thomas’s The Hate U Give in our adolescent literature class. I’ve loved this book since I picked it up shortly after it was released in 2017. Furthermore, I was blown away when I met Angie Thomas and watched her speak at the 2017 National Book Festival. There is no denying that Thomas’s debut novel—about a teenage girl dealing with police brutality—is a powerful story, one that needs to be read and discussed.
After leading class discussion, I’ve put together this discussion guide with questions, strategies, and resources for The Hate U Give. This book will be the common read for freshmen at my university’s campus next year. That’s part of the reason I wanted to work with this book, and I look forward to watching students interact with it.
Kurt Vonnegut’s 1969 novel Slaughterhouse Five and Sherman Alexie’s 2007 novel Flight both feature violent scenarios, and time travel narratives. As Alexie explains in a 2007 NPR Interview, reading Slaughterhouse Five helped him form the shape of Flight. Similarly, scholars have broken down the function of time travel narratives in each of these novels. Because of the correlation that exists between the two novels, they can be read, and taught, in tandem.
Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House on the Prairie series has long been regarded as the essential pioneer girl narrative. However, scholar Michelle Stewart explains that Wilder’s novels also contain problematic narratives, including racist and stereotypical portrayals of Native Americans. In contrast, Louise Erdrich’s The Birchbark House, is a historical story about an Ojibwa girl written by an Ojibwa author. The Birchbark House counteracts many of the myths that Wilder’s work perpetuates about Native Americans, a move that Stewart argues was intentional. Because of the critical conversation surrounding between Little House on the Prairie and the The Birchbark House, the potential exists for them to be interacted with together in order to engage children about literature, history, and diversity.