Loved the book for a few different reasons. First, it's totally accessible to just about any reader: white kids, Indian kids, any kid that's ever been...moreLoved the book for a few different reasons. First, it's totally accessible to just about any reader: white kids, Indian kids, any kid that's ever been marginalized, which is just about any kid, poor kids, rich kids, privileged and unprivileged alike, bullies, boys, girls, etc. So many. Another thing that grabbed me is the sincerity with which the protagonist and narrator writes. He's never sarcastic unless it's with his best friend, and even then he's humoring Rowdy in a jocular manner. It's nice to confront a character of high school age who knows himself well enough to not attempt to hide behind an ambiguous message. Also, I loved the reality that the characters and the story portrayed. Not many students outside of Indian reservations know much about the Indian way of life, nor about the history in how they've come to live that way.
In terms of lesson plans, this book lends itself very well to an extended research paper on Indians, though that may be too narrow. It would fit very well into a "negotiating boundaries" or a "coming of age" unit for freshmen or sophomores. How would I integrate the text into the classroom? It would be awesome to do this as a book club, that mini groups read together, check base with each other, and then follow it up with a non-fiction book about Indians of the book club's choice. So we'd have 7 different clubs reading 7 different books and reporting out, making comparisons, focusing on an issue, possibly presenting as a panel discussion with their issue. There are many options and I'd be interested to see what kind of an approach other teachers who have taught this book have done.
Some more things I liked: the poignant and diverse influences that people in Arnold's life had on his thoughts and character. He was super up-front about a) being non-judgmental toward just about everyone and b) how even the people who seemed to have little going for them had redeeming qualities and lasting impact on Arnold (Rowdy, Eugene, Arnold's dad).
Things that could be potential problems: the swearing and the forthcoming nature of masturbation, boners and sexuality in general. Fine for me, but possibly not for parents. I know that in Illinois, the book has been an issue. My rationale would have to be pretty flawless. I do think that Arnold writes about his sexuality in a comfortable way, by saying things like "everybody does it". Overall, I would have loved to have read the book in high school. During my freshman or sophomore year. Such a nice, fresh, relevant perspective. Love it.(less)
What I love about this book is that it could easily be categorized as a children’s fictional picture book and an informative nonfiction picture book f...moreWhat I love about this book is that it could easily be categorized as a children’s fictional picture book and an informative nonfiction picture book for young adults. I love that it takes so much of what students learn in their secondary history classes—as isolated occurrences in history no less (WWII, the Holocaust, the Cold War, the fall of communism)—and synthesizes the information in an understandable way. It’s easy to see how these seemingly separate events are interrelated after reading this book, and as an adult no less! The pictures are wonderful, and the color is used in a very symbolic and meaningful way. the text is sparse, but no less meaningful on account of the illustrations that accompany it; the pictures really are worth way more than a thousand words. I’d love to see this text paired with a high school history unity on any of the topics mentioned above. I could feel the wheels clicking into place in my head as I read, so I can only imagine how well it would work for students.(less)
I can’t help but compare this autobiography / memoir written by a Holocaust survivor to the last on that I read : All But My Life by Ger...moreSPOILER ALERT!
I can’t help but compare this autobiography / memoir written by a Holocaust survivor to the last on that I read : All But My Life by Gerda Weissmann Klein. While Klein wrote with an air of hope, Wiesel gives the reader none. He paints the atrocities of the concentration camps just as they were, glossing over nothing and leaving the reader to wonder how in the world he survived once he realized he had nothing to live for. The death of his father marks the death of Wiesel’s desire to live and well as the end of the novel. The book is dreary and grave, but a crucial perspective nonetheless; it is imperative that readers understand the gravity of the Holocaust and the justice at stake then and in comparable situations now.
A quick read with beautiful prose, I would recommend this novel to 8th grade readers and up. It would be interesting to supplement a Holocaust unit with book club choices based on memoirs on the topic. (less)