Shannon's Reviews > Define "Normal"

Define "Normal" by Julie Anne Peters
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's review
Feb 28, 2009

it was amazing

YOYA Code: 5Q 5P

A) Pre-Reading/Anticipatory Thoughts
While interning at the Marietta Sixth Grade Academy last semester, I saw this novel at their book fair and found the title alone intriguing. I quickly grabbed the novel and thought this sounds like the perfect novel to read in a secondary class. In fact, I was stunned I had never heard of this novel from my fellow colleagues. I anticipate the novel will have the stereotypical overachiever and a classic outcast student.

B) During Reading
So far this novel is fantastic. My predictions about the overachiever (Antonia) and outcast (Jazz) students were right. Within the first chapters Antonia describes Jazz as a “punker” and a “druggie” (2). However it is Antonia who tries to keep a visage that everything is grand, while in reality her life out of school is completely chaotic and overwhelming. Her mother is highly depressed since the divorce and all the responsibilities of being a parent to three children have landed on Antonia’s shoulders. The outcast student (Jazz) Antonia is assigned to mentor is expected to have a disconnected relationship with her parents. Although, shortly after the novel starts we are able to learn Jazz’s parents are constantly trying to implement quality family bonding time through various activities. I am interested to see how the novel will unravel the issues of appearance and attitude.

C) After Reading
This novel is a must read! I felt so sorry for Antonia. After her mom becomes ill she isolates herself and tries to deal with the problems on her own. Should she have asked for help? I strongly believe so. If I were teaching this novel I would pose this question to my students and have a mini discussion about the topic. However, luckily it is planned by Mr. DeLino to have Jazz act like she needs help. This is the only way Antonia could open up to someone. There are so many avenues to have relevant discussions in the classroom with this novel. For instance, when Antonia discovers Jazz is extremely wealthy she becomes embarrassed not wanting Jazz to know where she lives. We can discuss certain circumstances that make us uncomfortable. The ending was especially encouraging. It allows the reader to become more understanding of each other people’s feelings. The novel illustrates how someone should not judge a book by its color. This is a great avenue to teach the theme acceptance.

D) Ideas for Future Teaching
If given the opportunity I would love to teach this novel to my students. As I have mentioned many times before, students are always trying to find their place within their community, especially at school. This novel would allow me to discuss the role of first impressions. I would start by asking the class, have you ever judged a person on looks, only to find out later he/she was not what you expected? Did that experience change the way you view people now? These questions are great to discuss before introducing the novel. I would then ask them to define normal. As a class we would answer the following questions: Is everyone normal? Is normal the best way to be? Is normal the same for everyone? Who get to decide? Why do you think people have a hard time appreciating and embracing one another’s differences? I believe these topics would spark their interest to read the novel. In addition, the novel is an easy read. The chapters are short and the print is fairly large. The issues presented in the novel are their reality. Any piece of literature I can bring to their attention that is relevant in their lives is when I know I will be successful in teaching them.

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message 1: by Darren (new)

Darren I like your emphasis on the larger questions that the text inspires or comments upon, especially the idea of "normalcy" and its positive and negative ramifications (sounds like an inquiry question possibility). This also seems to be a good text for students to discuss personally vulnerable topics through the safe screen of fictional characters.

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