Across the Alley

March 17, 2018

Stories embedded into my heart are my favorites like Pricilla and the Hollyhocks by Anne Broyles. Although I came across this book in 2009, I still recall the richness of the words and the endurance of the character.

Across the Alley by Richard Michelson, illustrated by E.B. Lewis, is a new books to add to this favorite list of powerful stories. I have read it five times trying to comb the craft and I just sit in the story. Richard Michelson brings to life the friendship of two boys, one Jewish, one black, both separated by many cultural differences, but blend through nightly conversations through their bedroom windows. Not allowed to be friends during the day and in the open, the persist for the good.

Abe plays violin. Willis plays baseball. Through their nightly, across-the-alley window talks they teach each other their skill. Ironically, the switched activity becomes a natural talent for the other. Read how the boys rise above the grown-up expectations and bridge a friendship between their families. My guess is you’ll be cheering at the end like I did. Share this sense of hope with your students.

Willie’s real quiet now and I wonder if I said something wrong. Maybe he doesn’t know about the Nazis.
“My great-granddaddy was a slave too,” Willie finally says. “I never knew any white folk that were.”

Click on the link to view a preview of the book. My guess is you will be drawn to the story too. You can also listen to Jay O. Sanders read the book on this link (scroll midway down the page).

Share this 2 minute video with your students as he talks about writing fiction.

Savorings for Across the Alley:

  • Figurative language/ Visualization
  • Overcoming racial differences
  • Friendship
  • Sharing talents – the arts and sports blended
  • Show not Tell – “My palms turn sweaty.”
  • Sequence of pivotal scenes
  • Sense of hearing – descriptive in order for the reader to feel as if they are watching and hearing the scenes unfold

The Quickest Kid in Clarksville

February 15, 2018

Kids connect with history through story. Historical narrative invites the reader into the time period, the setting, the dialect. Our students can relate to characters and feel the emotions of the events. Picture books give readers a weighted historical highlight to peak their interest. For a moment, we can be transported back in time and watch the movie unfold before our eyes.

The Quickest Kid in Clarksville ,by Pat Zietlow Miller, begins as an ordinary happening – a girl playing outside with her friends, racing to see who is the fastest. More than anything, the character emulates her hero, Wilma Rudolph, the fastest woman in 1960 and the first woman to win 3 gold medals in the same Olympic Games. Along comes Charmaine, with her “brand-new, only-been-worn-by-her shoes” challenging Alta’s stand as the fastest kid in Clarksville, TN. They race. She trips. Words fly.

In story, the girls have a conflict. Because of their hero’s example and forgiveness, their differences are put aside and a friendship begins. Not only did they want to imitate Wilma’s running abilities, they also wanted to imitate the peace she was inviting.

The author’s note highlights Wilma Rudolph, from a family of twenty-two children , ill as a child and wore a leg brace, and had the first major integrated event in her home town of Clarksville, TN.

Companion book: Wilma Unlimited .  Click on this link to view the book read to you.

Savorings for The Quickest Kid in Clarksville:

  • Dialect – “Boy – howdy, does she ever.
  • Varied sentences (two word sentences for emphasis)
  • Hyphenated words as craft – “shoe-buying daddy”
  • Character emotions
  • Possessive nouns – several examples of using the apostrophe s (Charmaine’s strutting)
  • Conflict Resolution
  • Author’s Note