Thursday, July 12, 2012

The Summer of May

Title: The Summer of May
Author: Cecelia Galante
Publisher: Aladdin
Publication Date: April, 2011
Genre/Format: Realistic Fiction/Novel
Goodreads Summary: Thirteen-year-old May is living in a desolate situation with her grandmother, who is mourning the loss of May’s mother, and her father, who is completely absent. May resents her new dangerous, run-down, low-income housing neighborhood and often picks fights and gets into trouble. But when May is caught graffiti-ing her least favorite teacher’s classroom, she is faced with a choice: expulsion, or one-on-one summer school with the teacher she most detests. Begrudgingly, May chooses summer school, and she ultimately learns that her teacher has a secret past—and might just hold the key to answers no one else will give May about her mother.
What I Think: This is one that I will not forget. I think this novel will connect easily with a wide variety of people. First, May feels an anger that many pre-teens and teens probably feel and the way she describes it is the best I've ever read in a book. The feeling of being a tea pot that is boiling is a perfect analogy to rage that is hard to control and unwarranted. Something so small can make you feel so angry and then it gets out of control. In the novel, May works on controlling it and matures so much throughout the novel. It is such a powerful thing to read about.

May's family situation is also unique. Her mother left her and she lives with a father who works too much and often ignores her and with a grandmother who locks herself away ever since her mother left. Many readers will connect with the (lack of) family situation that May has. May also struggles with keeping friends (mostly because of her temper) and that is a tough thing for all preteens and teens. Specifically trying to be and keep a good friend.

It will also connect to all of my teacher friends because of the importance of May's English teacher in the novel. I love that not only does May evolve in the book, but that Miss Movado does too. She has realizations that many of us probably have had during our teaching and is striving to make a difference in a young student's life as we all aim to. You may not like her too much at first, but just as May realizes things about herself, Miss Movado does too. It is another powerful thing to read about. AND it is a great resource for the language arts or English classroom just as a mentor text for talking about poetry or writing. The book touches on many English class topics such as: Imagery, Personification, "The Raven", "Harlem", Writing, and Poetry.

I will say, like Miss Movado preaches in the book, don't judge a book by its cover. The cover (and description) of this book do not do the book justice. First, May is a 13 year old girl, not 12 as the description says and not 9 like the cover portrays. Also, she doesn't go on a fire escape to dream and she doesn't have a cat. I think the cover is going to drive away readers who need this book.
Read Together: Grades 6 to 8
Read Alone: Grades 6 to 10
Read With: Bluefish by Pat Schmatz, Word Nerd by Susin Nielsen-Fernlund, No More Dead Dogs by Gordon Korman, Just Juice by Karen Hesse
Snatch of Text: "...They're not meant to be rocket science," Movado the Avocado said. "And there is never any right answer, May. They're your words. Your thoughts. The point is just to get you writing." 
     "But why? Why are English teachers always so gung ho about getting us to write?"
     "Because it's important," Movado the avocado said. "You need to know how to compose a good sentence, whether in a letter, a story, or a poem. And sometimes, when you write well, you get a chance to see things in a whole different way."
     "My favorite time of day is lunch. I am usually starving by the time lunch comes around, so it's a good time." I repeated my words in a dull tome of voice. "That's seeing things in a whole different way?"
     "Maybe not yet," Movado the Avocado said. "But it's writing. And like anything else, the more you do it, the better you'll get at it."
     "I hate writing."
     "It's boring. And hard." I tapped the side of my head. "I can never get what's in my head down on paper."
     (p. 82-83)
Mentor Text for: Writing, Poetry, Imagery (Ch. 20 & 29), Personification (Ch. 32 & 33) 
Writing Prompts: Sit outside and close your eyes like May and Ms. Movado did and just listen. What did you hear? What did it sound like? What are some things outside you could bring to life?
Topics Covered: Loss, Family, School, Anger
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