Thursday, October 3, 2013

Living with Jackie Chan

Title: Living with Jackie Chan     
Author: Jo Knowles  
Publisher: Candlewick Press 
Publication Date: September 10, 2013 
Genre/Format: Realistic Fiction/Novel 
GoodReads Summary: After fathering a baby, a teenager moves in with his karate-loving uncle and tries to come to terms with his guilt — and find a way to forgive.

This isn’t how Josh expected to spend senior year. He thought he’d be hanging out with his best friends, Dave and Caleb, driving around, partying, just like always. But here he is, miles from home — new school, new life, living with his Jackie-Chan-obsessed uncle, Larry, and trying to forget. But Josh can’t forget. So many things bring back memories of last year and the night that changed everything. Every day the pain, the shame, and the just not knowing are never far from his thoughts. Why is he such a loser? How could he have done what he did? He finds some moments of peace when he practices karate with Stella, the girl upstairs and his one real friend. As they move together through the katas, Josh feels connected in a way he has never felt before. He wonders if they could be more than friends, but Stella’s jealous boyfriend will make sure that doesn’t happen. And maybe it doesn’t matter. If Stella knew the truth, would she still think he was a True Karate Man? Readers first met Josh in Jumping Off Swings which told the story of four high school students and how one pregnancy changed all of their lives. In this companion book, they follow Josh as he tries to come to terms with what happened, and find a way to forgive. 
What I Think: When it comes to contemporary young adult novels, I strongly believe more than anything else that the author has to write a story that is as real and honest as possible. Young adult readers want to dive into someone else's world but at the same time be able to see connections with their own world. They want to get caught up in a story but at the same time know that what the characters are feeling are true, raw emotions that they too might experience. When an author can get this type of authentic voice and story to come out on the page, it's a success. I wholeheartedly believe that Jo Knowles has captured Josh's story and brought it to life in such an organic way that readers will get drawn into the story and not want to put it down.
     Jo Knowles' style of writing makes a great mentor text for personal narrative. Her descriptive writing captures a moment in time but adds in all the character's feelings and brings it to life through his or her eyes. I love doing a writing exercise where students are asked to freeze a moment in time and drag it out, describe it from every angle and make it feel like we are reading in slow motion. It's a special effect for the written word that doesn't seem to get enough attention. It's pretty amazing to see how much we give a reader when we write and give a play-by-play description that describes and helps them visualize from every angle. Jo's books are great resources for using as mentor texts for this type of activity.
Read Together: Grades 8 - 12 
Read Alone: Grades 9 - 12 
Read With: Jumping off Swings and others by Jo Knowles, The First Part Last by Angela Johnson, Okay for Now by Gary D. Schmidt, A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness, Stupid Fast by Geoff Herbach, Drums, Girls, and Dangerous Pie and others by Jordan Sonnenblick, The Pull of Gravity by Gae Polisner  
Snatch of Text: 
     "A faint crying above me. Like a kitten, almost. But then it gets louder. And I know what it is.
     A baby.
     My heart starts to thump against my chest as the cries get louder.
     Then footsteps hurry across the ceiling again. A muffled voice, soothing. More footsteps. Then, creak-creak, creak-creak. The crying gets less frantic.
     But my heart is still punching the inside of my chest.
     I put my pillow over my head to shut out the sounds.
     But I can still hear them in my mind.
     And I can see him. My baby. Wrapped tightly in a yellow blanket, a little blue cap on his head.
     And me, walking away." (p. 15)
Reading Strategies to Practice: Activating Background Knowledge, Making Connections, Making Inferences, Visualizing 
Writing Strategies to Practice: Personal Narrative, Expository, Onomatopoeia, Personification
Writing Prompts: Write about a time in your life when you had to live with a decision you made that you regretted. Write down your wonderings as you read and then research your wonderings. Write an informational piece about a topic you discovered.
Topics Covered: Making Decisions, Living with Decisions, Regret, Friendship, Family, Determination
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