Sunday, March 9, 2014

The Summer of Letting Go

Title: The Summer of Letting Go
Author: Gae Polisner    
Publisher: Algonquin Books 
Publication Date: March 25, 2014  
Genre/Format: Realistic Fiction/Novel
GoodReads Summary: Just when everything seems to be going wrong, hope and love can appear in the most unexpected places.

Summer has begun, the beach beckons and Francesca Schnell is going nowhere. Four years ago, Francesca's little brother, Simon, drowned, and Francesca's the one who should have been watching. Now Francesca is about to turn sixteen, but guilt keeps her stuck in the past. Meanwhile, her best friend, Lisette, is moving on most recently with the boy Francesca wants but can't have. At loose ends, Francesca trails her father, who may be having an affair, to the local country club. There she meets four-year-old Frankie Sky, a little boy who bears an almost eerie resemblance to Simon, and Francesca begins to wonder if it's possible Frankie could be his reincarnation. Knowing Frankie leads Francesca to places she thought she'd never dare to go and it begins to seem possible to forgive herself, grow up, and even fall in love, whether or not she solves the riddle of Frankie Sky.  
What I Think: There is so much in this book and about this book that I love. Gae has truly made so many emotions come to life for me by telling Francesca's story. She really has a way of describing and showing readers what her characters are feeling and dealing with. Through Teachers Write, Gae has taught me to get real about a story and to not be afraid of showing what my characters are going through. It's awesome to read her books and know that she does this herself. She really gets real about a lot of things in The Summer of Letting Go.
     When I think about students and writing, grasping the idea of "Show, Don't Tell" is one of the biggest concepts they have to understand. Having worked with student writers from early childhood through high school, I can see how "Show, Don't Tell" is relevant all along the way in fiction and non-fiction writing. In my own writing, I focused a lot on showing and descriptive writing in high school to the point where I feel as though my plotting was never developed much, but I also see how important it is to focus on description. When descriptive writing is done well, a writer truly makes writing come to life for a reader.
     I always taught the idea of author's purpose by sharing how writing and reading go hand in hand. The author's true purpose, in my mind, is to do his or her best job at writing and using literary elements like similes, metaphors, using the five sense, that the reader can visualize and imagine what the author wants him or her to see. Gae does an amazing job of describing how Francesca feels about all the things that feel tumultuous in her life and helping the reader understand what she is going through. Gae weaves together a story that lets us share everything Francesca is dealing with. This is a book you'll want to be recommending to students as a book that they will relate to but also as an awesome mentor text for description and personal narrative.  
Read Together: Grades 8 - 12 
Read Alone: Grades 9 - 12 
Read With: Pull of Gravity by Gae Polisner, Bigger Than a Breadbox by Laurel Snyder, The Sky Is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson, Eli the Good by Silas House, Mockingbird by Kathryn Erskine, A Crooked Kind of Perfect by Linda Urban, The Summer I Turned Pretty by Jenny Han 
Snatch of Text:  
"I swallow back a lump in my throat. I miss Lisette. I miss us. I know I was just at her house, but we're not quite us anymore. Something is off between us. There's a crack turning into a chasm. It keeps stretching wider and wider." (p. 33)

"I put my head back and close my eyes as we fly down the highway. It feels overwhelming, but in a good way, to be here like this with Lisette. In this car full of friends, barefooted, with the top down and the music blaring, our bodies drenched in sunshine, the wind whipping our hair in our faces. I can't remember the last time I felt so weightless and carefree." (p. 97)

"I feel my brother in the room. The air smells of him, of peaches and sunshine and the ocean." p. 262
Reading Strategies to Practice: Activating Background Knowledge, Making Connections, Visualizing 
Writing Strategies to Practice: Imagery, Descriptive, Personal Narrative, Metaphor, Author's Purpose, Figurative Language
Writing Prompts: Write about a time in your life when you misunderstood something that someone said or did, or maybe you misinterpreted something. How did you feel when you figured out where you were mistaken? How did you handle it after you realized the mistake?  
Topics Covered: Family, Friendship, Relationships, Love, Grief, Death, Loyalty, Honesty, Trust, Courage 
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