Author: Lisa Graff
Publisher: Philomel Books
Publication Date: May 26th, 2015
Genre/Format: Realistic Fiction/Novel
GoodReads Summary: Everyone says that middle school is awful, but Trent knows nothing could be worse than the year he had in fifth grade, when a freak accident on Cedar Lake left one kid dead, and Trent with a brain full of terrible thoughts he can't get rid of. Trent’s pretty positive the entire disaster was his fault, so for him middle school feels like a fresh start, a chance to prove to everyone that he's not the horrible screw-up they seem to think he is.
If only Trent could make that fresh start happen.It isn’t until Trent gets caught up in the whirlwind that is Fallon Little—the girl with the mysterious scar across her face—that things begin to change. Because fresh starts aren’t always easy. Even in baseball, when a fly ball gets lost in the sun, you have to remember to shift your position to find it.
What I Think: Lisa Graff lets readers into Trent's complicated story by bringing his thoughts to life in such a way that we can truly see Trent and not just what other people see. So many people in the book judge him or decide what they think about him based on his actions but knowing what he's going through on the inside, readers can relate to Trent and understand why he acts like he does. I know this is what books are all about...but Lisa Graff so easily brings character to life so that we can see their motivations and root for them even when they don't make the best decisions.
As a writer, this isn't easy to do. As a character, Trent is dealing with a lot and he doesn't treat his family, friends, or teachers well for much of the story. But at the same time, the author has to make Trent like-able to the reader. I know this is only something I've realized as I've been working on my novel. Of course a main character is going to be dealing with difficult situations and sometimes making bad choices, but the job of the author is to make sure the reader can see enough of the good in a character or at least understand his or her motives so they keep reading. It's just not easy! But Lisa Graff has done a really great job.
Thinking about Lost In The Sun and its characters as a mentor text, I would look at how concise Lisa Graff is in her description (see the snatch of text below) but also think about how Trent's interactions with others in the book paired with his own inner dialogue interact to build our understanding of Trent's life. There are so many great characters in this book to talk about.
At an author panel at Nerdcamp, Lisa Graff shared how she writes her first draft, and then goes back and tries to cut the number of words in half. This makes her rethink every word and make sure that every word counts. It truly shows because her writing is to tight and descriptive because of this. This would make an awesome shared writing activity or an independent/partner revising activity for students. Being able to combine sentences and make the most of words on a page is an amazing skill that pushes students to make their writing stronger. You could start by asking students to write about a topic, then ask them to cut the number of words in half and to see how their writing changes as they do.
Read Together: Grades 4 - 7
Read Alone: Grades 5 - 7
Read With: Okay For Now by Gary Schmidt, Drums, Girls, and Dangerous Pie (and others) by Jordan Sonnenblick, Stupid Fast by Geoff Herbach, See You At Harry's by Jo Knowles
Snatch of Text:
"I saw the side of her face first, the left side, while she was walking her fluffy white dog not far from where I was sitting on the side of the baseball field. I didn't recognize her at first, actually. I thought she might be a new kid, just moved to town. Thought she had a good face for drawing.
Big, deep, round brown eyes (well, one of them, anyway - the left one). Curly, slightly frizzy brown hair pulled back away from her face. Half of a small, upturned mouth. She was dressed kind of funny - this loud, neon-pink T-shirt blouse thing with two ties hanging down from the neck (were those supposed to do something? I never understood clothes that were supposed to do something), and zebra-print shorts, and what looked like a blue shoelace tied into a bow in her hair. The kind of outfit that says, 'Yup Here I am. I look...weird.'" (p. 8-9)
Writing Prompts: Write about a time in your life when you needed to regain someone's trust. How did you do it? Were you successful?
Topics Covered: Family, Friendship, Grief, Guilt, Forgiveness, Honesty
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