Recently I attended Nerdy Author Night, a fabulous event in southern Maine. Twenty-two authors from around New England came together to sign books, meet readers, and share their books with us. I was in nerd heaven! I got to schmooze with authors like Cynthia Lord, Mary Cerullo, Lynda Mullaly Hunt, and Jennifer Richard Jacobson. These are some fantastic ladies. Not only were they happy to sign my books, but they also took time to talk with me about books and classroom happenings.
By some stroke of luck, I was able to pick up the last copy of “Paper Things” by Jennifer Richard Jacobson. I finished most of the book on Sunday, and I so desperately wanted to finish that I spent part of my Monday planning period finishing what was left. I did a book talk with my 4th graders and now they want to read it, too! We had a pretty serious discussion about homelessness and I was impressed how the students made connections to other books and asked thoughtful questions. One of my biggest concerns that I shared with my students is how the main character, Ari, didn’t share her problems with a friend or trusted adult. The students talked at length about who they would talk to if they were in a similar situation.
This book is a must read for you and your students/children. The cover is beautiful, the writing is beautiful. It will certainly spark discussion among readers, and maybe even help to develop some empathy. This might even be a great springboard before starting community service or a service learning project. Let me know what you think!
Title: “Paper Things”
Author: Jennifer Richard Jacobson
Publication Date: Feburary 10, 2015
Text-to-Text Connection: “How to Steal a Dog” by Barbara O’Connor
My recommended age range: Middle grade (or read aloud for younger kiddos)
What did you worry about in fifth grade? Boys, homework, or what clothes to wear? Arianna Hazard worries about where she’ll sleep at night. Along with her older brother Gage, Ari moves from couch to couch, sometimes sleeping in shelters or even storage units. With all the time she spends walking the city of Portland and worrying about where her next meal will come from, she hardly has time to keep up with her academic responsibilities. Without having her basic survival needs met, how will she maintain her grades and get Carter, the middle school for gifted students? It was her mother’s dying wish that Ari go to the school that her other family members attended. With the help of her brother and a special friend, Ari does her best to overcome the tall hurdles set in front of her.
Ari is not a character to be pitied. She is strong, resourceful, and thoughtful, which may surprise you when you read about Ari’s struggles. This would be a fantastic book for students and teachers learning about character traits, setting, and voice. I especially enjoyed the way Jacobson made connections between Ari and Louisa May Alcott, the focus of Ari’s research paper. “Paper Things” would be a good fit for middle grade readers, though I think it might make for a good read aloud for fourth graders.