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Striking Stories about Family! November 2015 Intermediate Titles

October 23rd, 2015 | Posted by etownsend in Intermediate (Grades 3-5) | November | 2015-2016

arcady's goalArcady’s Goal by Eugene Yelchin. Henry Holt, 2014.Icon for the Intermediate (Grades 3-5) readers

Young Arcady is living in an orphanage in the Soviet Union in 1950, and soccer is his answer for everything. When Ivan Ivanyvich adopts him, Arcady assumes the man must be a soccer coach. In truth, Ivan is simply a sad, lonely widower trying to fulfill a promise by adopting a child. He is patient, loving, and occasionally annoyed, but Arcady is so convinced he’s a coach that Ivan finally plays along. He forms a team, he tries to coach Arcady and the other boys, and he fails. Then comes word that the Red Army soccer team is holding tryouts, and Arcady is determined to attend. Eugene Yelchin’s novel is about a boy and a man who are learning to become a family. The disconnect between Ivan’s understanding of this and Arcady’s absolute blindness to it is both funny and tender. Arcady first calls the Ivan “Coach,” and, when he proves to be no coach, Ivan Ivanyvich. When Arcady, who is also learning that it’s safe to feel, and that love can be unconditional, finally calls him “Dad” it feels like something far sweeter than victory. Occasional black-and-white illustrations by the author offer additional moments of poignancy in a story set against the backdrop of Stalinism, with the fear under which so many lived occasionally bubbling up to the surface.  © Cooperative Children’s Book Center

Start some conversation with these discussion prompts:

  1. Before reading: What makes a family?
  2. This story takes place in Communist Soviet Union in the 1950’s. How does this setting help explain the characters’ actions?
  3. Why does Arcady believe Ivan is a soccer coach? What makes Arcady believe this?
  4. How does the author show that Arcady is learning to trust Ivan? What causes Ivan to open up to Arcady?

Teaching guide and more from TeachingBooks.net.

Kinda Like Brothers by Coe Booth. Scholastic Press, 2014.kinda like brothers

Eleven-year-old Jarrett and twelve-year-old Kevon are thrown together when Jarrett’s mom becomes a temporary foster parent to Kevon and his two-year-old sister. Jarrett is sometimes resentful of how much time his mom spends taking care of other children, but they’re usually babies and toddlers that he genuinely likes. This is different. Kevon is cool in a way Jarrett isn’t, inviting easy admiration from other kids. In Jarrett’s mind, that makes Kevon a potential threat socially, not to mention someone with whom he has to share his room. Meanwhile Kevon resents the implication that he can’t care for his sister—a responsibility he’s used to–and worries about his mentally ill dad. He has no time for Jarrett’s jealousy. Author Coe Booth’s characters are likable, genuine, and flawed in all the ways that make us human. Adults and kids alike in her story are well-rounded and wonderfully real. The two boys’ have good hearts but their treatment of each other ranges from bright moments of generosity to indifference to cruelty. The larger community—from Jarrett’s mom and her boyfriend to teachers at school and adults at the community center–strives to make a difference in the lives of these boys and other children, preparing them for a world that is not always fair or just. But for Jarrett and Kevon to make peace with one another they must let go of anger and hurt, and acknowledge the bond that has developed between them in spite—or because—of everything.  © Cooperative Children’s Book Center

Start some conversation with these discussion prompts:

  1. What makes Jarrett and Kevon kind of like brothers?
  2. How did the author use foreshadowing in the narrative? Cite examples.
  3. How do Jarrett’s feelings about Kevon change? At what point in the story, did you notice these changes?
  4. How would this story be different if told from Kevon’s perspective? What makes you think this?
  5. What role does community play in this story?

Discussion questions, excerpts from book and audiobook, and other resources from TeachingBooks.net.

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