Friday, July 23, 2004

The Way a Door Closes

Smith, H. 2003. THE WAY A DOOR CLOSES. Ill. by Shane Evans. New York: Henry Holt and Company. ISBN 080506477X [Suggested Grade Levels 5-8]

Anita Smith wrote a beautifully poetic verse novel. Through a sequential series of poems, Smith weaves an engaging tale of a young African American boy. The first poem begins by describing the family as “golden.” As the string of poems continue, the boy’s father loses his job and serious troubles begin. The father becomes deeply discouraged, so he leaves home. The boy struggles to be the man of the house after his father abandons them. The poems are deep and tell a rich story about overcoming adversity. The tale ends with hope. The boy triumphs as a member of the family, and the proud, lost father ultimately returns home.

The story of a boy’s sorrow after losing his father is not a new one. Yet, Ms. Smith portrays the subject in a fresh, new light. Her words create sharp visions in the reader’s mind. For example, the hero of the poems reports that he knew his father was not coming back after he left one fateful evening. He says, “I can tell a lot by the way a door closes.” Simple words continue to create sharp images throughout the text. As the boy enjoys a joyous winter snow, he says that his father was wrong. “There are good white things.” Anita Smith has an uncanny ability to use a few words to evoke powerful thoughts and emotions. The text and illustrations work well to tell the difficult story. Mr. Evans’ rich, painted illustrations effectively show the pain the family feels after the true man of the house leaves. The poetic verse novel will leave readers contemplating its rich contents long after the book is put down.


Children can come up with their own poems illustrating personal conflicts they have endured. The children may or may not choose to share the poems with the group.

Children can select a poem from THE WAY A DOOR CLOSES to read for the class. Props such as posters and clothing may be used. However, it is important to emphasize the fact that the actual reading of the poem is the most important part of the activity.


Other texts that deal with youth succeeding despite difficult personal hardships.
Wolff, Virginia. MAKE LEMONADE. ISBN 0805022287
Wolff, Virginia. TRUE BELIEVER. ISBN 0689828276
Myers, Walter. THE DREAM BEARER. ISBN 0060295228

By Laura K. Davis

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