Thursday, January 20, 2005

My Father's Summers

Appelt, Kathi. 2004. MY FATHER’S SUMMERS. New York: Henry Holt. ISBN 0805073620 [Suggested Grade Levels 7-12]

MY FATHER’S SUMMERS is a recollection of the author’s childhood in the 1960s and 70s Houston. The memories are told through appealing, short verse chapters. Family photos are also included throughout the book. Kathi Appelt shares how her family dealt with her father’s job that took him out of the country, the parents’ subsequent divorce and their remarriages. For years Kathi spends much of her childhood with out her father while he is in Arabia. When he comes back to America, it is for another woman across town. Even though he was not the perfect father, Kathi is aware that he always loved her.

The memories are not in chronological order, which is enjoyable since this is the way memories are often thought of. Appelt’s writing style is concise and chapters are titled and often dated, so the reader is never confused. Appelt’s verses are modest, but powerful (e.g. “You remove the small e and have blam. The word shows up in comic books, where the super hero zooms in, sees the girl…tied down on a railroad track or a conveyor belt that’s headed toward a giant saw blade, the villain hovering over her with a haughty sneer, and blam, right in the poker. Saved again. It’s different from blame”). Though Appelt’s story takes place over 30 years ago, her feelings are relevant and easy to relate to. For example a one-sentence chapter is titled There It Was, it states: “I loved the boy with brown hair.” The verses are consistently not romanticized, yet stay positive, “He’s looking at me looking out, looking toward the camera. His face is shining, his smile is sweet. It’s clear he’s happy to be holding me.” Readers will appreciate how Appelt ends with a mature and self-assured outlook towards her father.

Ask readers to bring in a photograph from their childhoods or take pictures. Allow children to write a poem about a memory from their childhood. Display the photos and poems.

Other books about family life:
Thomas, Rob. RATS SAW GOD. ISBN 0689802072
Johnson, Angela. THE FIRST PART LAST. ISBN 0689849222

By Lisa Erickson

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