Monday, January 24, 2011

Barefoot, One Eye

That's Ludephia Bennett, the dirt-poor 10-year-old protagonist of Leaving Gee's Bend, poet/novelist Irene Latham's middle reader book based - in part - on the true story of a 1932 raid on the tiny Alabama sharecroppers' community by the local landowner's mad widow.  This book feels confidently wrought from page one, and boasts both gentle vocal rhythms and a steady, forthright narrative pace. And it's a local adventure story threaded through with quilting references, the craft for which Gee's Bend has become notable across the nation. 

I didn't think I'd be reading this book so soon after it arrived on my doorstep, but once I picked it up, perused the beautifully crafted business card inside, and visited Ms. Latham's engaging blog, I knew I'd give it a go immediately.  I must say, it was a terrific treadmill read:  the hour flew by!  (Although I jogged more or less lethargically along.)  Latham captures Ludelphia's earnestness and genuine naivete, and that's what engaged me.  And I suspect it will hook and hold young people as well.

Teacher-flag:  For those who - like me - are perenially on the lookout for books that might complement or supplement To Kill A Mockingbird, this one offers a similar setting and a narrator of like age to Scout, with some related themes as well, so it's fair game for our classroom bookshelves, I think.

1.  Offer it to my fellow English teachers to read for themselves.
2.  Spend one day going barefoot in my house, and try some of it with one eye patched. (channeling Lu)
3.  Clean out my quilting stuff and give it to someone who will use it.  (I admire quilters and their useful-artful creations but have tried to get interested in actually constructing them many times, to no avail.  It's tediously precise work, at least the way I've been taught, and I simply haven't the sustained interest. Crafters who live near me:  Call it!)

Just the Jist List
Title: Leaving Gee's Bend
Author: Irene Latham
Genre(s): historical fiction for young adults or middle readers
Book's Website:
Author's Website:
Year Published: 2010
Pages: 227
When was it read? January 15, 2011
Perfect Matches: young people interested in Alabama history, sharecroppers, issues of race and class; To Kill A Mockingbird teachers and students; quilters who also enjoy fiction; all readers who enjoy a well-told tale
Perfect Timing: quick read w/period details, TKAM overwhelms w/vocabulary & euphemism - looking for a more straightforward read, and from an African American perspective
Perfect NOT: not interested in US history, not interested issues of race and class in America
Content Fab Scale (1-5): ***
Why? Interesting details re: the customs of the time period, straightforward story, likeable protagonist and supporting characters
Action Fab Scale (1-5): ****
Why? Plenty could be researched here, from time period to contemporary issues to quilts and witches
# Yellow Stickies: 0
Why? Read it at the gym: no stickies to hand. 
Get it: 



Irene Latham said...

Laurie - thank you so much for this review! I love how you included tips for teachers. I've heard from some middle school teachers who are pairing Leaving Gee's Bend with The Giver, which I find really interesting. The idea is that everything that Jonas longs for, all that the memories bring him, can be found in a little hamlet called Gee's Bend where there's love and pain and color. Thanks again!

Laurie said...

Hi Irene,
Say, I just realized that I should have put your book on my top 10 list above. I wrote the posts out of order (the top 10 prompts are available months in advance, so just get them ready when I can...) and just now noticed it.
I'll be passing your book title along, and bringing it for perusal at my next book group meeting: it's all teachers, so they'll be happy to get a look-see.
The Giver seems like quite an unusual companion book, but it's amazing how teachers can help students make connections!

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