When Books & Whatnot reviewer America Grelinger gave me her last review, she said, “It’s difficult to keep the ‘curriculum specialist’ in me stifled.” I asked, “Why are we stifling her?” So today we introduce Review (Plus). These reviews will feature bookstore and classroom applications, elements of Common Core Standards, and more–from America as well as members of our Educator Advisory Group.
On a rainy Christmas Eve, Apple’s mom walks out of her five-year-old life leaving her in the care of her Nana. We meet Apple 14 years later as she is tired of being harassed by rules and embarrassed by the overbearing, protective Grandmother. Within the first few pages of Apple and Rain, Sarah Crossan establishes the emotions of the main character, Apple. You yearn for Apple’s mother to return to help fill the empty hole left in little Apple’s heart. The foreshadowing of the mother is apparent from the beginning, but it still leaves the reader wondering when she will return and if it will be the happily ever after young Apple dreams it will be.
Crossan uses Apple’s English teacher, Mr. Grayson, to help the reader gain a better understanding of Apple’s soul through the use of poetry both in his classroom and by the homework assignments given to challenge his students. Throughout my English teaching career, I would have at least a dozen students every year show me their poetry and seek my advice. I am a huge advocate of poetry as it is a means of expression and interpretation unique to both the reader and the writer, and this aspect of the book was inspiring! Both the poems and the assignments are laid out in the book allowing the reader to also be challenged with the analyzing of the poem as well as posed with the question of how they would answer the poem.
Apple loses a best friend, gains a boyfriend and matures through the course of the book. We see the struggles a young girl faces within the halls of school as well as the disappointment her own expectations can create. Through poetry she can express these emotions and be aware of her own goals, aspirations and desires without adults making these decisions for her.
At a bookstore or in the classroom, this book could be complemented with a poetry book. A poetry reading for teens would be another wonderful activity for an evening with upcoming, aspiring teen poetry writers. Often teens are not allowed to have a poetry reading or if they are included are intimidated by the adults who are already published.
Poetry is often an overlooked aspect of Common Core, but can be instrumental in teaching students thematic exploration. Poetry allows the student to think analytically, define words, quote accurately and compare/contrast—all of which are key elements of Common Core Standards. Theme is a constant in poetry and Mr. Grayson makes each student find the theme of the poem, but allows the students to write their own theme on each poetry assignment given. The reader also sees Apple reaching for a dictionary to define words in her poetry assignments. Excellent use of a YA novel–teach fiction and poetry in one go! This is a plus for Sarah Crossan in her writing of Apple and Rain.
Apple and Rain by Sarah Crossan (Bloomsbury USA Childrens | 9781619636903 | May 12, 2015 | recommended for ages 13+)