My students have been immersed in the world of nonfiction these last many weeks, but I’ve had a chance to branch out into some great fiction for when they surface from this particular unit.
Aven Green is a character who just made me want to smile. She’s plucky, funny, good-natured and kind. One would think that the disability she was born with (being armless) would have made her a shy and fearful sort of kid, but Aven’s parents made sure that would not be the case:
I think I can do all these things because my parents have always encouraged me to figure things out on my own-well, more like made me figure things out on my own. I suppose if they had always done everything for me, I would be helpless without them. But they didn’t and I’m not. And now that I’m thirteen years old, I don’t need much help with anything. True story.
But, when Aven’s parents up and move from Kansas (where she’s always lived and where she knows every single kid in her entire school), to a rundown western theme park in Arizona (which she knows not a soul), even she experiences challenges for which she needs all the help she can get. Meeting Connor and Zion, one who has Tourette’s and the other who is shy and struggling with being overweight, is the first step Aven takes in making a new life in her new town. The three friends stumble upon a mystery at the ranch, and Aven has a sneaking suspicion that solving it will also answer some important questions about her own life.
This was a charming book, and I already have a long list of students who want to read our classroom copy. I love that the disabilities of these young characters are written about with honesty and humor, and I love that Aven is the strong and capable young lady that she is. She’s funny, too, with a wise dry wit that is so endearing.
Twelve-year-old Caleb has dealt with his cystic fibrosis as best as he can – he has good days and bad days, days when he can do as he pleases and days when he can only watch his perfect older brother Patrick do everything and do it well. In fact, Caleb’s own father had had such a hard time dealing with all of Caleb’s medical issues that he wound up leaving their home for good. Caleb’s life changes when he meets the mysterious Kit in the woods behind his house. Kit loves adventure, believes in magic, and seems absolutely fearless. Caleb is soon swept up in her adventures, some poorly thought out and dangerous. But, he soon begins to wonder about his new friend: where is her mother and why does she so often look bedraggled and bruised? is she living so deeply in her world of magic that she is putting herself (and Caleb) in terrible danger?
This is a poignantly written story that sweeps the reader along. I don’t often find that the issues written about in this story find their way into middle grade fiction, and I welcome the chance to share this book with my sixth graders.