This is my 26th slice with Stacey and Ruth at the Two Writing Teachers March SOLC
Go over to visit Jen and Kellee at It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? From Picture Books to YA at teach mentor texts.
Sunday night, 3/25/2012
I managed to finish one book this week, and have made a number of connections with it that are awesome. First of all, I realized as I thought about the book I’m sharing today that Tuesday I wrote a post about the importance of students and teachers writing letters to each other several times a week. Second, in that post I talked about the communication that happens when we write, publish, and comment back and forth with each other, something like letters. And finally, among the many well wishes I received this week from others, some wrote letters, and from their writing showed me something about the person who wrote. As they communicated via ‘slow’ mail, so will I too, to thank them.
I love telling you I read an amazing book this week, one that moved plot in such interesting ways, perhaps because it was written in letters, and also because the two main characters, becoming pen pals, were each given a voice by a different writer. Meena, an immigrant young woman who lives in NYC with her family, is from India and the writer who creates her story is Neela Vaswani. River, so named because his mother loves the Cumberland River, is a young man living in rural Kentucky. Silas House creates his story. The book is Same Sun Here.
Connecting this book, Same Sun Here, with our own posts, I see that slowly, slowly we in The March Slice of Life Challenge have grown to know one another during this month. The Monday, What Are You Reading group is growing, but we only post on Mondays, so it’s not happening as quickly. We have done it by giving information about ourselves-funny, delightful, thoughtful, and sorrowful, often in quite creative ways like photos, poetry, and text with different voices, different colors, and different arrangements. The possibilities are limited only because of time.
Both River and Meena in Same Sun Here do the same. Slowly they begin to know about each other, offering friendly facts first, but as the letters continue, more serious topics are taken up. Vaswani is clever to let us know exactly this city girl, practical and forthright. Meena says: I wonder what you look like. I am short and skinny. This is a good thing for squeezing on the subway. and In New York, the buildings are like mountains in some ways, but they are only alive because of the people living in them. Real mountains are alive all over. House has River reply: I’ve always heard that people from up there are real rude and will not hold the door for you and you’ll get mugged if you walk down the street. Is this true? His mother is sick, we learn, and then he tells: My mother and I live with Mamaw now. We used to have our own good house up on Free Creek, but now we live over here right outside the town of Black Banks, in the house Daddy grew up in.
Meena and River develop a friendship through their letters that takes them to being best friends, supportive when needed, but they do disagree sometimes too. Moving to the next letter means the authors have created a natural cliffhanger and although some of the information is repeated by the other person, we readers must jump into the other person’s story quickly, reading avidly to see what’s happening to them. Sometimes there are some crises, and I am reminded how quickly we are able to communicate today, and remember that my mother has told me that in World War II, sometimes they didn’t hear from anyone in the war for months. These letters keep us guessing quickly, wondering when the book will switch and/or when. Meena and River respond to each other thoughtfully, answering questions asked and discovering information that is mentioned too. For example, River asks about the Poetry In Motion idea that places famous poetry in the subway for riders’ enjoyment. Meena answers, but also tries a poem as a pleasant reply back to River.
I know that many will enjoy this sweet book. As River’s and Meena’s stories become more complex, personal tragedy and public issues touch both of their lives. They gain trust in each other, and so too do we as readers moving deeply in touch with the story. It is interesting to see how the plot turns to important stuff, serious stuff, stuff that each child can help the other do something about. Without the intimacy that occurs letter by letter and post by post, none of you would have posted about the more serious and personal challenges. Unlike these two pen pals, Meena and River, you would have written basic information and might have become a little disinterested.
Meena and River didn’t quit. They kept writing because they cared, and then cared some more.
Hope your week is a good one. I’m going to try to get some chores done but it is my spring break, so while I’m not going to the beach, I do plan to sleep in a bit. And I do have some important plans to make for my husband, but it's a 'wait and see' time right now for him.
I would send you the book but I borrowed it at my school library. I hope you can find it and read it real soon!
P.S. Write back soon!
P.P.S I have a lot of TBR books for this week, and I hope to read at least one, Throwing Shadows, a book of short stories. by E.L. Konigsburg, a favorite author.