Eight Keys by Suzanne La Fleur
Lost parents, transitions to middle school and bulling all step forward in this short novel by Suzanne La Fleur. She starts slow and builds her characters step by step. The information you seek in reading is shared a bit like the puzzle Elise father has left for her. A puzzle she did not know was there for her and we as readers are not expecting. Eight doors to help her and us to understand how to handle change and growing up.
Elise, our main character, is living with her Aunt and Uncle having lost her parents at a young age. They are there for her, supportive and caring but also giving her the space she needs as a 6th grader to grow into her own. Providing her with a chance to learn about what is true friendship and what does it mean to be a family.
This novel gives us a great chance as teachers to talk about families – how are they the same and different. It gives us a place to start discussions about changes both little ones at school and larger ones at home. It covers the topic of bulling and how can students solve this issue on their own. There are right and wrong ways – how do young student figure that out.
The cover of this book caught my eye and when I started reading it I thought – no, it is just to slow. Now having finished reading it I am glad Suzanne took her time to build her characters and their setting.
It was a great lesson as a reader/ writer that we don’t always need to race into a novel. It is just fine to stop and get to know our characters, to connect with them and understand how they think and feel before engaging in the problem they are working to solve.
A great first read in the fall for new 6th grade students. I can see it as a read aloud because of the discussion factor but the slow beginning may have you losing some of your boys at the beginning of the year.
Let me know what you think about it and how you might use this in your classroom?