This weekend I read an new book from Kimberly Willis Holt that will be released in April. I loved When Zachary Beaver Came to Town so I was interested to see what she would do with this book.
Dear Hank Williams has a slow beginning but pulls you in if you stay with it. Holt has chosen to write this book as a series of letters to the new up and coming music star Hank Williams. Historical events, a strong setting slowly develop as Tate tells Mr. Williams about her life in each of her letters. Those letters begin with a wonderful life but fade away as Tate finds she needs to be honest with Hank.
I was surprised where Holt took the story and the emotions she was able to convey through a series of one way letters – since Hank Williams never writes back. Tate does receive a couple press photos of him but this is her story, her family and a look at the late 1940’s.
As a teacher this book offers so many places to discuss:
- A mentor text in writing letters
- A good model for historical fiction
- A connection to building friendships with other cultures (Tate’s class was to write letters to a Pen Pal in Japan – after WW II no one was happy to take that step including Tate.)
- The issue of race in small town America appears (Why won’t Aunt Patty drive over to Constance’s house?)
- Painful events with family (Tate is being raised by her Aunt Patty Cake – Mom is in prison, and is dad gone , and more)
- How a community helps when times are hard
Watch for this book in the spring – a great read and it might be a great way to end your school year. Maybe your students would like to find a new friend in an old fashion way – Pen Pals and writing letters.
Ok, so you could send the letters by e-mail but still the art of writing a great letter is worth the time. Can you tell a great story in the letters you write?