Kimberly Willis Holt had captured my interest last week with her new book Dear Hank Williams so I decided to go back and read something else by her. I picked up a copy of My Louisiana Sky and found a lovely coming of age story about a young girl named Tiger.
This book came out in 1998 but because it is set in the past the book holds it own over time. Holt took on a great deal in this little book and she covered it well. Tiger is growing up in a small Louisiana town. She is very poor and living with her Grandmother and her parents, who are both mentally challenged. Holt touches on disabilities, family struggles and love, bullying, and also give a window into the life of a small town in 1957.
It is hard for a child to realize that they know and understand more than the adults around them who are suppose to be caring for them. Tiger struggles between a great love of her parents and being embarrassed by them. There are time when her mother is playing hide and seek at the church picnic that Tiger would prefer her mother just be a mother.
When a sudden loss in the family gives Tiger and chance at remaking her self into someone new she jumps at the chance. It doesn’t take long to realize this is a harder decision then she thought.
Holt does a beautiful job showing us the bigger questions Tiger needs to ask herself. Changing is not just cutting your hair and wearing store bought clothes. Changing involves the people you hold near and dear. Changing means looking closely at those around you and seeing both their needs but also their abilities, sometime hidden from plain sight.
This short book would be a good read aloud or great for a small group discussion. I think it is a book worth talking about with 3rd – 6th grade students. There isn’t a lot of action but lots of emotion. It is a book that I might call a “sleeper” – unless someone brings out the discussion with a few well placed questions kids will read it and let it go. It is a book to think about. It is a book to make comparisons with your own live. We need a good discussion to do just that.
Possible questions to think about:
- When have you felt like Tiger – when she was not invited to the swimming party?
- Do you know people who are challenged mentally? Have they been teased or not accepted into the group?
- How would you feel if you were picking out chapter books at the library but your mother was excited about reading the newest picture book ( because it is all she can read)?
- Do you need to move away to make changes?
- What changes did Tiger make?
- Do you agree with how the story ended?
- This story takes place in a small town, long ago – could it still happen today? Have things changed? If so how have they changed.
There are so many more questions you could discuss – I tried to list question that would not give the story line away but get you started on ideas for discussions.
It was also made into a movie in 2001. I have not seen it but might be fun for students to make a comparison between the movie and the book.
This weeks reading list is long and includes:
Middle Grade reading:
- Stella by Starlight
- The Wollenstonecraft Detective Agency – The Case of the Missing Moonstone
Young Adult reading:
- The Vigilante Poets of Selwyn Academy
- Miss Hazel and the Rose Park League –Jonathan O Dell’s new book