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A Shelter in Our Car

Last updated Monday, February 27, 2006

Author: Monica Gunning
Illustrator: Elaine Pedlar
Date of Publication: 2004
ISBN: 0892391898
Grade Level: 2nd    (GLCs: Click here for grade level guidelines.)
Date(s) Used: Mar. 2006

Synopsis: When her father died, Zettie and her mother left their warm and comfortable home in Jamaica for an uncertain future in the United Sates. Zettie's mother can't find a steady job so they are forced to live in their car. But her mother's unwavering love, support, and gutsy determination give Zettie the confidence that, together, she and her mother can meet all challenges. Monica Gunning's moving and authentic story about homelessness in an American city and Elaine Pedlar's strong and lively illustrations bring this moving story to life.

Discussion topics for before reading:
•  What are some different kinds of shelters? What makes something a shelter?
•  How does it feel to leave a new home?
•  What do you see on the front cover?
•  Have you seen homeless people in the park or on the streets?

Discussion topics for during/after reading:
•  Do you know where Jamaica is? Find Jamaica on a map and show it to the students.
•  What does Zettie miss about Jamaica? Have you ever missed a place? What do you miss about it?
•  How does Zettie feel when she hears police sirens and why? How do you feel when you hear them?
•  What does Benjie do to help his mother? What do you do to help out your family?
•  Why does Zettie pretend the car isn't hers? Why is she embarrassed?
•  What are the most important things to Zettie? How do the other kids treat her and what could they have done instead?
•  How does Zettie's mom show she loves her?
•  What is Zettie's mom doing to make their situation better? Do you know anyone who is going to college now? Why would someone want to go to college?

Craft ideas:
•  Create a picture of your home and the people you live with or a special place.
•  Cut out a card in a shape of a car. Then in the inside, draw pictures of what you would need to live in a car.

*Note: These craft ideas are just suggestions. You can use them, but you don't have to use them. You can expand upon them, or add your own twist. Remember, though, that the focus of your time should not be on the development and execution of a craft; the focus should be on the read-aloud and the enjoyment of the book!