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Last updated Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Author: Ann Martine
Date of Publication: 2004
ISBN: 0439579449
Grade Level: 5th    (GLCs: Click here for grade level guidelines.)
Date(s) Used: Aug. 2007

Synopsis: From School Library Journal:

A poignant story set in the 1960s that tells of a girl coming to accept her mother's inability to parent and to realize her own strength and separateness. Ellie Dingman, 11, has a beautiful mother who is always looking for her big break into show business. She has renamed herself Doris Day Dingman and insists that her children call her "Doris" rather than "Mom." Her immature delusions of grandeur in their small Hudson River Valley town are a source of deep embarrassment to Ellie, who is painfully aware of how cheap most people find Doris. She is often not home; much of the care of her younger siblings falls to Ellie, whose father works long hours. When mean girls target her best friend, Ellie and Holly try to be as inconspicuous as Doris is conspicuous. After President Kennedy is assassinated, the aspiring starlet realizes that life is short; she leaves the family, heading to New York City, where Ellie finds her months later, not living glamorously but working in a department store. Doris returns home only once, to gather all her things and move to Hollywood. Martin paints a well-articulated picture of the times, but it is her memorable child and adult characters that shine here. Like Hattie in A Corner of the Universe (Scholastic, 2002), Ellie is a perceptive and compassionate protagonist who ultimately comes into her own.

Note to readers:
•  This is a great book but unfortunately you won’t be able to finish it. Try reading to page 81 (Chapter 5).

Discussion topics for before reading:
•  Who is your best friend?
•  Why are they your best friend—things in common, live close, related, common experiences?
•  Do you know anyone that is from another country than you, a different religion than you, or that speaks differently than you? Are you friends with them? Why or why not?

Discussion topics for during/after reading:
•  Try a learning technique called LISTEN, SKETCH & DRAW. Give each child a pencil and paper. Fold the paper in half and then in half again to create 4 squares. Tell them to LISTEN while you read the book and begin SKETCHING a scene or person in the book that interests them. Fill each square with a different scene or character or combination. During craft time, they can finish DRAWING in their sketches.
•  Have you ever heard your parents argue? How does that make you feel? Is it natural to argue? Do you argue with your friends?
•  Do you help your mom, dad or grandparents around the house? What kinds of things do you do to help?
•  Ellie is 12. Is she too young to take care of her younger brothers and sisters? Is she too young to make dinner for her family? Why or why not?
•  How do you feel on the first day of school? Have you ever been the new kid in the class? How is that hard?
•  Are there mean boys and girls at your school or in your neighborhood? What do you do if you see “bad things” happening?

Craft ideas:
•  Have them draw and color their sketches from the LISTEN, SKETCH & DRAW technique. They will have a story board of the book.
•  Daily Feelings Poster: Fold a sheet of paper into 8 sections. In each section write an emotion and draw a picture/face that represents that emotion. Make a small square from construction paper and cut out the middle (to frame the emotion of the day). Attach the square frame with a paper clip to however you feel each day.
•  Book Synopsis: Have the students write a short paragraph summarizing the book (as if advertising in a newspaper or magazine); or have the students write a review of the book and give the book a rating (based on a scale of 1-5 apples).

*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!