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Any Small Goodness



Last updated Thursday, July 16, 2009

Author: Tony Johnson
Date of Publication: 2003
ISBN: 0439189365
Grade Level: 4th    (GLCs: Click here for grade level guidelines.)
Date(s) Used: Jun. 2009

Synopsis: This novel set in East Los Angeles provides a glimpse of the daily life of an extended Mexican-American family rich in relationships, if not in material possessions. Rather than a linear plot, the vignettes introduce readers to 11-year-old Arturo's family, school life, neighborhood occurrences, and holiday celebrations. Spanish words and phrases are sprinkled throughout as are descriptions of mouth-watering dishes constantly prepared by the boy's Mami and Abuelita. The characters are likable and warm, even if the voice of Arturo seems to be a bit too adult for his years. The message is positive and the episodes, while occasionally serious, are more often humorous and gratifying.

Note to readers:
•  Note: The book reads quickly but there are Spanish words and phrases. You can figure them out from the context of the story but the kids may be able to help you interpret or pronounce the phrases.
•  Each Chapter is a story which illustrates a kind act from a regular person. Have the kids name the heroic/kind person before Arturo mentions it at the end of each chapter.

Discussion topics for before reading:
•  What do you think the title means?
•  Do you know what a “barrio” is ?
•  Can you think of small things that are good?
•  What good things have you done lately?

Discussion topics for during/after reading:
•  Would you change your name because you moved to a new country?
•  How did giving up their Spanish names affect the children?
•  What would you tell the teacher?
•  How did Arturo’s grandmother get his name back for him?
•  How are each of these “regular” people heroes?

Craft ideas:
•  Have the kids list or draw a picture of all the kind acts they’ve shown to others over the last month—helping with the housecleaning, cooking, babysitting, helping a neighbor, schoolmate, teacher. Walking their younger brother/sister to school etc… Next have the kids list or draw a picture of all the kind acts they will do in the next month. Give them ideas they have not thought of, such as recycling, offering to help a stranger, opening the door for someone, saying Please, Thank You, Hello, helping someone with their reading or with their homework, reading to someone younger or older.
•  Draw your own bubble gum logo and color it in.
•  Make a Father’s Day Card. Draw pictures of kind acts your father has shown you and your family or kind acts you can do for your father.

*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!