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Facts of Life:Stories

Last updated Thursday, January 8, 2009

Author: Gary Soto
Date of Publication: 2008
ISBN: 0152061819
Grade Level: 5th    (GLCs: Click here for grade level guidelines.)
Date(s) Used: Jan. 2009

Synopsis: A young man who unwittingly helps a punk steal an elderly couple's television in the first story sets the somewhat uneasy tone for this collection. While glimpses of Soto's characteristic humor and charm appear in later stories, many of these tales focus on less-than-comfortable events and experiences. There's a girl whose tattooed and pierced babysitter dyes her younger brother's hair orange and green, a fact sure to enrage their mom when she eventually finds out; a child who is achingly aware of the enmity of anti-war protesters and simultaneously proud of her immigrant parents' efforts to improve their lives; and a sad young boy whose painfully polite parents have frozen him out of the family without apparently meaning to do so. Each situation is distinct, clearly drawn and immediate. Soto presents his characters with sometimes insurmountable challenges, but he limns their lives with such vivid descriptions and insights that readers will be left wondering how things work out - and wishing for the best.

Note to readers:
•  Suggested stories:
•  Where Did I Go Wrong
•  Identity Theft (pg. 41)
•  Uncle Joe
•  Citizen of the World
•  These are all short stories. Please be sensitive to the difficult subject matter, but encourage the kids to talk with you about the dilemmas in the stories.

Discussion topics for before reading:
•  Questions for Where Did I Go Wrong:
•  Vocabulary words: falsetto, lurking, savvy
•  Cooler pads: for air conditioning in the house
•  Do you play any sports?

Discussion topics for during/after reading:
•  Do you think it's a good idea for Mickey to go with Raul?
•  Do you think Raul is telling the truth about needing help to move his grandfather's stuff?

Craft ideas:
•  Create your own short story: Create a story with your group by having each child contribute only three words at a time. Continue going around the circle until you have created a story. It's ok to be silly!

Special activities:
•  Write three words on the chalkboard or on a piece of paper. Have each child add another three words to create a group story. For example, “Once upon a....time the dog....went to market....and met a snake....who was wearing....a tube sock....
•  Have one child (Or you can start the process!) write a descriptive sentence on a piece of paper and fold the paper over the sentence. Pass the paper to another child, who reads the sentence and then draws what the sentence says on the paper. Pass the paper to another child who must now guess what the sentence is. You can divide the kids into groups of three so everyone gets a chance to play.

*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!