posted by Celia Brogan
Students at times have trouble identifying with historical events, especially when those events occurred to a cultural group other than the one(s) with which they are familiar. One way to assist students to identify and begin to understand the emotional and social costs of past injustices is historical fiction.
There is a specific type of historical fiction that I have always found particularly engaging: that which tells of a protagonist who finds herself pulled back through time and experiences a series of historical events firsthand. There are a handful of great examples of this motif in YA literature: Fog Magic by Julia Sauer, Handful of Time by Kit Pearson, and The Grave by James Heneghan, to name just a few.
Today’s BC lit post adds Hannah and the Spindle Whorl and Hannah and the Salish Sea by Carol Ann Shaw to that list.
In the first book Hannah lives in present-day Cowichan Bay. On her walk through a patch of forest one day she discovers an old Salish spindle whorl and it transports her back in time where she meets Yisella, a Salish girl her own age. They become friends and it is through this friendship that Hannah witnesses a small portion of the cultural pillaging that occurred when white Europeans started spreading out along South Coastal BC.
It looks as though a third book about Hannah is coming out this fall. This is a great trilogy to incorporate into a unit learning about the history of the peoples and cultures of South Coastal BC.
Posted by Celia Brogan
I currently live and teach in Vancouver so I am attuned to notice texts set here. Here are two authors who have set their work for elementary and middle years readers here in Vancouver.
Melanie Jackson is the author of the Dinah Galloway mystery series, among other great titles. The Dinah Galloway mysteries are set in and around Vancouver and feature a plucky young detective who, in the tradition of Harriot the Spy, gets herself into trouble while insatiably solving mysteries.
Victoria Miles authored Magnifico, a story of historical fiction set around Commercial Drive in East Vancouver. The protagonist is a first generation Canadian, born to an Italian immigrant family. I like how there are many points of possible connection for students in Vancouver today, even if the countries and cultures of origin have changed.
Posted by Celia Brogan
We are halfway through Poetry Month! In a change from last year, this April we are focusing on specifically BC literatures in support of the ABPBC’s Read Local BC campaign but luckily, when we look around poetry features prominently in the local cannon.
Today I would like to continue a thread started yesterday and share another iten created by the intersection of Local + Maps + Story.
A Verse Map of Vancouver ed. George McWhirter (photographs by Derek Von Essen) is a beautiful volume of poetry and photographs whose aim is to celebrate and “represent the city’s places and principal features in poetry.” (from the introduction) It’s not meant to be exhaustive, but a snapshot of the city (so to speak: the actual photographs often are more portrait-like than snapshot.)
I love the idea of a verse map. Should you be inspired by this idea, the breadth of topography might vary: from covering a region or your entire town, to remaining on within the bounds of the school property.
Another book that could fall within the Local + Maps + Story thread, and is simultaneously smaller and larger in scope, is Gulf Islands Alphabet by Bronwyn Preece (Illustrated by Alex Walton). This picture book is a poetic description of the Gulf Islands and the Salish Sea, featuring an alphabetic sequence of alliterative passages accompanied by rich watercolour illustrations. It differs from A Verse Map of Vancouver in that it covers a wider area, but does so with a single text. It’s another option to inspire a way for students to engage with their geography through poetry.
(One drawback of this text for me is the minimal mention of First Nations’ current and historical use of the area as well as not enough information about marine life. These two aspects can serve as entry points for a critical reading.)
If you have a local resource of this sort for your town or area in BC, please share it in the comments!
Posted by Celia Brogan
“Anyone can lead a walk because everyone is an expert on the places they live, work, and play.”
Have you heard of Jane’s Walks? Inspired by the work of Jane Jacobs, Jane’s Walks are neighbourhood walking tours, led by a member of the community. The tour routes and content are as varied as the citizens who lead them. Consider this as a great way to get our students to embrace their presence in their community. If you don’t have the capacity to actually do the waking tours, a adaptation might include a mapped route with photo-anchor accompaniment to written or audio descriptions for a set number of points of interest. The global festival is May 1-3, but you can do Jane’s Walks any time through the year.
Another way to explore and bring forward the stories in our neighbourhoods and communities is to dig through the layers of a place. The book On Looking: 11 Walks with Expert Eyes by Alexandra Horowitz can provide the inspiration to bring your classroom into the community. The author took the same walk around her neighbourhood 11 times with 11 different people and noticed the difference in what she noticed. To think about why we see what we see, and how we see it can be a fascinating entrance into a celebration of our place.
Posted by Celia Brogan
What writing is more homegrown BC writing than that of our students? The BCTELA Student Writing Contest is more than a great way for students to give their writing a broader audience, the published pieces, Voices Visible, is also a useful resource to show our students what their peers are writing.
BCTELA members receive a copy of Voices Visible free, and you can order additional copies to make up a lit circle/text set group, or enough for a whole class set.
BC features as a setting in many of the pieces in Voices Visible, either completely or sometimes as a juxtaposition to an immigrant’s home of origin. Students can find their home in these pieces written by their peers in a way that may be different than from pieces written by adults. Do you have back issues of Voices Visible? Try it: copy a piece or two and see what your students think, or try including a book or two in a poetry text set.
This year’s submissions are due at the end of this month. Click here for the application form and contest rules. You must be a current BCTELA member to submit your students’ work.