Saturday, February 2, 2008

The Jacket

Title: The Jacket
Author: Andrew Clements
Age Range: 8-12

Summary: The Jacket is about a young boy named Phil who makes another boy (Daniel) for his brother because of the jacket he is wearing. Phil immediately accuses this boy of stealing the coat. Daniel is black and Phil’s realization of his reaction to the situation may have to do with Daniel’s race. Phil grapples with the meaning of being prejudiced as well as issues and the interplay of friendship, race, and even class. Phil eventually travels to Daniel’s home in attempt to rectify the situation. The book ends with the boys beginning to understand the similarities that they share.

Reflections: This book was used in a grades 3-4 general education class at my student teaching placement. The book was used as a Read Aloud with Accountable Talk dispersed throughout the novel. The children seemed to respond well to the story voicing their various opinions. I was surprised by the straightforward writing (mostly Phil’s thoughts) regarding race, especially discussing the tensions between “black” and “white.” The book didn’t downplay or sugarcoat this topic and the straightforward writing/thinking makes this discussion very accessible for children of these ages. However, I did feel that the ending was a little to simplistic. Race and prejudice are complex topics and the ending doesn’t really reflect that complexity.

How to use this book in the curriculum:
- Works well as a Read Aloud.
- Modeling how a character changes over the course of a book or how to incorporate internal thought.
- Including this book into an Author Study on Andrew Clements (I would make sure to structure conversation with this book as it deals with sensitive issues).
- Using this book to discuss issues of race in the school and/or community.

Domains of Social Justice:
2. Respect for Others – In this novel, Phil is working to understand his own negative reactions and thoughts. He seeks to understand how his thoughts and actions towards Daniel, and those of other races, affect his relationship with those around him.
3. Exploring Issues of Social Justice – Phil repeatedly uses the word prejudiced to look at inequalities related to race.
5. Taking Social Action – Though Phil does not take a huge stand against all racism, in his own way, he takes action. Phil goes to Daniel’s house to apologize for his wrongdoing and mend his relationship with Daniel.

This website includes some ideas for lessons and discussion questions.

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