Synopses & Reviews
A backlist gem gets a brand-new look!
It's 1943, and eleven-year-old Dewey Kerrigan is en route to New Mexico to live with her mathematician father. Soon she arrives at a town that, officially, doesn't exist. It is called Los Alamos, and it is abuzz with activity, as scientists and mathematicians from all over America and Europe work on the biggest secret of all--"the gadget." None of them--not J. Robert Oppenheimer, the director of the Manhattan Project; not the mathematicians and scientists; and least of all, Dewey--know how much "the gadget" is about to change their lives.
When Kenny Watsons brother, Byron, gets to be too much trouble, the Watson family heads south to Birmingham to visit Grandma, the one person who can shape him up. And they happen to be in Birmingham when Grandmas church is bombed.
Ten-year-old Kenny and his family, the Watsons of Flint, Michigan, are heading for Birmingham, Alabama, and one of the darkest moments in American history. Honors include 1996 Newbery Honor Book, 1996 Coretta Scott King Honor Book, and a "New York Times Book Review" Best Book.
A wonderful middle-grade novel narrated by Kenny, 9, about his middle-class black family, the Weird Watsons of Flint, Michigan. When Kenny's 13-year-old brother, Byron, gets to be too much trouble, they head South to Birmingham to visit Grandma, the one person who can shape him up. And they happen to be in Birmingham when Grandma's church is blown up.
A boy, a dog, and New Orleans' most famous hurricane
Saint is a boy with confidence as big as his name is long. A budding musician, he earns money playing clarinet for the New Orleans tourists, and his best friend is a stray dog named Shadow. At first Saint is sure that Hurricane Katrina will be just like the last one--no big deal. But then the city is ordered to evacuate and Saint refuses to leave without Shadow. Saint and Shadow flee to his neighbor's attic--and soon enough it's up to Saint to save them all.
About the Author
Ellen Klages was born a in Columbus, Ohio. She graduated from the University of Michigan with a degree in Philosophy.
“It teaches you to ask questions and think logically, which are useful skills for just about any job.” she says. “But when I looked in the Want Ads under P, no philosophers. I’ve been a pinball mechanic, a photographer, and done paste-up for a printer.
“I’ve lived in San Francisco most of my adult life. The city wears its past in layers, glimpses of other eras visible on every street. I love to look through old newspapers and photos, trying to piece together its stories.
“I was at the Exploratorium, a hands-on science museum, working as proofreader, when they were looking for a science writer to do a children’s science activity book. No science background, but I convinced my boss that in order to ‘translate’ from a PhD physicist, I had to ask lots of questions, just like a curious kid. I got the job.
“My desk was covered with baking soda, Elmer’s glue, balloons, soap bubbles, and dozens of other common objects that became experiments, and the office echoed with the ‘Science-at-Home’ team saying, ‘Wow! Look at this!’
“My co-writer, Pat Murphy, a science-fiction author, encouraged me to write stories of my own. I’ve now sold more than a dozen. “Basement Magic,” a fairy tale set at the beginning of the Space Age, won the Nebula Award in 2005.
The Green Glass Sea is not science fiction, but it is fiction about science. And history and curiosity.”
Ellen Klages lives in San Francisco. The Green Glass Sea is her first novel.
ABOUT THIS BOOK
Enter the hilarious world of 10-year-old Kenny and his family, the Weird Watsons of Flint, Michigan. There's Momma, Dad, little sisterJoetta, and brother Byron, who's 13 and an "official juvenile delinquent."
When Momma and Dad decide it's tome for a visit to Grandma, Dad comes home with the amzing Ultra-Glide, and the Watsons set out on a trip like no other.
They're heading south to Birmingham, Alabama, toward one of the darkest moments in America's history.
Recreate the time period of the novel, having students list what they know about the early 1960s (how people dressed, the mood of the country, people who were in the news, music that was popular etc.). Then have them create a time line of events that took place from 1960-1970 so a historical connection can be made to the time during which the novel takes place. Ask students who have records or tapes of 1960s music (especially African American music) to bring them in to share with the class. Later, compare that music to music mentioned in the novel. ("Yakety Yak" is Kenny's favorite!)
HUMOR-Humor is woven throughout the book. Examples include Byron's lips getting stuck to the side mirror of the car (pp. 12-14), Daniel mimicking Moses Henderson (pp. 4-5), and Byron's frozen people story (pp. 51-54). Have students reread what they feel is the funniest passage. Then have them write a funny passage they would like to add to this novel.
FRIENDSHIP-Kenny becomes a real friend of Rufus, but realizes that he has damaged their relationship when he joins in laughing at Rufus on the bus (pp. 43-46). Have students write about a situation in which they slighted someone without just cause, how they felt afterward, and what they did about it. How does Kenny's acknowledgment of his injustice help to correct it (p. 45)?
SIBLING RELATIONSHIPS-Have students compare and contrast the three Watson children by using a Venn Diagram or a web. What are the class's impressions of the three? How would you describe Kenny and Byron's relationship? How does it change? Have students write about their own sibling relationships and compare them to the Watsons.
FAMILY-PARENTAL RELATIONSHIPS-Byron's mother threatens to set him on fire if he continues to play with matches (pp. 66-74). This is an unbelievable punishment that she almost carries out. Was it right of Byron's mother to choose such a harmful punishment? Was she bluffing to frighten Byron? How would it be viewed today?
GETTING ALONG WITH OTHERS-Have students examine Kenny's passage about bullying (pp. 58-63) and discuss alternatives to bullying. When should mediation intervene? How do you avoid such situations? Brainstorm to develop solutions.
HISTORY/CIVIL RIGHTS-Life in 1963 was quite different for African Americans than it is today, especially in the South. Have students find inferences that blacks and whites were treated differently (pp. 5-6). Check reference books for historical details of the Birmingham church bombing and look for the names of the young girls listed on the "In Memory of" page. Probe the question raised by Kenny (p. 199), "Why would they hurt some little kids like that?" Have students create a class book on What America Was Like When the Watsons Went to Birmingham in 1963.
LANGUAGE/LANGUAGE ARTS-Kenny often refers to his mother and father as "talking Southern. " Consult your media center to secure tapes of language patterns of various regions. Have students tape-record the speech of relatives with regional accents. Provide a preset passage for each speaker to read. In a listening activity, play the tapes for your students and see if they can detect the different speech patterns.
GEOGRAPHY-Wilona plans to discuss all the states she and her family drive through on their trip from Flint, Michigan, to Birmingham, Alabama. Use pushpins and yarn to chart the trip on a class map, down 1-75 beginning in Flint and ending in Birmingham. Have students research each state that the family passes through and the major cities along 1-75. Discuss what the Watsons might have seen.
SCIENCE-Throughout the novel there is a continuous discussion among family members about the merits of Michigan and Birmingham winters. As the novel opens, Kenny describes the day as being "a zillion degrees below zero" (p. 1). In a funny episode, Byron gets his lips stuck to the side-view mirror of the car in subzero weather. Discuss what could have caused Byron's lips to stick to the mirror How does skin freeze to ice? Have a dialogue with students about some of the properties of water-i.e., its freezing point being 320 F (00 C) and its expansion as it freezes. Have students conduct the following simple activities:
The Sticking Ice Tray-Needed: a tray of ice just out of the freezer. Note that the tray will stick to your fingers. Here's why: If the tray and ice cubes are below the freezing point of water, the warmth of the hand will melt a thin layer of frost. Then, as the hand is cooled, the layer of water will freeze again. It is possible that the hand or finger can freeze so tightly to the tray that a little skin is torn as it is pulled loose.
Freeze with Fingers-Needed: two ice cubes. Press the cubes together, one flat surface tightly against the other. They will freeze together. Here's why: The increase in pressure lowers the melting point and some of the ice melts where they are in contact; then the water freezes again as the pressure is reduced.
Some expressions in the novel may not be familiar to today's students. Have students use the context of the story to provide clues or consult a dictionary or a slang dictionary to determine the meaning of terms and phrases - "panning on folks" (p.30), "conk" (p.87), "crackers" (p.146), etc.