Wednesday, November 5, 2008

"It Doesn't Have to Be This Way"

It Doesn’t Have to Be This Way
Written by: Luis J. Rodríguez
Illustrated by: Daniel Galvez
Published by: Children’s Book Press in San Francisco, California in 1999
ISBN: 0-89239-161-8
Genre: Picture Book, Realisitc Fiction (Multicultural Work)
Reading Level: Grade 5
Activity Level: Grade 5

Summary: This book is written by a Hispanic man who was involved with a gang when he was younger. In the story this young boy learns from current gang members about how to dress and act and is about to be initiated, when his cousin comes to once again try to coax him into remaining out of the gang. At that point, the gang’s rivals appear and the young boy’s cousin is shot. She lives, but the situation puts the boy’s life into perspective for him and instead of joining he gang, he decides to ask his uncle to teach him about fixing cars.

Response: This story is about learning to make decisions in one’s own life and how to say no to getting involved in the wrong situations. I think that this book teaches an important lesson for upper elementary students.

The illustrations in this book are very details. There are both single- and double-page spreads of vibrant colors within this work and, although the outer lines of most of the illustrations are slightly smeared, the illustrators makes such clear differences in each character’s expressions, etc, that readers feel as though they could pick these people out of a crowd as if they had seen them in a photograph.

Teaching Connections: This book could only be used in an upper elementary classroom. Its contents are far too complex for younger students. However, a fifth grade teacher could read this book to her class and have an open discussion about making choices and saying no. This lesson surrounding this book would fit well with the DARE units they participate in the fifth grade.

What Students Learn: From this book and the activity, students learn how and why to resist gang life.

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