7. Seedfolks by Paul Fleischman
I started another much longer book at the beginning of the week, but since it has a picture of a pirate ship on the cover, J and E insisted I read it aloud and have hijacked that project . More on that book when I finish it… whenever that is.
So, to meet the goal this week, I needed something that I could read in an evening- Seedfolks was it.
This book was truly unique because it tells individual stories of 13 different people at the same time. Each chapter is told from a different perspective and the unifying element is the setting: the community garden. Coming in at under 90 pages, it’s amazing how much is packed into this slim book.
Paul Fleischman is the author of several other books, but the only one I recognized was Joyful Noise: Poems for Two Voices. He is also the son of Sid Fleischman, so writing runs in the family. Both father and son have received Newberry awards.
Reading Challenges and Teaching Opportunities:
Background Knowledge: The book touches on being an immigrant in the US, inner city living, armed assault, teen pregnancy, the loneliness of aging, the gaps between different generations of immigrants, and more. Therefore, this book would be best used in an upper elementary classroom as a read aloud.
Plot Structure: Though the story follows a straightforward time frame. It does not have the common single protagonist, problem/solution structure that many fiction books do. It would be a good book to contrast with other more common plot structures. It invites a conversation about why the author chose to structure the story this way.
Character Development: With 13 different points of view, there are many opportunities to talk about character development. Each character tells their story in the first person, so each voice is distinct. Additionally, each short chapter has a tiny story arc tucked into it, though the problems are not really resolved. That makes the book good for teaching…
Inference: The reader has to bring what they know about the issue at hand together with the character presented in the book. Because the author does not resolve any of the characters’ problems, there is much room to wonder about what might happen next.
Theme: This book touches on so many social issues, but it also has an overarching theme of hope. It also lends itself to a discussion of symbolism at a really basic level: even a 10 year old can understand that a garden means growth, change and renewal.