Lois Lowry’s The Giver challenges kids to question their own society and to dig a bit into their own ideas of what is true and proper in our own Community. Are any of our rules draconian, unjust, or foolish? Why are rules necessary?
All the meaty social studies stuff, all the connections to studies of tyranny or organization or rights–none of that really interests me when I teach this book. I like focusing on the Biblical allusions, and teaching the Adam and Eve and Jonah stories as literature. Just reading stories with which they’re familiar in a different context often frees the kids up to do all the social studies thinking on their own.
Al Capone Does My Shirts
recreates effectively the time period and the celebrity status of gangsters and hoods long before the current phase of glamorization. Moose Flanagan lives on Alcatraz Island because his dad works there and it’s the Depression–you go where the jobs are. His sister suffers from a severe autism, before that condition was a recognized malady. The relationship between Moose and Natalie makes this book more than a mere exploration of setting and focuses it on character and moral choice. Moose struggles to do the right thing even when it costs him socially.