Kenny Willson wants nothing more than to get out of Comfort, Texas, away from his alcoholic, ex-convict father and his controlling mother. In order to promote her husband as a country and western star and keep him out of bars, Kenny's mother opens the Comfort Cafe where her husband can sing without risk of violating his parole. The problem is that Kenny's father has no desire to be a country and western star and his wife hates cooking. Kenny's mother serves a variety of frozen, processed, and ready-made foods such as frozen pizza, corn dogs, honey buns, and frito pie and forces her son to quit football and band to work night and day in the cafe. Kenny finds his voice through mentorship of his journalism teacher and a pretty senior girl who encourages him to get involved in poetry competitions. Unfortunatley, she has a muscle-head boyfriend she can't seem to get rid of. This novel explores the idea that the things we find "comfortable" are often the things that keep us stuck.
Activities: Before reading the book, have students explore the theme of the book by making posters of things that bring them comfort. During the reading of the novel, explore how some of things that feel comfortable to us are actually harmful. Afterward have a "Comfort Foods Potluck" having students bring items from the Comfort Cafe or other comfort foods.
Eleven-year-old Livie is terrified when her father insists that they bring her comatose mother home from the hospital. How can she look at, much less touch and care for, Mamma when she alone knows that she caused her illness? As Mamma continues to languish in bed, Livie grows more and more estranged from her family, a chasm that begins to close only after she gathers her courage to visit the local traiteur, who gives her the formula for a healing spell. As Livie collects the spell's necessary ingredients, she begins to open up to the knowledge that she is loved and cherished by her family. Little explores the extremes of childhood guilt and its consequences in this harsh yet well-crafted story about fully drawn people. The bayou, with its rich culture, is an atmospheric character that overlays the story with mystery and dread. A special offering for readers seeking a challenge of the heart as well as the mind. Grades 5-8. --Frances Bradburn
Compare Faye's wedding in the book with the description of a Cajun wedding in this article. What was the same and what was different? Write a compare/contrast essay about your findings.
At Faye's wedding, there was boiled crawfish and gumbo and boudin (a type of sausage) plus lots of side dishes and desserts.
Here's a recipe for gumbo that can be prepared the day before and plugged into a crockpot in the classroom for your students to try, using plastic bowls with spoons. Very yummy!
Kimberley's Favorite Louisiana Gumbo:
1/3 cup flour
1/3 cup cooking oil
Stir together flour and oil in a saucepan until smooth. Cook over medium-high heat for 4 minutes, stirring constantly for a few minutes longer until the roux is a dark reddish brown color. Let cool while you prepare the following:
3 - 5 cups of chicken broth
12-16 oz smoked boudin or sausage, sliced 1/2 inch thick
2 cups chopped cooked chicken
2 cups diced cooked chicken
1-2 cups sliced okra
1 cup chopped onion
1/2 cup chopped green pepper
1/2 cup chopped celery
4 garlic cloves and salt to taste
1/2 tsp black pepper
1/4 tsp ground red pepper
Boiled white rice
Add chicken to broth in a 6 quart slow cooker. Stir in roux and mix well. Add sausage, okra,onion, green pepper, celery, garlic, salt and peppers seasonings. Cover and cook on low for 8-10 hours. Serve with hot, cooked rice.
Mavis Elizabeth Betterly, or May B. as she is known, is helping out on a neighbor's Kansas prairie homestead, "Just until Christmas," says her Pa. Twelve-year-old May wants to contribute, but it's hard to be separated from her family by fifteen long, unfamiliar miles.
Then the unthinkable happens: May is abandoned to the oncoming winter, trapped all alone in a tiny snow-covered sod house without any way to let her family know and no neighbors to turn to. In her solitude, she wavers between relishing her freedom and succumbing to utter despair, while trying to survive in the harshest conditions. Her physical struggle to first withstand and then to escape her prison is matched by tormenting memories of her failures at school. Only a very strong girl will be able to stand up to both and emerge alive and well.
In this debut novel written in gripping verse, Caroline Starr Rose has given readers a new heroine to root for, one who never, ever gives up.
Activity: Four Pieces of String
20 feet, 16 feet, 20 feet, and 12.5 feet
Find a room big enough and stretch the string out, making a rectangle with a door-sized opening at one side.
Measure a bed, a dresser, a table, a stove. Mark the furnitures' dimensions on butcher paper and arrange it inside your string rectangle.
What do you have?
A furnished soddy! Imagine a family living together in this small space.
Send a self-addressed stamped envelope to the address below for free sourdough starter.
Oregon Trail Sourdough
P. O. Box 321
Jefferson, MD 21755
Here's a sourdough biscuit recipe to use with your starter:
1 Tbs active dry yeast
1 1/4 c water-lukewarm
1/3 c sugar
3/4 ts salt
1 c sourdough starter
5 c bread flour
melted butter or margarine
Dissolve the yeast in warm water with a little sugar till bubbly. Sourdough is a yeast but rises faster with added commercial yeast. In a large mixing bowl add sugar, salt, sourdough starter, yeast and flour. Cover; set in warm spot and let rise until double. Punch down and turn out onto floured work surface. Roll out to 3/4 inch thickness. Cut with biscuit cutter. Dip both sides in butter or oil, and place on well-greased baking sheet. Let rise 15 min. Bake at 425 - 20 min. or until golden brown.
Caroline Starr Rose spent her childhood in the deserts of Saudi Arabia and New Mexico, camping at the Red Sea in one and eating red chile in the other. She's taught English and social studies to upper elementary and middle-school students in New Mexico, Florida, Virginia, and Louisiana. Back in New
Mexico, Caroline now writes middle-grade novels and picture books full time.
Carolee Dean has made numerous appearances as a guest poet/author at schools, libraries, poetry events, and teacher/library conferences. She holds a bachelor's degree in music therapy and a master's degree in communicative disorders, and she has spent over a decade working in the public schools as a speech-language pathologist. Her first novel, Comfort,was nominated as a Best Book for Young Adults, was named the Best YA Novel of 2002 by the Texas Institute of Letters, and was on the TAYSHAS (Texas Library Association) reading list. She conducts teacher trainings on inspiring reluctant writers including "The Secret Language of Stories" and "Random Acts of Haiku."
To find teacher's guides, writing activities, and information about author visits, go to my website.
Kimberley Griffiths Little is the recipient of the Southwest Book Award, The Whitney Award for Best Youth Novel of 2010, and the author of the highly acclaimed, The Healing Spell and Circle of Secrets, published by Scholastic Press. Look for her books at the Scholastic Book Fairs, as well as two more forthcoming novels in 2012 and 2013. She lives on a dirt road in a small town by the Rio Grande with her husband, a robotics engineer and their three sons. Kimberley is a favorite speaker at schools around the country, presenting "The Creative Diary", a highly successful writing workshop and has been a speaker at many conferences. Please visit her website to download free Teacher's Guides and Book Club Guides.
UPCOMING AUTHOR EVENTS
Saturday, January 14, 2012
Launch Party for Caroline Starr Rose's debut novel, May B.
8810 Holly Ave.
Albuquerque, NM 87122
Sunday, April 29th, 2012
9-5 Preconference Session
Author's Panel at the
International Reading Association Conference
"Rekindling the Reading and Writing Fire"
Join us for this all day session
featuring 11 authors including
all 3 Spellbinders
Kimberley Griffiths Little
Caroline Starr Rose
Tuesday, May 1
3 p.m. - 4 p.m.
International Reading Association Conference
"The Secret Language of Stories: Beyond Story Grammar"