- Written by:
- Grade Level: 4.6
- Paperback: 192 pages
- Publisher: Speak; Reprint edition (January 7, 2010)
- Language: English
Summary: A story of two African American girls coming of age, in Queens, in the middle of the 1990s. Taking place a few months before legendary rapper Tupac Shakur is shot the first time, and after he is fatally shot over a year later, the girls meet D. She is their best friend, but also a stranger, as they don’t know many details of her past. The girls bond, as they are thrown into the throngs of puberty and as they become cognizant of the world around them. They begin to see the hatred and injustice that is the world, and they begin to relate to Tupac more and more.
5 keywords: Fiction, Diversity, Middle Grade Reader, Coming of Age, African American Literature
Common Core State Standard: CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.W.6.9.A
Apply grade 6 Reading standards to literature (e.g., “Compare and contrast texts in different forms or genres [e.g., stories and poems; historical novels and fantasy stories] in terms of their approaches to similar themes and topics”).
Suggested Delivery: Read together as a class.
Electronic Resources: Tupac “If My Homie Calls,” use after the book is read. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HWMsWO0vPa8.
Use this original MTV tribute of Tupac’s Death prior to reading the book. This will help students understand the time period, context and give background to the emotional connection Black Americans had to Tupac.
How did Black Americans feel about Tupac’s Death? How did Jaqueline feel?
What did Tupac mean to people? Do you have a musician that means this much to you?
Why are celebrities so important to American culture?
Website: http://www.jacquelinewoodson.com/ This is the authors website, where more information about the author can be found.
Teaching guide – This teaching guide is provided by Penguin Publishing. It has great discussion questions for you to use for free! http://www.penguin.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/11/Woodson_Guide_15_6p_WEB.pdf
Gangsta – Member of a street gang or a person who performs gangsta rap music
Wannabe – A person who wants to be like someone else and dresses and acts like that person
Peeps – Friends
Bootleg – Illegally copy or record a movie or music
Relevant – When something relates to a subject perfectly
Vague – Not clear
Psychosis – A very serious mental illness that affects everyday functioning
Clarify – To explain something so well it makes it clear
Silos – A tower that is used to store food
Acting the fool – acting like an idiot
Before: Prior to reading this story, use the electronic resources to build on schema of this time period. Ask students what they know about New York, Queens, Tupac, the foster care system, the school to prison pipeline. If they do not seem to know anything about the school to prison pipeline, or about racial disparity in prisons, ask them to think about the phrase itself and build upon that.
During: During the reading of this book, have students pause for certain words. Especially in the beginning as students are getting used to the narrators voice, and tone. There is a lot of dialect specific terms in this book, and pausing to clarify will increase comprehension. Also, throughout reading, ask students about any connections they have to music artists, artists, and writers that the girls have to Tupac.
After: After reading this story, ask students about their thoughts on it. How do they relate to the characters, and how are they different. Ask the students what socioeconomic class the girls came from, as there are many clues that point to a middle class upbringing for Neeka and the narrator. Discuss if they are seen as this class outside of their neighborhood. Ask them how this impacts the girls lives, and the other characters in the book, such as Tash.
Writing Activity: Have students analyze Tupac’s (clean) song lyrics and write an essay about how it compares to the story of D Foster and the girls. By comparing the song lyrics and the story together the students will show their literal and at times inferential comprehension of the plot and details about the text. This can also help the students understand why the author chose to have Tupac as the artist that relates to D so much.
To build on this, have students write a letter to their favorite band or musician. Have them tell the artist about this book and why it was impactful. Students should include how Neeka felt about Tupac, and connect it to their own love of the musician they are writing to. Students will build text to self and world connections, as they gain an understanding of the character. This will touch upon literal and inferential comprehension, as it asks students to draw from their own emotions, while realizing how Neeka felt, as well as asking for a relevance to what they directly read.