Today, I am sharing our literature selections for Grade 7 that make up our Multicultural Novel Studies for the 2018-2019 school year. To start, our novel choices pair with our history and geography.  We are studying the East, focusing on Australia/Pacific, Asia, and Africa (and the European nations that we “meet” in those lands.) Likewise, our novels are set in countries on these continents. Read about the 7 novels we selected, a brief synopsis, and the reading/literary skills we’re learning alongside.


Call it Courage by Armstrong Sperry ~ Polynesia/Pacific

We’re starting with a light read (five chapters) to learn more about life in the Pacific with Mafatu and his sidekick dog, Uri.

I will be teaching annotations more in-depth, teaching a new, junior-high level vocabulary method, and courage as a character trait for young men. (Both my Fourth and Seventh Graders are reading this title together.)

Young Fu on the Upper Yangtze by Elizabeth Lewis ~ China

First published in 1932, China has experienced many changes since Lewis published this title. There is lots of history to grasp in order to fathom the book’s content; and there is so much to learn since it publication to understand China today. (This is one of the reasons I paired history and literature together for this school year.) As we study the history of China, my son will be reading through Young Fu to make cultural connections and comparisons/contrasts. The main character is a 13 year old boy who has only known rural living. In the 20s, he arrives to a big city with his mother. We’ll learn all the adventures and dangers Young Fu has as he explores Chungking for the first time.

I revised a novel guide for my son to use and I downloaded a story plot cube. He will be identifying the novel’s themes, setting, conflict, symbolism, and analyzing characters.

Boys Without Names by Kashmira Sheth ~ India

Moving along to India, we learn of Gopal and his family. Their village has phased out and they must move to secure their livelihood–mainly food. One of the reason I chose this book is so my son can explore the idea of migrations. It is important that he understands why a large group of people find it necessary to relocate themselves. Often times, migrations occur because people are in search of food or a better life as a people. We will learn lots of sociology and geography concepts with this title. Gopal and his family arrive Mumbai wishing for a better life. Gopal decides to entertain the company of a stranger and accepts an offer for a factory job. Come to find out, there is no factory and he (with a group of boys) are stuck to work in a sweatshop with no money. Gopal’s challenge is to escape. How can he get the other boys to work together long enough to come together and plan their exit?

Since the author was born in India and has lived in Mumbai, my son will complete an author study to learn more about her and how her experience helped her write Boys Without Names. We will learn lots of cultural names and foreign vocabulary and mainly focusing on story conflict and characterization. Last, we will examine the theme of survival making text-to-text, text-to-self, and text-to-world connections.

The Breadwinner by Deborah Ellis ~ Afghanistan

Meet Parvana. A determined 11 year old young girl who find herself as the sole provider for her family. Set it Kabul, Afghanistan, Parvana’s father is arrested and jailed for having a foreign education. His family is left broke and hungry and Parvana is “stuck” because she cannot earn money as a girl. What must she do to eat? To help her family? She disguises herself as a boy to score herself a job! I chose this book for too many reasons to list, but one of them is to explore gender roles, identity, and the global treatment of men versus women (with a comparison to America).

As a pre-reading exercise, we’re watching a YouTube interview with Deborah Ellis. We are also studying setting, vocabulary, themes, characters, and reading comprehension. My son has a novel guide and will be concluding the novel with a test and essay. After reading, we’re watching the movie (same title) to compare and contrast the book and movie. The major themes we’re exploring are love, death, violence/war, hunger, courage (with a text-to-text connection to Call It Courage), survival (with a text-to-text connection to Boys Without Names), and coming of age.

A Little Piece of Ground by Elizabeth Laird ~ Israel/Palestine

Trekking westward, we’ll arrive in Israel to learn more about the Israeli-Palestine conflict. One of the reasons I chose this book is because on my first trip to Israel, we crossed over to the Palestinian side and it was quite different. Sights of soldiers with rifles slung across their chests looking for their next Palestinian prey was eye-opening. As I scanned the area, it was all too familiar from the Black-White race relations I’m accustomed to in the States; but in this case, I was the onlooker and not the oppressed. I aim to teach my son about my experience and thoughts  through this story! (Let’s see how I do.) Karim is a 12 year old boy who spends his days home-bound due to a strict curfew from a Palestinian suicide bombing. Once the curfew is over, he finds a nice piece of ground that’s ideal for playing soccer.  The plot thickens when Israeli soldiers find Karim outside during the next curfew! Will he survive to tell the tale?

My son will be practicing his summation and artistic skills to design his own Matchbook Chapter Summaries booklet.

The Garbage King by Elizabeth Laird ~ Ethiopia

Landing in East Africa, we meet Dani and Mamo in Ethiopia’s capital. These two boys could no more different yet they find themselves with at least one thing in common–they are both on the run. Dani comes from a well-to-do family fleeing his overbearing father while Mamo is orphaned and homeless escaping the life of slave labor. Both boys join a gang of local street boys to survive.

My son will be strengthening his annotation skills with this novel and constructing a character sketch of the main character.

A Long Way Gone ~ Sierra Leone

On the other side of the continent in West Africa we’ll meet Ishmael Beah and read his excellent memoir! During my student teaching, I was assigned to a Gifted Freshman class.  The schools were pushing non-fiction reading like crazy and I had to teach this book. At that time, no teaching material existed for it, so my lead teacher pulled up our sleeves and put it work! I still have the material we created for this book and I cannot wait to teach my son!

I purchased a traditional novel guide for him too so he can work independently at-will, but I kept activities from my plans to do with him. A Long Way Gone follows the story of 12 year old Ishmael (a gentle and a sweet-hearted boy) in his journey of fleeing attacking rebels, becoming a boy soldier, and rehabilitating himself after four years of violence and war. If you’ve ever read this book, you know no outsider could have written these accounts! Beah is raw and honest in portraying how a sweet spirit is “sucked” out of him in time of famine, death, and war. We will watch The Good Lie to pair with this memoir.

That’ll conclude our list! What are you reading in 2018-2019?