Sunday, February 7, 2010

The Liberation of Gabriel King


Back in 2005 I started reading The Liberation of Gabriel King by K.L. Going with a group of fifth graders. I know other school librarians do this - read chapter books- but for some reason, this just never works for me. I only see groups once a week and end up having to abandon the chapter book somewhere along the way - because we have research skills we are working on, or because teachers ask me to cover something they will need their kids to have for class, or because we miss a week or two for various no school days and pretty soon no one can remember what we read previously.
The Liberation of Gabriel King was my first chapter book attempt with a group, and we did make it several chapters in, but ended up not finishing it. This year one of my fifth grade book clubs picked it to read, and I knew that finally I was going to finish this one up.
Set in 1976, the year of America's bicentennial, Going's book explores some good themes for us to discuss: friendship, race, fear to name a few.
Gabriel King is best friend with Frita, a black girl who is full of excitement and ideas. Gabe, on the other hand, has a lot of things he is frightened of. Duke Evans, the bully in his class is at the top of his list, and Frita decides to dedicate her summer to liberating Gabriel from his fears. While Frida doesn't have quite as many fears as Gabe, she has her own issues to deal with - one being the fact that she is black and she and her family faced violence from the Klan in the past.

My students are enjoying this one. Going has included enough to talk about, yet not too much, either, as this novel is aimed at tweens. While the 1970s seem like the old days to my fifth graders, the fact that this type of racism was practiced during my lifetime is disturbing.

This week we will finish up this novel and move on to something else; this group of students has been such a good group to have discussions with and this novel was a great fit for us.

1 comment:

Diane said...

The cover is not what I'd expect for a kids chapter book....ughhhh