Heaven By Angela Johnson
When fourteen-year-old Marley learns that the people she thought were her parents are actually her aunt and uncle, and that her real father is the drifter she knows as “Uncle Jack,” she is forced to redefine what family, truth, and love mean to her.
In this audio sample, Marley talks about why she and her family moved to a town called Heaven, Ohio, and Marley receives a letter from Uncle Jack. As students listen, ask them to think about why someone might want to move to a place called “Heaven.” Then discuss the questions below.
- Why does Marley say Momma wanted to move to Heaven? What about Pops?
- What kind of person does Uncle Jack seem like? Why?
- Why does Marley like to hang out with her family?
- Why do you like to spend time with your family?
- Is there any place you would like to move someday?
Next, try this activity:
Postcards From the Edge
If you could pick somewhere to live based on its name, where would you choose? Invite students to study a regional and national map and each pick a possible destination, based on its name alone. Examples include Frankenstein, Missouri; Looneyville, West Virginia; Ordinary, Virginia; and Neversink, Pennsylvania. Next, distribute the Postcards From the Edge reproducible and have students write and illustrate postcards from their would-be hometowns. Attach the postcards to a bulletin board titled “Postcards From the Edge.”
In the audio sample Marley discusses the Western Union. Invite students to research the history of the Western Union and the telegraph system. Challenge children to a debate: Do we still have a need for telegraphs? Why or why not?