An American Spring: Sofia's Immigrant Diary Discussion Guide
- Grades: 3–5
About this book
To the Discussion Leader
In Hope in My Heart: Sofia's Immigrant Diary, Book One, author Kathryn Lasky weaves the story of the Monari family and their nine-year-old daughter Sofia as they leave their home in Italy to begin anew in America. The family's hope is quickly tested at Ellis Island when Sofia is abruptly taken from her parents and placed in quarantine for what turns out to be a nonexistent disease. Sofia is finally reunited with her family but not before she is exposed to corruption and prejudice that teach her the importance of friendship and inner strength. Today's young readers learn about the courage displayed by immigrants as they walked through the Golden Door to the United States.
Home At Last: Sofia's Immigrant Diary, Book Two finds the Monari family settled in the North End of Boston in 1903. In this book young readers will live the life of Italian immigrants in the tenements of the crowded North End. Readers will see history through Sofia's eyes as she memorizes "The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere," meanders through the streets were she hears the bells of the Old North Church, and comes to understand the real importance of Columbus Day.
An American Spring is the third and final book in Lasky's story of Sofia Monari and her family. Sofia experiences her first American Halloween, celebrates Thanksgiving, and learns American history by walking the streets of Boston visiting important landmarks in a history treasure hunt designed by her favorite teacher. From Italy to Ellis Island to the North End of Boston, Sofia's diaries show youngsters what is really a pilgram.
"It is hard to believe that Maureen, my best friend in all the world, has been here exactly one week today," writes ten-year-old Sofia in her October 1903 diary entry. To Sofia "it is a miracolo grande—a huge miracle" that Maureen has come to live with the Monari family after her mother's death and her father's return to Ireland with the rest of the family. Sofia and Maureen enjoy being in the same fifth grade class at Paul Revere School in Boston and anticipate celebrating their first Halloween and Thanksgiving in America.
Sofia's older sister, Gabriella, gets a job designing a Christmas ball gown for a wealthy Boston woman, and Sofia and Maureen go along to help with the sewing. When Gabriella becomes gravely ill with pneumonia and is hospitalized, it's up to the girls to finish the dress. The gown is a fashion masterpiece, Gabriella gets well, and Sofia and Maureen get involved in a special school project.
The girls have three months to solve sixteen riddles about events in American history that occurred right near their own neighborhood. When they begin, Sofia says, "It is like a grand treasure hunt. This is going to be so much fun." Solving the riddles, however, proves harder than the girls expected, especially when it comes to the last one. "We cannot figure out this riddle. We read it 40 times a day," laments Sofia. Finally the riddle is solved, and Sofia and Maureen's entire class gets to make a night visit to the Old North Church where years before the shining lantern announced the British were invading Boston.
Standing in the church tower, watching the lantern being lit and listening to Miss Burnet read the famous poem, 'The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere" Sofia is filled with happiness. She remembers, "A little more than a year ago I hardly spoke English and Maureen and I knew nothing of America. But now we have truly discovered America. We are pilgrims. We are immigrants. We are Americans."
Thinking About the Book
- In her first diary entry in An American Spring, Sofia writes about miracles and un-miracles. What does she mean? What are some things you would consider to be miracles? What things would you consider to be un-miracles?
- Why do Sofia and Maureen decide to dress as tomatoes for Halloween?
- How do they get in trouble on Halloween? Why does Sofia write on the Genovese steps, "Mrs. Genovese is a fat snooty lady?" Who rescues them and what is their "punishment?"
- Look at Sofia's diary entry for December 1, 1903. What does the phrase "a month of Sundays" mean? On December 24th, Isabella Stewart Gardner writes to Gabriella Monari. Mrs. Gardner tells Gabriella that she has "…talent and vision." What does it mean to have "vision?"
- Identify the following people mentioned in Sofia's diary.
*John Singer Sargent
- How do Sofia and Maureen celebrate Valentine's Day? Why does this day make them feel sad?
- What is the Freedom Treasure Hunt? Do you think it is a fun way for Sofia and Maureen to learn about the history of their city? Have you ever been on a treasure hunt? Share your experience with the discussion group.
- When Sofia and Maureen find two classmates spying of them during the Treasure Hunt, what do they do rather than telling on them? What would you do in a similar situation?
- The Freedom Treasure Hunt must be completed by April 19th, Patriots' Day. What is Patriots' Day? Do we still celebrate it?
- Working on the treasure hunt clues makes Sofia think about becoming a private detective when she grows up. Do you think that was a realistic goal for a girl one hundred years ago? What about today? Why?
- For their writing assignment, Sofia and Maureen write a composition entitled "What it is like to be a Pilgrim." Read the book Molly's Pilgrim by Barbara Cohen. How is Molly's story similar to Sofia and Maureen's. How is it different?
- Sofia talks about hearing the story "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow" read at Halloween. Read this story by Washington Irving. Sofia says it's a great ghost story. Do you agree?
- Rose Fitzgerald, who is mentioned by Sofia in her October 31st entry, grew up to be a famous woman who lived to be 100 years old. Find out about her and share your findings.
- Sofia describes several Italian treats, such as cannoli, panna cotta and biscotti. Buy some of these treats and have an Italian dessert party with the class.
Discussion Guide written by Richard F. Abrahamson, Ph.D., Professor of Literature for Children and Young Adults, University of Houston and Eleanore S. Tyson, Ed.D., Clinical Associate Professor, University of Houston, Department of Curriculum and Instruction, Houston, Texas.