Like many devoted grandchildren, Jake Moon adores his grandfather, Skelly. But lately it seems that Skelly is acting strangely, to say the least. He is constantly losing his car keys, putting his pajamas in the freezer, recounting crazy stories, and forgetting the names of people he knows. When Jake and his family learn that Skelly's bizarre behavior signals the early stages of Alzheimer's disease, they must pull together to cope with this difficult and debilitating illness. Will Jake's relationship with his grandpa ever be the same? As he strives to understand this complex and sensitive issue, Jake learns that laughter, love, and acceptance are the best medicine.
Students will understand and explore how characters change and develop during a novel. They will accomplish this learning goal through journal writing, discussion, and visual representation. Students will also learn and hone the following skills: noticing details, finding textual evidence, and sequencing events.
Standard: Understands specific devices an author uses to accomplish his or her purpose (i.e., character development).
Reread the passage on page 16, in which the narrator mentions the "three stages of Alzheimer's." Ask the class: What is a stage? What does the expression "going through a stage" mean? What stages have you gone through in your life? Do book characters go through stages, too? Discuss and give examples from personal experience and the novel. Emphasize that characters indeed "go through stages," which contribute to their changes and development throughout the novel.
- Choose a character to follow through his or her different "stages" in the story. Possible choices include Jake Moon, Skelly, and Jake's mom.
- Set up a Double-Entry Reading Journal. Divide a piece of paper in half, with one side for "Character Notes" and the other for "Textual Evidence." Explain that the Character Notes are for observations, insights, and details about their character, and Textual Evidence refers to quotations and page numbers. As they read, students will keep "running logs" on their character in their reading journals.
- Invite students to share their Character Notes and Textual Evidence. Discuss: How has your character changed over time? Do you notice any specific "stages" of development? For example, Jake deals with his grandfather's illness by moving through different emotional stages: fear, embarrassment, resentment, and eventually understanding. BR>
- Visually represent the character's development by creating "The Stairs of Change." For this project, students will draw a large staircase with five or more steps. Each step will stand for a significant change in the character. At the top of the step, describe the change using details from the novel. Below each step, write the evidence for the change, noting page references. Be sure to place the changes in correct sequence and label the "Stairs of Change" with the character's name.
Students present their "Stairs of Change" posters in small groups and discuss the most significant changes in their character. Which character changed the most? The least? Why? How do changes in one character influence changes in others?
Other Books About Relationships With the Elderly
by Paul Zindel
A teenage boy befriends an eccentric elderly man and discovers the value of true friendship.
The Moustache (short story)
by Robert Cormier
An emotionally powerful story about a boy and his relationship with his senile grandmother.
Other Books by Barbara Park
Mick Harte Was Here
The Kid in the Red Jacket
The Junie B. Jones Books