1. Each chapter covers a summer's trip to Grandma Dowdel. After WWII do you think Mary Alice and Joe will return to visit her? Write the next chapter of the book after the last one.
Teachers should provide students with resources to research the WWII period so that their ‘next chapter' will be historically accurate. Teachers should also discuss historical fiction, and the way in which authors weave historical facts into a fictional story.
Students who have relationships with their grandparents would believe that they would definitely return to visit Grandma Dowdel. If they returned in 1945 after WWII, then Mary Alice would be 23 and Joe would be 25. I think this last chapter would include more dialogue in which Grandma shares stories about her husband and Mary Alice and Joe share stories about what has happened in their lives in the past ten years. May Alice might be married, and Joe would be back from the war with many tales to tell.
2. This story takes place during the Great Depression. Do some research on the Depression and find out what else was happening in America during this time and how this may have influenced the events in the story.
Teachers should provide resources for the research and again discuss the purpose of historical fiction, how is different from nonfiction.
The Great Depression definitely influenced the story. Grandma was thrifty by nature, but she had to be extra thrifty in order to take care of her friends in town. The drifters in the story represented the many men out of work during the Depression who traveled the country looking for jobs. The bank foreclosing on Effie Wilcox's house demonstrates how difficult it was for people to keep up payments on their homes or even just regular bills. Grandma's picked vegetables and fruits show how she would not waste a bit of food, but would store it so that it would last. And rather than buy soap, Grandma made her own.
3. Every family has its stories-and some are as hilarious as Mary Alice's and Joe's about their grandmother. Talk with older relatives in your family and collect some family stories to share with the class.
This is a wonderful way for teachers to bring the student's families into the classroom. The students could not only orally retell the stories, but write them down and create memory books detailing the history of each unique family and their journey.