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Where the Steps Were
     

Where the Steps Were

by Andrea Cheng
 

Class with Miss D. gives the students at Pleasant Hill Elementary the confidence they need to move on to their new school. The third-graders are sad that this will be their last year at Pleasant Hill Elementary before their school is torn down. Poems narrated in the voices of five different students—Dawn, Kayla, Jonathan, Anthony, and Carmen—relate

Overview

Class with Miss D. gives the students at Pleasant Hill Elementary the confidence they need to move on to their new school. The third-graders are sad that this will be their last year at Pleasant Hill Elementary before their school is torn down. Poems narrated in the voices of five different students—Dawn, Kayla, Jonathan, Anthony, and Carmen—relate the events of their last year together with their teacher, Miss D. The year is busy as the students, each facing a challenge at home, prepare to put on a play, take field trips to a local farm, and do experiments in the science lab. They are studying the Civil War and key figures in the civil rights movement. When the students go to a play in a real theatre, they are kicked out for no good reason. Miss D. helps the students write letters to the theater manager, demanding to know why they weren't allowed to see the play. Is it because their skin is black?

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

* "Cheng's free-verse poems give voice to the children, allowing them to speak their hopes, frustrations and fears. . . . There is no rising or falling action, simply the opportunity to get to know these third graders as complete and distinct individuals." --Kirkus Reviews, starred review

* "A spare, eloquent novel in verse. . . . These poems pay tribute to hard-working educators and children learning to overcome obstacles and accept unwelcome changes." --Publishers Weekly, starred review

"An inspirational tool for creative writing as well as a way to approach civil rights and social issues to the younger grades." --Library Media Connection

Publishers Weekly

In a spare, eloquent novel in verse illustrated with her own bold block prints, Cheng (Marika ) captures the moods of five inner-city third-graders as they prepare themselves for their school's impending demolition. A sense of loss prevails, but other emotions-jealousy, indignation, pride and love-percolate as the five narrators deal with personal issues at school and at home. Using very few words, the author conveys complicated back stories: Jonathan, for example, can't go home with his friend, and his friend "can't come to my house, either./ I used to have a house/ before my little brother Caleb/ set the mattress on fire/.... He wanted to dry out the sheets/ before anyone saw." She also evokes the children's innocence and shared affection for their teacher, Miss D., who instills in them a strong sense of justice, especially after they are falsely accused of spitting from a theater balcony. Mixing sad and uplifting images occurring between the fall and spring of a school year, these poems pay tribute to hard-working educators and children learning to overcome obstacles and accept unwelcome changes. Ages 6-up. (Mar.)

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Children's Literature - Cathi I. White
Pleasant Hill School has been around for a long time. The school is being torn down after this school year. The children are sad and do not understand why the school has to go. After all, this school was where their parents and grandparents went. The teacher, Miss D., tries to give the children opportunities for making memories that will last. She tries to teach the children about fairness, honesty, sharing, and standing up for what is right. This unique book is in poem form, expressing how each child feels as they attempt to work through their emotions about leaving school, as well as some personal problems. Miss D.'s classroom is one place the children can go and feel safe. The year turns out to be an eventful one with some hard lessons learned. The author did a wonderful job of capturing the feelings of children in this kind of situation. This exceptional book will stir up the emotions of readers as they see what the children are experiencing and would be wonderful when used in a classroom setting to discuss emotions and other lessons learned. Reviewer: Cathi I. White
School Library Journal

Gr 2-4- Free-verse voices of five different third graders relate the last year of Pleasant Hill School before it is torn down. All of the children have their issues-Jonathan's family is temporarily homeless, Kayla's brother is in jail, Dawn feels fat-but the youngsters are bound by their love for their teacher, Miss D., and for their school. The poems relate both the larger issues and familiar day-to-day details: lessons, getting ready for a play, playground jealousies. Cheng is a skilled writer with an ability to relate a realistic child perspective that is deceptively simple. Here, unfortunately, her efforts are hampered by her own concept and art. The five voices are not distinct, making it difficult to trace any character arc, and the woodblock illustrations lack child appeal. The book design, while elegant, speaks to a much older audience-at least middle school, and most likely adults. These elements taken together completely undercut the appeal for the audience to which the words speak best. Except as a classroom read-aloud, it's hard to imagine this book leaving a library shelf.-Nina Lindsay, Oakland Public Library, CA

Kirkus Reviews
A delicate verse cycle gives readers a series of snapshots of the lives of five children in an inner-city school. Dawn is plump, and fearful of her volatile father. Kayla can't read, and her brother is in jail. Carmen's mother smokes like a chimney. Anthony shows up early every morning to help Miss D. Jonathan lives with his mother and little brother in a homeless shelter. They all know that at the end of the year, their school will close, and what little stability they have becomes all the more precious to them. Cheng's free-verse poems give voice to the children, allowing them to speak their hopes, frustrations and fears; her powerful, blocky woodcuts accompany the poems, intensifying their emotional impact. She wisely avoids the temptation to craft the year into an obvious narrative arc: Things happen to the children-a class play, a visit to the farm, a parent's illness-alongside the commonplace squabbles and reconciliations that punctuate any school year. Thus there is no rising or falling action, simply the opportunity to get to know these third graders as complete and distinct individuals. Quietly lovely. (Poetry. 9-12)

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781932425888
Publisher:
Highlights Press
Publication date:
03/28/2008
Pages:
144
Product dimensions:
5.20(w) x 8.30(h) x 0.90(d)
Lexile:
860L (what's this?)
Age Range:
6 - 12 Years

Meet the Author

Andrea Cheng teaches English as a Second Language in Cincinnati, Ohio, where she lives with her husband and their three children. She has written many books for young people, including the novels Marika, The Lace Dowry, and Eclipse and Tire Mountain, a picture book.

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