Each month Jen Vincent and I choose a book to discuss together. As we read the book we chat back and forth in a google document. We post the chat here at sharpread. This month our pick is Kirby Larson’s Hattie Big Sky.
JEN: I am in love with the characters Kirby Larson brings to life in Hattie Big Sky. Can I just tell you that I am so angry with Traft Martin? So angry. I haven’t been this angry I don’t think since…well, I guess since the dad from Gae Polisner’s The Pull of Gravity. But before that, it was this guy named Markham Reynolds from The Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Anny Shaffer and Annie Barrows. Oh, how I loathe Markham Reynolds. His is a literary name I will never ever forget. I think Traft Martin is on his way to being another character I will not soon erase from my memory.
COLBY: Traft is not someone that many readers are going to fall in love with. I think Kirby does an amazing job of creating characters that we fall in love with and characters that we despise. I guess what I would say is that Kirby creates characters that are real. They have real hopes and real dreams, and like in the real world some characters are real jerks.
JEN: I agree that they are definitely real. I feel like I just can’t put my finger on it. I’m not sure what makes it so easy to fall in love with them. I’m almost thinking when you say real, it’s like it’s so easy to believe they are real. They are believable and their experiences are relatable even if they are living almost one hundred years ago. I shake my head in awe.
COLBY: If some were to say to me, “Say, Mr. Sharp, why do you think Hattie Big Sky is so awesome?” The first thing I would do, if I had the book handy, would be to read them this passage. FYI: prepare for goosebumps.
In November, the three years would be up on Uncle Chester’s claim. On my claim. And I would have everything checked off, everything accomplished. I would step into 1919 a new person-not Hattie Here-and-There, reliant on relatives to giver her a roof and board, but Hattie Inez Brooks. Hattie Big Sky, I added with a touch of romance. Hattie Home-of-Her Own.
I can picture a room full of librarians huddled together in a room at ALA Mid Winter reading that passage aloud to each other, and thinking about how deserving this book was of a Newbery Honor.
JEN: What I see in that passage is someone with hopes and dreams. In the end, isn’t that what we all want? Not that we always keep sight of this every minute of every day, but we all have our hopes and dreams. A dream to feel that you have carved a place in this world. A little niche that’s all yours and that you can be proud of. A little place that you can call home. There is definitely something to be said about owning something – whether it’s a house, a piece of land, a book, a notebook, a painting. To know that it’s yours or your fulfilled something is an awesome feeling.
I think about this in terms of students going back to school and teachers developing that culture of respect and rapport. How do we help students feel at home and feel as though they belong and as though they have worth in the classroom? Sharing a book with a student, having confidence in kids enough to trust them to borrow books from the classroom library, giving kids a writer’s notebook to call their own, asking kids to share their writing and giving them in-the-moment, honest feedback can nourish that feeling of feeling part of something big and feeling proud to be part of it. It’s worth it. It was worth it to Hattie, too.
COLBY: It is a great passage for back to school. It makes me think about creating a culture in my classroom where students are not afraid to dream and think big. I want my students to be like Hattie. I want them to shoot for the stars and want to do things that might seem a little bit crazy. Hattie proving up a claim in Montana is nuts, but she goes for it. I LOVE that about Hattie.
JEN: Yes! It might be nuts and she might have so many things against her, but she does it anyway. There is a country song about this, about just doing it no matter what the odds are against you. Just as I was typing this, my youngest son ask me to help him get Play-Doh out of a bucket and he said it was too hard. I stopped and told him it was okay, that we could do it. I showed him how and that we could at least try. Life isn’t always easy but if we really want to make our hopes and dreams come true, we probably have to try. There will be bumps along the way but hopefully they are worth it and we learn from them so we get to our hopes and dreams in the end. And if we don’t, at least we can know we did our best.
This actually makes me think of teaching – how we strive to have the best year every year and how things won’t be exactly perfect every single day, but we do our best and can be proud of that!
If you like Hattie Big Sky as much as Jen and I do, I hope you’ll join the Hattie Big Sky book club chat on Twitter September 5.