- Tracing Connections. In March of this year, while speaking in Cambridge, Massachusetts, Kevin Henkes said that each book leads to the next. Have your students examine the picture books A Good Day, Old Bear, and My Garden. What connections do they make, in Henkes’s artwork, stories, or themes, to Junonia?
- Making Predictions. Each chapter starts with a blue sketch, rendered by Henkes. Have children predict the role the sketched item might have in the chapter and why that specific item was chosen for the chapter sketch. The book trailer (see below) features Henkes talking about these illustrations.
- Exploring Families in Henkes’s Work. Historically, many children’s novels feature child protagonists acting on their own; indeed, many older children’s novels have orphans at their center. Do parents always need to fade into the background? Should they? In Henkes’s novels, they usually don’t, and Junonia is no exception. While your students read Junonia, or when they are done, read aloud from two of Henkes’s previous novels, Sun and Spoon or The Birthday Room, in which the male protagonists are ten and twelve respectively. What role do parents play? In what ways are the main characters left on their own to work their worries, grief, or growing pains? In what ways do the parents serve as sounding boards, mentors, and companions?
- Family Rituals. For much of the novel, Alice must adjust to unexpected changes to a cherished family tradition. What are some of your students’ family traditions? What makes them special? Who participates? Have they experienced unexpected changes, too? Have students write about these special rituals and compile the reflections in a class book.
- Gift Giving. In Junonia, Alice receives many gifts that aren’t purchased, that she cherishes all the same: gelato spoons collected during an Italian vacation, old coins, a seashell on a string necklace, and a sand heart constructed on the beach, decorated with shells and sea glass. Have students share stories about special gifts that they have given or received that didn’t involve buying something. What makes these gifts so special?
- Rarity. On page 163, Alice wonders “what made something rare.” Explore some of the online resources below to uncover why finding junonia shells on Sanibel Island is so rare that each person who does gets his/her picture in the local paper! Next, have students list what they consider “rare” in their lives, and ponder why those items are valued.
- Finding Family. There are many Florida friends whom Alice considers family, although they are not actual family members, including her special “Aunt” Kate, and “[t]hey didn’t exactly look like they all belonged together the way some families did.” In today’s world, it is likely that families find themselves living apart from grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins. How do families keep in touch in the digital age? What friends serve as substitute extended family? Have your students create family trees that include both actual family members and friends that feel like family.
- A field guide for identifying shells.
- Protagonist Rob discovers a caged tiger in the woods behind the Florida hotel in which he lives with his father. Rob, with help from his new friend Sistine, work to free the tiger and wind up rebuilding their lives in the process.
- Skeet discovers a dead manatee in a Florida river, and devotes his spring break to finding out who is responsible.
- Thirteen-year-old Ben, like Alice, makes new discoveries about himself and his family while on vacation in Florida.
- Noah and Abby, brother and sister, secretly gather evidence that a floating casino is illegally polluting water in the Florida Keys.
- Upon moving to Florida, Roy befriends with a brother and sister team determined to stop the construction of a pancake restaurant on the habit of burrowing owls.
- It’s 1935, in the midst of the Great Depression, and eleven-year-old Turtle must readjust to living in Key West, Florida, with relatives she’s never met.
- This novel of friendship and camaraderie also includes wonderful scenes of sea turtles set on Florida beaches.
Filed under: Novels
About Mary Ann Cappiello
Mary Ann is a professor of language and literacy at Lesley University. A former public school language arts and humanities teacher, she is a passionate advocate for and commentator on children’s books. Mary Ann is the co-author of Teaching with Text Sets (2013) and Teaching to Complexity (2015) and Text Sets in Action: Pathways Through Content Area Literacy (Stenhouse, 2021). She has been a guest on public radio and a consultant to public television. From 2015-2018, Mary Ann was a member of the National Council of Teachers of English's Orbis Pictus Award for Outstanding Nonfiction (K-8) Committee, serving two years as chair.
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