Saturday, January 30, 2010

Book Letter: Boy Overboard

One of the ways I assess reading in Reader's Workshop is through using book letters. Every two weeks I will post a book letter task and example. This week I am focusing on main idea/theme using Boy Overboard by Morris Gleitzman. As this will be the first time we discuss theme/main idea as a class, connecting the book to known information will be a big part of this book letter.

Book letter task: PDF
Book letter task: Doc

Dear Class,
I am writing to tell you about the main ideas I found in the book Boy Overboard by Morris Gleitzman. Boy Overboard is a story told by Jamal, a boy in Afghanistan in the time just before the current war. Jamal and his hot-tempered sister Bibi are forced to flee the country with their parents when the Taliban discover their parents are running an illegal school from their home. The rest of the book deals with their difficulty in reaching a far away country they are aiming for – Australia.

Before I started reading Boy Overboard, I already knew some things about its setting. I knew it was set in Afghanistan around 1999 to 2001. I knew that it was about children who were refugees, and arrived on boats seeking asylum. This was a big topic in Australia at that time, with many people worried that there were too many people coming to Australia, and some politicians using this worry to help them win elections. This was also the time of the Tampa controversy, with refugees accused of throwing their children into the water (this was later found to be false). I also knew that the Taliban had very strict laws in Afghanistan at that time, particularly when it came to girls and women.

The cover of the book told me more about the story. It shows a soccer ball with a globe on it, and an arrow pointing to Australia. This let me know that the main character was really interested in soccer, and that it might be important to the story. Although I do not know much about soccer, I know it is one of those sports that people get really passionate about, and that it was likely that the main character was too. It turned out that a soccer ball was one thing that connected Jamal to different parts of his life and the world, and also was an item which made it possible for Jamal to make friends and connections with new people and new parts of the world.

I think that the main idea in Boy Overboard is that children all around the world are essentially alike. That they all have dreams, ambitions and passions; that they love their families and that they want to be safe. Gleitzman expresses this through using a first person narrative – we are able to see inside Jamal’s head, and his thoughts are pretty similar to the thoughts that an Australian child would have in the same situation. I think Morris Gleitzman focused on this theme, because at the time the book was written, there were people who thought Afghan refugees were too different from Australians to ever fit in.

There are other themes running through Boy Overboard as well. One of them is how important family is, which is seen in Jamal and Bibi’s relationship with each other and with their parents. It is also seen in the other two children they meet – one whom has no family, so ‘adopts’ families along the way, and one whose family have given up everything to make sure she is safe. I think Gleitzman included this theme to back up the main idea.

I think it’s really important that we think about main ideas in a book like Boy Overboard. A lot of Morris Gleitzman books have strong themes – he tries to tell his readers a lot through his stories. It would be interesting to look at his other books and look at all his main ideas and whether any of them link together!



A Reader's Community

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Queensland, Australia
A Reader's Community is a place to find ideas, information, resources and recommendations about Reader's Workshop.

This Blog has five main types of posts.

About Reader's Workshop - information about Reader's Workshop in my classroom and how it works

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Book talks - Book recommendations of two or three books centred around a particular theme

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