Keeping the Night Watch
Keeping the Night Watch . Smith, Hope AnitaHenry Holt & Co., 2008
Grade Level: 6-8
ISBN & Cost: 978-0-8050-7202-0; $18.95
©2008, used by permission of Henry Holt and Company
C. J.'s father has returned home after leaving his family behind. Since his father's absence, C. J. has become the “man” of the family, and has taken on multiple responsibilities. Now that his father is back in the picture, C. J. is struggling with the overwhelming emotions of anger, his place in the family, and worries about how he should “be” with his father .
This book dealt well with the many issues that children face when a parent leaves for a time and then suddenly returns. The themes of family, courage, overcoming obstacles, and finally forgiveness are apparent in the many layers of this book. Since the book is written in the poetic format, readers must read the poems not just for the story they tell, but for the deeper meanings they express. The author did a beautiful job weaving the story with the many emotions that C.J. was facing. Older readers would probably be better able to grasp the multiple meanings in the book.
Themes: Novels in verse. ; Family life -- Fiction. ; Fathers -- Fiction. ; African Americans -- Fiction. ; Families -- Juvenile poetry. ; Fathers -- Juvenile poetry. African Americans -- Juvenile poetry.
Biographical information can be found at the author's website: http://hopeanitasmith.com/
Discussion Questions: (Standard 3, Benchmark 3)
• How does the author use allusion to help the reader gain a deeper meaning of C. J.'s story?
• As C.J. is experiencing the first family dinner after his father's return, why does he describe his father's words as “plastic?” How does this connect to your life?
• How does the sister begin to connect to her father, and why is that so difficult for C. J.?
• At what point in the book can you see that the family is healing and coming together?
Activity #1--What is Allusion? Standard 2: Literature: Benchmark 1 : The student uses literary concepts to interpret and respond to text. 2.1.5 identifies literary devices (e.g., foreshadowing, flashback, figurative language, irony, metaphor, tone/mood, and symbolism ).
When you read a story or a poem, the author often uses few words to represent a multitude of ideas. Allusion actually means “reference,” so when you are reading a sentence or a phrase, the author may directly state one idea, but there may be references to other ideas. Common sources for allusions are references to another work of fiction, a film, a piece of art, or even a real event. In Keeping the Night Watch , the author uses allusions frequently to not only give you the reader a cohesive story, but to also help you search for a deeper meaning in the story. For example, the author uses many allusions when describing the conversations taking place between family members as they are trying to reconnect after the father's absence.
Family Cooking Instructions
Their conversation is sweet.
Their words are light and airy
like a just-baked cake.
They sugarcoat it
to cover up any flaws or imperfections.
Try to hide the sunken part.
They are so careful,
each wearing their own apron
to protect their clothed selves.
And that's why,
when I show up,
metal-cold and steel-gray,
they are not prepared.
I slice through
and we ooze out.
That's when we see that
we are not done in the middle.
We need to bake a little longer.
In this poem, the author is using a real event like cooking to create a deeper meaning to the family's emotions and reactions to each other. You will be given a strip that has an allusion written on it; follow the instructions to complete the task.
- Take the assigned allusion and read it to your group.
- On the back side of the strip, write what the phrase is referring to and what deeper meaning this represents in the novel.
- Explain the allusion to the class.
Activity Suggestion #2--Writing from the Heart, Standard 1: Reading: The student reads and comprehends text across the curriculum, Benchmark 4: The student comprehends a variety of texts (narrative, expository, technical, and persuasive). 1.4.4 generates and responds logically to literal, inferential, evaluative, synthesizing, and critical thinking questions before, during, and after reading text. *1.4.5?uses information from the text to make inferences and draw conclusions.
Over the next several class periods, you will respond to what you are reading in a variety of ways. After responding to the text, you will try your hand at writing a poem that has a personal connection to you.
To help guide you in your responses you will be using a double-entry journal. You will split your paper into two halves, either by drawing a line down the center or folding in half (hot-dog style).
In the first column, have students write a short excerpt from the text that they can identify as a text-to-world, text-to-self, or text-to-text connection. You may want to talk to students about how to write from the text. For example they will need to use quotation marks, use ellipses when leaving out words from the sentences, put author's last name and page number in parentheses at the end of the quote.
In the second column, students will first need to identify the type of connection they are making. Then they will give a clear explanation about the connection. You could specify the length of the connection if you wanted to.
In the first column, have students write two prediction questions: one question should be about what will happen next in the story; the second question should be about how the story will end.
In the second column, students will write their prediction responses.
In the first column, students will write a short excerpt from the text that uses imagery. Students will need to be reminded to use proper punctuation and parenthetical documentation
In the second column, students will write their emotional response to the imagery.
In the first column, students will write an example of a use of symbolism in the text.
In the second column, students will write what the phrase symbolizes and how the phrase is used to help them further understand the text.
Activity Suggestion 3—Analysis of Many Layered Themes
Standard 1: Reading: The student reads and comprehends text across the curriculum. Benchmark 4: The student comprehends a variety of texts (narrative, expository, technical, and persuasive). 1.4.4 generates and responds logically to literal, inferential , evaluative, synthesizing, and critical thinking questions before, during, and after reading text. *1.4.5?uses information from the text to make inferences and draw conclusions.
Theme is often seen as the lesson learned by characters throughout the book. However, when reading a novel, you may come across multiple themes, and some of them are common among books. For example, themes of bravery, friendship, trust, fairness, family, etc. can be found in many novels. Keeping The Night Watch is no exception to the rule about multiple themes. In the following lesson, you will be analyzing how different themes are used in this book, and then discussing how the theme can be found in other novels.
Below you will write responses for how these different themes can be found in the novel. You will use some of the author's words to support your response. Look at the example provided for assistance.