Tuesday, June 16, 2015

The Journal (Lois Donovan)

Although I find time travel a little silly, I think it works in this book. It is kind of like a Magic TreeHouse book, only this is for middle school aged kids. Lois Donovan's other book involves time travel too. 

I loved reading about The Famous Five. There was plenty to learn and appreciate about this story. Unfortunately, I think it is a little too old for my grade 3 students, but would be great for middle school!

GoodReads summary: 

Kami's grade-eight year in Vancouver is off to a fantastic start. The senior soccer team. A birthday bash to celebrate turning thirteen. This could be the best year ever! Then Kami's world crashes when a mysterious letter arrives, and her mother decides they must move to Edmonton. Lonely and upset, Kami discovers a family journal with newspaper clippings, which, upon reading, sends her hurtling back in time to 1929. Here she meets the heroic WWI flying ace, "Wop" May, as he embarks on a dangerous mission to the north. Kami then becomes involved with Judge Emily Murphy at the time when the "Famous Five" are fighting to have women recognized as "persons." But the Edmonton of 1929 is not exactly welcoming to persons of Asian heritage, and Kami encounters racial prejudice at every turn. When she also discovers a painful family secret, she begins to question everything she values and thought she knew. This is not how Kami had pictured her life as she turned thirteen. 

Although we really admire all that women like Emily Murphy did, being faced with prejudisms from that time made me squirm a little, and it would be a great discussion starter with kids: 

When Kami travels back in time she experiences the prejudicial attitudes of the day:
P. 89 Kami is talking to Emily Murphy, who has taken her in:

"I sense being a maid is distasteful to you, as though you consider yourself above that station." she paused. "You mentioned that your father is Scottish."
"His parents came from Scotland," I answered, wondering what that had to do with anything.
"Ah. Well, I can see some Scottish traits shining through, to be sure. But you are not Scottish. Not as far as society is concerned. You will always be considered Oriental. Working as a domestic, or something akin to it, is what will be available to you. Do you understand that?"
"No, I don't understand. I believe in equality. I thought you did, too."
"Kami, people arrive daily from other countries, wanting to make Canada their home. I don't blame them. It is a good country. But the fact remains that Canada is founded on British values, and those coming to our country must adhere to those British values." She began to cough, and I handed her the glass of water from her night time.
"Do British values exclude people who are Japanese?"
"Some races are known to have certain issues, shall we say, that are not in the best interest of society."

It was fascinating to read the discussions people of the 1920s had as they grappled with the idea that women might be considered persons and be allowed to vote and own land. Any reference to persons in the law at that time only meant men as women had a very defined role: working in the home and raising children. There was no need for them to vote or own anything, according to the creators of the British North America Act. Once women were considered "persons" it took two decades before Asian people were considered the same. The big question Kami struggles with is whether or not Emily Murphy was less a hero because of her prejudisms typical of the time. She decides that no one is perfect. Kami says: 

P. 180 Everyone is influenced by the society that raised them and the values they were taught. Emily Murphy fought for what she believed was right, and she left Canada a better place than she found it. If she were here today, I believe she would challenge each of us to leave the world better than we found it. What an awesome world we would have if we all followed her lead."

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