All this week I'm featuring texts and stories that tackle an issue that's increasingly important in our desert Southwest: immigration.
This is a story that that will get a lot of use in lower middle and upper elementary classrooms. Although not expressly marketed as such, it could be interpreted as an allegory -- a story about one thing that represents another -- using science-fiction to highlight the plight of immigrant students in the US today.
On another planet, Dostramixon crashes his drone into a government watching station. He fears this act will get himself and his family arrested by the overly oppressive Trinichian government. But before government agents can track him down, he and his family escape to Earth, specifically Kentucky, where they crash land and try to fit in as much as possible by shedding their alien bodies, names, looks and ways and adopting human ones.
He becomes Iko and struggles to avoid detection and capture by his government while trying to "fit in" and make friends in the 6th grade. It's not easy and he becomes a target for Zeke, who outs him as an alien almost immediately, and Marty, the class bully. Even the smallest cultural mistakes -- like using Trinichian words accidentally -- runs the risk of exposing Iko's alien-ness. In addition, Iko misses his grandfather, who was left behind by the family's quick flight.
The author, Gail Kamer, is a former educator and school administrator. This book is intended for a slightly younger audience than I usually review but I often found books like this could be devoured, discussed and used to introduce a heavier, more complex concept -- like immigration -- in a few class periods.
Kamer posted a free teaching guide on my favorite pay-for-teaching-resources site, Teachers Pay Teachers. It's easy to sign up for a free account and get the downloadable guide, which includes a Power Point presentation complete with chapter-by-chapter writing prompts, character development graphic organizers, vocabulary and more. There's an interview with Kamer about the book that could be used in classrooms, as well.
I'll review two more fiction books Wednesday and Friday which deal more explicitly with immigration's psychological effects on school-age students. They're for slightly older (grades 7-8) students. One doesn't have a teaching guide, so you'll see it posted only under MG Books.