I Love To Read!

posted: Wednesday, February 1, 2017 

Yesterday, we were excited to welcome internationally acclaimed author Carol Matas to SJR! Carol has penned over 45 books for children and young adults (many of which we have in our library!), including several award-winning series. Carol writes contemporary and historical fiction, as well as science fiction and fantasy. She first began writing historical fiction when her Danish husband told her stories about his parents’ experiences fighting the Nazis in World War II. Most of her books incorporate Jewish themes, and 11 of her novels deal specifically with the Holocaust. After becoming well-known for her Holocaust books for young readers, the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C. asked her to write Daniel’s Story, which became a best seller.

Carol’s visit began at the Junior School assembly as a kick-off to “I Love to Read” month. She asked the students if they liked to read (the response to which was a resounding YES and a hall filled with raised hands!), and then why they liked to read. Students’ answers ranged from “sometimes they’re funny and have pictures” and “it’s relaxing and interesting” to “it gives us good imaginations” and “you can learn new things.” Carol confessed that she used to be called a bookworm when she was young, even admitting to reading under the covers by flashlight at night because she didn’t want to put her book down! She then read Oh Yes I Will!, a story she recently co-wrote with Perry Nodelman, with whom she also co-wrote the Minds fantasy series for young readers. She encouraged the students to use their imaginations to think about the pictures that would be in the story.

After the younger grades left the assembly, Grades 4 and 5 remained for a more in-depth discussion. Carol read the students the opening chapter from her latest historical fiction novel, Tucson Jo, which tells the story of a young girl whose family moved from Boston to the “Wild West” of Arizona. Here, her father (based on the first Jewish mayor of Tucson), quickly expresses his embarrassment and outrage at the thought of his daughter wearing trousers in public, and decides to outlaw the idea for all women entirely.

Carol asked the students if they thought this was right. Should Jo’s father pass the law? In the story, she asks her mother who decides what is just, and what is not. She is met with the answer: “society,” to which Jo asks, “and society is never wrong?” Students were eager to share their views: “Women should have the same rights as everybody else,” said one student. Carol then furthered the discussion by asking the students their thoughts on freedom. “It’s when you’re able to choose and not be forced to do things,” said a Grade 4 student. Another went on to speak of when it’s okay for governments to tell us what to do: “If you do something wrong to hurt someone else.” The discussion continued, covering current events, ways leaders can sometimes twist things, truth, and what we should be able to decide for ourselves. Tucson Jo covers themes of elections, civics, ideals, law, and freedom, led by a strong and relatable character fighting against being pigeonholed into labels such as “Jew” and “girl.” An engaging, interactive, and inspiring discussion was the perfect way to kick off “I Love to Read” Month!