Cousins of Clouds

Cousins of Clouds
Tracie's NEW BOOK!

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Reaching for Sun

Reaching for Sun

by Tracie Vaughn Zimmer
Reading Group Guide

  1. Reaching for Sun is a story about a girl who is like most girls—she fights with her mother, has a crush on a boy, and feels bullied by the popular girls.  In what ways do you personally relate to Josie, and in what ways is she different from you?  How do these differences make you feel?

  1. What did you know about cerebral palsy before reading this book?  After?  In what ways does Josie’s cerebral palsy challenge her, and in what ways does it make her stronger?

  1. Josie likes to eat breakfast for dinner.  What is your favorite meal?  What makes it so special?

  1. Josie, along with her mother and grandmother, has a special connection to her family’s land.  Does your family have a special place—a summer cottage, vacation spot, or even the house you live in year round—that has an important meaning to you?  Why do you feel so connected to this place?

  1. Reaching for Sun is divided into four sections based on the seasons of the year.  In what season is Josie happiest?  How do Josie’s relationships with her mother, her grandmother, and her friend Jordan change over the course of the year?

  1. Josie wants her summer “to be a wildflower-seed mix (pg. 81).”  What do you think Josie means by this?

  1. Josie and her grandmother dream of going to Paris.  If you could travel anywhere in the world, where would you go and why? 

  1. Josie likes to visit the Lazy Acres nursing home with her grandmother.  Why?  Where do you feel most accepted?

  1. Josie uses images from the natural world to describe her own emotional and physical growth, comparing herself to flowers and other plants.  For example, she doesn’t “want to be pruned or pinched back/like a wilting petunia” when her mother nags her about therapy (p. 80).  Which flower, plant, or tree best represents you and why?  How does your favorite flower or tree make you feel?

  1. Josie and Jordan are best friends who meet under a willow tree and discover their mutual interes

Reaching for Sun is written completely in Josie’s voice. Experiment with voice by writing a few free verse poems through the eyes of Jordan. It can be any part of the novel or even set after it is over. Think about what types of words Jordan would use to describe an event and what types of things he might compare something to.

Reread any poem in the story and answer the following questions about it: Who is it about? What happens in the poem? Where does it take place? What poetic language does the author use? Why did you choose this poem?

Free verse poetry is a great form to build student fluency- with it’s generous white space it doesn’t intimidate and it is written to flow off the tongue. Have students tape themselves reading a poem and then practice reading it silently (or under their breath) and then re-tape their reading. Students will be impressed by their marked improved performance.

As you read find ten words that you wouldn’t usually use in your everyday conversations. Then, try to use them as you go through your day. Write a brief journal about how this word experiment went.

Three Feet Square
Josie and Jordan tape off a small section of the garden and then study it over the course of the summer. You could do the same (and choose an even smaller border). Count insects, take pictures, study the plants and the soil conditions over time.

Learn more about cerebral palsy or another common disability. Research the causes, the impairments it can cause, the treatments, and how you can help. Create a pamphlet about what you learned.

Create a piece of collage or sculpture inspired by Josie’s story.  Use any media you like but explain it in a brief artist’s statement that you turn in with the piece (an index card works nicely).

Gran’s Divinity Recipe   (from the author’s grandmother’s kitchen)

Poetic Elements

Reaching for Sun
By Tracie Vaughn Zimmer
Poets use word tools to make their language stand out from regular prose. This poetic language is called figurative and it has many types. Read the definitions of these tools and then find an example of each in the novel. Then, try your own!
Types of poetic language:
An example from the novel:
An example of your own:
 Repeated consonant sounds
 " lovely, leafy lettuce”

 Repeated Vowel sounds
 "The June moon loomed over the horizon"

Creating pictures for the senses
“First day of school smells like new books”

Comparing two things by saying something IS something else:
“the ocean is a bowl of dreams”

 A comparison using the words "like" or "as."
 "He smells like a gym shoe.”

 Making an object act or look like a person or animal
 "The storm danced across the sky”

©2007 Tracie Vaughn Zimmer


Character Chart
Reaching for Sun
Tracie Vaughn Zimmer

Readers learn about characters in four ways: what they say, what they do, what they look like, and what others think and say about them. Find details about each character that helps you understand them from the book.

                                     Appearance             Actions                          Words                     Others






Making Connections:

Good readers make connections as they try to understand a story. They think about how the story reminds them of other stories, how it relates to their own life and to the world around them. Tuck this chart in the book so you can make notes about what you’re thinking as you read the novel. Try to make at least one of each type of connection for each season in the book.

Chapter &
p. #
Text to text
Text to self
Text to world

Tell how this book reminds you of another in plot, content, style or structure
Relate what you just read to an experience or memory from your own life
Show how the book relates to events from the real world, or facts and info. that you know

This book reminds me of LOVE THAT DOG by Sharon Creech because it is written in poem
Like Josie I’ve been teased at school though not as often.
I wonder if Josie can be cured of cerebral palsy or if she’ll always have it.





Understanding Poems

Sometimes readers get confused when they read poems because of the fancy language or how few words are used to tell a story. Practice your understanding of poems by thinking about the five “W’s” as you read: who, what, when, where, and why.

Title of poem: _____________ page______

Who is this poem about?

Where does this poem take place?

What happens in the poem?

When is it happening?

Why is this poem important?

Title of poem: _____________ page______

Who is this poem about?

Where does this poem take place?

What happens in the poem?

When is it happening?

Why is this poem important?