Logo Title Quebec Reading Connection

Going North

Lagarrigue, Jerome (Illustrator)
Macmillan 2004. 36 pages
First published: 2004
ISBN: 9780374326814 (hardcover)
Original language: English
Book type: Picture Book

Text Elements:

figurative language, point of view

Reading Range

 
Cycle
Elementary
Secondary
 
1
2
3
1
2
ELA
K
1
2
3
4
5
6
1
2
3
4
5
ESL
1
2
3
4
5
6
1
2
3
4
5
ESL Intensive & Enriched
5
6
1
2
3
4
5

Description:

Set in the early 1960s, this book traces the migration of an African-American family from Alabama to Nebraska, because “Everyone talks and talks about how much better the North is.” But the difficulty of leaving their family and home for the unknown is exacerbated by the restrictions of segregation: they “Can’t stop just anywhere./Only the Negro stations,/only the Negro stores.”

The story is told lyrically from the perspective of the elder daughter, who shares her apprehension and sadness about the move. Similes describe the landscape the family passes on their journey, the “red sand and cotton fields, pines marking the sky like black crayons” as she reluctantly says her goodbyes: “We’re going on./Cotton fields getting smaller, going by./Even the people getting smaller, going by.”

Hazy, soft-edged paintings bring out the heat of the Deep South and capture the emotions of the characters, such as when the young narrator lovingly embraces her grandmother one last time, and later, when she and her sister gaze wistfully out the car window as they pass a peach stand along the road.

Ending on a positive note, the family stands together in front of their station wagon, as for a sepia-tinted photograph. “Be brave. We’re together. Pioneers.”

A simple map on the endpapers shows the family’s journey and an author’s note explains how the story is autobiographical.

  •  

    Read the author’s note and look at the map on the endpapers. Discuss the context of the story.

  •  Notice the use of poetic language. Take turns reading aloud with appropriate intonation and expression.
  •  

    How do the illustrations support the text? Discuss the feelings that are portrayed through the art.

  •  What were the advantages and disadvantages for the family in moving from Alabama to Nebraska? What would you have done in that situation?
  •  

    Examine the book cover and make predictions about the story. Based on the endpapers, adjust your predictions.

  •  

    Listen as the front book flap is read aloud. Brainstorm the word segregation. Does this influence your predictions?

  •  

    After the read-aloud, discuss your predictions in light of the story. How are the challenges and emotions portrayed in the text and in the pictures? Create a mind map of the story.

  •  The story The Relatives Came by Cynthia Rylant has a similar cover. In small teams, compare and contrast the two stories. Write your findings in a graphic organizer.
  • To exercise critical judgment
  • To use information
  • Citizenship and Community Life
  • Geography, History and Citizenship