Logo Title Quebec Reading Connection

My Great-Aunt Arizona

Houston, Gloria (Author)
Lamb, Susan Condie (Illustrator)
HarperCollins 1997. 32 pages
First published: 1992
ISBN: 9780064433747 (paperback)
Original language: English
Book type: Non-Fiction
Book genre: Biography

Text Elements:

figurative language, setting

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:

This gentle, poetic story is full of interest, conveying an idyllic picture of country life in times past. The language relates Arizona’s happy childhood—reading, playing, growing flowers and dreaming of faraway places while attending a one room schoolhouse: “All the students read their lessons/aloud/at the same time./They made/a great deal of noise,/so/the room was called a blab school.”

Soft-edged images in pastel effects depict the fields and forests of the Blue Ridge Mountains. In one golden-green spread, pigs root around the fence, as girls (in pinafores) and boys (in overalls) spend their lunch time playing outdoors. Another image shows Arizona as an educated young woman, book under one arm, returning home to teach at the very same schoolhouse.

In the end, Arizona shares her love of flowers and faraway places over the course of a fulfilling teaching career of 57 years. “Have you been there?” the students asked. “Only in my mind,” she answered. “But someday you will go.” This is a moving book about a life thoroughly enjoyed and generously lived.

  •  

    Browse the illustrations, paying attention to the setting. What can you predict about the story based on the setting?

  •  

    Sketch your school and that of Arizona. Label your sketches to emphasize their similarities and differences. Make a third sketch of what you think a school might look like 100 years in the future.

  •  

    Reread the story with a group or partner, looking for examples of repetitive language. Discuss the author’s purpose in repeating certain words and phrases.

  •  

    What does the narrator mean when she says that her Great-Aunt Arizona “goes with us in our minds”? Write about a person who will go with you in your mind, even when you are grown up.

  •  

    Take a picture walk and describe the setting, paying attention to details. Make predictions about the story, then compare them with the story as it is read aloud.

  •  

    Compare the students, teacher and school from the story with your own environment. How are they similar or different? Use a graphic organizer to show your findings. How do you imagine a school in the future?

  •  

    Build a family tree for Arizona and for yourself. With a partner, discuss how the families are similar or different.

  •  

    Draw a character map depicting why Great-Aunt Arizona left a great impression on many people. From your own circle of people, chose and write about one who you appreciate, someone who will “go with you in your mind.”

  • To construct his/her identity
  • Citizenship and Community Life
  • Geography, History and Citizenship