Have you read Angie Thomas's amazing YA novel, The Hate U Give, now a powerful movie? (+ award-winning audiobook) And now there's an excellent novel-in-verse written by Kwame Alexander and Mary Rand Hess, Swing, to pair with The Hate U Give.
As it happens, I created an educator guide for Swing (along with Cornelius Minor) which you can download if you make the #HugLife commitment at Kwame's site here. Kwame invites us to "use our voices for good by starting meaningful and encouraging conversations in classrooms and communities all over the country." I support that idea, don't you?
Swing is about two best friends, Noah and Walt (aka Swing) who are still close, but headed in somewhat different directions. Walt is a dreamer perfecting his baseball swing and working on his suave approach to girls. Noah is more hesitant, still obsessed with his childhood crush who may or may not be his soulmate. Their paths cross and diverge as they negotiate high school, love quests, and jazz and baseball, all in a restless community dealing with random American flag sightings. And watch out for that electric ending!
The educator guide includes key vocabulary, discussion question prompts, a character list, craft and structure exercises, simile and metaphor hunts, quotes and sayings, readers theater plans, notes on relevant podcasts, poetry writing ideas, cross-curricular and cross-genre connections, and a bibliography of related poetry books. Plus, Cornelius Minor offers input on the social context for this story.
Meanwhile, here's a tiny teaser nugget from the guide:
CHARACTERS AND CHARACTERIZATION
A good place to begin in peeling away the layers of a good book is by considering the characters whose lives and conflicts drive the story. It can be helpful to identify the main characters of the story and learn their names and nicknames, an important part of this story (and the title of the book). Talk about the names of each of the major characters and speculate about the significance of each, particularly as the story moves along and you learn more about each one.
As students read or listen to this verse novel, encourage them to visualize each of the main characters and talk about what they look like and how they talk and act. Work together to draw character sketches or find magazine or web-based images that students think depict these main characters. Some students may enjoy imagining casting their own movie version of “Swing” and deciding which actors might play which roles.
Cast of characters
Noah Wallace, the narrator
Walt (Walt Disney Jones), also known as Swing, best friend of Noah
Moses (Mo), Walt’s older brother, a soldier
Sam (Samantha), Noah’s friend and girl crush
Divya, older teen, thrift store employee, and Walt’s love interest
Cruz, Sam’s on again-off again boyfriend
Floyd, Walt’s adult cousin and source of advice
Noah’s parents; Walt’s mom and stepdad
Granny, Noah's grandmother
Hope you'll grab this compelling verse novel, another homerun from Kwame and Mary!