I love how every semester brings new students and new takes on old reads. Thank you, Brittany Redman, for your take on this book.
Sones, S. (2001). What my mother doesn't know. New York: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers.
What My Mother Doesn’t Know by Sonya Sones is an easy read poetry book that would be very engaging and relatable for teenage girls. As I read it, it took me back to my own high school experiences. There were parts that made me giggle because I remember having the same perspective or sharing a similar experience. The book is written from the perspective of a teenage girl, Sophie, as she journeys through her first year of high school. Throughout the book, she tells of her experiences at school, her difficulty with her family, her attraction to boys, and her relationship with her two best friends, Rachel and Grace. In the end, Sophie must decide how much other people’s opinions matter to her. If I were using the somebody, wanted, but, so technique to summarize this book, I would say: Sophie, a freshman teenage girl, wanted a boyfriend and someone to hang out with, but she never imagined she would connect with Murphy. Now she must decide how much her friends’ opinions matter to her.
What My Mother Doesn’t Know is a fun realistic fiction coming of age novel that is written in free verse form. It is classified as realistic fiction because the character, Sophie, is a seemingly real teenage girl in a realistic setting, yet her story is fictional. It is considered free verse because most of the poems are unrhymed poetry with little or light rhythm. However, each poem in the book is unique. Here is a short excerpt of one of the free verse poems:
But Dylan calls me Sapphire.
He says it’s because of my eyes.
I love the way his voice sounds
When he says it.
The book is also written in a chronological format as Sophie tells pieces of her story as her freshman year progresses. The free verse form is a perfect fit for this book and is good for teens because it is less wordy than a typical novel. While this book will appeal mostly to female students because of the main character, it presents lessons that would be helpful for all teens.
There are several activities that could be used along with this book in the classroom. Before reading, the teacher could present students with a mini-lesson on free verse poetry. It would also be a good idea to read the first several poems aloud to students. During reading, students could work on making predictions. They could predict who they think the masked man is and how Rachel and Grace will react to Sophie’s news. After reading this book, students could work in pairs to create their own free verse poems. They could create a poem from their own perspective or from the perspective of another minor character in the book. Another neat activity would be to have students plan a week long “stay-cation” in their home town like Sophie does in the story. The standards that could be used include: CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.9-10.3d Use precise words and phrases, telling details, and sensory language to convey a vivid picture of the experiences, events, setting, and/or characters, CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.9-10.2 Determine a theme or central idea of a text and analyze in detail its development over the course of the text, including how it emerges and is shaped and refined by specific details; provide an objective summary of the text.
The big questions I might ask my students after reading this book are: If you had to write a moral for this book, what would it be? Do you think differently about high school after reading this? How do you decide what is really important to you?