Monday, September 9, 2013

Making Historical Thinking Visible: Hats Off to Author Tonya Bolden

If you are searching for a well-designed, highly readable work of nonfiction that makes historical thinking visible for intermediate grade students, here’s the book: Searching for Sarah Rector: The Richest Girl in America by Tonya Bolden. Granted, it’s not due for release until January, but maybe you can plead with the publisher (Abrams) to send you an advance reader’s copy.

 In the meantime, let me share with you what is so useful about this book in meeting CCSS standards related to Craft and Structure:

·         The author raises questions about her subject, Sarah Rector. Here’s a sample: “What thoughts ricocheted around Sarah’s head? What feelings were in her heart? How aware was she of the brouhaha over her riches?” There are many more questions scattered throughout the book, showing the author actively questioning her material.

·     The author admits that there is material she wished she had. She tells us that she was unable to locate a diary written by Sarah or any documents that would give her voice.

·       When the author can’t find any record of Sarah’s great-grandparents' move from Alabama to Indian Territory in Oklahoma, she shares what she learned from a document written about another black couple’s move to the same place at the same time and what they witnessed. That’s one way for an author to try to figure out what happened, and it’s the best she could do.

·         In the Author’s Note at the end of the book, Tonya Bolden tells us:

o   How she first learned about Sarah Rector
o   How important it is to read primary sources with “discernment”
o   How surprised she was when her expectations about people proved to be mistaken. Her lesson: “Better to rest on research and reason than on scuttlebutt.” Good advice.

While you are waiting for Searching for Sarah Rector, check out Tonya Bolden’s earlier book Maritcha (Abrams, 2005). This book is also about the experiences of a young black girl. And while Tonya Bolden was able to locate a memoir written by Marticha, there are still many missing pieces to this story, too. The author is always up front with readers about what she could and could not find.
Check these books out! Both books show an author at work shaping history and dealing with gaps in information. They provide a great look at process.

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