As we near the end of the school year and begin to both challenge our students to apply all that they have learned and also inspire them to do so with independence, we look to tasks and mentors to move this work forward.
In a world of practice that has been characterized in recent times by lack of student initiative, comes our heroine, Africa. Africa sees a sign at school for a double dutch competition and asked her brother, “What is a competition?” Her brother replies, “That where we show what we are made of?”
With simple but symbolic illustrations by Brazilian illustrator, Anna Cunha, and a to-the-point narrative, Africa sets in motion to become the ‘best’ double-dutcher in just one week. Her brother is a sceptic.
Will Africa be able to do what she has never done before? How will she set about learning what she needs to become great?
This is the genius of this book and of our endlessly possible work we could do with this text. Ms. Thurman could have made a book showing us how to learn double dutch. Africa could have practiced jump rope, then double jumping until she had it perfected. But Ms. Thurman sent Africa down a different road. What possibly are the components that would make one excel in double dutch? Here in those choices by the author we can linger in author’s craft. What did make Brittany Thurman make the choice of having Africa question her friends about double dutch only to have them give her a different slice of expertise.
As writers, how could we break down something that we know or we aspire to, into smaller creative pieces?
Then, the essay question… how does one show what they are worth? What does that mean? Is it about potential or product?
In the end, it is less about Africa’s success at double dutch and much more about the journey. This book will be a treasure in perseverance, how we learn, and what guides us for students of many, many ages. It will have you thinking long after you close the cover.
Bonus: Brittany Thurman discusses Fly (approximately 10 minutes)