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Families, Wild Adventures, a Missing Dad, and Lessons in What to Let Go and What Not to Let Go

Updated on October 5, 2018
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Cindy Hewitt is a retired teacher with a passion for children's literature. Read-aloud stories add quality to a child's life experiences.

Humor in a Story about Families and What is Important

Fun read with lessons about family life
Fun read with lessons about family life | Source

Family Life is Sometimes Different When Your Dad is Missing

Carl Hiaasen's Squirm is a delightful read for middle grade readers who like adventures and a story with a life lesson. Many young readers will relate to Billy who has a missing dad and moves frequently with his mom. Billy's mom does not like to talk about his dad and shares little information with Billy. Billy's adventures begin when he finds his dad's address and discovers that his dad lives in Montana! Billy Dickens is determined to find his dad.

Billy often has to answer questions from friends about his dad and he is looking forward to finding his dad. His mom puts him on a plane to Montana and Billy arrives at the home where his father lives with a new family. He discovers that he has a stepsister. His stepsister is a Native American, and Billy's dad had "sort of married" her mom several years ago. Billy enjoys adventures with bears, snakes, and a trip to Yellowstone National Park with his stepsister and her mom. The big surprise is that a drone is responsible for finding Billy's dad. A new relationship is established with Billy's dad in a happy ending. Young readers who have divorced parents will find hope that their family situation might turn out as Billy's did when his dad makes the decision to stay in touch with him and his mom.

Squirm was published by Alfred A. Knopf, a division of Random House Children's Books. It is recommended for ages 8-12 and has an ISBN of 978-0-3857-5297-8.

Teachable Moments with Squirm for the Classroom

Carl Hiaasen's Squirm is a must-have book for young readers in a library collection for middle school students. A large number of children in this age group come from families with divorced parents. Billy's dad left when he was four and he is often asked about his dad when he gets older. He finds his dad's address in Montana and is determined to be reunited with his dad. Many students in middle school will relate to Billy's feelings about finding his dad.

*Read Squirm in a class read aloud session. Chapter books are always popular with middle school readers and they enjoy reading aloud together. Teachers sometimes read one or two chapters each day. Students can also read together each day.

*Make a class chart of students who have divorced parents. Brainstorm to discover students' feelings about their family situation. How many parents live in other states or towns away from their children?

*An extra opportunity to learn about the state of Florida is presented in Squirm. Billy and his mom live in Florida and his mom enjoys the wildlife. Mom is highly interested in the bald eagles. Billy and his mom also have lived near the Everglades. Students might like to learn about the Everglades after reading Squirm. What animals and wildlife are found in the Everglades?

*Billy's trip to Montana to find his dad presents the opportunity for students to explore the state and to learn about Yellowstone National Park. What animals and wildlife are found in this national park?

*The use of a drone to save Billy's dad will spark interest in young readers since drones are now a part of life. Do any of your students have a drone? Teachers can assign a research project on drones after reading Squirm.

*Billy's stepsister is a Native American. This discovery presents the opportunity for students to discover interesting facts about Native Americans.

*How many students have stepbrothers or stepsisters from a remarriage by one or both of their parents? Are there any step-siblings from other races?

*Assign Squirm as an individual reading project. Have students prepare projects about their favorite parts of the book to share at the end of the reading session.

*An extra research project might be assigned for students to learn about the bald eagles that Billy's mom loves. A side note to this interest is that Billy's mom tells him that she has heard that the bald eagles have built their nest in Sarasota on top of a cell phone tower. I live in Sarasota and this is an actual fact. I have also seen nests on top of light poles as one drives I75 on the way to Orlando. It is an amusing sight to Floridians and tourists.

Newberry Honor Books in School Libraries

Does your school library have a collection of books that have won the Newberry Awards for good literature for children?

See results

© 2018 Cindy Hewitt


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