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Family Homelessness Teaches a Young Girl That Belonging Can Bloom Even in the Worst Conditions

Updated on June 15, 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.

Life Lessons Come with the Search for a Home

Cora learns a life lesson in her search for belonging.
Cora learns a life lesson in her search for belonging. | Source

Family, Homelessness, and the Tree of Heaven

Melissa Sarno's new novel for the YA audience, Just Under the Clouds, is a poignant read that teaches the life lesson of belonging even under the worst conditions. Readers will relate to the topic of homelessness, family loyalty, and a sense of belonging in today's society as they follow the story of Cora, a middle school student who loses her dad and must help her mom hold the family together while looking to escape their homelesslness. Almost every middle school student knows at least one other student who is homeless in their school in today's society. Readers will appreciate the lesson that Cora learns while her family waits for a new home.

Cora must look after her younger sister who was born with a disability after being deprived of oxygen during birth. She finds this task to be very difficult but her mother insists that Cora take care of her sister. Her mom tells her that her younger sister is just "special". The family is on a list to get a home and they must wait their turn to finally get a new home. Cora spends her time growing vegetables and she thinks of the lesson that her dad taught her about "true leaves". Her dad referred to true leaves as the first leaves that one sees when the plant sprouts. Her dad taught her that you must have faith in your plants in order for them to grow. A special tree that is called a London plane tree grows outside Cora's window in the current shelter that they are living in while waiting to move up the list to get a home. Cora has a special journal that she records her thought about trees that means a lot to her. Cora often thinks about the lesson of climbing trees that her dad taught her. Trees are now a special memory that carry Cora through this time of homelessness. Sookie the cat also plays a part in the life lessons that Cora learns during this time. Readers will want to follow Cora's story to the end to discover how the tree plays a part in the life lessons that Cora learns after having the adventure of her younger sister's brief disappearance.

Just Under the Clouds was published by Random House Children's Books and is recommended for ages 8-12. It has an ISBN of 97815247200887.

Cora's Tree Book for Recording Life Lessons Learned from Trees

Cora records thoughts about trees in her special Tree Book
Cora records thoughts about trees in her special Tree Book | Source

Classroom Lessons from Melissa Sarno's Just Under the Clouds

Teachers who teach reading and English classes for middle school students will find a wealth of lessons to enrich the reading of Melissa Sarno's Just Under the Clouds. Chapter books are very popular with teachers and students because even older children enjoy a group reading session during the day when the teacher has an opportunity to read one or two chapters aloud to students. There are many ideas for using this book for class discussions and projects to enhance the reading experience.

*Read one or two chapters each day with students. Begin a class discussion of homelessness. Do students know of a homeless student or students in their school?

*How can classmates help a homeless student with supplies, clothes, and food?

*Discuss the fact that Cora has a younger sister with special needs. Do students know of classmates who have siblings with special needs?

*Cora struggles with the death of her father. Are there students in school who have lost a parent? What memories do they carry with them about their lost parent? Cora carries memories of the lesson that her dad taught her about climbing trees.

*Cora enjoys growing plants at Ennis House while waiting to receive a new home. What is the lesson that Cora learns from growing plants? What is the significance of the big tree?

*Cora also likes to record her thoughts about trees in her journal, her Tree Book. Do students keep a journal? Teachers can incorporate the use of a journal to use as a creative writing activity for students.

A Poignant Read with Timely Topics for Discussion

Source

Teaching with Chapter Books

How do you use chapter books in your classroom for middle school students?

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© 2018 Cindy Hewitt

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