First Daughter: Extreme American Makeover
First Daughter: White House Rules
Anyone who teaches middle school (grades 5 and up) should have both of these in their collection. I’m going to need more copies with my multicultural school as Mitali explores issues of racism and being "between cultures" throughout both stories.
What better time than during an election year to whip out First Daughter: Extreme American Makeover? Sameera (Sparrow) Righton is my kind of character. She is feisty, smart, capable under pressure, and logical. Even better, she is at heart a blogger. Bloggers view the world differently. Bloggers see the events around them as items for dissection, discourse, and dissemination. Watch five minutes of news coverage on the hurricane going to hit the gulf coast and bloggers want to immediately link you to numerous sources for help on shelter, pet relocation, emergency medical supplies, and safety shelters with internet access. Bloggers are not as concerned with issues of privacy as they are with sharing their point of view and honesty.
Sameera is a blogger. Her blogging is a vital part of both books. While other authors have begun to incorporate web 2.0 tools in their novels, I believe Mitali Perkins’ characters embody the vision of using these tools as an intricate part of life. Cloudscome on the blog "a wrung sponge" gives an excellent review of First Daughter. Mitali was interviewed on SLJ in 2007 and wrote about why she’d begun www.sparrowblog.com As my students spend more time researching the upcoming election and candidates platforms, Mitali is providing opportunities to expand the discussion.
The issues of racism, sexism, and immigration are important to this campaign. While standing near a political booth at the Wilson County Fair, I was shocked by several "good ole’ boys" who thought joking about assassinations of people of color and destroying the reputation of women were fun. I’m afraid my teacher voice and look came out.
Perhaps if we engaged in more of these conversations in a safe manner at school, the world would become a safer place? Extreme Make-Over offers the opportunity to chat about being oneself or developing a fake persona. There are opportunities for discussion of so many topics, but I warn you librarians, your students are going to be inspired to write their own blogs and commentaries. (I happen to think that’s a good problem to have)
The depiction of Sameera disguising herself in a ghurka to become invisible in America was amazing. Several teachers were discussing how covering oneself could be more liberating than revealing all. I was able to place these books in their hands and to encourage them to read more.
Issues of interfaith dating and cultural acceptances of dating practices flood White House Rules. Are you your religion by choice or by ethnicity? Great questions, aren’t they? Mitali’s characters are almost too good to be true, until I stop and consider some of the teens I’ve known in life who were also this capable, logical, and genuine.
Thanks to Mitali, I know about the Kahani literary magazine. I see that Mitali is coming to Nashville for YALSA’s Literature Symposium. I notice there are two evening reception events and an author’s luncheon for Saturday. You’ll see me there. I hope to see all of you there, too.