Saturday, February 4, 2012

Homeschool Helper Gr. 5 to 8: Nettie Parker’s Backyard By C.V. Smith


Nettie Parker’s Backyard is the story of a magical, wonderful, African-American woman of Gullah heritage.  The mystical signs Nettie receives throughout her life always guide her to help others, ultimately leading her to find and care for eight, Jewish child refugees in WWII London.  The special bonds of love that Nettie and the children form are so strong, nothing can break them:  neither time nor distance, proving love truly is the greatest force of all in a surprise twist ending.  The current and inspiring themes of anti-bullying and tolerance toward all are woven throughout the tale.  The Holocaust, the Kindertransport, Kristallnacht and Europe during the war years of 1939-1945 are key topics; similarly, the development of slavery in the 1500’s, as well as prejudice in the United States are discussed, as Nettie tells of her experiences while growing up in the 1920’s and 1930’s American South.  Determined to be a nurse, but locked out of colleges at home, Nettie accepts a fortuitous scholarship to study in London and is thrown right into the start of WWII.  Badly injured in a blitzkrieg attack, Nettie is forced to spend the rest of her life in a wheelchair.  Disheartened, the combination of her mystical signs and a chance meeting with two young refugee boys bring Nettie back to her old self:  determined, compassionate and committed as she embarks on a new mission in life.  Years later, when life-sized stone statues suddenly begin appearing in her backyard, Nettie is forced to unravel their mystery, and in doing so reveals her true purpose in life along with the explanation of her mystical signs.  A bit of the supernatural combined with a ribbon of intrigue holds the readers’ attention throughout, while simultaneously learning crucial lessons from past world events in this unique tale.  It is quite a mixture of history, cultures, races and religions; however, it all works within the story of the courageous and heroic main character’s life, inspiring the audience to see that what really matters is the "core" of each person, and that acceptance of others and their differences truly means enriching themselves.  The book is a great “pleasure” read for ages 9-13, as well as for adults, as reflected in numerous stellar reviews from all ages.  The novel has additionally been designed as a historical supplement for classroom use.  Written via flash-back style, the story unfolds as the book’s child narrator, Halley, interviews her mentor, Nettie, for a school project.



I have a great interest in history and even though I am not a tween I loved this book. The story of Nettie's life during World War 2 is told so vividly that you can feel the pain and hardships she had to endure living in Europe at that time. I think that this book would be a great asset to any history curriculum for grades 5 to 8 where you are looking to introduce the atrocities of the second world war that won't be too difficult for a child to understand!






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