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  • Pieces of Georgia
  • Written by Jen Bryant
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  • Pieces of Georgia
  • Written by Jen Bryant
  • Format: eBook | ISBN: 9780375890925
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Written by Jen BryantAuthor Alerts:  Random House will alert you to new works by Jen Bryant

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List Price: $6.99

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On Sale: November 13, 2007
Pages: | ISBN: 978-0-375-89092-5
Published by : Yearling RH Childrens Books
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READER'S GUIDE READER'S GUIDE
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Synopsis|Excerpt

Synopsis

Like her mother, Georgia McCoy is an artist, but her dad looks away whenever he sees her with a sketchbook. Sometimes it’s hard to remember what it was like when her mother was still alive . . . when they were a family . . . when they were happy. But then a few days after her 13th birthday, Georgia receives an unexpected gift–a strange, formal letter, all typed up and signed anonymous–granting her free admission to the Brandywine River Museum for a whole year. And things begin to change.
An accessible novel in poems, Pieces of Georgia offers an endearing protagonist–an aspiring artist, a grieving daughter, a struggling student, a genuine friend–and the poignant story of a broken family coming together.


From the Hardcover edition.

Excerpt

Mrs. Yocum called me
down to her office today. She's the counselor at school who I
have to go to once a week 'cause I'm on
some "At Risk" list that I saw once on the secretary's desk.
(Ronnie Kline, Marianne Ferlinghetti, Sam Katzenbach,
Danita Brown--and some others I forget--are on it, too.)
Most of them have substance abuse next to their names,
but I have financial/single parent--father/possible medical?
next to mine.

Anyway, when Mrs. Yocum called me in, I sat
in her big green chair, and she sat
across from me in her big blue chair--
blinking at me like a mother owl through her oversize glasses--
and it all started off as it usually does,
with her asking me about my stomachaches
and if I had raised my hand more often in class
and if there was anything particular on my mind I thought
I needed to talk about.

Then all of a sudden she asked me if I
miss you. She never
asked me that before, and I couldn't make the words
come out of my mouth, they seemed to be
stuck in my throat, or maybe they were just tangled up
with the rabbit I seemed to have swallowed
that started kicking the sides of my stomach,
desperate to get out.

I guess it must have been four or five minutes we sat there,
her making notes in her folder
and me with that rabbit
thrashing around my insides and still no
words coming out.

I started to draw on the top of my binder,
like it seems I always do
when I don't know what else to do, so I
didn't notice that she was trying to hand me
a red leather notebook (this very one I'm writing in),
and she said: "Georgia, why don't we make
a deal? I will excuse you
from coming to Guidance for a while, provided--
you promise to write down your thoughts and feelings
at least a few times a week
in this diary. You don't have to show it to me, or to anybody,
unless you want to,
and it might be a good idea if you tried--sometimes, or
all the time if you want--
to write down what you might tell, or what you might ask,
your mother
if she were here."

So, Momma, that's how I've come to start
writing to you in this pretty red leather diary
that I keep in the drawer of my nightstand.
But I'm not sure what I'm going to tell you, 'cause my life
is not all that interesting, but anyway
it will fill
a few minutes after school
or maybe that half hour or so
after dinner, after homework, after doing the dishes,
when I'm stretched out in the back of our trailer and Daddy
is trying to keep the TV down so I can fall asleep
but loud enough so he can still watch
whatever game is on
and I'm trying to remember what it was like six years ago
when we were a family
and Daddy was happy
and you were here.


2.
Today I turned thirteen.
As usual for mid-February, it snowed a little bit, then the
sun came out like a tease, 'cause it never got above
thirty-two degrees.

As usual, it was just me and Daddy having my birthday dinner
at the fold-down table in the kitchen.
I said I could make chicken, baked potatoes, and peas,
but he brought home a pizza after work
(with anchovies and green peppers)
and we ate it right out of the box so it'd stay hot,
'cause it wouldn't fit inside our oven.

Then Daddy carried in a cake
he'd been hiding in the closet, but when he
uncovered it, he got mad
because a heat vent was right next to it
and the icing around the edges melted
and the "Happy Birthday" ran all
over the middle until it looked like
a big pink puddle.

But I didn't mind. Last year
he forgot my birthday altogether until
he saw the mail and the annual
$20 bill from Great-Uncle Doug in Atlanta.
The cake was good--chocolate with chocolate icing.
I had seconds and Daddy did, too, and I know
you would've joined us.

Afterward, I went through the mail and I
got a card and the $20 bill from Great-Uncle Doug.
The card had a clown and balloons and was really made
for a little kid, but still,
it was nice of him to remember.

Daddy gave me those jeans I'd seen in the Army Navy Store,
a new pair of shoes,
and a "blank inside" card like he always does,
one with a flower on the front, same as always,
and his big, slanted lettering inside:

Georgia--

Happy Birthday.

Daddy

Can I tell you something, Momma?

Every year since you died, I've been waiting for him
to write Love, Daddy inside,
but after all this time
I think I should wake up and stop
my dreaming.
Jen Bryant

About Jen Bryant

Jen Bryant - Pieces of Georgia

Photo © Amy Dragoo for Daily Local News

1. You’ve written on a wide variety of topics. Where do you get your ideas?

Honestly, ideas are everywhere: in books I read, in people I talk to, in my own household and neighborhood. The challenge is to capture them and mold them into a story that will both entertain and inform my readers. I don’t have a standard method of choosing which ideas I will turn into books . . . it’s more like the ideas choose me! For example, my first novel, The Trial, began as I was writing a series of poems (which I intended to send to magazines) about the Lindbergh baby kidnapping and murder case. Before I knew it, I had put everything else aside and was really delving into the facts and myths about the investigation and the trial. A brief visit back to my hometown of Flemington, New Jersey, where the 1935 trial took place, convinced me that I should try and tell the whole story in a verse novel.

2. You wrote more than a dozen biographies before turning to fiction. How did that experience affect your later writings?

I’ve always been fascinated with real events and real people–and I find them frequently more interesting and more bizarre than anything I could ever make up. I also love to research–and by that I mean I love to hunt for interesting and little-known facts. The research process is never boring! I travel to museums, archives, and small towns where significant events took place (such as the Scopes Monkey trial in Dayton, Tennessee); I go to plays and watch movies; I interview famous people and witnesses to history; I read historical documents, books, magazines, and web pages.

3. Your third novel, Pieces of Georgia, is a 13-year old girl’s journal about her dead mother, her still-grieving father, her athletic best friend, and her own desire to become an artist. How did you create this character–and why did you have her live on a horse farm?

Many aspect of my own life came crashing together in that book. When I was a teenager, I spent many Saturdays on a horse farm in central New Jersey, and I used those memories to create the setting for Pieces of Georgia. I also grew up next to a funeral home (my father and grandfather were undertakers), so I had a lot of opportunity to observe how grief and loss affect different people. I participated in three sports in high school, but still had a lot of free time to explore other interests. Now, however, sports have become year-round and hyper-competitive and so I created Georgia’s friend Tiffany to represent the difficulties that teens today must deal with if they’re into sports. Lastly, I didn’t go to school for writing, so I had to engage in a lot of trial-and-error to find my own style and voice. In Pieces of Georgia, that’s exactly how Georgia goes about learning how to draw.

4. Tell us about your recent novel Kaleidoscope Eyes.

The main plot involves three friends who stumble onto a set of maps they suspect may lead them to one of the buried treasures of the notorious pirate Captain Kidd. (I started this book long before the recent events involving modern pirates starting appearing in the news!) The story takes place in 1968, in a small town in southern New Jersey. The entire ‘60s decade was turbulent, but that year was especially so: we had the assassinations of Bobby Kennedy and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., the peak of the Vietnam War, and hundreds of antiwar protests and sit-ins. There were huge rock concerts and drug use was rampant. Civil rights and women’s rights were gaining momentum, but there remained many parts of society who were violently opposed to both. So–in a way, it’s a 17th-century pirate tale embedded in a 1960’s rock ’n’ roll era story. It was a lot of fun to research, and hopefully even more fun to read!


OTHER FAQs:

Where were you born?

Easton, Pennsylvania . . . but I only lived there for a few weeks. I spent most of my growing up years in Flemington, New Jersey.

Where did you go to college? What did you study?

I went to Gettysburg College in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. I majored in French and minored in German and Secondary Education. Jerry Spinelli–who is a good friend and one of my favorite authors–went there, too.

Where do you live now and who’s in your family?

I live in northern Chester County, Pennsylvania, with my husband, Neil; my daughter, Leigh; and our energetic springer spaniel, Sam.

What other jobs have you had besides being a writer?

I’ve been a waitress, a bank teller, a cross-country coach, a high school teacher, a college professor, member of a road crew, retail clerk, picture framer, and probably a few others I’m forgetting!

What do you enjoy doing when you’re not writing?

I visit our local YMCA almost daily to bike, lift weights, do aerobics or swim–and also to see people! (Writing is very still and very solitary.) At home, I enjoy wandering around our yard to fill the bird feeders, play with our dog, and occasionally do a little gardening. I also love to read good poetry, fiction, and biographies and to watch movies with my family. When I travel, I enjoy visiting museums–especially the smaller and more unusual ones. The Museum of Women in the Arts in Washington, D.C., and the American Visionary Art Museum in Baltimore are two of my favorites. I am also a HUUUUGE Philadelphia Phillies fan and watch their games whenever I can!
Praise | Awards

Praise

"Through Georgia's artwork, noticing details others miss, learning about painters like O'Keeffe and Wyeth, and reaching out to others, the fragmented pieces of this steely, gentle heroine become an integrated whole." - Publishers Weekly, Starred

Awards

WINNER 2008 Texas Lone Star Reading List
Teachers Guide

Teacher's Guide



ABOUT THIS BOOK

Like her mother, Georgia McCoy is an artist, but her dad looks away whenever he sees her with a sketchbook. Sometimes it’s hard to remember what it was like when her mother was still alive . . . when they were a family . . . when they were happy. But then a few days after her 13th birthday, Georgia receives an unexpected gift—a strange, formal letter, all typed up and signed “Anonymous”–granting her free admission to the Brandywine River Museum for a whole year. And things begin to change. An accessible novel in poems, Pieces of Georgia offers an endearing protagonist—an aspiring artist, a grieving daughter, a struggling student, a genuine friend—and the poignant story of a broken family coming together.

ABOUT THIS AUTHOR

“I began by writing biographies and other nonfiction because I loved to research.”–Jen Bryant

From the age of four until she left for college, Jen Bryant lived in an old Victorian house on Main Street in Flemington, NJ. Like Katie Leigh in The Trial, she was extremely independent, curious, and incessantly on the move. “I spent long hours riding my bike from one end of town to the other,” she remembers, “hanging out at the railroad tracks, and poking my head into various shops and small businesses on Main Street.”

Jen was an avid reader since kindergarten, and wanted to work with animals when she grew up. In college, however, she studied French and German and decided to teach in a high school after graduation. In 1988, when her daughter was born, she decided to try writing for children. “I began by writing biographies and other nonfiction because I loved to research,” Jen recalls. “Later, I discovered poetry (which I’d always hated in school) and started to read and write it almost exclusively. Eventually, I combined my love of poetry and research in The Trial, a historical novel-in-verse that describes one girl’s experience at the famous Lindbergh baby kidnapping and murder trial.”

Jen Bryant is the author of numerous biographies for young readers, picture books, and poems. She teaches Writing and Children’s Literature at West Chester University and lives in Glenmoore, Pennsylvania, with her husband and daughter.

TEACHING IDEAS

Pre-Reading Activity

Many artists and their works are mentioned in Pieces of Georgia. Plan to take students to the library to complete background research on the following artists: N. C. Wyeth, Andrew Wyeth, Jamie Wyeth, Georgia O’Keeffe, Paul Gauguin, and Vincent Van Gogh. Divide the class into groups, and assign each group an artist. Each group should research its particular artist and compile a short biography. In addition, each group should find paintings from reference material to share with the class. After each group gives a short presentation, initiate a discussion about the evaluation and appreciation of art work; what appeals to some may not appeal to others at all. While reading the book, have students note which particular paintings are mentioned. After finishing the story, take classes back to the library to see how many of the paintings they can find.

DISCUSSION AND WRITING

Thematic Connections

Grief
–Ask the students to define grief. Does everyone handle grief in the same way? What are some of the ways people express grief? Although there is no set pattern for grieving, much research has been done on the following stages:
·Denial (this isn’t happening to me!)
·Anger (why is this happening to me?)
·Bargaining (I promise I’ll be a better person if . . .)
·Depression (I don’t care anymore)
·Acceptance (I’m ready for whatever comes)
Ask students what stage of grief they believe Georgia is in during each of the four parts of the book and why. How about her father? Look at the death of Georgia’s mother from her father’s viewpoint. What new challenges must he face as a single parent? Are the challenges faced by single fathers different from those faced by single mothers?

Besides the loss of a loved one through death, what are some other examples of life incidents that might bring on a feeling of grief and sense of loss? What resources are in school and in the community to help students cope with grief? How might unresolved grief interfere with new relationships? What other books or movies can you think of that center around grief and coming to terms with it?

Personality Traits–Discuss the concept of introverts and extraverts. Georgia by nature is shy and tends to do her best thinking and restore her energy level by doing solitary tasks, such as grooming the horses, walking her dog, or writing in her journal. Other people like Tiffany do their best thinking by talking with others and restore their energy levels by being around other people. Discuss the pros and cons of each type with regard to class participation in school. Is either group more valued by society? What value is there to both types?

Ancestry–Georgia’s grandparents have chosen not to be part of her life. Why is this? Are there significant reasons for some families not to be part of one another’s lives? Georgia wonders about why her parents chose her name. How did your parents decide on you first name, your middle name, or your nickname? Is there a particular story associated with your last name?

Nature vs. Nurture–Are imagination, creativity, and artistic talent traits that you’re born with or skills that can be encouraged through experiences? Georgia’s mother was an artist; does it seem logical Georgia would also have artistic talent? Think about what your parents do for a living. Do your talents lie in the same areas?

Research the Wyeth family and, in particular, how N. C. Wyeth encouraged each of his five children to be creative. What kind of work did each of his children pursue as adults?

Substance Abuse–Substance abuse becomes the only way Tiffany can try to keep up with her overextended schedule and the pressure of meeting everyone’s high expectations. How do you deal with stress and pressure? How else might Tiffany have dealt with her feelings? As a friend, how can you help someone who finds himself thinking about or actually using drugs? For answers to commonly asked questions, including how to talk to a friend without making the problem worse, go to www.drugfree.org/intervention.

What do you do when you feel you’re overextended or the expectations placed on you by others or by yourself are much too high?

Tiffany uses Ritalin to help her cope. Access www.drugfree.org and choose Ritalin under the pull down menu “Drug Descriptions and Effects” to find out more about this and other commonly used drugs. Read and discuss the teen recovery and teen memorial stories posted on this Web site under “Personal Stories.”

SUGGESTED ACTIVITIES

Connecting to the Curriculum

Language Arts–Jamie Wyeth chose to paint a portrait of his wife, Phyllis Mills Wyeth, without having her actually in the picture. He instead chose objects to represent her–a delicate hat with a highlighted white sash suggesting gracefulness hanging over the back of a sturdy straight-back chair. Introduce students to the idea of metaphors by having them think of a very important person in their lives and writing down three objects they associate with that person. The students can then add details and produce three metaphors. For example, “Grandmother, you are the cheesy lasagna you make for me on Sundays.” Ask students to write metaphors for themselves, for a relative, and for a friend.

The author makes good use of imagery throughout the novel. On page 57, she writes, “That hawk–like your one-week pneumonia–must have come out of nowhere, and before you could yell for help or do anything at all about it, it wrapped its claws around you and carried you off.” What other types of things could you compare to death in an attempt to explain it?

Discuss the concept of “Time heals all wounds.” How does this concept begin to apply to Georgia and her father? Write about a time when you or someone close to you felt a great loss and how time has helped or not helped heal the wound.

Using one of the images in the pre-reading activity encourage students to exercise their imaginations by writing a story about it. Begin by having students explore the image through their five senses. If they were to enter the image, what might they see, hear, taste, smell, or touch?

History–The novel introduces three generations–N.C., Andrew, and Jamie Wyeth. Have students research the lives of each artist and include important issues and events during the life time of each man. Does the time in which they each lived seem reflected in their work? If so, how? What can we learn about history, culture, and society through their paintings? Does Georgia seem to gravitate to paintings that revel history or personal sentiments? Can a painting include both?

Introduce students to the idea of using cultural artifacts as primary sources. Ask students to discuss or write about if and/or how creative objects (paintings, novels, poems, songs) dictate how we perceive past time periods. What will today’s art, books, and music convey about our society and culture to future generations?

Art Appreciation–Miss Benedetto, Georgia’s art teacher, tells her students that “Artists notice things that other people don’t . . . they’re very observant.” To test the students’ observation skills in the classroom, have students close their eyes and ask them to describe and/or answer specific questions about objects in the classroom. Have students view the images from the pre-reading activity once more. This time they should concentrate on observing facets of the paintings they did not see before. What differences did they come up with?

In addition to having a keen sense of observation, artists look at objects from unusual perspectives. Jamie Wyeth said, “[The idea] that I am recording something nobody’s looked at before, a unique view. That’s why I paint.” Ask the students to choose an object in the classroom they’ve seen–but maybe never really noticed–everyday since the beginning of school. Then ask them to describe the object from a unique perspective. Explain the concept of using similes (comparison of two unlike things using “like” or “as”) to help the reader paint a picture in his or her mind.

Illustrations are images designed to accompany a written text. Read your students a short story or poem and ask them to illustrate it. Compare the finished works, and discuss the choices an artist must make in creating an illustration.

BEYOND THE BOOK

Partnership for a Drug Free America
www.drugfree.org
Resources and information sponsored for the Partnership for a Drug Free America for parents, caregivers, and teens

Mommy’s Light
www.mommyslight.org
Bereavement support for children, teens, fathers, guardians, and terminally ill mothers

Brandywine Museum
www.brandywinerivermuseum.org
Includes an online 360-degree virtual tour of the N. C. Wyeth Studio

Connect for Kids
www.connectforkids.org/node/296
Article by Alvin Rosenfeld, M.D., and Nicole Wise, co-authors of The Over-Scheduled Child: Avoiding the Hyper-Parenting Trap, focusing on parents who feel pressured into controlling everything in their child’s environment

ABOUT THIS GUIDE

Prepared by Kathryn E. Meyers, Downingtown West High School English Department Faculty, Downingtown, Pennsylvania.


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