Watching Jimmy is impossible-to-put-down; full of danger, warmth, and dark humor. With shocking candor, Carolyn relates what really happened to her best friend, Jimmy, when his uncle chose the perfect time to teach him a lesson he would never forget. The truth is Jimmy didn't fall from a swing like Uncle Ted claims. Carolyn knows - she saw everything.
With the dreadful secret locked away, Carolyn walks an emotional tightrope. No matter what else is happening in this post-war era, she must keep an eye on her now poor, braindamaged Jimmy. But when Uncle Ted threatens his beleaguered family with even more abuse and the loss of their home, Carolyn must find the courage to match wits with him and to speak out, using the truth as her only weapon.
Set in 1958, Watching Jimmy is a brilliant portrait of the post-war era, a family of strong women, and a resourceful heroine who exudes character, resilience, and most of all, love.
About Nancy Hartry
Nancy Hartry is the author of two picture books, Hold On, McGinty! and Jocelyn and the Ballerina. Nancy finds inspiration for her stories in the antics of her children and her larger family, as well as strangers who have no idea that their quirks and foibles will find their way into books. Watching Jimmy grew from her short story “Thunderbird Swing,” which appeared in Secrets, published by Tundra Books. She is currently writing another novel, inspired by her short story “Fore,” which appeared in First Times, also published by Tundra Books. When Nancy is not writing stories, she works as a lawyer. She lives in Toronto, Ontario.
"A compelling and satisfying novel..."
-School Library Journal
FINALIST 2010 Golden Oak Award
WINNER 2010 Canadian Library Association - Book of the Year for Children
FINALIST 2010 Geoffrey Bilson Award for Historical Fiction for Young People
ABOUT THIS BOOK
In the summer of 1958, just before school started, Carolyn witnessed an incident which left her friend and neighbor, Jimmy, with a serious head injury. Carolyn wished she could turn the clock back and tell Aunt Jean not to leave them in Uncle Ted's care. But some things you can't change.
Ted doesn't tell the truth about how Jimmy was hurt, and Carolyn doesn't correct him thinking that this would be easier on Aunt Jean. Carolyn takes all manner of responsibilities on her shoulders in an effort to help out. Money is a problem for Aunt Jean and for Carolyn's Mom. Carolyn tries to fix this one, too, which brings her in contact with more and more complications until, like a pressure cooker, she blows her lid. Very publicly.
Will Uncle Ted get away with it? Who is he really and why is he so rotten? Will that "mean girl" Luanne Price buy Jimmy's house out from under him? Will Aunt Jean die because they can't afford the money for an operation? Will they ever be able to afford an operation for poor Jimmy?
Carolyn is a funny, tough kid living in a single parent family at a pivotal time in Canada's history. She says she's not afraid of anything - ANYTHING. Just watch her go.
(1) Consider making "Remembrance day" a monthly event perhaps on the 11th day at the 11th hour of each month. Have the kids build a monument. Divide the kids into small groups, and each month, one group can lead the remembrance by singing songs and saying poems/prayers that they make up. Observe a minute of silence. A different child could play the part of the silver cross mother for the day.
(2) If your school is in Ontario, plan field trips to:
2. St. James Cathedral
3. Humber River
4. The War Memorial and Museum in Ottawa
(3) Call in someone from Public Health or the school nurse to discuss hand washing, good hygiene and prevention of infectious diseases.
(4) Attend a Remembrance Day ceremony or visit a war memorial.
Check out the following websites for other ideas:
For the U.S.A.: http://www1.va.gov/opa/vetsday/schoolkit.asp
For Canada: http://www.acc-vac.gc.ca/remembers/sub.cfm?source=activities/kidszone/tales_animals/2008/vw08_tguide
DISCUSSION AND WRITING
Who is Kieffer Sutherland's famous Grandfather, and what is his importance to Canadian History?
In the post WWII period, there was a tremendous building boom and growth in population. What is that called, and how has it affected the development of Canadian and American cities?
Trace the history of St. James Cathedral and outline its importance to Toronto. What contributions did Bishop Strachan make to the city and the Province?
The cholera epidemic in Toronto had a significant impact in shaping city government. Some say that it would be a very different city today if the epidemic hadn't happened. How has SARs and the threat of avian and H1N1 flu impacted city planning?
In the United States of America, how many people do not have access to health care, and what is the impact of that?
Which U.S. President said that "no nation can long survive half slave and half free"?
What is "temperance leaguer"? Until fairly recently, alcohol was banned in the west end of Toronto. Why and where, exactly?
Carolyn says she's heard that some people are more afraid of public speaking than dying. Ask the children if they believe that is true. Carolyn provides some tips about how to give a good speech, a dramatic speech. Have the children prepare a small speech and try out Carolyn's suggestions.
Have the children act out various chapters in the book.
Carolyn describes a method for baking bread. There is a chemical reaction, which results in making the bread rise. There is much physical work required to knead the bread but there was a time in our history that all bread was made in the home using very simple ingredients. Find a bread recipe, follow Carolyn's instructions, and bake some bread with the children. Describe the chemical changes in each step.
Carolyn enjoys many kinds of music – Barbershopping, Gregorian Chant, English Motets, popular show music such as Singing in the Rain, War songs such as the White Cliffs of Dover and anthems like The Maple Leaf Forever. Divide the class into fifths. Have the students lip sync or sing as a group to the class. This will show how varied and sophisticated Carolyn's taste in music was at a time when she had no access to TV or MP3 players.
In Tommy Douglas' speech, he mentions the number of people who are starving in the world. Have the children update his facts to the present day. Is the world a worse place now than it was in 1958?
Canada now has universal health care. When did that come into being and how important is it in defining what it means to be Canadian? Have the children research the cost of hospital admissions for various procedures if someone is not a resident of Canada.
Which other developed countries have a system of social medicine?
In the United States of America there is much skepticism about the wait times for medical care in Canada. Search out American articles that criticize our system.
Have the children investigate whether or not their arguments true. How does our system stack up on a world scale?
Art and Literature
Carolyn is reading Jane Eyre. What is that story about, and why might she be so drawn to it?
Carolyn is running a bath. Aunt Jean says she doesn't care if she is "drawing the Mona Lisa." What does she mean? What does the Mona Lisa look like and why is it so famous? Why do they think she has a funny smile on her face? There is some current research on why she is smiling.
Carolyn uses many old-fashioned sayings. Ask the children to look for them. What does "if you take care of the pennies, the pounds will look after themselves" mean?
Ask the children and in particular, reluctant readers, to count the number of times the word bastard is used and in which Chapter. Does Carolyn ever actually swear when she uses this word?
Toronto's park system (which extends along the Humber River) and Ontario's Conservation Authorities were established after Hurricane Hazel. What happened in the Humber River during Hurricane Hazel? Can you eat a salmon caught from the Humber River? Look at the Ministry of Environment's guide to eating Ontario Sport Fish:
Obtain topographic maps of the Greater Toronto Area and map the park systems and river systems to show flood control measures.
What is a "square bird"? (Four-seater Thunderbird Convertible) What is the most important manufacturing industry in Ontario and the United States and how has it changed in 2009?
Mr. McGregor says that he believes that people sang before they talked. Is he right, and what is the latest research?
What is a mirage and how is it formed?
Every month, Canadian, American, British, and other allied soldiers are being killed in Afghanistan. After the pomp and ceremony is over, their families are left alone without a parent. How can your students help? Pen pals?
What is the "wounded warrior" project in the United States?
What support systems are available for Canadian soldiers and their families now? What is the Veteran's Charter?
Health and Family Studies
Children have the right to live free from abuse. Have the children trace each juncture in the story where Carolyn might have told/been invited to tell what really happened to Jimmy.
Talk about the Kids Help Line: http://www.kidshelpphone.ca/
Check out the following website: www.thegatehouse.org
Make Mia's Secret by Peter Ledwon and Marilyn Mets (Tundra Books) available in the classroom.