My first impression of the book when I started reading was, “wow, this is an interesting book to teach 6th graders.” It is very educational from an interesting point of view, the teenager (Jimmy) trying to stay out of jail. I think this book would be very effective, as the students may take the lessons better from a character that seems like their peer instead of an adult who they feel they can’t relate to.
Before I get into the words on the page, I want to mention the pictures! I love the use of pictures in this book. They are pretty few and far between, but they are fun and effective. The reader gets excited as they turn the page to find a drawing and it pulls them into the story even more, giving them an image to match with the words being read. It gives the reader a wonderful visual reference to compare to the one being imagined in their head. This is an awesome way to keep an eleven year old’s attention while reading!
One of the first sentences that made me think long and hard was on page 20, a sentence talking about how Jimmy’s teacher had already ruined his day by making comments at him. I think it is very important for us as teachers to remember the impact we have on students and be careful about what we say.
The Blind Monkey Strut is when Duke really starts to explain his lesson that he teaches and refers to multiple times throughout the book. He claims on page 43 that you have to do what you know is right. His lesson goes deeper than just monkeys and bananas, it is about “not letting themselves forget that they know the right thing.” The monkey know should know not to mess with the tiger, Jimmy should know to stay out of trouble.
In Does Life Work? (and Does Life Work? Part 2), Duke teaches another valuable lesson about how life doesn’t just work on its own, YOU have to make your life work. He compares it to something relatable, (which is a great teaching strategy!) in this case it is basketball. The game doesn’t play itself, neither will your life.