Saturday, September 18, 2010

Flashcards of My Life by Charise Mericle Harper

Flashcards of My Life by Charise Mericle Harper is an innocuous young adult novel, cute and a little quirky.  Told in the first person through words and little sketches, the premise is simple.  The protagonist, Emily, is given a gift by her aunt who has always encouraged her niece to keep a journal.  Rather than give her yet another blank book, the aunt gives Emily a deck of flashcards, each with a word, a sort of journaling prompt, and Emily then fills in the card with her own thoughts and images.

What I liked About This Book:
I could easily see using this book as a launching pad for journaling. In a classroom, flashcards like those Emily uses could be distributed throughout the class, perhaps three to five per person.  Duplicates are okay–the student would then be encouraged to write more than one thought or idea based on the cards word.  As the students read through the book, perhaps some would be inspired to ask for another card or even begin using illustrations to communicate things that they find difficult to put into words.  (I loved some of the drawings by Harper, including the “Boyfriend Obstacle Course” and the various fashion choices Emily faces at certain pivotal junctures.)

Outside of a classroom, a parent could easily encourage their child to do what Emily does, even suggesting that they both make some cards to fill out.  This could easily be made into a family scrapbooking or memoir writing project.  (I suggest creating one word prompts (or phrase prompts) and keeping them for after you run out of ideas from the book.  Google “Journal Jar” for suggestions of simple prompts you can use together or apart.)

What I Disliked About This Book:
It is cute but nothing more.  The “crises” Emily faces are typical and not very interesting to a more mature reader.  Will she call about the job?  Will she do well on the interview?  Will she survive the conflict between her friends?  Will she be kissed by the boy on whom she has a crush?  You either have to really care about Emily or you have to really enjoy the little drawings and journal flashcards idea to get to the end of the book. I doubt any boy would want to read this by choice.

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