Rosemary Ganley The Peterborough Examiner May 27, 2021
I’ve never been expert in stories for children, ages 8 to 12. I couldn’t teach an elementary class for the life of me.
Even more so now, as I’ve seen what teachers have done this pandemic year. Heroes, heroines, all of them. And exhausted. And wholly underappreciated.
Remember, our Ontario Minister of Education, Stephen Lecce, age 34, has never worked in a school, was privately educated himself (St. Michael’s College School), and has no kids. Nor has his fundamentalist Parliamentary Assistant, Sam Oosterhoof, 24, any experience in public education (home schooled).
These two in charge of Ontario education policy? We simply have to get ourselves better representatives at Queen’s Park.
But I digress.
My daughter-in-law and granddaughter, age 12, are educating me about the importance and the quality of books being produced for this age group.
As is Trent University’s own professor of education, Karleen Pendleton-Jimenez, who has just published her fourth book (she also makes films) and won the top citation in the recent Globe and Mail’s list of Best Kids Books.
It is “The Street Belongs to Us.” You can find it at local bookstores.
The Globe editor says: ”The Street Belongs to Us” takes readers back to the summer of 1984 when life on Muscatel Avenue in Los Angeles begins to change in ways that tomboy Alex can’t control. It is a powerful middle-grade novel that explores Mexican-American identity, and movingly explores family relationships, friendship and gender identity.”
Pendleton-Jimenez grew up in Los Angeles and now lives in Toronto, a Canadian. She earned a degree in creative writing at San Diego State University and then her PhD at York.
I found the novel achingly memorable. Alex is a tomboy; and her best friend Wolf is a boy who insists on wearing military gear at all times since the death of his mother.
Their adventures begin the summer their street is torn up by the city to install sidewalks. Then the workers disappear for a week. It becomes a muddy wonderland and Alex and Wolf take refuge in a trench, from where they participate in lively street wars with neighbourhood kids, via water bombs and mud balls.
At the same time, they are entering puberty and finding it confusing. Alex’s brother is a non-communicative teen immersed in music, and her mother is harried with work as a single mom. The story also touches on the Mexican-American identity of Alex and her family, among whom is a wise old Chicana grandmother.
I even googled the Mexican Revolution (1910-1920) to increase my scant knowledge of that part of continental history.
Toronto artist Gabriela Godoy has done whimsical line drawings for the book that enhance its sense of energy and chaos in late childhood.
Pendleton-Jimenez has taught in the School of Education at Trent since 2005. She has been a bright light for teacher-trainees. She also co-ordinates the Master of Education program there. She has been a leader in social justice education and particularly in gender identity questions, with her dedication to inclusion and affirmation of all kids.
I have known the author for some years. Thoroughly creative and thoughtfully progressive, she invited me to participate in an extra course offered to 30 teacher-trainees at Sadleir House called “Teaching Outside the Box.” I enthusiastically took part because I have long thought that teachers need to do two things: transmit the best of the culture to their students, and at the same time teach the importance of looking critically at this culture, in an effort to foster transformation toward greater justice.
Pendleton-Jimenez’s writing over the years has included short stories and essays, and co-editing “Unleashing the Unpopular: Talking about Sexual Orientation and Gender in Education.” She wrote the award-winning animated film “Tomboy,” which has been shown at Reframe Film Festival.
Such stimulating teachers of teachers will guarantee that this profession in Ontario continues its excellence.
You can purchase Positive Community directly from Rosemary Ganley at firstname.lastname@example.org or from >Amazon.com<