Literary Guide for Cynthia Kadohata’s “Half a World Away”

Literary Guide for Cynthia Kadohata’s Half a World Away

Download Literary Guide for Half a World Away.

Cynthia Kadohata’s Half a World Away is a complex and emotionally-charged work of incredibly realistic fiction. Weaving together themes of family, adoption, truth, and love, the story challenges readers to consider major ethical questions as they learn about protagonist Jaden’s struggles with change and self-discovery.

Adopted from a Romanian group home at the age of 8, Jaden has never truly felt a part of his so-called family. Though his parents show him love and care for him, he struggles greatly with strong emotions and dangerous habits that he doesn’t completely understand – causing him to feel that he doesn’t truly belong in his family. Having been abandoned by his mother at a young age, he fears that something is wrong with him – something that will make history repeat itself, leading his family to eventually cast him out as well.

Jaden’s challenges come to the forefront of his consciousness during a family trip to Kazakhstan, where they are to adopt baby Bahytzan from an orphanage in the southern city of Kyzylorda. While Jaden enjoys the almost unreal quality of his experiences in Kyzylorda, his parents deal with strong emotions as they struggle to bond with the new member of their family – leaving Jaden emotionally out of the loop, as he can’t seem to be able to engage emotionally with anyone, especially not his parents or their new baby. And he can’t escape the nagging feeling that the new child is meant as a do-over, thanks to the parenting obstacles that he has presented.

Half a World Away is a powerful story of astounding depth. Readers ages 10 and older can gain insight into the complexity of human psychology and the power of experience in human development. Using our literary guide, families can work together to delve into the many layers of the story, and can take advantage of critical thinking questions and suggestions for extension activities in order to put the story into context and to develop schema to support the development of connections to the characters and their experiences.

Let’s Play: A Tribute to Friendship

What to Play? by Carrie St. John

Forest People in Massachusetts and Michigan

This October I am paying tribute to one of my college roommates. I first met, Erica, Labor Day weekend 1991. Twenty-three years ago. I was starting my sophomore year at the University of Michigan School of Art. Erica and her two assigned roommates, Katie and Ellen, were two doors down the hall in a converted triple. This means three freshman are mushed into a double room. Lots of freshman entered the Residential College that year ready to start an intensive language program on top of their regular major. As the year progressed, I was amazed at how they made that tiny room work for three while becoming life long friends. I was in and out of my single room odd hours staying up late juggling studio work, academics and my job downstairs in our dorm. Those three women at the end of the hall were a definite bright spot during a very stressful year.

I learned early that Erica was excellent with kids. Some people just have the “kid thing.” Erica was one of them. She watched little ones for extra spending money. When my niece or nephew visited on siblings weekends (I was the youngest of five, so no little sibs to bring), Erica just had the ability to talk with them and help them fit right in with our house full of crazy college women. Read the rest of this entry »

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