Recently, one of my book groups began reading Out of the Dust by Karen Hesse.
This book is about a 13 year-old girl and the hardships she faces while living in the Dustbowl period during the Great Depression. I picked this book because of its rich, descriptive language and also because its structure is free verse poetry and reads like journal entries.
To give the group some background information, we read a National Geographic article that explained what lead to the Great Depression and the dust storms.
When we opened the book, one of my students noticed that the date on the first page said 1920. Immediately, he asked, "How can this book be set in the Great Depression if the date says 1920?"
So we began to read together the first page, where it describes the main character being born "on the swept floorboards of the kitchen because that's where Daddy said it would be best." All I am intending is for the group to recognize that this is a sort of prologue since the next section skips to 1932.
The same student says, "I don't understand how women could have babies back then and live if they weren't in a hospital. How do they get the baby out of the stomach without surgery?"
I responded, "Well, some women have surgery and the baby is taken out of the stomach and some women don't." (moving on.)
We continue to read and then the boy stops and says, "But wait. If the baby doesn't come out of the stomach, where does it come from?" He thinks for a minute, while I stammer a couple "ums" and try to change the subject.
Finally, he looks back at the text (nice use of a reading skill!) and says, "I see here it says that the mom was crouching. Wait a minute," (thinks) "Does the baby come out of her butt?"
At that exact moment, I look across the table at another student. He is shaking his head and repeatedly whispering, "That's not where babies come from. That's not where babies come from."
I can feel my face burning, and all I can think is "I did NOT anticipate this conversation when I planned this lesson!" Finally, I manage to blurt out "I think you should ask your mom where they come from when you get home. Let's move on."