Wednesday, May 5, 2010

The Jacket by Andrew Clements

Phil, a 6th grader confronts Daniel and accuses him of stealing his brother's jacket. Without questioning Daniel, Phil only assumes that the jacket was stolen. Daniel, who is African American, denies stealing the jacket and claims that it was given to him by his grandmother, Lucy. Lucy is the cleaning lady in Phil's home. Upon the principal's discussion with Phil's mother, it turns out that Phil's mother gave Lucy the jacket in the first place. He (Phil) "kept thinking about the early morning scene in the principal's office, replaying it again and again. He kept seeing the look on Daniel's face, the anger in his eyes as he threw the jacket on the floor. And instinctively Phil knew that his being white and Daniel's being black was part of this. Maybe a big part."

After the incident, Phil began to question his own understanding of race.
  • "Can I help it if we have a cleaning lady, and she's black and we're white? And can I help it if she's Daniel's grandmother? I mean, it's not like we're rich or something. If's not like we force Lcuy to work for us, is it?

  • "What if Daniel had been a white kid? Would I have grabbed him like that? If he had lookd like he belonged in that jacket, would I have said he stole it?"

  • "How come you never told me I was prejudiced?" ( a question to his mother)Throughout the story, Phil comes to realize that he is not prejudiced, but recognizes the disturbing fact that is father is, in fact, a bigot.
After visiting Daniel's neighborhood, Phil finds that he and Daniel are a lot alike personality-wise, despite their differences in appearance. Phil changes drastically in the story, as author Andrew Clements sends a strong message that will certain move any reader that picks up The Jacket.

Clements wrote a story that deals with issues that children in schools deal with throughout the world. The issues of tolerance and honesty embody this short, yet thought-provoking novel that allow for readers to self-question their values, just as Phil did throughout his journey. The Jacket would serve as an exellent springboard for discussion in classrooms in exploring racism, tolerance, and prejudice. (School Library Journal)

When asked what prompted him to write The Jacket, Mr. Clements says in a note at the back of the book: "If a white kid grows up in the majority culture in America, sooner or later there will come a realization that children from other races may have had a very different experience, may have lived in a different America. I vividly remember that realization in my own life. I wanted to write a story about that moment when unconscious prejudices rise to the surface, a story that would explore differences and emphaszie our common humanity."

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