Home » High School » Using CHOPSTICKS in the Classroom

Using CHOPSTICKS in the Classroom

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TITLE: Chopsticks

AUTHORS/CREATORS: Jessica Anthony & Rodrigo Corral

PUBLISHER: Razorbill

LENGTH: 304 pages

SUMMARY: (via amazon.com) Glory is a piano prodigy.

After her mother died, she retreated into her music. Her father raised her with the goal of playing sold out shows at Carnegie Hall and across the globe. Brilliant and lonely, Glory is drawn to Frank, who moves in next door. She loses herself in his paintings and drawings, mix CD’s and late-night IM conversations. Soon, Frank becomes both her connection to the world–and her escape from reality.

Before long, Glory is unable to play anything but the song “Chopsticks”; F and G notes moving closer together, and farther apart.

Now, Glory has disappeared. But nothing is what it seems. And we must decide what is real, what is imagined, and what has been madness all along.

BRIDGE: Visual literacy is becoming more and more the norm in education. It’s not new; it’s been around for years in comic books and Sunday morning comics. But as technology advances and our students are increasingly connected to their laptops and Smartphones, educators are having to redefine what literacy means and how to meet students’ needs in preparing them for the 21st century post-secondary experiences. Even jobs once thought to require fewer literate skills like flipping burgers or stocking shelves are requiring proficiency with visual media as ordering and inventory systems have become digitized and computerized. As literacy teachers, we have to adapt our previously text-based instruction to incorporate visual elements and teach them to infer, analyze, and create original pieces that include visual elements.

Chopsticks is a great novel with which to begin. The story line is clear and it is not what students will immediately think of as a difficult read. The appeal of the visual medium will snatch readers’ interest and motivate reluctant readers. While reading, the different media used to craft the story tell such a believable tale that one forgets it is fiction. Yet the nuances in the story and the depictions are subtly layered. The end of the story will send readers back into the heart of the novel to compare graphics and what little text exists to try and make sense of the resolution. Students will have to infer, analyze subtext, and draw conclusions about what the major and minor images indicate about the real message of the story.

This book is perfect to pair with the arts and other electives which always seems difficult to manage as a sole pairing. Glory’s talent with piano is a perfect segue into musical terminology and awareness of the discipline. While “Chopsticks” is a fairly simple composition, students could study piano aficionados and different styles from the same period of music. And Frank’s artistic ability could work well with many art concepts including pencil drawings, shading, still life, portraits, and abstract depictions. In addition, the book could be paired with a psychology course as students move through discussions of mental illnesses and how they manifest. And, more than anything, it’s just a damn good story.

READERS: This book will appeal to reluctant readers and students who might normally be labeled part of the “fringe” or even “emo” but that is not the sole appeal. Any reader who feels like his choices are being made for him or one who feels that her parents don’t approve of her boyfriend (so basically ALL teens) will connect with Chopsticks.

OTHER TITLES: Raders who like this book will also enjoy Hard Love by Ellen Wittlinger, The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky, or Why We Broke Up by Daniel Handler and Maira Kalman.

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