BookDragon Books for the Diverse Reader

Sing a Song of Tuna Fish: A Memoir of My Fifth-Grade Year by Esmé Raji Codell, illustrated by LeUyen Pham

Sing a Song of Tuna FishThis one starts with a mini-dilemma of choice … to read or to listen? To read the actual book, you get the added benefit of LeUyen Pham‘s playfully evocative drawings. To listen, you get to listen to author Esmé Raji Codell read to you her own words! Having access to both would be your best alternative, of course … then you can look and listen at the same time!

Let me tell you something,” Codell begins in her “Introduction.” “When you are a kid, you think that you will remember everything … And you might. Or, you might be like me who isn’t all that old yet but already old enough to a get a kind of amnesia.” She likens our aging brains as something like an attic – which is why we grown-ups need to scratch our heads while we rifle through our attic storage. Codell herself went looking and found a box marked 1979 when she was in 5th grade, growing up in Chicago. “These are the stories that stuck.”

The collection opens with Codell remembering her mother encouraging her (!) to throw eggs at the fancy car flamboyantly, illegally parked below, and ends with an impromptu celebration she creates while her grandmother is fast asleep. In between, she takes readers on a tour of her Chicago neighborhood, recalls her very alternative school, then shares her joy at the order of her public school classroom, and reminisces about her new best friend who helps Codell with her “maths” as well as avoiding her annoying piano lessons.

At any age, we should all feel so lucky to remember such fun, poignant tales. Codell’s fifth grade, captured in seven light stories, are entertainingly honest, occasionally bittersweet, and filled with discovery and delight.

Readers: Middle Grade

Published: 2006


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