Monday, May 16, 2011

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie--GoAnimate

Bibliography: Alexie, S. (2007). The absolutely true diary of a part-time Indian. New York, NY: Little, Brown and Company.

Summary: Junior is a budding cartoonist growing up on the Spokane Indian Reservation. Born with a variety of medical problems, he is picked on by everyone but his best friend. Determined to receive a good education, Junior leaves the rez to attend an all-white school in the neighboring farm town where the only other Indian is the school mascot. Despite being condemned as a traitor to his people and enduring great tragedies, Junior attacks life with wit and humor and discovers a strength inside of himself that he never knew existed (Little, Brown and Company).

Tool: GoAnimate

GoAnimate utilizes a similar format to most video editing tools...except, of course, that the user is not merely editing but also creating his or her own animated videos. To use GoAnimate effectively, you must think of your project in terms of a flipbook. Remember those? A flipbook is a small book consisting of a series of images in different positions that create the illusion of flowing movement when the thumb is placed so the pages flip quickly, and that concept is exactly how GoAnimate works. If your characters are having a conversation, Character A must talk in the first scene, and you must create a new scene in order to have Character B respond. Every scene you create is one in a series of stills that will become your video.

GoAnimate is a very fun tool to use, but a word of caution: getting carried away may be costly. While this tool offers many free features, to access some of the neater backdrops/characters/props, users need to pay using GoBucks. Each GoBuck costs a penny, so, for example, the stereotypical Native American in the book trailer below cost 175 GoBucks, or literally, $1.75. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian cost about $6.00 to make. The best suggestion I have for keeping your GoAnimate costs down is to use this tool to create strictly original material. If you go in with a set idea in mind, as I did for this project, you are more likely to pay for that classroom backdrop or that tomahawk prop or whatever else you need to create the effect that you want. If you go in wanting to play, however, you are far more likely to stick to the free features...and GoAnimate has plenty of them. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by nmalesa

Like it? Create your own at It's free and fun!

Review: While reading Sherman Alexie's The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, I had to take parts of it with a grain of salt, as it were. I read it with the same attitude that I read Sapphire's Push: "OK, I know that some kids have it really bad, but this story has to be a compilation of multiple children's lives on the reservation (or in Harlem, in the case of Push). All of these things can't all happen to one person—that's way too extreme." Then I handed the book to my Potawatomi friend, who read it and said, "Yup, that's about right." In fact, Alexie's first foray into YA literature is semi-autobiographical, and most of Junior's experiences from living on the Spokane Indian Reservation while attending the all-white Reardan High School mirror Alexie's own adolescence.

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian has given me my only experience with book challenges and censorship. My mother, a secondary school librarian, was asked by her principal to remove it from the middle school shelves because of its [one-time] use of the “N” word. She obliged and moved it to her ninth grade campus instead, feeling that there is something to be said about age-appropriateness and if a younger student wanted to read it, then he or she could utilize the inter-library loan system. My aunt, an eighth grade English teacher at a private religious-affiliated school, chose this book for her summer reading program but was forced to remove it from the list after parents petitioned against it for its [one-time] mention of masturbation. Interestingly, her students read Suzanne Collins’s The Hunger Games the year before, and no one complained about kids reading about kids killing kids. Perhaps some people find realistic fiction more terrifying because while the Bogeyman cannot attack children, poverty can. Drug abuse can. Racism can. Disabilities can. Junior must wake up each day and face each one of these terrors and more.

It is interesting that there is enough material in such a slim book to warrant challenges based on multiple “offenses.” You might think people would pick one and stick with it. In an odd way, however, this difference in opinion on what should or should not be challenged mirrors Junior’s coming-of-age experience: diversity may often cause a whole boatload of problems, but in the end, it is what keeps life interesting. Grades 7-10.

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