We have been reading Helen Oyeyemi's Icarus Girl together since the first day of school. We're a little over halfway through. The protagonist is a precocious eight-year-old girl called Jessamy, prone to tantrums and to obsessions like writing haiku and rewriting sad scenes in books like Little Women (her favorite).
Jess has an English father and a Nigerian mother. The novel takes place in England and Nigeria. The theme of pairs--duality--dichotomy--twins--phrase it how you will, but it's like Noah's Ark in there, there are twos everywhere you look. Our first writing prompts on Icarus Girl concerned the number (and identity) of pairs in the novel--thus far, the kids have identified about thirty--and the nature of Jessamy's mysterious friend, TillyTilly.
Icarus Girl explores our twinned themes of Magic and Journeys. Jess' travels between Europe and Africa inform her identity and illuminate the characters of her parents, her relations, and her new friend. TillyTilly's identity is grounded in Nigerian mythology, aspects of which were introduced to half this group last spring in Chinua Achebe's Things Fall Apart.
We'll finish Icarus Girl in October. In the meantime, have the kids remind you why someone keeps leaving notes all over the Summers-Knoll second floor that read HEllO JEssY.