Thursday, December 9, 2010

Module 7: The Sweetheart of Prosper County

SLIS 5420.002
Module 7
October 4 – 10


Austin wants to ride on the hood of a car in the Christmas Parade. In order to do that she has to become FFA Sweetheart. In order to that, she's got to find an animal and raise it and then show it at the FFA competition. Oh, and it's her FFA classmates that get to decide if she's voted in as Sweetheart. And so, with all this in mind, Austin launches into her spring semester at school with a new rooster and sights on the following year's parade. Along the way, she discovers friendship and a special new connction with her mom.


Alexander, J. (2009). The Sweetheart of Prosper County. New York: Feiwel and Friends.

My Impressions:

Based in a small Texas town, this story touches on the delicate balance people living in places like this must reach. Austin's mother has her own issues to deal with (advances from the mayor and dealing with her grief over her deceased husband), but she now has to cope with her daughter turning into a young woman looking for independence. I think that it is really important for teen readers of this book to understand and see this adult perspective and her motivations for constantly trying to shelter and protect her daughter. This is a good story about discovering who you are and what you want.


From Kirkus Reviews:
More than anything, Austin Gray, a ninth-grade girl who lives in a tiny Texas town, wants to ride on the hood of a car, smiling and waving to the crowd during the Christmas Parade. But to win the coveted spot of 'hood ornament' in the parade, she's got to do something worthy. So Austin decides to get a chicken, join the Future Farmers of America, enter and win the poultry division of the livestock competition and become the FFA Sweetheart, who, not incidentally, rides in the parade. It's an ambitious plan and wins points for originality as well. How Austin puts her scheme into motion and how it transforms her from onlooker on the outskirts to contender in the center is the heart and soul of this novel. It's a bold and charming idea, but the story, which drags in spots, is more intriguing in concept than execution. Austin fails to captivate, and she's surrounded by secondary characters who don't generate enough feeling to keep readers engaged. A pity, but this debut author shows promise. (Fiction. 12 & up). 224pg. VNU EMEDIA, c2009.

[Book Review of Sweetheart of Prosper County]. (2009 August 1). Kirkus Reviews, pp 817

From Booklist:
Gr. 7-10. Fourteen-year-old Austin Gray has a goal to be in next year's No-Jesus Christmas Parade, and she has a plan to get there: she will win the Prosper County Fair Poultry Competition next summer and become the Future Farmers of America Sweetheart. First, though, she has to convince her mother that her Christmas present must be a bantam rooster. First- time novelist Alexander offers a delightful, funny story about teenagers living in a West Texas farming community. The memorable characters include reigning FFA Sweetheart Sundi Knutt; Austin's archnemesis, Dean Ottmer; gorgeous farm-boy and possible boyfriend Josh Whatley; and best friend Maribel, a Mexican American dynamo filled with ethnic pride and joie de vivre. The adults in the book are equally rich and authentic, from Austin's capable but grieving widowed mother to the sleazy Big Wells mayor to bighearted Cajun Lafitte Boudreaux. Austin's year of added responsibility and independence make for a substantive, enjoyable coming-of-age novel that will speak to rural and urban readers alike. Frances Bradburn. 224pg. AMERICAN LIBRARY ASSOCIATION, c2009.

Bradburn, F. (2009 August 1). [Review of Sweetheart of Prosper County]. Booklist, pp 61.

From School Library Journal:
Gr 8 Up. Fifteen-year-old Austin Gray has not had an easy life. Her father died one rainy Christmas Eve when his car skidded off a bridge into a lake. Since then Austin's mother has kept her close, not allowing her to experience life for fear of another tragedy. Dean Ottmer has been Austin's worst nightmare since fourth grade, tormenting her mercilessly. So when Dean harasses her at the No-Jesus Christmas Parade about her flat chest ('Austin, Texas, the no-hill country'), she decides that now is the time to change her life or spend the rest of it as the butt of his jokes. As she sets her plan in motion, joining Future Farmers of America and making new friends, she realizes that it is not friends or popularity that will protect her from Dean, but the confidence to stand up for herself. Filled with quirky characters, including Charles Dickens, the rooster she decides to raise, this is a warm, humorous story that touches on bullying and politics in a small town. Austin is a study in contradiction. On the one hand she is strong-willed and goes after what she wants, and on the other she shows little confidence, allowing Dean to torment her time after time. But it's Austin's mother who quietly steals the show. She is a tough, no-nonsense woman who believes in her daughter but rarely shows her emotional side. A refreshing picture of teen angst, with realistic dialogue and memorable characters.--Kelley Siegrist, Farmington Community Library, MI. 224pg. SCHOOL LIBRARY JOURNAL, c2009.

Siegrist, K. (2009 September 1). [Review of Sweetheart of Prosper County]. School Library Journal, pp 150.

Library Setting Uses:

Since this title was on the 2010 Lone Star Reading List, I think it would have made a great project to use this book and the other titles on that list to make book trailer with the teens. This would have been a great way to market the reading list and get other teens interested in reading the titles. This would be a fun project for Teen Read Week or even a project for Teen Tech Week (if you allow the students to do the filming and editing while you supervise). I would like next year to be able to do something like this with the new Lone Star list.

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