Upper elementary and lower middle school students reading Secondhand Wishes will surely find protagonist Lexi's struggles to navigate friendships, family troubles, and perfectionism relatable. As such, this book is suited as a feature title around which students can engage in deep conversations about overcoming adversity, managing stress, and learning to take chances. These conversations could occur in a variety of discussion-based academic settings, including a class read aloud, small group literature circles, or even an after school or lunch time book club.
Common themes in the story around which higher-order thinking questions can be generated include: overcoming the fear of failure, processing anxiety and stress related to a sibling's poor health, managing feelings related to one's parents' financial instability, and resolving conflicts with friends and peers. Before utilizing this title in a group setting, teachers should prepare critical evaluation questions, like, "Why do you think that Lexi is so adamant about keeping the universe in balance?", and interpretive questions, like, "Why do you think the author chose to write a story about a teenage girl who struggles with managing her personal and family stress?"
Educators might try pairing this title with Jordan Sonnenblick's Drums, Girls, and Dangerous Pie (Scholastic, Inc. 2014), as both stories dig into the lives of middle school-aged students who are dealing with seriously ill siblings. In a literature circle setting, half the class may choose to read Secondhand Wishes and the other Drums, Girls, and Dangerous Pie, before gathering together to discuss both in a Socratic Seminar.
To tie this title to curriculum standards, teachers and students can explore its elements of fiction via character analysis. When examining Lexi's motivations and actions, teachers can incorporate purposeful and engaging use of technology by asking students to create a mock Twitter or Instagram account for Lexi to demonstrate their understanding of her character traits and motives. Students and educators can also consider how the story would be altered if told from different characters' perspectives—such as Lexi's brother, mother, aunt, and best friend—and even write a retelling of the story from one of these perspectives. To learn more about bringing this idea into your library, check out the lesson plan, "A New View: Writing from Another Character's Perspective."