Written by Alix Barzelay
Illustrated by Jennifer Uman and Valerio Vidal
Jemmy Button is a delightful picture book based on the stories of Jemmy Button, a native boy from Tierra del Fuego. The story depicts the life of the young boy who was taken from his native land to England in the early 1800’s where he was educated with the hopes that he could then educate his native people upon his return. Readers of all ages will delight in the story and the 4th grade level reader will master the text without difficulty along with developing an appreciation for the illustrations.
This is one of those books that appears simple in text for younger readers yet offers many levels of meaning for older reader when the full scope of what the character experienced is fully understood. Those deeper meanings will give teachers many opportunities for discussions on the emotions their students would experience if placed in the same situation. Classroom activities can include group work allowing students to make up a new scenario for current times that includes having the 4th grade student being uprooted from everything he or she knows and placed in a completely new environment.
Including Jemmy Button as part of reading, writing, and comprehension lesson for the 4th grader will also allow the teacher or parent to include character development, environmental affects, and family relationships when discussing this picture book. The book leaves the reader connected to the character in a deeper way than many novels accomplish and those types of books and characters come few and far between. Teachers and parents who overlook adding this picture book to their libraries are missing a great opportunity to give readers an emotional experience and a love of story that most will not forget.