Gianna just wants to know about her ancestors, but she has to join an after school history club (yuck!) to do it. Now, she’s about to embark on a journey that will change everything she thinks she knows about her family.
Gianna The Great by Becky Villareal
Review by Aubrey Wynne
Gianna the Great is a middle school book about a girl who loves history and wants to know more about her family tree. The story, told in first person, revolves around the adorable and cheeky Gianna Saldana. This fourth grader joins the history club in hopes of discovering her past. The author tackles not only family history but also tough issues that many of our children face today. Yet each question is approached with the curiosity, compassion and yes, it is entertaining.
Why does my family do things differently?
Why don’t I look like my mom?
Why don’t I have a dad?
Gianna is not the geek in school—but there is one of those in the plot, of course. She is not the popular girl. Rather, she represents that middle category where most kids fall into, so she her easy to identify with and likeable. As she the old history teacher, Mr. Williams and Gianna’s nemesis, Matthew help her build a family tree, I found myself becoming friends with each of them.
Ms. Villareal gives an excellent explanation genealogy and how to conduct research. She also provides wonderful insight to the Mexican heritage. As an ESL teacher, I was pleasantly surprised to find explanations such as how last names are used differently and given to children.
As a primary teacher and a history geek, I have to admit that Gianna stole my heart. While other kids worried about who would make the volleyball team or the cheerleading squad, I really did look up George Washington. And guess what? He didn’t want to be our first president. In fact, he is the reason we call our leader MR. President.
I would highly recommend this book for middle school teachers who want to introduce history by using family. It is also an excellent choice as a multi-cultural book that introduces another culture in an approachable and interesting way. The book itself is well written with enjoyable characters. However, I don’t know if it is something middle-school students would pick up on their own unless they had a particular interest in this subject as Gianna did. I am recommending it to my district as a great supplemental read.
RATED 4 STARS
As a missionary’s kid Becky grew up all over the state of Texas learning that each person is special in the Lord’s eyes. As a twenty year veteran teacher she learned how to bring out those gifts in children. As a ten year genealogist she learned how wonderful finding out about the family background can be especially when the knowledge is shared with others.
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