Young Adult Lit Project
“Horror, Humiliation, and Hope”
Copper Sun by Sharon M. Draper is an historical fiction novel that focuses on two teenage girls forced into slavery. The year was 1738 and fifteen-year-old Amari had just witnessed the brutal massacre of her village and the murders of her family. She had been captured by mysterious “pale skinned” visitors and had an iron brace forced around her neck. She was placed on a boat and endured a tortuous journey around the world. When the boat finally reached land she was sold into slavery and a world that was entirely new and cruel to her.
Amari’s slave owner, Mr. Derby, purchased her as a sixteenth birthday present for his son, Clay Derby. Amari endured weekly nightmares at the hands of Clay. At the Derby plantation, Amari meets sixteen-old-Polly. The only difference between Polly and Amari is their skin color. Polly is an indentured servant for the Derbys and longs for her freedom, just as Amari dreams of her freedom.
Amari and Polly work together at the plantation until one fateful night. They are summoned to help deliver the newborn baby of Mrs. Derby. The beautiful, bouncing baby is healthy, but there is one major problem.
After that fateful night Amari, Polly, and young little slave boy, Tidbit, make their way south to Ft. Mose, and freedom. Will they make it with Clay Derby, slave hunters, and gators trying to stop them?
Author information: Sharon M. Draper is a long-time Language Arts teacher and native of Ohio. She has been an Ohio Teacher of the Year, and was one of the first ever National Board Certified Teachers in Language Arts. She has one numerous awards, including the Coretta Scott King award in 2007 for Copper Sun. She has authored numerous books, and her Hazelwood High trilogy is a favorite among teens. She has an innate ability to relate to teenagers and get even the most reluctant reader to start, finish, and enjoy her books!
Reader Response: Copper Sun is a phenomenal book! I don’t usually read historical fiction, but chose this book because a student of mine last year insisted that I read it. I must mention that this student was not a fan of reading—he also told me that I should order a class set of these books for my students to read next year! High School students will be able to relate to these characters because there is raw emotion involved. They will be horrified, sad, hopeful, and jubilant throughout the reading of this novel.
Rationale for Selection: I chose this book because I am a huge fan of Sharon Draper. I read the Hazelwood High trilogy as shared reading in my tenth grade reading classes, and her books motivate the kids to go check out more of her titles from the media center. Copper Sun has adult scenes, adult themes, and is graphic in nature at some points. High School students love this. They don’t feel like they are reading some watered down version of a book—and it isn’t boring to them. I definitely would not recommend this book to a student under the age of twelve. I would like to use this book as part of an author study of Sharon M. Draper or would like to use it during Black History Month. Sharon Draper is a black female author, and the issue in the book is slavery. My classroom is 95% minority, and they often request books by black authors. I feel that this is quality literature that the kids will like!
Ten Item List of Student Activities Connected to Copper Sun:
10. Tea Party—this is a pre-reading strategy where I will take lines from the story and distribute them individually to class members. They will circulate around the room like a tea party and predict what the story will be about using the clues/lines from the book.
Guided Imagery using the five senses. The students will complete a graphic organizer after reading the first few chapters about Africa. They will imagine what they saw, heard, felt, smelled, and tasted, during the scenes from the village. This will probably bring about some strong emotions in the readers also.
Say Something—this will be a partner activity done after the students read about the journey on the boat. Some example conversation starters are: “I wonder what will happen to _______ because _________? Or “ I hope that ______.
Written conversations—this is very similar to “say something” but all conversing is done on paper. This will be done after the chapter when Mrs. Derby’s baby is born. The kids will have plenty to talk about then!
ABC Character Chart—this will be a great way for the students to analyze the characters in this book. Each person in the group will choose a different character and fill out a foldable chart filled with character traits. For example if I chose Clay Derby I would write A—an animal of a person, B—bratty sixteen-year-old, C—coward for not sticking up for Amari, etc.
Inference Notes—I have never done this activity but I found it online through the sources Dr. Slick gave us. It is located here: http://englishcompanion.com/pdfDocs/inferencenotes.pdf
This will be a during reading activity that will be done in the middle of the book.
Student Discussion—this will be an after reading activity. Sharon Draper has a phenomenal discussion page for the book listed here:
Write letters to the author! This is a great activity for professional letter writing. Ms. Draper will even write your class back if you put all of your letters in one envelope!
Choice for students—Scene drawing with caption writing OR Poetry writing about the book. Students can either write a poem about the theme, characters, setting, etc. or use their creative talents to draw, paint, digitally create, a picture and then add an appropriate caption.
1. Student review of book for school website and/or Barnes and Noble website. Students will write a review of the book to post online.