Coretta Scott King Award Books: Using Great Literature with Children and Young Adults

By Claire Gatrell Stephens | Go to book overview

Chapter 15
Toning the Sweep
Angela Johnson1994 Coretta Scott King Author Award
About the Story
Fourteen-year-old Emily and her mother go to the desert to help Grandmother Ola pack up her house. Ola is dying of cancer. During the time it takes to pack up the house, each of the three women in this story learn important lessons about themselves and life.The story is told in a combination of past memories and present experiences, largely by the young protagonist. The pace flows naturally as she grows to understand herself and the women who have come before her.The book's title comes from a story told to Emily by a neighbor back home in Cleveland. That story relates to a custom from the neighbor's childhood town. The custom is for someone to [tone the sweep] when a family member dies. A sweep is a sort of plow, and to tone it means to hit it with a hammer to create a loud metallic clang. Toning the sweep told others in the town of the death, and it also served to ring the dead person's soul into heaven. Toning the sweep becomes a pivotal incident in Angela Johnson's tale of self-discovery and acceptance.
Objectives
After reading Toning the Sweep, the student should be able to:
1. Define the literary terms character, major character, and minor character.
2. Identify major and minor characters in the story.
3. Provide details of the plot.
4. Identify character relationships and explain their impact on the protagonist.
5. Identify elements of symbolism in the story and discuss what they reveal about the character(s).
6. Explain the concept of irony and give an example of it from the story.

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