Real Teens Read: The House of Sixty Fathers

Literature discussion activities

The Real Teens Read literature group just finished reading The House of Sixty Fathers by Meindert DeJong, which is based on the author’s experiences in China during World War II. We chose this book to round out the other World War II era books we’ve read and gain a different perspective on events surrounding this war.

The House of Sixty Fathers is set during the Second Sino-Japanese War, and it follows young Tien Pao and his beloved pig Glory of the Republic after he is separated from his family as the Japanese invade his country. Tien Pao must survive on his own and ends up being a hero.

We recently read Farewell to Manzanar, a true account of a Japanese family living in an American internment camp during the war, and we also read Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes to accompany it. We watched the movie Empire of the Sun, about a boy who is separated from his parents, captured, and taken to a Japanese confinement camp during the  invasion of Shanghai. We read the poems “Manzanar” by Michiko Mizumoto and selections from Legends from Camp by Lawson Fusao Inada. We discussed how Farewell to Manzanar and the poetry relates to The House of Sixty Fathers.

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The teens are having wonderful conversations about the issues raised in the literature we’ve read, and it is nice to pull some “different” books for them to read, some of which may have been intended for a younger audience. The teens bring a different perspective to our discussions, and I feel like all the books we’ve read have been valuable. They are gaining cultural awareness and seeing different sides of some really big issues.

To accompany The House of Sixty Fathers, we are also reading and discussing the following poems:

  • “Invictus” by William Ernest Henley
  • “Life” by Paul Laurence Dunbar
  • “Silence” by Paul Laurence Dunbar
  • “The Red Wheelbarrow” by William Carlos Williams
  • “The Winds of Fate” by Ella Wheeler Wilcox
  • “If–” by Rudyard Kipling
  • “The Death of the Ball Turret Gunner” by Randall Jarrell
  • “The Fury of Aerial Bombardment”

The teens are doing some hands-on activities including painting kokeshi dolls and making dragon puppets, and later in the month we are going on a field trip to a Chinese restaurant where the kids can try some new foods and enjoy spending time together.

Click here to see my article about our hands-on craft to go with this book!

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