"A girl has to grow up sometime," and My Louisiana Sky's hero, Tiger, has a crucial coming-of-age story to tell your class. Kimberly Willis Holt's award-winning novel features relatable, popular themes involving acceptance, self-esteem, and the importance of family, while also motivating students to think deeply about an uncommon topic in fiction for younger readers. Tiger's relationship with her mother demonstrates the complicated experiences of a family caring for a loved one with an intellectual disability. It is important to foster meaningful and respectful discussion on this subject to remove the stigma and help students understand how best to support those with disabilities and their families.

The setting of this novel—the 1950s South—cannot be ignored, as it influences Tiger's narrative significantly. As your students read, encourage them to note similarities and differences between Tiger's life and their own. Students will likely observe differences in access to technology and in slang, and similarities in Tiger's close family relationships and struggles to endure change. You could also provide them with historical context; for instance, Hurricane Audrey was an actual storm in 1957 and is regarded as one of the deadliest hurricanes in US history. Offer your students information about the impact of this hurricane and have them consider how it might have affected Tiger's family.

For a closer look into My Louisiana Sky, a lesson on the unreliable narrator would be appropriate. The first-person point of view gives readers insight into Tiger's thoughts and feelings, but also into her misinterpretations about the time in which she lives. Challenge students by having them use context clues and historical knowledge to fill in Tiger's gaps of understanding. Ask your class, "Why do you think Holt chose to tell the story through this perspective?"

Want to learn more about Tiger and her powerful journey? Check out our guide below!

Summary of My Louisiana Sky

Key Facts

  • Publication Date: 1998
  • Length: 224 pages
  • Lexile Measure: 770
  • Recommended Grade Band: 6-8
  • ALA Notable Book; ALA Top Ten Best Books for Young Adults; Boston Globe Horn Book Award

Tiger Parker is a 12-year-old girl with a complicated life. She feels self-conscious about her parents, whom she calls "slow," particularly her mother, who has an intellectual disability. She also struggles to fit in with the popular crowd at school. On the cusp of Tiger's adolescence, her grandmother dies, shattering her world. Aunt Dorie Kay offers Tiger the opportunity to live with her in Baton Rouge permanently, so she visits her aunt for a few days to see what it would be like. Ultimately, Tiger misses her parents, learns to accept them as they are, and returns to her small Louisiana town to take care of them.

What Your Students Will Love About My Louisiana Sky

  • Tiger's relatability
  • Learning about life in the 1950s South

Potential Student Struggles With My Louisiana Sky

  • Understanding unfamiliar slang from the time period
  • The town's insensitivity regarding Tiger's mother

Learning Objectives for My Louisiana Sky

  • Examine the novel's core themes involving the importance of family, the journey of acceptance, and self-confidence.
  • Discuss with sensitivity the experiences of families that include those with intellectual disabilities.
  • Define "coming-of-age novel" and explain why the novel fits this category.
  • Identify instances of figurative language, such as symbolism and simile.
  • Learn details about the Southern culture in the 1950s; research real events of the 1950s to glean historical context.
  • Analyze Tiger as an unreliable narrator and speculate why the author chose to write the novel from a first-person perspective.

Literary Elements in My Louisiana Sky

  • Coming-of-Age Story
  • Conflict
  • Dynamic Character
  • First-Person Narration
  • Plot
  • Setting
  • Simile
  • Symbolism
  • Theme
  • Unreliable Narrator

Major Themes in My Louisiana Sky

Family — My Louisiana Sky explores complex family dynamics, specifically family members' responsibility to one another and the importance of being around loved ones.

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Acceptance — Tiger must learn to accept both the death of her grandmother and the circumstances of her parents.

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Self-esteem — Throughout the novel, Tiger strives to fit in and redefine herself through changes in her clothes, her social circle, and even her location.

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Other Resources for My Louisiana Sky