THE BALLAD OF JESSIE PEARL – Shannon Hitchcock
setting: 1920’s, North Carolina
age range: 12 and up
release date: February 1, 2013
study guide based on Common Core State Standards
Please tell us about your book.
It’s 1922 and Jessie has big plans for her future, but that’s before tuberculosis strikes. Though she has no talent for cooking, cleaning, or nursing, she puts her dreams on hold to help her family. She falls in love for the first time ever, and suddenly what she wants is not so simple any more.
What inspired you to write this story?
A snippet of a family story and my son’s 8th grade history project. His teacher had each student collect ten family stories. Each story had to take place during a different decade. I decided to write a novel loosely based on one of the stories Alex collected.
Could you share with readers how you conducted your research?
I read novels set in the 1920’s, North Carolina history books, memoirs written from sanatoriums, and doctors’ accounts of the disease. I also contacted a local historian in my hometown who helped me locate resources about life on a tobacco farm in the early 1900’s.
What are some special challenges associated with writing historical fiction?
Not to tell everything you know, but just enough to add flavor to the story.
What topics does your book touch upon that would make your book a perfect fit for the classroom?
THE BALLAD OF JESSIE PEARL could be used in a cross curricular unit by ELA and Social Studies teachers. Keely Hutton, who’s an eighth grade ELA teacher, reviewed my curriculum guide and gave this feedback. “With JESSIE you have the perfect opportunity to tie in [the following]”:
- non-fiction pieces about the time period
- women’s rights and roles in family/society
- health care during epidemics
- historically what was happening during those years in the US and the world