Friday, September 11, 2009

REVIEW: The Man with the Red Bag

Bunting, E. (2007). The Man with the Red Bag. New York: Joanna Cotler Books.


So, in the U.S. we're now raising a generation of kids who know something happened on September 11th, 2001 that changed the way we live in this country, but don't really know how or why.
As with many sensitive issues, literature can be an excellent way of starting a conversation. And The Man with the Red Bag will certainly provoke one.
Set in the summer of 2002, Kevin is about to begin a bus tour of many monuments throughout the central and western United States, when another tourist gets on the bus and attracts his attention. The man appears to be of Middle Eastern descent and is very protective of the red bag he carries with him.  Several of the tourists are immediately suspicious of the late addition to the tour.

Kevin, an aspiring mystery writer, decides to investigate the man in hopes of writing a mystery of his own.  He recruits the only other child, a girl named Geneva who is traveling and is emotionally distant from her dad, to help.

Aside from talking about terrorism, September 11th and the influence it has had on our culture since the attacks, a teacher could also discuss issues of racial profiling, terrorism, divorce, fear and (on a lighter note) how to write a good mystery.

The Man with the Red Bag also lends itself to geography and history lessons as the tourists take in various monuments around the United States.

Quotes of Note:
"I held the bag tight against me. If there was a bomb in here, it wouldn't be too smart to jiggle it.
Running, running" (p. 1).
"Right from the beginning I was suspicious of the man. Right from the minute he got on the bus. Maybe it was because he acted so strangely about the bag. But mostly it was because of the way he looked" (pp. 1-2).
"Of course, at that time, at the beginning, my suspicions were just gut level. Well, it was June 20, 2002, not even a year after 9/11. That's a date no one will ever forget" (p. 2).
"So on day two of the tour, when the man got on the bus, things started looking up.  Suddenly I had a project.  I'd watch him, take notes, maybe get my whole book done, first draft, before we got home.  Well, at least the first few chapters.  And besides that, I'd be an anonymous, unpaid security guard for the tour.  I'd be a bodyguard for Grandma" (p. 6).

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