Stepping on the Cracks, the middle grades novel by Mary Downing Hahn is all about life on the home front during wartime. Here are some ideas for connections that might be useful as you read the novel in class – ideas for discussions, research, projects, etc.
Not since the Civil War, has there been a war fought here at home in the United States. Most often, US citizens feel the effects of a war through participation in the military or just by living on the home front during the war. Living on the home front has its own stresses, and serious ones at that. It is this home front situation that Hahn tackled in Stepping on the Cracks.
The story takes place during World War II and involves characters living at home in the United States. So let’s start with that.
The whole topic of living at home while a loved one is at war will, of course, be of special interest to kids from military families, and some of them may have plenty of thoughts to contribute to the discussion. Most of the questions that these topics bring up, however, are universal ones that will appeal to middle grade kids in general, just as this excellent novel does.
Here are some ideas for discussing with your students, either before or after reading Stepping on the Cracks. Many of the topics can also be used for research topics, for opinion essays, or other types of activities. Group projects in which students do some research and then create a presentation are another possibility.
WWII Home Front
- Victory gardens
- Scrap metal drives
- Rationing sugar, butter, etc.
- Letters from the front
- Window flags – blue star, gold star
- Telegrams – the worst news
If you would like to expand the discussion a little, here are two more ideas – the home front in modern wars and a pandemic as a war on the home front. These topics could also be used in a variety of ways to support the novel Stepping on the Cracks or they could be used as topics for stand-alone writing or research assignments.
The Home Front in Modern Wars
- Siblings, parents in military
- worries about their safety
- Missing them
- Moving, always starting over
- Changing schools
- Making new friends
A Pandemic – A War on the Home Front
- Similarities – shortages, doing without, waiting for it to end, worries about loved ones
- Problems – disinformation, waiting for help (testing, vaccinations, financial assistance, lines for food banks)
- Front line workers/essential workers
I’ve mentioned a few ways that these topics could be used in a middle school or upper elementary classroom, but I’m sure you can think of others. If you, or your students, come up with an interesting idea for an activity or a presentation about the home front, I would love to hear about it in the comments below.