Gabriele Strohschen, associate professor and faculty mentor at DePaul University and Beth Fine, historical fiction author, met last fall at a continuing education conference. Now having joined efforts on a small, private literacy project with Dream of a Child Community Development Program (DACODEP) in Bondo, Africa, they have struck out on an adventure with the promise that “from little acorns grow giant oaks.”
The Bondo center reports a steady need of donations and supplies to help in its various missions to AIDS orphans. Since Tate Publishing will soon launch her fourth book, Beth felt it prime to share her good fortune by sending sets of her books to young Kenyans readers.
Whereas Gabriele has long been involved with oral history and global literacy programs in Afghanistan and Kenya, Beth brings a different skill-set to the table. In the past, she taught 4th graders and adults who at first read only at a 4th grade level. That alarming situation has reappeared with the fact that approximately 50% of college freshmen need remedial classes. With that in mind, Beth began to gather materials that could address and help prevent that statistic in the future.
Her objective grew into The Picaresque of Ímagine Purple, an educational fiction series with a history/mystery twist. Each Imasode holds an adventure with advantages in its complementary Appendices: Character Biographies, Clichés/Idioms, Lookup Suggestions and Vocabulary Words, all have friendly, one-line explanations to expand comprehension. Such supplements may be used or ignored at the reader’s choice.
Each book’s front matter has a List of Characters, a Map of the story’s locale, plus Information and Instructions to aid a parent or teacher using the series more formally. Please visit the website to see Steps to Success: picaresqueofimaginepurple.com.
Although the main character Ímagine Purple daydreams of other eras and places, the series operates within the recent history of the late 1960s, a tumultuous time when men marched for civil rights and astronauts walked on the moon. The picaresque begins in Newfoundland and will end in New Delhi. It offers wholesome outlooks for juvenile readers but does not dodge ethical issues. Although the series is not religious in nature, every author comes from a philosophical stance.
Ímagine is a young teacher-turned-detective who just happens to be new Christian, a fact that sometimes poses personal dilemmas. As Ima travels, she not only finds mysteries to solve but also often gets thwarted by companions who turn out to be real rascals. Two themes echo throughout the stories: Ima’s reliance on critical thinking and the old adage, “Beware the company you keep.”
Since English is a third language in Kenya, Strohschen and Fine hope Bondo readers will find the series entertaining, enriching, and educational as well as helpful in improving their English skills.