Free Study Guide for There Are No Children Here by Alex Kotlowitz|
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THERE ARE NO CHILDREN HERE - STUDY GUIDE / BOOK SUMMARY
The Preface, although important for
explaining how the book came to be, is more important for setting the stage. As
we begin to delve into Lafeyette and Pharoah’s stories, we already know that it
won’t be something we particularly want to hear. However, it is something we need
to listen to, think about, and hopefully, become galvanized to help change.
In this chapter, Pharoah is nine years old and Lafeyette is almost twelve. They
are making their first visit to this particular set of railroad tracks on a warm
Saturday afternoon in early June. There are five tracks in all, leading from the
western suburbs of Chicago. From this high point in the city, Pharoah can see
the downtown skyline, his own home, a red brick, seven-story building, his elementary
school, and the towering spire of the First Congregational Church. He is also
distracted from the view by the small amount of nature present here - a butterfly
and wildflowers that grow along the rails. Also with the boys are Porkchop, their
younger cousin and Pharoah’s best friend, and James Howard, Lafeyette’s close
friend. They are each carrying a crowbar or other tool for digging, because they
are looking for snakes. An older friend named William had nabbed one the summer
before and allowed the boys to touch it and hold it. Of course, that memory is
tempered by the realization that William is another statistic of the projects.
He died when a friend accidentally shot him with a gun he believed was unloaded.
They also try searching in a tenfoot-high stack of worn automobile tires and an
empty boxcar. The boxcar quickly becomes refuge from a commuter train heading
their way. The children had heard that the suburb-bound commuters would shoot
at them for trespassing on the tracks. Pharoah finds himself crouching in the
weeds nearby as the train whisks by him. He becomes lost in his thoughts and doesn’t
want to leave this place with its smell of flowers and a diving sparrow in the
sky. They are not ready to stop for the day, but the sun is going down and the
place is dangerous at night. They slide down and begin the long trek for home.
This chapter best presents the kind of impressionable child that Pharoah is. He loves the smell of the wildflowers, the flight of the butterfly, and the diving momentum of the sparrow. In later months, he will recall this place as one of tranquility and he will come to savor this sanctuary when he most needs to escape reality.
Another important aspect of this chapter
is the contrast of the gentle sanctuary to the memory of William’s violent death.
This is the rule rather than the exception in these boys’ lives.
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Clapsaddle, Diane. "TheBestNotes on There Are No Children Here".
. 15 May 2008