Hidden Gems I Love You, Michael Collins by Lauren Baratz-Logsted

by | Nov 8, 2018 | Reading | 0 comments

Although I Love You, Michael Collins by Lauren Baratz-Logsted gets off to a slow start, it is worth hanging in there. Upper elementary readers will relate to Mamie, who doesn’t quite know where she fits in or who she is. The story is set in the summer of 1969, right before the moon landing. Fourth, fifth, and sixth grade students will enjoy reading about life in the 1960s and comparing it to their own lives.

Summary of I Love You, Michael Collins

Mamie is the youngest of three sisters, all named for First Ladies. It’s the summer of 1969, and the country is anxiously awaiting Apollo 11 and the moon landing. Mamie feels like a round peg in a square hole at school, but she and her best friend, Buster, understand each other very well. When their teacher asks the students to write to one of the Apollo 11 astronauts, only Mamie chooses to write to Michael Collins. Once summer vacation begins, Mamie continues to write to Collins, telling him about her life while discussing his role in the moon landing.

In the middle of the summer, Mamie’s mom walks out and leaves the family shocked. Her dad goes after her a few days later, leaving Mamie at home with her 16 year old sister. Soon, Mamie ends up all alone at home, with each family member assuming someone else is taking care of her. Throughout the experience, Buster is there to support her, and Mamie learns a lot about who she is.

Teaching with I Love you, Michael Collins

I Love You, Michael Collins is written as a series of letters (epistolary novel), and the book often feels like a diary. Mamie has a strong voice and many students will relate to the difficulties she has fitting in and figuring out who she is. Some students will also relate to the family issues in the book and having to learn to take care of themselves.

I Love You, Michael Collins does an excellent job developing the setting. There are so many little details that really bring the 1960s to life, including the nation’s excitement for the Apollo 11 mission. The story hints at real issues from the time period, especially women’s rights and gender roles. Baratz-Logsted also did a wonderful job adding details about the space program in a natural way. Teachers could easily use this book in an integrated unit on space. A list of suggested reading about related space topics is even included after the story.

Teachers could create lessons for many elements of literature based on I Love You, Michael Collins. In my opinion, this book is an excellent mentor text for setting – it is definitely one of the story’s strengths. Students could track details about the setting to see how an author develops a sense of time and place. In the process, students will also learn a lot about American culture in the 1960s.

The story also has a few strong themes that students could support with details: friendship, resilience, responsibility, and individuality. Teachers could ask students what they believed was the author’s central message and work them work in small groups to support their choice.

This book is also a good selection to study character and story development. Mamie works through the problems she faces by explaining them to Michael Collins. She slowly realizes that in many ways, she and Collins have a lot in common. Mamie’s path of self-discovery neatly parallels that of the Apollo 11 mission. Teachers could have students track both Mamie’s changes in personality, as well as the astronauts’ journey.

Teachers could also use I Love You, Michael Collins as a mentor text for adding voice to writing. The story is completely told by Mamie through first person point of view letters. The readers get a strong sense of who Mamie is and how she feels. Teachers could use this book to model how authors develop a character’s voice during Writer’s Workshop.

I highly recommend this book for fourth, fifth, and sixth grade students. This book gets off to a slow start, but it begins to draw the reader in as the story continues. It is definitely worth finishing, as Mamie becomes more relatable as the story goes on. Teachers could use this story to teach many language arts concepts, as well as to integrate information on space or the 1960s.

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Over twenty plus years, my educational career has spanned four continents and two states, as well as eight grade levels!

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