Skip to main content

Life Lessons in Coping With Prejudice, a Learning Disability, and Life in the 60's Create Compelling Chapter Book

Cindy Hewitt is a retired teacher with a passion for children's literature. Read-aloud stories add quality to a child's life experiences.

Ariel's Story Is Relevant for Life Today

Compelling story of life in the 1960's with some of the same problems of today's world for young readers

Compelling story of life in the 1960's with some of the same problems of today's world for young readers

A Compelling Read for Ages 9-15

Veera Hiranandani's beautifully written chapter book How to Find What You're Not Looking For is a compelling read for ages 9-15 with life lessons in coping with prejudice, antisemitism, and interesting facts about life in the 1960's. Young readers will recognize some of the same problems that Ariel, a 12- year-old Jewish girl faced in 1967. Ariel also had to learn to cope with a learning disability that little is known about. An historical Supreme Court decision changed life for Ariel and her family.

Ariel's family owned a Jewish bakery in New York City in the 1960's when prejudice against Jews was rampant. Ariel faced the issue of antisemitism every day at school. Ariel also faced keeping her big sister's secret of being in love with a Hindu boy when there was great prejudice against interracial marriage. The Supreme Court's landmark decision with the case of Loving v. Virginia which made interracial marriage legal in 1967 changed life for Ariel and her family. Ariel learns that her own thoughts about all of these issues are important and finds her own voice to combat these issues and win in the end. Ariel finds that writing poetry is a good way to use her voice to bring all of these issues to light in her world.

Hiranandani writes in easy to read text. The title conveys the idea that Ariel was not looking for these problems but found answers to each by owning her ideas and using her voice to win over these issues. Young readers will recognize some of the same problems in their world today. How to Find What You're Not Looking For is a timely chapter book with interesting history facts intermixed into Ariel's story. It was published by Penguin/Random House and has an ISBN of 978-0-525-55505-6.

Bring How to Find What You're Not Looking For Into the Classroom for Engaging Discussions and Creative Writing Activities

Teachers who teach reading. language arts, and history to ages 9-15 will want to add this engaging chapter book to their classroom libraries. History is sometimes uninteresting to this age group and this chapter book is a great tool to mix history with a good story to read. Engaging discussions will be part of the learning activities after reading Ariel's story. Chapter books can be read aloud with a few chapters each day for students to share with their peers. Teachers might like to assign How to Find What You're Not Looking For as an individual reading project or as a group project for the class.

*Call attention to the fact that Ariel faces the issue of antisemitism every day. Assign a project for students to bring in news articles about incidents of antisemitism that are still happening in our society.


*Call attention to the fact that Ariel's big sister has a boyfriend who is Hindu. Engage students in a discussion of how many students know an interracial couple in their community. Is this still a problem in our society?

Scroll to Continue

*Assign a class research project to research the Supreme Court's decision about the case of Loving v. Virginia in 1967. How did this ruling change life for interracial couples?

*Call attention to the fact that Ariel has a learning disability that causes problems for when writing. How does her teacher help her to solve this issue?

*Ariel likes to write poetry. Assign a creative writing project for students to write a poem about one of these issues that Ariel must learn to cope with.

*Take time for students to read each of the poems that Ariel writes. Engage students in a class discussion of her poems and how she uses each to cope with her feelings.

*The assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. is part of the history in Ariel's story. Assgn a class research project to learn about this time in our country's history.

*Assign a creative writing project for students to write about how the birth of Leah's baby into Ariel's family brought about healing for the problem of prejudice.

A side note for teachers to consider when adding this book to your classroom library is that our country's schools are experiencing a tidal wave of books that are being banned. Present this book to your school district for school officials and parents to read before you add it to your classroom.


© 2022 Cindy Hewitt

Related Articles