Louise dreams of leaving her tiny island home in the Chesapeake Bay, but first, she must escape the shadow of her twin sister who seems to rob her of everything.
Below are some reading passages that we have hand picked to supplement this book. Be sure to read the passage summaries and our suggestions for instructional use.
The informational text “Introduction to World War II” discusses the causes of World War II, as well as its progression and conclusion.
Have students read “Introduction to World War II” before they begin reading Jacob Have I Loved, in order to provide them with historical context on the period the novel is set in. Ask students to consider, as they read the book, how World War II affects the characters on Rass Island.
What makes a person who they are? Is it their genes, or because of how they were brought up? If two people are brought up in the same home environment, will they be the same? For years, scientists have been debating the answer to these questions. This article explores the concept of nature vs. nurture and the debate surrounding the two sides.
Introduce this text after students have read Chapter 2, to help them analyze the characterization of Sarah Louise and her twin sister Caroline. Ask students to discuss, in the context of the article, what makes the sisters so different. As twins who have been raised together, which of their characteristics are likely inherited, and which are likely caused by how their parents raised them? Even though the girls grew up in the same house, how did their parents raise them differently, and what were the effects?
Genesis 37 is an Old-Testament passage that contains the story of Joseph and his dreams. Joseph is an important figure in the Hebrew tradition. In this passage he is the favorite of his father Jacob, and dreams that he was chosen by God to rule over many people, including his brothers. His brothers sell him into slavery and he ends up in Egypt.
Introduce this text after students have read Chapter 3, to help them understand Louise’s repeated references to the Bible as well as contextualize her allusion to this bible passage in particular. Ask students to discuss how Louise resembles Joseph; what prompts her to compare herself to him, and why does she want her and her sister to live out Joseph’s dreams?
“The Story of Cain and Abel from Genesis 4” explores the story of mankind’s first murder, in which Cain kills his brother after the Lord is more pleased with Abel’s offering than his.
Introduce this text after students have read Chapter 6, to help them focus on the themes of sibling rivalry and hatred. Ask students to compare the sibling rivalries within the two texts – why do Cain and Louise both resent their siblings? Why do they want to hurt them? Ask students to discuss why they think Louise often compares herself to biblical characters. Alternatively, you may choose to introduce this text after students have read Chapter 14, and have them use the pairing to discuss why the girls’ grandmother compares Louise and Caroline to the biblical twin brothers Esau and Jacob.
In this fable of Aesop, a thirsty crow is desperate for a drink of water.
Have students read this text after they have completed Chapter 12 of the novel, to help them identify and analyze themes around the pursuit of happiness and fulfillment. Ask students to compare Louise’s acts of self-improvement to the crow’s actions – what are they each trying to achieve? Do you consider them successful?
In Yrsa Daley-Ward’s poem “what love isn’t,” Ward explores attributes of love not often discussed.
Introduce “What Love Isn’t” after students have read Chapter 13, to focus on the theme of love. Ask students to evaluate, within the context of the poem’s definition of love, if Louise understands what love is. Do students think Louise really loves Captain, or is she misplacing her feelings? Why does Louise feel strongly about Captain? Alternatively, teachers may choose to introduce this text pairing after students have completed the book, to focus on the love Louise feels towards her family, particularly Caroline, by the end of the story.
"The Gift of a Magi" is a classic Christmas story about love, sacrifice, and generosity.
Have students read “The Gift of the Magi” after reading Chapter 14, to focus on the themes of sacrifice and family. Ask students to discuss how Louise has unintentionally sacrificed what she values most – the potential to get away from Rass Island and be independent – in order give her sister the opportunity she deserves. What are the major differences between these two stories of sacrifice? Does Louise intend to make the sacrifice she makes?
In “A Poison Tree,” a speaker allows their hatred and anger to grow, like a poisonous tree.
Introduce this text after students have completed Chapter 14 — when Louise learns that Caroline gets to go to boarding school — to focus on the themes of rivalry and jealousy. Ask students to discuss how Louise treats her jealousy towards her sister, in comparison to the speaker in the poem. Have students recognize that the apple in Blake’s poem symbolizes revenge, and then ask students if symbolizes something else from Louise’s and Caroline’s perspectives? The speaker in Blake’s poem achieves their revenge, does Louise also achieve the revenge she seeks against Caroline? Alternatively, you may choose to introduce this pairing and its questions after students have read Chapter 16, when Louise learns that Caroline is marrying Call.
In “Nothing Gold Can Stay,” a speaker describes the fleeting nature of youth and beauty.
Have students read the poem Stay” after reading Chapter 15 of the novel, to focus on the theme of growing up. Ask students to use the poem’s context to analyze how Louise has grown and matured. How are her relationships with others changing as she moves through adolescence? What would Frost say about the changing relationship between Louise and Call?
In Linda Pastan’s poem “To a Daughter Leaving Home,” a mother describes watching her daughter ride away on her bike.
Have students read “To a Daughter Leaving Home” after reading Chapter 18, to focus on the mother-daughter relationship between Louise and her mother. Ask students to discuss the relationship between Louise and her mother in the emotional context of the poem – how does Louise’s mother feel about Louise leaving home. What are the similarities and differences between Louise’s mother and the mother in the poem?
In Gwendolyn Brooks’s poem “Sadie and Maud,” two sisters lead very different lives due to the choices they have made.
Have students read “Sadie and Maud” after completing Jacob Have I Loved to focus on the theme of sisterhood rivalry. Ask students to compare Sadie and Maud to Louise and Caroline. In each text does one sister end up being more successful or happy than the other? Use evidence from both texts to support your answer.