Returning with a tale; It’s kinda of a funny story by Ned Vizzini

Allow me to apologize for my lack of blogging this last month. The combination of work, finishing finals, starting new summer classes, and moving has had a negative influence on my blog.

However, there is good news! Due to the fantastic Adolescent Literature course that I took this last spring, I fell in love with reading all over again. As a result I have decided to continue adding to my list of completed books for this year.

Can I get an “amen?”

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This bunny is clearly happy for me.

S, what have I been reading? Well because I have been SO busy during the month of May, I have sadly only completed one book. I actually had bought this book on amazon without knowing anything about it (well, except the brief description provided by the lovely creators of amazon), and I was fascinated with this powerful novel.

It’s Kinda a funny story by Ned Vizzini is a tale that takes you into the mind of 15-year old Craig. Craig lives the “normal” American teenage life; he has friends, has a crush on his best friends girlfriend, has a supportive family, and seems to have no problems with his life–on the outside. Inside Craig’s head, he is terrified and overwhelmed with the pressures of becoming a successful adult. After being accepted into one of the best high schools in New York, he starts to develop a cycling process that traps him in his thoughts, and forces him to believe that suicide is the only option out of his own head. Craig’s story takes place inside an adult psychiatric hospital where Craig is introduced to new types of people, and is able to reflect on who he is and what he wants in his life. The question is, will he make this healthy shift by the end of the story from a depressed teenager to a content one? Or, will he remain in the hospital for the rest of his days.

It's kind of a funny story by Ned Vizzini

One thing that this novel really focuses on is Craig’s definition of what he calls “tentacles;” the bad aspects of his life compared to the “anchors;” things that allow him to find comfort and that make him happy. Craig has a problem, as many teenagers do; severe depression. Craig, as well as many other students in the school systems today, is too focused on failure. This forbids him from succeeding. Because Craig has this desire to get into the best high school so he can get into the best college and be a great success, one failure has more of an effect on him that 300 successes. In summary, Craig focuses on being perfect. How many students, especially in our middle school or high school classes, focus too much on what they are doing wrong that they fail to see what they are doing right? Some of the best students (some not all) are those who work to achieve perfection. However, as proven in this story, how damaging can that be to a student?

While doing some research, here is something that I found interesting:


 • Suicides, particularly among girls, are on the rise. Among teenage girls ages 10-14, suicides were up 76 percent between 2003 and 2004; among teenage girls ages 15-19, suicides increased 32 percent. In 2007, 15 percent of kids “seriously considered attempting suicide;” seven percent actually attempted to kill themselves at least once. Suicide is the 3rd leading cause of death among kids ages 10 to 24.

Twenty percent of students at two Ivy League schools report “purposely injuring themselves by cutting, burning, or other methods.”

Website: http://greatergood.berkeley.edu/raising_happiness/post/school_success_v_happiness


Are teachers to hard on their kids? Reading this story gave me yet another element to think about once I become a teacher; always expect great things from your students, but recognize the signs that could possibly lead to damaging their health. Express that with great success, there has to be a few failures along the way.

 

Tear-Jerkers Make the BEST Books

I have a habit, as I am sure many of you do, when I read. My definition of a good book is based on many factors; the way the book is written, the content of the story, the development of the characters, and other things. These factors, however center around one principle; how the book made me feel at the end, the emotions it provoked.

In summary, if the book made me cry, it was an amazing story.

Now, you must know that for me, crying over a book is not something that happens everyday. Not all books have the ability to make my eyes swell and cause the tears to flow down my face. In the history of book reading, I have read only two books (one included in this post) that have made my bawl my eyes out. One of those books being Firefly Lane by Kristin Hannah.

Back to tear-jerking books.

Owly by Andy RuntonI finished three books over the weekend. The first one that I finished, literally in 15 minutes, was Owly; The Way Home & The Bittersweet Summer by Andy Runton.  I do not feel that this was an adolescent book because of the way it was written and illustrated, BUT the book was still cute and very fun to read. Also, if your an owl lover, like myself, this book is right up your ally. This book is a graphic novel, and one that focuses on the adventures of this owl named Owly. Like I said, very short read, very cute story, and I really enjoyed it.

This book may have brought out a tear or two. May have.

The second book that I finished was a Newberry Medal winner, The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate. This story was actually based on an actual silver-back gorilla who was held captive in the Washington State at a mall themed circusThe One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate. He currently lives in the Atlanta Zoo. The story is based on a silver-back gorilla named Ivan, who has somewhat of a lost identity because of how long he has spent in his own cage (27 years) away from any other gorillas like him. His natural behavior, the protector and the leader of his “family,” comes into play when a new baby elephant, Ruby, enters his world. Ivan promises himself, and his elephant friend Stella who also lives with him, to protect and free Ruby and ensure that she has a better life than the one that he has lived since he was young. The heart touching story shows the reader what it means to be part of a family, and how gorillas, as well as other animals, have hearts and souls just like us.

Yet another great book, may have cried a little bit.

The final book that I recently finished was an absolutely beautiful story, one that may or may not Blue is the Warmest Color by Julie Marohhave caused me to cry my eyes out for 20 minutes. Blue is the Warmest Color by Julie Maroh was an amazing graphic novel right down to the last illustration. The writing was beautiful, the story line was captivating, and way that the author addresses true love is absolutely brilliant. The story focuses on two lesbian lovers, Clementine and Emma. Although Emma has accepted her sexual identity, Clementine has yet to discover why she is not attracted to the opposite sex. Instead, she admires the blue color of Emma’s hair, the way that she talks, the way that she looks, and throughout the story, Clementine is lost in love with Emma. The story talks about the relationship between these two individuals, and how love can save a person from a life of judgement and ridicule. The graphic novel also stresses that we do not choose who we fall in love with; that is up to destiny entirely. The idea that love can make us eternal, but may not be eternal in itself was what drives the whole novel, and makes it such a remarkable story.

Blue is the Warmest Color by Julie MarohAgain, this book was absolutely beautiful. I never thought a graphic novel could make me cry, but this book was one that just made my bawl me eyes out. Great story, and I think that it would be a great resource to have in the high school classroom. The book does contain nudity and does show lesbian sex scenes so before you put it in your classroom, make sure to look through it.

 

 

A duo; I’m Down by Mishna Wolff & First Part Last by Angela Johnson

Thanks to my class schedule and my professors, who have decided to overload me with work (yeah, thanks), I have been forced to reduce my reading time for my Adolescent Literature class. Sadly, I must admit that I have only completed two books since my last blog post.

Don’t professors understand? I mean, I have a life too….a reading life that is.

I'm Down by Mishna WolffI have finished two books since my last blog post. The first one that I finished, that sadly took me longer than expected, was I’m Down by Mishna Wolff. The book was a memoir of the author, who grew up in a black neighborhood with her recently divorced father and her younger sister Anora. Mishna’s father truly believes that he is an accepted member of the black community that they live in, and when everyone in her family is accepted into the black culture, Mishna begins to question where she belongs, and who she is as far as being a white girl in a black community. Facing struggles with her father, as well as trying to find friends that she can relate too, Mishna sets out on a journey to discover her true identity, and learning to accept herself as who she is instead of who she is not.

Great read; very comical story, yet the book was enriched with this young girls thoughts and feelings. I admire Mishna for her courage and her determination to make her father proud. Great non-fiction read for your class. I plan on buying my own copy soon!

The second book that I read was First Part Last by Angela Johnson. Along with trying to become a First Part Last by Angela Johnsonman, Bobby is faced with another dilemma once his girl friend, Nia, becomes pregnant. Did I mention that Bobby is 16 years old? First Part Last tells the story about Bobby’s struggle to becoming a good father for his new daughter Feather. With very little help, Bobby finds that the parenting world is very different than the life of being a teen. Along with giving up his time with his friends, and even time at school, Bobby becomes consumed in changing diapers, and taking care of his daughter by himself.

What happens to the mother Nia? No spoilers, read the book!

I did like this book, but I was a little disappointed with how short the book was. The book was 130-140 pages, so I felt that there was not much detail as far as the story of Bobby and Nia were concerned. Johnson did a great job with the book, especially when she reflects on Bobby’s emotions and thoughts about what it means to grow up and become a parent. After reading the book, I feel that you will wish that the book was a longer as well.

 

 

I guess I should talk about Wednesday Wars…

Before I go any further, I would like to personally congratulate myself for completing The Wednesday Wars by Gary D. Schmidt. Usually books that are 263 pages take me about one week at most to finish.

This book took my 3 weeks to finish.

It has been a long time since I have encountered a book that I absolutely can not stand and do not want to read. But then I found Wednesday Wars, and I can not tell you how much motivation I needed to finish this book.

To be nice, the book was ABSOLUTELY HORRIBLE.

I couldn’t stand reading this book. There were times I would hide the book in my book shelf just so I could try to forget about it. I did not want to read another page in this book after my mid-term break. Awful, awful, awful.

The Wesnesday Wars by Gary Schmidt

However, despite how bad it was, I did complete the book. I can not really give you specific examples about why I did not like the book, but I can say that one reason for sure was that it was a boring book. Yes, it was kind of nice to read something that was not really tragic, but this book had nothing exciting about it happening to any character. There was very little character development in this novel; I was not able to see how Holling changed from the beginning of the book to the end.  I need to read books that captivate me, not necessarily from the beginning, but at some point in the book. Granted, there was the fear of war in this book, and I do admire that Holling was able to be a normal kid, but the book needed more thrill, and more excitement for me to like it.

I do not think that students would like this book whatsoever.

If you did enjoy the book, please comment and give me some insight to some of the things that you saw and liked.

Please!

 

Another Productive Class Discussion; What Elements are Making Teen Books Popular

Today I spent 3 hours, yes 3 total hours, with a group of lovely young ladies discussing more Young Adult Literature. We spent most of the afternoon discussing elements that are explored in a variety of different texts in YA literature, and we found so many elements the students are wanting to read about and explore.

If your a teacher, looking to build your reading list for next year, what types of books are you wanting your students to explore? What themes? What plots? When thinking about your next reading list, I would like to present some of the elements that my class and I came up with.

Here are just some elements that we explored:

  • Drug use
  • Sexuality
  • Suicide
  • Depression
  • Parenting/Pregnancy
  • Racism
  • Transition Years
  • Abondonment
  • Illness/Death
  • Tragedy
  • Emotional, Physical, Mental Abuse
  • Alcoholism
  • Identity crisis
  • Popularity/personal appearance

Class 3/25

How many  different types of books can you find that address all of these issues? The truth is, teenagers are looking for books that keep their interest, that change their perspectives and challenge their beliefs and thoughts. Students do not like to read books that are repetitive in theme or message; students need diverse literature that broadens their way of thinking and opens their minds to a new world that they have never seen before.

Short blog, but just in case you are looking for some books to fill your syllabus, check for the books that target these elements!

A Week (plus 2 days) of Reading

Midterm break consisted a total of 9 days. During those 9 days, I managed to finish a selection of books, one of them being non-fiction, and the others being somewhat….different. Here was what kept me busy for those 9 days!

Punkzilla by Adam RappPunkzilla by Adam Rapp

James, a troubled teenager, communicates by writing letters. After going AWOL from the military school that he was placed in, James makes the life changing journey to visit his brother Peter who is dying of cancer. The only way that James has been able to communicate with any members of his family has been through letters, but the only person that he replies to is his brother Peter. As James makes the journey to see his brother, he starts to face his own demons, and he slowly begins to change the closer he gets to Peter. It seems that James’s only hope for change and happiness is to see his brother one more time before he dies. Will he make it on time?

I thought the book was okay. The book explored some of the dark aspects of the teenage life such as drugs, sex, violence, and crime. I found the book to be a little unorganized because the letters were all dated and there was no set pattern to the way they were organized, making the book a little hard to follow. However,  I do think that the book had some great elements that could bring awareness to the reader.

Anya’s Ghost by Vera Brosgol

The second book that I finAnya's Ghost by Vera Brosgolished was Anya’s Ghost which targets a young female teenager who tries to fit in her new American high school life. Along with the pressures of making friends, flirting with the cutest guy in school, loosing the weight and even smoking, Anya encounters a ghost named Emily when she falls down a well. Emily follows Anya, helping her with her school work, and starts to give her relationship and clothing advice. Everything goes well for these two when Anya tells Emily that she wishes to solve the mystery of her death. The further that Anya digs into Emily’s past, the more she learns about Emily, and how she may not be the friend that she wanted after all.

This was yet another graphic novel that I finished in 2 hours, and I LOVED it. This graphic novel was a murder mystery, and the graphics in the book were captivating. I was very impressed with this book, and I was very glad I was able to borrow it from my professor, and add it to my collection of “great graphic novels.”

Why don’ Students like School? by Daniel T. Willingham

For one of my assignments for adolescent literature, we had to write a midterm reflection essay, allowing us to look back on all the individual progress that we have made in the class so far. One of the things that I pride myseWhy don't students like school? by Daniel T. Willinghamlf in so far this semester is reading over half my reading goal for the class. However, one category of books that I have not focused on is non-fiction/professional development books. I finished this book by Daniel T. Willingham that was recommended in Penny Kittle’s Book Love that I am also reading this semester. I really enjoyed reading this book because of the way that Willingham explores the human mind. Along with exploring specific aspects of the brain, Willingham makes suggestions about how we can use this knowledge as future teachers when we teach our students. I found those suggestions very useful, and I think that I will be reading this book again in a few years. I suggest that every future teacher read this book; it is only 213 pages long, and it was very informative and well written; great resource to have in your personal library!

I will most likely refer to this book in future posts!

How a teacher makes a difference–Forgive Me Leonard Peacock by Mathew Quick

I can imagine one of the biggest problems that teachers have today, especially with young adults, is dealing with children who have emotional or physical trauma. I know that as a future teacher, I will encounter children who have been physically and or mentally abused, and for those who go into the teaching field who love kids, it hard to see things like that. Teachers sit in a classroom, 5 days of the week, 8 hours a day. During that time, teachers form bonds and positive relationships with the students they teach each and every year. In a way, the classroom is a second home to students, and the teacher is the second parent. No teacher wants to see their children be emotionally of physically harmed, let alone have the desire to murder someone else then kill themselves.

Forgive Me Leonard PForgive Me Leonard Peacock by Mathew Quickeacock by Mathew Quick is based on such a situation. Leonard is turning 18 on the day that he plans to kill his former best friend Asher Beal, and then kill himself. Leonard has internal battles with himself as many teenagers do, but what he is most afraid of is becoming an adult. Leonard describes his life to the reader as one that only causes him pain and misery. His mother is never home with him because she desires a career in New York, his father left the country, and he has no friends except for his neighbor Walt. In such a short time, Leonard decides that his life is never going to be any better than what it is now, and thus he plans to take his grandfather’s P-38 pistol to school, give his “presents” to all of the people who have been a positive influence in his life, kill Asher, and then kill himself. For his neighbor Walt, he gives him a Bogart hat. For his teacher Herr Silverman, a medal of honor that belonged to his grandfather. For Lauren, his first love, a cross necklace, and to conclude his birthday celebration, a bullet for Asher and himself.

I don’t want to give to much information away about the book, but I was so glad that I read a book like this. I was amazed with how much Leonard admired his teacher, Herr Silverman, and how the end of the story shows what a great man his teacher really is. This book was a great read, especially for future teachers just because it shows how much of a difference a teacher can make in a child’s life. This book inspired me to make a difference in childrens lives and allowed me to see how teachers can help children. Teachers can become a child’s best friend, and in Leonard’s case……well, you will have to read the book!

No spoilers here!

A Tale Dark & Grimm by Adam Gidwitz

I have heard of the famous Grimm Brothers who are known for their incredible imagination on retelling classic fairy tales, yet I had never read anything written by them. It was not until I read A Tale Dark & Grimm by Adam Gidwitz that I had any idea of how different the Grimm Stories can be compared to what I grew up with. When I was a kid, I was never really interested in Fairy Tales, but I knew that they always ended the way they were supposed too; everyone was happy and no one ever died (except the villains). It was not until I read this book that really changed my perspective on fairy tales.

A Tale Dark & Grimm by Adam GidwitzA Tale Dark & Grimm by Adam Gidwitz was a retold version of the fairy tale Hansel and Gretel, minus the happy ending. The book was gruesome at some points, and hilarious at others. Students who love the Grimm Brothers, or who are interested in reading literature that focuses on fairy tales would love this book. In this book, Hansel and Gretel are actually killed by their parents, and because this is a fairy tale, they are brought back to life. Fearing for their lives, they run away from their royal parents, and enter the woods were they encounter many different adventures. Here is a list of some of the things that the children encounter…

Hansel:

  • Almost eaten by a woman who is NOT a witch
  • Turns into a wild animal
  • Goes to hell and battles the devil by dressing as the devil’s Grandmother
  • Fights a dragon

Gretel

  • Also almost eaten by a woman, who is, again, NOT a witch
  • Encounters a man who charms young women and takes their souls, trapping them like birds in cages
  • Also fights a dragon with her brother

And not to mention, both of them kill their father.

I was glad that I read a book that was so different than from what I normally like to read. I think that students who enjoy fairy tales would like to explore some of Adam Gidwitz’s work. Those who are interested, take a look at the rest of the series, I know I will be reading them!

Adam Gidwitz; A Tale Dark & Grimm Series.

Exploring Minority Violence; Yaqui Delgado wants to Kick Your Ass by Meg Medina

Over the course of my Adolescent Literature class, I have read a few books that talk about bullying in schools (not as much as I want too, but I have). Usually, the bullying takes place between to younger boys, and of course every story is a little bit different, but I haven’t ever really read a book quite like the one I have recently finished. Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick You Ass by Meg Medina is a story that targets bullying in the young Latino community. Yauiq Delgado Wants To Kick Your Ass By Meg Medina

I must say that one of the things that really surprised me about this book was that the main characters involved were female. It may see like a silly thing, but by just looking at the title I assumed that the book would be about teenage male bullying. I was glad the Medina choose to explore some of the ways that females, especially female minorities, can be bullied. The story focuses on a young teenage girl named Piddy, who lives with an overprotective mother and has grown up without a father. When Piddy and her mother move into a different neighborhood, Piddy attends a new school and everything seems to be going just fine until she learns that Yaqui Delgado wants beat her up. Piddy has never heard of this girl before, but she recognizes her face in a couple of year books, and in the lunch room where she sits with her boyfriend and her other Latino friends. As Piddy fears for her life, she also faces internal battles about her unknown father. Throughout the book, Piddy is forced to face her fears, and learns how to deal with the negative influences of her culture in a positive way.

Meg Medina did a great job in capturing Piddy’s thoughts and feels in this book. As a reader, we are able to see the conflicting battles that Piddy goes through as far as adjusting to a new neighborhood, trying to escape from her overprotective mother, trying to learn more about her father, saving her friendship with her best friend who has moved away, experiencing a small amount of lust, and finally, saving her skin from Yaqui Delgado. Medina does a good job at tackling bullying in schools, and how big of an issue it is. One reason why I liked the book so much was that it reminded me as a future teacher to be aware of these issues, and to look for the signs that one of my students might be being bullied. I liked the book because it was able to focus on one racial group, and explore the culture of that group into great depth as far as Adolescent Literature is concerned.

#yalitclass—Read this book soon so we can discuss in class!

Doll Bones by Holly Black

For those of you how have students who like the A Series of Unfortunate Events by Lemony Snicket, you might want to recommend Doll Bones by Holly Black. As I was finishing this novel last night, I kept thinking to myself those teachers who have students that are addicted to reading childhood fantasy/horror  would love to read this book.

"Doll Bones" by Holly Black

The story focuses on 3 children; Poppy, Alice, and Zach. Along with all the other pressures of growing up, Zach finds himself being forced by his dad to stop playing with dolls, and to start behaving like a teenage boy. This sudden change has caused Zach to develop a sense of carelessness for his friends unit Poppy demands his participation in a quest to bury a doll they call the Queen. The Queen comes to Poppy in a dream, telling her her story of how she died, and  was made into a doll by her father who was a potter. In what seems like an impossible quest, Alice, Poppy and Zach take a train, sail the Ohio River, and become haunted by the doll. Determined to finish the quest, Alice, Poppy and Zach go through many obstacles to find where the Queen’s grave as well as fixing the broken pieces of their friendship.

Holly Black did a fantastic job with this novel. Black captured the moment between childhood and adulthood, and transformed it into a quest for her the reader to experience. Along with having the main characters fight for their friendship, they are also fighting internal battles to stay children. Teachers will have students (middle school students especially) who face similar situations; transferring from a child to an adult state of mind. This book was able to capture those ideas very well, and that’s one of the reasons I liked the book. My favorite part of the book was how much imagination came into play with the characters, as well as the values that the book focuses on such as friendship, determination and loyalty. This book was another childhood scare; the scare of burying a deceased girl who has been trapped in a china doll, and the frightful time of being forced to of growing up.