The Help- Kathryn Stockett

I recently spent 5 hours straight reading The Help by Kathryn Stockett.  I really enjoyed this story.  Many of you have probably seen the movie or heard the hype and I have to say I agree.  This is a fantastic book.  While not a YA book I could see this being in a high school classroom.  It’s very female centered which I think would be great at an all-girls school.  The content is appropriate an it is an interesting look at a point in history in the southern United States.  I’d be curious to find if teachers have started embracing this yet.

 

What did you think?  Was it worth the hype?  Would you use it in a classroom?  Should I see the movie?

Push- Sapphire

Push by Sapphire has received a lot of attention after being turned into the award-winning movie “Precious.”  I picked a copy of it up at a bookstore a few months ago and then forgot about it.  I’m glad I read it now though.  I had a feeling I would like the book but was not prepared for the way in which it was written. The novel is written from Precious’ point of view and is written as if she wrote it- and as a girl severely lacking in reading and writing skills this means that there are phonetic spellings, lots of swearing, and also slang.  I did find it easy to follow though and read it rather quickly.

I think this is a great book for English teachers to read because it reminds us of what deficiencies our students may be coming to us with that we might not think of.  i.e. the inability to read or write.  Due to the graphic descriptions of rape, incest, and abuse I would be hesitant to use this in my classroom.  I think it has a message that could be discussed, but having worked with students coming from this type of a background themselves I would be concerned about triggering flashbacks and or re-traumatizing them.  I would however recommend it to students in 11th and 12th grade while explaining to them that there are some rather graphic scenes, and letting them make their own mind up about whether they want to read it or not.

Overall I really enjoyed the book.

Awards:

2010 Popular Paperbacks for Young Adults- YALSA

Sold- Patricia McCormick


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I read this book back around Halloween and never sat down and wrote my review.  I really enjoyed Sold.  It was a super fast read for me and I polished it off in just a few hours.  I thought that by writing it in a series of vignettes McCormick made it more accessible and readable for students of all ability levels.  The story deals with a girl in Nepal who is sold into sexual slavery.  The way that McCormick deals with the sexual side of the story is tasteful but still illustrates the horrors that were endured.

This book is definitely a high school level book.  I think it would be appropriate for a high school class.  I would also recommend it for use in a Human Rights class.  It will appeal more to female v, male students but deals with a topic that I think everyone should learn about.

Awards:

  • ALA Top 10 Best Book for Young Adults 2007
  • National Book Award Finalist 2007
  • National Public Radio – Top 100 Books of the Year 2007
  • Book Sense Pick 2007
  • California Young Reader Medal 2007
  • Quill Award 2007
  • Gustav-Heinemann-Peace Prize 2008

So Not the Drama- Paula Chase


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So Not the Drama is a light easy read that still talks about some serious issues.  Mina is entering high school along with 3 best friends (1 girl, 2 boys) and is very concerned with becoming one of the “popular” crowd.  Throughout the novel Mina deals with keeping up her friendships, forming new ones, popularity, race issues, and more.  I enjoyed reading about Mina and her friends, and thought that the issues presented were done in a light interesting way.  There are a few swear words but I don’t think that they’re over done or too explicit.  I’d say this book is appropriate for students in grades 8-10.  I do not see this book appealing to teenage boys or being used in a classroom, though there are discussion questions at the end of the book.  This is book 1 of a 5 book series, and I hope to read the rest within the next 2 months.  

Jellicoe Road- Melina Marchetta


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This Printz winner took me a while to get into. I’d say I was a third, to half of the way into it before I really became intrigued, but then I didn’t put it down.  There are numerous interesting characters whom I loved, but at the same time had some difficulty keeping everything straight.  There is mystery involved in the story- and I reached the end I felt like I needed to go back and re-read because I had to have missed some things along the way.  The main character, Taylor, is finishing up her Junior year and attends a boarding school in rural Australia.  There are two mentions of sexual activity within the book but they are not overly explicit.  There is a bit of violence at times in the novel as well.  I think this book could be used potentially in a classroom.  I would recommend it to teen girls and boys as there are strong characters from each gender.   I think this book is appropriate for high school students.

 

Awards:

ALA Best Book for Young Adults
Michael L. Printz Award
Kirkus Reviews Best Young Adult Book 

 
 

Kit’s Wilderness- David Almond


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Kit’s Wilderness is a novel that is very realistic but includes fantastical elements.  Kit is a 13 year old boy whose family has recently moved back to the town in which is grandfather grew up.  Part of the story revolves around Kit’s grandfather’s declining health and mental state.  I identified with this aspect of the story the most having gone through it with my grandmother for the last 3-5 years.  I think that a lot of students can identify with that as well.  The other big part of the story is the relationship between Kit and another boy, and their connection to the history of the town.  This is where ghosts and fantasy come into play in the story.  I liked the book, but generally prefer stories that have little to know fantasy in them- if they are supposed to be realistic stories.  I think this novel could be used in a classroom setting.  Teen boys may be inclined to enjoy this book as it is very male centered.  There is also a female character that plays a somewhat central role, so girls in class won’t feel completely left out. I’d say this book is good for a 7-8th grade classroom.

Awards:

A Michael L. Printz Award Winner
An ALA Notable Book 
A “Publishers Weekly ” Best Book
School Library Journal Best Book of the Year
A Booklist Editor’s Choice
A Publisher’s Weekly Best Children’s Book of the Year

A Step From Heaven- An Na


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This book reminded me of Kira Kira, as they both tell stories of Asian immigrants in America.  I found this book a little hard to get into, perhaps because it doesn’t focus on one time in her life but rather goes from Kindergarten through beginning college.  The story follows a Korean girl from Korea to America and the struggles that her family has adapting to a new culture.  I think that some immigrants will be able to identify to a lot of the story.  It is well written, but just didn’t keep my attention as well as other books do.  I was bothered by the lack of quotation marks- I know that seems silly but it did irk me for some reason.  I think this book could be used in a classroom- middle school most likely.  I would more likely suggest it as an independent reading book.

Awards: (For a full listing go here)

2002 MICHAEL L. PRINTZ AWARD

2001 National Book Award Finalist

2002 Children’s Book Award in YA Fiction – International Reading Association

2005 California Collections Selection

2005 Asian American Booklist, Grades 9 and Up, Read Across America, National Education Association

2002 Notable Children’s Book – American Library Association

2002 Best Book for Young Adults – American Library Association

2002 Children’s Books of Distinction Award – Riverbank Review

2002 Fanfare Book – The Horn Book Honor List

2002 Amelia Bloomer Project List

2002 White Ravens – International Youth Library of Munich

2002 Notable Books for the Language Arts – NCTE

2001 Editor’s Choice – Booklist

2001 New York Times Book Review Notable Book

2001 Best Books – School Library Journal

2001 Kiriyama Prize Notable Book Shortlist

2001 Best Children’s Books – Publishers Weekly

2001 Best Book – teenreads.com

2001 Capitol Choices: Noteworthy Books for Children

2001 Top 10 Youth First Novels – Booklist