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?

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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

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.  

Tears of A Tiger- Sharon Draper


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Written in 1994 Tears of A Tiger will still resonate with students now, 15 years later.  This story deals with the aftermath of a drunk driving accident that kills a high school student.  The relationships between friends, children and parents, teachers, and counselors are all discussed through transcripts of discussions, newspaper articles, diary entries, and letters.  This is the first book in the Hazelwood High trilogy, but each book stands completely on its own.  I have taught this book to 10th graders before and they ATE IT UP.  Many went on to read the next book in the series, Forged By Fire.  I highly recommend this book for use in a classroom (9-10th grade) and for individual students to read.  

 

Here is a link to Sharon Draper’s Teacher Resources for this book.  As a National Board Certified English teacher, she knows her stuff:  Sharon Draper’s Site

 

Awards:

Winner–1995 American Library Association/Coretta Scott King Genesis Award for an outstanding new book
ALA Best Book for Young Adults

Outstanding book by

-The Children’s Book Council
-The New York City Library
-Bank Street College
-National Council for Social Studies

Best of the Best by YALSA as one of the top 100 books for Young Adults

 

Nation- Terry Pratchett


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This Printz honor book has historical and fantastical elements to it.  With both male and female teens being central to the story it will appeal to both sexes.  As the characters are on an isolated island there is a lot of adventure, science, and discussion of faith.  Some parts of the story seemed to drag to me, and or were hard to follow, but overall I found it engaging and interesting and worth the read.  The story also deals with the issues of racism.  I am not sure that I would use this book in a classroom because I think students could get confused as to whether it were historically accurate or not.  I would however recommend it to students to read independently.  I’d say this book is probably best suited for middle school students, but high schoolers may enjoy it as well.

Awards:

2009 Printz Honor Book

2008 LA Times- Young Adult Finalist

 

     

American Born Chinese- Gene Luen Yang


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American Born Chinese might be my favorite book of 2009.  It was so much FUN to read.  I laughed out loud several times, from the dialogue and the illustrations.  Written in the format of a graphic novel it follows three story lines that come together at the end.  It took me a minute to figure out the connection at the end, but it worked.  Though I’m not an immigrant or the child of immigrants, I have several friends who are- and the references to what life is like in a new country seem to be spot on.  There is nothing preachy in the story- but it does touch on the issues of racism, fitting in, crushes, and general teenage angst.  I am definitely going to be buying a copy of this book to keep in my future classroom.  This book would be appropriate for middle and high school students.  I’d be interested to hear if other people love it as much as I did!

 

Awards:

2007 Printz Award Winner
National Book Award finalist
American Library Association best Book for Young Adults, Top Ten List
Publisher’s Weekly Best Book of the Year
School Library Journal Best Book of the Year
Booklist Editors’ Choice Book
San Francisco Chronicle Best Book of the Year
NPR Holiday Pick
amazon.com Best Graphic Novel/Comic of the Year 

 

Copper Sun- Sharon Draper


This novel is much different than Draper’s other works.  It is set during slavery and follows  one girl from her capture in Africa through her experiences with slavery here in America.  It is clear that Draper did a great deal of research to write this book.  The main character is 15 years old.  Due to discussion of rape I wouldn’t use it as a classroom read before 9th grade.  I think it could be used in conjunction with a history unit on slavery.

 

Draper has a TON of resources to use with this book in a classroom setting on her website.  I have not used this book so I cannot completely vouch for the, however Draper is an English teacher and so her resources seem to be very useful.

Awards:

ALA Best Books for Young Adults Nominee
CBC/NCSS Notable Social Studies Trade Book
Coretta Scott King Award (ALA)
Florida Teens Read Master List
Georgia Peach Book Award Master List
Heartland Award for Excellence in YA Literature (Writing Conference, Inc.) (KS)
Heartland Award for Excellence in Young Adult Literature Master List (KS)
IRA Notable Books for a Global Society
Pennsylvania Young Reader’s Choice Award Nominee
School Library Journal Best Books of the Year
Thumbs Up! Award Master List (MI)
Virginia Readers’ Choice Award Master List
Volunteer State Book Award Master List (TN)