Beauty Queens- Libba Bray

Beauty Queens

Review:

This was one of the books I downloaded onto my Kindle to read while on vacation this summer.  It was by far my FAVORITE summer read.  I   found this book to be laugh out loud hilarious and ended up reading excerpts aloud to my parents while we were on a 12 hour car trip.

The story follows a group of teen beauty queens who have been stranded on a desert island.  The cast of characters is incredible.  Girly girls, pretty boys, gay, straight, transgender, black, white, and more.  The references to current pop culture are abundant and cleverly done.  Bray examines our cultural norms in such a way that we can laugh at ourselves.

This book is definitely a book for females.  There are some strong discussions about sexuality that are extremely well done, though may make some young people who have not yet started to explore that area of themselves uncomfortable.  For that reason, and for many of the references I think this book is best suited for older high school students, and even first or second year college students.  I would be comfortable having it in my classroom.

This really makes me want to go back and read Going Bovine, Bray’s Printz winning novel that I never finished.

The Lowdown: (from Scholastic.com)

Interest Level: 9th grade

Grade Level: 5.3

AWARDS:

A 2011 Los Angeles Times Book Prize Finalist in Young Adult Literature

2012 Audie Award Winner for Best Narration by the Author

2012 Audie Award Nomination for Best Teen Audiobook

Teaching Tools: Tears of a Tiger- Sharon Draper

Full disclosure- this is shameless self promotion.

That being said- I’ve created a packet of vocabulary activities, spelling/vocab tests, and questions to assist teachers with a 4 week long unit on Tears of A Tiger by Sharon Draper.  I’ve used all of the provided information in my own classroom and was met with success.  You can buy just the vocabulary packet, just the comprehension packet, or them all together as a bundle.

 

Vocabulary Packet $2.50 

Comprehension Packet $4.50

Vocabulary + Comprehension BUNDLE! $6.00  <— Your best value!

 

Want to see your own stuff on TPT?  Click HERE and sign up!

 

Check out my review of Tears of A Tiger!

Just Another Hero- Sharon Draper

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Just Another Hero (Jericho Trilogy, The)

The Review:

The third book in Draper’s Jericho trilogy, Just Another Hero didn’t quite grab me nearly as much as The Battle of Jericho, and November Blues.  The back of the book immediately tells you that there is going to be an incident involving a gun in the story and for the better part of the book I was waiting for that.  On one hand that was good as it built some sense of suspense.  I kept wanting to turn the page to find the action.  However, after the incident occurs I wish Draper had spent more time examining the aftermath.  How did everyone change due to the experience?  It wasn’t a bad book at all, but I just thought it could have gone a little further.  I’d definitely include this  in my classroom with the rest of the trilogy but I would not teach it as a whole class novel.

As with most of Draper’s books this will appeal to girls and guys alike, urban students, and those in likely 7th grade and up.

The Lowdown (Via Scholastic)

 Interest Level : Grades 9 – 12 (I would include 7-8)

Grade Level Equivalent: 4.8

Includes: Scholastic Reading Counts! Quiz , Accelerated Reader Quiz

 

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

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