The Mockingbirds- Daisy Whitney

The Mockingbirds

Review:  I downloaded The Mockingbirds by Daisy Whitney to my Kindle in anticipation of reading the ARC of its sequel The Rivals.  I am so glad I did.  The Mockingbirds seemed to combine some of the best aspects of Laurie Halse Anderson’s Speak, Robert Cormier’s The Chocolate War and Knowles’ A Separate Peace.  At times it even reminded me of John Green’s Waiting for Alaska.   But this book stands on its own and has its own merit.  From the first paragraph on the first page you are thrown into the life of the main character Alex, a junior girl at an elite boarding school, who has been date raped.

What I enjoyed about this story is how it dealt with the rape in a very realistic way.  You see Alex attempting to discern where the responsibility for the rape lies and how to move on with her life.  With such a serious subject this book could have become very dark and depressing very fast.  But it isn’t.  There are times where it is graphic, the imagery and the language may make you squirm but that is offset with the very regular interactions the teen characters have.  Crushes, school work, clubs and more.  Whitney also does a great job of examining what happens when schools have a history of caring more for their record than for their students and what types of change students can initiate.

This is definitely a book written for high school aged students.  I think it would appeal more to females than males, but males could get a lot out of it as well.  I think that if I were to teach a book about a subject such a date rape I would be more likely to teach Speak due to some of the graphic nature of this book.  I could however, see myself recommending this book to students or having it on a list (along with most of the other titles I mentioned earlier) to read alongside Speak for some sort of comparison project.  The Mockingbirds is also one of those books that I will be recommending to my friends who don’t read YA the way I do.  I believe this is a crossover book that adults can read and learn from as much as teens.

The Lowdown:

RL: 4-5 grade, lexile rating of HL720L (THIS IS ABSOLUTELY NOT A BOOK FOR 4th or 5th GRADERS)
Interest Level: High School (I could see 8th graders reading it but it might get a little heavy for younger teens)

Awards:

  • A Romantic Times Best Book of 2010
  • A Best Book for Young Adults – American Library Association
  • An NPR Best Book of 2010
  • An Association of Booksellers for Children New Voices Pick for 2010
  • Chicago Public Library Best of Best Books for Teens in 2010
  • Northern California Independent Booksellers Association Book of the Year Award Honorable Mention
  • An Indie Next List Pick
  • A GoodReads Mover and Shaker for November 2010
  • The Books-A-Million teen book club pick for January 2011

Stay tuned for my upcoming review of The Rivals!

NCTE 2011- Chicago, IL

I attended the National Council of Teachers of English Annual Convention in Chicago from last Thrusday through this Sunday and I had the time of my life! I had no idea what to expect when attending but I ended up geeking out like an awkward fangirl for the majority of the conference. Why was I geeking out? I got to hear/meet/see so many awesome authors!

On Thursday at the Secondary Section kick off I heard Chris Crutcher (Whale Talk) speak!

I stood in line for 20 minutes to get a copy of Paper Towns by John Green signed! He was just as quirky and funny in person as I’ve seen on his YouTube videos and heard about! I also saw him speak about using Chicago as a backdrop for at least one of his books.

I saw David Levithan speak twice- once also about using Chicago in his books and once about censorship. I haven’t read anything by him, but my interest is definitely piqued now!

Walter Dean Myers (Monster) was signing books, but unfortunately I had a session to get to. I did see him though!

Katherine Paterson (author of Bridge to Teribethia) and Laurie Halse Anderson (Speak) were also on the panel discussion censorship and were extremely interesting!

Laurie Halse Anderson, Katherine Paterson, David Levithan

And here, is a picture of me meeting Angela Johnson (The First Part Last) and Sharon Draper (Battle of Jericho).  Both ladies were super nice and took at least a minute to listen to me tell them just a few things about my students. I had Draper sign a copy of Battle of Jericho to my students because we just finished reading it in our “book club.”  They thought it was pretty cool when I showed them!

Angela Johnson, Me, Sharon Draper

I came away with approximately 30 books- most of which I got for free and which are ARCs.  So keep your eye peeled here for upcoming reviews!   If anyone teaches English and is on the fence about attending the conference next year you should go!  I learned so much, got tons of free books, met lots of authors and generally enjoyed myself!  And, if those aren’t reason enough- it’s in Las Vegas next November!

A Year in Review: 2009-2010

So today is the day!  I have been blogging here on YA Lit- The Good, The Bad, The Ugly for TWO years now!  Time has really flown.

Let’s take a look back and see what I’ve done this past year…

I started off my second year slowly and didn’t post a review until January!

January

Sold- Patricia McCormick

February

Twilight- Stephenie Meyer

March NO REVIEWS!

April

New Moon- Stephenie Meyer

May

Eclipse- Stephenie Meyer

June

Push- Sapphire

how i live now- Meg Rosoff

July

Speak- Laurie Halse Anderson

August

Postcards From No Man’s Land- Aidan Chambers

September

Number the Stars- Lois Lowry

Love That Dog- Sharon Creech

October- NO REVIEWS!
Well, I’m ashamed.  10 reviews for the year.  Last year in my “year in review” post I reported that I had reviewed 45 books and hoped to do more this year.  BLOGGER FAIL.  Though I will say that one of the ways I read so much that first year was by substitute teaching and having many many days off.  It’s still no excuse and I plan on picking up the pace.  But before I leave you I do want to pat myself on my back because there are some things that I’ve accomplished that I’m pretty proud of!

I have:

55 reviews, 132 Posts, 179 Comments, and 10, 447 hits!

In just two years.

I have no idea if this is really good or bad or anything, but I feel happy with this.  People are coming across my site and hopefully finding it useful.  I have gotten a lot of insightful comments throughout this journey and hope that you all continue to provide your thoughts.  I see this blog evolving more as time goes on and becoming even more education and classroom based.  I hope you stay along for the ride!

Banned Books Week part 2

Banned Books Week is over, but as we are well aware the banning never stops.  In Laurie Halse Anderson’s livejournal today she linked to this post written by a teacher who had to face censorship full on a few years ago.  This post is so heartfelt and honest and inspiring.  This woman is the type of teacher I hope to be someday.  I’m bookmarking the post so that I can go back to it and re-read it whenever I, as a teacher, am getting discouraged.

Have you ever been challenged for the books you’ve had students or teens read?

Banned Books Week Part 1

Banned Books Week started on September 25th.  Due to this I decided to start looking at the most frequently challenged books from the past decade to see what I have read, what I haven’t read and if I agree or at least understand the challenging of any of them.  I’m thinking I might get some good titles for my “to-read” list as well!!

Here’s the list:

Top 100 Banned/Challenged Books: 2000-2009 (from the ALA)

Bolded books I have read, links go to my reviews

1 Harry Potter (series), by J.K. Rowling
2 Alice series, by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor
The Chocolate War, by Robert Cormier
4 And Tango Makes Three, by Justin Richardson/Peter Parnell
5 Of Mice and Men, by John Steinbeck
6 I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, by Maya Angelou

7 Scary Stories (series), by Alvin Schwartz
8 His Dark Materials (series), by Philip Pullman
9 TTYL; TTFN; L8R, G8R (series), by Myracle, Lauren
10 The Perks of Being a Wallflower, by Stephen Chbosky
11 Fallen Angels, by Walter Dean Myers
12 It’s Perfectly Normal, by Robie Harris
13 Captain Underpants (series), by Dav Pilkey
14 The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, by Mark Twain

15 The Bluest Eye, by Toni Morrison
16 Forever, by Judy Blume
17 The Color Purple, by Alice Walker
18 Go Ask Alice, by Anonymous
19 Catcher in the Rye, by J.D. Salinger
20 King and King, by Linda de Haan
21 To Kill A Mockingbird, by Harper Lee
22 Gossip Girl (series), by Cecily von Ziegesar
23 The Giver, by Lois Lowry
24 In the Night Kitchen, by Maurice Sendak
25 Killing Mr. Griffen, by Lois Duncan
26 Beloved, by Toni Morrison
27 My Brother Sam Is Dead, by James Lincoln Collier
28 Bridge To Terabithia, by Katherine Paterson
29 The Face on the Milk Carton, by Caroline B. Cooney

30 We All Fall Down, by Robert Cormier
31 What My Mother Doesn’t Know, by Sonya Sones
32 Bless Me, Ultima, by Rudolfo Anaya
33 Snow Falling on Cedars, by David Guterson
34 The Earth, My Butt, and Other Big, Round Things, by Carolyn Mackler
35 Angus, Thongs, and Full Frontal Snogging, by Louise Rennison
36 Brave New World, by Aldous Huxley
37 It’s So Amazing, by Robie Harris
38 Arming America, by Michael Bellasiles
39 Kaffir Boy, by Mark Mathabane
40 Life is Funny, by E.R. Frank
41 Whale Talk, by Chris Crutcher
42 The Fighting Ground, by Avi
43 Blubber, by Judy Blume
44 Athletic Shorts, by Chris Crutcher
45 Crazy Lady, by Jane Leslie Conly
46 Slaughterhouse-Five, by Kurt Vonnegut
47 The Adventures of Super Diaper Baby, by George Beard
48 Rainbow Boys, by Alex Sanchez
49 One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, by Ken Kesey
50 The Kite Runner, by Khaled Hosseini
51 Daughters of Eve, by Lois Duncan
52 The Great Gilly Hopkins, by Katherine Paterson
53 You Hear Me?, by Betsy Franco
54 The Facts Speak for Themselves, by Brock Cole
55 Summer of My German Soldier, by Bette Green
56 When Dad Killed Mom, by Julius Lester
57 Blood and Chocolate, by Annette Curtis Klause
58 Fat Kid Rules the World, by K.L. Going
59 Olive’s Ocean, by Kevin Henkes
60 Speak, by Laurie Halse Anderson
61 Draw Me A Star, by Eric Carle
62 The Stupids (series), by Harry Allard
63 The Terrorist, by Caroline B. Cooney
64 Mick Harte Was Here, by Barbara Park
65 The Things They Carried, by Tim O’Brien
66 Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry, by Mildred Taylor
67 A Time to Kill, by John Grisham
68 Always Running, by Luis Rodriguez
69 Fahrenheit 451, by Ray Bradbury
70 Harris and Me, by Gary Paulsen
71 Junie B. Jones (series), by Barbara Park
72 Song of Solomon, by Toni Morrison

73 What’s Happening to My Body Book, by Lynda Madaras
74 The Lovely Bones, by Alice Sebold
75 Anastasia (series), by Lois Lowry
76 A Prayer for Owen Meany, by John Irving
77 Crazy:  A Novel, by Benjamin Lebert
78 The Joy of Gay Sex, by Dr. Charles Silverstein
79 The Upstairs Room, by Johanna Reiss
80 A Day No Pigs Would Die, by Robert Newton Peck
81 Black Boy, by Richard Wright
82 Deal With It!, by Esther Drill
83 Detour for Emmy, by Marilyn Reynolds
84 So Far From the Bamboo Grove, by Yoko Watkins
85 Staying Fat for Sarah Byrnes, by Chris Crutcher
86 Cut, by Patricia McCormick

87 Tiger Eyes, by Judy Blume
88 The Handmaid’s Tale, by Margaret Atwood
89 Friday Night Lights, by H.G. Bissenger
90 A Wrinkle in Time, by Madeline L’Engle
91 Julie of the Wolves, by Jean Graighead George
92 The Boy Who Lost His Face, by Louis Sachar
93 Bumps in the Night, by Harry Allard
94 Goosebumps (series), by R.L. Stine
95 Shade’s Children, by Garth Nix
96 Grendel, by John Gardner
97 The House of the Spirits, by Isabel Allende
98 I Saw Esau, by Iona Opte
99 Are You There, God?  It’s Me, Margaret, by Judy Blume
100 America: A Novel, by Frank, E.R.

I should note that this is not a list of YA books specifically, though you may notice that MANY of the titles are YA books.

None of the books I read are what I would consider controversial.  I know why most of them were probably challenged, but all in all none of them offended me or gave me much pause! Take this last opportunity to vote in my Book Banning Poll.

Opposition to YA Yet Again

Laurie Halse Anderson has posted on her Livejournal an entry about a man who has declared that her novel Speak is “soft-core pornography” due to the rape scenes.  In my review of Speak I did not address the sexual issues brought up in the novel because I didn’t want to include any spoilers.  But now I am going to speak out and up about my view of it.

Not once while reading the book did I feel like I was reading something inappropriate.  Quite the opposite in fact.  I feel that Anderson did a great job of fully explaining the events in a graphic but NOT pornographic manner.  As Anderson points out in her blog entry calling it pornography implies that readers would be getting some sort of sexual gratification out of reading it.  I can’t imagine any healthy individual becoming aroused by reading Speak.

How are we supposed to educate our youth about important and unfortunately somewhat common issues if we can’t write books that talk about them?  When I become a parent I will encourage my children to read stories that keep them informed and challenge them to think about life and the choices they will have to make and situations they may find themselves in.  I will use these books to start constructive conversations and I hope that others are currently doing this with their teens.

You can check out Laurie Halse Anderson’s post here.

I feel this goes along with the book banning issue I recently addressed.  Let me know your opinion on that in my Book Banning Poll.

Summer Reading Update: 7/14

Just as a reminder here is the list of books I set out to read this summer.  It has been growing as I find more books to read.

  1. Breaking Dawn /Stephenie Meyer
  2. Maus/ Art Spiegelman
  3. Maus II/ Art Spiegelman
  4. Catching Fire/ Suzanne Collins
  5. Absolutely True Diary of a Part Time Indian / Sherman Alexie
 (Own but haven’t read yet!)
  6. Speak / Laurie Halse Anderson
  7. 13 Reasons Why/ Jay Asher
  8. Little Brother / Cory Doctorow
  9. Push / Sapphire
  10. Uglies / Scott Westerfeld
  11. Number the Stars/ Lois Lowry
  12. How I Live Now/ Meg Rosoff
  13. Double Dutch/ Sharon M. Draper
  14. Postcards From No Man’s Land/ Aidan Chambers
  15. Prom/Laurie Halse Anderson
  16. Daniel X/ James Patterson
  17. Lord of the Flies/ William Golding

I’m pretty happy with my progress.  As you can see I have read 6 books.  My goal was 25 but if I finish at least 15 I think I can consider myself successful.  Now I just need to catch up on my reviews.