Sunday, September 28, 2008

Acceleration

I had never read a young adult thriller before and I was a little apprehensive. All of my doubts were reversed after reading Acceleration. I would be excited to introduce this book into any high school classroom. I say high school because it was obvious to me while reading that this book is probably a little too advanced for a middle school classroom. It has some language and topics that I feel would not be appropriate for a younger crowd. However, I did feel that even though the book was a thriller and not really something that would happen to an adolescent, it was still very relatable. The characters were from a rundown neighborhood, but not anywhere dangerous. They had to work for extra money, which Duncan did at the subway lost and found. The characters were real and they had problems that every teenager has with their parents and friends. Duncan did not want to disappoint his mom; he would do certain things to make sure of this. His friend Vinny was very self-conscious about his hand and his body. Wayne was his other best friend that he sometimes did not like to invite certain places or to do certain things for fear of embarrassment. Many teenagers face these problems and can relate.

On the other hand, the way the main character spoke at times made me feel that he was a little older than his age. He was very intuitive about himself and others. Duncan knew that he had yet to get over not saving the drowning girl. He knew why and he knew that to make this feeling and the terrible dreams he had go away he needed to catch the writer of the diary. These types of thoughts made me feel that Duncan knew a little more about himself than most teenagers do at this point in their lives, but then again most teenagers would not go after a serial killer.

The book was a little slow until Duncan figured out who the diary belonged to. After that the book became nail biting and I could not put it down. I did not expect the diary writer to die the way he did at the end. The ending was kind of abrupt, but I don’t think it took away from the story. I think this is a book both girls and boys would be interested in reading.

Book Review-Standing Against the Wind

Customer Rating for this product is 4 out of 5 Beautiful Story
A reviewer, A reviewer, 09/23/2008

Patrice is taken by her mother from her grandmother’s house to live elsewhere. However, when Patrice’s mom is sent to jail she ends up living with her Aunt in Chicago. She is constantly doing chores to help out her aunt and taking care of her cousins. Meanwhile at school Patrice is being picked on by her classmates, in particular by a group of boys that hangs out outside her apartment complex. That group includes a certain boy, Monty, who asks Patrice to tutor his brother. Patrice and Monty become close friends. When Patrice has the chance to attend an African American Boarding School she does not know if she can make her dream happen due to the many obstacles in her path, but she finds strength in places she never would have expected. Traci L. Jones has written a wonderful story full of imagery and beautiful metaphors. It is easy to see why she won the Coretta Scott King Award. However, it is somewhat of a Cinderella story due to the fact that Patrice finds a lot of her strength in Monty. While this by no means makes it a bad story, it is something to think about when recommending to younger readers. I would recommend this book for grades 6-8. The story is a little young for high school students. Middle school students will be able to relate to many of the things Patrice goes through at school and at home. I would also recommend reading this book in a group setting rather than alone for younger students, this way you can talk about Patrice’s relationships and delve a little deeper into the Cinderella story aspect. However, these issues do not detract from the writing and wonderful language of this book. I would definitely recommend it.

You can see this book review at
http://search.barnesandnoble.com/Standing-Against-the-Wind/Traci-L-Jones/e/9780374371746/?tabname=custreview


Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Video Booktalk: Miracle's Boys

video

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Craft Lesson-Flashbacks

Materials: Miracle’s Boys by Jacqueline Woodson

Purpose: Many authors use flashbacks in their writing. Flashbacks allow the reader to see an event or action that happened in the past that is significant to the story. However, sometimes it is hard for young writers to work this element into their personal writings. Here students will be able to see many examples of flashbacks from the book and will see how writer’s begin a flashback.

Script: In the book Miracle’s Boys the writer uses flashbacks to show the reader what happened to Lafayette and his brothers in the past. This helps the reader to better understand what is going on in the present. Why else would a writer use a flashback in a story? (Wait for answers and discuss, some additional answers could be character development, unfolding a mystery)

Now, take a look at your book and think back. Where were some flashbacks that you remembered and why were they important to the story? Wait for answers and discuss. If students do not have a lot of answers here are some examples to look at together. Ok, let’s look at some flashbacks together. As we look at the flashbacks as a class let’s discuss why they are important to the story and what the story might be like if you didn’t know this information.

p.17
This is a flashback of Charlie explaining to Lafayette how to pray to St. Francis to protect all of the stray animals.
p. 72
This is Ty’ree having a flashback of the day his father died.
p. 99
The Flashback is the incident when Lafayette was punched in the eye and Charlie told him to just hang on until the pain went away.
p.109
This flashback shows Lafayette’s mother talking to him about freedom and he responds that he isn’t free because he can’t go out like his brothers.

There are many other flashbacks, these are just a few suggestions.

Now let’s look at what all of the flashbacks have in common. Authors use certain words or ways to lead into flashbacks. In this book the author begins most of the flashback with one of Lafayette’s memories. All authors begin flashbacks differently. Let’s brainstorm some words and phrases that might lead into a flashback. Let’s make a list in our writer’s notebook, remembering that these are not the only ways to begin a flashback, but they are something that will get you started when writing.
Examples of flashback transitions: once, long ago, yesterday, looking back, etc.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Miracle's Boys Reading Journal 3

This book was a very emotional one for me. There was a lot of loss and sadness for the characters and for the reader as you watch the brothers go through their grief and pain. However, I would recommend this book for adolescents for that very reason. Although loss is a very hard topic to talk about and deal with students need to be able to face it.
There were a few things that really caught my attention in Miracle’s Boys. From the beginning I noticed the character’s names and how they each had meaning. After robbing a store Charlie is sent to Rahway for two years and when he comes back he is a different person. For this reason Lafayette, his brother, begins calling him NewCharlie. If you notice it is spelled in the book as one name, because this is now what Lafayette calls him. Throughout the book he distinguishes between Charlie (pre-Rahway) and NewCharlie. When he is talking about the days before Charlie was sent away and before his mother died he still uses the name Charlie. I think he does this because he is still hoping his brother will come back. He never gives up hope. At the end there is a pivotal moment when Lafayette stops using NewCharlie and reverts back to Charlie. This moment happens when they are sitting on the stoop talking like they used to and Charlie says that he will not burn the pictures Lafayette has left of his mother. To Lafayette his brother is finally back.
Lafayette is named after his father who died before he was born after saving a woman and her dog from a frozen lake. Ty’ree (the older brother) was there when their father died and he feels responsible for their father’s death. When their mother died Ty’ree decided to stay home to care for his brothers and in a way I think he did this to make everything up to his father. I think this is the significance of Lafayette’s name in the story. By staying home from MIT and taking care of Lafayette he felt he could right what he thought he had done wrong when their father died.
Their mother’s name was Milagro, which translates to Miracle. In the end even though she died she was still the boy’s miracle. She is the reason Lafayette went back down to the stoop where Charlie was sitting, because he made her a promise not to fight with his brother anymore. She was one of the reasons the brothers became a family again.
Something else that caught my attention, but I did not fully realize it until the end of the book. I had feelings of anger toward Charlie nearly the entire book. Not because he robbed a store and went to Rahway, I had a feeling there was an underlying reason for him needing the money. I was angry because of how he treated Lafayette, like they were not even brothers.
Throughout the book Lafayette has flashbacks of Charlie, before he became NewCharlie in Lafayette’s eyes. Charlie had always had a soft spot for stray dogs. I always assumed this was because of how his father died, and partly I think it was. However, as the story goes on you realize that Charlie feels very alone. He was not there when his father died and he was in Rahway when his mother died. So, while Ty’ree feels responsible for his their father’s death and Lafayette feels responsible for their mother’s death, Charlie has nothing. While these are not good memories for anyone, he wasn’t there for any of it. He feels like he is nothing and he doesn’t matter. That was the significance, in my opinion, for his affection for stray dogs. He feels like he is nothing and had no one and they are kind of the same way, hence why he always wanted to help them. When he was younger he even tried to save a dog, but the dog ended up dying anyway and this made him feel even more useless. That is why at the end Lafayette keeps telling Charlie that it was not his fault the dog died. This was a parallel to their parent’s deaths. It was his way of letting Charlie know that none of this was his fault. That their parent’s deaths were not anyone’s fault.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

A Step From Heaven

This is great book for any classroom. Many classrooms today have students who have immigrated from another country. When reading A Step From Heaven, these students are able to watch Young Ju struggle with wanting to become an American and also being ashamed of that same want. Even non-immigrant students can share some of Young Ju's joys and her pain as they watch her grow into a young woman who can embrace her past and her future. It is also a chance for non-immigrant students to see what other students may be going through at school and in their personal lives.

In addition, the beautiful language of this book really catches the reader's attention from the beginning. What really intrigued me was the way An Na ended every chapter. Almost every chapter ended with Young Ju thinking inadvertantly about what she was learning through her experiences, good or bad.