Summary: Gr. 6-12. Hilarious and anguished, these 10 short stories about growing up black today speak with rare truth about family, friends, school, and especially about finding a boyfriend. Erika is a "ghetto girl" who likes white boys; she can't help it, and the other black kids in school can't stand her, because they know. Class is a big issue for Erin, who steals clothes so he can take a suburban girl to the homecoming dance. The church girls are forbidden to date, and they get hurt when they go hunting for boys. But their well-meaning parents don't have it right, and the girls won't stop looking. As with Janet MacDonald's fiction, the talk here is wild, angry, and outrageous, but there's no overt sex or obscenity. Yes, there are messages, but the narrative is never preachy or uplifting; it's honest about the pain. When one girl's boyfriend hits her, she apologizes "just like my momma does when daddy slaps her." The best advice comes from a dad who abandoned his family, who now tells his teenage daughter how to avoid getting stuck with someone like him ("you is so much more than a pretty face and a tight pair of jeans, some boy's girlfriend or some man's wife"). Not everyone makes it. The stories work because Flake never denies the truths of poverty, prejudice, and failure. Hazel Rochman Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to the Hardcover edition. Purchase
Themes: Culture, Hybrid Identities, Generational Differences, Individuality, Community
When I was sent to spend the summer at my grandparents' house in Puerto Rico, I knew it was going to be strange, I just didn't know how strange.
Classroom Implications: Many classrooms have and use W.D.Myer's 145th Street Stories or G. Soto's Baseball in April collection of stories. Ortiz adds to this base of literature and gives a voice to the Puerto Rican communities that she reflects in her writing.
Summary: Ages 9-12 Maria is a girl caught between two worlds: Puerto Rico, where she was born, and New York, where she now lives in a basement apartment in the barrio. While her mother remains on the island, Maria lives with her father, the super of their building. As she struggles to lose her island accent, Maria does her best to find her place within the unfamiliar culture of the barrio. Finally, with the Spanglish of the barrio people ringing in her ears, she finds the poet within herself. In lush prose and spare, evocative poetry, Cofer weaves a powerful novel, bursting with life and hope.
Themes: Identity, Family, Community, Clashing Cultures
Classroom Implications: Poetic novels are a wonderful addition to classroom libraries. They build off of the alluring nature of poetry and reframe it in the context of a novel. Judith Ortiz Cofer is a must-have author in the classroom and speaks to the Puerto-Rican/American experience.
Judith Ortiz Cofer has an interesting outlook on language and identity. This excerpt may be an enriching addition to use with students while reading her works:
"People ask me: If I am a Puerto Rican writer, why don't I write in Spanish?" noted poet, essayist, and author Judith Ortiz Cofer in the online publication, The Global Education Project. "Isn't writing in English a sellout? I respond that English is my literary language. The language of the country my parents brought me to. Spanish is my familial language, that lies between the lines of my English language. Because I am a daughter of the Puerto Rican diaspora, English gives life to my writing." (http://www.answers.com)
Parallel Texts: When Marian Sang by Pam Munoz Ryan matches the content of this picture book biography. Both stories tell of singers that battled society forces, whether they be racism or regimes, in order to share their gift of music with the world. These stories are especially important in the classroom due to the diminished time celebrating and exploring the music arts.
Other texts that celebrate the music arts include...
John Coltrane's Giant Steps
Ella Fitzgerald: The Tale of a Vocal Virtuoso
Duke Ellington: The Piano Prince and His Orchestra (Caldecott Honor Book)
Charlie Parker Played Be Bop
Summary: Gr 3 Up-In a beautiful tribute to mothers, grandmothers, and care-giving women, 13 poets write with joy, humor, and love about the maternal bond. Representing a wide spectrum of Latino voices, the poets range from award-winning authors (Francisco X. Alarc-n, Mora) to a 15-year-old newcomer (Cristina Mu-iz Mutchler). Without exception, the poems are, in their differing forms and voices, of superb literary quality, making effective use of rhythm and meter. While cultural heritage provides a fundamental context, the universality of emotions expressed makes this a book with broad applicability and appeal. Barrag n's bright, bold illustrations are a fitting complement to the selections. Rendered in pencil, cut paper, and gouache, and computer enhanced, they express the varying moods of the poems-from vitality and joie de vivre to sadness and pathos-with precision, force, and grace. Wonderful for reading aloud or for enjoying quietly alone, this is that rare book that will resonate across age ranges and cultures to appeal to the common human experience. A tour de force.-Ann Welton, Terminal Park Elementary School, Auburn, WA
Excerpt from the text:
Wearing a sky-blue skirt embroidered by an old woman named Consuelo
from a story she told Mami a long time ago on her island,
a cuento in gold, brown, and silver threads,
a shower of sunlight falling like drops of gold
on a little golden girl
who turns into a silver dove and flies around and around
a blue sky,
my mami is walking with me in the park.
Classroom Implications: This collection of poems pays tribute to a variety of Latino cultures and authors (Mexican American, Puerto Rican, Cuban, and Venezuelan). Each poem is accompanied by a beautiful illustration. This collection celebrates many different faces of motherhood, while illustrating the originality of different cultures. This is especially important because motherhood is seen different thoughout different cultures. This collection writes these experiences into the world of our classrooms.
Classroom Implications: This is a bilingual text and an important addition to the Pre-K or Kindergarten classroom. Students engage in song and play from a variety of countries.
Themes: Activism, Peace, Social Activism, Hope, Prejudice, Perseverance
Classroom Implications: A must to match with Cesar: Si, Se Puede!/ Yes, We Can! by Carmen Bernier-Grand. This picture book is an excellent piece of nonfiction/biography that will reach and inspire students. Cesar's life is an accessible venue by which to teach fairness, activism, peace and perseverance.
Teacher's Guide to Book
Themes: Activism, Peace, Social Activism, Hope, Prejudice,
Classroom Implications: This books makes a perfect compliment iwth Harvesting Hope: The Story of Cesar Chavez by Kathleen Krull. Whereas Krull's book is a biographical picture book, Bernier-Grand's book offers a more poetic, minimalistic tribute to Chavez's life's work.
Note: A glossary and translation of the Spanish words used, a concise well-written biographical essay, and famous Chávez quotes are appended. (amazon.com)
Themes: Peace, Fear, Leadership, Compassion
Classroom Implications: An American Southwest myth is an excellent addition to a study on myths and folktales in a classroom. This picture book includes Spanish phrases, which always benefit native and emerging Spanish speakers. The author uses descriptive, poetic language that is sure to bring students into the story.
Themes: Leadership, Family, Traditions, Identity, Community, Privilege, Prejudice
Classroom Implications: This book speaks to the development of a child's identity within her Mexican-American heritage. Many traditions are interwoven through the text that help celebrate and educate around Mexican-American traditions. The book is entertaining, but also delicately tackles white privilege and prejudice. This notion of white privilege is also covered in Woodson's If You Come Softly and would make an interesting parallel text for this piece.
Twelve-year-old Anita de la Torre is too involved with her own life to be more than dimly aware of the growing menace all around her, until her last cousins and uncles and aunts have fled to America and a fleet of black Volkswagens comes up the drive, bringing the secret police to the family compound to search their houses. Gradually, through overheard conversations and the explanations of her older sister, Lucinda, she comes to understand that her father and uncles are involved in a plot to kill El Jefe, the dictator, and that they are all in deadly peril. Anita's story is universal in its implications--she even keeps an Anne Frank-like diary when she and her mother must hide in a friend's house--and a tribute to those brave souls who feel, like Anita's father, that "life without freedom is no life at all." --Patty Campbell
Themes: Oppression, Activism, Family, Membership, Identity, Resistance
Classroom Implications: This book takes a different spin on identity and immigration by telling the story of those left behind. This novel is to be appreciated for its honest look at Latin American dictatorships and the impact they have on families, advocacy and identity. This book can move through different themed book clubs: realistic fiction, social issues, and even possibly historical fiction. Lower level readers can help access this text by listening to the audio version.
Summary: Grade 6-9–In spite of her family's openness, Milly Kaufman has never wanted to talk about her adoption. However, during ninth grade, Pablo Bolívar, a refugee from an unnamed Central American country, joins her class and immediately identifies her as someone who might have come from his family's hometown. Then, her grandmother attempts to make a will that differentiates between her and her siblings. While her mother and father's angry reaction makes the woman back down, their increasingly close relationship with Pablo's family makes it impossible for Milly to stop thinking about the parents who gave her up and the war-torn nation she came from. When that country's dictator is deposed in a democratic election, the Bolívars go home to visit and invite Milly along. There she discovers a world quite different from her Vermont home, an extended family, a boyfriend in Pablo, and several possible sets of birth parents. She realizes, too, how much she loves her own family, and they join her for a grand reunion. The strength of this book lies in its description of adoption issues–Milly's feelings of abandonment and difference and her sister's fear that Milly's increased identification as Latina will destroy their close relationship. However, the plot is contrived to help Milly find her identity, and the characters never really come alive. The home country has been stripped of any identifying characteristics that might make the setting interesting. Still, readers interested in this subject will be pleased with the satisfying resolution.–Kathleen Isaacs, Edmund Burke School, Washington, DC Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Themes: Adoption, Family, Identity, Heritage, Abandonment, Belonging, Hybrid Identities
Classroom Implications: Becoming Naomi Leon iimmediately comes to mind when the character in this book struggles with a piece of her identity that lingers in her native country. Alvarez carefully explores relationships in this book--relationships between characters, countries and identities.
Themes: Family, Identity, Membership
Complete List of Author's Works
Book in Spanish
Classroom Implications: Julia Alvarez's books typically work best with upper-level readers in 8th grade classrooms. However, this book fits very nicely with younger readers, ages9-12. This book could bridge readers into Alvarez'a more difficult books.
The plot follows that of the renowned legend: Beauty selflessly agrees to inhabit the Beast's castle to spare her father's life. Beauty's gradual acceptance of the Beast and the couple's deepening trust and affection are amplified in novel form. Robin McKinley's writing has the flavor of another century, and Beauty heightens the authenticity as a reliable and competent narrator.This was McKinley's first book, written almost 20 years ago. Since that time she has been awarded the Newbery Medal for The Hero and the Crown and has delighted her fans with another retelling of the Beauty and the Beast fable, Rose Daughter. Still, McKinley's first novel has a special place in the hearts of her devoted readers, many of whom attest to relishing Beauty time and again.
Possible other texts:
- Rose Daughter by Robin McKinley
- Spindle's End by Robin McKinley
- Hero and the Crown by Robin McKinley
- Blue Sword by Robin McKinley
- Deerskin by Robin McKinley
The big kitchen of the Murrys' house was bright and warm, curtains drawn against the dark outside, against the rain driving past the house from the northeast.
Classroom Implications: Students can really study the themes of good vs. evil with the L'Engle books. These books are essentials for students to read in their reading lives, and a book club would be an excellent way to incorporate these texts into the lives of students.
Themes: Survival, Tradition, Anger and Redemption, Healing
Classroom Implications: This may be more fitting in the social issues book category, but the symbolic image of the bear compelled me to place it under Fantasy. It makes a good match with Hatchet and Bang!, both being survival stories but in different contexts. It is also a great CONTEMPORARY Native American book to have in the classroom.
Themes: Identity, Adventure
Classroom Implications: This text does have a nice blend of mythology and science fiction that combines to create a fantasy novel best used with lower level readers in a middle school classroom. Students can explore the genre of fantasy by examining the symbols and themes of the novel.
'Brilliant timing,' she said. 'Tea's just made.'
But J.J. walked straight past the pot, which steamed on the range in the kitchen, and the plates of fresh scones on the table. Upstairs in his room, his schoolbag lay open on his bed, leaking overdue homework. He glanced at the clock. If he got up half an hour early the next morning he could get a bit of it done.
He spilled the bag and its contents onto the floor, and as he set the alarm he wondered, as he wondered every day, where on earth all the time went.
--from THE NEW POLICEMAN
Classroom Implications: This 2007 release is a great pick for a fantasy book club in 7th or 8th grades. The language is beautiful and students can unpack the genre, studying theme, symbolism and descriptive language.
Invisible Allies: Microbes That Shape Our Lives (Bccb Blue Ribbon Nonfiction Book Award by Jeanette Farrell
Teaching Points: Prediction (Skill)-->Students can examine the roles that microbes play in our world. Student begin with a microbe (cause) and trace the effect it has on the world (effect). By studying this cause and effect relationship, students can use the relationship to make predictions. For instance, students can examine what would happen to the world in the absence of certain microbes.
Classroom Implications: This text would match well with Invisible Enemies and New York Times Deadly Invaders, especially if the students are in nonfiction book clubs. These nonfiction pieces make great additions to information contained in novels.
Themes: Identity, Hybrid Identities, Classification
Classroom Implications: Students will be drawn to this book of nonfiction writing because of the authentic expressions of identity that are included in this complication. This nonfiction collection adds another layer of identity exploration middle school students should be engage in during their young adult years.
New York Times Deadly Invaders: Virus Outbreaks Around the World, from Marburn Fever to Avian Flu by Denise Grady
Teaching Points: Determining Importance (Skill)-->Create a T-chart with one side writing the fact and the accompanying side writing how that fact helps them understand the subject better and/or why the fact is important to the whole picture (Strategy).
Classroom Implications: Students could work on the skills: determining importance and predicting while reading and using this text. This text also would match well with Invisible Enemies and Invisible Allies.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Themes: Survival, Ethnic History, Coming of Age—male, Urban Struggles
Classroom Implications: Makes a good choice for a male book club or provides an additional male perspective on coming of age in an urban setting. This is available on audio to support lower level readers. Flake writes to capture the attention of her young adult audience. She is successful with writing literature that students have an easy time making connections with the text and the characters. Bang! could also be in interesting match with Hatchet or Spirit Bear, both outdoor survival stories with male narrators.
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc
Themes: Identity, Family, Betrayal
Classroom Implications: Immediately, Becoming Naomi Leon comes to mind (see next post) in terms of family and identity. Whereas Leon takes a Latina perspective, Heaven takes an American American perspective. This book works well in a on-level or higher-level book club.
Classroom Implications: This novel carries a strong Latina voice of a female protagonist throughout the novel. Students are able to relate to the character's journey to discover her family history and her identity. This book makes a good choice for lower level readers ins 6th and 7th grade, as well as provides help to sp. ed. students in a full inclusion setting.
Classroom Implications: This novel includes a crucial voice for the male YA audience. It positions the male in a position that is normally not documented and explored in YA literature. There is also an audio version available that may be helpful for lower level readers, sp.ed. and e.l.l. students.
The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing, Traitor to the Nation, Vol. 1: The Pox Party by M.T. Anderson
The plot focuses on Octavian, a young black boy who recounts his youth in a
The story's scope is immense, in both its technical challenges and underlying intellectual and moral questions--perhaps too immense to be contained in a traditional narrative (and, indeed,
Once acclimated to the novel's style, readers will marvel at
Themes: Social Action, Power, Racism, Patriotism, Freedom, Privilege
Classroom Implications: This is a good pick for a high level, 8th grade historical fiction book club. This novel can be read through a critical lens, with students working to determining power, privilege and positioning of characters within the novel and the setting.
Themes: Community, Justice, Fear, Prejudice
Classroom Implications: This book teaches tough concepts and is written with the young or struggling reader in mind. It is an excellent historical fiction book for the struggling reader or younger reader. It also makes a nice transition between historical fiction and poetry/prose. Witness makes room to teach concepts such as, narrative voice, perspective, point of view, verse, and descriptive language.
Summary: Ages 11 and up. Newbery Medal-winning author Jerry Spinelli (Maniac McGee, Stargirl) paints a vivid picture of the streets of the Nazi-occupied
Themes: Survival, Perseverance
Classroom Implications: Milkweed takes a different slant on covering the holocaust. It fits a story of survival within the context of the Holocaust, but doesn't take place in a Jewish concentration camp. This novel would pair nicely with other Holocaust texts in a book club, such as Diary of Anne Frank, The Cage, Parallel Journeys. This text also accommodates special education students or lower-level readers in the middle school general education classroom.
An American Plague: The True and Terrifying Story of the Yellow Fever Epidemic of 1793 by Jim Murphy
Classroom Implications: An excellent nonfiction book to support the work being done in a historical fiction book club. Bringing the nonfiction content and the fictional plot of a novel can be challenging. One way to help students do this is support the nonfiction element of their novel with accessible nonfiction texts. This IS the nonfiction text to use with a historical fiction book, like Fever 1793.
In the foreground of this story is 16-year-old Mattie Cook, whose mother and grandfather own a popular coffee house on High Street. Mattie's comfortable and interesting life is shattered by the epidemic, as her mother is felled and the girl and her grandfather must flee for their lives. Later, after much hardship and terror, they return to the deserted town to find their former cook, a freed slave, working with the African Free Society, an actual group who undertook to visit and assist the sick and saved many lives. As first frost arrives and the epidemic ends, Mattie's sufferings have changed her from a willful child to a strong, capable young woman able to manage her family's business on her own. --Patty Campbell
Themes: Social Change, Transformation
Classroom Implications: If students read Speak in social issues book clubs, then they will be excited to read Fever 1793 in historical fiction book clubs. This book pairs nicely with An American Plague: The True and Terrifying Story of the Yellow Fever Epidemic of 1793 by Jim Murphy. This novel carries strong characterization into a historical setting. This blend attracts readers to use their skills of characterization and bridge it into a genre that is typically difficult to spark immediate engagement.