Tag Archives: Young Adult Literature

Books My Reluctant Readers Love Part 2

In March, I posted the titles of books read independently by my students, most of whom are self-proclaimed non-readers and lag behind their peers in grades and standardized testing. I wanted to do a follow-up to give credit to my students, some in particular who became….readers!!, and to the authors who wrote books that engaged these teens.

During the school year, we read three novels together: 13 REASONS WHY by Jay Asher, THE WAVE by Todd Strasser, and THE HUNGER GAMES by Suzanne Collins. After reading THE HUNGER GAMES, we went to see the movie as a class. Some of my students had not yet been on a field trip in high school. In the lower grades, all students go on the outings. In high school, special trips are linked to certain classes, clubs, or sports. Some of my students are members of sports teams and clubs, but many of them are not. So, it was nice that they were able to have a field trip all for themselves. It was especially nice that it revolved around the most talked about young adult novel of the year. They were now able to take part in the literary conversation. (Pause as I shed a teacher tear of joy.)

On the independent reading front, some students took off. Using their “Lexile” scores, we were able to find books that matched their reading level. Not every student turned the reading corner. A couple of students still struggled to complete a novel, even with more appropriate choices and time to read. Others, though, were on fire in the best possible way! In general, students read more. Each time a student finished a book, I made a copy of the cover and pinned it to the wall.

Here is a picture of my wall when we first started:

Here is a picture of the wall in March:

And…drum roll please…here is the wall at the end of June.

Keep in mind that some of these books were read by several students. For example, many of my girls blazed through the PERFECT CHEMISTRY series by Simone Elkeles. Each book cover is on the wall one time, and I added the students’ names to the colored border. So, really, you can probably double the number that’s on the wall. (Pause as I shed another teacher tear of joy).

And now…

photo_364568552_53e9b922b0_t.jpg

Found through Creative Commons

…big applause for a certain student and certain authors.

I have one student who makes me want to shed buckets of teacher tears. She had NEVER read independently as a habit. By the end of this year, she often asked to come to my classroom during her study hall because she wanted to read and it was too loud in study hall. When she took a trip to New York City, she was upset that she had forgotten to bring her book to read on the bus. She normally carries a book in her bag all the time now. Once, she came to talk to me during a time she thought was free for me. I had a class. They were reading their independent books. She popped her head in and said, “Oh, sorry. I’ll come back later. I don’t want to interrupt your reading time.”

The two authors who turned her on to reading were Simone Elkelesand Ni-Ni Simone. To them, I say:

You Rock Baby

Found through Creative Commons

This student read the PERFECT CHEMISTRY series and the PARADISE books and then recommended them to her friends. She then searched for something similar and discovered Ni-Ni Simone. She read all of the titles we have in our school library before the end of the school year. In total, she read 14 books, not counting what she had to read for her classes. And, guess what, when I assessed her reading levels at the end of the year, her scores had improved on every test.

Thank you to all of the authors who wrote books that engaged my students. Parents or teachers who have children or students who are avid readers might take this for granted. When I see a student who doesn’t normally read actually finish a book or two or 14!, it’s nothing short of awesome. So, thank you! Here is the list of books read by my students this year:

13 Reasons Why by Jay Asher

The Wave by Todd Strasser

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

The Son of Neptune by Rick Riordan

Full Tilt by Neal Shusterman

Skeleton Creek by Patrick Carman

Skeleton Creek: The Crossbones by Patrick Carman

Skeleton Creek: The Raven by Patrick Carman

Cirque du Freak by Darren Shan

The First Part Last by Angela Johnson

Haters by Alisa Valdes

Perfect by Ellen Hopkins

Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins

A Child Called It by Dave Pelzer

The Lost Boy by Dave Pelzer

Fat Vampire by Adam Rex

Stormbreaker by Anthony Horowitz

Point Break by Anthony Horowitz

Eagle Strike by Anthony Horowitz

Empty by Suzanne Weyn

Breathing Underwater by Alex Flinn

Chasing Romeo by A.J. Byrd

Where She Went by Gayle Forman

Simone Elkeles

Perfect Chemistry

Rules of Attraction

Chain Reaction

Leaving Paradise

Return to Paradise

Ni-Ni Simone:

If I Was Your Girl

Upgrade U

Teenage Love Affair

Shortie Like Mine

A Girl Like Me

Celebrating Hispanic Authors: Spotlight on Cristina García

In an effort to celebrate Hispanic authors beyond National Hispanic Heritage month, I plan to read and post about YA novels written by Latino/as. You may also want to check out Latina Book Club, Vamos a Leer, and The Hispanic Reader.

And, today’s YA author in the spotlight is: Cristina García . Enjoy!

AUTHOR: (information comes mostly from the author’s website (http://www.cristinagarcianovelist.com/):  Born in Cuba, García’s family moved to New York when she was two years old. García worked as a journalist for Time Magazine before she became a full-time writer. Her first novel, DREAMING IN CUBAN, was a finalist for the National Book Award. Among other things (she has a long list of accomplishments), García has written five novels for adults and three books for younger readers: DREAMS OF SIGNIFICANT GIRLS, I WANNA BE YOUR SHOEBOX, and THE DOG WHO LOVED THE MOON. She has a bachelor’s degree in political science from Barnard College and a master’s degree in European and Latin American Studies from The Johns Hopkins University.

YA NOVEL: DREAMS OF SIGNIFICANT GIRLS

DESCRIPTION FROM THE BOOK JACKET: Three very different girls. Three very different summers. A powerful bond that stands the test of time. Vivien struggles with her identity. She doesn’t exactly fit in with the kids in her neighborhood. To top it off she worries about her expanding waistline and endlessly infuriating family.

Shirin is an Iranian princess and honestly believes she is better than everyone else. She has no time to suffer fools.

Ingrid has never followed the rules. It is easier for her to rely on herself and grow up way too fast. She is not in the business of showing how she feels, but that isn’t always easy when you never get what you want.

National Book Award Finalist Cristina García weaves a story of first loves and hates, the heartbreak of being disappointed by your parents, finding what you are good at, and the realization that family is more than sharing a last name.

Here is a review of the novel in the New York Times by Veronica Chambers.

MY TWO CENTS: This is a quiet novel. No explosions every few chapters, no governments being overturned or alien invasions averted. Yet, what happens to these girls is significant because the moments they experience are crucial to their personal development. The gentle pace of this novel won’t appeal to everyone, but I enjoyed getting to know these characters and taking a break from action-driven YA. I had some questions about character motivation along the way, but overall, I was attached to these girls as they experienced the pain and joy involved in friendships and first loves. I wanted to find out what would happen to them.

LINKS for more information:

Find DREAMS OF SIGNIFICANT GIRLS on Amazon.comBarnes and Noble.comIndieBound.org,  and Goodreads.

This is GREAT for fans of THE HUNGER GAMES who are wondering what to read next. Very cool graphic!

wrapped up in books

If I had a nickel for every time I have been asked to recommend a book that is “like The Hunger Games,” I could double my paycheck. It’s great that kids are excited about reading, but I hate that even though we have multiple copies of the most popular read-alikes, they are often checked out. Our dystopian/post-apocalyptic reading list hadn’t been updated in over a year, so at first I started to add to that, but I realized that it wasn’t capturing everything that attracted readers to The Hunger Games.

It was also difficult to organize. I’ve seen a few infographics on dystopian fiction, like this one from Goodreads that has lots of fun facts about the history of dystopian fiction and this one from E M Bowman that outlines the elements of dystopian fiction, they were highlighting ones that were already popular. There was a list compiled…

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Swearing in YA Light Compared to Real Life

Last week, the YA world exploded with reaction to a study out of Brigham and Young University about the amount of swearing in teen novels and whether a rating system is needed. Check out the following links for more information and reactions from the American Library Association and authors Gayle Forman and Kiersten White:

http://www.nydailynews.com/blogs/pageviews/2012/05/young-adult-books-are-full-of-swearing-byu-study-says-and-characters-who-curse-are

http://www.usnews.com/news/articles/2012/05/18/is-it-time-to-rate-young-adult-books-for-mature-content

http://www.yahighway.com/2012/05/field-trip-friday-may-25-2012.html

I wasn’t going to respond only because others were quicker on the draw and perfectly captured the insanity of a study based on 40 books. For every book published with a swear-word in it, I’m sure there’s one that has none, but that kind of study wouldn’t get attention. Also, there’s the issue that a book can have no foul language but deal with mature content.

I decided to add something to this conversation because I work with teens daily. I’m going to focus specifically on the swearing issue. Here’s what I know from first-hand experience:

  • The idea that books with four-letter words are polluting their minds is ludicrous. My students are all reluctant readers (meaning they hate to read and often do not read) and they swear as often as ducks quack. My guess is they are being influenced by Twitter, music, Facebook, television, video games, their parents, and more than anything…their friends.
  • Students who do read (I’ve taught them, too) also swear. Shocking, I know, but true. So, they may be influenced by books, but chances are they are also influenced by Twitter, music, Facebook, television, video games, their parents, and more than anything…their friends.
  • The swearing in YA novels is child’s play compared to the swearing that goes on in a high school. I read a lot of teen literature, and I can say not a single novel I have read comes close to the profanity I hear every day. Let me be clear, students do not swear at me. They wouldn’t dare, and if they did, they’d receive a verbal reprimand and an office write-up, which is usually followed by a detention, at the least. I don’t tolerate that kind of disrespect. The swearing I’m talking about is casual, when they talk to each other in the hallways, cafeteria, and classrooms. If authors were trying to capture realistic teen-speak, about half of all dialogue would be four-letter words, the n-word, or sexual references. The reality is that YA literature is squeaky-clean compared to the way teens really talk with their friends.

Don’t believe me? I dare you to check a teen’s Twitter account, Facebook page, or text messaging. Go ahead, I dare you. If your teen doesn’t have any of these and/or is not the swearing kind, awesome! I mean that. Thank you. Being the verbal police all day in school and then doing it at home with my 5-year-old who likes the words “poopie” and “butt” lately is entirely exhausting.

I hope my efforts at home will prolong the inevitable–that “poopie” and “butt” will turn into “shit” and “ass.” Like the teens I teach, my daughter will probably think swearing is part of growing up. At 17, she’ll be able to drive herself to school and an after-school part-time job. Why, then, couldn’t she drop the F-bomb once in a while?

Of course, swearing does not equal adulthood, and I’m sure there are plenty of adults who don’t curse. Personally, I think overusing profanity is obnoxious, whether it comes from teens or adults. I don’t have a problem, however, with a well-placed F-bomb, or other four-letter word, in life or books.

What’s funny is that books are being called out when the language used in the YA novels I’ve read is mild compared to what I hear daily. If Brigham and Young researchers want to have some real fun, they should spend 40 days (to match the 40 books) walking around the hallways of an average American high school during passing times and start counting four-letter words.

My guess is, at the end of their little experiment, they’d call YA authors lightweights.

Celebrating Hispanic Authors

During National Hispanic Heritage Month, I promised to read a novel written by a Latino/a and blog about it each month. I have fallen behind on the reading, but I have started Mexican Whiteboy by Matt de la Peña and will write about it once I am done. In the meantime, I’ve compiled a list of Latino/a authors who write middle grade and young adult novels. There were a couple of good lists online already, so I worked with those and added some names. If I have missed anyone, please let me know. I will add them to the list and to my personal to-be-read list. Enjoy and Happy Reading!

Isabel Allende: City of Beasts series

Julia Alvarez: Before We Were Free, Return to Sender, Finding Miracles

Sandra Cisneros: The House on Mango Street

Jack Gantos: Joey Pigza Swallowed the Key, Joey Pigza Loses Control, Hole in My Life, Dead End in Norvelt

Francisco Jimenez: The Circuit, Reaching Out, Breaking Through

Pam Muñoz Ryan: Esperanza Rising, Becoming Naomi Leon, The Dreamer, Riding Freedom, Paint the Wind

Gary Soto: Buried Onions, The Afterlife, Accidental Love, Baseball in April etc.

Francisco X. Stork: Marcelo in the Real World, The Last Summer of the Death Warriors, Irises, Behind the Eyes, The Way of the Jaguar

Margarita Engle: The Firefly Letters, Hurricane Dancers, The Poet Slave of Cuba, The Surrender Tree, Tropical Secrets, The Wild Book

Cristina Garcia: I Wanna Be Your Shoebox, Dreams of Significant Girls

Judith Ortiz Cofer: An Island Like You, Stories of the Barrio, Call Me María, If I Could Fly

Alisa Valdes: Haters, The Temptation: A Kindred Novel (coming 2012)

Ashley Hope Perez: What Can’t Wait

Jennifer Cervantes: Tortilla Sun

Meg Medina: The Girl Who Could Silence the Wind (coming 2012)

Jessica Martinez: Virtuosity

Yxta Maya Murray: What it Takes to Get to Vegas, The Good Girl’s Guide to Getting Kidnapped

René Saldaña Jr.: The Jumping Tree, The Whole Sky Full of Stars, Finding Our Way, A Good Long Way

Sofia Quintero: Efrain’s Secret

Lulu Delacre: Golden Tales, Salsa Stories, Shake it Morena!

Kim Flores: Gamma Glamma

Bettina Restrepo: Illegal

Gaby Triana: Riding the Universe, Backstage Pass, The Temptress Four, Cubanita

Alex Sanchez: Boyfriends with Girlfriends, The God Box, Bait, Rainbow High, Rainbow Road, Rainbow Boys, So Hard to Say, Getting It

Matt de la Peña: I Will Save You, We Were Here, Ball Don’t Lie, Mexican Whiteboy

Veronica Chambers: Mama’s Girl, Plus, Marisol and Magdalena, Quinceñera Means Sweet 15

Benjamin Alire Sáenz: Last Night I Sang to the Monster, Sammy & Juliana in Hollywood

Caridad Ferrer: When the Stars Go Blue, Adiós to My Old Life, It’s Not About the Accent

Torrey Maldonado: Secret Saturdays

Iris Gomez: Try to Remember

Viola Canales: The Tequila Worm

Nancy Osa: Cuba 15

Malín Alegría: Estrella’s Quinceñera, Sofi Mendoza’s Guide to Getting Lost in Mexico

Carmen Rodrigues: Not Anything

Michele Serros: Honey Blonde Chica, Scandalosa!

Ofelia Dumas Lachtman: The Trouble with Tessa, Leticia’s Secret, The Truth About Las Mariposas

Juan Felipe Herrera: CrashBoomLove, Cinnamon Girl: Letters Found Inside a Cereal Box, SkateFate

e.E. Charlton-Trujillo: Prizefighter en Mi Casa, Feels Like Home

Agnes Martinez: Poe Park

Maria Colleen Cruz: Border Crossing

Lorraine Lopez: Call Me Henri

David Hernandez: Suckerpunch, No More Us for You

Nico Medina: Straight Road to Kylie, Fat Hoochie Prom Queen

Marisa Montes: A Circle of Time

Diana López: Confetti Girl

Claudia Guadalupe Martinez: The Smell of Old Lady Perfume

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