Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Bad Boy by Walter Dean Myers

Although I think that Myers' writing style and language are great, I had a tough time reading Bad Boy this week. I kept waiting for the climax of the book to occur and even though the story was interesting, it never fully hooked me in. However, one part of the book really stood out to me. Last week, I did a project on speech and language disorders for another class I am taking. Also, many of the students I am working with at my clinical residency receive speech and language services. When I think about my project, and my students, I realized that I tend to focus on all of the things that parents and teachers can do to support their students and how frustrating it must be for the child to communicate. What I did not consider, however, was how the child might be feeling and how they are probably do not think that what they are saying is incorrect. This was pretty eye-opening for me. As Myers' says on page 25, "The therapist kept trying to get me to pronounce my words clearly, but apparently I did not. The trouble was that to me, the words seemed clear." This part made me really reflect upon how I am supporting my students, and how I need to be more sensitive and mindful of where they are coming from.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Smiles to Go by Jerry Spinelli

Over spring break, I started to read some of the Jerry Spinelli books that I selected for the final project. I began by reading Smiles to Go, and I was excited to read a book that was more positive and joyful than the books we read for this week. Although this is a sweet story about friendship and love, and everything turns out okay in the end, Spinelli's story brought up some not so pleasant memories for me.

The main character in the story is Will and he lives a pretty typical life. He is a freshman in high school, is somewhat of a science "nerd", has a great group of friends, and a good family. His sister Tabby is a lot younger than Will though, and she seems to do anything and everything to get on his nerves. It isn't until Tabby seriously injures herself that Will realizes that her pesky behavior is just her way of trying to get Will to notice her and love her.

Tabby's accident and the scenes in the hospital reminded me of a similar situation that happened to my family. One day in the summer my family was in Syracuse visiting at my Aunt's house and swimming in her pool. When my Aunt and Mom went inside to make all of us lunch, they had us get out of the pool and put me in charge of watching the kids as we colored and waited to eat. I became very focused on the picture I was coloring and did not hear my younger brother Mikey sneak away. He ended up hoping the gate and jumping into the pool without his swimmies on. It was not until I was heading back to the deck that I saw him face down in the water. I don't remember much of what happened next, but I do know that I was the one to pull Mikey out of the pool and call for help. What I remember most about the accident was visiting the hospital and seeing Mikey unconscious and his skin was black and blue all over. We were all very scared that Mikey would not wake up or that he would have permanent damage from the accident. Fortunately, Mikey woke up and was quickly back to his energetic and spirited self.

Even though I was the one who saved Mikey, I still feel responsible for what happened to him and my family. Just like Will, I felt like if I had been a better sister, I would have done a better job at watching Mikey and he would never have been in such a risky situation. From this experience, I learned at a young age just how precious our time with our loved ones is and how quickly they could be taken away from us. Although it was a terrifying experience, it is one that has made me prioritize the people most important in my life and the anniversary of the accident every year is a reminder to slow down and appreciate the ones I love.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

When I Was the Greatest by Jason Reynolds

Jason Reynolds may be one of the coolest authors ever. He has an awesome blog and tumblr that he updates regularly, he was the 2015 winner of the Coretta Scott King/John Steptoe New Talent Author Award for When I Was The Greatest, and was recently featured on Beyonce's blog! Now if Queen B thinks he is awesome, then he must be.

What I loved about this novel was that even though it featured the elements you would "expect" in an urban novel - violence, drinking and drugs, gangs, and so on - that's not at all what the book was about. Instead, Reynolds’ tells a gentler story that focuses on the power of friendship, the importance of family, and loyalty. The topic of family stood out to me the most because family plays a role in everyones lives, especially teens, but often is ignored ignored in young adult literature for the sake of plot and romance. I also really liked how Reynolds included strong adults in this book who served as role models and mentors. What I particularly liked was how these adults have all made mistakes and not only do they own up to them, but they talk about how much they’ve learned from their past. It shows how every mistake is a learning experience and how there is always room to grow in every situation.

I am so excited that Jason Reynolds will be attending TBF and I hope that I will be able to attend his talk!

Monday, March 16, 2015

Yellow Star by Jennifer Roy

I am so happy that we got to continue reading historical fiction this week! Not only was I excited that Jennifer Roy's Yellow Star was about WWII & the Holocaust, but I was especially interested in this story because the young girl in the story settled in Rochester after the war. So often when we think about this time period, we think of it happening so far away. That the story takes place somewhere where it could never impact us. But, Roy's book is a perfect example of how history continues to persist through the people who experienced the events of the past and that their stories can travel and have an impact wherever they go. It makes me wonder just how many people in the Rochester area have similar experiences as Roy's aunt, and what their stories may be.

One thing I really liked about this book was how the beginning of each part gave some historical information and set the scene in an understandable and natural way. For a younger reader, this provides them with the background information and historical facts necessary to understand this time. However, I found it helpful to also consider what was going on in Syvia's world at this time and to get a better understanding of why she was experiencing and feeling the things that she did. I think that if the author had not provided this context, the story would be less fluid and understandable. Although it did interrupt the free verse, it was a purposeful and necessary interruption that helped with my own understanding and appreciation of the story.

As I was reading, I could not turn off my "teacher brain" and I kept thinking about how awesome it was that this book could be read by younger readers. Often, the topic of WWII and the Holocaust is reserved for older students. Roy's book, however, makes the topic an accessible one for students that provides them with historical information and an understanding of what it was like to live through this time. I will be adding this book to my personal library and hopefully it will be an addition to my classroom one day.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak #2

A message for The Book Thief: 

I am currently left with a broken heart and a half empty box of tissues. Although I knew what was coming, I still had not fully prepared myself for the way this book ended. I guess a part of me was still holding on to a little bit of hope that someone would survive and be there for Liesel. Obviously, that was not the case. But despite this gut wrenching and depressing ending, I still absolutely loved this book.

I have always been interested in World War Two and the Holocaust and have had a love for historical fiction since I was little. I have read many books about the Holocaust and took several undergraduate courses relating to World War Two at Nazareth. What I loved about The Book Thief, however, was Zusak's ability to give a fresh approach to a story that has been told many times and in many ways. Often, when we think about German's and World War Two, we associate them with the Nazi's, concentration camps, and their unconditional love and commitment to the Fhuer. Zusak, however, offers the view of German's, who, although they were safe from the tragedies of the concentration camps, still faced their own challenges and fears. He reveals how many German's were poor, starving, and losing loved ones in the war. He also shows how some German's resisted Hitler by refusing to join the Nazi party or to hang the German flags in their window. I also enjoyed how Zusak offered a different perspective of the Hitler Youth. From my own experiences, I learned about the Hitler Youth as being made up of "brainwashed" kids who did not know what they were really getting involved in. The Book Thief, however, revealed how kids did not enjoy being a part of the Hitler Youth and often complained about it. I think that it is so important that this book includes multiple perspectives and views because when you learn and think about the past, it is important to consider the voices and experiences of everyone involved. Zusak does a great job at doing this.