Willowdean Dickson is a confident girl. Willow is a self-proclaimed fat girl who knows who she is. Willow knows where she belongs. And Willow LOVES Dolly Parton. That is until Bo Larson, her gorgeous co-worker, suddenly starts to notice her. Now Willow has no idea what is going on. What could a boy like Bo, gorgeous and a private school basketball player, possibly want with a girl like her? Suddenly, the confident, I-know-who-I-am girl, is having all kinds of doubts. To top this off, her mother was a former beauty queen, and is the pageant chair for the Miss Teen Blue Bonnet pageant (which is a BIG deal ~ this is set in Texas after all); her best friend Ellen, is finding love herself; and her beloved Aunt Lucy, who was more like her mother, has recently died from complications of obesity.
Willow decides to enter the Miss Teen Blue Bonnet pageant to the chagrin of her mother. Along with her best friend, and a hand-full of misfits, what was at first a tribute to her aunt, may become something more. All the while, Bo keeps wanting to declare their relationship to the masses, something Willow is not ready to do. She can’t stand the thought of the bullying and teasing Bo would endure for being with “a girl like her”.
This books is a wonderful book that shares some very raw feelings about loving yourself and accepting others. I feel that this book can be especially inspiring to young people to learn to love themselves for who they are and to follow their dreams no matter what the circumstances. One of the most powerful things I found in the book is that it contains many powerful quotes about being yourself or just being the most awesome you can be. This will definitely be a book that I will be adding to my classroom library as I think is has such a positive message. There is a film version that is being made starring Jennifer Aniston as Willow’s mom.
It’s Monday and I feel like I’m back on track for my reading goal for the summer! I just finished a wonderful book titled Simon vs. The Home Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli. This novel is about 16-year-old Simon Spier from Atlanta, Georgia. Simon has been secretly conversing with a character he only knows as “Blue” in e-mails. During one such conversation, Simon forgets to log out of his account at school. This sets the stage for the class clown, Martin Addison, to read the e-mail and use it to blackmail Simon. Simon’s core group of friends includes Nick Eisner, whom he has known since they were four; Leah Burke, whom he has known for several years; and Abby Suso, who moved to Georgia at the beginning of the current school year.
Martin has a crush on Abby and decides to use the information about Simon to blackmail Simon into helping him get nearer to Abby. Simon is not keen on this, but feels he has no other choice as he doesn’t know what reactions people/family will have finding out about him. He also doesn’t want to jeopardize his budding romance with “Blue”. During this time, he is also on a mission to find out the true identity of “Blue” as his feelings have grown deeper with each conversation they have. As the story unfolds, he is forced to reveal his secret and the ramifications that ensue will have you crying and cheering.
I thoroughly enjoyed this book. I enjoyed the fact that chapters were written in narrative and others were written in e-mails between “Blue” and “Jacques” aka Simon. I felt that the issue of homosexuality and the fear of being “found out” was handled in a sensitive manner. I enjoyed seeing Simon’s character develop and change throughout the story. I would be careful though on who I recommend this to, as there are some sexual references in the novel that would not be appropriate for all ages. But overall, this is a great coming-of-age story that will have you laughing, crying, and cheering, sometimes all at the same time!
It has also been made into a movie that was released in March of 2018 (I can’t wait to see it!)
I finished reading Little & Lion by Brandy Colbert and all I can say is I feel like I was on a roller coaster ride. This book definitely is the epitome of a diverse novel! This novel is set around Suzette “Little”, the main character, who returns home to Los Angeles after a year in boarding school located in New England. When she returns home, she wonders if she will return to boarding school or stay in LA with her brother, Lionel “Lion” (who was diagnosed bi-polar before she was sent to school), her mother and step-father.
Suzette has many things she deals with in her life. Her brother’s condition was the reason she was sent away as her parents thought it would be best until they could get his condition under control. While at boarding school, Suzette had her first same-sex relationship and had to deal with the fallout when they were discovered. After she returns home, her old crush, Emil now has shown he has feelings for her as well. She also discovers a new friend, Rafaela, who she secretly has feelings for and whom her brother begins dating. On top of all this, she has to deal with the fact that her parents are a bi-racial couple and the looks and whispers she deals with when she is with them or her step-brother. Finally, the most compounding problem emerges when Lionel reveals to her that he has quit taking his medicine for his bi-polar condition! She must then try to save Lion from his greatest threat…himself.
I think this is a great novel that deals with many current issues. It shows the difficulty of those dealing with a mental illness as well as how it can affect the family members. It also explores love and sexuality and all the emotions that arise. I think it’s a powerful novel, and I believe there are many students that would find this book appealing. I would caution though, that because it is written in such a current and moving way, there is some language and situations that may not be suitable for all students. I would not recommend it for younger students or students that would be easily offended.
Hurt Go Happy by Ginny Rorby
I also finished Hurt Go Happy by Ginny Rorby this week. All I can say is love, love, love! The book is about thirteen-year old Joey Willis who has been deaf since the age of six. She reads lips in order to communicate as her mother has never allowed her to learn sign language. Unfortunately, this limits those Joey can communicate with since not everyone’s lips are easy to read. One day as she is out in the woods picking mushrooms, she meets an old man named Dr. Charles Mansell. Charley has Joey follow him back to his house where she is introduced to Sukari, a chimpanzee that knows sign language.
Sakari was rescued after her mother was taken by poachers and has been with Charley ever since. Soon the bond between Joey, Charley, and Sukari grows stronger than ever with Charley and Sukari teaching Joey how to sign. When her mother learns about this, she forbids Joey from seeing Charley and Sukari. Joey must sneek around in order to see the two. As Joey learns to sign, secrets are revealed about her childhood that were never meant to come out and pretty soon life is thrown up-side down for Joey, Charlie, and Sukari.
Hurt Go Happy is based on a true story of a chimpanzee that learned to sign. It is an emotional book about pain, loss, hope and redemption. I found myself happy, angry, and at times crying over the story line. This is a book I got personally vested in and loved every minute of reading and feel a loss now that it is over. It is a book that could be recommended for any student from elementary through high school. I plan to hopefully have my Literature class next year read this book as I think they all will thoroughly enjoy this beautiful tale.
This week I have been working on two wonderful books: Hurt Go Happy by Ginny Rorby and Little & Lion by Brandy Colbert. This has, unfortunately, been the first week since the beginning of the year, that I haven’t been able to completely finish a book in a week. I attribute this to the end of the school year and all that pertains to getting ready for that. But I have been able to, luckily, get some reading in and have all the confidence that I will get one, if not both, of these novels done in the coming week.
Hurt Go Happy is a fabulous book about Joey Willis who lost her hearing at the age of six. Since then, she has become accustomed to being left out of conversations. Her mother is adamantly against having Joey learn sign-language (I have yet to find the reason why) and therefore must rely on reading lips. During an outing gathering mushrooms, Joey happens upon the land of Dr. Charles Mansell and soon discovers he has a baby chimpanzee named Sukari. Joey begins to learn sign language with her new friends…but how will her mother react to this discovery? I can’t wait to find out.
Little & Lion is another fascinating book. Suzette returns home from New England to Los Angeles after being away in a boarding school. Her brother, Lionel, was diagnosed with bipolar so her mother and step-father had sent her away while Lionel was learning to cope with his condition. When Suzette returns, she begins to fall back into her normal routines with old friends and her new crush, Emil. But things are starting to become unraveled as a new “crush” has Suzette trying to figure her life out. How will Lionel’s condition affect Suzette and those around her, and will a love triangle be the down-fall to Suzette. These and other questions will hopefully be answered as I continue to read Little & Lion.
This week I finished the novel Everything Everything by Nicola Yoon. This story follows the life of 18-year-old Maddy, who has been isolated in her home for most of her life because of an immunodeficiency illness. Her home is hermetically sealed to prevent anything from getting to Maddy and making her ill. Because of her isolation, Maddy doesn’t know all the things that she has missed out in the world until a new neighbor, Olly, moves in. Olly harbors his own personal demons as he has an abusive and alcoholic father. Soon Maddy and Olly become friends, first through text messages and looking through their windows but soon their friendship blossoms into a romance. With the help of Maddy’s nurse, Carla, the two soon start to see each other in person until Maddy’s mom discovers their meetings. Through their relationship, hidden secrets soon emerge and they will risk everything to be together.
I really enjoyed this book for many reasons. First of all, it’s the story of a girl that has been secluded because of her illness for most of her life. It shows the isolation that someone with such a profound illness must endure. Secondly, it’s a great romance story with a bi-racial couple, as Maddy is Asian/African American and Olly is white. It also deals with mental illness and in a small part, homosexuality (in the case of Olly’s friend who hadn’t came out to his family). I think all of diverse topics this book deals with, it is an excellent book for any middle school/high school student.
I did watch the movie right after reading the book. I must say that although the movie is nice, it most definitely does not go well with the book in terms of content. There were so many elements that were left out of the book, I would highly recommend reading the book whether you have already watched the movie or not.
This was the first and only “humorous” book that I read for class. And I do have to admit, that I really enjoyed it! Don’t Get Caught by Kurt Dinan is a lighthearted story about a boy who is invited to join an exclusive club formed by anonymous students called the Chaos Club. When Max Cobb first receives the invitation, it’s a dream come true. The Chaos Club is a club that has been around for the past 40 years pulling off some of the greatest pranks in the history of the school. So when Max goes to meet the club members, he is surprised to find four other “misfit” students whom have also been given invitations. It is soon apparent, that Max and these other four, have become the latest recipients of a prank by the Chaos Club.
After the initial shock, the five, now calling themselves The Water Tower Five (you’ll have to read the book to find out why!), agree to take down the Chaos Club and reveal the identities of the members. Now it becomes an all-out prank war. Who will come out on top: the Chaos Club or The Water Tower Five? You’ll have to read the book to find out!
I really did enjoy this book; it was a very quick and easy read. Students are going to enjoy reading about the pranks that are pulled, and finding out who is behind the “Chaos Club”. I believe any student who is looking for a light, funny read will thoroughly enjoy this novel. It does have a couple of innuendos that are more of the mature variety, but I don’t believe it’s anything most teenagers have never heard. Overall, it was nice to have a book that was on the lighter side, I tend to read more books with a darker tone to them.
Soldier Boy by Keely Hutton
Soldier Boy by Keely Hutton was a novel I read as my “outside my comfort zone” book. This is not the type of book that I would have normally picked up to read, but I am SO glad I did! This has now went to the top of most favorite YA books ever!
Soldier Boy is a story about Ricky Anywar, a fourteen year old Ugandan boy who was taken by Joseph Kony’s guerrilla army in 1989 and forced to fight for them. It’s a heart-breaking story that brings you into what life is like in Uganda with the civil war and what the young people go through when they are kidnapped by the rebel armies. It’s a story of pain and resiliency.
The story then continues twenty-years later with a fictional boy named Samuel. Samuel was also part of the kidnapped Ugandan boys who were made to fight. He is actually a representative of all the children that find themselves in that situation. Samuel has been freed from their grip, but now is having a hard time trusting anyone or dealing with life after what has happened. With the help of the “Friends of Orphans” program, which was founded by Ricky, Samuel learns to trust again.
I found myself gasping, crying, and angry throughout the entire book. I knew what happens to the children taken was not good, but when you actually read the story and hear what they go through, it brings a whole new perspective. I believe this is an important subject that is easily forgotten with us. Students should read this as it would open their eyes to how lucky they are to be here and learn that there are injustices in the world that all people should be aware of.
There are so many things in Penny Kittle’s book that I have marked, that my book looks like it is bleeding yellow. These last two chapters were no exception. I really enjoyed reading about the “big idea books” where she labels them with themes in literature (Kittle 117-119). I really might consider using this next year to try and bring more conversation on the types of themes found in the books. Also, the quarterly reflections are another part that I found interesting and extremely useful. The other thing that I think I may try is the idea of the “order” of literature across her back wall where they connect books to one another. I like the fact that everytime I read this, I discover more areas that I would like to improve on for my future classes.
There were again, many things that I marked in the last chapter of the book. The first things that I marked were areas that I agreed with Kittle when looking at how standardized testing does not measure the intense portion of reading. I loved when she stated, “Speed reading is of little value in the world, yet speed is at the center of standardized testing…” (Kittle 138). This was one of the issues I had during my days as an elementary teacher. Practicing speed reading was one of the things we had to do. I had an issue with this because I’m not a fast reader yet I still manage to comprehend and get things done. Many of the students would worry so much about their reading-rate and not worry about the comprehension they should be gaining from it. I also agree with her when she says the only way to get real information on a student’s reading is by sitting down with a student, listening and talking to them. Finally, in this section, she says what I think we all say when American school’s are judged against other countries, “…we are not testing the same populations” (Kittle 139)!
The next thing that I LOVED was how her school mandated a school-wide reading time! What a wonderful idea! I have a reading time in my class, but what a great concept to show EVERYONE that reading is important. I would like to talk to my administration about this concept. I can see where, I believe, this would be a wonder
ul endeavor! I know that getting all involved would be an undertaking, but I think the benefits would be amazing. There would be those that would think this would be taking valuable time away from “real” teaching, but if they can’t read, they can’t do anything else!
Summer reading was the last portion that I thought was interesting. I never was made to read during the summer. I know that students have a reading loss caused by summer vacation, and in a perfect world, we would be able to get them to continue to read during the summer so that loss doesn’t come. I commend her if she is actually able to get students to do the summer reading, as I do think it’s a great idea, but in reality, I can not see a lot of middle school/high school students actually doing it. The ones that read on their own would again be the only ones that would read for the summer homework. Would I like for this to happen? Of course, do I see it happening, nope.
Again, I just want to say that this is one of the best PD books that I have read and it is definitely not one that you should read only once and put on the shelf. This book has helped me realize the type of teacher I hope to be someday.
Kittle, Penny. Book Love: Developing Depth, Stamina, and Passion in Adolescent Readers. Heinemann, 2013.