Young Adult Lit/Crit

January 31, 2008

Readings for 1/31

Filed under: Articles for Class — kariredmond @ 4:42 am

I had some thoughts after reading the articles for this week, specifically the blog from Donalyn Miller.  Mostly I appreciated the sense of urgency from Miller that something in the way that we teach readers needs to change.  Similar to what we discussed in class last week, it seems that the more we try to force feed novels to students, the less they are interested in reading. I was particularly interested in what part of her blog where she used the phrase: “get your students “through” a book.” (1/13/08) It is fascinating to think of how many times I have heard this phrase used in this context, but only in the past couple of years have I really thought of it in a negative connotation.  Why on earth would we be trying to merely get students “through” the book if they aren’t enjoying, understanding, or appreciating it? When reading these “neccessary novels” in schools, instead of ripping it off quick like a band-aid to satisfy curriculum requirements , we draw out units in a painful, almost torturous manner.  Instead of catering to all styles of learning and personality we are teaching in a cookie cutter manner that turns off the majority of students from reading altogether. I agree wholeheartedly with the idea of Miller that: “Teaching whole-class novel units does not create a society of literate people”. 

Along the same ideas, I find that Williams’ article also had some valid points to this argument.  Instead of teaching the skills of good reading, and promoting the ideas of reading with purpose and comprehension (not to say that every kid will understand everything that they will read) regardless of the content, we are merely forcing reading onto students.  Teaching kids how to read with quality as a life skill seems far more important to me than teaching “To Kill A Mockingbird”.  Years later if you were to ask my 7th grade English class what the purpose of reading this novel was, they probably couldn’t recall that we were learning diversity and tolerance, and educating ourselves about prejudice.  Sure some of us understood the implications of what we were reading, but most of the class was just trying to get “through” the novel.  This again goes along with what we discussed in class the other night, so I apologize if I am being redundant. 

I also liked the idea of the science class physically drawing what their perception of a scientist looks like.  Applied to a reader, this could prove to bring up some very valid points in a classroom discussion.  Are kids who are known readers looked upon differently? Are they not as “cool” or accepted as the other kids? I could guess that several of the pictures that the kids could draw of readers would be of taped-glasses wearing, stuffy nosed, bow-tie adorned nerds.  Perhaps they would be surprised to find out who amoung them really was an avid reader and who hadn’t touched a book in years. I also think this applies to our course. 

As a first semester grad student, this is the first time I have walked into a classroom and actually felt comfortable discussing my reading habits amoung my peers.  In my undergrad work at Oswego in Communications, most of the reading I did outside of class was private.  My friends knew that I read, but it wasn’t something that we really talked about or got excited about until we were “real” adults.  At our first class meeting, however,when I first pulled out my paperback (in its zippered cover) and apologized for being a “book nerd”, someone else said: “don’t worry we are all book nerds”.  This type of “fraternity” of readers is so important to me and I look forward to our class meetings already, but what if a teenager could walk into their HS English course and feel similarly comfortable in discussing their reading patterns? Could it be contagious?

Sorry this is so long and randomly composed… hopefully my chaos of thoughts will make sense to some of you!

See you in class tomorrow night.


PS: Allison and I are still looking for another Lit Circle participant for DOES MY HEAD LOOK BIG IN THIS… consider this a lobby to make it happen because I think the book is really worth it!



Filed under: Look What I'm Reading for Book Club! — kariredmond @ 2:05 am

Hey guys!

I finally got around to finish the last few chapters of Catalyst by Laurie Halse Anderson. I really thought it was a great book for many reasons, but I was still a little disapointed with the ending. I won’t give it away, but it didn’t quite answer the questions that I had in the manner that I was expecting.  That being said, the book is really still worth reading. It is a quick, captivating read with a great main character. Basically she is a stressed out high school senior trying to get into her dream college. Her mother passed away when she was young, which left her to care for her preacher father and her younger brother, while upholding the household duties.  Somehow she still manages impressive grades and an award winning track career, as well as a healthy social life.  In reality there is nothing healthy about the life of this young woman who suffers from anxiety, depression, and insomnia.  Her delicate existance is compromised by a cleptomaniac unwanted houseguest and a large rejection from MIT.   

I think this novel will really appeal to young adults who are perhaps feeling overwhelmed by life’s curveballs, as well as those who perhaps need an alternate perspective on bullies.  After reading this book I think there is value in Anderson’s common theme: re-prioritizing our lives to give weight to the things that really matter.  Reading Anderson would be good for anyone needing a “healthier” perspective on social cliques or even teens starting the college application process.


A Few Good Website

Filed under: Resources to Share — katefrazer @ 12:57 am

Here are a couple of good websites I found while searching around on the internet:

I especially like the first one!

January 30, 2008

Zen and the Art of Faking It by Jordan Sonneblick

Filed under: Look What I'm Reading for Book Club! — katefrazer @ 9:11 pm

I am about to finish Zen and the Art of Faking It, and I am very glad that I have read it.  I was already a fan of Jordan Sonneblick prior to this book, but after reading most of this book, I was reminded again why.  He writes wonderful main characters.  San, the main character in this book is an 8th grader trying to figure out who he wants to be at his new school.  So many of my kids have the same struggle.  As I’m reading, I keep hoping San will make good decisions, and even as he isn’t, I’m still hoping everything will work out for him.  I just wanted to keep reading to see how he was going to work out the mess he’s in, and I think middle school kids would do the same thing.

On a less positive note, I was not as happy with this book as I have been with Sonneblick’s other novels.  It’s good, but not great like the other two.  But I’m still going to get a copy for my shelves!

Arnold or Junior or both

Filed under: Uncategorized — scrollman @ 7:03 pm

I just re-read my last post and realized that I referred to Junior/Arnold as just ”Arnold”.  I did not do so conciously and I’m wondering whether or not this reveals a bias.  How do you think he should he be reffered to?  If we only call him Junior, then we downplay his Reardan identity; if we only call him Arnold, then we downplay his Indian identity.  Clearly he is both, but which should come first?  Should it be Junior/Arnold, or Arnold/Junior?  Should we put one of his names in parentheses?  If so, which one?   

I have a feeling that there really are no good answers to these questions.   The novel kind of forces us to see the complexity of identity, and the fact that names and titles don’t truly reflect who we are as human beings.  And still, we have to live with those names and titles, and the expectations that go along with them.


Sherman Alexie: keeping it real

Filed under: Uncategorized — scrollman @ 4:44 pm

I read Diary of a Part-Time Indian last night in one sitting, and after I finished it, I thought about what made the book so enjoyable and profound: the perception of honesty.   Masturbation, farting, bowl movements; these are topics that many of us might be too embarrassed to write about, but Alexie isn’t afraid to reveal his character in all of his emotional, bodily, and spiritual glory.  By laying it all out there, keeping it real, we begin to grow attached to this young man, and take what he says to heart.  I don’t know if this is an “absolutely” true story or not (the basketball drama was a little over the top) but Arnold, as a literary creation, is a very “real” person.  At no time in the novel did I ever disbelieve him, or feel the writer’s presence as separate from Arnold’s.  In some ways, this book is very much like Catcher in the Rye, as both Salinger and Alexie completely disappear and all we see are Holden and Arnold.   I don’t think it’s coincidental that Arnold’s second favorite book is Catcher in the Rye (could it be Alexie’s too?) , as his natural way of writing so clearly reflects the influence of Holden (Oops, I mean Salinger)- which is kind of my whole point here.  When I read Catcher in the Rye in high school, I thought Holden was Salinger and vica versa.  It was only when I read Salinger’s other novels that I realized Holden was a creation.  In Arnold, Alexie has created someone of flesh, blood, and spirit.  He has breathed life into the page, and as you’re reading the book, Arnold might as well be your best friend, or your brother, or your son, or your student.  What a great gift.

Jonathan (the guy who was absent last week- looking forward to meeting all of you)

News Flash! “White Darkness” Available at Mando Books

Filed under: from your prof — sunyprof @ 2:24 pm

Mando Books on Main St. in Cortland does have copies of WHITE DARKNESS for those of you who may be thinking about a lit circle on that title.

That means all 3 titles are readily available.

I have had one request to bring a copy of TOUCHING SNOW to class on TH. If anyone else wants me to pick up either SNOW or DOES MY HEAD LOOK BIG IN THIS to bring to class on TH, please let me know.

If you have formed a circle with 3 or 4 participants on one of these titles, please post your circles’s membership with your chosen title here. Thanks! KES

Young Adult Lit Library Services Wiki

Filed under: from your prof — sunyprof @ 2:15 pm

This site is a great source of themed booklists for teachers and for those of us working on a seminar topic. KES

Two texts to consider

Filed under: Look What I'm Reading for Book Club! — Mandy @ 2:11 am

I finished The New Policeman last weekend, which was the text I brought for book club last Thursday. I thought it was decent, but definitely not one of the best YA titles that I have read so far. It was very long for having such a simple plot and at times I was very bored. However, this reading is coming on the heels of Tamar, a very dense read about a historical tragedy: the Holocaust. That being said, I think it is more appropriate for middle school kids, as it was a long but quick read, and very understandable. Further, it deals with time travel and male bonding, so perhaps middle school males would find it most interesting and easier to identify with the male character and his adventures with time traveling.

On another note, I finished The Earth, My Butt and Other Big Round Things by Carolyn Mackler. I read this in one sitting and I loved it. It is about a high school sophomore, Virginia, who lives in Manhattan with her “perfect” family. Readers will definitely laugh and perhaps even cry as she documents her struggles to fit in with her family and her peers, mostly due to her weight. However, I think this is an inspiring story for any female about societal/peer/ familial pressures to be thin and beautiful. Yet many other themes permeate this text, including how appearances can be deceiving, acceptance, a search for identity, coming of age, etc. I would recommend this to anyone because it is rich with issues pertinent to teens.


January 29, 2008

Lit Circles Forming?

Filed under: from your prof — sunyprof @ 11:54 pm

Dear Teachers, lit circles form, in part, on the blog. Please read and respond to those who have already posted re: their interest in one of the 3 avail. titles for lit circles on Feb. 7.

I have several copies of TOUCHING SNOW on hold for me at Barnes and Noble. I can bring them on TH if I hear from any of you that you have formed a circle on that title and need a copy.

I’m not sure if the copies of WHITE DARKNESS have come in to Mando. I’ll check on that tomorrow morning.

I will also check to see that DOES MY HEAD LOOK BIG IN THIS? is avail. at B&N.

If you have put together a circle on any one of these titles, please post the participants on the blog and let me know if you need help in getting the book. You must have the book–your own copy–to participate in the lit circle on the 7th. Thanks, KES

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