Young Adult Lit/Crit

February 29, 2008

An Interesting List for Us

Filed under: from your prof — sunyprof @ 2:44 pm

Dear Teachers,

This list of titles comes from one of my listserv’s most active reader. In fact each yr. there’s a JHUNT award winner, named after Jonathan, for the best YA title for that year. I hope you will take a look at this list of what he believes are “neglected” YA titles, titles that should have gotten more attention. Some will be familiar–some not. Mandy, glad to see TAMAR? Mandy also read THE NEW POLICEMAN. SOMEDAY THIS PAIN. . . is a lit circle title going forward. I think at least one of you read MISTIK LAKE. Allison “read” THE ARRIVAL. Taking a look at one of these titles for an upcoming book club would be a good move. Do share in the comment space here how you are stretching yourself as a YA reader. KES

THE ARRIVAL by Shaun Tan. . . Yes, it won the CBCA (sort of like the
Australian Caldecott); yes, it was starred and listed by all six
journals; yes, it was a NYT Best Illustrated Book and a BBYA Top
Ten. Still, it should have gotten more. Dare we hope for the Boston
Globe-Horn Book Award?

TAMAR by Mal Peet . . . This one wrested the Carnegie Medal away from
THE WHITE DARKNESS and the unshortlisted NEW POLICEMAN, was a BBYA
Top Ten, and was starred and listed by no less than four review
journals. The most excellent example of the literary crossover novel
I touted in my Horn Book article last year.

ANGEL ISLE by Peter Dickinson . . . Speaking of Horn Book articles,
DREAMQUAKE, DARKWING, and DARKLING PLAIN fared well in head-to-head
competition with realistic fiction this year, and specialized awards
such as the Cybils and the Norton have caught up some of the equally
deserving books such as BOOK OF A THOUSAND DAYS, THE LION HUNTER, and
HARRY POTTER. NEW POLICEMAN and RED SPIKES did well, too, in terms
of awards and reviews, but I’d still like to see ANGEL ISLE get its
just due. It’s not a book for everybody, but for its audience, it’s
as good as any book published this year. Is the Mythopoeic Award
jury listening?

reviews, striking narrative voice, and some of the best dialogue of
the past year. I thought this one would be an NBA finalist and a
BBYA Top Ten . . . I’m looking forward to our discussion of this one.

MISTIK LAKE by Martha Brooks . . . People have complained here and
elsewhere that it was too predictable and too soapy, but I never felt
that way. Another book with terrific reviews. Can we all agree to
give her the CLA Book of the Year? Please?

FORGED IN THE FIRE by Ann Turnbull . . . My pet book that nobody else
liked. No love for this one. Some nice reviews, but no stars.
Would be easier to take if NO SHAME, NO FEAR had gotten its just
due. It did make the Outstanding International Books list, though.

EINSTEIN ADDS A NEW DIMENSION by Joy Hakim . . . My other pet book.
Nonfiction is a hard sell, particularly in this kind of presentation,
but no author impressed me more this year.



Athletic Shorts, Mandy

Filed under: Chris Crutcher/Author Study — Joyce @ 12:12 pm

Hi Mandy,

 I’m so glad you mentioned reading ATHLETIC SHORTS:

                Joyce: I am happy to know someone else read Athletic Shorts. I enjoyed it and was reminded of what someone said in class last week about how you can define a good story in that you want it to continue. This is exactly how I felt while reading Athletic Shorts. In each story, an important issue was tackeled, from being overweight to AIDS to racism. The fact that these issues can be explored in a short story in such a profound way speaks to the wonderful writing talent of the author. I am excited to talk about this text with you, as I don’t know if anyone else read it!  -Mandy

so…   Which was your fav? I would have to say mine is “The Other Pin.” It’s a good example of Crutcherian writing, has all the basics in his prose: the virtues of exercise, the non-traditional athlete, the power of parental expectations, subverting the normative, and (most of all) humor. Killer ending scene on the wrestling mat. That KO will go down in my mental history as one of the best outside of my own experiences with Knock Out Kings and Mike Tyson’s PUNCH-OUT!

 However, I have to mention that the cameragun was a real treat in “In The Time I Get.”


Seminar- the texts

Filed under: Seminar Topics — allison @ 8:10 am

Hi everyone,

I just wanted to follow up about my seminar. I have some titles that will the the central ones for my seminar. The focus of my seminar will be post-911, our invasion of Afghanistan, Afghanistan in general, and our reactions at home (including bias towards muslim americans). The goal: to raise student understanding of an important current issue. We are still at war with Afghanistan. 9/11 was almost 7 years ago now, and high school students were very young when the events happen. I think there is a need to look at this issue, and we will use critical literacy to get there.

I wanted to share the central books for the seminar. I also have several books for additional reading, but these are the ones that are most central. Last night Professor Stearns asked me if they are all YA. I found them all on lists of recommended titles for young adults, such as the YALSA.

A nonfiction look at 9/11 and the aftermath:

To Afghanistan and Back: A Graphic Travelogue. by Ted Rall. A cartoonist provides a graphic account of the invasion of Afghanistan and the politics surrounding the invasion. This will of course would lead to discussion of political opinion in the classroom. Disagreement, agreement, discussion, and expression would all be encouraged. This book will be paired with The New York Time’s A Nation Challenged: A visual history of 9/11 and its aftermath. This book provides excellent opportunities for discussion of the power of pictures and the modes/effects of press coverage.

Fictional perspectives of Muslim Americans

Ask Me No Questions by Marina Budhos. This novel shows how the life of a Muslim American girl was changed in the wake of 9/11. It will encourage students to examine different perspectives other than their own and explore the issue of prejudice. This will be paired with the short story, Alone and All Together byJoseph Geha. This story looks at 9/11 as it happens through the eyes of a Muslim American girl. Everyone has a “where I was when 9/11 happened” story, so I think this short story could lead to some interesting discussion of historical events, our memories of them, and how events are recorded in history.

A look at Afghanistan

Zoya’s Story: An Afghan Woman’s Struggle for Freedom.  By William Morrow, 2002. I have started reading this book, and it’s completely eye-opening. It is the biography of an Afghan woman, and shows the conditions under which women must life. It also provides historical information about the country. It’s a gripping read. I will pair this book with Faziabad Harvest, 1980 by Suzanne Fisher Staples. It is a short story about a girl whose life is torn apart by the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan.

I have a few extension books, but am still building my list of those. I have some fun ideas for introductory and extension activities to get students involved in the issue. My seminar will take place soon after spring break, so if this topic interests you, get excited! I am! Feel free to share any comments or thoughts. It’s never too early to get the discussion started.



Filed under: from your prof — sunyprof @ 8:04 am

Thanks all of you for listening “with” me last night. I felt over-exposed and left with the sense that it was not a good thing that I shared my own experiences with you in that way. The conversation should have focused on the novels. Hard for me not to be reliving that time in my life in SLEDDING HILL. But I tried to reduce a complex event/teaching life into a few minutes’ sharing. Not so successfully. I appreciate your willingness to engage that conversation and I wish we had had more time to process it.

I do want to add a coda and an epilogue–Cortland has played an important continuing role in my career then and now.

In the spring of 1993, Karla Alwes, Mary Kennedy, and Janet Wolf, among many other English faculty, wrote the first letter of support that came into the superintendent and board of education from any other teaching body/educational institution.

None of these women knew “me;” all knew the importance of what I believe they thought I was doing.

A dozen years later I was attending the fall NYSEC conference in Albany. At that time, I was teaching at SUNY Oneonta–the journey from Solvay to Oneonta had taken many twists and turns but there I was in a tenure track position I was quite happy in.

I saw Mary Kennedy’s name on the program and leapt at the chance to attend a session with her. Remember, we had never met despite the department’s support of me years earlier.

After her presentation I introduced myself to her–I think she thought she was seeing a ghost. What Cortland profs thought had “happened” to me, after this case, I still do not know.

5 minutes into our conversation she asked me if I would be interested in coming to work in the English Dept. at Cortland. You see, I like to think that she “knew” me. And that was enough.

And so I did*. KES

*Of course, it was not that easy! Nothing in life ever is.

February 28, 2008

The courage to be like Ms. Lloyd: Critical pedagogy in practice

Filed under: Chris Crutcher/Author Study — scrollman @ 8:32 am

I’m wondering how many teachers and future teachers in this class will bring books into the classroom that might potentially cause the type of community uproar that Warren Peece caused in Sledding Hill.  Will the lack of tenure scare new teachers into conforming to their department’s potentially rigid and obsolete curriculum?  When push comes to shove, will we put our jobs on the line to teach in the way we believe is best, or will we choose the many “safe” books out there that kids won’t read, but that administrators and parents will be more comfortable with.  From my own personal experience, even with tenure, administrators can still make your life miserable, even if they can’t take your job away.  When you begin to push the barriers of what is deemed acceptable, you bring upon yourself an increased amount of scrutiny and criticism.  It takes true courage and perserverence to be a teacher like Ms. Lloyd, and your students will love you for it.  You will have influenced their lives in ways that you wouldn’t think possible.  But there is a price to be paid for this type of pedagogy.  How many of us are willing to sacrifice our own jobs and peace of mind to do what we think is right?  To me, this is the essential question for any teacher who reads Crutcher.


Sarah Byrnes – the fun and the fanatic

Filed under: Chris Crutcher/Author Study — allison @ 7:53 am

Hi everyone,

As a co-facilitator for Staying Fat for Sarah Byrnes, I’d like to start as we usually do for our book discussions some personal response and some critical discussion.

Personally, I loved this book. It’s my favorite Crutcher book so far, and I think thats because the characters are so interesting and the relationships are so complex. My favorite part of this book was the idea of heroes. It made me think about the everyday heroes in everyday life. I think it would be a great exercise for students to write a story in which they show (as Crutcher does) how someone in their own life has been an everyday hero.

What did everyone think of Lermy’s CAT class? I think it could serve as a model for all of us. Crutcher writes in a blog  on his website

Educators are put into further difficulty, being asked to up the anxiety all the way around by testing kids into comas.  Good stories are one of few resources we have left to make connections with kids.  They provide a level playing field for adults to talk about real life with kids, while allowing both to keep their personal safety.”

I liked this quote  because it captures one of the problems that we face as teachers- having to teach to a test. Crutcher notes how books can make learning more relevant. More relevant than say, practicing reading passages for the state exams.

I called this post “the fun and the fanatic” because I want to bring up some of the controversy surrounding this book. Due to the issues of abortion and christianity that arise, there has been an uproar against some (hence the ‘fanatic’ part). What does everyone think? I think it could be a great book to include in the classroom as part of a larger discussion of how these issues can arise in school, how and why people get worked up about them,  and whether talking about these issues is a good or a bad thing.  What else would you discuss with your class? Would anyone choose not to include this book in their classroom curriculum?


from TEACHER Magazine

Filed under: from your prof — sunyprof @ 7:41 am

It seems appropriate to end February and our focus on titles by African-American writers with this transcript from yesterday’s live conversation, “Getting Real About Race in Schools: Addressing Racial Issues in Classrooms” sponsored by ED WEEK.

The moderators were:

Mica Pollock, an associate professor of education at Harvard University, and editor of Everyday Antiracism: Getting Real About Race in School, due to be published later this year by the New Press of New York City.

Karolyn Tyson, an associate professor of sociology at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill and author of a chapter called “Providing Equal Access to Gifted Education,” that appears in Ms. Pollock’s book.

Call-in’s to the chat provide an interesting range of educators’ voices.

I highly recommend reading their questions and the moderators’ responses. KES

PABBIS (Parents Against Bad Books in Schools)

Filed under: from your prof — sunyprof @ 6:45 am

I hope you have had an opportunity to review PABBIS (Parents Against Bad Books in Schools) website Crutcher references in ch. 15 of SLEDDING HILL. Be sure to take a look at the group’s List of Lists. Read the “essay,” A Bad Book in Your Child’s School and check out the long list of links to sites that “contain useful information related to controversial books in schools.”

After you have taken a look, please share your reactions. KES

February 27, 2008

Book Club!!

Filed under: Book Clubs--O'Donnell-Allen — sunyprof @ 8:42 pm

Book club is at the heart of our 619 practice and I would argue should be in the forefront of your own practice no matter what grade level you teach.

What are you reading (ah–Chris Crutcher!! Whatddya know?!) for book club this week? Please share.

Tonight I was asked by two ELA teachers, one middle, one high, to write out — on the spot — a list of 10 books to buy for YA’s. We were supposed to be paying attention elsewhere, but oh well. These are pretty hip teachers so their classrooms are full of YA authors. But immediately I thought of you–and what you were reading for book club week to week.

So what should have been on my list. Remember these are folks who wanted “newer” titles. KES

The best ill-advised autobiography to date…

Filed under: Chris Crutcher/Author Study — kariredmond @ 8:18 pm

I just wanted to start out with some points for tomorrow night’s discussion on King of the Mild Frontier:

First of all I read this book first, and I am so glad that I did. I feel that this book gave me a great foundation on which to read the other assigned readings.  Not only did we find out where some of the characters from his stories came from specifically, but we are shown issues of particular interest that later make it into YA lit.

Part of this book that I found of particular interest was one that we discussed last week in our Elijah lit circle: trust/ respect for our elders.  CC questioned (with good reason) much of what he was told or taught by adults throughout his life and was often punished for it.  How do we use his ideas of credibility with students in our own lives/classrooms?

He tells us about his censorship issues through a story (told provactively in typical CC fashion) of a young African American child who was a victim of abuse and persecution within her own home.  Honestly, after reading this I felt a lot more open to the language and situations in the other novels.  How do you guys feel (especially those of you teaching currently) about the issues presented in this novel? Do you feel that your student’s are ready to read about the penis in the popcorn bag, even if they are hearing about it from other students already? I know we are going to delve into censorship even more next week but I thought that this novel was a perfect place to start.

Also, besides the ones that were pointed out… do you see issues/characters from the other novels that stemmed from CC’s experiences in KING? I like the idea of using this novel as a reference for the others, especially with the idea that we are in the midst of an “author study”. 

I cannot wait to discuss these novels with you in class tomorrow! I seem to be a “fan” of everything, but I am especially excited about this week’s text set!


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