Young Adult Lit/Crit

April 28, 2008

Reflection on Sci-Fi Seminar

Filed under: seminar feedback, Seminar Topics, Seminar! — traverse02 @ 2:26 pm

My seminar this past Thursday went very well. Josh, Jon, Erin and I had a very free-flowing discussion of science fiction in YA literature and how it can enrich our students’ reading lives. The articles I addressed in my seminar showed how science fiction is usually looked down upon as cheap fiction for untalented writers who want to make a quick buck by starting new franchises heavy on action and technology gone mad. While this is true in some ways, the three books I presented were grounded in realism. The science fiction elements were presented very naturally across Little Brother, Be More Chill, and Life As We Knew It. I used these texts because I wanted to show that sci-fi isn’t always about aliens and space travel. These three young adult novels related very human stories. They offer commentary on humanity’s dependence on technology and a variety of social issues faced by young people in our modern world. I also brought along some of my personal favorite sci-fi novels, comics and films to show how these entry-level sci-fi stories can provide a good base for much deeper territory as our students grow older. Many, like the aforementioned Little Brother and the film, Equilibrium, would be perfect companion pieces to 1984 or Fahrenheit 451 and so on and so forth.

I focused on sci-fi because I grew up on it, and since we were asked from the beginning of this course to reflect on our reading lives, I felt it would be best for me to talk about a genre that I am very passionate about. Based on our discussion, which flew by time-wise, it seemed as though I was able to get the group interested, and this, I feel, is the most important aspect of teaching. I can definitely see myself incorporating seminars like this in my own classroom. From what I have experienced as a participant and facilitator, they are engaging and affecting.



April 6, 2008

Seminar Topic

Filed under: Seminar Topics — ebrazee @ 1:22 pm

Hi all! I’d likes to extend an invitation to everyone to my seminar on pregnant and parenting teens in YA lit.  One Night (Margaret Wild), Annie’s Baby (Beatrice Sparks), The Amazing ‘True’ Story of a Teenage Single Mom (Katherine Arnoldi) and Baby Girl (Lenora Adams) are the titles I will focus on.  My main objective is to show that this topic can be looked at through a variety of genres within YA lit.  I will examine how different classes and race are represented through the main characters faced with pregnancy.  We will also touch on the differing views of being pregnant/having a baby between the girls/mothers and boys/fathers in these titles.

Teen pregnancy is a hot-button issue, and relevant in New York state, where we have the third highest rate of teenage pregnancies.  I look forward to sharing my topic and books and enthusiasm with any three of you!


April 5, 2008

May the Force Live Long and Prosper: Science Fiction in YA Lit.

Filed under: Seminar Topics — traverse02 @ 10:19 am

I would like to take this opportunity to invite you all to my seminar on science fiction in YA lit. The three main titles we will discussing are Little Brother by Cory Doctorow, Be More Chill by Ned Vizzini, and Life As We Knew It by Susan Beth Pfeffer. We will be looking at these YA titles as examples of what has come to be known as ‘soft sci-fi’, which is essentially science fiction that relates to the social sciences, like sociology, economics, political science, etc. The main objective is to show how important genre study can be in our classrooms, and more specifically, how the sci-fi genre–a rich forum for political and social commentary–allows for writers and readers to explore hot-button issues (think abortion in Unwind) and new concepts in technology, philosophy, etc. We will also see how the genre turns the idea of the traditional hero on its head. All of this will be discussed in relation to current attitudes concerning the genre in our field. Most educators see it as illegitimate literature or inappropriate material for a language arts classroom, but I disagree, and I will tell you why. And, of course, I will be providing certain teaching strategies that can be used in the classroom.

We will be looking at a wide range of material, including comic books, films, tv series, a laundry list of YA novels, and some of my personal favorites, in order to get a sense of how popular this genre is and the vast potential it has for engaging young minds.

I know that Josh has already secured a spot in my seminar, so I am looking for two more people. It should be a hell of a ride.

Punch and Pie


March 1, 2008

Sci-Fi Seminar

Filed under: Seminar Topics — traverse02 @ 8:54 pm

Hullo all.

Like Allison, I figured now would be a good time to share the 3 major texts I will be using for my seminar on Science Fiction in YA literature and the major topics that I’ll be discussing.

First, I will be using the novel Be More Chill by Ned Vizzini to talk about humanity’s increasing dependence on technology and its effects on culture (specifically youth culture). The book is about a high-school dork who swallows a pill-sized supercomputer that embeds itself in his brain and gives him the cues he needs to be cool and get the girl. Unfortunately, the squip (the supercomputer) develops a consciousness all its own. Hilarity ensues. This book is a very light read, but very entertaining and a good way to introduce science fiction to any young people who might be skeptic about how good the genre is, especially as a forum for social commentary. (Thank you Kari for introducing me to this book).

Second, I will be using Life As We Knew It, a novel by Susan Beth Pfeffer that addresses speculation into environmental catastrophes and how our life as a species could be affected. I haven’t started this yet, but the plot revolves around a young girl and her family trying to survive in a world where the climate has changed radically after a meteor collides with the moon, knocking it closer in orbit with Earth. I am interested in this mainly because it’s an example of what some people call “Science Fact” (think about films like Deep Impact, The Day After Tomorrow, etc.) Although a scenarios like these are somewhat unlikely–especially in the case of The Day After Tomorrow– they are possible, and even if they don’t happen, it’s important to be aware of how the climate and environment can be altered by our own actions and circumstances beyond our control.

Last, I will be talking about Maxwell Strangewell, a recent graphic novel by the Fillbach Brothers (the creators of the Star Wars: Clone Wars cartoons that ran on Cartoon Network a few years ago). I have really fallen for this book. To sum up, it tells the story of a young girl, Anna, who gets caught up in an interstellar war after witnessesing an alien called the Strangewell fall to Earth. She unwittingly names the Strangewell ‘Max’ after her old dog, and forms a psychic bond with him after he touches her forehead. The plot is hard to explain, so I won’t get into it here, but I want to use the book to talk about humanity’s acceptance/rejection of the unknown and what the implications of being close-minded could mean for all of us.

So, this should give you a rough idea of what I plan to do with my seminar. As always, I am open to suggestions so if there is any advice you might have to offer, please let me know. I will be posting what I have for further reading later. For now, I am getting away from this blasted machine.

Hope everyone enjoys the weekend.



February 29, 2008

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.


February 27, 2008


Filed under: Seminar Topics — allison @ 5:53 am

Hi everyone,

I’ve been working on my seminar, which is about post-911, our invasion of Afghanistan, and our reactions at home (including bias towards muslim americans). I’ve found a few good texts to use, but if anyone has any suggestions, that would be great.

I wanted to share this site with sarah, who I believe is doing her seminar on war, right?

This is a great site if anyone ever needs a book on a national disaster/tragedy. There are also some great book lists on Katrina and terroroism (im hoping to find something useful from the later! )

The only problem is that I’m finding that some of the links don’t work and I can’t figure out why. Hopefully we will still be able to find the lists.

This website is also helpful.

Let me know if anyone has any ideas for books about  post-911, our invasion of Afghanistan, Afghanistan in general, and our reactions at home (including bias towards muslim americans).

February 23, 2008

Joyce, Crutcher and the N-word

Hey,I spent a little time on Chris Crutcher’s web site and saw a lot that was interesting and a few things to comment on.  First, there’s a whole section called CC Answers the Censors , which has Crutcher’s reactions to arguments against teaching some of his books and short stories in schools.  I didn’t read too much here, because I want to read the books first.  I am eager to go back to it after I’ve done the reading.  One of the stories mentioned is “Telephone Man” from the short story collection Athletic Shorts.  Crutcher describes this story as “a story about a young borderline autistic boy who lives in a home with a racist father.”  First, I thought of Joyce and her seminar topic on autism.  Second, as I read further, I found this explanation of the issue some readers had with the story:

I hate the words Telephone Man uses as much as any of you do.  That’s why I put them in the story.  They are the words of raw racism and they are depicted as such.  The “n” word (and I use that euphemism only because it seems we have lost our capability to speak real truth) is probably the single most vile word in our nation’s historical vocabulary, a sadistic weapon of a word that has been used in this nation’s history like a hammer.  You don’t hide a word like that.  You expose it.  You tell the truth about it.  Unlike the people who are challenging the story, I have confidence in our children’s intellectual ability to understand that. 

We’ve talked in class about “the n-word” in connection to Of Mice and Men, Tyrell, and just last week in our lit circle on Elijah of Buxton (perhaps it came up the lit circle on Flake’s and Myers’ short story collections as well).  Do we avoid it?  I think the answer is clearly and loudly, “NO!”, but then how do we talk about it?  And then, what do we do if someone challenges the way we discuss race, racism, racial epithets, etc?  This train of thought connects with Joyce’s comments on the “Book Lust” post.  She wrote:

As a student (and someday teacher) I’m learning that sometimes I say stupid things.  Sometimes I know they’re stupid the moment they come out of my mouth. How do we manage this sort of “slip up” in a classroom filled with children? Is there a teacher filter we’re awarded with the moment of graduation, something that we swallow that enables us to keep those stupid things in? Or, am I a hopeless romantic: envisioning every day, every word, every moment filled with deep, resonating, wonderful discussions that are curtious, encouraging, and positive? Are these fears reasonable?

What if I say something that pushes a student away, rather than lifts them up? How do I recover from that kind of devastation, and-more importantly-how do I make sure I never say something stupid that jeopardizes the fragile sphere of learning I am trying to promote?

I would like to add: What happens when we are careful and considerate with what we say, when we think we are being clear, but what we say is still misinterpreted? 

I hold on to the belief that we are models of more than how to read and write, and because of this belief, I try to see opportunity in the situations Joyce describes.  If you make a mistake, show students how to take responsibility for mistakes by saying, “I’m sorry.  I made a mistake.  I will try not to make the same mistake twice.  Can you please be understanding and forgive me?”  This shows respect, humility and reminds students that we as teachers and adults are not perfect. 

I know it’s a long post, but what do you think?


February 8, 2008

Seminar Topics

Filed under: Seminar Topics — kariredmond @ 9:48 pm

Sarah: When I read your post about your possibilities about seminar topics I initially thought of Anne Frank, of course.  This website has some information about Anne Frank as a young writer. Here is a title about the effects of the Kurdish/ Iraqui conflict on a young child.  This book looks particularly interesting as well, as it is drawing a parallel between life in America for a young runaway girl leading up to and during 9/11 and the life of a teenage Afghani boy who finds himself in a refugee camp in Pakistan. 

Hope these are a little helpful!


Seminar Topic Suggestion?

Filed under: Seminar Topics — sunyprof @ 7:37 am

• Star-Crossed Lovers? (a la Romeo and Juliet–hey, ya gotta teach it in a lot of places)

• Rock and Roll YA (some very fun stuff)

• Short stories for YA’s

Choices to date:
• Josh–graphic texts
• Jessica–sex and sexuality in YA
• Erica–pregnant and parenting teens
• Joyce–construction of characters with autism/aspergers in YA
• Kari–depression and suicide in YA
• Kate–mysteries for YA
• Raph–science fiction for YA’s
• Erin–poetry for YA’s

MANDO Books in Cortland (Main St.) has copies of DRAMA HIGH and TYRELL for anyone who is still looking for these titles. They do not yet have copies of FEATHERS. DO let me know here what you still need and whether or not you have a copy of the Woodson title. Thanks!


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