Friday, January 29, 2016

Boy, what do we need a car for?

If you are looking for a great picture book, Last Stop on Market Street by Matt de la Peña is wonderful and poetic.

On January 11th, Matt de la Peña became the first Hispanic author to win the Newbery for Last Stop on Market Street  -   beautifully illustrated by Christian Robinson. It's the story of a young boy riding the city bus with his grandmother, and wondering why their family doesn't have a car.

"Nana, how come we don't got a car?"

"How come we gotta wait for the bus in all this wet?" 

"How come it's always so dirty over here?" 

Saturday, January 23, 2016

and what was left behind was a smile

Beautiful and Devastating...

“He really could have been any other eighth-grade kid at Eastham Middle School. Except he had a daughter.”

I read Orbiting Jupiter by Gary D Schmidt this weekend. It is a book about friendship and sadness and 'having someone's back' and love and heartbreak... all written in a way that young people can understand and embrace. 

12 year old Jack lives a quiet life on his family's farm in Maine, when his parents take in a 14 year old foster kid named Joseph.

I really cared about these two boys. And, as is always the sign of a good book, they broke my heart wide open.

My favorite quotes:
Christmas is the season for miracles, you know. Sometimes they come big and loud, I guess - but I've never seen one of those. I think probably most miracles are a lot smaller, and sort of still, and so quiet, you could miss them. I didn't miss this one. When my father put his hand on Joseph's back, Joseph didn't even flinch.

"Would you have left a guy being beat up to go find a teacher?" I asked. My father wiped his hand across his face, and what was left behind was a smile. Really, a smile."Not in a million years," he said.

It stayed cold that Monday, and even though it was pretty bright out, there were snowflakes in the air that afternoon again, drifting like they didn't care if they landed. 

You can tell all you need to know about someone from the way cows are around him. 

And the conversation about angels between Reverend Ballou and Joseph...

Reverend Ballou: Maybe angels aren't always meant to stop bad things.
Joseph: So what good are they?
Reverend Ballou: To be with us when bad things happen.
Joseph: Then where the hell were they?

If you know a young adult reader who enjoys good narration, who seeks out bravery, who pays attention to trust, and who sees people for who they are as well as who they could be... then get this book for them. 

Sunday, January 17, 2016

It was everywhere and all mixed up in everything

I recently read All American Boys by co-authors Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely. It's an amazing young adult novel about police brutality told from the perspectives of two high school students. One boy is Rashad, a young black student who is savagely beaten by a police officer. The other boy is Quinn, a young white student who sees the beating but initially acts like he didn't.

The story was so spot on to what we hear constantly in the news. The book beautifully and authentically portrays real-life encounters between young black men and police that end badly.

How did this story come about?

Co-authors Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely had separately published young-adult books for Simon and Schuster and were on a book tour together for the publisher. They ended up sharing hotel rooms on the tour. And while on the road, news came that George Zimmerman was acquitted of the murder of Trayvon Martin. The two men became friends over their conversations about race. Later, after the book tour, Michael Brown was killed by police in Ferguson. That became the urgency the authors needed to write a book about race and police brutality together.

My favorite parts:

"I don't think most people think they're racist. But every time something like this happens, you could, like you said, 'Not my problem.' You could say, 'It's a one-time thing.' Every time it happened."
"But here are the words that kept ricocheting around me all day: Nobody says the words anymore, but somehow the violence still remains. If I didn't want the violence to remain, I had to do a hell of a lot more than just say the right things and not say the wrong things."
"Because racism was alive and real as shit. It was everywhere and all mixed up in everything, and the only people who said it wasn't, and the only people who said, "Don't talk about it" were white."

I wish there were more teachers like Mrs. Tracey.
"Mrs. Tracey stood at the window, looking down over the front steps and the entrance to the school. Even when everyone had taken their seats, she remained by the window, and the rest of the class kept talking, waiting for her to go to her desk. But she didn't. In her hand, she held a copy of the novel The Invisible Man."

Read this book with the young people you know. Begin a much needed conversation. Kids are ready to talk.