Saturday, March 26, 2011

Reality TV Meets YA Fiction

I hate reality TV. I'm still in mourning over the writers' strike that brought the onslaught of shows devoted to creating a never ending parade of fame seeking people displaying all manner of, uh, eccentric qualities before us night after night after night. Bring back the writers!

Okay, so, as my students know, there is one reality show I can't flip past without becoming glued in the same way you can't turn away from a car wreck: Buried Alive. Extreme hoarding. The worst episodes feature minor children living in these homes, often explaining the ripple effect on their lives. And so when I read the review of this book I had to have it. Having finally wrested it from the student population, I got to read it this week.

Dirty Little Secrets

Dirty Little Secrets by C.J. Omololu.

Told from the perspective of sixteen year old Lucy, whose mom is an extreme hoarder, Omololu paints a vivid and believable picture of what it's like to navigate adolescence while living in self imposed squalor. Her terror of a first best friend finding out (having been dubbed "garbage girl" after the last friend accidentally discovered the truth) and her inability to lead anything close to a normal life is laid out here with pitch perfect clarity, no whining involved. Lucy's intelligent, thoughtful reflections on her present dilemma and past experiences make clear why children in her circumstances would keep the secret. Her dilemma is horrible enough to keep you turning the pages to find out what might happen next while entertaining all the pitfalls and possibilities of each option.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

BOB Reading Challenge

Come up with ten new books for 7th graders to read in a battle of the books taking into account reading levels, gender preferences in genres, quality of writing, length, availability in paper ....

Recently considered -

The Ruby in the Smoke: A Sally Lockhart Mystery

Ruby in the Smoke by Philip Pullman

Read as a potential replacement for Montmorency: Thief, Liar, Gentleman?, Ruby in the Smoke is also a mystery that takes place in Victorian London. I love Pullman, but his intent was clearly to write a Victorian novel and I'm afraid his success means it isn't the best choice for us. I don't think the style would appeal to many of my students.


Cosmic by Frank Cottrell Boyce

Fabulous. I've been wanting to read this one for awhile. An unusually tall seventh grader (with facial hair!) is often mistaken for being older than his twelve years and admonished for the kind of mistakes one expects of a twelve year old boy. When someone assumes his female friend is his daughter, the benefits of people's assumptions dawn on him and he and his friend Florida embark on a series of adventures. The somewhat unbelievable plot takes them to an experimental space program where he is selected to be the "dad" accompanying five children into space. His attempts to impersonate a dad and father his friend (by reading a self help book on talking to one's teen) lead to a deeper understanding of dadness. The story is written by an englishman and takes place in London. I wonder whether the britishisms would be too much?

And just for fun ...

A Darkling Plain (The Hungry City Chronicles)

A Darkling Plain by Philip Reeve

The last in the Hungry City Chronicles. Thick, thank god, and wonderful.

Shine, Coconut Moon

Shine, Coconut Moon by Neesha Meminger

The experiences of an Indian - American teenager in the immediate aftermath of 9/11. Sometimes too preachy, but an interesting reflection on being brown in America, particularly when we were in a panic post 9/11. Being brought up by a single mom who has rejected her family and their traditions, the story is about a girl who desperately wants the big, messy, ethnic experience of her best friend who is thoroughly Irish - American. Her journey to discover her family and its roots teaches a lot about being Sikh.