Maybe, just reading books that have been on the short list for the National Book Award (NBA), would be a fun approach. Just having a class that focused on the winners of the NBA would be 24 books if you included the winner that will be announce in November of 2019. (In fact, I am a little disappointed in myself for not holding a spot in my course for the announced winner.)
The class has just finished day eleven and we have read eight books as a class and the students have read and discussed a graphic novel of their choice. I don’t want to bore you with the details of each class, but I would like to share some of the conversations and activities that we have covered.
The first eight books are listed below and I have provided a link to a review:
1.The Outsiders: A newish review in the Guardian
2. Hatchet: The Original Kirkus Review
3. Holes: The Original Kirkus Review
4. Merci Suarez Changes Gears: The Original Kirkus Review
5. American Born Chinese: Amazingly enough, there is not a Kirkus Review. Here is a review from The Open Book Shelf
6. Realm of Possibilty: The Original Kirkus Review
7. Death Coming up the Hill: The Original Kirkus Review
8. Brown Girl Dreaming: The Original Kirkus Review
Below are the Images:
A Look at what we did with The Outsiders
I began the course by talking about The Outsiders as one of the benchmark books from 1967. A year that many see as the birth of the modern era of Young Adult Literature. Indeed, the book has stood the test of time. When I discuss this book with colleagues all of them still see the book as moving, a persuasive text about poverty and the economic division that exists in many high schools and communities, and an example of frame narrative that uses beautiful language and imagery.
You don’t believe me? Read the opening and closing passages again. Remind yourself how Hinton calls up Frost’s poem Nothing Gold can Stay and then uses the phrase “Stay Gold Ponyboy.”
In FOSR V7 I1 we covered the following books: I Am the Cheese, The Outsiders, Dinky Hocker Shoots Smack!, The Contender, and The Watson’s Go to Birmingham.
For The Outsiders, Jennifer S. Dail wrote the First Reaction and Sophia Tatiana Sarigianides wrote the Second Reaction. both of these small articles show how a book can be used over time.
I also provided an inclasses study guide to help with class discussion and to model what a future teacher might do in thier own classrooms.
See the handout below.
What we did with Brown Girl Dreaming
Jacqueline Woodson continues to amaze me. I am glad I have had a few conversations with her. In my experience, she is direct and honest in her discussions of literature, the writing process, and her evaluation of the larger field of YA literature. I once asked her, shortly after the death of Walter Dean Myers, who were the young African American male writers that were new on the scene. Among several authors, she mentioned Jason Reynolds and Varian Johnson. After our conversation, I made way to Amazon and bought books by these fine authors. What a find! Jason has certainly made a splash and if you are still unfamiliar with Varian Johnson, grab a copy of The Parker Inheritance and get started.
I championed Brown Girl Dreaming from the beginning. Not that it needed my help, mind you, but I loved it. As a memoir, many of its references and allusions resonated with my own experience. At the same time, many of her experiences as an African American woman in the south and in Brooklyn are never going to be mine. Nevertheless, the memoir speaks of family, of growing up, of writing and reading. I came of age in the racially turbulent years of the late 60s and the early 70s. I attended a racially integrated high school and served in an integrated student council. Those moments and interactions shaped how I have tried to treat my students, my colleagues, and my family. Perhaps, I have come close to the spirit of fairness that soars on the wings of hope in the writings of Jacqueline Woodson.
I write about my reaction to Brown Girl Dreaming in an issue of FOSR. I was asked to write the piece because the editors knew of my fondness for the book. Well, if you knew me, you knew I wouldn’t stop talking about it. I read the book again and wrote a second response. It was a labor of love. I hope you like it and I hope it resonates with.
After the class began, I asked them to consider how Woodson uses sensory imagery to capture memory through her often simple, but beautiful poetry. The students were asked to think of sensory images that might be used to capture their own memories. I hope that they are reminded of the beauty and power of their own experiences. I hope generations of readers are able to get lost in the beauty of Woodson words.