I’m having trouble with my laptop and could not post Saturday’s post. I did what most Senior Citizens do when having technology problems–asked my grandson. The result is I have the missing “Write” tab back. Thank you Dr. P.
Saturday’s book is one of the best kid/YA books I have read (and I have read many in 50 years of teaching). Jordan Sonnenblick’s novel, Zen and the Art of Faking It, is a funny, age-appropriate book. San Lee, a teenager and his mother have left Houston where his father is in prison and have relocated to a small apartment in a Pennsylvania town. It is quite an adjustment for everyone. San thinks, “Blending in is impossible, so maybe it’s time for me to stand out.” San begins to invent a “new” past for himself that makes him very popular.He has let the students think he is a Buddhist who practices meditation. He meets a really cool girl who becomes his friend. Of course, eventually things start to unravel.
Here, at the front of the book, is “A Note to the Reader”:
“Have you ever switched schools? I have, and let me tell you–a school is a school is a school. Every middle school on God’s green earth smells exactly the same because damp lockers, industrial cleaning fluids, and puke are universal. The lunch is the same: How many ways can you flavor a freakin’ Tater Tot? The guys are the same: like a show on Animal Planet without the cuddle factor. The girls are the same: Martians with human hormones. And the teachers? Please.
So when I dragged my feet in their rotting sandals through the gray midwinter slush and up the stairs of Harrisonville Middle School for the first time. I knew exactly what I was getting into. Sure I did.”
I highly recommend this book to kids and kid-friendly adults everywhere.
Today’s Tuesday Teaser is from the beginning of the book chosen for the Texas Gulf Coast Read, which occurs in October every year when thousands of readers in many Gulf Coast counties (ours included) are reading the same book at the same time. It features a book either set in Texas or by a Texas author. This year’s choice is Bluebird, Bluebird by Attica Locke, a native Houstonian who now lives in LA. It is set in East Texas. Her novel tells the story of Darren Matthews, whose uncle was the first African American Texas Ranger, who inherited his uncle’s love of justice. During this month there will be book club discussions, brown bag luncheon discussions, and the author will make several appearances to answer questions about Bluebird. Three of us are trecking to a Houston library this coming Saturday to hear her speak. Here are her opening lines:
“Geneva Sweet ran an orange extension cord past Mayva Greenwood, Beloved Wife and Mother, May She Rest with Her Heavenly Father. Late morning sunlight pinpricked through the trees, dotting a constellation of light on the blanket of pine needles at Geneva’s feet as she snaked the cord between Mayva’s sister and her husband Leland, Father and Brother in Christ. She gave the cord a good tug, making her way up the modest hill, careful not to step on the graves themselves, only the well-worn grooves between the headstones, which were spaced at haphazard and odd angles, like the teeth of a pauper.”
I can hardly wait to get started, and am really looking forward to the event Saturday.
I have had the pleasure of reading several kid’s books this past week. I like to preview the books I add to my Little Free Library, and I find that a quick read of a good children’s or YA book will take my mind off from whatever is going on in my life at the time. A book that I found especially appealing is The Burning Questions of Bingo Brown by Betsy Byars, an author my sixth graders often gravitated to. This book is not “the very latest fad in adolescent books,” but its timely life lessons hold true, and because I found neighborhood kids had “donated” it to the LFL, I knew it was still being read years after its publication date.
Bingo Brown is the typical middle school boy. The “Burning Questions” he asks as he makes his way through the treacherous labyrinth of middle school relationships and complexities are still very relevant, and the answers he “discovers” are helpful to young boys encountering for the first time feelings about girls, teachers, and facing one’s future. What is admirable is the way Byars gives solid answers that are specific … and work. For example, Bingo holds hands with a girl for the first time. It is the first time he has ever wanted to, and a burning question pops up, “When and how do you stop holding hands with a girl”? The answer he comes up with is, “When your hands got sweaty. It was simple really.” Bingo reminds me of a neighbor I often converse with as he passes my LFL in the mornings on his way to the bus stop, whom I first met when he was a fifth grader at the elementary school down the street. When he “graduated” to junior high this fall, I happened to be refreshing the library as he came home from his second day of junior high. When I asked him how junior high was, he said, “It sure is different from fifth grade…it’s so confusing.” He went on to describe how his relationships with friends, especially girls who were friends had changed over the summer. In the conversation, he often repeated “I just don’t get it…it’s so confusing.” He went on to say, “Even the classes are confusing.” He described how his Language Arts teacher was pointing out that geo meant earth and therm meant heat; thus, geothermal energy was formed by the heat or the earth.” He complained in an agonized tone, “That’s not Language Arts; it’s science. I just don’t get it…it’s so confusing!”