13 Reasons Why

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Title: 13 Reasons Why Author: Jay Asher Illustrator: N/a Publisher: New York; Penguin Group

Genre: Realistic Fiction  Level: Upper  Number of pages: 336 Pub. Date: 2007

Summary:

Hannah Baker has killed herself and Clay Jenson is upset by it. However it is not till the tapes with the 13 reasons why she did it reach Clay that he really starts to feel it. He cant help but wondering why he is on these tapes. He liked Hannah, he even had a crush on her and he was devastated by her death. Now he listens to the tapes hoping he can figure out why he is on these tapes and listening to her 13 reasons why.

Critique:

This book is definitely a coping with the human condition type of realistic fiction. It focuses completely on Hannah’s death and the horrible things that happened to her that drove her to it. This story is set in a very realistic high school setting. In fact it was a bit scary because I could relate to some of the things Hannah was talking about her school. I think that many students would also be able to relate to the teasing and bullying Hannah goes through.

Response:

I actually picked this book specifically because so many of my students in my placement this semester were reading it. I figured if so many of them read it, it must be good. I was right this book was life changing. It made you think about every interaction you make with peers. At the end when the teacher is one of the reasons and he misses Hannah reaching out for help, I was appalled. I could only imagine how bad the teacher must of felt. As a future teacher I could relate to this but as somebody who had to reach out for help in Junior High I was thankful I had a teacher who was there for me.

13 Reasons Why I’m Thankful to be Alive:

  1. My Family loves me and is always there for me
  2. I go to an amazing school that has a wonderful teaching program
  3. I get to work with amazing students every semester
  4. Jimmy is the cutest dog ever and he is all mine
  5. I do well in all my classes
  6. Music always makes the world a happier place
  7. There is always a good book to read
  8. President Burger is changing the face of Southwestern
  9. I have the Best Roommate ever, she gives me free things
  10. Pep Band allows me to bond with First Years also the Flute Section Rocks my Socks
  11. Jeanette and Angelyn allow me to express myself through them
  12. Treyman and Cole are my strait gay best friends
  13. Dr. Pepper is the nectar of the Gods

Assignments:

After:  Students will create a list of 13 reasons to… (be thankful, try something new, they’re happy to be alive, the book impacted them, they love their family)

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part Time Indian

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Title: The Absolutely True Diary of a Part Time Indian Author: Sherman Alexie Illustrator: Ellen Forney Publisher: New York, NY; Little, Brown and Company

Genre:  Realistic Fiction Level: Intermediate- Upper Number of pages: 230 Pub. Date: 2007

Summary:

This is the story of Junior a young boy growing up on an Indian Reserve. One day he decides that the education he is getting on the Res is not good enough and convinces his parents that he should go to school off the Reservation. This creates problems for Junior as he tries to figure out where he fits in, with his people on the reservation or with his classmates. This story is based off of the life events of the author.

Critique:

This book falls under all three types of Realistic Fiction. It is a “becoming one’s own person” type because Junior must grow to understand who he is as a person without his tribe. Also Junior works to gain acceptance from both his tribe and his classmates at his school of the reservation. This book is a “Coping with problems of the human condition” type because Junior has to deal with his own disabilities. Also there are multiple deaths of family members that are dealt with during this book. Finally this book is part of the “Living in a Diverse World” type because it talks about the unequal treatment of the Native Americans on the Reservation versus individuals who live Reservation. This book also talks about the discrimination of the Native Americans when they leave the Reservation.

Response:

This book covered many important issues and would be a great book to use as a class literature circle book. It talks about diversity, death, and substance abuse. All of these things are important topics that students need to learn about. I think that this book could be used with a wide range of students because of its easy reading level. That being said I think with younger students (5th graders or younger) you would have to focus on only one of the key issues instead of all of them so that they could truly get what they were suppose to out of it.

Assignments:

During: Students will look for key themes in the book and discuss in literature groups.

Wonder

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Title: Wonder Author: R.J. Palacio Illustrator: Tad Carpenter
Publisher: United States; Random House Children’s Books

Genre: Realistic Fiction Level: Upper Number of pages: 315 Pub. Date: 2012

Summary:

August Pullman is a 5th grade boy, who is starting public school for the first time. This is mainly because of the medical problems associated with the facial deformities. The book changes points of view between characters throughout the book, allowing the reader to get a sense of how August affects everybody he’s in contact with.

Critique:

This book is a mix between the “Becoming One’s Own Person” and  the “Coping with problems of the human condition” type of realistic fiction.  It is a becoming one’s own person realistic fiction because August grows throughout the book. Also the students in his class must learn to accept him. At the same time, the book talks about disabilities and helps to build empathy in the students.

Response:

This book covers so many important issues. I think that even though this book is at an easy level for a chapter book, I would only use this book with older students. I think that only 6th graders and older would really get everything out of this book that they were really suppose to.  It is a very intense book and makes the reader experience the feelings of the different characters of the book. This would be hard for a young student. That being said, I do believe that every future educator should read this book. It covers so many issues about students who develop unlike their average peers. Also it gives insight into how these students affect the lives of everyone around them from family to classmates and beyond.  It shows how even a person who has grown up around a disabled student may struggle with it sometime. At the same time it shows the struggles of a boy who while physically disabled, was extremely bright and was able to understand why others did not like him. For this reason, I recommend this book to any teacher, or future teacher it explains so many important things.

Assignments:

After: Students will write their own precept on a postcard and mail it to Palacio at:

PO BOX 150025
275 9th St.
Brooklyn, NY 11215
attn: R. J. Palacio      

My Precept- A book can take all the evil from the world, if only for a moment.

Me, Mop and the Moondance Kid

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Title: Me, Mop and The Moondance Kid Author: Walter Dean Myers Illustrator: Rodney Pate
Publisher: New York; Delacorte Press

Genre: Realistic Fiction Level: Intermediate Number of pages: 154 Pub. Date: 1988

Summary:

This is the story TJ and his brother Moondance where recently adopted from the Dominican Academy. Now they are on a little league team trying to win the championship. Along with them is their friend Mop who still lives in the academy. Mop hopes that the coach of their team will adopt her before the academy closes. The story follows the path the team takes to win the championship. 

Critique:

This is a living in a diverse world book. It talks both about the African American population and the idea of adopted youth.  The story does a good job of keeping the reader engaged and helps them to relate to what the main characters are going through. Through out the story even when the characters face challenges, they stay positive which helps to show the reader that even when something bad happens the too should stay upbeat.

Response:

I really enjoyed this book. TJ was the perfect character for young boys to relate to. He thinks he is the world’s greatest baseball player even though by all his accounts he doesn’t seem to be particularly talented and is out shined by his younger brother Moondance. I liked how Myers used this comical story about children’s little league to talk about more intense topics like adoption. For many students the idea of adoption is a hard one to grasp. By making the main characters adopted it helps to give the reader a better understanding of what it’s like to be adopted.

Assignments:

            During: Students will retell main parts of the story from different characters point of view.

Help! I’m a prisoner in the library.

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Title: Help! I’m a Prisoner in the Library Author: Eth Clifford Illustrator: George Hughes
Publisher: Boston; Houghton Mifflin Company

Genre: Realistic Fiction Level: Intermediate Number of pages: 105  Pub. Date: 1979

Summary:

Two sisters, Mary Rose and Jo-Beth are on their way to their aunt’s house when their dad’s car runs out of gas. When Jo-Beth has to go to the bathroom she maker her big sister take her into the library. Unfortunately, they get side tracked and end up locked in the library for the night, with out their father knowing where they are.  To make matters worse, a blizzard comes in and the power goes out. Lucky for the girls the librarian lives above the library and the girls spend the time with her learning about the library until the storm calms down and their father can come get them.

Critique:

Although this book is a chapter book I believe that it really shows more characteristics of a young child’s realistic fiction book. Particularly I believe that this is a family story. The two sisters in this story work to over come their differences and also work toward accepting the baby brother that will be joining their family soon. Both of these girls also grow as individual’s. However, the girls grow more together as sisters.

Response:

Personally, I found this book a little boring. I may have enjoyed it more if it was more at my reading level but the lack of conflict in the story made it move slowly. If I could change one thing about this story it would be to make the blizzard last longer. I think this would make the story more entertaining and also make it a little more realistic. When a blizzard hits, it usually doesn’t disappear over night.

Assignments:

During: I think it would be really fun to schedule a lock- in at the school library and read this book during it. Then students could pretend to be the characters and have an easier time relating to them.

Hannah and the Whistling Teakettle

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Title: Hannah and the Whistling Teakettle Author: Mindy Warshaw Skolsky Illustrator: Diane Palmisciano
Publisher: New York; Dorling Kindersley publishing Inc.

Genre: Realistic Fiction Level: Beginner Number of pages: 36 Pub. Date: 2000

Summary:

Hannah wants to go see her grandparents in New York City. Her parents agree to let her go and before she leaves, she goes and finds a gift for her grandmother. The only thing is that her grandma always says that the gifts are “not a necessity” and returns them. Hannah picks out a whistling teakettle in hopes that her grandma will want to keep it. Unfortunately her grandma says what she always does, but Hannah doesn’t give up. When she is asked to make tea she uses the new teakettle. When two men come into the store and start to rob the coins out of the pay phone, Hannah and her grandmother worry that they will be in danger. Then the teakettle starts to whistle and the men think is the police. The teakettle saves the day and Hannah’s grandma decides to keep the present after all deciding it is a necessity.

Critique:

This story is both a humorous and a family story.  Hannah builds a relationship with her grandmother, getting her to accept her gift. At the same time everyone mistaking a teakettle for the police is a pretty funny idea. Through out the story the reader wants Hannah to succeed in getting her grandmother to accept the gift. When she finally is successful the reader feels like they have accomplished something as well.

Response:

I enjoyed this book quite a bit. The grandmother reminded me a lot of my dad in personality. Whenever a holiday comes around it is stressful trying to find a gift for him. 95% of the time we end up having to return what we’ve gotten for him because he would rather save the money. Because of this I understand Hannah putting the water in the new kettle when she is making water for tea. Wanting someone to keep a present makes you a little devious sometimes.

Assignments:

            After: Students will sort a list of present ideas into necessary and unnecessary categories. This will help them gain a larger grasp on these ideas.

  • Jewelry
  • Iron
  • Crockpot
  • Puppy
  • Wall Art
  • Food
  • Blankets
  • Clothes
  • Toys
  • Clock
  • Etc.

Boy Meets Boy

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Title: Boy meets Boy Author: David Levithan Illustrator: n/a
Publisher: New York; Alfred A Knopf

Genre: Realistic Fiction Level: Upper Number of pages: 185 Pub. Date: 2003

Summary:

Paul has known he was gay his life but it was confirmed for him in Kindergarten when his teacher wrote it on his report card for his parents. Now a sophomore in high school, Paul is out proud and has found a boy, Noah, who he thinks he might love.  Unfortunately for Paul, life is not that easy and his whole world starts to fall apart. First his best friend for ten years, Joni, finds a new boyfriend who changes how she acts. Then his ex-boyfriend decides he wants to get back with Paul. In the end, Paul figures out how to get everything he wants and the story ends on a happy note.

Critique:

This book is both a becoming your own person and a living in a diverse world book. This is a diverse world book because it talks about a group of people who are normally marginalized, individuals who consider themselves lesbian, gay, bisexual or transsexual. The main character Paul is gay while other main characters classify themselves as LGBT. This book gives insight into the struggles that these teens face. At the same time this book talks about the importance of friendship. When Paul is at his lowest point it is through talking with his friends that he figures out how to get his life back on track. Finally, this book talks about the importance of family and how different families react to different things, like having a gay child. This ties the two categories this book represents together.

Response:

This book was really good, and I found that it was easy to relate to the main character, Paul. All teenagers feel like their whole world is falling apart every once in a while. It is helpful to see that other individuals, even if they are fictional, struggle with that same feeling. The only real problem I had with this book is trying to keep all the characters and their relationships straight. I made this nifty chart to keep them all straight in my head.

Chart

Another thing I found interesting about this book is that it has struggled, like many books, with teachers and librarians trying to ban it. The main reason for this is that it shows a LGBT viewpoint that many adults believe is unacceptable. They do not want to expose their children to what they think are bad morals. The thing I find interesting about this book is that other than the gay undertones, overall this book is written pretty cleanly. There is no serious swearing, sexual content or talk of politics. If this was a book about a straight individual I don’t believe that as many parents would want to ban this book.

Assignments:

After: Students will compare this to other similar stories with heterosexual main characters.

Where the Red Fern Grows

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Title: Where the Red Fern Grows Author: Wilson Rawls Illustrator: N/a
Publisher: Garden City; Doubleday Company Inc.

Genre: Realistic Fiction Level: Upper Number of pages: 212 Pub. Date: 1961

Summary:

This is the story of a young boy, Billy, who wants hunting dogs more than anything. After trying everything to get his parents to buy them for him he decides to start saving up to buy the dogs himself. After two years of saving he buys two puppies. He names his dog Old Dan and Little Ann.  The dogs are wonderful hunting dogs and end up winning a championship competition. Then one horrible night Billy and his dogs encounter a mountain lion. After an intense fight, the mountain lion dies. Unfortunately, Dan and Ann don’t make it. Billy is left wondering why his dogs had to die. As they move to a new town Billy goes back to his dogs graves and finds a red fern, a plant that legends say can only be planted by an angel, has grown over them.

Critique:

This book can be classified under two different realistic fiction categories. The first is the becoming one’s own person category. The book talks about Billy becoming a man and also describes his relationship with his family members. Also I would say that Ann and Dan become a part of Billy’s family. Also, this book could be classified as a Coping with problems of the human condition book. At the end of this book, Billy has to deal with the death of both of his dogs. Finally, this book is set in a realistic setting, with realistic characters but they aren’t real.

Response:

This is the saddest book I have ever read in my entire life. I knew that the dogs weren’t going to make it from the first couple pages of the book. However, when they finally pass away, I cried like a baby. It was so depressing for me that Little Ann last her will to live when Old Dan died. Also I felt so bad for Billy. Anyone who ever had a pet knows how hard it is to loose them. Rawls does a wonderful job of pulling the heart strings of the reader and making them feel Billy’s pain.

Assignments:

During: Students will write a summary of what happens each time this book is read.

Captain Underpants

Captain Underpants

Title: Captain Underpants and the Invasion of the Incredibly Naughty Cafeteria Ladies from Outer Space (and the Subsequent Assault of the Equally Evil Lunchroom Zombie Nerds)  Author: Dav Pilkey 
Illustrator: Dav Pilkey Publisher: New York, Scholastic

Genre: Realistic Fiction- Humor Level: Intermediate Number of pages: 144 Pub. Date: 1999

Summary:

The crazy George and Harold are back in this story, along with everyone’s favorite, almost superhero Captain Underpants. As the title of the book suggests Evil aliens from outer space invade and disguise themselves as lunch ladies. While disguised they turn all the students, except for George and Harold, into zombie nerds. This trouble forces them try and fight back, with the help of the principle turned super hero Captain Underpants. While fighting, Captain Underpants drinks a liquid that gives him super strength, making him like a real super hero.

Critique: 

This story would be considered realistic fiction, but just barley. It would be classified as a humorous story because of all of the crazy shenanigans that happens through out the book. Furthermore, the use of regular elementary school boys as the main characters in a normal elementary school also as sense of realism in the book.

Response:

I think that Captain Underpants is hilarious. I laughed when the boys warn that some of the sections of the book are going to be violent. The violence usually involved hitting with a pan or other silly nonsense. Also the flip-o-rama part of the book was fun and made the book more interactive. I could see this book being very popular with young boys who are into super heroes but also enjoy a little bit of mischief. After reading the third in the Captain Underpants series, I want to go back and read the rest of the series, including the first two that I read when I was in elementary school.

Assignments:

After: Students can create a short book trailer for this book. This trailer can be 1 minute and 30 seconds long and try to get readers hooked on reading this book.

Maniac Magee

maniac magee

Title: Maniac Magee Author: Jerry Spinelli
Illustrator: n/a
Publisher: New York, Little, Brown and Company

Genre: Realistic Fiction Level: Upper  Number of pages: 184 Pub. Date: 1990

Summary: 

Jeffery Lionel “Maniac” Magee loses his parents when he is three-years old, and goes to live with his aunt and uncle. However, after awhile Jeffery get’s fed up with his aunt and uncle and runs away. When he reaches the town Two Mills, Jeffery meets Amanda Beale, a young black girl, and borrows a book from her. The story continues to follow Jeffery and his adventures in Two Mills, how he gets the name Maniac, and how he crosses the unofficial lines between the white and black community. Eventually, Jeffery learns what family really means.

Critique:

Maniac Magee is a realistic fiction story. I believe it can be classified as both a “Becoming one’s own person “ story and a “Living in a Diverse World” story. Like other Becoming one’s own person stories, it talks about the role of the extend family and the importance of friendship. Without Amanda’s friendship and her family taking him in Jeffery would never of had a real home. However, this story also discusses racial diversity like other Living in a Diverse World stories. Jeffery is able to see beyond a person’s race but other characters aren’t allowing for growth of different characters in the story.

Response: 

I believe this story is a good book to read when discussing the issue of race. Jeffery doesn’t seem to understand why people are called black and white, no matter how hard he looks he always sees some kind of color, like mocha or peach. Furthermore, Jeffery crosses the line in the town of Two Mills, living with both a black family and a white family.

I really like this book but it definitely had some depressing sections.  When Grayson passed away, I almost threw the book across the room because I was so upset with what happened. I think this emotional reaction to what happened in the book talks to how powerful this book is. Another part of the book that really struck me is that none of the adults in the book made Jeffery go to school. Even though this book depicts a time period where segregation was still okay, I can’t imagine parents being comfortable with a young boy not going to school. Also Jeffery tries to keep others in school so I wonder why he doesn’t go himself, he obviously loves to read. I believe this part of the book is the least realistic and makes you wonder about its classification.

Assignments:

Before: Teacher could divide the room and tell all the kids that they couldn’t cross the line no matter what. Only one student would be allowed to cross (this will be the classes Maniac). Each side of the class would learn a different lesson. At the end of the day the class can discuss what they learned and how it felt to be separated. Then they can understand what kind of town Jeffery Magee lives in and can refer back to those feelings while reading the book.

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