#48HBC Updates for Sunday

I love MotherReader’s 48 Hour Book Challenge!

Stats so far:

Time spent reading- 14 hours and 6 minutes

Time spent blogging/tweeting- 2 hrs and 30 minutes (#YAsaves totally counts)

Total:  16 hours and 36 minutes!

Books Read:

The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater-  My favorite Maggie Stiefvater book.  Water horses?  Umph.  I didn’t want this to end!
The Fox Inheritance (The Jenna Fox Chronicles) by Mary Pearson- A fantastic follow-up.  Can’t wait to share with my students, especially my students who are really into science/genetics.
Beauty Queens by Libba Bray- I can not remember the last time I laughed this hard while reading a book. Fantastic and funny!
The Pull of Gravity by Gae Polisner- Great contemporary YA that I think will be very popular with me freshman!
A Monster Calls: Inspired by an idea from Siobhan Dowd by Patrick Ness- Oh, oh, oh. There are no words. Still wiping tears from my eyes.
The Elephant Scientist (Scientists in the Field Series) by Donna M. Jackson- Another great addition to the Scientists in the Field series.
Tropical Secrets: Holocaust Refugees in Cuba by Margarita Engle- Great verse novel. I learned a lot!
Purple Daze by Sherry Shahan- Like a verse novel version of my favorite musical, Hair. Great for older teen readers.
Liar, Liar: The Theory, Practice and Destructive Properties of Deception by Gary Paulsen- A book that will have you laughing out loud!
Once Was Lost by Sara Zarr-A book that’s been on my TBR pile for ages. Why did I wait so long to read it?!
Ella Minnow Pea: A Novel in Letters by Mark Dunn- An English teacher’s dream. Haha
Falling for Hamlet by Michelle Ray- Wow! I enjoyed this one a lot more than I ever expected to!

Total Pages read: 2759

*Gasp* Sometimes, #YAsaves!

This weekend, the Wall Street Journal published a piece “Darkness Too Visible: Contemporary fiction for teens is rife with explicit abuse, violence and depravity. Why is this considered a good idea?”  The author, Meghan Cox Gurdon bemoans the “darkness” that is in many young adult books these days.  A friend sent me the article on Friday and I just laughed while reading it, chalking it up to a journalist who didn’t do their research.  But then last night, the article went viral.  Now I am furious as I think of all the parents who will read this article and nod their heads, suddenly telling their teens that they can’t read YA anymore.

Are there books in the YA section that focus on “vampires and suicide and self-mutilation, this dark, dark stuff”, as the mother in the article claims?  Of course.  Barnes and Noble has an entire section devoted to Paranormal Teen Romance (another story altogether- my teens can’t stand it that BN has done this).  Twilight and The Vampire Diaries are books that both my former sixth graders and current high schoolers have read and loved.  I also watched those same students become readers after picking up the first book in a vampire series, asking for more books when they finished.  You can’t put a price on that.  Do I love vampire books?  Not really.  They aren’t a genre or plot line I enjoy.  But there are readers out there for those books (as evidenced by the sheer volume of books sold).  There are readers for every book, but not every book is for every reader.

There are also books about self-mutilation, suicide, depression, eating disorders, and abuse in the YA section.  Guess what- there are thousands of teens out there who are suffering in silence and a book can be a lifeline.  Maybe those books aren’t “right” for your child, but that doesn’t give any parent the right to censor those books or call them depraved.  You have every right to censor what your own child reads.  In fact, parents should be involved in the books choices their teens make.  Read alongside them, discuss the issues in those “dark” books, and get to know your teen.  They may not suffer from depression, or abuse, or an eating disorder but I guarantee they know someone in their school or circle of friends who needs help.  Books build empathy.  Books build bridges.  #YAsaves.

YA is written for ages 12-18.  That means there are some books more appropriate for 7th and 8th graders and others that I would recommend to my high school seniors.  Does that mean all YA needs to be censored?  Absolutely not!  It means that teens should (and do) self-censor.  It means that parents, teachers, and librarians should know what their teens are reading.  More importantly, it means those gatekeepers should be reading alongside their teens and reading ahead of their teens.  That way they can make knowledgeable recommendations to teens, recommendations that teens will trust.

And another thing- maybe the author of the article and the mother quoted haven’t looked that the books assigned in middle school and high school English classes lately.  My high school seniors last semester complained that every book they read in English was depressing.  You know what?  It’s true!  My sixth graders read Tuck Everlasting and The Giver.  My freshman read Romeo and Juliet, Antigone, and Things Fall Apart.  My poor seniors!  They read The Johnstown Flood, Animal Farm, An Enemy of the People, and Hamlet.  Talk about dark!

The most frustrating parts of the article actually deal with the booksellers mentioned.  Jewell Stoddard notes “that many teenagers do not read young-adult books at all. Near the end of the school year, when she and a colleague entertained students from a nearby private school, only three of the visiting 18 juniors said that they read YA books.”  Do you know why?  Because schools teach them that the canon, which is awfully dark, is the only literature worth reading.  YA is seen as trashy and silly, not something to waste you time on.  Guess what?  I have seniors reading YA now that it is available in my classroom library.  I have a few who came to be in September to recommend books.  Seniors who love Ellen Hopkins, Sarah Dessen, and Christopher Paolini.  I have freshman who easily move between middle grade, YA, and adult books.  They don’t see a problem with blurring the lines, and they self-censor.  If the book doesn’t feel right in the first 10-20 pages, they don’t read it. We need to trust teens.  My sister is twelve and a lot of her friends are reading The Hunger Games.  She tried it, decided it was “too gross” for her after about 30 pages, and set it aside.  She told me she will try it again in a couple of years.  No one told her she couldn’t read it, no one told her it was not right for her- she just knew.  She picked up The Lightning Thief instead.

And the mother quoted in the article commented that she had a Barnes and Noble employee with her in the YA section who helped her flip through 78 books.  According to that mother, “because she  [the employee] had not in fact read any of the books for sale, she kind of kept me company more than helped, but it was still something.”  Gee, Barnes and Noble.  Maybe you need dedicated YA employees?  I could have found that mother books in under 10 minutes.  How do you expect to survive when your employees aren’t even familiar with the books you offer?  No one can “flip through” a book and understand it.  A parent isn’t going to read 78 books to find one they will give their teen.  Barnes and Noble lost that sale because there wasn’t an employee in the store who could recommend a light, funny contemporary YA book for a 13 year old girl.

But there are happy, funny books out there.  Take a look at some of the most popular books in my classroom.  They run the gamut from “dark” to hysterical.

  • The Hunger Games 
  • The Knife of Never Letting Go
  • Paper Towns
  • An Abundance of Katherines
  • Revolution
  • Going Bovine
  • Bitter End
  • If I Stay
  • Nation
  • Between Shades of Grey
  • Life, After
  • Spilling Ink
  • The Thief
  • Shipbreaker
  • The Princess Diaries
  • Maximum Ride
  • Along for the Ride
  • The Heroes of Olympus series
#YAsaves.  The Wall Street Journal has published this piece as an article, not an editorial, and as such is doing a great disservice to parents, teachers, librarians, and teens everywhere.  They haven’t responded to the amazing #YAsaves hashtag on Twitter (thanks to Maureen Johnson and Libba Bray for getting it started!), so I felt the need to share my thoughts here.  YA is important and vital for teen readers.  Censoring all of it is not the answer.  Knowledge about the genre is needed.

 

 

#48hbc Update!

I love MotherReader’s 48 Hour Book Challenge!

Stats so far:

Time spent reading- 11 hours and 34 minutes

Time spent blogging/tweeting- 2 hrs. (#YAsaves totally counts)

Total:  13 hours and 34 minutes!

Books Read:

The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater-  My favorite Maggie Stiefvater book.  Water horses?  Umph.  I didn’t want this to end!
The Fox Inheritance (The Jenna Fox Chronicles) by Mary Pearson- A fantastic follow-up.  Can’t wait to share with my students, especially my students who are really into science/genetics.
Beauty Queens by Libba Bray- I can not remember the last time I laughed this hard while reading a book. Fantastic and funny!
The Pull of Gravity by Gae Polisner- Great contemporary YA that I think will be very popular with me freshman!
A Monster Calls: Inspired by an idea from Siobhan Dowd by Patrick Ness- Oh, oh, oh. There are no words. Still wiping tears from my eyes.
The Elephant Scientist (Scientists in the Field Series) by Donna M. Jackson- Another great addition to the Scientists in the Field series.
Tropical Secrets: Holocaust Refugees in Cuba by Margarita Engle- Great verse novel. I learned a lot!
Purple Daze by Sherry Shahan- Like a verse novel version of my favorite musical, Hair. Great for older teen readers.
Liar, Liar: The Theory, Practice and Destructive Properties of Deception by Gary Paulsen- A book that will have you laughing out loud!
Once Was Lost by Sara Zarr-A book that’s been on my TBR pile for ages. Why did I wait so long to read it?!

Total Pages read: 2203

#48hbc Stats (update)

I love MotherReader’s 48 Hour Book Challenge!

Stats so far:

Time spent reading- 4 hrs and 5 minutes

Books Read:

The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater-  My favorite Maggie Stiefvater book.  Water horses?  Umph.  I didn’t want this to end!
The Fox Inheritance (The Jenna Fox Chronicles) by Mary Pearson- A fantastic follow-up.  Can’t wait to share with my students, especially my students who are really into science/genetics.

Total Pages read: 599

#48hbc And I’m Off!

And so it begins….

48 Hour Book Challenge- My favorite weekend!

This coming weekend is on that I look forward to all year long.  Why is that?  Because I spend a good portion of the weekend curled up with my books and my towering “to be read” pile, tearing through as many books as possible.  It’s like a dream come true!  The reason for this wonderful time?  MotherReader’s 48 Hour Book Challenge!

This year marks the Sixth Annual 48 Hour Book Challenge and I am thrilled to be participating once again.  Want to join in? Sign up in the comments on MotherReader’s post.  According to the rules, “Read and blog for any 48-hour period within the Friday-to-Monday-morning window. Start no sooner than 7:00 a.m. on Friday the third and end no later than 7:00 a.m. Monday the sixth.”  It doesn’ t matter how long you devote to reading- what matters is making the effort to set aside time during those 48 hours to read!

So will you join me?

Wither by Lauren DeStefano

It’s no secret that dystopian books are some of my favorite.  I’m thrilled that they seem to be taking over the market right now and it’s hard for me to pass up the chance to read the latest and greatest in the genre.  I saw Wither being buzzed about in the blogosphere and added it to my list of must-reads when I got a chance to glance at the cover.  How gorgeous is that?  And luckily, the story did not disappoint!

Set in the future, in a world where every human being is living a countdown; a countdown to death.  Males only live to 25 and women to age 20.  Rhine has been captured off the street, kidnapped, to be used as a bride for a wealthy young man.  At almost sixteen, she had planned to spend her remaining few years living with her twin brother and caring for him.  Instead, after being kidnapped, she is forced to marry a sad young man and live with his other two wives.  Rhine has been chosen to replace Linden’s favored first wife, recently deceased. Suddenly she is residing in a world of wealth and privilege, instead of the dangerous basement apartment she shared with her brother.  She has favored status among the wives and Linden doesn’t even seem that bad.

But Rhine longs to be free.  She plays the game, appeasing Linden and her father-in-law, appearing to be the ideal wife.  In reality, she is planning her escape.  She is determined not to live out her last days in a prison, even if it takes on the appearance of a palace.  She needs to return to her brother, and that means manipulating those around her.  But can she move through her life without having any feelings for or towards those around her?  Will she be able to break free and leave behind those who have grown to care for her, like Gabriel, her friend (and servant)?

I read mixed reviews of Wither before I ordered myself a copy.  The cover art is gorgeous and the premise sounded intriguing.  But a few bloggers I trust had so-so reactions.  Hence, I began the book a little apprehensive.  Well let me tell you- I was sucked in within the first few pages!    Some reviewers complain that the world-building is irritating in the sense that it seems incomplete.  I have to admit I didn’t notice that.  The plot and the characters drew me in so much that I didn’t even think about the world outside of Rhine’s home.  That’s a credit to DeStefano’s incredible prose.  Rhine’s emotions leap off the page, and the characterization is perfect.  There are no flat or static characters here- every single character seems to jump off the page, standing in front of you.  Everyone is real.  I can’t think of a better way to put it.  Even the characters I hated were human and sympathetic.  I felt for all of them, which was no easy feat in a book like this.  Kudos to Lauren DeStefano.  I can’t wait to read the next book in the series!

*purchased by me

The Butterfly’s Daughter by Mary Alice Monroe

Stop what you are doing and go pick up this book. The Butterfly’s Daughter by Mary Alice Monroe was just the book I needed to get out of my reading slump and I have been recommending it to everyone I know.  I have a personal connection to the story of the monarch butterfly’s migration, but this is a story that many people will identify with.

Luz Avila’s mother abandoned her as a child and she was raised by her Abuela.  Now that she is in her twenties, Luz takes care of her grandmother.  She works a factory job, dreaming of the day she will be able to go back to school.  But the job pays the bills and lets her grandmother live life relatively worry-free.  But when Abuela suddenly announces that she wants to take Luz home, to visit their family in Mexico, it breaks Luz’s heart to have to say no.  She promises that they will go one day, after they save the money and pay off a few more bills.  Abuela dies before plans can be made, and Luz is plagued with regret.  Then she wakes up a few days after the funeral and sees an out-of-season monarch butterfly in the garden that her abuela so loved.  It’s a sign, and Luz takes it to heart.  For the first time in her life, she throws caution to the wind and lives life spontaneously.  In a few short days she is in an old, beat-up VW bug on her way from Milwaukee to Mexico.  She carries Abuela’s ashes with her, planning to scatter them in the monarch sanctuaries near her family’s ancestral home in Angangueo, Mexico.

This is a quest story, a journey, both spiritually and physically.  Along the way Luz meets women who leave an imprint on her life and her heart, changing the way she looks at the world.  Each woman alters the flight path a little more, but they all enrich Luz’s life.  And when her mother reappears in her life, Luz must decide which way to fly.

As a monarchaholic, I know this book would affect me deeply.  But I also believe the casual reader will find themselves immersed in the tale of the monarch butterfly.  And the descriptions!  Oh, the language in this book!  I’ve been to Angangueo, to the sanctuaries, and I’ve visited Alternare in Michoacan.  Reading The Butterfly’s Daughter transported me back to the dusty dirt roads high in the Transvolcanic Mountains.  I could smell the fresh blue corn tortillas and hear the sound the butterfly wings beating in the blue sky.  The language of the Purepuchuan people rings in my ears even now.  (Read about my time in Michoacan).  Monroe traveled to the sanctuaries with Monarchs Across Georgia, a group very similar to my beloved Monarch Teacher Network, and the authenticity of her book speaks volumes about that trip.  I could not put the book down.

Highly, highly recommended.  Published for adults, but with definitely crossover YA appeal.

*copy purchased by me  

 

 

Want to visit the sanctuaries?  Read my post about an amazing professional development opportunity for teachers!

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