Burning Author: Danielle Rollins
Published: April 5, 2016 by Bloomsbury USA Children’s
Summary: After three years in juvie, Angela Davis is just a few months shy of release, and she’ll finally be free from the hole that is Brunesfield Correctional Facility. Then Jessica arrives. Only ten years old and under the highest security possible, this girl has to be dangerous, even if no one knows what she did to land in juvie. As strange things begin happening to Angela and her friends that can only be traced to the new girl’s arrival, it becomes clear that Brunesfield is no longer safe. They must find a way to get out, but how can they save themselves when the world has forgotten them?
Review: This book was the perfect balance between realistic, interesting characters and chilling, creepy fantastic characters. From the first moment that I met Jessica, my skin began to crawl. Angela, the narrator, is pushing a mop in Seg in the juvenile hall. Jessica is mysterious and quite scary. I was frightened right along with Angela! I love how the characters are developed. While the book is definitely fantastic, I felt genuinely connected with the characters and their stories. I’d use this book as a bridge to help students who love realistic fiction. It would help them explore different genres. The book ends with a hook, and I imagined that Rollins has a sequel in the works! I am very excited to read it!
Teacher’s Tools for Navigation: I imagine that this book will create genuine interest in juvenile halls. I’d ask students to explore and research their own juvenile halls. They might also examine privilege and how the characters’ home lives seems to play a role in the fact that they are in the correctional facility. This would offer an interesting class discussion.
Discussion Questions: Does Angela make good choices in this book? What are some of the choices she makes, and do you think she makes the right decisions? Is she a moral person?; Most of the characters in this book are female. Consider all of the male characters and determine what their role is. How do they add to the story?
We Flagged: “I’m so focused on the blinking red light that I don’t notice the skeletally thin girl in the cell to my left until she skitters across the floor on her hands and knees” (p. 51).
Read This If You Loved: The Mercilessby Danielle Vega, Anna Dressed in Blood by Kendare Blake, Anything by Stephen King; Juvie Three by Gordon Korman
Nonfiction Picture Book Wednesday is hosted by Kid Lit Frenzy and was started to help promote the reading of nonfiction texts. Most Wednesdays, we will be participating and will review a nonfiction text (though it may not always be a picture book).
Be sure to visit Kid Lit Frenzy and see what other nonfiction books are shared this week!
**This book is technically historical fiction, but I felt it was pretty darn close to nonfiction**
Never Fall Down Author: Patricia McCormick
Published May 8th, 2012 by Balzer + Bray
Goodreads Summary: This National Book Award nominee from two-time finalist Patricia McCormick is the unforgettable story of Arn Chorn-Pond, who defied the odds to survive the Cambodian genocide of 1975-1979 and the labor camps of the Khmer Rouge.
Based on the true story of Cambodian advocate Arn Chorn-Pond, and authentically told from his point of view as a young boy, this is an achingly raw and powerful historical novel about a child of war who becomes a man of peace. It includes an author’s note and acknowledgments from Arn Chorn-Pond himself.
When soldiers arrive in his hometown, Arn is just a normal little boy. But after the soldiers march the entire population into the countryside, his life is changed forever.
Arn is separated from his family and assigned to a labor camp: working in the rice paddies under a blazing sun, he sees the other children dying before his eyes. One day, the soldiers ask if any of the kids can play an instrument. Arn’s never played a note in his life, but he volunteers.
This decision will save his life, but it will pull him into the very center of what we know today as the Killing Fields. And just as the country is about to be liberated, Arn is handed a gun and forced to become a soldier.
My Review: When I started Never Fall Down, I had no idea what I was getting myself into. I began it because Ricki recommended it to me, but I didn’t read the back or have any prior knowledge about the book. So, when I began, I had no idea how tough this book was going to be.
I also have to preface with my ignorance of the Cambodian Genocide. I blame my lack of world history education because this is a time of history that should be taught. It, along with the Holocaust and Armenian Genocide, was based in racism and the attempt to purify a country. Reading Arn’s story throws you right in the middle of the genocide, and Patricia McCormick doesn’t hold anything back. Every time you think nothing can get worse for Arn and the Cambodians, something does, but you also have such hope for Arn’s survival as you seen him overcome every obstacle he faces. Even though death actually stares him in the face throughout the book, this young boy somehow continues. He continues through starvation, excessive work, lack of sleep, and murder surrounding him. Arn stated in interviews with McCormick that music saved his life, but I think it was more about his willingness to do whatever was needed to survive and especially anything to help those he cared for to survive.
Patricia McCormick tells our story in a broken English dialect that was influenced by “Arn’s own beautiful, improvised English” that McCormick heard in her head after interviewing him and traveling with him to Cambodia over a couple of years. The extent that Ms. McCormick went to ensure that Arn’s story was a true representation of his trials and heroism is honorable.
Teachers’ Tools For Navigation: This would be a perfect cross-curricular text! It could be read in a world history class in full or in parts. Although it is McCormick’s writing, it is definitely Arn’s story, and Arn’s story is one that needs to be shared. This book could also be used in lit circles where each group has a different book about a piece of history or an individual who/that is not usually learned about (maybe with Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys, Sold,Caminar by Skila Brown, The Glass Collector by Anna Perera, Son of a Gun by Anne de Graaf, Inside Out & Back Again by Thanhha Lai, Guantanamo Boy by Anna Perera, A Long Walk to Water by Linda Sue Park, The Queen of Water by Laura Resau, orNow is the Time for Running by Michael Williams).
One of my amazing 8th grade students read this book recently, and she was as enthralled with it as I was. Immediately after finishing, she got online and started learning more about Arn and Cambodia. She came across an amazing video with both Patricia McCormick and Arn in it. It is 27 minutes long, but it is so worth watching:
Discussion Questions: What do you think ultimately helped Arn survive?; How did Sombo save Arn’s life at the orphan camp? When the war with the Vietnamese started? At the killing fields?; Do you think music is what saved Arn?; How were the Khmer Rouge able to make their prisoners do whatever they wanted them to?; Why did the Khmer Rouge kill all the educated Cambodians?; Why was Sombo so unsure about the Coca Cola?
We Flagged: “All the time now we hear girl screaming, girl running, girl crying. At night but also sometime in the daytime. All the tie, the Khmer Rouge they chase the girl, cut the hair. Sometime with scissor, sometime with knife. Chop short, to the chin, like boy. The girl, they cry and sometime they run. They run, it’s no good. The Khmer Rouge may shoot them, maybe take them to the bushes, do whatever they want. A lot of the girl afterward, they pull on their hair, pull like maybe they can stretch it, make it long, make it beautiful again.
My number two big sister, Maly, her hair like silk. Most proud thing about her, her hair. Shiny black, like blue, like a crow has. Every night she brush her hair, every morning. Sometime even she brush her hair not thinking, just dreaming maybe about the boy she love. One morning I wake up before everyone and see her making rice. Her neck, it’s bare now, her skin there is pale, never saw the sun, her long hair gone. Last night while I was asleep, the soldier, they cut her beauty. So now when she give me a bowl of rice soup, her eyes stay on the ground.” (p. 29-30)
Read This If You Loved: Titles listed above in Teachers’ Tools for Navigation
On the Run: Fugitive Life in an American City Author: Alice Goffman
Published: May 1, 2014 by University Of Chicago Press
Summary: Forty years in, the War on Drugs has done almost nothing to prevent drugs from being sold or used, but it has nonetheless created a little-known surveillance state in America’s most disadvantaged neighborhoods. Arrest quotas and high-tech surveillance techniques criminalize entire blocks, and transform the very associations that should stabilize young lives—family, relationships, jobs—into liabilities, as the police use such relationships to track down suspects, demand information, and threaten consequences.
Alice Goffman spent six years living in one such neighborhood in Philadelphia, and her close observations and often harrowing stories reveal the pernicious effects of this pervasive policing. Goffman introduces us to an unforgettable cast of young African American men who are caught up in this web of warrants and surveillance—some of them small-time drug dealers, others just ordinary guys dealing with limited choices. All find the web of presumed criminality, built as it is on the very associations and friendships that make up a life, nearly impossible to escape. We watch as the pleasures of summer-evening stoop-sitting are shattered by the arrival of a carful of cops looking to serve a warrant; we watch—and can’t help but be shocked—as teenagers teach their younger siblings and cousins how to run from the police (and, crucially, to keep away from friends and family so they can stay hidden); and we see, over and over, the relentless toll that the presumption of criminality takes on families—and futures.
While not denying the problems of the drug trade, and the violence that often accompanies it, through her gripping accounts of daily life in the forgotten neighborhoods of America’s cities, Goffman makes it impossible for us to ignore the very real human costs of our failed response—the blighting of entire neighborhoods, and the needless sacrifice of whole generations.
Review: Inspired by a college course in her sophomore year, Alice Goffman seeks an ethnographic experience in inner-city Philadelphia. She gets a part-time job tutoring an African American girl, Aisha, and soon befriends the boys of 6th Street (pseudonym). Mike adopts her as a younger sister, and she comes to live with these boys—studying their every move. This quality piece of ethnographic research is a page turner. While it reads a bit more like a book than a scholarly publication, readers can glean her methodological approach through the footnotes. Goffman’s mission is clear. She wants readers to understand the inequities these African American boys of 6th Street face, and she shows how the criminal justice system (both law enforcement and the justice/prison system) are not working. I was ashamed at the actions of the police, specifically, and think this is very educational to readers of all ages, particularly in the wake of the racially based crimes that we consistently see in the news.
Teacher’s Tools for Navigation: This book is written for adults, but I think it would be very educational for high school students. I would use excerpts of this text to show students the realities of life on 6th Street in Philadelphia. It could be used to better understand crimes in the news, to teach inequity, to examine class issues, to understand the drug trade, and to fight racism. It would be eye-opening for students. While teaching this, I would also consider pairing it with Malcolm Gladwell’s review.
Discussion Questions: What can we do to stop the injustice of the court system? How is it flawed?; What role does race play in this text?; Was Goffman too close to the subjects of her ethnography? Do you think this affected her portrayal of 6th Street? What are the positives and negatives of this approach of qualitative study?
We Flagged: “To be on the run is a strange phrase for legally compromised people, because to be on the run is also to be at a standstill.”
“Thus, the great paradox of a highly punitive approach to crime control is that it winds up criminalizing so much of daily life as to foster widespread illegality as people work to circumvent it. Intensive policing and the crime it intends to control become mutually reinforcing. The extent to which crime elicits harsh policing, or policing itself contributes to a climate of violence and illegality, becomes impossible to sort out.”
Read This If You Loved:Punished: Policing the Lives of Black and Latino Boys by Victor M. Rios; The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander
Just Call My Name Author: Holly Goldberg Sloan
Published: August 5, 2014 by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Summary: The happily-ever-after of Holly Goldberg Sloan’s acclaimed debut, I’ll Be There, is turned on its head in this riveting, emotional sequel about friends, enemies, and how those roles can shift in a matter of moments.
Emily Bell has it all. She’s in love with a boy named Sam Border, and his little brother has become part of her family. This summer is destined to be the best time of their lives–until a charismatic new girl in town sets her sights on Sam. Now Emily finds herself questioning the loyalty of the person she thought she could trust most.
But the biggest threat to her happiness is someone she never saw coming. Sam’s criminally insane father, whom everyone thought they’d finally left behind, is planning a jailbreak. And he knows exactly where to find Emily and his sons when he escapes…and takes his revenge.
Review:Holly Goldberg Sloan is an incredible writer. I enjoyed the first book in the series, but I liked this one even more. I appreciate the great depth of her characters. Often, coincidences are categorized as poor writing, but Sloan uses them intentionally and in a clever way—defying literary assumptions about quality writing. The book is quite suspenseful, and readers will have the urge to race through it to learn how the plot unravels. The way Sloan builds the plot details is very thoughtful and meticulous, and I found myself constantly reflecting about how intelligent she is. This sequel is well worth the read. It is a difficult one to put down! It reads like a very literary mystery and would be a great text for teachers to have in their classrooms. One aspect that I love about this series is it turns our concept of family on its head; it will teach readers about the power of a strong family unit—traditional or not.
Teacher’s Tools for Navigation: This would be a fantastic resource for teachers teaching plot, suspense, and foreshadowing. The way Sloan builds the events and details is admirable, and students would learn a lot from her design. While it is a sequel, I think this book could certainly stand alone. The ominous mood made my heart race! Check out more curricular connections here: Curricular Connections.
Discussion Questions: How does Sloan thoughtfully use coincidence to build her story?; What is Destiny’s role in the novel? How does Sam perceive her? Is he right? What does this tell us about Sam? Why does the author name her, “Destiny”?; How do the shifts in point-of-view add to your reading of the text?
We Flagged: “That happens to really happy people. They don’t notice the little things” (p.81).
Read This If You Loved: I’ll Be There by Holly Goldberg Sloan, We Were Liars by e. lockhart, YA Suspense/Mystery
Nonfiction Picture Book Wednesday is hosted by Kid Lit Frenzy and was started to help promote the reading of nonfiction texts. Most Wednesdays, we will be participating and will review a nonfiction text (though it may not always be a picture book). Be sure to visit Kid Lit Frenzy and see what other nonfiction books are shared this week!
Real Justice: Convicted for being Mi’kmaq: The Story of Donald Marshall Jr. Author: Bill Swan
Expected Publication: September 1st, 2013 by James Lorimer & Company
Summary: This book is part of the Real Justice series by James Lorimer & Company that shed light on young people who are wrongfully convicted of crimes. Donald Marshall Jr. spent eleven years in prison for a crime he never committed. He was the eldest son of the Grand Chief of the Mi’kmaw Nation, and racism certainly played a role in his conviction. It was a late night in Wentworth Park when Sandy Seale, a black teen, and Donald Marshall Jr. are waved over by two drunk men wanting cigarettes. One of the men stabs Sandy Seale in the side, and Donald Marshall Jr. runs for help. What he doesn’t know is that the police won’t believe his story, and they will do anything they can to convict him of the Seale’s death.
Review: I enjoyed the journalistic format of this book. Swan does an excellent job researching and depicting the facts of the case. He goes into depth when in his description of each witness’s story, and the reader gets a comprehensive background of the crime scene, investigation, and trial. As a Micmac Indian (the American version of this tribe), I was very interested in this story. Admittedly, I was a bit disappointed that aside from the comments about racism and a brief note toward the end of the book, there wasn’t much information about the Mi’kmaq Indians. I completely understand this, as the author chose to focus more on the investigation and trial, but I was secretly craving more information about Donald Marshall Jr.’s life background and customs. This text would make for a great nonfiction text to use in the classroom.
Teacher’s Tools for Navigation: I love teaching nonfiction units because there is so much variety. Teachers can offer myriad choices of memoirs and informational nonfiction for students to do research. After reading this story, students might research more about the case (if any other information is available) or they could compare and contrast this case with another example of injustice, particularly one that was impacted by racism. I have a feeling that students, like me, will want to research more about Marshall’s culture or the racial imbalance that existed at the time of the crime. I could also see this being paired with Black and White by Paul Volponi, an example of realistic fiction that also deals with injustice due to racism.
Discussion Questions: Does racism still exist today? In what ways did it impact the crime, investigation, and trial? What injustices did you see?; Do you think Marshall should have been compensated more for his eleven years in jail?; How does Marshall show incredible strength throughout his ordeal?
We Flagged: “‘Know what I think?’ MacIntyre added, as though on cue. ‘I think Marshall’s description of some old guy is a crock. The whole thing likely happened when that Indian, fueled up with fire water, got in an argument with the black kid'” (Chapter 5).
“When the reality hit [Donald Marshall Jr.], he cried the tears of childhood” (Chapter 15).
Please note: The above quotes are from the Advanced Reader Copy. Chapter numbers are included instead of page numbers because the e-reader did not provide page numbers. The quotes may change when the book is published.
Read This If You Loved:Hole in my Life by Jack Gantos, Black and White by Paul Volponi, other books in the Real Justice series, other books about Law and Order