I’ve been lucky enough to listen in on several debates surrounding The House of the Scorpion novel studies here at the school. The grade 8s have clearly been spending a good amount of time learning about everything from cloning to cartels to health care to better their arguments for their debating projects. I’m so impressed by their enthusiasm for the novel and all the issues raised by it. Since the book’s been on my to-read list for a year now, I grabbed an extra copy from the school and settled down to enjoy. And then I just didn’t. The story is wonderfully written and the premise of a young boy being raised to take over a dangerous future drug cartel is interesting- who doesn’t love a good clone story! Nancy Farmer is also a wonderful writer, and I definitely don’t feel like I’m reading a YA novel. It’s so very detailed and long though. I was talking to the TL here and she agreed. There’s just something about this book that’s too dull. What a let down! Will I recommend it? Absolutely. It’s got great literary value and amazing themes. Personally, I’m done with it.
Working in a school allows you to see a side of life you haven’t since you lived it. I’m talking about all those middle school hormones, smells, emotions, attitudes, styles, and more. By the end of the day, the library tends to smell like a million farts mixed with dirty gym clothes because of how close it is to the grade 9 wing. Don’t get me wrong, I love working with teenagers, it’s where I wanted to be, but the smell. And the attitudes! The majority of students are respectful and go about their business, stopping to chat if they aren’t too humiliated by my very presence. There are some though, mostly boys surprisingly, who could use an attitude change. They’re just plain rude and unlike their more goodhearted counterparts, they don’t respond to anything. I can tease, joke, use mild public humiliation, you name it, and these boys are just content to be miserable little jerks. So there’s nothing to do but move on and know that they’re no different from the miserable jerks you experienced when you were in middle school.
I can’t just move on though, really. I don’t want to write these kids off and blame their parents and be glad that they’ll be in high school next year. It’s easy to look to the younger grades and begin cultivating a relationship with them that you can carry over into the next few years and use to get along with future jerky personalities. The current students though will be the death of me. My solution? Candy, bribery, and unfailing kindness. I remember dealing with boys (and girls) like this in middle school and being in tears by the time I got home. They were cruel no matter what and to whoever crossed their paths. My science teacher, now a good family friend, would always smile and ignore their eye rolls when she realized that tearing them a new one wasn’t going to work. And by the end of the year these horrible little people, still cruel as ever, proclaimed this teacher to be their favourite. Who knew. So I’m going to smile and curse them behind their backs, and at the very least I’ll be a good example to kids during lunch supervision or something.
I’m a sucker for a good unexpected pregnancy book. Or unexpected illness or death. Maybe I just like some drama and heartache? The novels I’ve read about teen pregnancy always follow the story of the mother and what she deals with as she grows as a baby and decides what to do with it. I recently finished Slam by Nick Hornby, the pop culture darling who penned About a Boy and High Fidelity. Slam is narrated by a teen boy (Sam), and although I had some idea going into it that it might feature teen pregnancy, I didn’t realized it would be about Sam becoming a teen father.
Sam is the product of teen parents. His father, still living the irresponsible life, is useless and his mother has done everything she can to become a normal parent. She isn’t trying to be Sam’s buddy, despite the fact that she was only 16 when she had him, and is actually a wonderful and attentive parent. Life might not be what she planned, but she’s made the best of a bad situation and is an admirable- and realistic- character, living proof that teen pregnancy doesn’t destroy everything. When Sam- who talks to a Tony Hawke poster and is obsessed with skating (the board kind) gets his first real girlfriend and spends the next few months spending every waking minute with her, it becomes clear that things most likely won’t end well. Alycia, his girlfriend, is from a lovely family, and although she’s more, ahem, experience than Sam, the two find they have more in common than just raging hormones. So when Sam dumps Alycia (by just never texting her back) and she tells him she might be pregnant a few weeks later, you know things aren’t going to end well.
In between running away, moving in with Alycia’s family, and getting loads of bad advice from his father, Sam narrates his new life as a soon to be teen father and how his life has taken a drastic turn. The book flashes forward in the future, but never so far as to confuse or annoy the reader. In the end, Sam is left hopeful but hesitant and resigned to his life as the father of baby Roof. Hornby couldn’t have created a more realistic look at teen (and adult) pregnancy and parenting. The book doesn’t preach, but doesn’t hold anything back either. The writing style makes the book appealing to both girls and guys as well, and I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend this book to the most reluctant of teen boy readers.
I always have lists of things I want to read, watch, listen to, cook, eat, explore, etcetera, etcetera. Every since my class last year on children’s and young adult’s literature, my reading lists have gotten out of control. I find it hard to really dive into books meant for grades 5-7 (there isn’t a lot of character development and the stories are simpler, as they should be) but I’ve become addicted to YA literature. So far, I’m desperate to read these:
1. The House of the Scorpion by Nancy Farmer
2. Grasshopper Jungle by Andrew Smith
3. Althea and Oliver by Cristina Moracho
4. The Line by Teri Hall
5. Liv, Forever by Amy Talkington
6. We Are All Made of Molecules by Susin Nielsen
And many many many many more….
One YA book I’ve had my eye on for a few months now is The Reluctant Journal of Henry K. Larsen by Susin Nielsen. What a book. I finished it in a little less that three days, just reading before bed! The author (and story) are Canadian, something I usually avoid like the plague. I should be prouder of the authors from my home and native land, but to be honest I just don’t care about most of what they write about. I do love Robert Munsch and Kit Pearson, but off the top of my head I find it hard to name another Canadian author (L.M. Montgomery aside, obviously) that I would willingly read. But lo and behold, Susin Nielsen wrote a Canadian book that didn’t put me to sleep! I wasn’t aware it was a Canadian book until a spotted the little red maple leaf sticker the teach librarian here had placed on the spine. I’m incredibly glad I did read it, despite the sticker.
Henry K. Larsen has been plucked from his life on the island and placed in a small apartment and new school in Vancouver. We know that he’s writing this journal because it was given to him by his therapist and we know he doesn’t want his therapist to actually know he’s using the journal. The reader also knows something terrible has happened to Henry’s family that’s led to his mother living across the country and him and his father trying to make a new life in a new city without anyone learning their “secret”. There is also a brother, who is dead, so you can assume this terrible secret Henry doesn’t want anyone to know is about him. I had a fairly good idea that the brother had been involved in a school shooting (bingo!) but even knowing this I still felt compelled to turn the page as quickly as possible to know what was happening. The characters are real, the situations are real, and the outcome/ending, is very real. I really can’t recommend this book enough for grades 7 and up. Boys, girls, nerds, jocks, whatever your label, this book reaches everyone. And a Canadian school shooting! This is an age when working in a school means knowing the correct procedure for a lock down, something that not everyone my age is familiar with, even post Columbine. So get out there and read this and make sure you recommend it to everyone.
So, almost a year later, graduated and with a REAL library job, I’m back. What can I say, life got busy. I finished two wonderful practicums with two wonderful school librarians, graduated, spent the summer working in the archives of a private company, and after a brief break from all things library related (working retail is a great brain break), I’m finally at a school library! It’s not my own, I work under a Teacher Librarian, but because she’s only part time and I’m full time there are days when I have the space to myself. But I’m getting ahead of myself.
Working in a private library- think archives- is not for everyone. I’m glad I got to spend time trying out life outside a school, but because I’m a social person it was difficult to work on projects alone. There are only three employees at this particular company, one who works with the historical artifacts (art, clothing, books, medals, etc.), one who does special projects, and one who works with the company’s records. I spent most of my time with the historical artifacts, doing everything from cataloguing to scanning to preserving art. I was very lucky to get along with my supervisor, but because archives is a solitary job, it attracts people with quirks. As I said though, I am happy I tried something outside a school.
I’ve only been at my current school for three weeks, but already I feel confident that a school library is truly the place for me. I love working with teachers and students and being swept up in the interruptions of the day. I’m hoping soon I’ll have more responsibilities and be able to take on some projects. Because this is a charter school, the students and teachers are much more devoted to teaching and learning. It’s gratifying to come to work at a school where everyone is on the same page about education. The library itself is already a Learning Commons physically, but the librarian and administration are working to help students and staff use the space as a Learning Commons. For now, this is a wonderful place to be!
How I Live Now is Meg Rosoff’s British Guardian Children’s Fiction prize winner about what is, essentially, World War III. I have yet to read the book, but watched the movie last weekend out of curiosity. What I wasn’t expecting was the casual and explicit sexual relationship between cousins and the nonchalance that accompanies it. The book received many rave reviews- did I mention it won the Michael L. Printz Award as well? Obviously, there was incredible backlash against the cousins’ relationship. Should something like this be in a school?