Congratulations to Lisa Stewart-Munn for winning #ASDWReads for the month of March! Thank you for sharing your reading moments, and we hope you enjoy your new book.
If you would like to enter the next draw, just snap a photo of a book you read in April, and post it on Twitter under #ASDWReads. We look forward to seeing what books you are spending time with as spring is beginning to fill the air!
One of the challenges we face in the literacy classroom is that the thinking about and understanding of text happens in our students’ heads, so we need to develop ways for students to make their thinking visible to us and their classmates (and often themselves because sharing our thinking about a text often leads to new and deeper thinking). Here are a few samples that students can use to share reactions to their independent reading that doesn’t require more time and effort than the reading itself:
-write a “bite-sized” review similar to the ones these authors have written about their favorite short stories .
-instead of writing about The 25 Songs That Matter Right Now, list the books that mattered during the semester or year. Alternatively, identify the books that have mattered to you as a reader and explain how they have impacted your reading identity.
-look at these student responses to the question “What one song best encapsulates this era?” and select the song (or poem or image) that best encapsulates your book.
-prescribe a poem for a character in your book based on the models from Poetry Rx.
When reading, I love nothing more than the realization a couple of pages or chapters in that I have been masterfully beguiled and am now gladly under the spell of the author. Darius the Great is Not Okay, Adib Khorram’s beautiful debut novel, will warmly weave its way into your heart.
In a story about identity, and the assumptions we make about ourselves and others, Khorram deftly threads the needle in his use of oddly specific details – Star Trek and Lord of the Rings allusions, tea facts, and Iranian culture – to tell a story with almost universal appeal. Darius could be any one of us with his quirky interests and all-too-common insecurities: Who is he really? Where does he fit in at school, and even his own family? Perhaps Khorram is so successful in this instance because he seems to understand the lack of clarity in the human condition, enveloping his characters in the fact that life has very few clean answers.
Ultimately, Darius the Great is Not Okay should work for a wide array of readers in terms of ability (it’s a simply written story, although it does contain plenty of non-English language that is explained – Darius is learning too after all), and in terms of content as it can be read and enjoyed solely for the wonderful story, or peeled back one layer at a time to reveal characters and themes we all can relate to.
Will Milner is an English & Outdoor Pursuits teacher at Fredericton High School, where he also coaches soccer and track & field. When not teaching, or coaching, he can be found with his wife Jen outside with their dogs and playing with their 11 month old daughter Olivia.
What I Was Reading: Girl Made of Stars by Ashley Herring Blake follows Mara as she navigates her way through her twin brother being accused of raping her friend, her broken relationship with her best friend and ex-girlfriend, and facing a trauma from her past. Experiencing and dealing with these difficult situations leads Mara to question who she is and who she wants to be.
What Moves I Notice the Writer Making:
• Using a title (italicized): Her name, followed by a brief context for the thoughts that follow
• Intentional use of repetition to begin sentences: The first eight lines begin with the same seven words: “Maybe I’m the type of girl who…”
• The series of thoughts focus on exploring her identity through highlighting events, emotions, and realizations
• The last two lines move to be more definitive, as though she is coming to a conclusion about who she is and is okay with what she comes to understand about herself
• The excerpt ends with a simple drawing that reflects what she has realized about her identity
Possibilities for Writers:
• Using a similar format, explore a part of your identity:
o “Maybe I’m the type of __________ who…”
• In your last line, or few lines, see if you can draw some conclusions about the thoughts that came through your writing about who you are
• Write a title that includes your name, followed by context for what you are exploring about yourself
• Draw a sketch at the end of your writing that in some way reflects the part of your identity you wrote about
Pride by Ibi Zoboi claims to be “a Pride and Prejudice remix,” and from someone who loved the original by Jane Austen, it clearly was, in subtle and not so subtle ways. Zuri Benitez, the protagonist, lives in a world that couldn’t be more different than Austen’s Victorian England-modern day Brooklyn, N.Y. In spite of that, it works. Zuri has the same spunky character as Elizabeth Bennet (play on the name), is proud of her roots, and demonstrates a stubbornness that plays out as willful pride! She is a compelling character that loves her family in spite of their humble lifestyle and of course, when a rich family (aka the Darcy’s) renovate an old crumbling house next door and move in, they have two handsome sons, Ainsley and Darius. The plot mirrors that of the original almost identically, with minor differences that work with a modern setting. Ainsley, the oldest, attracts the interest of Zuri’s sister, Janae right away, while Zuri hates Darius at first because he seems to be a snob, and in the end she finds out that her pride has caused her to misjudge him and they develop a friendship that deepens to romance. Janae and Ainsley also have snags in their relationship that cause Zuri to become very protective of her sister. In the end, Janae and Ainsley also find a way through the obstacles of their relationship and become a couple.
This book is character-driven, rather than plot-driven, much like the original, weaving a tapestry of the hum of daily life. Although this book provides a window into a cultural world that is colorful and warm, it is also a mirror into the world of the banalities of family life and the sense of community in a close-knit neighborhood. This book succeeds as a modern, slightly edgy retelling, while maintaining the nostalgia of the original in terms of family, community, and home. Its messages about pre-judging others and about the importance of family and community are presented in a fresh style and speaks to the intimacy and universality of the desire for human connection.
Shelley Hanson teaches grade 11 and 12 at Leo Hayes High School in Fredericton, NB. When she isn’t inspiring teens to find their next great book, she enjoys the antics of her pet miniature goats, Peanut, Pepper, and Pippi.
In a lot of ways, Felix Knuttson is your regular, run-of-the-mill 12-year old boy. He writes for his school newspaper. He loves goofing off with his best friend Dylan. He is struggling to navigate the murky waters of middle school dating. He is also homeless.
No Fixed Address opens with Felix in a police station explaining to the officer (and the reader) the circumstances, bad luck and decisions that led to him and his mom becoming homeless and living in a van. Felix’s friends Winnie and Dylan are oblivious to his living situation and Felix struggles with the lies he needs to tell to keep this secret from them. In the midst of being homeless, Felix earns his way onto the trivia gameshow Who, What, Where, When and is convinced the prize money is the ticket they need to jump-start a new life.
For some readers, this book will be an excellent “window” into the realities of homelessness and the unfortunate truth that people around us may be in need of help and we may never know it. This book manages to walk the fine line of being humorous and light-hearted without minimizing the problems Felix and his Mom are facing. I am currently using this book as a read aloud for my Grade 8 Language Arts classes and it is sparking excellent discussion on everything from the ethics of lying to why families fear involvement from Social Services. I would recommend this book to students in Grade 7 and older. The chapters are short and the writing is uncomplicated but the content may be a bit heavy for those in Grade 6.
Megan Young Jones is a guest blogger for Margin Notes. She teaches Grade 8 Language Arts at Nashwaaksis Middle School in Fredericton, New Brunswick. Her favorite genres to read are historical fiction and true crime.