Saturday, November 27, 2010

Just Write: Booktalk 3

Tod Munn is one of those kids you have to watch out for in school. He’s tough, he’s mean, he will fight you if necessary, and he’s familiar with detention and suspension. The teachers think of him as one of the bad kids. In Tod’s defense, though, he doesn’t have a lot going for him. He’s from a poor family, and his dad left a while ago. It’s normal for him to have no breakfast or lunch, unless he gets a free one from school. But we find out something very surprising about Tod: he’s a really good writer – funny, smart, and engaging. Of course, he’s being forced in write in a journal in detention which lasts one month, under the watchful eye of the guidance counselor. When you start to read Tod’s journal, you realize so many things about him and about the other kids and teachers at his school. Without giving away too much, you might start to realize that Tod is really kind of amazing, and so is what he “scrawls” in detention. Scrawl by Mark Shulman.

Scrawl by Mark Shulman. 230 p. 2010: Roaring Book Press. Booktalk to middle school, high school.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Just Write: Booktalk 2

[Ask your teen readers which books they have read by Hemingway: The Sun Also Rises; A Farewell to Arms; For Whom the Bell Tells; The Old Man and the Sea, etc.]

What do you think of when you think of the typical writer? [Get a few responses.] Ernest Hemingway probably wasn’t like any of those. He loved to drink, to hunt, to go on safaris, to fight, and to watch bullfights. Basically, he was a restless adrenaline junkie. He loved women and was married four times. He would not mince words, either in real life or in his writing; in fact, he could be really mean to his friends and even to his family. He believed in getting right to the point and to living life to the fullest. [Show photograph on p.4: Hemingway with the huge tuna]. Hemingway had to be the best at everything: whether it was killing large game in Africa, catching the largest fish, writing the best novel, or winning an argument. This book gives a good mix of photos, stories, and facts about Hemingway’s life. Even though Hemingway was and is a major success, he struggled with alcohol and depression and failures. Reading about his life may evoke different responses from you – the end of his life, which ended in suicide, was pretty sad. And yet he is one of America’s greatest writers. His life was fascinating and enigmatic. Read about it in Ernest Hemingway: A Writer’s Life by Catherine Reef.

Ernest Hemingway: A Writer’s Life by Catherine Reef. 183 p. Clarion, 2009. Booktalk to 8th grade and above.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Just Write: Booktalk 1

Teens mostly e-mail, text, IM, or call each other nowadays, right? Dash and Lily are completely different. They met by notebook, and it stayed that way for a while. Let me explain. Dash, short for Dashiell, is in his favorite bookstore in New York City, and on the shelves he finds a red moleskin notebook with handwritten instructions involving a challenge, and not an easy one. The challenge – if done correctly – will get the notebook back to its owner. The challenge involves writing, intelligence, willingness to make a fool out of himself, and some luck. And so the game starts. Dash and Lily don’t actually meet for a while. They couldn’t tell you what the other one even looks like: they’re both blanks to each other, in that respect. They start sharing through writing: thoughts, memories, aspirations – you know, the kind of stuff it’s easier to write that to say out loud. But both harbor a desire to meet in real life, yet the signs are there that they won’t and can’t have the type of relationship that they had through the notebook. What if meeting in real life ruins everything? Read Dash & Lily’s Book of Dares by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan.

Dash & Lily’s Book of Dares by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan. 260 p. Knopf, 2010. Booktalk to high school.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Take a Second Look: Booktalk 4

What if you didn't know your parents? That's Delana's story: she's an only child who lives with her Grandpa and her Aunt Tilley in West Virginia. Aunt Tilley likes to show Delana old-fashioned photographs of Delana's relatives -- descended from slaves -- and make them come alive through stories. So Delana _thinks_ she knows her family, but once Aunt Tilley dies, Delana gets a secret visit from one of her relatives disguised as a scrawny peddlar -- Cousin Ambertine. Ambertine is on a mission: to tell Delana part of the truth. As it turns out, Ambertine was really close to Delana's mom, and has news which shocks Delana, who finds she must take a second look at her mysterious family. Finding Family by Tonya Bolden.

Finding Family by Tonya Bolden. 172 p. Bloomsbury, 2010. Booktalk to intermediate grades and middle school.