“The best advice I ever got was that knowledge is power and to keep reading.”
~ David Bailey, English photographer
I don’t know about you, but our country’s politics make me feel anxious and sad every day – not for me but my students. My students are the most amazing 8th graders, and they rise up to my high expectations day in and day out. Yet . . . many of my students have obstacles that they are trying to overcome: poverty, homelessness, racial inequities, religious discrimination, sexual orientation discrimination, immigration issues, parental incarceration . . . The list could go on and on, and still my students come to school because they know that “knowledge is power.”
Some days, I wonder if I truly am helping my students. There is so much hate in our country right now. Too many Americans look down on my students because of their race, social economic status, religion, and so on. Is the fact that I show up to school every day going to make a difference in my students’ lives? I have hope that I do make a difference.
My main focus is helping the kids to understand that reading and writing gives them power – power to beat the system and power to be who they want to be. My students are reading books with characters like them (mirrors) and reading books about characters not like them (windows). With all of this reading, my students are able to see our country and the world from multiple perspectives, which gives them power – power to help make the world a better place.
Because I have such a diverse group of students, I read quite diverse books. I love middle grade and young adult novels because I feel more connected to my students that way and I can help my students find books that speak to them.
I have to give a quick shout-out to our amazing Media Center Specialist, Anna Teeple, because she has a way with helping our most “still developing” readers find books they love! It’s a team effort at our school, and I appreciate all of her support with our students. Thanks, Anna!
Now, on to the books I have read recently that I hope you will enjoy as well . . .
Posted by John David Anderson
This is a must-read for all middle school students, parents of middle school students, teachers, administrators, counselors, you name it. It delves into the topic of how words really do hurt and how we treat others. I plan on using this for a read-aloud in my Advisory class soon. This book will definitely make for good classroom conversations.
Goodreads blurb: In middle school, words aren’t just words. They can be weapons. They can be gifts. The right words can win you friends or make you enemies. They can come back to haunt you. Sometimes they can change things forever.
When cell phones are banned at Branton Middle School, Frost and his friends Deedee, Wolf, and Bench come up with a new way to communicate: leaving sticky notes for each other all around the school. It catches on, and soon all the kids in school are leaving notes—though for every kind and friendly one, there is a cutting and cruel one as well.
In the middle of this, a new girl named Rose arrives at school and sits at Frost’s lunch table. Rose is not like anyone else at Branton Middle School, and it’s clear that the close circle of friends Frost has made for himself won’t easily hold another. As the sticky-note war escalates, and the pressure to choose sides mounts, Frost soon realizes that after this year, nothing will ever be the same.
Akata Warrior (Akata Witch series, book #2) by Nnedi Okorafor
If you are into fantasy books, this is the series for you. I enjoyed the first book Akata Witch and enjoyed the second book in the series as well. It’s great to have books to share with my students that take place in other countries, and this book takes place in Nigeria, from which I have several students. It’s a fun, fast-paced, and intense book that gives the reader a different view of the world.
Goodreads blurb: A year ago, Sunny Nwazue, an American-born girl Nigerian girl, was inducted into the secret Leopard Society. As she began to develop her magical powers, Sunny learned that she had been chosen to lead a dangerous mission to avert an apocalypse, brought about by the terrifying masquerade, Ekwensu. Now, stronger, feistier, and a bit older, Sunny is studying with her mentor Sugar Cream and struggling to unlock the secrets in her strange Nsibidi book.
Eventually, Sunny knows she must confront her destiny. With the support of her Leopard Society friends, Orlu, Chichi, and Sasha, and of her spirit face, Anyanwu, she will travel through worlds both visible and invisible to the mysteries town of Osisi, where she will fight a climactic battle to save humanity.
Much-honored Nnedi Okorafor, winner of the Hugo, Nebula, and World Fantasy awards, merges today’s Nigeria with a unique world she creates. Akata Warrior blends mythology, fantasy, history and magic into a compelling tale that will keep readers spellbound.
Alex, Approximately by Jenn Bennett
I didn’t start out loving this book. I didn’t like the main character because I felt she was the stereotypical, upper-middle class white girl with typical problems. She seemed standoffish to me and a little self-centered, but . . . about forty to fifty pages in I had to check myself. I was being critical of a character because of my preconceived notions – exactly what I tell my own children and my students not to do because people are dealing with issues that are usually hidden. The main character, Bailey, is dealing with problems, and I shouldn’t have judged. Well, I loved this book! It reminded me that books give us knowledge and help us to be more empathetic, which is what I obviously needed.
Goodreads blurb: The one guy Bailey Rydell can’t stand is actually the boy of her dreams—she just doesn’t know it yet.
Classic movie fan Bailey “Mink” Rydell has spent months crushing on a witty film geek she only knows online as Alex. Two coasts separate the teens until Bailey moves in with her dad, who lives in the same California surfing town as her online crush.
Faced with doubts (what if he’s a creep in real life—or worse?), Bailey doesn’t tell Alex she’s moved to his hometown. Or that she’s landed a job at the local tourist-trap museum. Or that she’s being heckled daily by the irritatingly hot museum security guard, Porter Roth—a.k.a. her new archnemesis. But life is a whole lot messier than the movies, especially when Bailey discovers that tricky fine line between hate, love, and whatever it is she’s starting to feel for Porter.
And as the summer months go by, Bailey must choose whether to cling to a dreamy online fantasy in Alex or take a risk on an imperfect reality with Porter. The choice is both simpler and more complicated than she realizes, because Porter Roth is hiding a secret of his own: Porter is Alex…Approximately.
Turtles All the Way Down by John Green
Author John Green has the ability to take the lives and emotions of teenagers and turn them into books that everyone loves. Now, I know John Green is famous for his novel The Fault in Our Stars, but that wasn’t my favorite books of his. I love his many other books that feature quirky teenage characters from all walks of life.Turtles All the Way Down doesn’t disappoint. Aza, Daisy, and Davis are truly likable characters, each dealing with their individual problems.
Goodreads blurb: Sixteen-year-old Aza never intended to pursue the mystery of fugitive billionaire Russell Pickett, but there’s a hundred-thousand-dollar reward at stake and her Best and Most Fearless Friend, Daisy, is eager to investigate. So together, they navigate the short distance and broad divides that separate them from Russell Pickett’s son, Davis.
Aza is trying. She is trying to be a good daughter, a good friend, a good student, and maybe even a good detective, while also living within the ever-tightening spiral of her own thoughts.
In his long-awaited return, John Green, the acclaimed, award-winning author of Looking for Alaska and The Fault in Our Stars, shares Aza’s story with shattering, unflinching clarity in this brilliant novel of love, resilience, and the power of lifelong friendship.