Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Module 2: Rules of the Road by Joan Bauer

Bauer, Joan. Rules of the Road. New York: G.P. Putnam's Sons, 1998. Print. ISBN: 0-399-23140-4

“I always wondered why I had a father who was an alcoholic.”
“Now I knew.”
“It made me strong.”
“It made me different.”
“It showed me how to say no to the darkness.”

Jenna Boller is just a regular sixteen year old girl…except that she has to take late night calls from her drunk father, and will be driving the president of Gladstone Shoe Stores across the country, and she is trying to help save the company. Boiled down, it is bound to be a very interesting summer . What she does not realize is that she will meet people who will change her life forever and she will come back a different person.

Rules of the Road brings together an elderly president of a shoe company, a retired shoe model with a flair for fashion, a top shoe salesman, and a sixteen year old girl just trying to make it through the summer. By creating such a diverse group of characters, Joan Bauer has set her readers up for many laughs and many of life's hard lessons. The reader will be able to connect with many of the situations that Jenna has to deal with; whether it the alcoholic father or Jenna not knowing exactly who she is. School Library Journal’s review said, “The author creates some fabulous and sometimes flamboyant characters, witty dialogue, and memorable scenes, thus making readers really care about the intricacies of matching shoes to people and finding the right focus for Jenna as she strives to meet tall goals. Bauer's best yet.” By creating a setting that involves a road trip, Joan Bauer has subtly symbolized the journey that Jenna must make to become who she was meant to become. Although there are many bumps along the way, as well as some great companionship, Jenna decides that the hardest journey is the one you must take by yourself. "Now I see that it isn't the problems along the way that make us or break us. It's how we learn to stand and face them that makes the difference."

While a student is reading this, they could have a map of the United States out, and trace the journey that Jenna makes before she gets to Dallas. In each city or stop, have the student write on a post-it what happened there. By doing this, you have created a visual story map. You could also have them write a theme for each city so that they can understand the lessons that she learned.

Codell, Cindy D. "Rules of the Road." School Library Journal (1998). Title Wave. Follett Library Resources, 1998. Web. 29 Sept. 2010.

Module 2: Sweethearts by Sara Zarr

Zarr, Sara. Sweethearts: a Novel. New York: Little, Brown and, 2008. Print. ISBN: 0-316-01455-7

Growing up, Jennifer Harris had it very tough. She was an outcast from a young age, with no friends and little support at home. Then she met Cameron Quick. An outcast himself, Cameron and Jennifer became best friends. Jennifer knew that Cameron’s home life was scary, but she also knew that he would also be there for her...until he wasn’t. Disappearing from her life altogether, Jennifer had to put the pieces of her life back together. Now known as Jenna, Cameron has reentered her life eight years after he left it. Jenna, not an outcast anymore, starts have feelings that she has not experienced in years. Jenna says, “I think about how there are certain people who come into your life, and leave a mark. I am talking about the ones who, for whatever reason, are as much a part of you as your own soul.”

As readers take in Sweethearts, each of them will see a part of themselves in Jenna and Cameron. All of us, at one point and time or another, has felt like the outcast. That is the part of our hearts that goes out to Jennifer and Cameron, and then to “Jenna” as she tries to not let "Jennifer" take back over her life. By being set in Utah and Cameron and Jenna NOT being Mormon, there was already a layer of being an outcast just through the setting. When Cameron comes back, the first thing that comes to mind is that a romance is going to start between the two, but that is not what is important in this story...even if the title is Sweethearts. As the book goes on, you realize that forgiveness is much more important, as well as being true to yourself. “Through Jenna’s matter-of-fact first-person narrative, she conveys great delicacy of feeling and shades of meaning, and the realistic, moving ending will inspire excellent discussion,” is what Booklist starred review had to say. “The main characters, and their unique bond, are well drawn and believable. Jenna struggles to see the child she was more clearly, to find a way to integrate her past into her present and to work toward self-acceptance. Despite its title, Sweethearts is not saccharine; it is substantial,” School Library Journal agreed. All in all, Sweethearts is the perfect read for students who are trying to find themselves.

This book would be perfect to use in library book club. Girls struggle with accepting themselves will find a refreshing look on things though Sweethearts. Discussions about self-image, bullying, home life, and friendship could be talked about for many sessions.

Krippner, Leah. "Sweethearts." School Library Journal (2008). Title Wave. Follett Library Resources, 2008. Web. 25 Sept. 2010.

"Sweethearts." Booklist 104.9 (2008). Title Wave. Follett Library Resources, 2008. Web. 25 Sept. 2010.

Module 2: Angus, Thongs, and Full-Frontal Snogging by Louise Rennison

Rennison, Louise. Angus, Thongs and Full-frontal Snogging: Confessions of Georgia Nicolson. New York: Harper Collins Publishers, 2000. Print. ISBN: 0-06-028871-X

Georgia Nicolson is just a normal teenager growing up in England. Her thoughts consist of boys, school, boys, friendship, snogging, and snogging boys. Her parents are not ready for her to grown up, but Georgia is trying to get there as fast as she can. All she wants is Robbie (a.k.a Sex God) to snog her, her cat, Angus, to stop trying to kill the poodle next door, and her parents to act normal. As she frustratingly states, “I am fourteen years old, Uncle Eddie! I am bursting with womanhood, I wear a bra. OK, it’s a bit on the loose side and does ride up round my neck if I run for the bus... but the womanly potential is there, you bald coot!” Written as a year-long journal of her life, Angus, Thongs, and Full-frontal Snogging shows the readers how hard it is to be a teenager these days.

As the reader moves through a year in Georgia’s life, your heart goes out to this young girl just trying to grown up. Although sometimes confusing with the British language, Louise Rennison made sure that all readers would understand the jargon by putting a glossary, with witty definitions, in the back. Throughout the book are well-written secondary characters that add depth to the story. From her crazy cat Angus to her best friend Jaz, Georgia’s life is never dull. By having the book set in England, readers get a chance to observe a teenager growing up in a different part of the world. Although the problems in this book seem trivial to adults, Georgia is in the midst of growing up, and that in itself is not trivial. In a Booklist starred review, it stated “This "fabbity, fab, fab" novel will leave readers cheering, "Long live the teen!" and anxiously awaiting the promised sequel.” This Michael L. Printz award winner is bound to be a hit with teenage girls desperately trying to grow up.

This book contains a glossary with explanation for some of the terms that Georgia uses. Using this as an example, students could write their own glossary focused on what they say and what it means. They could add to it all year, then compare what they were saying back then to what they are saying now.

"Angus, Thongs, and Full-Frontal Snogging." Booklist 96.21 (2000). Title Wave. Follett Library Resources, Inc., 2000. Web. 25 Sept. 2010. .

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Module 1: The First Part Last by Angela Johnson

Johnson, Angela. The First Part Last. New York: Simon & Schuster for Young Readers, 2003. Print.

“And this is how I turned sixteen…”
Bobby's life has just been turned upside-down with one phrase by his girlfriend..."I am pregnant.". At sixteen, he will become a dad and he will have to do everything on his own. Hanging out with friends, going wherever he wants, and even school are made so much harder when he takes Feather home from the hospital.

Written in alternating chapters of “Now” and “Then”, The First Part Last takes us through teenage pregnancy from the father's point of view. Written by Angela Johnson, this Michael L. Printz award winner takes us through a boy having to become a man overnight. What is most beautifully captured is the love that Bobby shows for Feather. From day one, he is willing to do anything for her, and that sacrifice jumps off the page at the reader. School Library Journal says, “Scenes in which Bobby expresses his love for his daughter are breathtaking.” This book will touch the heart of readers.

With this book being so short, it would be a great read aloud. Then split the students up. One side will get the mother perspective and the other side will get father’s perspective. The debate will be who has it harder, the mother or the father. I think by doing this with the support of The First Part Last, the students will be able to see what a complex situation teen pregnancy is.

(Book cover was found at

Doyle, Miranda. "The First Part Last." School Library Journal (2003). Title Wave. Follett Library Resources, Inc., 2003. Web. 12 Sept. 2010. .

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Module 1: Copper Sun By: Sharon Draper

Draper, Sharon M. Copper Sun. New York: Atheneum for Young Readers, 2006. Print. ISBN: 0-689-821821-6

“Find strength from within.” This is what Amari must chant within herself as her life becomes a nightmare. It is 1738. Amari is a young girl from a remote village in Africa. When a group of men with “skin the color of goat’s milk” enter the village, they are welcomed with open arms. However, these men have come for one thing…the strongest of the tribe and to kill the rest. As Amari is led to the coast, she is beaten, branded, and her pride is gone. Forced to board a slave ship headed for America, the horrors she encounters are burned into her soul forever. Once in America, she is sold to a plantation owner in the Carolinas where she thinks that she will be safer until she finds out she was bought as a present for the owner’s son. Here she meets Polly, a white indentured servant, who finds herself in as much danger as Amari. As a friendship blossoms between them, they find themselves on the run, trying to get something they will die for… freedom.

Copper Sun takes the reader from an African village to a slave ship to America and finally to freedom. Sharon Draper has taken an incomprehensible time in American history, and created a story where students actually feel like they are Amari. The reader can feel every touch, emotion, and heartache that Amari goes through. By trading point of view between Amari and Polly, the reader gets a feel for how it was to be an indentured servant with conflicting feelings about slavery and to be an actual slave. Sharon Draper starts the book of with an author’s note that states, “I am the granddaughter of a slave.” From that moment on, the reader is hooked. A 2006 starred review from Booklist states that, “Draper builds the explosive tension to the last chapter, and the sheer power of the story, balanced between the overwhelmingly brutal facts of slavery and Amari's ferocious survivor's spirit, will leave readers breathless, even as they consider the story's larger questions about the infinite costs of slavery and how to reconcile history.” Through vivid scenes and gritty language, Copper Sun is surely a book that no reader will ever forget.

In a School Library Journal review, it says “As readers embrace Amari and Polly, they will better understand the impact of human exploitation and suffering throughout history. In addition, they will gain a deeper knowledge of slavery, indentured servitude, and 18th-century sanctuaries for runaway slaves.” With this much knowledge found in one place, students could read this as a part of their 8th grade history curriculum. Much of the information found in this book could be used to compare knowledge the students already have. Great discussions could also come out of this book. Classroom debates about right and wrong, and forgiveness would help students fully grasp the literature.

(Book cover was found on

"Copper Sun." Booklist 102.11 (2006). Title Wave. Follett Library Resources, Inc., 2006. Web. 10 Sept. 2010. .

Larson, Gerry. "Copper Sun." School Library Journal (2006). Title Wave. Folett Library Resources, Jan. 2006. Web. 10 Sept. 2010. .

Module 1: Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls

Rawls, Wilson. Where the Red Fern Grows: the Story of Two Dogs and a Boy. New York: Delacorte, 1961. Print. ISBN: 0-385-32330-1

“I suppose there’s a time in practically every young boy’s life when he’s affected by that wonderful disease of puppy love.” And puppy love is what Billy has. Where the Red Fern Grows is about a young boy who is determined to get a pair of hunting hounds. After many road blocks, Billy finally earns enough money to get his hounds, Old Dan and Little Ann. The boy and his dogs are inseparable while they are chasing “coons”. From getting caught in a blizzard to catching a mountain lion, Bill and his dogs are up for any adventure This is truly a story about a boy and man’s best friend... or friends in this case.

Wilson Rawls has taken what could have been a copy of “Old Yeller”, and created a classic tale that people will always remember. Each chapter takes Billy and his hounds on a new adventure, and Rawls wrote this novel in such a way the reader is walking right along through the Ozarks with the trio. Anyone who reads this book will experience every joy and every heartbreak right along with Billy. School Library Journal states, “An exciting tale of love and adventure you'll never forget." A Stafford Middle School student said, "This book had half the class crying...I do not just mean the girls." Any book that can have students feeling the heartbreak with the character is a must-have in every curriculum.

One of the strongest parts of this book is characters. Students could group together and each get a character to analyze. They would look at the different methods of characterization, focusing on Speech, What Others Say, and Action. At the end of the book, students could discuss the them of the book. The students could also compare a relationship they have to the relationship between Billy and his dogs.

(Book cover found at

"Where the Red Fern Grows." School Library Journal. Amazon. Web. 07 Sept. 2010. .