Tag Archives: conduct of life

Tradition by Brendan Kiely

Tradition by Brandan Kiely. May 1, 2018. Margaret K. McElderry Books, 352 p. ISBN: 9781481480345.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 710.

Prestigious. Powerful. Privileged. This is Fullbrook Academy, an elite prep school where history looms in the leafy branches over its brick walkways. But some traditions upheld in its hallowed halls are profoundly dangerous.

Jules Devereux just wants to keep her head down, avoid distractions, and get into the right college, so she can leave Fullbrook and its old-boy social codes behind. She wants freedom, but ex-boyfriends and ex-best friends are determined to keep her in place.

Jamie Baxter feels like an imposter at Fullbrook, but the hockey scholarship that got him in has given him a chance to escape his past and fulfill the dreams of his parents and coaches, whose mantra rings in his ears: Don’t disappoint us.

When Jamie and Jules meet, they recognize in each other a similar instinct for survival, but at a school where girls in the student handbook are rated by their looks, athletes stack hockey pucks in dorm room windows like notches on a bedpost, and school-sponsored dances push first year girls out into the night with senior boys, the stakes for safe sex, real love, and true friendship couldn’t be higher.

As Jules and Jamie’s lives intertwine, and the pressures to play by the rules and remain silent about the school’s secrets intensify, they see Fullbrook for what it really is. That tradition, a word Fullbrook hides behind, can be ugly, even violent. Ultimately, Jules and Jamie are faced with the difficult question: can they stand together against classmates—and an institution—who believe they can do no wrong?

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Strong language, Violence, Strong sexual themes, Drugs, Underage drinking, Smoking, Discussions of rape

 

Author Interview

Reviews

Booklist (February 15, 2018 (Vol. 114, No. 12))
Grades 9-12. Meet two teens who become friends at a misogynistic, patriarchal private school, even as they are both drowning in secrets. Jamie Baxter, a football-player-turned-hockey-player, needs to keep it together for one last year or else miss his last shot at a scholarship. Meanwhile, Jules Devereux is trying to be a bold feminist in a school where girls are told to “not make a scene.” Their secrets spill out when a teen party goes horribly wrong, and Jamie has to decide if he will support Jules in her time of need, thereby breaking a long-standing tradition of silence. Kiely bravely explores rape culture and how it intersects with class and privilege, along the way making his characters speak to those in privileged positions “in a language they cannot ignore.” Kiely, coauthor with Jason Reynolds of All American Boys (2015), takes on an important, sensitive topic that should help connect readers to burgeoning social-justice movements; readers will find themselves rooting for the world not as it is, but as it might yet be.

Kirkus Reviews (March 1, 2018)
A prestigious prep school enforces toxic masculinity.James Baxter is a scholarship kid intent on keeping his head down and not rocking the boat at highly acclaimed Fullbrook Academy. Meanwhile, Jules Devereux doesn’t mind ruffling feathers if it means changing a few minds. Together, the high school seniors unearth a vile, sexist ritual and the accompanying rot that has spread throughout Fullbrook’s culture. As Jules discovers her agency, James learns the first rule of being an ally: actively listening. The author’s plotting is loose, resulting in a novel that winds here and there, eschewing forward thrust in favor of a true exploration of the social dynamics at play. The novel avoids sermonizing, embedding themes in character arcs so well that every feminist argument emerges as a natural part of the story. Readers will find many aspects of the real world reflected in Fullbrook’s campus, beginning with institutions that have turned a blind eye to questionable and sordid practices because that’s the way things have always been done. As more organizations are subjected to scrutiny, this novel is a timely road map for those looking to find their places in this rapidly changing world. All major characters are white. A thoughtfully crafted argument for feminism and allyship. (Fiction. 12-16)

About the Author

Brendan Kiely received an MFA in creative writing from The City College of New York. His writing has appeared in Fiction, Guernica, The AWP Writer’s Chronicle, and other publications. Originally from the Boston area, he now teaches at an independent high school and lives with his wife in Greenwich Village.

His website is www.brendankiely.com

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Tradition Reading Guide

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Amal Unbound by Aisha Saeed

Amal Unbound by Aisha Saeed. May 8, 2018. Nancy Paulsen Books, 240 p. ISBN: 9780399544682.  Int Lvl: 5-8; Rdg Lvl: 6.9; Lexile: 600.

Life is quiet and ordinary in Amal’s Pakistani village, but she had no complaints, and besides, she’s busy pursuing her dream of becoming a teacher one day. Her dreams are temporarily dashed when–as the eldest daughter–she must stay home from school to take care of her siblings. Amal is upset, but she doesn’t lose hope and finds ways to continue learning. Then the unimaginable happens–after an accidental run-in with the son of her village’s corrupt landlord, Amal must work as his family’s servant to pay off her own family’s debt.

Life at the opulent Khan estate is full of heartbreak and struggle for Amal–especially when she inadvertently makes an enemy of a girl named Nabila. Most troubling, though, is Amal’s growing awareness of the Khans’ nefarious dealings. When it becomes clear just how far they will go to protect their interests, Amal realizes she will have to find a way to work with others if they are ever to exact change in a cruel status quo, and if Amal is ever to achieve her dreams.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Violence

 

Book Talk

Reviews

Booklist (April 1, 2018 (Vol. 114, No. 15))
Grades 4-6. Pakistani Amal loves going to school and looks forward to becoming a teacher in the future. She only becomes aware of nuances in gender roles and the lack of opportunities afforded to girls after her father tells her that she must take care of the household while her mother recovers from childbirth. Amal hopes to continue her schooling once her mother is well, but that goal drifts further away when an accidental encounter lands her in a humongous heap of trouble. In order to spare her family from incurring further wrath and unfair consequences, Amal becomes an indentured servant to the odious Khan family. Readers will find that a little perseverance and a heart filled with hope can eventually surmount a harsh reality. Saeed fills her prose with lush descriptions of Pakistani life, while still managing to connect with readers whose surroundings and experiences will be starkly different. Hand to any reader who struggles with definitive gender roles, norms, and expectations held in place by societal structures.

Publishers Weekly (March 12, 2018)
Saeed (Written in the Stars) infuses this true-to-life story of unjust power dynamics in a poor Pakistani village with a palpable sense of dread regarding the fate of the inquisitive, industrious, poetry-loving titular character. Twelve-year-old Amal is troubled by her parents’ obvious distress that her newborn sibling is yet another girl, and she is vexed that her responsibilities as eldest daughter require her to run the household while her mother is bedridden. Amal unleashes her frustration on the wrong person when she talks back to Jawad Sahib, the wealthy landowner, who demands she work off her debt for the insult . Amal’s experience navigating an unfamiliar social hierarchy in the landlord’s lavish estate exposes her to pervasive gender inequities and unfair labor practices, like being charged for room and board but receiving no pay. While her growing indebtedness makes it unlikely she will ever leave, Amal’s ability to read grants her a dangerous opportunity to expose the landlord’s extensive corruption, if she dares. Saeed’s eloquent, suspenseful, eye-opening tale offers a window into the contemporary practice of indentured servitude and makes a compelling case for the power of girls’ education to transform systemic injustice. Ages 10-up

About the Author

Aisha Saeed also wrote Written in the Stars, and is a Pakistani-American writer, teacher, and attorney. She has been featured on MTV, the Huffington Post, NBC and the BBC, and her writings have appeared in publications including the journal ALAN and the Orlando Sentinel. As one of the founding members of the much talked about We Need Diverse Books Campaign, she is helping change the conversation about diverse books. Aisha lives in Atlanta, Georgia, with her husband and sons.

Her website is www.aishasaeed.com

Teacher Resources

Amal Unbound Teacher’s Guide

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Amal Unbound on Amazon

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La Fosa del Lobo (Wolf Hollow) by Lauren Wolk

La Fosa del Lobo (Wolf Hollow) by Lauren Wolk. May 1, 2018. Loqueleo, 280 p. ISBN: 9786070134272.  Int Lvl: 5-8.

Growing up in the shadows cast by two world wars, Annabelle has lived a mostly quiet, steady life in her small Pennsylvania town. Until the day new student Betty Glengarry walks into her class. Betty quickly reveals herself to be cruel and manipulative, and while her bullying seems isolated at first, things quickly escalate, and reclusive World War I veteran Toby becomes a target of her attacks. While others have always seen Toby’s strangeness, Annabelle knows only kindness. She will soon need to find the courage to stand as a lone voice of justice as tensions mount.

Spanish translation of: Wolf Hollow

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Bullying with the intent to do physical harm, Cruelty to animals, Anti-German sentiments during World War II, Frank descriptions of the harsh realities of war, Frank description of an injury, Death

 

Reviews

Booklist starred (March 15, 2016 (Vol. 112, No. 14))
Grades 5-8. Eleven-year-old Annabelle is living a relatively idyllic life on her family’s Pennsylvania farm, until its normalcy is interrupted by Betty Glengarry, who has been sent to live with her grandparents because she is “incorrigible.” Betty’s sullen presence quickly upsets the one-room school’s traditional pecking order, and Annabelle and her younger brothers are Betty’s favorite targets—until Annabelle stands up to her. Not to be outdone, Betty shifts her attention to Toby, a strange WWI veteran already saddled with a dubious reputation within the community. Wolk conjures an aura of unease and dread from the first chapter, even as her pastoral setting and Annabelle’s sunny family life seem to suggest that a happy ending is possible. The spare but hauntingly beautiful language paints every early morning walk to school, household chore, emotion, and rational and irrational thought in exquisite detail, while remaining true to Annabelle’s early-adolescent voice. Her craft notwithstanding, Wolk is relentless in her message: lies and secrets, even for the most noble of reasons, have unintended consequences, as Annabelle’s poignant dilemma reminds us long after the last page is turned. Perfectly pitched to be used in classrooms in conjunction with To Kill a Mockingbird.

Kirkus Reviews starred (February 15, 2016)
Evil comes to rural Pennsylvania in an unlikely guise in this novel of the American homefront during World War II. Twelve-year-old Annabelle’s coming-of-age begins when newcomer Betty Glengarry, newly arrived from the city to stay with her grandparents “because she was incorrigible,” shakes her down for spare change in Wolf Hollow on the way to school. Betty’s crimes quickly escalate into shocking violence, but the adults won’t believe the sweet-looking blonde girl could be responsible and settle their suspicions on Toby, an unkempt World War I veteran who stalks the hills carrying not one, but three guns. Annabelle’s strategies for managing a situation she can’t fully understand are thoroughly, believably childlike, as is her single-minded faith in Betty’s guilt and Toby’s innocence. But her childlike faith implicates her in a dark and dangerous mystery that propels her into the adult world of moral gray spaces. Wolk builds her story deliberately through Annabelle’s past-tense narration in language that makes no compromises but is yet perfectly simple: “Back then, I didn’t know a word to describe Betty properly or what to call the thing that set her apart from the other children in that school.” She realizes her setting with gorgeous immediacy, introducing the culture of this all-white world of hollows, hills, and neighbors with confidence and cleareyed affection. Trusting its readers implicitly with its moral complexity, Wolk’s novel stuns. (Historical fiction. 9-13)

About the Author

Lauren Wolk is an award-winning poet and author of the bestselling Newbery Honor–winning Wolf Hollow, described by the New York Times Book Review as “full of grace and stark, brutal beauty.” She was born in Baltimore and has since lived in California, Rhode Island, Minnesota, Canada, and Ohio. She now lives with her family on Cape Cod.
Her website is www.laurenwolk.com

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La Fosa del Lobo on Amazon

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Troublemakers by Catherine Barter

Troublemakers by Catherine Barter. April 1, 2018. Carolhoda Books, 360 p. ISBN: 9781512475494.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 760.

When she was three, Alena’s activist mother died. She’s been raised by her half-brother and his boyfriend in East London, which is being targeted by a lone bomber. Alena desperately wants to know about her mother, but her brother won’t tell her anything.

Alena’s played by the rules all her life, but that’s over. When she starts digging up information herself and does something that costs her brother his job and puts the family in jeopardy, Alena discovers she can be a troublemaker–just like her mother.

Now she must figure out what sort of trouble she’s willing to get into to find out the truth.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Strong language, Discrimination, Underage drinking

 

Reviews

Booklist (March 1, 2018 (Vol. 114, No. 13))
Grades 8-11. Alena has lived with her brother, Danny, since she was three. She knows he and his boyfriend share secrets about Alena and Danny’s mother’s troubled life. But every time Lena tries to talk to Danny about it, he shuts her down. At 15, Lena feels old enough to handle the truth, and if Danny won’t give it to her, well, she’ll start making trouble herself by trying to dig up the real story. Her two friends, Ollie and Tegan, will be there to help her through the triumphs and sorrows that soon come, as Lena tries to navigate her confusing past and uncertain future with a frightening present—an unknown person called the East End Bomber is terrorizing her area of London. Barter’s debut displays impressive skill and authenticity in relating issues of family secrets and grief. Readers will connect with Lena on her dramatic, heartrending journey as she begins to suss out the ambiguity of other people’s choices and fateful decisions that happened long before she was born.

Kirkus Reviews starred (February 15, 2018)
A 15-year-old London girl struggles with family tensions against a backdrop of bombings, crime, and political skulduggery.Lena, whose mum died when she was only 3, has been lovingly raised by her brother, Danny (20 years her senior), and his partner, Nick. But Danny’s just gotten a job working for a law-and-order political candidate, and now there’s constant tension at home. There’s a bomber attacking East London supermarkets, and Danny’s boss—in statements Danny wrote for him—uses anti-crime language that Nick, who runs a hippie coffee shop that displays anti-establishment leaflets, despises. As the couple decide to separate to ease the tension in their relationship, Lena becomes increasingly curious about the mother she doesn’t remember, further infuriating her brother. Why is Danny so hostile toward their mother’s old friends? Real life is messy, Lena learns. As well as that: You don’t have to be political to be moral; good people sometimes do rotten things; doing right sometimes hurts the wrong people; and you don’t always get cinematic closure with the secrets of your past. Several secondary characters represent the multiculturalism of modern London; Lena and her family are assumed white. Amid a thoroughly contemporary story about terrorism, email leaks, and a divisive political climate, Lena’s coming-of-age is wonderfully individual and heartbreakingly real. (Realistic fiction. 12-16)

About the Author

Catherine Barter grew up in Warwickshire, and then lived in Norwich for ten years, where she worked in a library, a bookshop, and for an organisation campaigning for the rights of garment workers. After gaining a PhD in American literature, she ditched academia for the lucrative world of independent bookselling. Currently she lives in East London and co-manages Housmans, a radical independent bookshop in King’s Cross.

Her website is catherine-barter.com

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Hope Nation edited by Rose Brock

Hope Nation: YA Authors Share Personal Moments of Inspiration edited by Rose Brock. February 27, 2018. Philomel Books, 304 p. ISBN: 9781524741679.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 940.

Hope is a decision, but it is a hard one to recognize in the face of oppression, belittlement, alienation, and defeat. To help embolden hope, here is a powerhouse collection of essays and personal stories that speak directly to teens and all YA readers. Featuring Angie Thomas, Marie Lu, Nicola Yoon, David Levithan, Libba Bray, Jason Reynolds, Renée Ahdieh, and many more!

“The hope of a secure and livable world lies with disciplined nonconformists who are dedicated to justice, peace and brotherhood.”–Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.

We all experience moments when we struggle to understand the state of the world, when we feel powerless and–in some cases–even hopeless. The teens of today are the caretakers of tomorrow, and yet it’s difficult for many to find joy or comfort in such a turbulent society. But in trying times, words are power.

Some of today’s most influential young adult authors come together in this highly personal collection of essays and original stories that offer moments of light in the darkness, and show that hope is a decision we all can make.

Like a modern day Chicken Soup for the Teenage Soul or Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff for TeensHope Nation acknowledges the pain and offers words of encouragement.

Authors include: Atia Abawi, Renee Ahdieh, Libba Bray, Howard Bryant, Ally Carter, Ally Condie, Christina Diaz Gonzales, Gayle Forman, Romina Garber, I. W. Gregario, Kate Hart, Bendan Kiely, David Levithan, Alex London, Marie Lu, Julie Murphy, Jason Reynolds, Aisha Saeed, Nic Stone, Angie Thomas, Jenny Torres Sanchez, Jeff Zentner, and Nicola Yoon.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Strong language, Violence, Drugs, Alcohol, Clinical discussion of genitalia by a urologist

 

Reviews

Booklist starred (April 15, 2018 (Vol. 114, No. 16))
Grades 9-12. Hope is something many people struggle to understand, much less achieve, and teens are no exception. In this anthology of 21 essays, 1 short story, and 1 conversation, 24 YA authors pour their deepest emotions into a variety of interpretations of hope. Many write about survival in the current political climate. Others address marginalization or speak to being overwhelmed by a variety of internal and external influences. David Levithan reveals his feelings about today’s politics via a short-short story set at a march complete with pussy hats. Libba Bray shares a harrowing account of the car accident that left her with a prosthetic eye. Atia Abawi opens up about the prejudice she faced while working to become a TV news reporter. Romina Garber’s essay talks about the immigrant experience, perceived pressures, sacrifices, and labels. These and the other 20 authors come from diverse backgrounds that span race, religion, economic class, family makeup and stability, experience, age, country of birth, and sexual orientation. Yet they all overcame obstacles to their dreams through hope. Attitudes and tone differ from one piece to the next, but the essential point is that “hope is a decision,” and one that requires work. This amazing outpouring of strength and honesty offers inspirational personal accounts for every reader who wonders what to do when everything seems impossible.

Kirkus Reviews (March 1, 2018)
Hope Nation brings together 24 top young adult authors who share personal essays about hope. Their audience is teenagers, but this collection is a treasure trove of wisdom for older readers too. It achieves this with stories from a wide array of perspectives and diverse identities: the struggles of being Muslim in a post–9/11 world as described by Aisha Saeed, the complex constrictions of life in the closet made plain by Alex London, and the terrifying anxieties of being black in contemporary America by Nic Stone, among others. Even if these authors’ stories do not exactly mirror each of their readers’, together they open the door to an investigation of what hope means. Although it can mean different things and present itself in innumerable ways, the underlying message of this anthology is that it is important to cling to hope: Use hope as a flashlight, a mantra, a walking stick, a tool for every circumstance life throws at human beings. This work comes at a crucial time, as many people struggle to find hope in a confusing and disappointing world. A salve when days are bleak. (Nonfiction anthology. 14-adult)

About the Editor

Dr. Rose Brock is a twenty-year veteran professor who has dedicated her career to turning teens into book lovers. Building relationships with readers through books is her superpower. In addition to her career as a librarian and educator, Dr. Brock is also very involved in helping to organize the North Texas Teen Book Festival, a one-day event, which hosts sixty authors and has an impressive annual attendance of over 3,500 teens and tweens. She also serves as a team leader of the International Literacy Association’s Young Adults’ Choices project, which empowers teens to read and select the best books of the year. Dr. Brock was named by the Texas Library Association as the recipient of the Siddie Joe Johnson Award, an award given by the Children’s Round Table to a librarian who demonstrates outstanding library service to children.

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Hope Nation on Amazon

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Hope Nation Publisher Page

Rookie on Love by Tavi Gevinson

Rookie on Love edited by Tavi Gevinson. January 2, 2018. Razorbill, 288 p. ISBN: 9780448493992.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 1010.

A single-subject anthology about the heart’s most powerful emotion, edited by Tavi Gevinson. Featuring exclusive, never-before-seen essays, poems, comics, and interviews from contributors like Jenny Zhang, Emma Straub, Hilton Als, Janet Mock, John Green, Rainbow Rowell, Gabourey Sidibe, Mitski, Alessia Cara, Etgar Keret, Margo Jefferson, Sarah Manguso, Durga Chew-Bose, and many more!

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Strong language, Strong sexual themes, Underage drinking, Smoking

 

Reviews

Booklist (January 1, 2018 (Vol. 114, No. 9))
Grades 9-12. Seeking to expand their presence, the online magazine Rookie has devoted all-new content to this print edition. Wanting a subject that would be “totes chill, v. simple, and easy to understand,” they, tongue in cheek, went with love. The result of the open-ended prompt is this anthology of short stories, essays, poetry, interviews, comics, and more by “teens of all ages.” The contributors, diverse in race and sexual orientation, range from current teens to adults who vividly remember their teen years, including a few celebrities such as Gabourey Sidibe and Rainbow Rowell. As one would expect on the topic of love, there are pieces on first love, romance, unrequited love, and breaking up, while other pieces address intimacy, sisterly love, friendship, and even our love of dogs. The overarching and most powerful theme, however, is self-love. The writers aren’t talking narcissism, but the self-respect that goes into a healthy relationship. Each voice lends itself to universal truths about love, sometimes in no-holds-barred language, making this a good choice for YA and new adult collections.

Kirkus Reviews starred (January 1, 2018)
Curated from Rookie, an online magazine dedicated to teens and founded in 2011 by a then-15-year-old Gevinson, this anthology offers tales of love from 45 different, diverse voices.Janet Mock professes unrequited love as a transgender girl of color who has an intense crush on the boy who lives two doors down from her. White writer Emma Straub describes the love affair she has with stories and how literature has been the soundtrack to her life, influencing her personal choices as well as her approach to writing. A delightful chapter, “Binary Planets Writing,” chronicles the relationship of black sisters Ogechi and Ugochi Egonu, growing together and then apart, showing that the love that exists within twinship doesn’t always mean sameness. Queer artist Sunny Betz offers a three-page comic about finally meeting an online friend in person when they decide to hit the road to see their favorite band. In “Karma,” African-American actress Gabourey Sidibe crafts a confessional of how, when true love escaped her at a young age, she chose to use her partners to get the attention and affection she felt she needed with a boomerang effect that she feels has led to her current lonely, single status. Containing poetry, essays, interviews, graphic short stories, and fiction, covering doggie love, Arthurian love, and grandmother love, the book offers a niche of love that all women can connect to. A thoughtful, light read celebrating a universal emotion. (Anthology. 12-18)

About the Editor

Tavi Gevinson is an American writer, magazine editor, actress and singer. Raised in Oak Park, Illinois, Gevinson came to public attention at the age of twelve because of her fashion blog Style Rookie. By the age of fifteen, she had shifted her focus to pop culture and feminist discussion. Gevinson is the founder and editor-in-chief of the online Rookie Magazine, aimed primarily at teenage girls. In both 2011 and 2012, she appeared on the Forbes 30 Under 30 in Media list.

Teacher Resources

Rookie Magazine

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Rookie on Love on Amazon

Rookie on Love on Goodreads

Rookie on Love Publisher Page

Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds

Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds. October 24, 2017. Atheneum/Caitlyn Dlouhy Books, 320 p. ISBN: 9781481438254.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 720.

A cannon. A strap.
A piece. A biscuit.
A burner. A heater.
A chopper. A gat.
A hammer
A tool
for RULE

Or, you can call it a gun. That’s what fifteen-year-old Will has shoved in the back waistband of his jeans. See, his brother Shawn was just murdered. And Will knows the rules. No crying. No snitching. Revenge. That’s where Will’s now heading, with that gun shoved in the back waistband of his jeans, the gun that was his brother’s gun. He gets on the elevator, seventh floor, stoked. He knows who he’s after. Or does he? As the elevator stops on the sixth floor, on comes Buck. Buck, Will finds out, is who gave Shawn the gun before Will took the gun. Buck tells Will to check that the gun is even loaded. And that’s when Will sees that one bullet is missing. And the only one who could have fired Shawn’s gun was Shawn. Huh. Will didn’t know that Shawn had ever actually USED his gun. Bigger huh. BUCK IS DEAD. But Buck’s in the elevator? Just as Will’s trying to think this through, the door to the next floor opens. A teenage girl gets on, waves away the smoke from Dead Buck’s cigarette. Will doesn’t know her, but she knew him. Knew. When they were eight. And stray bullets had cut through the playground, and Will had tried to cover her, but she was hit anyway, and so what she wants to know, on that fifth floor elevator stop, is, what if Will, Will with the gun shoved in the back waistband of his jeans, MISSES.

And so it goes, the whole long way down, as the elevator stops on each floor, and at each stop someone connected to his brother gets on to give Will a piece to a bigger story than the one he thinks he knows. A story that might never know an END…if WILL gets off that elevator.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Strong language, Smoking, Gun violence

 

Video Reviews

Reviews

Booklist starred (July 2017 (Vol. 113, No. 21))
Grades 7-12. Spanning a mere one minute and seven seconds, Reynolds’ new free-verse novel is an intense snapshot of the chain reaction caused by pulling a trigger. First, 15-year-old Will Holloman sets the scene by relating his brother Shawn’s murder two days prior—gunned down while buying soap for their mother. Next, he lays out The Rules: don’t cry, don’t snitch, always get revenge. Now that the reader is up to speed, Will tucks Shawn’s gun into his waistband and steps into an elevator, steeled to execute rule number three and shoot his brother’s killer. Yet, the simple seven-floor descent becomes a revelatory trip. At each floor, the doors open to admit someone killed by the same cycle of violence that Will’s about to enter. He’s properly freaked out, but as the seconds tick by and floors count down, each new occupant drops some knowledge and pushes Will to examine his plans for that gun. Reynolds’ concise verses echo like shots against the white space of the page, their impact resounding. He peels back the individual stories that led to this moment in the elevator and exposes a culture inured to violence because poverty, gang life, or injustice has left them with no other option. In this all-too-real portrait of survival, Reynolds goes toe-to-toe with where, or even if, love and choice are allowed to exist.

Kirkus Reviews starred (July 15, 2017)
After 15-year-old Will sees his older brother, Shawn, gunned down on the streets, he sets out to do the expected: the rules dictate no crying, no snitching, and revenge. Though the African-American teen has never held one, Will leaves his apartment with his brother’s gun tucked in his waistband. As he travels down on the elevator, the door opens on certain floors, and Will is confronted with a different figure from his past, each a victim of gun violence, each important in his life. They also force Will to face the questions he has about his plan. As each “ghost” speaks, Will realizes how much of his own story has been unknown to him and how intricately woven they are. Told in free-verse poems, this is a raw, powerful, and emotional depiction of urban violence. The structure of the novel heightens the tension, as each stop of the elevator brings a new challenge until the narrative arrives at its taut, ambiguous ending. There is considerable symbolism, including the 15 bullets in the gun and the way the elevator rules parallel street rules. Reynolds masterfully weaves in textured glimpses of the supporting characters. Throughout, readers get a vivid picture of Will and the people in his life, all trying to cope with the circumstances of their environment while expressing the love, uncertainty, and hope that all humans share. This astonishing book will generate much needed discussion. (Verse fiction. 12-adult)

About the Author

After earning a BA in English from The University of Maryland, College Park, he moved to Brooklyn, New York, where you can often find him walking the four blocks from the train to his apartment talking to himself. Well, not really talking to himself, but just repeating character names and plot lines he thought of on the train, over and over again, because he’s afraid he’ll forget it all before he gets home. His website is www.jasonwritesbooks.com.

Teacher Resources

Long Way Down Reading Group Guide

Around the Web

Long Way Down on Amazon

Long Way Down on Goodreads

Long Way Down Publisher Page

Touchdown Kid by Tim Green

Touchdown Kid by Tim Green. October 3, 2017. HarperCollins, 320 p. ISBN: 9780062293855.  Int Lvl: 5-8; Rdg Lvl: 6.0.

Cory has always been passionate about football. But life for him and his single mom has been hard, making it difficult for Cory to play. And though Cory is a good kid, he’s constantly surrounded by negative influences. But when the coach from an elite private school with one of the best football programs in the country recognizes his talents on the field, Cory is presented with an unbelievable opportunity.

Cory knows that football could be his ticket out. But leaving to attend private school also means struggling to fit into a world where most people look at him and just see a scholarship kid from the wrong side of town. Cory knows that if he can fight hard enough—both on and off the field—he may be able to secure a bright future that looks different from his unpromising past.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Discrimination; Classism

 

About the Author

Tim Green, for many years a star defensive end with the Atlanta Falcons, is a man of many talents. He’s the author of such gripping books for adults as the New York Times bestselling The Dark Side of the Game and a dozen suspense novels, including Exact Revenge and Kingdom Come. Tim graduated covaledictorian from Syracuse University and was a first-round NFL draft pick. He later earned his law degree with honors. Tim has worked as an NFL analyst for FOX Sports and as an NFL commentator for National Public Radio, among other broadcast experience.

He lives with his wife, Illyssa, and their five children in upstate New York.  His website is timgreenbooks.com

 

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Touchdown Kid on Amazon

Touchdown Kid on Goodreads

Touchdown Kid on JLG

Touchdown Kid Publisher Page

The Playbook by Kwame Alexander

The Playbook: 52 Rules to Aim, Shoot, and Score in This Game Called Life by Kwame Alexander. February 14, 2017. HMH Books for Young Readers, 176 p. ISBN: 9780544570979.  Int Lvl: 5-8; Rdg Lvl: 6.7; Lexile: 970.

You gotta know the rules to play the game. Ball is life. Take it to the hoop. Soar. What can we imagine for our lives? What if we were the star players, moving and grooving through the game of life? What if we had our own rules of the game to help us get what we want, what we aspire to, what will enrich our lives?

Illustrated with photographs by Thai Neave, The Playbook is intended to provide inspiration on the court of life. Each rule contains wisdom from inspiring athletes and role models such as Nelson Mandela, Serena Williams, LeBron James, Carli Lloyd, Steph Curry and Michelle Obama. Kwame Alexander also provides his own poetic and uplifting words, as he shares stories of overcoming obstacles and winning games in this motivational and inspirational book just right for graduates of any age and anyone needing a little encouragement.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: None

 

Book Trailer/Music Video

Reviews

Booklist (January 1, 2017 (Vol. 113, No. 9))
Grades 7-10. Alexander uses sports as a metaphor for life in this earnest gathering of personal reminiscences. “I was tall. I thought I could ball,” he writes. “Turns out, my passion was on a different court.” He’s referring to the tennis court, where he worked his way to excellence after disappointing tries at basketball and football. Still, whatever the game—athletic or otherwise—he offers advice from his experience. Many of these rules are similar in principle: learn from failures, accept and appreciate coaching, always be prepared to take the shot when it comes, and know the rules of play—but “say yes to the possibility of sometimes making up your own.” With its black-and-orange color scheme, the page design intersperses digestible passages of narrative with basketball-themed black-and-white photos and graphics, and pithy advice from high-profile icons of achievement. General life advice, however sound, will never be a slam dunk with teens (ask any parent), but the b-ball motif adds at least some palatability, and the lessons embedded in the author’s own story may prove persuasive.

Horn Book Magazine (March/April, 2017)
Alexander (The Crossover, rev. 5/14; Booked, rev. 3/16) turns motivational speaker in this volume of short poems, uplifting quotes, and memoir. Though several sports are represented, the collection is organized like a basketball game: four quarters (“1st Quarter: Grit,” “2nd Quarter: Motivation”), each with thirteen rules inspired by James Naismith’s rules for the sport he invented in 1891. Alexander’s personal narrative of his early life in sports weaves its way through the lively display of colorful graphics, black-and-white photographs, poems, and inspirational quotations by famous people (mostly athletes, but also Sonia Sotomayor, Michelle Obama, Oprah Winfrey, and others). The volume reads like a series of locker-room pep talks by a coach with stories to tell and advice to give (“It takes skill / to make / the last shot. / But it takes confidence / to take it.” “It might look / like a / long shot / but you’ll never /make it / if you don’t / keep shooting”). Definitions of words such as focus, tenacity, and resilience add to the overall uplifting tone. dean schneider

About the Author

Kwame Alexander is a poet, educator, and New York Times Bestselling author of 21 books, including The Crossover, which received the 2015 John Newbery Medal for the Most Distinguished Contribution to American literature for Children, the Coretta Scott King Author Award Honor, The NCTE Charlotte Huck Honor, the Lee Bennett Hopkins Poetry Award, and the Passaic Poetry Prize. Kwame writes for children of all ages. His other works include Surf’s Up, a picture book; Booked, a middle grade novel; and He Said She Said, a YA novel.

Kwame believes that poetry can change the world, and he uses it to inspire and empower young people through his PAGE TO STAGE Writing and Publishing Program released by Scholastic. A regular speaker at colleges and conferences in the U.S., he also travels the world planting seeds of literary love (Singapore, Brazil, Italy, France, Shanghai, etc.). Recently, Alexander led a delegation of 20 writers and activists to Ghana, where they delivered books, built a library, and provided literacy professional development to 300 teachers, as a part of LEAP for Ghana, an International literacy program he co-founded.

His website is www.kwamealexander.com.

Around the Web

The Playbook on Amazon

The Playbook on Goodreads

The Playbook on JLG

The Playbook Publisher Page

The Homework Strike by Greg Pincus

The Homework Strike by Greg Pincus. January 3, 2017. Arthur A. Levine Books, 241 p. ISBN: 9780439913010.  Int Lvl: 3-6; Rdg Lvl: 6.3; Lexile: 790.

Gregory K. has too much homework.

Middle school is hard work, and Gregory tries to be a good student. He participates in class, he studies for his tests — he and his friends even help each other with their assignments. But no matter what he does, there’s never enough time to finish all his homework. It just isn’t fair.

So Gregory goes on a total, complete homework strike. No worksheets, no essays, no projects. His friends think he’s crazy. His parents are worried about his grades. And his principal just wants him to stop making trouble. Can Gregory rally his fellow students, make his voice heard, and still pass seventh grade?

Find out in this book for anyone who thinks school is stressful, gets headaches from homework, or just wants to be heard.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: None

 

Reviews

Booklist (December 15, 2016 (Online))
Grades 5-8. Taking his American history lessons to heart, a seventh-grader overwhelmed by his workload rebels. Gregory, the hero of The 14 Fibs of Gregory K. (2013), does reasonably well in tests and class participation, but try as he might, he just can’t consistently get his homework done. Worse yet, the effort leaves no time for his main passion, which is writing. When he stops doing homework altogether, his personal protest quickly becomes a public act of civil disobedience that draws challenges, news cameras, and hesitant but growing approval from fellow middle-schoolers. In addition to surrounding Gregory with loyal friends and supportive adults (aside from the school’s straw-man principal, who contributes only bland platitudes and cleverly oblique threats), Pincus methodically puts his protagonist through a series of encounters that highlight nonviolent approaches—particularly the importance of being polite and respectful to all sides. If Gregory’s campaign rolls along a bit too tidily for ready belief, it could nonetheless serve as a useful road map for budding activists.

Kirkus Reviews (October 1, 2016)
In this humorous sequel to The 14 Fibs of Gregory K. (2013), the white seventh-grader realizes that his monstrous amount of homework gobbles all his after-school time, interfering with his writing and the other things he loves to do. Although not the exceptional student that his older brother and younger sister are, Gregory actually likes school and works hard; immediately after school he and three friends have a homework club. But Gregory has no time to write poems for open mic night at the local bookstore or to work on the book he is writing. Other kids are missing out doing what they love: painting or building websites. Gregory decides that action is needed, and, with the encouragement of his history teacher, his research into the issue leads him to a homework strike and a resulting notoriety as other kids join and a media blitz occurs. Gregory stays respectful but firm, learning a lesson in civic involvement, standing up for what one believes in, and negotiating. Each chapter begins with one of Gregory’s poems. Gregory is a resourceful, likable narrator with kind friends and a supportive family. The absence of racial or cultural clues will lead readers to infer that the principal characters are white. Readers will be drawn to the anti-homework cause and, while they may well find the realistic resolution disappointingly tame, will enjoy the high jinks along the way. (Fiction. 9-12)

About the Author

Greg Pincus is a poet, novelist, screenwriter, volunteer elementary school librarian, and social media consultant. He’s also a blogger, writing about children’s literature and poetry at GottaBook and the social web at The Happy Accident. Through the wonders of social media, he’s sold poetry, helped himself land a book deal, ended up in the New York Times, the Washington Post, School Library Journal (multiple times), and many other interesting places… and also made friends and gotten free cookies on more than one occasion!

His website is www.gregpincus.com.

Around the Web

The Homework Strike on Amazon

The Homework Strike on Goodreads

The Homework Strike on JLG

The Homework Strike Publisher Page