A Challenge for You

imagesThe Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood has set aside May 5-11 as Screen Free Week.

Can you do it? Can you live for a week without all your electronic connections to the world?

I’d have to give up the NYTimes crossword puzzle, forego my favorite TV programs, do all my written work by hand (possibly the worst consequence of tuning out; my hands ache from just thinking about it). But only for a week. The puzzles and TV programs won’t disappear in that time; my hands will survive.

I’ll get outside (assuming winter is over by then), walk and bike around, take some photographs, visit friends, hit some museums. It’s starting to sound pretty good.

Care to join me? I dare you to go a week without your TV, computer, cell phone, etc., and then let me know how it goes.

Posted by BR

NPR Books – Your Favorites: 100 Best-Ever Teen Novels

According to NPR, 75, 220 readers participated in their 2012 Best-Ever Teen Fiction poll. Surprisingly, the classic Flowers in the Attic by V.C. Andrews did not make the cut. I kid. The top three picks on the list are not a surprise, although the ranking of the Hunger Games in the number two spot speaks to the increasingly complex and mature storylines that have in part led to the crossover popularity of YA Lit among adults.ter

harry-potter-books1) Harry Potter
The number one book on the NPR Best-Ever Teen Fiction poll, Harry Potter was also voted the best young adult novel of all time by Entertainment Weekly readers.

One person who cannot give an opinion one way or the other is yours truly, as I have to admit I have not read the books. How will I address this huge gap in my YA Lit readership? At this point, there are only two words on how I’m going to catch up—audio book.

Hunger_Games2) The Hunger Games series
My sister, now a teacher but at the time an assistant manager in the young adult section of Barnes & Noble, turned me on to the Hunger Game series. I devoured the entire series in about three weeks. I was surprised at the sophistication and depth of the books and the complex issues of freedom, human rights and democracy that they tackle and how well these themes lend themselves to the experience of adolescence. After all, doesn’t every teen feel they are the object of persecution by either their parents, teachers, fellow students or sometimes the world?

The books also deal with the question of identity, ethics and belief systems and what role(s) we are meant to and choose to play in life. The series addresses fundamental questions of right and wrong and these are universal themes teens face everyday as they decide who they are and who they want to become.

Author Suzanne Collins’ honest depiction of these themes that resonate into adulthood is the reason that the Hunger Games series will continue to be discovered by future generations of young adults.

mockingbird3) To Kill A Mockingbird
I don’t remember when I first read To Kill A Mockingbird but that first wondrous reading was certainly not to be the last. The story is so indelible that I can barely recall a time when I didn’t know Atticus Finch, Boo Radley and Scout. I also don’t remember when I first bought the book but it was years ago because my copy is yellow, worn and marked up. That is what makes it one of my most treasured possessions. In the wear and tear is the evidence of my love for To Kill A Mockingbird, one of a handful of books where the movie adaptation does the source material justice.

It’s a timeless story that encompasses a number of themes: childhood loss of innocence, injustice and discrimination, class and racial divides, fatherly love bound by familial and non-familial ties, social and personal responsibility, to form a picture of the human condition. Incredibly, To Kill A Mockingbird addresses all these issues through the eyes of a child, a six-year-old small town southern girl. It is this unique perspective that gives the story its power. For Scout represents adults before they’ve been tainted by the world, their surroundings and failures. She is the simple and innocent voice of reason. Through Scout we see her father Atticus and neighbor Boo Radley, we see the town, in fact we see the world as we would like it to be and that ultimately her viewpoint is a hopeful one that we can all strive for although rarely achieve.


Top 100 YA Novels

OM—-http://www.listchallenges.com/npr-100-best-ever-teen-novels  The preceding link will bring you to 100 books that are loved by many young adults.  The cool thing about this site is that it also allows you to score yourself by clicking on the books that you have read.  Sadly, I only got 1 star, which means I have a lot of reading to do. However, check it out, score yourselves and look up some info on many interesting books.  If you are already teaching then maybe you can add some of them to your classroom library to help increase the range of books that you have.

Adolescents ( Cliques, Age Segregation and lots of secrets

OM—-E. Lockhard  has tapped into the psychological realm of adolescent in many ways.  Even though this is a literature class I think it is also important to connect Pshychology to get a better understanding of the book.  First of all  Lockhard taps into  the context of adolescents as stated by Developmental Psychologist: Laurence Steingberg.   In particular; Lockhard taps into the Peer Groups and Schools.   In The Disreptuable History of  Frankie Landau-Banks, E. Lockhart takes us to the world of Secret Societies (Cliques)  and even age segregation.  The Secret Society aka The Basset Hounds consists of a group of boys (only boys)  that are approximately the same age.  According to Laurence Steinberg  this would fit into his category as a “clique.” Cliques are simply tightly knit groups of between 2-12 friends that are generally of the same sex and age.   Page 200 states ” Are you jointing the asset Hounds?” Zada was incredulous “What do they do?”  “I can’t join.  It’s  all guys, all senior.”   Lockhart even went further within the context of adolescent by portraying one of the issues that comes with peer groups.  This issue is simply age segregation.  On page  158 Elizabeth teased Frankie who was sitting at the SENIOR table by saying ” taking over the senior table, eh, squirt?” and ” What do you think, Livingston? Elizabeth asked Matthew.  “Your girlie waiting for you at the senior table.”

Dr. Seuss for YA Readers!

Yes this is a post promoting picture books being taught in Secondary Education!



As most of us know, Dr. Seuss was a very political and used his literature as a way to promote his opinions. Although his collection can be found in the children’s section, his works can be taught at a higher level. Because the text is short and sometimes simple, the class can spend a lot of time on dissecting and doing a close reading on the text. I feel like Dr. Seuss’  text would be a great to use for an open discussion, or a starting text into a controversial topic. I’m an advocate of teaching students how to read between the lines, and using a Dr. Seuss text is an excellent choice.

I wonder if students will feel “dumb” because they are reading a picture book, but if students know the background of Dr. Seuss (he wrote comic strips during WWII) and how advertisement and comics were and are still used to sell an idea or a product to society they can find the value behind it. That alone can be a unit theme. Especially in NYC where there is advertisement everywhere attracting all age groups, and a time where satire cartoons are a big hit (Family Guy, American Dad, of course The Simpsons) the students can see how using illustrates can be powerful and specifically, why do people use illustrates to convey their thoughts.

Here are two links that have some Dr. Seuss activities: teachers first middle school



Top 14 YA Books with Strong Heroines


Hi all! In light of the books that we’re all reading for Thursday, as well as with books like Seraphina and Ella Enchanted, I was intrigued by the idea of which YA books demonstrate the strongest female roles. I will (somewhat shamefacedly) admit that, though I did really enjoy reading the Twilight series, Bella’s a total wimp! Sadly, though, she’s not the only one surfacing in YA lit. There are a number of young adult series out right now that tend to present the same idea: teenage female damsel in need of the guidance/strength/wisdom/powers/etc of a powerful supernatural dude. (Off the top of my head, I’m thinking of the Hush, Hush series, the Fallen series and even The Mortal Instruments, to some extent). Of course, we’ve spent some time discussing the importance of independent, free-thinking females presented in lead roles in YA novels. However, I think this is a topic that deserves revisiting periodically, as I don’t think it’s just young women who need to see females presented in these positions of power–young men need also to see that their female counterparts are every bit as capable, and should be treated with respect accordingly. 

I do think there’s an interesting potential conversation here, in light of the Dragonsayer v. Dragonslayer article we read for class. Of course, while that article focused on books with dragons and how the lead females in the books responded to them, it is no leap to see the argument taken one step further (as the article suggests) by applying the nurture v. fighter dichotomy outside of the dragon-y, fantasy context. I believe we spent time in class talking about this briefly, and may be something worth revisiting as we continue on with the reading. 

Admittedly, I will say that I don’t love Huffington’s list (this is a selfish admission based at least partially on my own reading preferences). However, that dislike is also based on my limited experience teaching young adults. My experience was that I really needed to engage them quickly (and that anything that’s particularly outdated they balk at), but also I just don’t feel that this list provides the best sampling of books that demonstrate strong heroines (especially not for a list from late 2013). There is a lack of balance between classic and modern reads, first of all, but beyond that, there is very little by way of racial or cultural diversity, which I do think is important for today’s young adults. Another problem I have is this strange blending of lines between young adult literature and children’s literature. I feel that for a long time, literature intended for readers below the age of 18 was lumped into the same category. As a result, with some of the older literature, I think there’s a confusion as to whether it’s children’s or young adult. (For example, Ella Enchanted, Island of the Blue Dolphins, Hatchett, I, Juan de Pareja–to name just a few–were all located in the Children’s section of my local library/bookstore. Frankie Landau-Banks and Year of Secrets were both in the YA lit section.Though clearly all these books have viable messages for older readers, it does beg the question: what is children’s and what is young adult today?)

That said, these are all still fantastic books that would make for good reads. 

What do you guys think? Especially for those of you actively teaching right now? 


Here’s the link:


… and now Miguel

OM—… And Now Miguel by  Joseph Krumgold

As I read the required literature for this class it becomes more clear to me why these books are categorized as “YA Literature.”   Adolescence is a very rough period  during an individual growth and development.  As I’ve read through Seraphina, Ella Enchanted, Howl’s Moving Castle, I Juan de Pareja and  … and now Miguel it feels as if these authors  reaped the DNA out of different adolescents and replicate it to create the adolescent.  Krumgold  created this character Miguel who represents our present day adolescent.  One main issue that is present in the book  is “Social Transition.”  Along with Social Transition  comes “Identity Crisis/ Social redefinition.” Throughout the book Miguel is an adolescent who wants to make his transition to adulthood in his society; with that desire he encounters many difficulties especially with  his identity.  Miguel wants to be seen as a man, except his family still view him as a boy who is not ready to enter the realm of manhood. In  many nonindustrial societies,  people go through different rituals to prove themselves as fit to be entered into the world of adulthood (Initiation Ceremonies)  It is clear that Miguel wants to take the sheep to Sangre de Christo Mountain, which is a job considered for a man.  He wants to help bring the sheep to the mountain because he wants to be viewed as a man, not a boy anymore.  It is clear that Miguel would do anything to prove to his parents that he is ready for such a task.  The big question is why?  Why did Miguel think that he was ready for such a task?  was it puberty? was it his age? or was he simply trying to impress his parents?

I  simply believe that Miguel felt within himself that he was ready for the challenge and being accepted as a man within his community.   Dealing with sheep was the responsibilities of adults, on page 14  ” It’s only that I wanted you to know it was ME- I brought you the bags when you asked for them.”  By Miguel’s statement one can understand that he is trying to tell his father that he chose the bags, but it goes further. Not only did Miguel chose the bags he went to say that he chose correctly as in he has the cognitive skill that is necessary to do man’s work.  However the crisis is that his father simply looks beyond what Miguel is trying to communicate with him.  As the story progresses  Miguel also tries to prove that he is no longer a child by spending less time with his little brother (Pedro).  This might a result of his Sense of Identity

One other confusing thing about being an adolescent is gaining certain privileges in society, but still not given the title of being an adult.  There are many examples in our society that represents this issue like earning the right to drive at 16, but you’re still not an adult, the right to vote/serve your country at 18, but still not viewed as an adult to society.   My reason for these example is simply because no matter how much privilege you earn, there are factors that still prevent you from gaining the title that you really desire.  One example of this is at age 18 society consider an individual as an adult, but still you are not given  the right to take part in the consumption of alcohol, entering a night club, or even purchasing x rated movies.  We see that Miguel experience this problem because even though he was allowed to help with the sheep he still wasn’t allowed to go to Sangre de Cristo Mountain.   This happens even when Miguel brought back the lost sheep by  himself, and being allowed to sit at the table amongst men.

On the other hand I can’t help but thinking on a religious perspective. On page 26 Miguel is in charge of branding the lambs with ID tags, these lambs purely represents him in the sense that he tags himself as being an adult. There is one other example of how religion plays a role in Miguel’s desire.   Miguel  desires  to pursue his social redefinition of being a man by going to Sangre de Cristo Mountain represents a baptism.  On a Christian perspective, when one is baptized, they enter the water as a sinner, they are then plunged under the water ( blood of Christ/ Sangre de Cristo) and washed clean in the blood of Christ. After they have been washed clean, they are viewed as a new being.   In Miguel’s case he will climb the mountain Sangre de Cristo (blood of Christ)  and come back to his differently to his society as a changed person; not Miguel, nor a child.  He will be elevated to a MAN.

Great YA Books Soon to be Released as Movies (Trailer Alert!)


Hi all!

As an avid reader of young adult lit, I get really, really excited when I find that one of my favorites is about to be made into a movie. Some are really well done (I’m looking at you, Hunger Games!) and some are, ahem, slightly painful (Oh, but they destroyed The Mortal Instruments! Yikes!).  Luckily, this year is turning out to be a (potentially–fingers crossed!) great year for the YA lit movie.

First up, we have the first of the Divergent books by Veronica Roth getting the Hollywood treatment. For those of you who have already delved into this series, you already know that while violence may be a bit high, so too is young adult (and, heck with it, adult) reader interest. If you haven’t had a chance to enjoy these yet, you definitely, definitely should!! The pages fly by. This movie is set for release March 21st, so you still have time to enjoy the book (or entire series??) before ordering the popcorn! The official trailer is here:

Second, though perhaps the most moving book ever, John Greene’s highly acclaimed and internationally adored book, The Fault in Our Stars, is being released in the theaters this summer (June, I believe). Having taught this book to ESL students, it holds a special place in my heart as the book that got the greatest emotional response (perhaps along with Wonder) out of any of my students. Not just tears, either–they laughed with Hazel and August, cried with them, got angry with them, but also just felt them as people and fated young lovers in a way that I truly hadn’t anticipated–especially for those from different cultural/language/societal backgrounds. If you haven’t read this book, you absolutely need to do yourself a favor and pick it up–you won’t regret it. In the meantime, the official trailer has been released:

Enjoy! 🙂


“The 21 Best YA Books of 2013”

“The 21 Best YA Books of 2013” was published on BuzzFeed.com in December 2013. It includes summaries of all of the books, plus their “Amazon Review” scores (out of five stars). I must admit: I haven’t read any of the books on this list. However, I’m interested in reading a handful of them, and I hope you will be, too.

I broke the list into genre- and/or theme-related groups. Hopefully this helps you navigate it:

  1. Coming-of-age/self-discovery: Fangirl, Rainbow Rowell; Just One Day, Gayle Forman; The Beginning of Everything, Robyn Schneider
  2. Fantasy: Siege and Storm, Leigh Bardugo; Mermaid in Chelsea Creek, Michelle Tea; Clockwork Princess, Cassandra Clare
  3. Mystery: Golden, Jessi Kirby; Out of the Easy, Ruta Sepetys; Perfect Ruin, Lauren Destefano; The 5th Wave, Rick Yancey
  4. Paranormal: The Coldest Girl in Coldtown, Holly Black
  5. Space/the supernatural: These Broken Stars, Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner
  6. WWII: Rose Under Fire, Elizabeth Wein
  7. Romance and race: Eleanor & Park, Rainbow Rowell
  8. Music and DJing: This Song Will Save Your Life, Leila Sales
  9. Dystopia: Allegiant, Veronica Roth
  10. Online relationships: This Is What Happy Looks Like, Jennifer E. Smith
  11. Romance and kingdom: The Elite, Kiera Cass
  12. Drawing on fairy tales: Scarlet, Marissa Meyer
  13. Self-discovery as related to Walden: Being Henry David, Cal Armistead
  14. Kidnapping and learning to love one’s family: Where the Stars Still Shine, Trish Doller

Posted by SD

Juan de Pareja by Elizabeth Borton Treviño


OM—-Getting our adolescents to read, especially our Inner City/Urban students is one of the the most challenging issues for educators. They often ask themselves the following questions:

Why should I read that book?

What does that book even have to do with me?

The truth is many of our adolescents do not see the connections to situation or characters and themselves.  However, I Juan de Pareja is one YA lit that I think is great to teach text connections; especially text to self connection. It became clear to me from previous experiences that adolescents think of themselves as slaves, but who are they enslaved to?  Are adolescents enslaved to  individuals like their parents, teacher, even their peer, or are they enslaved to society and its many rules that seem to contradict each other. One other question that one can really explore is what is slavery?  ,and are adolescents  enslaved physically  or mentally?


*The Picture above is Diego Velazquez*