Tag Archives: bullying

A big boy with a big heart

6 Sep

I’m not saying my school is perfect, but we don’t seem to have the quintessential bullying problem you often read about in books about middle school. We do have a lot of kids who look older or younger than they are and get treated in ways that aren’t appropriate to their age.

That is the problem Marcus Vega faces in Pablo Cartaya’s Marcus Vega Doesn’t Speak Spanish.  Marcus is big for his age and people expect him to be a bully. But he is a kid with a big heart and finds a way to use this expectation to his advantage: he charges kids to protect them from the real bully. It works well, until it doesn’t.

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First read aloud of 2017-18

27 Jul

I found my first read aloud for the new school year.

It’s an important choice to make because it sets a tone for the entire school year.

That is why Posted by John David Anderson is perfect.

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Anderson knows how to build great characters – and he creates realistic middle school boys. He did so in Mrs. Bixby’s Last day and he does so here.

He gets middle schoolers in general. All the stereotypes are there, but hey, they are in the middles school I teach at. In the characters he fleshes out more fully, he shows that people aren’t just they stereotype you think they are.

He is not afraid to tackle tough topics. In Mrs. Bixby,  he tackled death. In Posted,  he tackles bullying. We became a one-to-one school last year, but before that we let kids use devices for educational purposes. Despite our best efforts, things still happen. I think reading Posted aloud will give us one more way to tackle tough issues and safe examples to use.

He knows how to balance serious topics with humor. There are enough goofy middle schooly bits peppered in the conversations among the main characters that there will be laughs. It is good to have some balance. Although I don’t think it will win the Newbery, I have this one on my Mock Newbery list because I tink it is one kids will really gravitate towards.

Publisher’s Summary:

From John David Anderson, author of the acclaimed Ms. Bixby’s Last Day, comes a humorous, poignant, and original contemporary story about bullying, broken friendships, and the failures of communication between kids.

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.

 

From misunderstanding to understanding

7 Jul

Yesterday was about recovery. I was exhausted after a day of travel and needed to adjust to the time difference. I only took one nap, but Lucy spent most of the day asleep after I brought her home. Today, we are both a little more peppy.

In my bleary state I needed something interesting, but not too dense, to read. I found the perfect book in  Save Me a Seat  by Sarah Weeks and Gita Varadarajan.

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The story is told in the voices of two 5th grade boys. Joe has an auditory processing disorder and is often misunderstood and teased by his peers. His best friends have moved away and he has no one to hang out with at school. Ravi has just moved to America from India. He was top of his class and a top cricket player in his old school, but his efforts to excel in America fall flat. As each relates their first week of school, the two authors show very effectively how the intentions of line person can be misinterpreted by another. There were times when I cringed as I read how either Ravi or joe totally got something wrong. The book is organized around the lunch schedule, the place where both boys sit alone every day. Both are bullied by Dillon and feel as though their lives are not in their control.  Fortunately, they figure things out and become friends.

Although the boys are in grade five, younger readers could manage the short chapters of this book and find it very enjoyable.

It’s Canada Day!

1 Jul

Happy Canada Day!

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Today, I have promised myself I am going nowhere, unless it is to walk the dogs. When i picked the girls up yesterday, I was so happy to see them Fiona spent the whole night drinking. She is always a thirsty girl and the Portland heat wave is still going strong. Lucy, on the other hand slept. I think just prefers the comfort of her own bed to a bed away from home.

Being Canada Day, it just seems right to talk about Canadian authors. I finished Unspeakable by Caroline Pignat on the flight home yesterday.

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Today, I plan on reading  We Are All Made of Molecules  by Susin Nielsen.

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Publisher’s Summary:Thirteen-year-old Stewart is academically brilliant but socially clueless. Fourteen-year-old Ashley is the undisputed “It” girl in her class, but her grades stink.

Their worlds are about to collide when Stewart and his dad move in with Ashley and her mom. Stewart is trying to be 89.9 percent happy about it, but Ashley is 110 percent horrified. She already has to hide the real reason her dad moved out; “Spewart” could further threaten her position at the top of the social ladder.

They are complete opposites. And yet, they have one thing in common: they—like everyone else—are made of molecules

It seems the perfect post ALA conference recovery plan.

Getting Graphic

29 Dec

This trio has been sitting on my shelf for a bit:

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Lowriders in Space,  written by Cathy Camper and illustrated by Raul the Third, is a graphic novel with a strong Latino storyline.

From the Publisher:Lupe Impala, El Chavo Flapjack, and Elirio Malaria love working with cars. You name it, they can fix it. But the team’s favorite cars of all are lowriders—cars that hip and hop, dip and drop, go low and slow, bajito y suavecito. The stars align when a contest for the best car around offers a prize of a trunkful of cash—just what the team needs to open their own shop! ¡Ay chihuahua! What will it take to transform a junker into the best car in the universe? Striking, unparalleled art from debut illustrator Raul the Third recalls ballpoint-pen-and-Sharpie desk-drawn doodles, while the story is sketched with Spanish, inked with science facts, and colored with true friendship. With a glossary at the back to provide definitions for Spanish and science terms, this delightful book will educate and entertain in equal measure.

Tomboy,  by Liz Prince, is the author’s memoir of growing up a tomboy. I can think of a few girls I know who would enjoy reading this because they can finally see themselves in a book.

Finally, To This Day,  is not really a graphic novel It is the published for of Shane Koyczan’s anti-bullying poem, illustrated by 30 artists. If you haven’t seen his video, here it is:

If you enjoy graphics, these are really great.

Courage

20 Oct

We are talking about Everyday Heroes in reading this days. The word courage has come up, as have many other characteristics. IN Courage for Beginners,  by Karen Harrington,

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twelve-year-old Mysti Murphy has a mom who has agoraphobia and a former best friend who has turned “hipster” and now treats her terribly. When her dad is hospitalized because of an accident she feels alone and as though she sis the on one keeping her family afloat. Then she meets Rama Khan, a 6th grader whose name sound like that of a Superhero,  at the “loser” lunch table. Mysti doesn’t like change, but with her friend Rama Khan by her side, she is able to face her fears and move on.

At first I was frustrated by Mysti’s acceptance of her ill-treatment by he reformer friend, Anibal. I wanted her to confront him, call him out for his bullying behavior. But that wouldn’t be true to her character. Almost 50 year lob me would do that, but I don;t think my 7th grade self would have done that either. Sometimes, it takes a while for a person to give up the hope that a friendship will go back to normal.

Everybody has fears they have to face. And it is courage that helps us do it.

Losing my religion

4 Nov

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The title grabbed me first.  But, Lauren Yanofsky Hates the Holocaust by Leanne Lieberman is worth reading, regardless of how the title makes you feel. It is a smart, funny novel about trying to find you place in the world.

Lauren Yanofsky doesn’t want to be Jewish anymore. She’s tired of reading about it, attending Jewish youth camps and family vacations to Holocaust memorials. She sees it as a religion of loss, grief, and persecution. And hen, But Lauren sees some of  boys  from her school, including the boy she has a crush on, playing Nazi war games, she is faced with a terrible choice: betray her friends or betray her heritage.

I liked many things about this novel. First, it felt real. These are pretty ordinary kids and they deal with all the  issues that high school students are forced to deal with on a daily basis: friendship, identity, belonging, etc. Next  Lauren and her brother Zach are learning to exert their independence from their parents in a positive way. Finally  Lauren’s struggle with her heritage is described in an entertaining and also thought-provoking way that make the novel highly readable for teens.

A good read that takes a slightly different tack on teen issues.

Sketchy Lives

5 Oct

I recently read two sketchy books. Sketchy not for content, but for the style of the illustrations.

The first is Jane, the fox and me written by Fanny Britt and illustrated by Isabelle Arsenault.

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The target audience of this book seems to be middle/high school aged girls. Not the traditional demographic of graphic novels.

Helene is the victim of bullies at her school so she dreads an upcoming  school camping trip. The popular girls, who used to be her friends,  tease her about her weight and her lack of friends so Helene’s world is pretty grim and her self-esteem is very low. Helene’s world is illustrated in black and white.

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She begins to believe all of the awful lies the girls spread about her and only takes solace in the book Jane Eyre as she identifies with the main character. Jane’s story is told in full color.

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Going off to camp with her classmates ends up being a transformative experience in which Helene encounters a fox and finally gains a best friend and her world becomes a bit brighter.

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I’m not a huge fan of Shaun Tan, but I really enjoyed learning about his thought process in The Bird King: an artist’s notebook. 

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The book is divided into three sections: untold stories

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book, theater, and film

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drawings from life

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and notebooks.

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These are two really worthwhile books to take a look at.

T. rex for two

1 Aug

Running my Read Aloud Book Club for teachers last year has me on the lookout for picture books that pair up nicely with chapter books. Sometimes it’s  no brainer. Sometimes you have to stretch your brain  little. This pair is a no brainer.

Today we have a picture book and a graphic novel: Tea Rex  by Molly Idle and Tommysaurus Rex  by Doug TenNapel.

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Tea Rex is how to book for people who would like to invite a T. rex to tea. Beginning with a formal invitation to tea, the text gives straightforward directions on how one might host a tea party. The illustrations point out the potential pitfalls if one’s guest were T.rex. The play  between the words and pictures makes this  fun read.

Tommysaurus Rex tells the story of a Ely’s adventures on his grandfather’s farm, where he encounters a T. rex who becomes his pet, Tommy, named for the dog he recently lost. Or, is it a reincarnation of his dog? Ely works with Tommy so he is not a nuisance to the town. Unfortunately, Randy, the town bully, threatens to ruin everything when he uses fire to frighten the T. Rex which causes him to set off on a destructive streak. The beautiful ending is all about forgiveness and redemption.

Both books offer the possibility of some fun writing assignments around T. rex, or any other dinosaur whose name can be manipulated.

When Girls Bully

27 Jul

As I started reading Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass by Meg Medina, I wracked by brain for another book about girl bullies but couldn’t come up with one. I could think of lots of non-fiction titles, but not a fiction title. I’m sure there are some out there. There are probably even good ones. But, if  the topic sounds even remotely interesting, you should read this one.

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When Piddy & her Mom move, Piddy has to attend a new high school. She has always been a good student and want to become an elephant researcher when she grows up. One day, someone tells Piddy that Yaqui Delgado wants to kick her ass. Piddy doesn’t even know who Yaqui is or what reason she might have to dislike her enough to want to beat her up. At first she ignores the threat, and she certainly doesn’t want to be a narc, but thing begin to spin out of control.

What  I liked about the story is how real it felt. Piddy is pretty ordinary and I can believe that this situation might really have happened. Meg Medina loosely based the story on something that happened to her. Piddy is likable and you really feel for her as she tries to keep her world from falling apart.  So many times, a problem like this can’t be solved in a neat way and I appreciate the  honest and realistic ending.

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