Sunday, February 18, 2018

Put the Damn Guns Down #2

Another school shooting. More lives lost. I've been torn between utter despair, absolute anger, and complete sadness. For some reason, our country can't figure out how to stop this unfettered disease. Why? Why? Why?

I'm getting political here . . . if getting political means saying no to guns and yes to saving lives. We are the only country to have mass shooting after mass shooting. Please don't tell me, "Guns don't kill people. People kill people." In other countries, especially the countries that have more restrictive rules on guns, this doesn't happen. The facts don't lie. I don't know how we can put guns ahead of human lives. I just don't.

Even though school shootings garner the most news and social media attention, and understandably so, there have been 1, 946 total deaths by guns in the United States as of today for this year so far. There have been 379 teens killed by guns. There have been 71 children, ages 0-11, killed by guns. We are 49 days into the year. This is not right. We have an epidemic on our hands, and we continue to allow it. (Statistics from Gun Violence Archive. Please visit the site.)

In an effort to get folks thinking about guns and the deadly harm they inflict, I am recommending some books that focus on gun violence. Some of these books I have read and some my students have read. I recommend that teens and adults read these books. We owe it to the younger generation.

Please feel free to leave a comment or suggest a book. Thank you.

This is Where It Ends by Marieke Nijkamp 



Goodreads Blurb: 10:00 a.m. The principal of Opportunity High School finishes her speech, welcoming the entire student body to a new semester and encouraging them to excel and achieve.

10:02 a.m. The students get up to leave the auditorium for their next class.

10:03 a.m. The auditorium doors won't open.

10:05 a.m. Someone starts shooting.

Told from four different perspectives over the span of fifty-four harrowing minutes, terror reigns as one student’s calculated revenge turns into the ultimate game of survival.

Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds 

Goodreads Blurb: 

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.
 

Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock by Matthew Quick 

Goodreads Blurb: Today is Leonard Peacock’s birthday. It is also the day he hides a gun in his backpack. Because today is the day he will kill his former best friend, and then himself, with his grandfather’s P-38 pistol.

But first he must say good-bye to the four people who matter most to him: his Humphrey Bogart-obsessed next-door neighbor, Walt; his classmate, Baback, a violin virtuoso; Lauren, the Christian homeschooler he has a crush on; and Herr Silverman, who teaches the high school’s class on the Holocaust. Speaking to each in turn, Leonard slowly reveals his secrets as the hours tick by and the moment of truth approaches.

In this riveting look at a day in the life of a disturbed teenage boy, acclaimed author Matthew Quick unflinchingly examines the impossible choices that must be made—and the light in us all that never goes out.
 


Nineteen Minutes by Jodi Picoult 


Goodreads Blurb: In nineteen minutes, you can mow the front lawn, color your hair, watch a third of a hockey game. In nineteen minutes, you can bake scones or get a tooth filled by a dentist; you can fold laundry for a family of five....In nineteen minutes, you can stop the world, or you can just jump off it. In nineteen minutes, you can get revenge. 

Sterling is a small, ordinary New Hampshire town where nothing ever happens -- until the day its complacency is shattered by a shocking act of violence. In the aftermath, the town's residents must not only seek justice in order to begin healing but also come to terms with the role they played in the tragedy. For them, the lines between truth and fiction, right and wrong, insider and outsider have been obscured forever. Josie Cormier, the teenage daughter of the judge sitting on the case, could be the state's best witness, but she can't remember what happened in front of her own eyes. And as the trial progresses, fault lines between the high school and the adult community begin to show, destroying the closest of friendships and families. 

Nineteen Minutes is New York Times bestselling author Jodi Picoult's most raw, honest, and important novel yet. Told with the straightforward style for which she has become known, it asks simple questions that have no easy answers: Can your own child become a mystery to you? What does it mean to be different in our society? Is it ever okay for a victim to strike back? And who -- if anyone -- has the right to judge someone else?

Shooter by Walter Dean Myers 

Goodreads Blurb: The groundbreaking and widely praised novel about a school shooting, from the acclaimed author of Monster. Multiple narratives, a personal journal, and newspaper and police reports add perspective and pull readers into the story.

"Questions of guilt and innocence drive the plot and stay with the reader," said Hazel Rochman in a starred Booklist review. "Highly readable."

"A haunting story that uncovers the pain of several high school students," according to Teenreads.com. "It explores the tragedies of school violence and how the result of bullying can go to the most dramatic extreme. Myers has a gift for expressing the voices of his characters. Shooter is not a light read, but it will leave you reeling."

How It Went Down by Kekla Magoon 

Goodreads Blurb: When sixteen-year-old Tariq Johnson dies from two gunshot wounds, his community is thrown into an uproar. Tariq was black. The shooter, Jack Franklin, is white.

In the aftermath of Tariq's death, everyone has something to say, but no two accounts of the events line up. Day by day, new twists further obscure the truth.

Tariq's friends, family, and community struggle to make sense of the tragedy, and to cope with the hole left behind when a life is cut short. In their own words, they grapple for a way to say with certainty: This is how it went down.

Homeboyz by Alan Lawrence Sitomer 

Goodreads Blurb: When Teddy Anderson's little sister Tina is gunned down randomly in a drive-by shooting, the gangstas who rule the streets in the Anderson family's rapidly deteriorating neighborhood dismiss the incident as just another case of RP, RT-wrong place, wrong time. According to gangsta logic, Tina doesn't even count as a statistic.

Teddy's family is devastated. Mrs. Anderson sinks into deep depression while Pops struggles to run both the household and his declining laundry business. The Andersons are shocked still further when Teddy is arrested and thrown in prison for attempted homicide after his elaborately laid plans for revenge against his sister's killer are foiled by the cops.

Teddy soon finds himself out of prison on house arrest, and in the capable hands of Officer Mariana Diaz, the smart, tough probation officer assigned to oversee his endless hours of community service. As part of the innovative rehabilitation program Diaz runs, Teddy is assigned to tutor Micah, a twelve-year-old orphan and would-be gansta.

As Teddy goes through the motions of complying with the terms of his probation, Diaz has no idea that he is using his genius-level computer hacker skills to plot his final vengeance and to defraud the state education system of hundreds of thousands of dollars. But even though Teddy thinks he knows it all, he fails to see how Micah's desperate need for love and trust just might have the power not only to pierce all Teddy's defenses, but to save his family.

Sunday, February 4, 2018

Thank Goodness for School Libraries!

I've been reading social media posts lately about schools that don't have libraries. WHAT?? No libraries at some schools? Have we lost our minds as a society? My heart breaks when I hear this. Why aren't parents, teachers, kids, community members, community leaders shouting from the rooftops about the importance of school libraries and the importance of school librarians? School libraries should be the community center of a school.  Take a look at the importance of school libraries from the American Library Association: Strong School Libraries Build Strong Students.

With that being said, I've been checking out books from our library at North View Middle School. Our Media Center Specialist does an amazing job at keeping our school library up-to-date and relevant for our sixth, seventh, and eighth grade students. Our students and staff are incredibly lucky to have so many amazing middle grade and YA books to choose from.

Here are some of the books I've read over the past month, and many of them are in our school library. Enjoy! Happy I Love to Read Month!

(Next blog will focus on Black History Month and great reads from black authors!)

Wishtree by Katherine Applegate

My review on Goodreads: Young and old should read this book. If trees could talk, they would teach us a lot about ourselves.

Goodreads Blurb: 

Trees can't tell jokes, but they can certainly tell stories. . . .

Red is an oak tree who is many rings old. Red is the neighborhood "wishtree"—people write their wishes on pieces of cloth and tie them to Red's branches. Along with her crow friend Bongo and other animals who seek refuge in Red's hollows, this "wishtree" watches over the neighborhood.

You might say Red has seen it all. Until a new family moves in. Not everyone is welcoming, and Red's experiences as a wishtree are more important than ever.



The Best We Could Do by Thi Bui 


My review on Goodreads: What a beautiful and amazing book! I can't wait to share Thi Bui's memoir with my students!

Goodreads Blurb: 

An intimate and poignant graphic novel portraying one family’s journey from war-torn Vietnam from debut author Thi Bui.

This beautifully illustrated and emotional story is an evocative memoir about the search for a better future and a longing for the past. Exploring the anguish of immigration and the lasting effects that displacement has on a child and her family, Bui documents the story of her family’s daring escape after the fall of South Vietnam in the 1970s, and the difficulties they faced building new lives for themselves.

 
At the heart of Bui’s story is a universal struggle: While adjusting to life as a first-time mother, she ultimately discovers what it means to be a parent—the endless sacrifices, the unnoticed gestures, and the depths of unspoken love. Despite how impossible it seems to take on the simultaneous roles of both parent and child, Bui pushes through. With haunting, poetic writing and breathtaking art, she examines the strength of family, the importance of identity, and the meaning of home.

In what Pulitzer Prize–winning novelist Viet Thanh Nguyen calls “a book to break your heart and heal it,” The Best We Could Do brings to life Thi Bui’s journey of understanding, and provides inspiration to all of those who search for a better future while longing for a simpler past.




More Happy Than Not by Adam Silvera

My review on Goodreads: This book tore my heart apart and kind of put it back - just kind of.

Goodreads Blurb: 

Part Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, part Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe, Adam Silvera's extraordinary debut confronts race, class, and sexuality during one charged near-future summer in the Bronx. 

Sixteen-year-old Aaron Soto is struggling to find happiness after a family tragedy leaves him reeling. He's slowly remembering what happiness might feel like this summer with the support of his girlfriend Genevieve, but it's his new best friend, Thomas, who really gets Aaron to open up about his past and confront his future.

As Thomas and Aaron get closer, Aaron discovers things about himself that threaten to shatter his newfound contentment. A revolutionary memory-alteration procedure, courtesy of the Leteo Institute, might be the way to straighten himself out. But what if it means forgetting who he truly is?
 


Starfish by Akemi Dawn Bowman 

My review on Goodreads: Loved. This. Book. Don’t want it to be over.

Goodreads Blurb: 

Kiko Himura has always had a hard time saying exactly what she’s thinking. With a mother who makes her feel unremarkable and a half-Japanese heritage she doesn’t quite understand, Kiko prefers to keep her head down, certain that once she makes it into her dream art school, Prism, her real life will begin.

But then Kiko doesn’t get into Prism, at the same time her abusive uncle moves back in with her family. So when she receives an invitation from her childhood friend to leave her small town and tour art schools on the west coast, Kiko jumps at the opportunity in spite of the anxieties and fears that attempt to hold her back. And now that she is finally free to be her own person outside the constricting walls of her home life, Kiko learns life-changing truths about herself, her past, and how to be brave.
 


North of Happy by Adi Alsaid

My review on Goodreads: Don’t know how this book has a rating of under 4 on Goodreads. I was skeptical at first. How good could a book about cooking be? Well, it could be amazing!! I am a sucker for realistic fiction and realistic fiction by all of these terrific new authors, so I’m not surprised I loved this book. There are so many fabulous authors out there - diverse authors - who give readers a chance to experience a different world. Adi Alsaid’s books. Read them. At least this one. I’ve only read this one, but I will be reading more of his books.

Goodreads Blurb: 

His whole life has been mapped out for him…

Carlos Portillo has always led a privileged and sheltered life. A dual citizen of Mexico and the
US, he lives in Mexico City with his wealthy family, where he attends an elite international school. Always a rule follower and a parent pleaser, Carlos is more than happy to tread the well-worn path in front of him. He has always loved food and cooking, but his parents see it as just a hobby.


When his older brother, Felix—who has dropped out of college to live a life of travel—is tragically killed, Carlos begins hearing his brother’s voice, giving him advice and pushing him to rebel against his father’s plan for him. Worrying about his mental health, but knowing the voice is right, Carlos runs away to the United States and manages to secure a job with his favorite celebrity chef. As he works to improve his skills in the kitchen and pursue his dream, he begins to fall for his boss’s daughter—a fact that could end his career before it begins. Finally living for himself, Carlos must decide what’s most important to him and where his true path really lies.


Because You'll Never Meet Me by Leah Thomas 

My review on Goodreads: Ollie is a born storyteller, and Mo is a super hero in disguise. Two boys who can never meet captured my heart from the first page. This book will not disappoint although it will break your heart at times - humans can be so cruel.

Goodreads: 

Ollie and Moritz are best friends, but they can never meet. Ollie is allergic to electricity. Contact with it causes debilitating seizures. Moritz’s weak heart is kept pumping by an electronic pacemaker. If they ever did meet, Ollie would seize. But Moritz would die without his pacemaker. Both hermits from society, the boys develop a fierce bond through letters that become a lifeline during dark times—as Ollie loses his only friend, Liz, to the normalcy of high school and Moritz deals with a bully set on destroying him.

A story of impossible friendship and hope under strange circumstances, this debut is powerful, dark and humorous in equal measure. These extraordinary voices bring readers into the hearts and minds of two special boys who, like many teens, are just waiting for their moment to shine.

La LĂ­nea by Ann Jaramillo 

My review on Goodreads: Quick read but a read that is worthwhile. I hope people will take the time to read this book, especially those who believe “illegal” immigrants are the terrible people Trump and the GOP make them out to be. When it comes down to it, people are people, and we need to take care of one another no matter our country of origin since countries are arbitrary lines made by humans.

Goodreads Blurb: 

Miguel's life is just beginning. Or so he thinks. Fifteen-year-old Miguel leaves his rancho deep in Mexico to migrate to California across la linea, the border, in a debut novel of life-changing, cliff-hanging moments.

But Miguel's carefully laid plans change suddenly when his younger sister Elena stows away and follows him. Together, Miguel and Elena endure hardships and danger on their journey of desperation and desire, loyalty and betrayal. An epilogue, set ten years after the events of the story, shows that you can't always count on dreams--even the ones that come true.

Reading Quiets the Mind; Reading Opens the Mind

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