This book reminds me a bit of Cleopatra's Moon- not because they have anything to do with each other, but because they both are pieces of historical fiction that so easily weave history and fiction making it hard to decipher what is real and what is their story.
The Berlin Boxing Club is about a fictional boy named Karl Stern who is in a very real world of pre-WWII Germany. The book takes place beginning in 1934 and takes us through Karl's experience as a young Jewish boy in Germany all the way until Kristallnacht in November, 1938. Karl's family was not religious and was only Jewish because of his ancestors yet as soon as Nazi power took hold, they were exposed as many families were in Germany. Karl, luckily, did not look Jewish so he evaded much of the harassment, but his father and sister were not as lucky. The story takes the reader through the story of Karl and his family as their world turns against them.
Along side this story of Karl's family's story of their fall from grace is Karl's story of boxing. Karl is lucky enough to be trained by Max Schmeling, the famous "Black Uhlan of the Rhine". Though Max is very much a real historical figure, his story with Karl is not. But it is through this story that we learn about Max Schmeling and his part in Germany history and his conflicted feelings about the Nazi party.
Finally, and what I found to be the most interesting part of the book, The Berlin Boxing Club is about art. Because of my father that I know about how many masterpieces were lost during WWII because of the Nazi regime and about the underground dealers that worked to get the forbidden art out of Germany, but this book puts me in the middle of it. Karl's father is an art dealer and art plays a very important role in the story. Also, because of Karl's love of comics and being an inspiring cartoonist himself, we learn about the history of comics and how they played a part in the propaganda during the war.
Originally read: May 6, 2012 Reread: July 14, 2012(less)
I found this book fascinating. It dealt with many different topics from stuttering to racism in the South and definitely shows the power of others in helping a young person find his/her voice (and in this book, that is a literal statement). I loved how it was written because although our narrator wasn't very vocal in his life, he loved writing and found his voice through his writing. It is through this art that he is able to tell his story. It is also quite interesting that though he is writing his story, he withholds his name until the very end because he has trouble saying it himself. He is referred to mostly as "Little Man" throughout the book.
But, by far, my favorite thing about this story is all of the characters our narrator gets involved with when he begins his paper route. First is Little Man's first crush, a pretty young wife who likes to drink and who Little Man cannot figure out. Second is a homeless man who bullies Little Man out of some of his possessions and is haunted by his past. Third, and most importantly, is a Merchant Marine who shows Little Man that there is more out there and that he can be whomever he wants to be. It is through these different adults that our narrator really starts to become his own.
In the classroom, this book would be a great discussion start about many different topics. Since it is historical, it gives a different perspective into many different topics including television and racism. Vawter also writes this novel with a great voice and makes interesting choices with punctuation that would be interesting to talk to students about.
Snatch of Text: p. 11 (simile), p. 101-102, p. 108-109 (poetry) Mentor Text For: Voice, First Person Point of View, Grammar, Simile, Making Predictions, Contractions (p. 30), Poetry (p. 108-109) Writing Prompts: There are some unexpected players in this young boys life that he would have never thought would affect him the way they did. Think of someone in your life that you thank for helping, influencing, or changing you and write them a thank you letter. Topics Covered: Candide, Voltaire, Speech Pathology, Baseball, Alcoholism, Anxiety, Infidelity, Genetics, Fathers, Heidegger, Existentialism, Segregation, Linguistics, Language, Race Relations, Faith, History of the Alphabet (p. 64-65), Myths (p. 66), Television (p. 44) (less)
This collection of short stories are often found on the ALA challenged book list. It has been challenged because it has a story that has an 18 year ol...moreThis collection of short stories are often found on the ALA challenged book list. It has been challenged because it has a story that has an 18 year old boy befriending a man with AIDS, because it discusses homosexuality and because of its language. Chris Crutcher, though, is an expert at what he does-writing about reality. He said, "They think kids should not be exposed in print to what they are exposed in their lives. But I believe what I believe, so I write my stories." (Crutcher even has a whole section on censorship on his website: http://www.chriscrutcher.com/content/blo... ) I, personally, find it spectacular that such a contemporary set of short stories was published in 1991!
Throughout these 6 stories we follow 6 different young adult males that are facing some daunting situations. Angus doesn't fit in and neither does his family, Johnny has a tough father, Petey was forced into facing a girl at a wrestling match, Lionel lost his family in a boating accident and is now an orphan, Telephone Man is a racist that may have found the light, and Louie is a boy faced with his own prejudice. Crutcher, through these fantastic short stories, takes us through these situations with grace and realism.
Discussion questions I made for a book challenge I competed in:
Basic book questions *Some of the short stories had characters from some of Crutcher's other novels, did you feel that made it hard to connect to the characters and understand their stories? *Did you feel the prefaces at the beginning of each story were helpful or hurtful? *Crutcher often intertwines sports into his stories- do you think that is an effective way of introducing these hard topics? Do you think girls would find this novel as friendly as boys would?
Thought Provoking Hard Questions *Crutcher says, "We are all bigots. All of us prejudge people on some basis, be it race, sexual preference, height, age or any scores of categories we use to make ourselves seem superior when we are, in fact, feeling inferior." Do you agree? *Do you agree with parents in Iowa who did not want their 8th graders exposed to this novel? What age do you feel it is appropriate for? *This book was published in 1991, way before there was mainstream LGBT young adult literature. Now this book is not purely LBGT, but includes stories that could be categorized as such. How do you think it was accepted at the time of publication? (less)
I really liked how Dan Shaughnessy turned the Curse of the Bambino into a legend. Turning Babe Ruth into a character like Paul Bunyan or Johnny Apples...moreI really liked how Dan Shaughnessy turned the Curse of the Bambino into a legend. Turning Babe Ruth into a character like Paul Bunyan or Johnny Appleseed. It was also great how he included snippets of newspaper articles to add to the story. (less)
This is one of those books that while reading I kept realizing, "I am not the target group for this book." This doesn't happen too often when reading...moreThis is one of those books that while reading I kept realizing, "I am not the target group for this book." This doesn't happen too often when reading YA, but every once in a while there is a very boy book that I read that I have trouble connecting to because, well, I am not and never was a teen boy. The great thing about Stupid Fast is how many different issues are going on. While I didn't connect to a lot of the boy stuff- lifting weights, brother stuff, puberty, etc. I very much connected with the psychological issues that were dealt with in this book- bullying, suicide, depression, abuse, love, friendship. And with such ease, Geoff Herbach intertwined all of this into a book that starts out seeming like it is going to be about football and ends being about football, but is about so much more in between. (less)
What I Think: When I first started reading Chin Music, I couldn't figure out how the 2013 story would connect with the 1926 story. As I read, I really enjoyed both stories though they felt so disconnected. Though this disconnection is part of what kept me reading- I had to know "How do they connect?". But the more I read, the more I also wanted to know what happened to the characters. I felt Ryan's loss and wanted to make sure he was going to be okay, I rooted for Zel as she fought the sexism of the 1920's, and I wanted Ryan's family to be fixed. Some of the topics within the book are much deeper than the story. Ryan's aspect of the novel discusses survivor's guilt, PTSD, death of a family member, amputation, and depression. Although his story seems to be about baseball, it is more about his dealing with grief and family. Of course, there are great baseball discussions that can be built from many different parts of this book: there is Ryan's baseball journey as well as baseball history. I loved the author's notes in the end that shared which Babe Ruth aspects in the book were based in truth. With Zel's story, it seems like it is about Babe Ruth and barbers, but it is about women's rights and a young lady finding herself a place in the world that women still struggle to survive in. I found many passages throughout that would be a wonderful addition to a discussion about women in the 1920s.
Read Together: Grades 10 to 12 (Though aspects can be used as read alouds with lower grades.)
Read Alone: Grades 9 and up
Read With: Hattie Ever After by Kirby Larson, The Legend of the Curse of the Bambino by Dan Shaughnessy, Nonfiction books about Babe Ruth, Women's Suffrage, and the 1920's
Snatch of Text: "It was the middle of the night and Ryan awoke bathed in sweat. It was the dream again, the same damn one. The one where he throws a pass to his wide receiver but instead of a football, it's a key tumbling ever so slowly, like in slow motion, end-over-end, until it lands softly in his receiver's hands, except it's Michael who catches it in the end zone for the winning touchdown. Ryan throws his arms up in victory and goes charging down the field to celebrate with his teammates but he runs right into a hospital room where he suddenly finds himself in bed. His father and Michael are standing behind the doctor who is saying to him 'you're going to make a full recover.'" -2013 (p. 3)
"It was the height of the season and the streets of St. Petersburg were alive with activity. The city, like many others in Florida, had grown dramatically, riding the boom of Florida real estate that had been going full bore since the beginning of the decade. Just in the past year five new hotels had been built or were under construction, employing hundreds of people." -1926 (p. 20)
Mentor Text for: Attention Grabber, Characterization, Setting
Writing Prompts: Zel deals with prejudice because of her gender, but overcomes it because of her gumption; has there been an aspect of your life where you have felt prejudice? How did you overcome it?
A graphic novel filled with a sweet high school romance between a girl baseball jock and nerdy cute boy turns zombie apocalypse- win, win in my opinio...moreA graphic novel filled with a sweet high school romance between a girl baseball jock and nerdy cute boy turns zombie apocalypse- win, win in my opinion! (less)
I love baseball, so when The Sports Pages first story was one by Don Gutman about baseball that cracked me up so much that I ran to the other room to tell my husband about it- the book had won me over. Realistically, like most short story collections, I found stories I really enjoyed and others I enjoyed less. Personally, I liked the baseball stories the most because I am a fan where others will like the football stories. Either way, this book has a bit of something for almost all sports lovers: tennis, hockey, basketball, baseball, football, and MMA.
As a teacher, I love short story collections because they can easily be used for read alouds or mentor texts. This particular collection has such a wide mix of texts. I liked there the mixture included many different examples that could be used in the classroom including humor, identity, competition, rivalry, bullying, and reflection; though, I feel that the pieces nonfiction are the best piece in the collection of exemplar text for memoirs, one more of an interview, one more of a humorous narrative and one a personal narrative.
I will definitely be purchasing this book, because the ARC is missing Chris Crutcher's story and I HAVE to read it. (less)
4.5 stars This book beautifully intertwines 4 topics (photography, baseball, dementia and first loves) into a relatable teenage story. Peter's voice rings true throughout the book and is the type of protagonist I like to see in books- real. Peter is a little bit of a nerd, a little bit of a sports nut, a little bit of a photographer, and a little bit of a family guy, but he finds out through his freshman year how to survive without something he always thought he'd have in his life and find a passion in something else. One thing I liked that Sonnenblick tied in was the idea that Peter can deceive his conscious self and others as much as he wants, but through his dreams his subconscious shows what our true emotions are. Another highlight for me was the "The Decisive Moment" which was a phrase coined by French photographer Henri Cartier-Bresson which is a photograph that speaks the truth. It is stolen, taken on the run and decisive. This idea becomes a major theme throughout the book and almost Peter's montra.
Read Together: Grades 7 to 12
Read Alone: Grades 8 to 12
Read With: Pop by Gordon Korman, By My Brother's Side by Tiki and Ronde Barber, The Notebook by Nicholas Spark
Snatch of Text: "Three photos. In the first, a hand holds a baseball in the classic pitcher's grip: first two fingers across the top seam, thumb underneath. The pitcher's arm extends almost straight back into the picture and blurs into his face. The hand and the front of the ball are what photographers refer to as a tack sharp: You can see whorls of fingerpint pattern on the skin, a jagged nail, every stitch and scuff on the ball. And you can somehow feel the tension in the figers, almsot imagine that hand crushing yours in it clawed grip. Maybe you've heard somewhere that a picture is supposed to hold the ball loosely. Then again, this picture isn't going to be throwing the ball anyway." (p. 127)
Mentor Text for: Imagery, Dialogue, Voice, Humor, Attention Grabbers
Writing Prompts: Observe and analyze one of Henri Cartier-Bresson's photos. Using imagery, describe the photos so others could visualize it. Then infer what is happening in the photo and predict what happened before/after the photo was taken.
Topics Covered: Photography, Baseball, Injury, Rehab/Recovery, Dementia, High School, Art History, Love(less)
This was an interesting book. I had trouble at first with the way the author wrote, it felt scattered to me, but like most other things, as you read y...moreThis was an interesting book. I had trouble at first with the way the author wrote, it felt scattered to me, but like most other things, as you read you get used to it. It is a pretty honest look into what it is like for a 16 year old boy trying to find himself. The book combined family trouble, girl troubles and sports trouble and did so pretty well- you rooted for Stan all the way through. (less)
I loved this book! I actually wish I'd had the guts Dash had because I really wanted to play baseball, but was always forced to play softball because...moreI loved this book! I actually wish I'd had the guts Dash had because I really wanted to play baseball, but was always forced to play softball because of my gender. This graphic novel shows that we shouldn't let anything get in the way of our civil rights. I also loved the loyalty throughout the book between friends, teammates and family.
This book would be a great addition to any classroom library and would be an asset to a discussion about civil liberties. (less)
Love the allusions that Babymouse always has! I think I'm going to start reading them aloud to my students- will bring about great discussions. And of...moreLove the allusions that Babymouse always has! I think I'm going to start reading them aloud to my students- will bring about great discussions. And of course, Babymouse always learns a lesson. (less)