This is a very quick read; it took me just a little over an hour.
Shakespeare Shapiro has an unconventional upbringing, during which many, many unusual...moreThis is a very quick read; it took me just a little over an hour.
Shakespeare Shapiro has an unconventional upbringing, during which many, many unusual things happen to him. He chronicles it all in his senior memoir for school.
The story is very funny--I laughed aloud several times--but it also has some serious elements. It's perfect for high school-aged boys, because this is exactly what they're like. EXACTLY.
At first I'd thought I might use this as a read-aloud for my ninth graders, but it is definitely not appropriate for classroom use ... and that's a pity, I say, because it's so relatable and because my ninth graders would LOVE IT.
Not for prudes, literary snobs, or the easily embarrassed. (less)
I loved this book when I was younger; I know I first read it when I was in middle school, because I remember getting it from the library.
As with many...moreI loved this book when I was younger; I know I first read it when I was in middle school, because I remember getting it from the library.
As with many books read in my youth, this one is not as good now that I've become a mean old lady. I've lost patience with adolescent angst. Instead of siding with the heroine, I find her whiny, clingy, and self-righteous.
What I did like: out-of-date references to phonographs, movie projectors (as opposed to dvds), and transistor radios.(less)
One of my former students loves this book, so I read it to find out why, and now I know why HE likes it, but not if I like it as much.
Charlie, the mai...moreOne of my former students loves this book, so I read it to find out why, and now I know why HE likes it, but not if I like it as much.
Charlie, the main character, is writing a series of letters to an anonymous person, documenting his freshman year in high school.
To me, Charlie came off as almost developmentally-delayed, though his English teacher tells him he's a genius and he gets straight As. He has little-to-no people skills--that is readily apparent--though it becomes clear through the reading of the book WHY he is this way.
The story is very honest, and is pretty true to the high school experience. I like that it chronicles the mundane as well as the extraordinary, because I'm tired of books and movies about how high school is just one big event after another; it's not. The characters are realistic and they speak like real high school students. The adults aren't perfect, nor are they stupid; they're just adults--people who've aged and who've retained a memory of their childhoods, who try hard and who love hard and who live the best way they know how.
I wish the author had dealt more with some of the issues mentioned in passing, and their effects on the narrator. Some of Charlie's writing is almost cryptic, and while I realize this is to preserve some of the suspense, I wish he hadn't made it so hard to piece together some of the clues.
This is a short read, and somewhat satisfying, though I wish there were a sequel, or something, so I could know what happens next.
*I read this to see if I want to use it in my freshman classes.*
Here's a possibility for mystery-themed differentiated literature circles. I'd use thi...more*I read this to see if I want to use it in my freshman classes.*
Here's a possibility for mystery-themed differentiated literature circles. I'd use this for the above-average readers.
The fact that the main character is a teenager would be engaging for high school-aged readers. She solves it, too, which would appeal to them.
There's a lot of opportunity for extended learning activities. I'd probably bring in some cryptograms, and perhaps try to encourage the students to create some sort of mystery for their classmates to solve. Potential for using map skills and writing letters to authors/celebrities. Could also use newspaper articles for expository supplementary materials.(less)
So apparently Denmark's citizens reluctantly accepted Nazi occupation, since they knew there was no point in trying to defend their tee-tiny country f...more So apparently Denmark's citizens reluctantly accepted Nazi occupation, since they knew there was no point in trying to defend their tee-tiny country from the invading German army. But they did not take the occupation lying down, as it were; instead, they did everything they possibly could to bring down the Germans from the inside, up to and including blowing up their own naval vessels (so the Germans couldn't use them) and helping thousands of Danish Jews escape to Sweden.
This story is about a ten-year-old girl named Annemarie whose best friend Ellen is Jewish. Her family is tangentially involved in the Resistance until the night the German soldiers start rounding up Jews for exportation, and they are forced to become directly involved. Based on historical events, the story describes many clever ideas used by the Danish people, and of course the whole thing evokes a sort of root-for-the-underdog feeling, as this small country works together to overthrow the stupid Nazis.
*The following is full of teacher jargon*
I read this as a possibility for a differentiated literature unit on the Holocaust. This would be for the lower-level readers.
The plot does seem a bit simplistic, but the book's written on a 4th-5th grade level, maybe lower, so it would be a good one for those struggling readers. Also, I can think of several ways to tie-in expository texts as supplementary materials if, for example, I were going to make this a literature circle/book club-type assignment. (less)
Essentially, this novel breaks down to three main characters: Lori, the sexually aggressive runaway, Eric, the teenaged serial...more**spoiler alert** Yikes.
Essentially, this novel breaks down to three main characters: Lori, the sexually aggressive runaway, Eric, the teenaged serial killer, and Det. Proctor, the overeager detective looking to reconcile failures in his past.
Each of the characters is broken, and by broken, I mean that they are mentally damaged, very much so.
Lori's been sexually abused by her mother's string of abusive boyfriends (I'm inferring that; nothing is said straight out), and defiantly uses sex as a weapon and as a means to an end.
Eric was molested by his mom (again, inference) and has become obsessed with recreating that tenderness with girls who look like her. Well. But he kills them first.
Det. Proctor could not undisputedly discover the identity of a serial killer in Oregon, though he suspected it was a cleancut helpful teenage boy who gave away his deviancy with a triumphant smile only Proctor could see. Proctor moved across the country only to get involved in a similar case, fifteen-year-old Eric, who murdered his mom and stepfather, claiming he was physically abused by them.
Because of this claim, Eric is allowed to stay at a juvenile facility until his eighteenth birthday, when he will be released, his records will be sealed, and he will be free to kill again.
It's shortly after his release that Lori meets up with Eric, seeking him out; she says she is "fixated" on him. He, in turn, wants nothing to do with her, but the two are drawn together by their brokenness; when they're together, Lori isn't sexually aggressive, and Eric actually starts to awaken emotionally, to feel tenderness with her that has nothing to do with the release he felt when he murdered his five victims.
The book is disturbing but captivating. I don't read a lot of true crime books, so I don't often "go into the mind of the killer," or whatever. The additional factor of the murderer's age--HE COULD BE IN MY CLASSROOM--is pretty frightening, as is his coldness and objectivity; he is the classic sociapathic archetype, and he is SCARY.
I'm not quite sold on Eric's sexual abuse as a root for his behavior--that might not be what the author intended anyway; perhaps that just awakened some sort of latent tendency toward violence, or maybe he is just innately evil.
I'll tell you what's pretty gross, is that I started to feel a little empathy for him, for his eternal search for tenderness, even if it meant he had to kill to find it. Ultimately, obviously, I don't condone his behavior or find anything justifiable in it, but for just a minute, there was a tiny spark of relatability to him, like he was thisclose to salvation, and I was even rooting for him a little bit, and that scared me--being on the bad guy's side, I mean. Who does that make me?
*The following is teacher stuff for me to remember* Not a read-aloud book, and not a lit circle book, but one I would recommend to MODERATELY WELL-ADJUSTED teenagers who won't use this as a murder textbook.
However, if the book affected ME this deeply, and made ME think some pretty big thoughts, it could serve to open a discussion with students, to help them start thinking about culpability, nature v. nurture, consequences of actions, etc.(less)
Told from two points of view: Michael, who is showing off his antique Winchester and fires a shot into the air, and Jenna, who watches as her dad catc...moreTold from two points of view: Michael, who is showing off his antique Winchester and fires a shot into the air, and Jenna, who watches as her dad catches the bullet in the head two blocks away.
Jenna's grief seems very real, and realistic; there are no funny lines, no snappy dialogue to defer her sorrow. It takes her a good while to even accept the reality of her father's death, and the author does a good job of showing how Jenna's just going through the motions of life, not really connecting at all, because she's still clinging to the hope of her father coming into the house and laughing it all off as a huge joke.
Michael doesn't even find out about the man's death until the next day, and he allows his delinquent friend to convince him to stay quiet. His guilt possesses him, changes him, and he, too, disconnects with reality.
Both Michael and Jenna find comfort with Amy, who has a(n undeserved) reputation as the school slut. I wish we'd had more of her story; there's no mention of how she got that reputation, though there are some VERY realistic events that show how gossip and teenage maliciousness can tear through a person.
There are a lot of questions brought up in the story, BIG questions, with applications to real life that young adult readers can really dig into.
*Note to self* An excellent read-aloud possibility for freshmen.
This book is brutal. So many bad things are chronicled here that it's almost too much. There are victories as well, but one test after the other for t...moreThis book is brutal. So many bad things are chronicled here that it's almost too much. There are victories as well, but one test after the other for the protagonist. Catharsis at the end, but at quite a price.
Excellent book, not appropriate for read-alouds, but definitely a recommendation for my students.(less)
Funny ... this seems like a paler Whale Talk, even though Stotan! was written first. There's still swimming, still abusive behavior, still ignorance a...moreFunny ... this seems like a paler Whale Talk, even though Stotan! was written first. There's still swimming, still abusive behavior, still ignorance and racism, still a bunch of guys learning to lean on each other.
I first read this for my YA Lit class, over ten years ago. Some of the references are a little dated now, but I think it still holds up. I think my students will relate well to it, particularly the "outsider" view; everybody feels like an outsider some time.
*teacher stuff* Good for lit circles/book clubs, maybe in a kids-with-problems context; pair it with Speak to juxtapose the relationship/isolation methods of dealing with pain.(less)