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Feeling Nostalgic? The archives > Help! I need a suitable story.

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message 1: by Sarah (new)

Sarah | 13815 comments OK, so there's a teenage boy who lives on the same street as our bar/restaurant. He is a good kid - one of the view in that neighborhood who isn't involved in the drug trade or gangs.

He has a really bad home situation. Example: this winter he cut his hand rather badly and his mother wouldn't take him to the ER. She put cobwebs on it instead. We took him to buy a bandage and some topical antibiotics since she wouldn't. A week later, when she finally took him, it turned out that he had severed tendons and needed surgery. He missed a bunch of school.
Now he's stuck doing a bunch of schoolwork over summer because of what he missed. Along with a few game customers, we took turns on Saturday night giving him some basic algebra tutoring. Afterward he went around to everyone who had helped and shook their hands and thanked them, then got up on a chair and announced he would thank us again when he was a professional football player.

He also showed me that there was an essay question he had to complete. It says "using a text we've read this year, write a five paragraph essay examining one of the following: characterization, plot, language."
Only problem is that they didn't let him go home with any textbooks, and he says they didn't read any fiction this year. I told him I'd give him a story to read and write the essay on. I have some old Norton anthologies and textbooks from my tutoring days, and I figure between those and stuff available online I should be able to pick something interesting.

I'd like to give him something that he can understand and that might actually speak to him. I figure there's a chance here to show him that you can read for pleasure. I'm not sure if that's possible, but I'd like to give it a try.

So, what easily-found story would you suggest to pique the interest of a 16 year old African African product of Baltimore City schools (not a great reader). The only thing that lights him up is football.


message 2: by Sarah (new)

Sarah | 13815 comments I'm thinking short story, since he has to write the essay this week. The phrasing of the prompt made me think it had to be fiction; I can't imagine analyzing characterization or plot in a non-fiction book.


message 3: by Michael (new)

Michael If it has to be football I'm at a loss except for thinking that Damon Runyon wrote sports short stories. How about just plain adventure stories like Jack London?


message 4: by Sarah (new)

Sarah | 13815 comments Barb wrote: "What about this?

http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/27..."


I'll see if my library has it, since I don't.

Jack London might be an option, and I definitely have a book of his stories somewhere. I was thinking Roald Dahl too.


message 5: by Stina (new)

Stina (stinalee) | 750 comments The title story from this collection The Pugilist at Rest: Stories is not about football, but it's about war and boxing and personalities and anger and all that kind of stuff. There are several study guides to be found online, in case he would need some assistance with some of the deconstruction.


message 6: by Gus (new)

Gus Sanchez (gussanchez) Mike Lupica, the sports columnist for the New York Daily News, has also written several sports-related novels. I know he's also written some of those sports novels for young adults, so there's probably a football-themed one that's suitable for your young friend.


message 7: by Aynge (new)

Aynge (ayngemac) | 1202 comments How about The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes?


message 8: by Sarah (new)

Sarah | 13815 comments I'll PM Jackie - good call.
And good suggestions, everyone.


message 9: by Janice (new)

Janice (jamasc) I'd be interested to hear what Jackie recommends.

What about The Hunger Games? It's a page turner so may make up for it not being a short story.


message 10: by Michael (new)

Michael Kristina wrote: "The title story from this collection The Pugilist at Rest: Stories is not about football, but it's about war and boxing and personalities and anger and all that kind of stuff. There ..."

This sounds really good. I just put it on hold at the library.


message 11: by Cyril (new)

Cyril I agree that he'll need a short story if it's due this week. I recommend The Tell-Tale Heart by Poe. The language will be a little complex for him, but the story is short, engrossing, and available on-line.


message 12: by Stina (last edited Jul 11, 2011 06:12PM) (new)

Stina (stinalee) | 750 comments Michael wrote: This sounds really good. I just put it on hold at the library.

Hooray! Have you read this one?

The Things They Carried

It's also fantastic!


message 13: by Pat (new)

Pat (patb37) Janice wrote: "I'd be interested to hear what Jackie recommends.

What about The Hunger Games? It's a page turner so may make up for it not being a short story."


If he is interested in The Hunger Games, I have a copy I could send (just say the word).


message 14: by Scout (new)

Scout (goodreadscomscout) | 3440 comments You could try the short story "Through the Tunnel" by Doris Lessing. It's suspenseful and easily lends itself to a discussion of plot.


message 15: by Lobstergirl, el principe (new)

Lobstergirl | 24317 comments Mod
Unfortunately it's not a short story, but when he's done with this assignment recommend Paper Lion: Confessions of a Last-String Quarterback, George Plimpton's account of an average guy playing for the 1963 Detroit Lions.

Not to be condescending, but if he's not a reader, Poe and Sherlock Holmes will probably be too complex for him. You don't want him to be turned off of reading!

I'd love to know how the school explains "using a text we've read this year" when they didn't read any. Maybe they're just cribbing questions off the internet, or from two decades ago, or something.

I wish him well...


message 16: by Michael (new)

Michael Kristina wrote: "Michael wrote: This sounds really good. I just put it on hold at the library.

Hooray! Have you read this one?

The Things They Carried

It's also fantastic!"


I haven't read that one but I don't know if I will because it sounds like it might be depressing in a way I don't want to be depressed.

I thought this short story collection was really good: Bad Haircut: Stories of the Seventies


message 17: by Sarah (new)

Sarah | 13815 comments Lobstergirl wrote: "I'd love to know how the school explains "using a text we've read this year" when they didn't read any. Maybe they're just cribbing questions off the internet, or from two decades ago, or something."

It's possible. Or they did read some stories in a textbook and he wasn't there, or wasn't paying attention. They didn't let him take the textbooks with him. I have a friend at city schools who's going to try to tell me what stories are in the curriculum for his grade.

Thanks, everybody!


message 18: by Cynthia (new)

Cynthia Paschen | 7133 comments How about Shirley Jackson's "The Lottery"?


message 19: by Jackie "the Librarian" (last edited Jul 12, 2011 11:23AM) (new)

Jackie "the Librarian" | 8993 comments Here's what I recommended to Sarah:

Lay-ups and Long Shots: An Anthology of Short Stories. Joseph Bruchac. 2008. Purely fiction, these stories tell the tales of athletes in a variety of sports, including track, football, martial arts, Ping Pong, fishing, and dirt bike riding.

Score!. Alan Durant. 2008. This collection of championship stories features a broad cast of characters, including cyclists, swimmers, runners, and ballplayers. From a fast-paced hockey story by Matt Christopher to a dramatic basketball tale by Walter Dean Myers, the collection includes contributions from the best writers of contemporary sports fiction. Gripping stories take readers through all the highs and lows of competition, from the thrill of victory to the heartbreak of defeat. Both boys and girls will be hooked until the final whistle.

Winning Words: Sports Stories and Photographs. Charles R. Smith. 2008. With their fast-paced narration and dynamic, dramatic photos, these stories are guaranteed to pump up confidence, no matter your sport of choice. Brian can’t get a hit at bat until Coach reminds him to turn off his brain and get into the zone. From saving a disastrous football season to sharing the glory on the girls’ soccer field, from a solo punch in karate to thrilling teamwork on the basketball court, these riveting stories and inspirational quotes capture a striving for personal best — and the exhilaration of mastering your fears.

Ultimate Sports: Short Stories By Outstanding Writers For Young Adults. Donald R. Gallo. 1995. A knockout collection of 16 original stories featuring young adults playing basketball and football, running track and cross-country, and training for the triathlon. Challenges abound in water sports, racquetball and tennis, boxing and wrestling, and the "ultimate" sport of the future.

Sports Shorts by Joseph Bruchac. 2005. A collection of eight semi-autobiographical stories about the authors' experiences with sports while growing up. They range from the game "Bombardment" over the lunch hour, sports from gym class, karate, ballet, wrestling, to baseball, basketball and football.

On the Fringe by Donald R. Gallo. 2001. From a star football player standing up for a tormented student to a ruthless bully who tests the faith of a religious girl, a collection of stories embodies the teen "outsider" experience.

Football's Best Short Stories edited by Paul D. Staudohar. 1998. In this lively anthology of 21 stories and one classic poem about football, fathers and sons tackle their issues, coaches and quarterbacks collide, and ordinary heroes emerge from the blitz. This one is adult level, though.

And if she were looking for a full-length YA novel, I'd recommend these:

Leverage by Joshua C. Cohen. This is new, and getting all kinds of attention. I really want to read it!

Pop by Gordon Korman. A lighter read.

Game by Walter Dean Myers, which is basketball instead of football, but has the inner city stuff.

Payback Time by Carl Deuker. This one has a mysterious new football player at school.

I also like Chris Crutcher a lot for sports stories, but he didn't write any about football. Whale Talk is great.


message 20: by Janice (new)

Janice (jamasc) Now it will be decisions, decisions. :)


message 21: by Sarah (new)

Sarah | 13815 comments Now it will be what can I find in a cheap paperback so that I can give it to him without worrying about getting it back.


message 22: by Scout (new)

Scout (goodreadscomscout) | 3440 comments You know how we're all feeling about your efforts, SP. Hope it works out.


message 23: by Sally, la reina (new)

Sally (mrsnolte) | 17345 comments Mod
A bit too late, but I recommend The Most Dangerous Game.


message 24: by Lobstergirl, el principe (new)

Lobstergirl | 24317 comments Mod
Oh, yes. A good one for teenagers.


message 25: by Sally, la reina (new)

Sally (mrsnolte) | 17345 comments Mod
It's like a Choose Your Own adventure or Hardy Boys/Nancy Drew style plot.


message 26: by Jim (new)

Jim | 6485 comments Sorry, just got to this thread and have no ideas for books but do applaud your efforts Sarah.


message 27: by Sarah (new)

Sarah | 13815 comments Thanks. I'll report back.


message 28: by Pat (new)

Pat (patb37) How about Brian's Song


message 29: by Sarah (new)

Sarah | 13815 comments So through some friends-of-friends in the school system, I actually got to talk with one of the teachers from his school, who is contacting the language arts teacher to find out what they read this year. I checked out a bunch of the stuff you all mentioned, but I figured this way he won't waste the effort writing an essay on the wrong book if I can get hold of the right one.


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