The Blossoming Universe Of Violet Diamond Book Trailer Assignment

Teachers’ Guide – Reading Group Discussion

Last Bus Out by Beck McDowell

 

Before You Read

 

1. Discuss any stories you’ve heard about Hurricane Katrina.

2. Look at a map of the New Orleans area and find the location of Algiers.

3. Define the term situational ethics. Is there any circumstance in which stealing

         is justified, or is it always wrong to steal, no matter what?

 

Individual Research

Find blogs online written by survivors of Hurricane Katrina and summarize the information you find about their personal accounts of their experiences.

 

Journal Writing

If you had only five minutes to pack before a major natural disaster and could only take one suitcase, what would you pack? Make a list in priority order.

 

 

Chapter 1 – Prelude to Disaster

 

Tuesday, August 23

1. List three things we learn about Courtney’s physical descripti.

2. What evidence do we have of his commitment to basketball?  his talent?

Wednesday, August 24

3. Why does the author include a violent scene so early in the book?

4. What is the effect of the narrative shifting into present tense?

5. What do you think Miz Geraldine means by “Follow your first mind.”? Is it good advice? Why or why not?

Thursday, August 25

6. What is Courtney’s nickname and where did he get it?

7. Why does Courtney consider the people of Fischer his family?

8. What two physical displays show his allegiance to his neighborhood?

9. How did Courtney stay away from the street gangs? Why was it hard?

10. What does Courtney fear when he jokes with the street dudes? Why?

Friday, August 26

11. What are three names Courtney calls his grandmother? Explain them.

12. Why didn’ he take the meteorologist’s hurricane warnings seriously?

13. What were the names of two previous hurricanes that damaged NOLA?

 

 

Chapter 2 – Riding Out the Storm

 

1. List several words and phrases that help set the mood and establish tone.

2. In Shakespeare’s plays, a storm in the opening scene symbolizes chaos in the political or social world. What trauma has Courtney suffered that might be seen as a parallel to weather in Chapter 2?

3. List some of the similes and metaphors used to describe the scene outside.

4. List three other phrases that describe Algiers after Katrina.

 

Journal Writing

Write about a time when you didn’t take something seriously that later turned out to be a bigger deal than you thought.

 

 

Chapter 3 –When the Levees Fail

 

1. What is a levee? How is it made?

2. List five things that contributed to the flooding of New Orleans.

3. What historical evidence shows Algiers’ higher elevation than New Orleans?

 

 

Chapter 4 – This Time is Different

 

1. How does the other boys’ treatment of Courtney indicate he's a leader?

2. Why was Courtney calmer about the post-flood problems than most people?

3. Is their anger over water bottles dropped from planes justified? Why or why not?

4. What health dangers did the people of Fischer Projects face?

5. Why couldn’t the people walk out of the city?

 

 

Chapter 5 – The Key to Escape

 

1.What is the median called in New Orleans? Why? Are there regional names for things in your city a visitor might not understand?

2. List three obstacles to the stealing of the bus that might have stopped someone less determined.

 

Journal Writing

Write about a time when you tried to accomplish something that was difficult. What were the obstacles that stood in your way and how did you overcome them?

 

 

Chapter 6 – Drive

 

1. Discuss possible multiple meanings of the title of the chapter.

2. What do we learn that complicates Courtney’s decision to take the bus?

3. As they drive out of the lot, Courtney admits he never really thought they’d find buses with keys and gas. Why did he go to the bus lot anyway?

 

Journal Writing

Write about a time something happened that you hoped for but didn’t really expect.

 

 

Chapter 7 – Loaded

 

1. Why did the people of Fischer project feel the government had abandoned them?

2. Where does Algiers, Louisiana’s name come from?

3. Besides the lack of funds for transportation and shelter, list two other reasons the people of  Fischer didn’t evacuate before the hurricane.

 

 

Chapter 8 – Roadblock

 

1. What memory is triggered by passing his old elementary school? Why is this important to the story?

2. Why is it ironic that his mother’s drug money keeps him healthy?

3. Courtney relies on instinct, doing what he feels is right even more often than what he thinks is right. Can you think of a time when you relied on instinct to make an important decision? Did it work out well? Why or why not?

4. What was Courtney’s plan for the passengers on his bus as they pulled onto the Westbank Expressway and headed out of town?

 

Journal Writing

Reread the author’s description of Courtney’s fear as he drives away from the police roadblock. Write about a time when you were afraid, paying special attention to your description of how fear feels to you. Include physical reactions as well as emotional ones.

 

 

Chapter 9 - To Lafayette

 

1. What metaphor is used to describe the landscape?

2. List two similes used to describe the randomness of the devastation. How is the second one extended into the next sentence?

3. What flashback is triggered by Courtney’s concern for people left homeless by the storm?

4. What fantasy does Courtney indulge in while living alone in the empty house?

5. Why does his Grandmother say his mom stops calling him? Do you agree and how do you feel about it?

 

Journal Writing

About his mother, the author says, “Courtney loved her and wanted her to be happy. But he didn’t know how to help her.” Write a journal about a time when you wanted to help someone but had trouble finding a way.

 

 

Chapter 10 - Ninth Ward Survivors

 

1. Why are the Ninth Ward victims’ stories so different from the stories of the Algiers people?

2. List some of the substances that contaminated the flood waters, posing health risks to the residents forced to flee in them.

3. Why were numbers of dead painted on houses with spray paint?

4. What were some of the problems faced by police officers after the storm?

5. What rumor fueled cries of racism by residents of flooded areas? What two factors influenced the rumor’s spread?

6. How did some reporters treat stories about white and black victims differently?

7. Many New Orleans victims were offended at being called refugees? Why?

8. Why does Courtney feel lonely on the bus?

9. What are some of the things he worries about while driving? Which do you think are the most valid concerns?

 

Journal Writing

Write about a time when you felt lonely.

 

 

Chapter 11 – Promises to Keep

 

1. Why does Courtney park on the side street at the Cajundome?

2. Why does Courtney step forward to answer the man’s questions?

3. Why does he walk to the front of the line when they first arrive?

4. What two sports similes are used in this chapter?

5. Describe Grandma Streets’ reaction to Courtney’s story? What does this say about her?

6. Why does he go with his Dad to the football game after hiding at his Grandmother’s?

7. What poem do the titles of Chapter 10 and 11 come from? What promises does Courtney set out to keep at the end of Chapter 10?

 

Journal Writing

Write about a time when you had to tell a parent, relative, or friend about something you’d done that might get you in trouble. How did you break the news and what was the reaction?

 

 

Chapter 12 – Miles to Go Before I Sleep

 

1. What do we learn about Courtney’s mom? Describe the two sides of her Gemini personality. What factors might contribute to the “rages” that came over her?

2. How does Courtney try to justify her behavior?

3. What does Courtney do to try to help his mother?

4. How did Hurricane Katrina hurt Courtney’s chance to pursue his dreams?

5. In your opinion, why do the two National Guardsmen allow Courtney to drive back into the city when they’re under orders to keep people out.

 

Journal Writing

Write about a time when someone you loved or respected disappointed you.

 

 

Chapter 13 – The Cajundome

 

1. What do Courtney and Tom learn about the fate of the people on the second bus?

2. What were conditions like in the Cajundome?

 

Journal Writing

Write about a time when your living conditions were not what you expected. How did you cope with the situation?

 

 

Chapter 14 – FEMA Trailer

 

1. Describe the FEMA trailer Courtney and his grandmother are given as temporary housing. What is their reaction to their living conditions?

2. What does Courtney’s grandmother plan to try to get back to normal?

3. Courtney realizes as he goes to enroll at Northside that he will never see many of his friends again. If you knew you might not see your friends tomorrow, what things would you want to do and say today?

4. Describe Coach Moore. What techniques does he use to motivate his players? How do you feel about him?

 

Journal Writing

Courtney is expelled from school for something he says he didn’t do.Write about a time when you were falsely accused or someone you know was falsely accused.

 

 

Chapter 15 – Get In Where You Fit In

 

1. How does the situation change at the high school after Courtney plays ball on Open Gym night?

2. Why didn’t people try to fix up their homes after the storm?

3. Why is Courtney not allowed to play ball at Helen Cox High School?

4. What offer comes from Gil Dorsey-Wagner ? How did he know about     Courtney?

5. In what way does Courtney’s decision to move to California parallel hisinvitation to people on the bus to “get in where you fit in”?

 

Journal Writing

Courtney feels alive for the first time in weeks when he plays basketball. Describe something you love doing and tell how it makes you feel.

 

 

Chapter 16 – Oakland

 

1. What were some of Courtney’s concerns as he flew to Oakland?

2. Who does Courtney meet in the office of the Castlemont ? Why is he surprised?

3. Why does Courtney have such a hard time academically at Castlemont?

4. How did other people in Oakland step up to help him succeed? Why did they?

 

Journal Writing

Write about a time when other people helped you accomplish something important.

 

 

Chapter 17 – A College Education

 

1.What adjustments did Courtney have to make at City College?

2.What insights does Courtney begin to have about his father?

3. Describe Courtney’s tattoo and explain what it represents.

4. How does the marijuana incident make you feel about Courtney?

 

Journal Writing

Make a list of expectations you have about college. What aspects do you expect to be difficult and what parts do you expect to enjoy?

 

 

Chapter 18 – Alone Again

 

1. What is the devastating news Courtney learns about Jamie? How does he react?

2. Why doesn’t the author reveal Courtney’s conversation with Jamie after he learns that she’s betrayed him? How do you feel about that?

3. What does Courtney do to relieve his pain?

4. What is Courtney’s RIP list? Why does he keep it?

 

Journal Writing

Make a list of things you do to lift your spirits when you’re feeling down.

 

 

Extra Journal Writing Assigments

 

Write about people in your life who have functioned in parental roles who are not your biological parents.

 

Write about a time when you were tempted to join in an activity that you knew was wrong. How did you handle the situation?

 

Write about a time someone gave you good advice. Explain how you applied it and how it helped you in life.

 

Write about a time when you or someone you know performed a heroic deed.

 

Posts Tagged «realistic fiction»

Noteworthy

Monday, November 27th, 2017

by Riley Redgate, 384 pages, Grades 7 and up

Jordan Sun’s parents are losing their patience. Even though Jordan has a partial scholarship to the prestigious Performance Arts high school she attends, her parents still have to work overtime to make ends meet, and once again Jordan did not get a lead role in the musical! Is it really worth all their hard earned money to send her to this school if she doesn’t get parts that will get her noticed for college scholarships? Jordan is worried that her parents will bring her home, so she comes up with a scheme to cross-dress and try out for a boys a cappella group called The Sharps. When Jordan transforms herself into Julian she is just looking to get some experience for her college application, but it turns out to be more than she bargained for. Becoming Julian has her considering what it means to be seen as a particular gender in American society; it also has her thinking about the sometimes fluid nature of sexuality. To complicate the whole situation love and friendship sneak up on her and have her doubting her own notions of loyalty, truth and what being a true friend really means.

If you like stories that take place in boarding schools you might also enjoy: The Education of Hailey Kendrick, by Ellen Cook, Carry On, by Rainbow Rowell, or Heist Society, by Ally Carter.

Tags: boarding school, family problems, friendship, humor, identity, LGBTQA, realistic fiction, romance
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Trell

Monday, November 27th, 2017

by Dick Lehr, 307 pages, Grades 6-10

Van Trell has grown up while her dad has been in prison; he was falsely convicted of murder when Van Trell, or Trell,  was just a baby. Now that Trell is 14, she is determined to help prove her father’s innocence. Trell finds an investigative journalist to help her with her search for truth, but digging into the past can sometimes bring up things you would rather not know. Will their investigation help repair the system that put her dad in prison, their broken drug infested neighborhood, or even just Trell’s family?

If you enjoy reading about criminal justice, you might also enjoy All Rise for the Honorable Perry T. Cook, by Leslie Connor, or the autobiography/biography The Other Wes Moore, by Wes Moore.

Tags: based on a true story, family problems, mystery, prison, realistic fiction, teens
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As Brave As You

Monday, August 28th, 2017

by Jason Reynolds, 410 pages, Grades 6 and up

Genie wants to know things, and when he doesn’t know something he can tend to worry about it. He absolutely loves Google because he can ask it all the things he is curious about and he usually gets an answer, but this summer he and his brother are staying with their grandparents where there is no internet. He went from Brooklyn to rural Virginia where everything is a mystery and he doesn’t even have Google! Genie is not having any trouble keeping busy, though. He has personal mysteries to investigate – he keeps track of questions in his notebook , a new landscape to navigate, and, of course, chores, like scooping poop and taking care of birds – things you don’t have to do growing up in the city.

If you enjoy books about summertime or visiting grandparents you might also like: A Long Way From Chicago, by Richard Peck, or Dead End in Norvelt, by Jack Gantos, or Watsons Go To Birmingham, by Christopher Paul Curtis.

Tags: African Americans, brothers and sisters, diversity, families, identity, realistic fiction
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Ghost

Tuesday, March 14th, 2017

by Jason Reynolds, 181 pages, Grades 6 and up

Castle, or Ghost, is a great runner. He is so good that he gets recruited for an elite team just by showing up and showing off one day while they were training which is pretty amazing. The challenge is he has to keep his act together, no more “altercations” at school. Fights just seem to happen to Ghost – anger boils up inside and he can’t stop himself – but now he has to make sure he stays out of trouble or Coach will kick him off the team.

Try some other books by Jason Reynolds: Boy in the Black Suit and As Brave as You!

Tags: family problems, identity, realistic fiction, running, sports, track and field
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The Sun Is Also a Star

Friday, January 27th, 2017

by Yoon, 348 pages, Grades 8 and up

Natasha, Daniel and the Universe all come together to tell this story. Natasha is having a bad day; her parents brought her to the United States from Jamaica when she was just 8. They immigrated illegally and now it looks like they are being deported. The thing is, Natasha can’t remember anything but being American, and she has goals and aspirations that she has worked hard to put in place here in the U.S. She didn’t choose to move without the proper authority, and she has no idea what being Jamaican even looks like. Daniel has always been the good son; his brother is the trouble-maker. His family appreciates the fact that he studies hard and follows the rules, but his family also has plans for his future that don’t fit with Daniel’s own dreams for himself. How can he reconcile these two sides of himself: the good kid and the passionate artist?  He is a poet and a dreamer; Natasha is a scientist and a realist. It would seem like their two life paths are too separate to ever intersect, but the Universe has another plan in mind.

 

If you enjoy realistic fiction books about teens you might also like The Fault in Our Stars, by John Green, or I’ll Give You the Sun, by Jandy Nelson, or Every Day, by David Levithan.

Tags: brothers and sisters, family problems, multicultural, realistic fiction, romance
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You Are My Only

Monday, November 14th, 2016

by Beth Kephart, 240 pages, Grades 7 and up

Emmy is a young first time mother when her baby is stolen. She is blamed and forced into an asylum as a result of the kidnapping where she grieves the loss of Baby and tries to understand her new circumstances and how to survive them.

Sophie has grown up home-schooled by her mother; they have lived in many different houses in many different cities in the effort to avoid the “No Good” her mother fears. Sophie has never really known anyone but her mother, but now that she is 14 she has become curious about people around her. The friends she makes next door empower her to investigate her mother’s past and give her strength to come to terms with what she discovers.

The two girls each narrate alternating chapters until their stories come together.

If you enjoy books about teenagers in trouble or complicated family situations you might also enjoy: Orbiting Jupiter, by Gary Schmidt, or Waiting for Normal, Leslie Connor.

Tags: family problems, kidnapping, mystery, realistic fiction, sad stories
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Roller Girl

Wednesday, April 20th, 2016

Graphic Novel by Victoria Jamieson, 240 pages, Grades 6 and up

Astrid’s mom takes her and her best friend, Nicole, to see the Roller Derby and Astrid is instantly hooked! She has it all planned out: Nicole and she will go to derby camp in the summer and become the best jammers in the club, but life has a way of not always turning out the way you think. Next thing you know Astrid is signed up for the camp alone, can hardly skate to save her life, and has to walk a long way to get home every day by herself in the hot sun. The whole thing is a lot more work than she had bargained for, but she is tough and soon learns that in life just like in roller derby you have to learn to be strong and pick yourself up when you find you have been knocked down.

If you enjoy graphic fiction, you might also like: Hereville: How Mirka Got Her Sword, by Deutsch, or Drama, by Raina Telgemeier.

Tags: friendship, graphic fiction, realistic fiction, roller derby
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The Boy in the Black Suit

Wednesday, April 20th, 2016

by Jason Reynolds, 255 pages, Grades 7 and up

Matt’s mom just passed away; it is a difficult time. His dad is struggling so much that he cannot offer Matt any support. Mr. Ray offers him a job at the funeral home, but he is sure this is the last thing he wants to do. The $15 an hour is hard to pass up, though, and soon enough he is wearing a suit to school so he is ready for work at the funeral home right after. One day while helping out, Matt finds himself sitting at the back of the room during someone’s funeral. Somehow listening to the people share what they loved about the person who had died, and what they will miss and how they experience grief, helps Matt process his own grief. He begins to make a habit of secretly listening to other people’s memorials and this is how he meets Lovey. She has had a hard go of it herself, but her positive nature inspires Matt and helps him heal.

If you like books about overcoming adversity, you might also like: Guitar Boy, by Mary Jane Auch, Waiting for Normal, by Leslie Connor, Ghetto Cowboy, by Greg Neri.

Tags: death, family problems, realistic fiction
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Darius & Twig

Tuesday, September 8th, 2015

by Walter Dean Myers, 201 pages, Grades 6 and up

Darius and Twig are best friends. Twig is a runner; he is so good that he just might get a scholarship right out of Harlem. Darius wants this for his friend more than anything. Darius is a writer, but he can’t imagine how that will help him make a better life for himself. Their lives are not easy.  Bullies, gangs, dirty sports dealings and abusive relatives make navigating their Harlem neighborhood a challenge; good thing they have each other.

 

If you like stories about friends supporting each other you might also enjoy: The London Eye Mystery, by Dowd, or Bluefish, by Schmatz, or Lions of Little Rock, by Levine.

Tags: friendship, inner city story, race relations, realistic fiction, teens
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Cartwheeling in Thunderstorms

Tuesday, April 14th, 2015

by Katherine Rundell, 248 pages, Grades 6 and up

 

Will (Wilhelmina) is growing up free to roam and run wildly on the farm her father manages in Zimbabwe. She is happy and healthy and life has never been better until the day her father dies and she cannot stay on the farm anymore.  Will is sent to boarding school in England and her life abruptly makes a complete about face. The boarding school is nothing but rules, the students make fun of Will for being uneducated and not properly groomed, the clothes required are uncomfortable and confining, and the weather, food and people are cold, awful and mean. Will cannot stand it, and no one understands her or even seems to want to. She decides she will make her way back to Zimbabwe somehow; she can live in the wild around the farm where she grew up, after all, she knows people there; her first step is escaping the school.

 

If you like stories taking place in countries other than the U.S. you might also like: A Time to Dance, by Padma Venkatraman, Words in the Dust, by Trent Reedy, or A Million Shades of Gray, by Cynthia Kadohata, Small Acts of Amazing Courage, by Gloria Whelan.

Tags: coming of age, London, multicultural, realistic fiction, Zimbabwe
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Rain, Reign

Monday, April 13th, 2015

by Ann Martin, 222 pages, Grades 6 and up

 

Rose loves homonyms; she is obsessed with them, in fact. When she finds a new set of homonyms she adds it to her list written all by hand; her father doesn’t think they need computers at home. Sometimes when she finds a new set it is so exciting that her aide has to help her calm down outside the classroom, and sometimes other kids in her class don’t understand her because of this.  Some bad things that have happened to Rose are: her mother left, her father spends a lot of time at the neighborhood bar, and she is not allowed to ride the school bus anymore. The best thing that happened to Rose is that her dad gave her a dog. He found her one day after a big rainstorm and brought her home to Rose; she called her Rain. Rose wondered why anyone would let such a good dog go wandering around without a collar; her dad tells her whoever owner her before must not have cared very much. When Rain goes missing from their house, Rose understands that sometimes even dogs who are loved can get out without a collar and lose their way; it doesn’t mean the owner doesn’t care. Rose knows she cares about Rain more than anything, but it will take more than that to get her back.

 

If you like books about dogs and their owners you might also like: Because of Winn Dixie, by Kate di Camillo, A Dog For Life, by L.S. Matthews, orCracker, by Cynthia Kadohata.

Tags: dog stories, family problems, friendship, realistic fiction
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The Blossoming Universe of Violet Diamond

Tuesday, March 17th, 2015

by Brenda Woods, 222 pages, Grades 6-7

 

Violet is happy; she loves her family. She even loves her perfect sister, though she is a bit envious. Her sister is gorgeous and talented and fits in perfectly at home and in public; no one ever questions how she is a part of their family. Violet’s father was African American and her mom is white. Now that her dad is dead, she is growing up as the only person of color in a white family and just being seen as part of the family out in the world is not simple. No one can just see that she belongs, and even though she is close to her mom and sister she longs for somewhere to fit it without anyone questioning it. Her father’s mother is an artist and is doing a show nearby. Violet is determined to go to the show and convince her grandmother to be a part of her life; since her father died her grandmother has not contacted their family out of both grief and anger. It is time Violet finds a connection to the rest of her personal identity and her father’s family, but is this angry grandmother the way to find it?

If you like stories about personal identity you might also enjoy My Basmati Bat Mitzvah, by Paula J. Freedman, A Mango Shaped Space, by Wendy Mass, or My Name is Mina, by David Almond.

Tags: diversity, family life, identity, multicultural, realistic fiction
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I Kill The Mockingbird

Tuesday, March 17th, 2015

by Paul Acampora, 163 pages, Grades 6-7

 

Lucy loves reading, so when her English teacher assigns To Kill A Mockingbird as summer reading she is looking forward to it. Other students are not as enthusiastic, so Lucy and her friends concoct a scheme to get people talking and wondering about the book. Her group makes all of the copies of To Kill a Mockingbird “disappear” from every bookstore, and library, and in their place the group leaves a flyer that says: I kill the Mockingbird. Suddenly social media and the local TV news has picked up the story and their small time prank turns into something much larger than they imagined; will their idea really get people interested in reading To Kill a Mockingbird like they are hoping?

 

If you like stories about friends working together you might also like The Misfits, by James Howe,  Every Soul a Star, by Wendy Mass, or Chasing Vermeer, by Blue Balliett

Tags: friendship, humor, realistic fiction, school stories
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My Basmati Bat Mitzvah

Saturday, October 4th, 2014

by Paula J. Freedman, 236 pages, Grades 6-7

Tara’s mother is from India but converted to Judaism when she married Tara’s father. They are one big culturally mixed happy family and Tara has always felt comfortable with her mixed heritage, but now that she is preparing for her Bat Mitzvah she is thinking a lot about her Indian grandparents and hoping that taking this step does not mean that she is denying the Indian part of her identity. How can she commit to Judaism without somehow denouncing all that is Hindu? Of course, Tara is also an adolescent dealing with all the awkward and challenging social situations of middle school: friends, boys, Hebrew study, robotics club and school work. How will she find time to make sense of who she really is when she is just trying to cope with the everyday crises of middle school existence?

If you enjoy stories about identity, you might also like: Running Dream, by Wendelin Van Draanen, Curveball: the Year I Lost My Grip, by Jordan Sonnenblick, or Totally Joe, by James Howe.

 

Click here to see if the book is in the library.

Tags: coming of age, diversity, families, friendship, realistic fiction
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Love Letters to the Dead

Saturday, October 4th, 2014

by Ava Dellairra, 327 pages, Grades 7-10

Kurt Cobain, Janis Joplin, Heath Ledger, Amelia Earhart, Amy Winehouse. What do all of these people have in common? They are all dead, just like Laurel’s sister, May. When Laurel’s English teacher asks the class to write a letter to a dead person as an assignment she has no idea what it is going to do to the new student in her class.  Laurel writes her first letter to Kurt Cobain and then she writes to all the dead famous people that her sister admired, but these letters cannot be her assignment; she cannot bring herself to turn them in. She just writes and writes and writes; somehow writing keeps her feeling close to her sister even though her sister is so very far away from here.

It is hard to lose someone you care about. Some other books exploring this topic are: Frannie in Pieces, by Delia Ephron, Mick Hart Was Here, Barbara Park, Sun and Spoon, by Kevin Henkes, and My Sister Lives on the Mantelpiece, by Annabel Pitcher.

 

Click here to see in the book is in the library.

Tags: brothers and sisters, death, friendship, grieving, realistic fiction, teens
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Bluefish

Tuesday, May 20th, 2014

by Pat Schmatz, 226 pages, Grades 7-9

CYRM NOMINEE 2015

Travis’ parents died, his dog went missing, and his Grandpa just made him move from the house in the country he loved. Now he is starting at a new school and it is hard to find where he belongs. When Velveeta befriends him he is not clear what he has done to deserve it, but she explains that she observed a small act of kindness his first morning in the hallway that convinced her to like him. She is a talker and he is a listener, so it is a good match. The trouble begins when they are assigned to work on a project together. It is not that Travis doesn’t want to do a good job, he just never learned to read, and feels like it is too late to get help or admit it; he always figures out a way to slip by, and no one at home is really keeping track. This Velveeta, though, is hard to shake, and though he wants to just push her away it does feel good to have a friend.

If you enjoy realistic fiction about kids with difficult family situations you might also enjoy Guitar Boy, by M.J. Auch, Waiting for Normal, by Leslie Connor, orScrawl, by Mark Shulman.

 

Click here to see if the book is in the library.

 

Tags: alcoholism, family problems, friendship, prejudices, realistic fiction, sad stories, schools, teens
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Picture Me Gone

Monday, March 31st, 2014

by Meg Rosoff, 239 pages, Grades 7 and up

Mila is one of those intuitive people; she can read people. She lives happily and uneventfully with her parents in London until her father’s old friend, Matthew, goes missing.  Mila and her dad, Gil, go to the United States to solve the mystery of Gil’s missing friend. It turns out Mila is not only helping her dad solve the puzzle of the moment, but also uncovering the details of an older mystery besides. Mila discovers no one is just good, or evil; people and relationships are complex and life can sometimes be pretty messy.

If you enjoy realistic fiction you might also like:Guitar Boy by M.J. Auch or Deliver Us From Normal, by Kate Klise. If you are interested in the complexity of life you might also enjoy: The Ocean at the End of the Lane, by Neil Gaiman, or Dirty Little Secrets, by C. J. Omololu.

 

Click here to see if the book is in the library.

Tags: alcoholism, family problems, friendship, mystery, realistic fiction, suspense, teens
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So B. It

Tuesday, January 21st, 2014

by Sarah Weeks, 245 pages, Grades 6-9

Lucky for Heidi and her mom their neighbor Bernadette helped raise Heidi and take care of her mother as well since Heidi was a tiny baby. Heidi’s mother loves her, but she really could not have taken care of Heidi by herself; she is mentally disabled to the point that she only has about 27 words in her vocabulary. One of those words, “soof,” drives Heidi crazy because she cannot figure out what it means! Heidi, at 12, is becoming more and more curious about her past; she wants to understand who she is and where she fits in the world. When an old camera turns up in the back of the closet and provides some photographic clues Heidi is off, determined to find herself and her past without any help from anyone!

If you enjoy books about kids who persevere and triumph despite the odds, you might also enjoy Counting by7s, by Holly Goldberg Sloan, or Wonder, by R.J. Palacio.

 

Click here to see if the book is in the library.

Tags: adventure, diversity, families, multicultural, realistic fiction
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The League

Tuesday, January 21st, 2014

by Thatcher Heldring, 219 pages, Grades 6-9

* STUDENT REVIEW *

Wyatt Parker is tired of being picked on by all the bullies in his school. His brother, Aaron, tells him about a secret football league called the League of Pain. He decides to play football to toughen himself up. The only problem with this is that he had promised his good friend Francis that he would go to golf camp. Now he has to decide which is better, going to golf camp where his dad excpects him to be, or figuring out a way to skip golf and play football with the older kids. Which will he choose?

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If you like sports books try these authors: Mike Lupica, Carl Deuker, Thomas H, Dygard, or Dan Gutman.

 

Click here to see if the book is in the library.

Tags: friendship, realistic fiction, sports
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Counting By 7s

Monday, December 16th, 2013

by Holly Goldberg Sloan, 380 pages, Grades 6 and up

Willow Chance is a genius.  She meets a girl from Vietnam and spends the next 7 days studying Vietnamese.  She learns 85 phrases in addition to a number of verbs and their conjugations. Besides languages Willow also enjoys studying medical conditions and plants, but she has at twelve she has already had a pretty hard life.  She has been orphaned,  adopted, she has had problems in school – she has trouble making small talk and therefore making friends, and she is just about to start a new school which promises to be a challenge. That seems like enough, but besides all that her adoptive parents who love her and she loves so much suddenly die in a car accident. Willow, who likes to know how everything is going to work, finds herself in a place completely out of her control; it is the first time in her life that even counting by 7s has not helped her feel better.

If you enjoy books about kids in unusual circumstances you might also like:  Mockingbird, by Kathryn Erskine, or Waiting for Normal, by Leslie Connor, or Guitar Boy, by M.J. Auch.

 

Click here to see if the book is in the library.

 

Tags: death, family problems, friendship, realistic fiction
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Wild Things

Friday, December 14th, 2012

by Clay Carmichael, 241 pages, Grades 5-8

CYRM NOMINEE 2012

Zoe, who is eleven years old, has had a hard life already.  She hasn’t grown up with a lot of motherly affection or concern, and she has had to deal with a number of her mother’s boyfriends stealing her mother’s attention over the years as well.  

When Zoe’s mother dies, her Uncle Henry takes her in, but Zoe is not sure what she thinks about the arrangement.  Having been left to her own devices all her life has made Zoe very independent and capable; she knows how to take care of herself, but she is not sure if she can ever bring herself to trust anyone else.

Adults in her life have not really panned out, is Uncle Henry up for the challenge of a wild thing like Zoe? 

If you enjoy books with characters facing a challenging family situation, you might also like Waiting for Normal, by Leslie Connor, or Guitar Boy, by M.J. Auch.

 

Click here to see if the book is in the library.

 

Tags: coming of age, death, diversity, family life, family problems, identity, orphans, realistic fiction
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Things a Brother Knows

Wednesday, November 28th, 2012

by Dana Reinhardt     242 pages     Grades 7 and up

CYRM NOMINEE 2012

Student Review

Levi Katznelson’s older brother, Boaz, has just returned from three years in the marines, years that were very difficult for Levi and his family. The whole town is excited he’s back. Everyone is calling Boaz a hero. But Boaz has changed since the last time Levi saw him. He stays shut in his room and refuses to open up to Levi. Unfortunately, Levi’s attempts to get Boaz back to his old self are shut down by Boaz’s unwillingness. When Levi discovers that Boaz is planning on leaving again, on a trip that will last all summer, he decides to go with him.

This young adult novel by Dana Reinhardt is not too long, but delivers a powerful message. It is a book is for people who are comfortable with adult humour and, at times, emotional situations. Narrated by Levi, a high schooler who has lived in his older brother’s shadow all his life, the story frequently reflects back to before Boaz left for the army when he was a high school star.  The best kind of novel is the kind that makes you reflect back, and thats exactly what Reinhardt has done. Through her writing you can feel the emotions of Levi whom, even though he is physically back, tries to bring his older brother home. AH

If you enjoy books that have to do with family in the army and finding yourself you might also like: Greetings from Planet Earth, by Barbara Kerley and Dogtag Summer, by Elizabeth Partridge.

 

Click here to see if the book is in the library.

Tags: American history, brothers and sisters, family life, realistic fiction, teens, veterans, war, Young Adult
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Middle of Nowhere

Wednesday, November 7th, 2012

by Caroline Anderson, 214 pages, Grades 5-8

Curtis has been a foster kid before the last time his mother disappeared.  That time he was only six, the same age Artie is now, and his foster brother was a bully who made his life miserable.  

That is why this time when his mom doesn’t come home Curtis takes care of things himself.  He is convinced if they let someone know she is missing, they will be separated and sent to terrible foster families.  It seems possible Curtis might manage it when Mom is only gone for a few days, but as those days stretch into weeks and weeks into months, it is too much for a 12-year-old boy to handle.  

Luckily when a neighbor lady asks Curtis for a hand, they realize they can help each other and the boys manage a little longer on their own, but Mrs. Burt decides they all need a summer vacation, so she takes them to “the middle of nowhere” and Curtis starts to worry he will never see his mother again. 

If you enjoy books about kids trying to make the best of a bad situation, you might also like:  Waiting for Normal, by Leslie Connor, or Guitar Boy, by M.J. Auch.

 

Click here to see if the book is in the library.

Tags: brothers and sisters, family problems, foster families, realistic fiction
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Out of My Mind

Monday, July 2nd, 2012

by Sharon Draper, 295 pages, Grades 5-8

CYRM NOMINEE 2012

Melody has an amazing memory for detail; she is extremely observant and intelligent.  The only problem is, no one around her can tell how much she understands because her cerebral palsy makes it almost impossible for her to communicate.  Her parents believe she is smart and her caretakers can see she has a good brain, in fact, one of her caretakers comes up with a system that helps Melody communicate simple things, but Melody craves so much more. All of her ideas, thoughts, jokes and insights are trapped inside her.  How can she get the recognition she deserves for her brilliant mind if no one can really tell what is going on in there?

If you enjoy books about kids who overcome adversity you might also enjoy Anything But Typical, by Nora Raleigh Baskin, or Waiting for Normal, by Leslie Connor.

 

Tags: diversity, friendship, humor, identity, prejudices, realistic fiction, self-realization, Young Adult
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Waiting For Normal

Friday, January 6th, 2012

by Leslie Connor,  290 pages, Grades 6-8

CYRM NOMINEE 2011

Addie’s life has a lot of “twists and turns” that she doesn’t expect.  She used to live with her Mommers, Dwight and her two little sisters, but after what she calls her big mistake everything changes.  Now, she and Mommers are moving into a trailer home and “the littles” (her sisters) are moving away with their dad, Dwight.  

Addie is good at making the best of almost every situation; her mom calls the trailer a piece of junk in the middle of no where, but Addie calls it an adventure and sees her new loft-room as cozy, not cramped.  Even when there is no food in the house, she can create a delicious meal, in fact, she has invented a repertoire of toast-dinner recipes.  

Addie’s winning personality makes her a lot of friends, but her life is far from normal; she might need more than optimism to get her to out of danger in the end.

Other stories about challenging family situations are:  Guitar Boy, by M.J. Auch, Grounded, by Kate Klise, and Ruby Holler, or Bloomability, by Sharon Creech.

 

Click here to see if it’s available for check out.

Tags: coping with challenge, disfunctional families, diversity, families, family problems, girls, identity, realistic fiction
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A Long Walk To Water

Thursday, January 5th, 2012
by Linda Sue Park, 120 pages, Grades 5-8

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Salva is at school when they attack.  The teacher sends the boys running out the back door and into the forest to get away from the invading rebel soldiers.  

This is the beginning of Salva’s journey through southern Sudan into Ethiopia on the run from the war sweeping his country, and he is on his own; he was separated from his family when their village was attacked.  

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