Welcome to my blog about books and the classroom.
A teacher's opinions on YA literature and the state of public education in America.

Deadline by Chris Crutcher


                                                          Courtesy of www.chriscrutcher.com

Chris Crutcher. 2007. New York, New York: HarperCollins. pp. 316. U.S. $16.99

A coming-of-age story that has the capability to help students, who have undoubtedly lost friends and family, to sort through the shock of grave news. Through Ben’s mistakes and good-intentions-turned-awry, the readers have the opportunity to evaluate the ripples of their actions, the importance of forgiveness and honesty, and the fragility of life, helping to dispel the common teenage “it couldn’t happen to me” fallacy. That is a powerful tool in the hands of young people.

This introspective, and staunchly realistic, text is not only great for real-world education, though; Deadline can hold its own in the classroom…any classroom. I hesitate to bring up Lexile scores, as a work’s Lexile score alone does very little to qualify it, but as it is the only quantitative literary guide, many administrators and teachers use these scores to determine a work’s place in the curriculum. It needs to be said that Crutcher’s story, with a Lexile score of 880L, is sandwiched between classroom-fodder like Crime and Punishment, 850, and Things Fall Apart, 890. Furthermore, it surpasses the scores of some of America’s most taught works like A Farewell to Arms, 730; Of Mice and Men, 630; and The Grapes of Wrath, 680 (http://www.lexile.com). In addition to reading and discussing those great literary works, kids could use Deadline to bridge the gap between ancient and contemporary with the epic poem, Beowulf, as many of the themes tie in with Ben Wolf’s experiences (notice the names!).

This book is a teacher’s dream. Simply stated.

Jumping Off Swings by Jo Knowles


                                                                                     Photo courtesy of Jacketflap.com
Jumping Off Swings

Jo Knowles. 2009. Somerville, Massachusetts: Candlewick Press. pp. 230. U.S. $16.99
Jo Knowles successfully guides the “teenage pregnancy” plot in the tradition of American realism, so that the threat of cliché dies before it gets off the ground. This high-interest work has the potential to help students to distinguish between elements of Idealism and Realism, as Knowles unapologetically confronts the harsh details and tough calls that these teens are forced to face. She does this while probing the tear-evoking emotions of an unwanted teenage pregnancy and reversing the common misconception that said pregnancies are a plague only in high-risk, low-SES households.
Additionally, this coming-of-age text can lend itself to a discussion on the effects of points of view on the reader, as Jumping Off Swings is written in an omniscient POV, following the thoughts and feelings of Ellie, Corinne, Caleb, and Josh. This prevents the reader from seeing both Ellie and Josh as anything but tragic. Knowles leaves us with the understanding that both kids are merely pawns in a perpetuated cycle of teenage ignorance and parental negligence. But she also leaves us with hope, as all four characters face the consequences of the past in their attempts to move forward.