Category Archives: self-esteem

Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass by Meg Medina

140127095838-25-young-adult-book-awards-horizontal-gallery1With four starred reviews and a Pura Belpré Award on the cover, I knew this would be a good book. What I didn’t realize is that I would stay up until 1:30 in the morning reading the last chapters, needing to know how everything turns out for Piddy Sanchez. This is a gritty, realistic, coming-of-age story that ultimately offers hope in the power of making our own choices in life.

Publisher’s description:  One morning before school, some girl tells Piddy Sanchez that Yaqui Delgado hates her and wants to kick her ass. Piddy doesn’t even know who Yaqui is, never mind what she’s done to piss her off. Word is that Yaqui thinks Piddy is stuck-up, shakes her stuff when she walks, and isn’t Latin enough with her white skin, good grades, and no accent. And Yaqui isn’t kidding around, so Piddy better watch her back. At first Piddy is more concerned with trying to find out more about the father she’s never met and how to balance honors courses with her weekend job at the neighborhood hair salon. But as the harassment escalates, avoiding Yaqui and her gang starts to take over Piddy’s life. Is there any way for Piddy to survive without closing herself off or running away? In an all-too-realistic novel, Meg Medina portrays a sympathetic heroine who is forced to decide who she really is.

Hand this book to the kid who:

* has reached a cross-roads and has important choices or decisions to make

* struggles with poverty, or needs to be introduced to someone who does

* is being raised by a single parent

* is exploring what it means to be part of a particular culture or to straddle more than one culture (Piddy is bullied by Yaqui in part because Yaqui doesn’t think she is “Latina enough.”)

* responds to a teen voice that is honest and  unapologetic

Use this to discuss:

* Choices –Piddy has a slew of choices in front of her, and not one of them is easy. We see the choices that her friend Joey makes, and some of the choices that Yaqui makes. What choices does Piddy have in life? What are the ramifications of each? This would make for a good discussion, especially when paired with Steve Watkins’ young adult novel Juvie.

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* Community–Although Piddy is being raised by her mother and has never met her father, she doesn’t lack for a support network. Lila, her mother’s friend, and the other ladies at the beauty salon where Lila works (and where Piddy works on the weekends) form a tightly-knit community that looks out for each other. Use Piddy’s story as a springboard to discuss various support systems that teens have in their lives.

* Point of View–Although we never get into Yaqui’s head, we get a glimpse of what her life must be like through Raul, a policeman who patrols Yaqui’s crime-ridden neighborhood, and Joey, Piddy’s friend and neighbor who lives with daily violence in his own home. Although Yaqui is the girl we want to hate, Meg Medina won’t let us, even though she keeps Yaqui’s point of view at arm’s length. How would Yaqui describe seeing Piddy for the first time? What bothers her so much about Piddy Sanchez?

* Bullying–One of the biggest choices Piddy must make is how to handle Yaqui’s bullying. Should she try to avoid Yaqui? Confront her? Tell an adult? This would make an excellent discussion starter about how to handle bullying and its lingering consequences.

Visit author Meg Medina’s website here, and read some sample chapters and see the string of honors this book has received here.

The Nitty Gritty~

Publisher: Candlewick Press

Publication Date: March 2013

ISBN-13: 978-0-7636-65859-5 (hardcover); 978-0-7636-7164-8 (paperback)

Number of Pages: 272

For ages 14 and up

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Fleabrain Loves Franny by Joanne Rocklin

hi_res_FLF_COVER_2-330 The first time I heard Charlotte’s Web was while sitting on the carpet of my 4th grade classroom in 1975 when Mrs. Smith read the book aloud to us. I was captivated. At the time, I had no idea that the book was already more than 20 years old. Fleabrain Loves Franny opens in the early 1950s, just after E.B. White published Charlotte’s Web, and main character Franny is just as smitten with Charlotte as I was. We meet Franny not long after she’s recovered from polio and is grappling with life in a wheelchair. She’s still considered contagious by her friends and their parents, and she wishes for a friend like Charlotte. Fleabrain is no Charlotte, but his imperfect love for Franny sets her off on a journey–both fantastical and internal–that provides both a needed escape from reality as well as a solid plan for her new normal. Franny is a sympathetic character who doesn’t evoke pity, but respect. One of my favorite lines is when Franny’s former gang of friends parades by her house yet again, waving and saying how much they miss her. She thinks: “Which Franny do you miss? Because, actually, I’ve been here all along. In the flesh.” She doesn’t want or need to be treated with kid gloves, and the resolved friendships in the end are both satisfying and realistic.

Teachers and students often ask if we have any new historical fiction titles on the shelves, and I’m looking forward to recommending this one in the fall.

Publisher’s description:  This gem of a novel takes place in Pittsburgh in 1952. Franny Katzenback, while recovering from polio, reads and falls in love with the brand-new book Charlotte’s Web. Bored and lonely and yearning for a Charlotte of her own, Franny starts up a correspondence with an eloquent flea named Fleabrain who lives on her dog’s tail. While Franny struggles with physical therapy and feeling left out of her formerly active neighborhood life, Fleabrain is there to take her on adventures based on his extensive reading. It’s a touching, funny story set in the recent past, told with Rocklin’s signature wit and thoughtfulness

Hand this book to the kid who:

* enjoys historical fiction

* is interested in science (especially microbiology and germs/bacteria/viruses/medicine)

* loves a light touch of fantasy

* is struggling with feeling different from his or her peers

* would like to vicariously visit the Seven Wonders of the World

* is a fan of  E.B. White’s Charlotte’s Web and Katie Speck’s Maybelle series.

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Use this book to discuss:

* Differences–So often we highlight ways in which we are different from other people, instead of celebrating the many ways that we are alike. Having a peek into Franny’s point of view, we realize that the kernel of who she is has not changed; it’s her community who has changed the way they see her through a lens of fear

* The science behind vaccines –As I looked through our library’s online catalog, I realized that we have quite a few non-fiction titles about epidemics and the role/effects of disease throughout history. Jonas Salk, the man who discovered the polio vaccine, is mentioned several times in the book.

* Points of View–While most of the story is told from Franny’s point of view, we do see snippets of Fleabrain’s point of view, as well. Especially in the end, when Fleabrain can’t communicate with Franny, students can discuss misunderstanding, intentions, and forgiveness all within the context of friendship.

For schools with Internet filters that block YouTube, click here for the trailer on School Tube.

Visit author Joanne Rocklin’s website here and my interview with her here in 2012.

Many thanks to the publisher who provided this e-galley via Netgalley.

The Nitty Gritty~

Publisher: Amulet/Abrams Books

Publication Date: August 2014

ISBN-13: 978-1-4197-1068-1

Number of Pages: 288

For ages 9-12

Break These Rules: 35 YA Authors on Speaking Up, Standing Out, and Being Yourself

Jacket.aspxHappy Book Birthday to Break These Rules: 35 YA Authors on Speaking Up, Standing Out, and Being Yourself, edited by writer, educator, and editor-extraordinaire Luke Reynolds!

Last summer, Luke asked me if I would like to contribute an essay to a project that he was putting together to benefit the Children’s Defense Fund–a collection of essays for teens. He wanted me to choose one of society’s unwritten rules and tell not only how I broke that rule, but why teens should, too.

Mind you, as a mother, teacher, and librarian, there are oodles of rules that I follow every day. But some rules beg to be challenged, and I jumped at the chance to contribute to this anthology. And then I found out who the rest of the contributors were–award-winners like Katherine Erskine, A.S. King, Thanhha Lai, Gary SchmidtFrancisco X. Stork, and Sara Zarr.

Gulp.

And many, many other favorite authors of mine–34 in all, to be exact. But I decided to break the Be Intimidated By Greatness rule, and decided instead to be inspired.

School Library Journal  calls the essays “inspiring and thought-provoking,” saying, “As readers head back to the classrooms this fall, these essays can serve as discussion starters and give readers a jumping-off point for thinking about the bigger picture and life after high school.”

Here’s the Publisher‘s description: In Break These Rules, 35 favorite middle grade and young adult authors—including Kathryn Erskine, A. S. King, Matthew Quick, Sara Zarr, Gary Schmidt, and many others—speak directly to their readers and advise them to break the boundaries of conformity. In moving, inspiring, and often funny essays, they take on many of the powerfully inhibiting and unspoken “rules” of adolescence, such as Boys shouldn’t be gentle, kind, and caring; Thou shalt wear Abercrombie & Fitch to fit in; You must be a jock or a nerd—you can’t be both; and Girls should “act like girls.” It is often through reading fiction that kids start to question such restrictions, so who better to speak to them directly than their favorite novelists? The book is focused on encouraging students to break rules in their own lives—a prospect many teens and tweens will find thrilling and fresh.

Hand this book to the kid who:

* Is nervous or unsure about fitting in–maybe a student new to the school or someone who feels left out.

*  Enjoys the work of any of the authors in the anthology.

* Reluctant readers who may be intimidated by reading an entire novel–they can dip into this book and read only the essays with topics that interest them.

Use this to teach:

* Personal narrative–This is the form of writing often used in standardized testing, and this book offers 35 examples of the form for analysis.

* Voice/tone–Some of the essays are funny, some heart-wrenching, others are somewhere in between. It might be an interesting exercise to have students choose an essay and compare it to the tone and voice used by the author in his or her work.

* Anti-Bullying— Aside from the classroom or school library, this would make a good addition to any school guidance counselor’s bookshelf. It would also pair nicely with the It Gets Better campaign.

The Nitty Gritty~

Publisher: Chicago Review Press

Publication Date: September 1, 2013

ISBN-13: 978-1-61374-784-1

Number of Pages: 208

Thanks to Anatastia Suen for creating Non-Fiction Mondays, and to A Mom's Spare Time  for hosting today! Click here for more non-fiction titles for kids.

Thanks to Anatastia Suen for creating Non-Fiction Mondays, and to A Mom’s Spare Time for hosting today! Click here for more non-fiction titles for kids.