Thursday, November 22, 2012

Book High
My son, Collin, and I  returned from NCTE and ALAN yesterday. We spent Wednesday in a nest of books and blankets, reading and resting. I can think of no better way to usher in the holidays.We brought home some great titles! I'm in the process of using Booksource's Classroom Organizer to scan (with my webcam) titles in order to add them to my classroom library. Donalyn Miller (a.k.a. The Book Whisperer) recommended Classroom Organizer on the back channel at ALAN, so I thought I'd give it a go. The teachers behind me were using Delicious Library on a Mac Laptop, but I wanted something that would cross platforms and devices. So far, it's intuitive and easy to use. We'll see how I fit it into our classroom reading routines and community.

1 of 4 suitcases
We hauled home some books. Our luggage (4 bags total) weighed in at 154 pounds. Collin and I each carried on 2 bags filled with books. I have to think we hauled at least 50 pounds each bringing our book haul  total to over 200 pounds of print. The loot is spread out on the dining room table, waiting to be scanned and carted off to school. In the meantime we're reading fiends.

Collin read The Third Wheel by Jeff Kinney (the seventh book in the Diary of the Wimpy Kid series) while we were still in Las Vegas. He's since finished Sailor Twain by Mark Siegel, and Scott Westerfeld's  Levithan. Next up on his to-read list is Kill Order by James Dashner. On our way home I read My Friend Dahmer by Backderf, The Shadow Collector's Apprentic by Amy Gordon and Almost Home by Joan Bauer (on homelessness and hope). I loved the Backderf and Bauer's books, the other was over-done, the language seemed stilted or forced somehow.

Backderf's commentary on adult indifference strikes home. I see teenagers in my classrooms everyday that long for connection:  with parents, with teachers, with adults who care about them. How tragic that Dahmer--as horrible as his life of crime turned out-- never found that. How could the adults around him have ignored his drinking? Why didn't anyone stand up and say, "something is wrong" and find him some help?  Questions that haunted the author, I'm sure, after listening to his ALAN panel presentation. Well done, the book tells a tragic story--the art and the blackness that seeps into and around Dahmer adds layers to the telling.

Instead of gathering books for the Project for Awesome auction, this year Colllin attend at the behest of a middle-school teacher. Joan Kaywell introduced us to Mr. Pauling at FCTE. He and Collin worked out an ALAN deal, so the books Collin received as part of his registration were signed for his students and classroom library. We mailed them off with a letter yesterday. You can read Collin's letter to the class at his blog here.

Of the books we brough back (in what seems the biggest book heist of NCTE history), Freaks Like Us by Susan Vaught is my favorite so far. I finished it yesterday before Collin woke up, so he didn't catch me clutching tissues and crying on the couch. It's about students in a special education program--they are the "alphabets" (ADD, ADHD, OCD, ODD, SCHIZO). When Sunshine, one of a trio of best friends goes missing, Jason must wade through the voices in his head to aid the FBI in their search. He suffers from Schizophrenia and divorce, his "colonel" Mom brings a lawyer to the search headquarters knowing Jason will be an easy target as law enforcement creates early "persons of interst" lists and demands DNA samples. Most of the novel captures the first (critical) 24 hours of Sunshines disappearance. Well crafted, Vaught hones language until it rings true to each character and "alphabet" she portrays. Move it to the top of your to-read pile, or set aside what you've already started and jump into this one. It made me grateful for my family, my son, recovery, and so much that I take for granted. It's a good reminder and a great read.

Happy Thanksgiving!

1 comment:

  1. I was struck by how tragic a character Dahmer was in that book. So sad. By the way, I wouldn't let anyone check books out yesterday so everyone could browse all the goodies, but this morning there were kids waiting outside my door to get the book they wanted. :D They said it was "Book Black Friday".