Go to Teach Mentor Texts to see what other educators are reading and recommending today! I finished two very different YA books this week. I may join one of the various reading challenges I've seen the past few weeks or just keep reading the books my students continue to recommend.
The Thing About Luck by Cynthia Kadohata was a book I read aloud to my wife. It would also be a great book to read aloud to a class of students, especially those with fewer rural life experiences. Summer is a twelve-year-old daughter of Japanese harvesters who have been having a spell of bad luck for almost a year. Usually her whole family, parents, grandparents and younger brother (who is intelligent but somewhere on the Autism Spectrum), spend the spring and summer harvesting wheat from Texas to Canada. This year, her parents are in Japan helping dying grandparents and Summer must spend the entire summer with her strict but loving (and lovable) grandparents. The kids help grandma with the cooking and the grandpa is a combine driver. The challenges of the daily grind, family life in flux, trying to find friend for her brother, secret crushes, and fears (she did catch malaria from a mosquito the year before) are all compellingly told from Summer’s point of view. She works to understand her grandma, her brother, the adult world, her own responsibilities, when to tell the truth and when to stand up for herself. A few illustrations of combines, harvesting, and mosquitos help give the reader an understanding of some of the descriptions and also of Summer. A good story well-told and full of humor.
Two Boys Kissing by David Levithan weaves together the lives of several rural, gay, high school age boys around an attempt to break the world record for the longest kiss. Craig and Harry have not dated for a year, but they are going to try and kiss for over thirty hours on the front lawn of their high school, broadcast live on webcam. Two other boys have just met at a gay prom and are going through the initial excitement and palpitations related to first dates. A third boy flirts online through a variety of gay hook-up sites while cutting himself off from the outside world. The characters are wonderfully developed and told with such honesty that their emotions are relatable to all readers. They deal with varying amounts of support or knowledge from their families and friends, bullies, and love won and lost. The last character is the spirits or ghosts of all the gay men who have gone before them, many who have died from AIDS. They are written in second person and are an older, wiser and unheard voice commenting on the upcoming generation of gay men. They are cheerleaders, offering a mature perspective to the youthful up and down of emotions the living characters are feeling. An intense book with mature content that does a great job of showing the human side of the characters rather than branding them with a broad a stereotypical brush.