This week I read the novel Winger, by Andrew Smith. I won’t give the ending away, except to say it wasn’t what I expected. The novel has a 14 – year – old boy, Ryan Dean West, as the protagonist, and a lot of the book was funny, crude, and engaging. The voice of the main character seemed realistic and relatable, and I really enjoyed it. For those of you that have students that enjoy mixed media style books, this one does have a lot of graphic novel panels scattered throughout.
Then I got to the last section of the novel. It hit me hard, and I was finishing my reading in the auditorium, while supervising the students in the student – directed one acts. I had a moment where I actually pondered the fact that I had been sucker punched by a YA novel.
I probably would have cried had I been reading alone. What I did do was turn to a nearby student that I knew was reading books of off the same list as I was, and ask “Have you read Winger“? She had, and we had semi-whistpered, commiserating discussion about the novel, especially that ending. There were other students nearby, so we tried not to give any spoilers out, although later another student joined the conversation.
Upon later reflection, It was the type of moment that made me A) glad to work in a library setting B) happy to be reading from the Lincoln List. I work in Illinois, and our library supports both the Lincoln List and the Rebecca Caudill Young Readers Award, both of which are sponsored by ISLMA (Illinois School Library Media Association). Because I knew students that were reading off of the list, and because they knew of my involvement, it gave us a shortcut to conversation. We have some books in common. The lists are another great tool in building reading community.
Today I finished my second graphic novel for the month, thereby making it at least one month with my resolution intact.
The second graphic novel I read was Skim, with words by Mariko Tamaki, drawings by Jillian Tamaki. It was published in 2008, by Groundwood Books. The artwork is all in black and white, which works really well for the story of teenage isolation. Kim, the main character, is called Skim by her largely white classmates. The story occurs in Canada, and features an incident in which Kim, and the other Asian attendee at a party are kicked out early. Reflecting on the experience later, she states, “Hien’s parents adopted her from Vietnam two years earlier and she never got invited to parties. Maybe she thought that’s how people left parties in Canada. Asians first” (86). The incident of the party works as a metaphor for her treatment by others throughout the story, as a marginalized and misunderstood figure in her school and homelife. A near affair with an older female teacher also serves to drive a wedge between herself and her best friend, and the suicide of a student in the opening underscores the concerns others seem to feel for Kim.
The starkness of the art does really underscore the text, but this is not a bleak angst – ridden text. There is heartbreak, but there is also the quietly moving story of a teenage girl finding her way, while remaining true to herself. Friendships shift, but Kim also discovers at least one new friend during the story, and continues to create art.
This would be a good addition to a high school collection, ours does carry a YA label that I found appropriate, the text is set in the early 1990’s, and casual smoking is present, as well as explorations of sexuality.
This month I resolved to read two graphic novels every month this year. Graphic novels are one of my weaknesses, I am not great at reading them, and as a result I struggle when students ask me for recommendations.
On January 20, I completed the first graphic novel. I chose Nathan Hale’s Hazardous Tales: Donner Dinner Party, written by Nathan Hale. The premise is that Nathan Hale, a famous spy, is about to be hanged for his crimes, but he tells stories to the hangman and the British soldier while they wait. In this section of the series, Hale takes on the subject of the Donner Party. Hale’s tone is very serious, while the hangman is somewhat more comedic, and provides some humorous relief to the more depressing and horrific sections of the tale. One of my favorite sections was the graphic representation of all of the families present in the Donner party. It was on pages 42-43, and really helps to illustrate the scope of the people involved. I think this series would be really beneficial for anyone that is interested in history. Also, if you have students that struggle with connections to history, or understanding, the graphics throughout, and the connections, should aid those students.
If you would like more information on the series, the author does have a blog with additional information.
Last year sometime, while driving my son to daycare in the blue – blackness of early morning, I had a scary thought. What if the bulk of writing I did on this Earth was commenting in the margins of student essays? What if most of my work ended up disregarded and in a landfill? I’m sure part of the depth of the melodrama that day was due to the earliness of the hour, and the volume of essays I was in the midst of grading, but it did really start me thinking about what I wanted from the future. I had talked to our previous librarian about getting enrolled in a school librarian certification program, but the timing had never seemed quite right. When our librarian had to retire earlier than she had planned, I really thought I had missed my window, but then the library aide at the time asked if I was going to apply. For once, I decided to take the plunge, and both apply for the position, and to a school librarianship program. I knew getting the job was a longshot, but against all odds I was hired. I am loving the library thus far, and I am so excited to learn and grow throughout the program. My favorite moments of the day are when I help a student, or a teacher, find something they need. It isn’t that the library is less work, but it is more of the work I really like – planning, collaborating with teachers, and working on programming to encourage reading.
I have thought about starting a blog for awhile now, but there has been substantial dithering. Over the summer, I started to research blog construction, and even started some post drafts, but ultimately decided to wait. I did some prior blogging with students on Kidblog.org when I was a classroom teacher, but it was a contained site, and only those with permission could see it. While I am starting this blog for a class, I hopeful it will grown and change as I really embark on a new stage in my career, I was hired as the district Library Media Specialist in a small rural school district, and I am concurrently getting my library certification. I have a lot to learn, and am excited about new adventures.