Thursday, September 3, 2009

Leftovers and other teen reads...

There have been many good things about being the VSB's later literacy consultant but one bonus has been getting to justify reading young adult literature. And helping fuel my habit has been Orca Book Publishers, a Canadian company based in Victoria who publishes some great books for elementary and high school students. They have been kindly sending me their new books for several years, most of which I have been able to give away as prizes at various meetings and workshops, and I have to admit that I haven't read all the books but this summer I have been reading.

One I really enjoyed was Leftovers by award winning author, Heather Waldorf. Fifteen-year-old Sarah has a brush with the law and is sentenced to do community service hours at Camp Dog Gone Fun, a summer program for shelter dogs based on one of the 1000 islands near Kingston, Ontario. Cleverly and tastefully written, we gradually find out what secrets lie with Sarah and the other inhabitants of Camp Dog Gone Fun and how they are able to slowly heal.

Another book with an animal theme that I read this summer aimed at the high school crowd was Strays by Ron Koertge (Candlewick Press). Ted's parents have died who had a pet shop and seemed to care more for the pets than their son. He has no human friends but he has the ability to communicate and understand animals. The book describes his move into a foster home and how he slowly makes friends with humans. Well written and enjoyable.

Another Orca book is Inferno by Robin Stevenson. Inferno is literally about the hell that Dante (who has changed her name) feels she is in when she reluctantly moves with her parents from a city to a smaller suburban area. How things can get out of control is aptly shown in this novel.

When I went to the International Reading Association conference in Minneapolis I hear Jaime Adoff speak and decided to purchase this book. Jamie spoke as part of a session on Adolescent Literature: What Teachers and Students Need and Want. Jaime himself is interesting. He spent about ten years trying to be a rock musician before he found a career in writing. Son of beloved children's poet, Arnold Adoff, and esteemed children's writer, Virginia Hamilton, it probably isn't that surprising that he settled into being a writer.

In his talk to the conference, he described how important he thought it that kids could see characters like themselves in novels, kids who don't live middle class lives and have serious problems. Jimi and Me describes the sadness of a boy and his mother after his dad dies and they are forced financially to move to a small town in upstate New York where his dad grew up, in one of the few black families. Like his dad, a record producer, Keith workshops Jimi Hendrix, and Keith dresses the part, standing out in his new high school. When it comes out that his dad had another family including a son named Jimi, Keith has a great deal with which to come to terms.

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