Tuesday, August 09, 2022

A Teacher Begs for Books

 First let me say, books are not ever purposely stolen from my urban classroom. I'm firmly convinced that there are dozens of dusty volumes under dozens of beds in Camden and Pennsauken, New Jersey. And probably more than a few scattered around other boroughs that contribute students to my Vo-Tech.

Nor are books purposely defaced or brutalized. They just wear out from use.

The person who holds the purse strings at my school has accused me of not keeping good enough track of my classroom books. And she's right. My classroom library operates on an honor system. There is no way in Hell I am going to submit fine cards for my students if they lose a book. These are kids who get free breakfast and lunch! Why would I make the school charge them for a beat-up paperback?

And with all that said, I don't lose that many books from my room each year. I did when I sent each kid home with a book during quarantine, but can you blame me for that? I thought we would be back in two weeks. It was almost two years.

Anyway, here are a few titles that I could use more copies of. I'll tell you a little bit about them as well.

If there's a book that really does walk frequently, it's Tyrell, by Coe Booth.

These days I'm running a risk stocking this novel in my classroom, because our hero gets a blow job on page 4 and has plenty of action thereafter. But when I say that boys who won't read anything hang on every word in this book, I'm not exaggerating. Besides, this is one of the best books I personally have ever read. It's like the author channeled Charles Dickens and created a brand new Oliver Twist. This story is memorable and a really scathing social statement about our modern society. (Sadly, this book is issued with a weak binding and a flimsy cover. I have had to retire more than one copy after it fell to bits in my hand.)

Tyrell has a sequel, called Bronxwood.

In ten years of teaching, I have only ever had one student who read Tyrell and didn't clamor for Bronxwood. Same hero, same adventures.

Here's another novel that I've had disintegrate in my hands from overuse. It's Snitch, by Allison Van Diepen. The cover art may vary.

This author has several titles that are hugely popular in my classroom. The settings are urban high schools. This one is a sort of love story that includes gang initiation. I've read it, and it's a page-turner. I'm down to one copy.

Now, I'm going to admit that multiple copies of this next one went walking. But no wonder! It's so good. It's Butter, by Erin Lange.

"Butter" is the nasty nickname a bunch of bullies have given an overweight teenager who has no friends. So this teenager decides to livestream a fatal eating binge on New Year's Eve. When he announces this on social media, surprise! He's suddenly popular. Y'all want to read a good young adult novel? This one is tops.

One genre of book that is popular in my classroom is the verse novel. These are particularly coveted by students who speak Spanish at home. And this is a good one. It's called The Poet X, by Elizabeth Acevedo.

Our heroine wants to live a normal life, have a boyfriend, and write spoken word poetry. But her parents are religious extremists who don't allow her to leave home except to go to school. Needless to say, she starts sneaking around.

Now these last two are the most recent and are just getting traction in my classroom.

The first is Shadowshaper, by Daniel Jose Older.

In case you haven't noticed, most fantasy literature has white, white, white protagonists doing white, white, white things. But this one has a Puerto Rican heroine with a Haitian boyfriend, and her adventures are all based on interacting with the Orishas. Why shouldn't minority students have fantasy novels they can relate to? And by the by, this is a ripping good read.

Same goes for this last title, which was popular with my African American students. It's called Slay, by Brittney Morris.

This one is about a gamer who gets targeted online by racists. I think it's the topic that sells this one. Very relatable for my students.

If you plan to endow me with one of these tomes, email me for my address. My email is annejohnson17211 at gmail dot com.

So there you have it. Miss Johnson's hot read needs for 2022! I thank you, and my students thank you, and my administration bean counters would thank you if they weren't so busy counting beans that they can then stockpile as a surplus.

One bit of good news is that I don't need any school supplies this year. I have plenty of pencils and paper left over from past generosity. And I do still use pencils and paper. I tell my students that their grandchildren won't know the art of hand-writing things. But until then, we do use the basics.

1 comment:

Debra She Who Seeks said...

What a magnificent job you've done of finding novels that would appeal to your students! And this is a very worthy cause you're promoting in this post, Anne. I'd be happy to help. Will email you directly.