Archives for posts with tag: ages 11-13

9781423105169I enjoyed Gordon Korman’s Ungifted so much that I decided it was time to read some of his other books. I don’t know why I’ve never read his stuff before; he is great! Schooled (Hyperion, $6.99) is a quirky book about Capricorn (Cap) Anderson, who has spent his entire life living on the all but abandoned commune left over from the 1960s. His grandmother, Rain, is the sole remaining resident and has raised and educated Cap entirely on her own. When she falls out of the plum tree, Cap, 13, drives her to the hospital, ending in his arrest (driving without a license) and a brief stint in the home of a social worker, who happens to have spent part of her childhood in the commune. And so Cap starts junior high. Little does he know — because honestly there isn’t much Cap does know about the outside world — the class’s biggest loser is always voted in as President of the 8th grade. When Cap is elected, when he is pranked, and when he is teased by his classmates, he takes it all in stride. Anger, jealousy, and vindictiveness are all completely outside his frame of understanding. Instead, he strives to do his best in his new position, as he knows it’s what Rain would expect of him. The longer that Cap stays true to himself and the principles that he’s learned from Rain, the more the student body starts to recognize and, sometimes begrudgingly, accept his strength of character. His belief in the individual skills of his classmates ultimately yields its own brand of community.

Cap is adorable. The narrative alternates between a number of characters, which allows for a more comprehensive development of the school environment. Korman utilizes this rotating narrative strategy effectively in both Schooled and Ungifted and conveys equal parts disdain and sympathy for both the school bully, Zach, and Hugh, Zach’s biggest prey (besides Cap). He also paints a very realistic picture of the middle school experience. According to Hugh, “Adults are always trying to figure out what makes kids tick. . . . Know what? They don’t have a clue”. The adults in Korman’s books, at least the ones I’ve read so far, do try really hard but they often miss the point, demonstrating that Korman, himself, does have a pretty good clue. I’m going to start recommending his books to kids who have read and enjoyed Andrew Clements’s school stories. I’m also really excited to eventually read more of Korman’s books and will let you know if they measure up to these two.

9780545326995I don’t often read graphic novels. Not because I don’t respect them; quite the contrary, actually. I think comic books and graphic novels are a great medium for reluctant and avid readers, but I do often recommend them to adults who are buying for a reluctant reader. Even as I say that, I realize that it sounds like I think graphic novels are easier or something. I don’t. It takes a lot of skill and patience to read text and illustrations, which is why I don’t often read graphic novels myself. Moreover, I think they are accessible to reluctant readers and are often overlooked, so I like to encourage people to consider them as a viable and respectable genre.

I’ve had the ARC for Drama, by Raina Telgemeier (Scholastic, $10.99) sitting on my bookshelves for a while now, but haven’t read it out of laziness. When it won a Stonewall honor award for the ALA recently, I was intrigued, especially since there is nothing on the cover or in the blurb that made that connection. What a surprise! First, I loved the reading experience. I think you have to get in the rhythm of graphic novels and because I don’t read a lot of them, I forget how to read them. But it didn’t take long before I got swept away. I’m sure I missed a lot of crucial parts of the illustrations, but I got better about taking the time to read them along with the text. Second, I was really taken aback by the pragmatic inclusion of the LBGTA plot lines. Callie loves theatre, but she’s discovered that she’s better behind the scenes than on the stage. She builds sets and props for her school’s drama productions. When she meets twins Jesse and Justin, she discovers two new recruits for the department. Justin craves the limelight and Jesse is perfectly happy to help Callie on the crew. When all the drama starts, during the final performance, Jesse shows that he is just as talented as Justin and also brave enough to push the boundaries of acting. Justin is relatively open about his sexuality. Jesse is more ambiguous. Callie stays pretty cool even in the midst of all the drama and by *not* turning this story into a romance, Telgemeier manages to focus the attention on Callie, her passion for theatre, and the value of friendship.


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