Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Two perfectly nice books

America Street: A Multicultural Anthology of Stories, edited by Anne Mazer, is the sort of book I can see adopted by language arts programs everywhere. It reads like a unit of a text book, which is not a bad thing, it's just not what most of the students want. The stories are all heavy on lessons and deeper meanings of life, and would be great for class discussions. The only real stand out here is the Lensey Namioka "The All-American Slurp", which was engaging and amusing.
Also hitting a bit hard on the lessons and deeper meaning is Jacqueline Woodson's award winner, Feathers. A new boy joins Frannie's class. The class is mostly black; he's white; his parents are black. How does he fit in? Why is his hair so long, other than it is 1971? Why does he let the students call him Jesus? The most intriguing part of this book is the portrayal of Frannie's brother, who is deaf and communicates in sign language. The scene where two girls are interested in him until they find out he is deaf is very effective.
With the rush of children checking out books, I am constantly trying to find more sports books, more funny books, and more spy books with lots of action. We just aren't training the children properly. They should be asking for slow-paced, introspective novels about the deeper meaning of life.
Or should we be training authors to deliver their messages in a way that might entice children to actually want to read their books?

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