Sorry. It's summer, and the whole turning-on-the-computer thing is tough for me!
Gosselink, John. The Defense of Thaddeus Ledbetter.
Thaddeus is a know-it-all who frequently decides to do things for the betterment of his school. Adults don't agree. His latest escapade was a "true emergency drill" that has earned him the rest of the year in In School Suspension. It's Februrary. In frequent notes to the principal, his lawyer uncle, and a narrative of hi
s "defense", Thaddeus tries to excuse his actions and get out of his punishment. The format includes various notes, drawings, etc.
Strengths: This is a humorous tale, since Thaddeus gets himself into unusual and quirky situations. He is not a nice boy. Fans of Wimpy Kid might like the visula format that includes pictures and changes of font.
Weaknesses: Wanted to slap Thaddeus. No school would put up with him for that long in ISS. He's a whiny, bratty kid who thinks he knows everything. Ugh. However, this book may fall into the Unspeakable Evil category-- I am never going to get it because I am a girl. And a teacher.
This is a good time to bring up the lovely essay by Jeff Kinney in Time Magazine. I especially enjoyed this quote: "The topic was how to reach "reluctant readers" (whom I've since come to know by the more concise term boys.)"
In this article, he talks about teachers and librarians handing Anne of Green Gables to boys who just want to read about video games and sharks. It's worth reading. I agree with many of his points, and yet I still really detest Greg, whom I think brings problems upon himself. Do I have the Wimpy Kid books in my library? Multiple copies. Do I ever recommend them to students? Never. I do try hard to give students what they want to read, but there are books that deliver that and don't make me want to slap the main character. Big Nate, for instance. I love Big Nate because he is essentially a good person who just can't control himself. It's a fine line, but acknowledging the line and my problems with certain aspects of it makes me more successful at getting "the right book for the right child at the right time." I hope.
Cerrito, Angela. The End of the Line.
Robbie is in a very strict juvenile detention facility. They remove his bed every day, and he has to earn his food by doing what the guards tell him; make lists, attend group sessions, etc. Robbie has ended up at this facility after being thrown out of a string of others for violent behavior... and for killing a classmate. Going between his current situation and his introduction to Ryan, a troubled boy from a dysfunctional home whom he befriends even though he dislikes him. (The narratives are in different fonts, which helps.) Does Robbie understand the impact of what he has done? Can he be rehabilitated?
Strengths: Some students really like to read about students in detention facilities, and this is mercifully clean of "gritty reality" in dialogue. It details what life is like in one of these facilities, and makes Robbie a sympathetic character.
Weaknesses: Robbie never seems like a cold-blooded, calculated killer to me, so I didn't quite understand why he resorted to his horrible behavior? Guilt? While I enjoyed the book, there was something off to me about the whole motivation and subsequent punishment. I don't think students will notice.