Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Diary of a Witness by Catherine Ryan Hyde

Ernie is overweight and has long been the target of his classmates' taunting. He's learned that if you ignore the idiots and keep a low profile, it's not as bad. His friend Will hasn't learned this. Beset by bad acne and sticking-out ears, Will is angry and talks back to the bullies, which makes them abuse him more. When Ernie and Will are involved in a boating accident that kills Will's younger brother, things become worse. Will tries to kill himself, but is saved by Ernie's quick thinking. When the school bullies continue to give Will a hard time, he snaps. Again, Ernie's decision to act instead of being a bystander makes a horrible situation somewhat better.

I liked this in part because of the depiction of adults in the boys' lives. Some were supportive in helpful ways (an uncle who tries to help the boys) and destructive ways (Ernie's mother, who habitually overfeeds him). There were teachers who didn't help, and some who tried. Will's parents have their own problems. I don't know if students will care about this, but it was intriguing to me. Since the 8th graders are doing a unit on problem novels, this caught my attention because it would be a good choice for the boys. Bullying is always a sensitive issue.

Belinda Hollyer's selection of poems, She's All That: Poems About Girls, met all of my criteria for a book of poems. At 100 poems, there is plenty to choose from, but not to much. Several of the poems are catchy and over 40 words long, suitable for memorizing. The cover is colorful and fresh, and the poems are on a variety of topics and in a lot of different forms and voices. I dislike dialect intensely, so didn't care for the handful of poems written in that way, but in general I think this will be very useful when the poetry unit rolls around.

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