Friday, July 06, 2012

Guy Friday-- Rockin' Guys

In honor of Guy Friday, check out this post on Michael Morpurgo's Blog. I love the photo caption: "It's not about testing and reading schemes, but about loving stories and passing on that passion to our children."

Now, put on Rubber Soul or your Beatles' LP of choice, crank the volume, and get into these rock and roll related books just in time for Ringo's birthday tomorrow. (Sorry, Paul-- don't have any connection with you in any of these items, but from what I hear, you're doing pretty well!)

Behnke, Alison. Death of a Dreamer: The Assassination of John Lennon.
1 January 2012
The fascination with the Beatles still continues among middle school students even though it has been over 30 years since the death of John Lennon. On the morning of 9 December 1980, there was a noticeable pall over my high school, and all my friends could talk about was Lennon's death. I had no real idea who he was, and couldn't have named any Beatles' tune if asked. In college, I became familiar with all of their works, but this book shed a lot of light not only on Lennon's life but the changes in society during his floruit. Concise and nicely illustrated, this book covers Lennon's early life and his involvement with the Beatles, but continues on with his marriage to Yoko Ono and his activities involving pacifism and social justice. A brief chapter explains Chapman's supposed motivations and mental illness, and the book concludes with the aftermath of Lennon's death and his social and musical legacy. At 96 pages, this is a perfect length for students who have even a faint interest in the Beatles and Lennon, and is an attractive enough book that casual readers might pick it up and be interested in learning more about this artist.

Briant, Ed. I am (Not) The Walrus.
8 July 2012
Growing up in Port Jackson without a dad and with a mum who is struggling to make ends meet, Toby's life is difficult, but he makes do. He and his friend have a Beatle's cover band that they are trying to name (and there are so many fun choices-- The Day Trippers, The Nowhere Men, etc.) and get gigs for. Toby is lucky to be able to use his brother Shawn's equipment, since Shawn is off in the military, but when he finds a note in hi precision bass that it may be stolen, he starts to wonder whether or not he should keep the instrument. Trying to return it proves interesting but perilous, since a shady guy named Rupert is very eager to get his hands on the guitar, which was used at one time by George Harrison. With the help of a girl he meets, aptly named Michelle, Toby tries to make his gigs, figure out what is going on with the guitar, and come to terms with his difficult family situation.
Strengths: This was a great realistic fiction book for boys, with a nice romance and great music connections. I'm sure that there are a lot of boys in high school who are in bands who would like to read this. It's clearly British in tone (set near London), but not distractingly so, and over the twenty years that I have been teaching, the Beatles have never waned in popularity among a small number of students. Picky Reader, who loved Jan Page's Rewind, might even read this one.
Weaknesses: Sometimes scenes dragged on with too much descriptive detail, but not often.

Miller, Barbara. Rock God: The Legend of B.J. Levine.
17 January 2012, Sourcebooks

BJ moves with his lawyer mother and ex-rocker father from Cleveland to New York City. He's excited that things might be different-- he'll be cool, not called "Dockers" by classmates, and he'll have the same close relationship with his father that his best friend Kevin has. When the weird Merv shows up and drops a book about how the Good Supreme, a legendary rocker, BJ decides to follow the vague instructions and try to become a rocker himself. He recruits Jann, a guitar player who earns money playing sappy songs at birthday parties and for the Cotton Candy Twins, as well as drummer Layla. They manage to break into a Daughters of Glenda concert and sing for her on stage, and end up traveling to Cleveland to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in the company of Terry and the Pirates. BJ meets Sammy, whose father was in a bad with BJ's father. Sammy is tired of the rock life style and wants to run off to California to find her mother, but the two are railroaded by B.L.A.S.T. (Bayonne League of Angels for the Sacred Two) who believe that Sammy and BJ are the answer to a prophecy that states they will be the next Sacred Two, i.e., the two lead singers in a rock band. Complications and running around ensue, and BJ has to figure out some family secrets before he can decide if his destiny is to be a Rocker or a "Docker".
Strengths: This book had a lot of goofy, frenetic activity, and I can see it being very interesting to reluctant readers who are interested in rock music. The fast pacing makes this move quickly, and the mixture of goofy and details about being in a rock band is very fun.
Weaknesses: Sometimes the quick, goofy tone made it hard for me to follow the plot.


  1. These all sound great! I'm adding them to my wishlist. Thanks for sharing.

  2. My mother hates rock music so despite growing up in the 60s I was unaware of the Beatles until a classmate brought in some 45s in 6th grade and played them for the class. I was intrigued by Revolution and went to the library to do research (I am fairly sure this was not the usual response). I am surprised there were already several books waiting there for me but am sure they were all in the adult section! This reminds me of the one time I saw Sir Paul in real life; perhaps a future blog post.