The Hate U Give

the hate u give

Last semester in Methods, The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas was book talked by a classmate, and it really intrigued me. Ever since it was book talked, I had only heard positive, raving reviews about it online. Needless to say, I was very excited that my book club chose it as one of our readings.

This book is told in first person from the protagonist, Starr Carter. At the beginning of the novel, she witnesses her best childhood friend get shot by a police officer when they were pulled over after a party. Neither of them were drinking, and they were both unarmed. Starr is the only witness in the case, and she must decide if she wants to stand up for her deceased friend Khalil or keep quiet. Starr also struggles with her identity throughout the story. She lives in a predominantly black neighborhood of Garden Heights but goes to school almost an hour away in a predominately white area and dates a white classmate, Chris. She feels that she has two identities, one around black people and one around white people. This obviously takes a huge toll on her, and she said that she sometimes feels that neither side of her is enough.

I couldn’t relate to Starr’s specific experiences throughout the novel, but I think Angie Thomas’s portrayal of Starr made her a very relatable character. Angie Thomas was born in 1988, making her 29 or 30 years old, but she flawlessly writes from a teenager’s perspective. My book club discussed how all of the references she makes throughout the book are very accurate and popular today. I also found the book to be very convicting. People were more concerned that Khalil was a suspected drug dealer than with the fact that he was shot three times by a cop even though he was unarmed. At one point, the event makes the news with the headline “Drug Dealer Killed in Police Shooting” or something like that. This part really stuck out to me because if I saw that on the news, I wouldn’t have thought twice about it.  I HIGHLY recommend this book to anyone who hasn’t read it. I have a copy that anyone is welcome to borrow! 🙂


The Genius of Penny Kittle

First of all, I’d like to say that I really hope that Penny Kittle’s students feel truly blessed to have her as a teacher. Her classroom seems like a magical place. Anyway, our reading from Book Love this week was really insightful.

Penny Kittle said, “a key difference between readers and nonreaders is readers have plans. A to-read-next list helps whens students come to class having just finished an engaging book and are reluctant to start another” (63). I experienced this firsthand. My first book talks were last semester in Methods, and they made a HUGE difference in my reading life. There was multiple books being advertised by students and Dr. Ellington every day, and I started a list in the back of my planner of all of the books that sounded interesting to me. I continued the list on sticky notes and in my notes. A lot of my random sticky notes are lost now, but I think it’s so cool that I got introduced to different books every single class, and I think book talks will make the world of difference to middle school and high school students.

Chapter six was about reading conferences. Although the word “conference” seems intimidating, her conferences are extremely low-stakes. She simply walks around and has a conversation with students about what they’re reading. Common questions are “What are you reading?” “Why did you chose it? “How do you find good books?” “What’s on your to-read-next list?” “What authors are your favorites?”

What I thought was most interesting from this chapter was when she talked to a student about a Stephen King novel that she hadn’t read. She said, “It isn’t my imagination. Park sits up taller. There is something powerful about giving students the authority to teach us” (86). She wouldn’t know if what he describes to her is correct or not, but he is so excited about having the chance to share a story with her. I find that really incredible.

A Girl Named Disaster Pt. 2


Over break, I finished A Girl Named Disaster and almost completed The Hate U Give, but I’ll save that for another blog post. I was again surprised about how long it took to finish the book. I was able to learn some of the words, but I still kept my finger in the glossary. Nhamo also travels much quicker the second half of the book, and I frequently looked at the map in the front of the book as well. While traveling, Nhamo keeps small mementos of her mother and often communicates with her as well. Much of the second half, Nhamo was living on an island that was also inhabited by baboons, and I can’t imagine how terrifying that would be. I also frequently forgot that she wasn’t even in her teens yet, but this poor girl was fending for herself for months! I’m nowhere near capable of doing that.

It’s set in the early 1980’s, and I think it’s really interesting that the story seemed so much further in the past than it actually is because of cultural differences.

Spoiler! Kind of. I won’t give the exact ending of the book, but it wasn’t as eventful as I thought it was going to be. Personally, I like dramatic, surprising endings, so I was a little disappointed with the happy ending at the end of this novel. However, take my opinion with the grain of salt because I have a very specific opinion about endings!

As I said last week, I think this book is a fantastic window read for students. It may be a bit difficult because of the length and background information for junior high students. It’s definitely the most challenging YA book I’ve read so far this semester, but I think it would be great for students who want to challenge themselves and learn about different cultures.

A Diverse Reading Life


Photo CC By: Viva Vivanista

What does it mean to have a diverse reading life?

We’ve studied diversity over the past few weeks, and it’s something that has really peaked my interest. Hannah Gomez, in On Trying to Read Diversely, questions why people have to force themselves to read diversely. She said, “it seems like saying that you’re ‘trying to read diversely’ means you’re already doing it wrong.” At the end of her blog, she asks if diversity reading challenges are a crutch or necessary to some readers.

I think she raises some very good points. If we’re reading “diverse” books just to read “diverse” books, are we missing the point? Should reading diversely come naturally if we are truly dedicated to reading as much as we can? I think the answer is yes. However, I think “diversity challenges” are great for people to get out of a rut they may be in. I’ll be the first to tell you that my YA reading choices haven’t been the most diverse, and they’ve all been very much within my comfort zone. Challenging myself to read diversely was necessary for me.

To me, an ideal diverse reading life would be to read “diversely” without being challenged or actively trying to do so, and I think diverse books are about people unlike myself. I classify as female, Christian, a student, middle class, heterosexual, and Caucasian. Reading about characters who don’t share one or more of those categories would be reading diversely. Because I didn’t get much time for independent reading in high school, I read strictly in my comfort zone when I had the time to read. When reading was a privilege, I read books I knew I would like. I wish someone would have challenged me to get out of that habit, and that’s what I hope to do for my students. I think putting books in categories of mirrors and windows is an extremely accessible method to challenge students to actively diversify their reading.

A Girl Named Disaster


Last week, I started the novel A Girl Named Disaster by Nancy Farmer. It’s the first YA book I haven’t been able to finish in four hours of reading, so I’m planning on finishing it this week. So far, I absolutely LOVE this book, and it was a perfect reading for the topic of diversity we’ve been studying.

This book follows Nhamo  who’s from a small village in Mozambique, Africa. Nhamo’s mother earned a scholarship to attend a Catholic school, and while she was there, she got pregnant with Nhamo and had to move back home. Nhamo’s father had nothing to do with her, and her mother was killed by a jaguar when she was very young. After a cholera outbreak in their village, a muvuki (medical specialist who deals with causes of death) decides that the cause of this outbreak was an angry spirit, specifically the spirit of a man who Nhamo’s father killed in a bar fight. The muvuki decides that Nhamo’s life must be given to calm the angry spirit. She is set to marry the man’s old, cruel brother. She isn’t even a teenager yet. Nhamo’s grandmother, Ambuya, tells her she must run away to Zimbabwe to find her father. Nhamo sets out with gold that Ambuya gave her on a small boat down the Musengezi Basin. I haven’t finished the book, but what was supposed to be a three-day journey has turned into much, much longer.

I’m really glad I began reading this book last week because it is an excellent sliding glass door book. It gives readers a great opportunity to learn about a different culture while also reading an interesting, suspenseful story. At the beginning of the book, there is a map showing Nhamo’s journey which has been really helpful. There is also frequent Shona words used throughout the book, and there’s a glossary in the back. While reading, I keep a finger in the glossary because I have to look at it at least once per page. There’s also a section called “The History of Peoples of Zimbabwe and Mozambique” and “The Belief System of the Shona” in the back as well. I thought this was extremely helpful because there was a lot of traditions talked about in the book that I wasn’t familiar with. Bride price is an important custom, and when Nhamo’s cousin began menstruating, she went to visit her aunt to celebrate her womanhood. Nhamo’s problems aren’t directly relatable to me as a reader, but reading A Girl Named Disaster has been a great learning and entertaining experience.


This week, we got to read a lot of articles about diversity in reading. We have talked about reading inside and outside of our comfort zone before, but we haven’t really researched or discussed what that means. My favorite part of this week’s research was the comparison of books to sliding glass doors and mirrors.

Professor Rudine Sims Bishop said, “Books are sometimes windows, offering view of worlds that may be real or imagined, familiar or strange. These window are also sliding glass doors, and readers have only to walk through in imagination to become part of whatever world has been created… When lighting conditions are just right, however, a window can also be a mirror. Literature transforms human experiences and reflects it back to us, and in that reflection we can see our own lives and experiences.”

We learned this week just how unequal different races are represented in YA literature, and it’s really important for teachers to be aware of that. Students need to be able to relate to literature and the world around themselves. It will help build and reinforce their identity. It is also crucial for readers to learn about other walks of life as well. If students only read about experiences similar to their own, it will give them the impression that their experience or culture is the best.

I love this analogy because it’s something I can take directly into the classroom. Resistant readers will be drawn to read “mirror” books because they are more accessible, but experienced readers should challenge themselves to read “sliding glass door” books. At the end of the year/semester, students can evaluate how many of each they read.

One of the articles mentioned that kids don’t want to buy a book with a black person on the cover. I was stunned by this, but after thinking about my teenage reading experience, I’m not surprised. I only read mirror books. I didn’t read any book to learn about another lifestyle or culture. Then again, I was never stressed its importance. This puts teachers in an extremely important position. We need to stress not only reading but reading to learn about other people and cultures. There’s a huge inequality in publication, and it starts with what students want to read.

Long Way Down

Long Way Down

Last week, the only book I was able to finish is Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds. I hadn’t ever read a novel by Jason Reynolds but had heard a lot of praise, so I was excited to start this book. In previous weeks, we have discussed reading outside of our comfort zone, and this novel was very different than anything I have ever read before. It’s a verse novel and the language in the book is very different than I am used to reading. I think it’s also very interesting that almost the entire book is only one elevator ride. I applaud Jason Reynolds for being able to write such an interesting story that takes place in such a short time period.

After his brother was shot, Will set out to get revenge. It was part of the rules. Even though the fifteen year-old hadn’t ever held a gun before, he snuck out early in the morning to avenge his older brother’s death. He gets in the elevator, and he was met with a different surprise at each floor, a person from his past. Every dead person that steps on the elevator has killed by a gun. As the elevator travels down, each person tells their story, and Will seems to question “the rules” more and more. I won’t give away the ending, but it definitely left me wondering what would happen next.

I think this book would be fantastic for especially reluctant readers. It looks like a long book, but I easily finished it in one sitting. It felt like I was reading the pages faster than I could turn them! Other than this novel being a quick read, the language was also very accessible.

I read this book for my book club. Unfortunately, we weren’t able to meet yesterday because of the weather, but I’m excited to hear everyone’s thoughts on the book next Sunday!