Friday, September 26, 2008

Mercy! Uncle!

This week kicked my ass and handed it to me on a platter. It is only the third full week of classes and I say I just cannot do it. It should not feel like December yet. Honestly, I really like my students. And this is the smallest class load I have ever had. So could someone please explain why it feels so damned hard this year?

Anyhoo...I somehow squeezed in two books since school has started: The Secret Scripture and Big Mouth and Ugly Girl. The former is a Man Book Prize winner. Interesting concept, this one. Roseann Clear-McNulty tells her story from the mental hospital she does not call home. She has been a resident of the facility for over 60 years. I had a hard time wrapping my "inner reader's voice" around the author's for the first view chapters, but quickly became engrossed in the story. It switched between the diaries of Roseann the patient and Dr. Gene the psychiatrist. I am sure you will be shocked to hear the good doctor had a problem or two? Roseanne's childhood is a piece of Ireland's history. The ending is a bit predictable once you reach the end of the narrative, but satisfying none the less. Roseann was a victim of her time. The parish priest and his disgust of women, her husband and is lack of faith in his young bride, her shrewish mother -in -law all play a role in her destiny. Well worth the paper it is printed on.

Now, Big Mouth and Ugly Girl was a sheer joy to read. This is Joyce Carol Oates first young adult novel. And it was perfect! It had a totally believable plot, realistic characters, and a plain old feel good ending. If you have any teen readers in your house, send it there way. I was reading this one at school during our Silent Sustained Reading time. Every day at the end of reading I would say, "Wow! I really like this book!" After about 4 days of this, the kids finally started asking if they could read it when I was finished. Sneaky, huh?

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Banned Books?

You know that list? The "Palin" list? The list that could not be true if one thought about it for more than one knee jerk second? Well, Erica had a great idea. Go ahead. I'll give you a second, but be sure to come right back.

Got it? Ok, here is my list:

A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle*
Annie on My Mind by Nancy Garden
As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner
Blubber by Judy Blume
Brave New World by Aldous Huxley*
Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson*
Canterbury Tales by Chaucer
Carrie by Stephen KingCatch-22 by Joseph Heller
Christine by Stephen King
Confessions by Jean-Jacques Rousseau
Cujo by Stephen King
Curses, Hexes, and Spells by Daniel Cohen
Daddy's Roommate by Michael Willhoite
Day No Pigs Would Die by Robert Peck
Death of a Salesman by Arthur Miller
Decameron by Boccaccio
East of Eden by John Steinbeck
Fallen Angels by Walter Myers
Fanny Hill (Memoirs of a Woman of Pleasure) by John Cleland
Flowers For Algernon by Daniel Keyes*
Forever by Judy Blume
Grendel by John Champlin Gardner
Halloween ABC by Eve Merriam
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone by J.K. Rowling
Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets by J.K. Rowling
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by J.K. Rowling
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by J.K. Rowling
Have to Go by Robert Munsch
Heather Has Two Mommies by Leslea Newman
How to Eat Fried Worms by Thomas Rockwell
Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain
I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou
Impressions edited by Jack Booth
In the Night Kitchen by Maurice Sendak
It's Okay if You Don't Love Me by Norma Klein
James and the Giant Peach by Roald Dahl
Lady Chatterley's Lover by D.H. Lawrence
Leaves of Grass by Walt Whitman
Little Red Riding Hood by Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm
Lord of the Flies by William Golding*
Love is One of the Choices by Norma Klein
Lysistrata by Aristophanes s
More Scary Stories in the Dark by Alvin Schwartz
My Brother Sam Is Dead by James Lincoln Collier and Christopher Collier
My House by Nikki Giovanni
My Friend Flicka by Mary O'HaraNight
Chills by Dean KoontzOf Mice and Men by John Steinbeck
On My Honor by Marion Dane Bauer
One Day in The Life of Ivan Denisovich by Alexander Solzhenitsyn
One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest by Ken Kesey
One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
Ordinary People by Judith Guest
Our Bodies, Ourselves by Boston Women's Health Collective*
Prince of Tides by Pat Conroy
Revolting Rhymes by Roald Dahl
Scary Stories 3: More Tales to Chill Your Bones by Alvin Schwartz
Scary Stories in the Dark by Alvin Schwartz
Separate Peace by John Knowles
Silas Marner by George Eliot
Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.
Tarzan of the Apes by Edgar Rice Burroughs
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain*
The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain
The Bastard by John Jakes
The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
The Chocolate War by Robert Cormier*
The Color Purple by Alice Walker
The Devil's Alternative by Frederick Forsyth
The Figure in the Shadows by John Bellairs
The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
The Great Gilly Hopkins by Katherine Paterson
The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood
The Headless Cupid by Zilpha Snyder
The Learning Tree by Gordon Parks
The Living Bible by William C. Bower**
The Merchant of Venice by William Shakespeare
The New Teenage Body Book by Kathy McCoy and Charles Wibbelsman
The Pigman by Paul Zindel*
The Seduction of Peter S. by Lawrence Sanders
The Shining by Stephen King
The Witches by Roald Dahl
The Witches of Worm by Zilpha Snyder
Then Again, Maybe I Won't by Judy Blume
To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee*
Twelfth Night by William Shakespeare
Webster's Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary by the Merriam-Webster Editorial Staff
Witches, Pumpkins, and Grinning Ghosts: The Story of the Halloween Symbols by Edna Barth

Green means I read it. Add '*' and I have taught it.

Whenever I read a banned book list, I always wonder how it got there. More often than not it is based on one word, one idea, one small item taken out of context. Last year at our high school, we had a mom on a mission. She wanted to forbid the reading of To Kill a Mockingbird because of the alleged rape of Mayella Ewell by Tom Robinson. Why? Because four of our students were on trial for the rape of a young white teen. She wanted to forbid the reading of Speak. Why? Because the main character was raped at a party. She did not want her son reading The Kite Runner assigned by his Honors English teacher. Why? Because there is a brutal sexual assault in the novel. See a theme here?

The only thing I can say in her defense: she read the books before making her suggestions. How many times have we heard of people wanting to ban a book that they never even held in their own two hands?

Right now I am reading Big Mouth and Ugly Girl by Joyce Carol Oates. Maybe that should be on the list. Gee, the main character is contemplating suicide because he was wrongly accused of threatening to bomb the school and his life has gone down the tubes. Or her other book Sexy where a teacher is unjustly accused of 'immoral' acts.

So go ahead. Give me a book that makes me squirm! I have a brain and I am not afraid to use it.