The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie

absolutelytruediaryThe first day of school. Geometry Class. Arnold Spirit, also known as Junior, gets the Geometry book he is going to be using for the year. Inside the front cover it says:


He gets so mad that before he knows it, he throws the book at his teacher’s head. This is his depiction in a cartoon that drew. Why did he do it? Agnes Adams was his mother’s maiden name. His school on the Indian reservation where he lives is so poor that they have used the same textbook for at least the last 30 years.

Let me introduce to Arnold by reading you some of his diary:

Read first diary entry.

Arnold gets suspended for a week for throwing the book. When the same teacher shows up at his house that week, he thinks maybe the guy has come to throw a book at him too. Or at least to yell at him. But instead he offers Arnold a chance to attend the school in Reardon, the rich, white town near the reservation. It’s a great opportunity for him. He will get an excellent education and it may be his chance to achieve his dreams.

But when he starts school at Reardon, it’s obvious he is not welcome by everyone. He tells us there is only one other Indian at the school—the school mascot. The other kids are afraid of him, some call him names.

When he gets home, his best friend Rowdy and others, think he is a traitor for leaving the reservation.

This diary is about what happens next. Falling in love, playing basketball, trying to fit in and not get beat up. At school and at home.



The First Part Last by Angela Johnson

thefirstpartlastImagine this. You are a guy in high school and you have your whole life ahead of you. Graduate and then college. But then your girlfriend gets pregnant, and even worse, she develops a condition called eclampsia that sends her into a coma. You will have to raise the baby on your own without much help from either of your parents.

That is exactly what happens to New York teeenager Bobby in the book The First Part Last by Angela Johnson. Sometimes he doesn’t even know if he can handle it–the lack of sleep, the crying–even though he knows he loves his little girl more than anything.



The Pregnancy Project by Gaby Rodriguez

thepregnancyprojectIf you didn’t know her, you might assume Gaby Rodriguez’s destiny was set in stone. She was one of 8 kids raised by a single mom who never had enough money to pay the bills. Her mom never finished high school because she got pregnant, and Gabby’s sisters and brothers all became teen parents just like their mother. Research shows that because of Gabby’s family circumstances, she herself was practically guaranteed to be pregnant before she graduated high school.

But Gaby, like all of you in this room,  wasn’t a statistic, a stereotype. And she wanted everyone else to know they didn’t have to be either. By the time she got to high school, she was an honors student. She couldn’t even imagine having a kid until she was through with college.

So for a senior project, Gaby decided to challenge people’s assumptions. If she became pregnant, what would her classmates and teachers and her family say about her? Would they treat her any differently? To find out, she decided to fake a pregnancy to see what would happen.

She could never have imagined how everything would turn out.


Educating Esme by Esme Codell

educatingesmeEsme Codell sounds like the sort of teacher you would love to have in elementary school.

She insists that her students call her Madame Esme.

She does fun things like holds a fairy tale festival with a fashion show and a carnival. She creates a time machine for her students so they can “time travel” while they read.

Instead of Math, Science, and Social Studies, they have puzzling, mad scientist time, and time traveling and world exploring.

She gets her students excited about learning.

But her first year isn’t all rainbows and unicorns. She teaches in Chicago Public Schools and her students bring their problems to class even though she would love to protect them from the outside world.

The parents of some of her students are in prison or in extreme poverty. There are parents whose idea of supporting the teacher at home is to beat good behavior into the kids. On a field trip, gang members surround the bus and throw stones at the windows.

A normal person might have given up mid-year. A person who follows the rules. But not Esme. She does things her own way. Let me read you an example.

Read January 12 on pg. 88.



American Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang

americanbornchineseAmerican Born Chinese is a graphic novel that is made of 3 different and distinct stories.

The first is that of the Monkey King. It is from a Chinese legend about a monkey god who wants to prove to the other gods in heaven that he is more than just a monkey. Unfortunately, his pride gets the better of him.

The second is about a Chinese American boy named Jin Wang. When we first meet him, he is a young boy who has just arrived at a new school where he is the only Chinese-American kid. He has to deal with racism and loneliness at first as he tries to fit in.

The third is about a popular kid named Danny. Once a year, he gets a visit from his extremely embarrassing Chinese cousin Chin-Kee. Chin-Kee is a character made up of a shocking exaggerated set of negative Chinese stereotypes. Danny is so embarrassed when he visits that he has changed high schools every year after his cousin visits.

Though these three stories seem really unrelated at first, they come together in surprising ways by the end of the book.




Who Am I without Him? by Sharon Flake

481912[1]There are 12 stories in Who Am I Without Him? that range from scary to funny to just plain wrong.

One girl stays with her boyfriend even though she knows he is cheating on her because she thinks “who am I without him?”

Another girl who is pregnant and whose boyfriend is in jail leads on the wrong guy.

In another story, a boy wants to impress a girl he likes, but he is too poor to buy some nice clothes for homecoming, so he steals them instead.

In another, a girl writes to an advice columnist to ask the best way to go about steal a friends bad boy boyfriend. Only she doesn’t realize that the columnist is her friends younger sister.

Plus, there are eight more with just as much drama.