“The Best American Non-required Reading” is an anthology of fiction, nonfiction, poetry, and graphic novels that is selected by a committee of high school students. As a high school teacher, I was curious to see what high schoolers would select as the best literature. I found their picks interesting and surprising. Wells Tower’s “Who Wants to Shoot an Elephant?” was eye-opening as it was shocking to read about the account of big-game hunting. Tower is open about his bias (anti-elephant hunting) but is objective in his portrayal of the wealthy Americans who do participate in the hunt. He doesn’t villanize […]
Who killed Mr. Chippendale, and why? These two questions drive the narrative in Mel Glenn’s Who Killed Mr. Chippendale?: A Mystery in Poems (1999). Told from the perspectives of various characters representing different sectors of the school and community reacting to the murder of Mr. Chippendale, Who Killed Mr. Chippendale is developed through a series of interlocking free-verse poems. Many characters are introduced, the majority of whose voices are heard once and help to create a nuanced portrait of Mr. Chippendale–a mystery to his own colleagues despite his twenty years of teaching English at Tower High. Read the full review.
My pleasure while reading Sharon Creech’s Love That Dog (2014) just could not be contained as evidenced by the Cheshire grin plastered on my face from the beginning to end of this novella. Related in free verse from the perspective of Jack through dated entries that span a school year, Love That Dog is quite charming and delightful. Read the full review.
I know Gwendolyn Brooks mostly from her poetry, like most of us, and that she wrote one novel and it was this one makes a lot of sense. This is not a traditional novel. It’s mainly impressionistic, meaning meditations of a various set of ideas and vignettes and moments in the life of her protagonist Maud Martha Brown. We begin at the beginning with Maud Martha growing up and experiencing the joys of childhood, confusions at how the world works, seeing a gorilla at the zoo. We move into her adolescence and young adulthood. We see a various set of […]
Interlude! I Could Pee On This is a short book of poetry “written by cats.” I bought it for a friend in love with her cat, and it’s a delight. I mean, it’s not life-altering at all. But it’s a solid laugh, and a quality diversion. It took me all of half an hour to read it cover to cover, so it feels like a bit of a cheat. But I read all the words, and I giggled my face off, and then when I gave it to my friend, she read a whole bunch of the poems out loud […]
So this is a book of poems, I think. For the most part these are word-associations on the objects in a room. For the most part they feel nonsensical. I am only able to use weasel words on this one because I don’t fully trust what my thoughts on these being poems. Also, I give this no rating because there are longer paragraph length poems that are more grounded and I enjoy them. I am not super trained in poetry. Most poetry I read now or in school were parts of a larger whole of study, like a time period […]
This is my first book of poetry, ever. Or rather, pamphlet, because it is so thin. I bought it because of the Beyonce hype behind Warsan’s words, because I’d heard her name over and over, because her name is now tangibly linked to words like “refugee” and “woman”, because a Pajiba friend posted an excerpt from her poem on Facebook, because they actually (actually!) had it in a Bangkok bookstore, a thin sleeve of paperback tucked amidst hundred-page hardcovers. I read it at home, and I read it while waiting for the train. I read it while seated during my […]
Jacqueline Woodson’s 2014 poetic memoir Brown Girl Dreaming won a slew of awards: a National Book Award for Young People’s Literature, the Coretta Scott King Award, a Newbery Honor, an NAACP Image Award, just to name a few. It is the beautifully told story of Woodson’s childhood, of the people and environments that formed both her and her dream of becoming a writer. It also offers glimpses into the civil rights movement and the experience of racism through the eyes of a child who witnessed it and the ears of a child who heard her family’s stories. Young readers will […]