Monday, November 18, 2013

The Hand You’re Dealt by Paul Volponi

Huck Porter, high school senior, is caught in a stick up in an elevator and faces down the gunman, calling his bluff by betting he won’t shoot.  This is the opening scene of Paul Volponi’s poker novel for teens.  Set in a small town with a depressed economy, Huck’s father was the town’s reigning poker champion before his father was hospitalized for a stroke.  Mr. Abbott, Huck’s untouchable jerk of a math teacher, steals the title from Huck’s dad while he is dying in the hospital and rubs his achievement in Huck’s face.  Huck’s mission, of course, is to win the title back, in spite of not being old enough to legally gamble.  Along the way, The Hand You’re Dealt teaches the reader about reading people, emotional maturity, and friendship.  Recommended independent reading for experienced YA readers looking for more Volponi or with an interest in poker.--Jessica Fenster-Sparber

Volponi, Paul.  The Hand You’re Dealt.  New York: Antheum Books for Young Readers, 2008. Print.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Juvenile in Justice by Richard Ross

“On any given day, approximately 70,000 young people are in juvenile detention or correctional facilities each night.”  Teaching inside juvenile facilities tends to isolate us from our colleagues throughout the city and nation in unique ways; but we are never as isolated by these facilities as are the students we teach.  Juvenile in Justice captures the loneliness our students share, ironically, with many of the 1.7 million youth charged with an offense annually in the US.  The beds, windows, clothes, doors, furniture, graffiti, and restraints are all strikingly familiar, from our own Bridges and Horizon, both featured in the book, all the way to Hawaii.  The image of a young man in Miami lying on common area seating with his sweatshirt pulled over his head and knees stunned me as penetratingly recognizable .  I know many of this blog’s readers have witnessed the same mini-retreat within one’s own clothing, an identifiable attempt at privacy or sleep.  Each image is coupled with a quote from the youth photographed, offering our students opportunities to connect visually and textually. --Anne Lotito-Schuh

Ross, Richard. Juvenile in Justice. Santa Barbara, CA: Richard Ross, 2012. Print.

Out of Print Books We Wish Were in Print

We occasionally experience the heartbreaking disappointment of finding that a beloved title has gone out of print.  We have decided to memorialize these works in a new page, “Out of Print Books We Wish Were in Print,” which you can access in the righthand menu.  We hope not to add many titles to this list, and that someday they will be published once again.

Monday, November 11, 2013

A Question of Freedom by R. Dwayne Betts

“By eighteen I’d been shuffled between a county jail, a prison intake center and three prisons.  I’d been in isolation for thirty-five days and segregation for six months.  I’d been at the prison deemed the warehouse for Virginia’s most violent and dangerous criminals. . . . Red Onion was a level six, a super max.”  (184-5)

While structurally challenging, A Question of Freedom, Betts’ memoir of his years incarcerated after a carjacking at age 16, is undeniably relevant for many, if not most, incarcerated detained youth in New York City.  A Question of Freedom takes its reader on Betts’ harrowing journey through the cold, impersonal corrections system in Virginia and relays the author’s observations and emotional development as a young man.  A cautionary tale for young people who have not yet lost their freedom; an inspiring journey for those who can make it through the two hundred plus pages and appreciate where Betts is today along with the hard lessons he has learned.  A Question of Freedom is a recommended addition to the non-fiction collection of any teacher of urban young men.  Mature independent readers will find this text to be of interest, and it also may be appeal to book clubs, especially in excerpted form. --Jessica Fenster-Sparber

Penguin offers a discussion guide to A Question of Freedom here.

Betts, R. Dwayne.  A Question of Freedom.  New York: Penguin, 2010.  Print.