Friday, March 23, 2018

Programming Spotlight: Author Gayle Forman Conducts Writing Workshops

Mr. Villaronga, ELA Teacher, students, and Gayle Forman 3/22/18

Gayle listens carefully while a student reads her writing aloud to the group.  Photos: JFS

Gayle Forman, writer of novels for young adults and local author with the international reputation, has been visiting with Passages Academy--Belmont’s Rose group once a month this school year.  She concluded another inspiring visit yesterday morning by giving each of the young women present a copy of her newest creative work, Pour Your Heart Out

A guided journal full of the undeniably engaging prompts she gives like gifts in her workshops, and accompanied by gorgeous illustrations, the girls were pretty excited to receive them. Honestly, they were even more excited to write with Gayle, who also read aloud from her new novel. I cannot wait to read it when it comes out later this week. Pre-ordering now. --Jessica Fenster-Sparber

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Brazen: Rebel Ladies who rocked the world by Penelope Bagieu

Students who are hungry to read more comics and curious to learn more about amazing historical figures from around the world will be eager to get their hands on this collective biography and graphic novel translated from the French.  What’s most notable about this title, beyond its gorgeous colors and fast pacing, are the women included; Harriet Tubman, Rosa Parks, Sojourner Truth and Marian Anderson make way for Nzinga, Lars Mariposas, Josephine Baker, Temple Grandin and Betty Davis.  Also included are Mae Jemison, and Sonita Alizadeh.  Each 8-panel biography is followed by a full-bleed artistic two-page spread and Bagieu’s diverse French sensibilities shine through everywhere, including a more European embrace of female sexuality.  Back matter includes an author’s bio told in two panels and a list of thirty additional names of women who “rocked the world.”  Educators may consider pressing these two items into service to engage students in inquiry projects and as a model for drafting their own bio of their future self.  It is worth mentioning that as sensitive as the writer is at handling topics of abuse and poverty, they are included and undeniably relayed from the author’s point of view. --Jessica Fenster-Sparber

Bagieu, Penelope.  Brazen: Rebel ladies who rocked the world.  New York: First Second Publishing, 2018. Print.

Friday, March 16, 2018

The Closest I’ve Come by Fred Aceves

Sophomore Marcos Rivas hasn’t had a girlfriend yet and he wonders when his turn will come.  Growing up in economic poverty in Tampa, FL, he suspects that the two realities may be intertwined.  Navigating the social scene, as well as his current status as underachiever and trouble-maker is tough enough in the environment of an average American high school, but coming home each day to his mom’s racist, abusive boyfriend presents an even greater challenge.   How will Marcos deal with this man his mother has welcomed into their home?  How will he get through the school days where he is mesmerized by Amy, a bold and tenacious classmate?  Exploring themes of toxic masculinity and emotionally immature parents, Aceves’ first novel will appeal to competent teen readers who are searching for a new independent read as well as insight into the challenges typically faced by adolescents everywhere.  --Jessica Fenster-Sparber

Aceves, Fred.  The Closest I’ve Come.  New York: Harper Collins. 2017.  Print.

Saturday, March 10, 2018

The Stars Beneath Our Feet by David Barclay Moore

Image result for the stars beneath our feet

Moore, David Barclay. The Stars Beneath Our Feet. Alfred A. Knopf, 2017.

Everyone has noticed that Wallace "Lolly" Rachpaul feels angry all of the time, ever since his older brother Junior was shot and killed a few months before. It doesn't help that Junior leaves Lolly to deal with an unresolved argument between the two brothers. But when his mother's girlfriend starts bringing bags and bags of Legos home from her job at a toy store, Lolly, along with a strange and quiet girl named Rose, escapes into the construction of his own alternate world. Just when Lolly starts to feel that stone of anger disappear from his chest, his values are tested and he is forced to choose between following Junior's path or seeking out another. this novel would be a good independent reading selection for middle-grade students that appreciate reads dealing with internal struggle. --Anne Lotito-Schuh