So many Young Readers Editions and a really cool new video series! | Mentoring in the Middle

So many Young Readers Editions and a really cool new video series!

 People can overcome a lot in life if they know, growing up, they are deeply and fiercely loved.  I didn't intend to write about that, but it's a strong thread in these books.  

Stick around to the end of my blog post to learn about a really fun author video series for your students!

I've blogged about a number of Young Readers Editions that have been out for a while: Hidden FiguresLion, The Boys in the Boat, The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind, Never Caught, and I am Malala. (Click on the titles to read those blog posts.)

Here are some new books I've read by diverse authors that have also been adapted for young readers.  And they need to be in your classroom library.

Trevor Noah writes the way he talks, with a smile on his face as he's wondering why we do some of the ridiculous things we do to each other.  His adapted book, It's Trevor Noah: Born a Crime, starts with this sentence: I was nine years old when my mother threw me out of a moving car. Those kids who need an attention grabber?  That should do it!

But the reason they'll stick with it is that most of us know Noah as a successful comedian and television personality, but we know less about his growing-up years.  Many of us don't know that because he was born to a Xhosa woman and a Swiss man, it was a crime for his family to be together.  His mother couldn't be seen outdoors with him for fear of being accused of kidnapping someone else's child.  

His fiercely devoted, deeply religious mother did everything she could to raise him well, but poverty and racism were a daily battle in Johannesburg, South Africa, where he grew up.  His stories of going hungry, of stealing, but of always having the backs of his closest friends will resonate with some students. As a mixed child, he felt on the outside a lot, and it is perhaps that perspective that gives him the ability to look at life with such wry humor.  Your students will find it hard to put down!

I love Michelle Obama.  I need to be upfront about that because I realize not everyone shares my opinion.  I find her intellect, compassion, and honesty refreshing.  I like that she holds us to a standard that implies "C'mon folks, we can do better than this."

Obama grew up on the south side of Chicago under modest circumstances, where her brains helped her get beyond the expectations of her community.  She was a "dot all the i's and cross all your t's" kind of girl, checking off the boxes as she followed her brother to Princeton, going on to Harvard Law School, and then returning to Chicago to work in a high-powered law firm.  That's where she discovered that she didn't really enjoy this path she had put herself on.  But it was there that she supervised a summer intern named Barack, who challenged her way of thinking and pushed her to take risks.

She never loved Barack's desire to run for office.  "I didn't much like politicians and therefore didn't like the idea of my husband becoming one." She thought he was too sincere and kind and would get eaten alive by it.  But he seemed unfazed by the negative attention and all the hand-holding that needed to be done, as he moved from state Senator to U.S. Senator, and then into the White House.  

This is a good insider's view of what's possible with hard work, honesty, and a commitment to make the world a better place. Obama doesn't hold back and she is honest about her work, her husband, raising her kids in a fish bowl like the White House can be, and what she hoped and still hopes to accomplish in her lifetime.

I'm about halfway through this book right now, and my jaw is on the floor.  A lot.  Because it has a fair amount of swearing in it, you'd need to use discretion about who could read it.  

Patrisse Khan-Cullers writes about growing up in a barrio in Los Angeles, just a mile from one of the wealthiest areas.  She doesn't miss that one area is predominantly Black and Latino and the other white.  

Her descriptions of what is available to people of color living in poverty (very little) are jaw-dropping, but so are her resilience and that of biological and chosen families.  Some of your students may be living this and hear her words as encouragement to follow in her footsteps.  For students who know nothing about living in the barrio, this is a powerful explanation of what drove her and two friends to start the #BlackLivesMatter movement.

Khan-Cullers has been called a terrorist for starting the movement but in fact, she's a loving woman who wants to change the way we look at what it's like to grow up with brown skin in a country where the majority power is white.

  • I will cover some other Young Readers Editions in a later post, but for now, I want to leave you with this really cool Youtube series that your students must watch!
I read about this on the Nerdy Book Club blog and watched a couple of episodes.  What fun!  Check out the Youtube list of Face-Off books and authors (there are 45 so far) and see which ones you and your students want to watch!

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