Smackdown Books 2019

Piecing Me Together
We Are Okay
Hello, Universe
Nevermoor: The Trials of Morrigan Crow
The Marrow Thieves
The 57 Bus: A True Story of Two Teenagers and the Crime That Changed Their Lives
The Poet X
Illegal
Children of Blood and Bone
Far from the Tree
Long Way Down
The Goat
Moxie
Amina's Voice
Macy McMillan and the Rainbow Goddess
The First Rule of Punk
24 Hours in Nowhere
The Astonishing Color of After
Obsessed: : A Memoir of My Life with OCD
Train I Ride

Monday, November 5, 2018

Macy vs. Marrow


One of my colleagues had asked a couple of questions about Macy McMillan and the Rainbow Goddess so I went on a quest to find the answers on yesterday's snowy afternoon. I thought the answers might be of interest to others on our team or others who might read either of these titles.

Today was actually the second time that I read Macy. According to my Goodreads, I read it for the first time eight months ago. Full discloure: I love novels in verse ever since I did a project on them. At that time, there were very few available.

My colleagues questions were:
Why verse? and
How does the author decide where the line breaks will be?

This interview by author Amanda Rawson Hill had the answers to both.

And, ever since we met to pick our books for the first round, I've been meaning to post an interview with author Cherie Dimaline, the author of Marrow Thieves.


Like Macy, I had read Marrow Thieves back on Spring Break. However, after listening to the CBC Radio - Unreserved interview that is linked to on this page, I decided to listen to the book which I did in the summer. And, I plan to listen to it again for this round of Smackdown. As far as I know, the audio for Marrow Thieves is only available through Kobo.

In the interview, at about the 10 minute mark, Dimaline talks about stories being passed on to her. Then she talks about circles and repetition. I like how she describes drawing a circle with a pencil on paper, tracing over it, and when you lift the top page there is an imprint on the page after, "that's how we transmit what 's important through the generations."

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

We Begin...And We Should.

This marks the 9th edition of the Mighty Smackdown.  We have over 80 educators reading and thinking about books. Of course we know that reading builds empathy and it feels like the climate around us could use a little bit of empathy and humanity about now. I hope this opportunity of reading, thinking, arguing and writing helps us model and show a path to our students of thoughtful discourse. The brackets have been set...the reading has started. First deadline is November 27th. We invite all of you to read and argue thoughtfully with us!

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Another Year...Another Smackdown!


Every year at this time my father says - you almost have the race run Dia! I assure him I do but the image above is how I like to think I finish the race every year. Once more dragged by a horse but still crossing the line! This metaphor also works for our Smackdown participants. You come to us all shiny and enthusiastic at the beginning of the year and you too are dragging at the end. Along the way I like to think you and the horse sat by a fire and read some great books!

For me, all three of the books left were outstanding as were a few who did not quite make the final battle. Of course you can argue about that and should! No matter how uncomfortable disagreements can make us I think an argument about books is vital to our classrooms and students. We do not all come at books the same way and each time the author and the reader need to work together for the magic read to occur. You say Yanny I say Laurel. * note this reference will self destruct in one week.
Thank you Brent for acknowledging how the right book for us is not necessarily the same for students. Some books are an introduction, some an affirmation and some a challenge. That is all part of a great reading diet! 

Now drumroll....the winner of Smackdown the Octomom Edition - Neal Shusterman's Scythe.

All Hail... Smackdown the Nine Inch Book Edition! If you want back on that horse drop us a line!

Dia and Arlene

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Tough Calls All Around

Sorry none of our SBS gang could make it to the wind-up. We missed your good company and your food. Really tough calls on three strong - although I'd resist calling any great - final selections. We were deadlocked. Two of us strongly for Scythe and two of us strongly for Holding Up the Universe. And with that seeming to cast aside The Hate U Give, I trundle off to bed thinking about the one student at our school who has regressed rather than prospered. Whose connections with the adults in the building, and, indeed, his family and friends, have winnowed. The kid who I am equal parts infuriated with and deeply saddened for. What is the one thing I get him to do, somewhat regularly, when he's in my office? Yep, he's 3/4 through The Hate U Give. Please make sense of this and distribute our votes accordingly.
Late, late, late. As usual these days. I read all of these books early on, and each holds something of value for kids. I enjoyed Holding up the Universe although at times I found it a little unbelievable. Lots of good teachable moments in  its pages - particularly about what it feels like to be an outsider. Many kids could see themselves in this book. But it is the lack of a believable narrator that keeps me from voting for this book. There is no doubt that kids love Scythe, and I have always thought the purpose of Smackdown was to choose the best book to put in kids' hands. However,  I am hesitant to put a book so filled with violence in the hands of kids that are exposed to this kind of stuff on such a regular basis. So that leaves me with the Zombie pick, The Hate U Give. Although, All American Boys resonated with me more than this book, I feel that this is the book that should win. It is timely, important, and more relevant than I think many of us even understand. I tried to talk about race today in my Grade 9 social class. The only kids that put their hands up to talk were white. This left me with the understanding that perhaps we are all missing something important about what is going on right now in society. I had one student say to me after class, "There is just no point in talking. Nobody is listening." Perhaps this book can get someone to listen.
The Final Smackdown!

This final vote was a tough one. I enjoyed reading all three books, although for 3 very different reasons.  My Smackdown vote goes to The Hate You Give.  When I think of the privileged teenagers that live in my own home, this is the book I hope they will read.  My dream is that they stop, pause and think, just for a minute, about what it is like to live in someone else’s shoes.