Smackdown Books 2018

Wolf Hollow
Salt to the Sea
The Serpent King
Optimists Die First
The Hate U Give
Orphan Island
Dan vs. Nature
The Female of the Species
March
Unbecoming
Upside Down in the Middle of Nowhere
Paper Girls, Vol. 1
The Passion of Dolssa
The Distance Between Us
When We Collided
Louis parmi les spectres
OCDaniel
Girl in the Blue Coat
Refugee
Defy the Stars

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. 

Talk About Late for Your Own Party...

I knew what I was voting for but didn't quite get a blog post together. It seems less urgent when all 3 books were, for me, 5 star books. Lots of love going out for Scythe but once I read Thunderhead I think the argument of popularity with kids goes down a considerable amount so my vote is not going there. I loved Holding Up the Universe but in the end I have to go with Hate U Give. Even though I voted for March in the zombie pick. You can not (should not) ignore history when it is your present too!


Scythe for the win.

Three great books, one tough decision. I have decided to go with my choice as to which book I would recommend to the most number of students, and that choice is Scythe. I have always found Neal Shusterman to be an author that creates believable worlds with enough twists and turns to easily hook readers. The characters are compelling and there was a real want from me for the protagonists to be successful. Overall, I think that more kids will connect to this book and so it gets my vote.

The Hate U Give is my pick

I read all three of these books in previous rounds, so I didn't have anything new to read this time. However, the book that I still think about from time to time is The Hate U Give. Because it was the most memorable, it gets my vote. I will be recommending all three to my students, though!