We have actually spent the last twenty four hours mulling over our decision, and it has not been an easy one. We feel torn. We spent the whole break this morning saying in unison, "ahhhhhhhhhh what should we do." I looked in my dead grandma's bible and I found the perfect rule to help us make our decision and live with it as the swing vote:
If you upset a round in Smackdown, take a paperclip and fold it into the shape of a heart. Place the paperclip underneath the keyboard of your fellow Smackers for one night. Remove it in the morning. They will forget this ever happened.
Our thoughts/thoughts of the poster:
The Night Gardener is a book that most definitely could be on any shelf in any classroom. Many of my grade 7s have read the book this year already, some admitting that they found it hard to read late at night because they thought it was too creepy. It is accessible to a wide audience of readers. The black pages were one of the reasons I was so excited to read this book this past summer. The whole book was packaged with the horror/gothic reader in mind. It has this slow rise that brews and bubbles throughout the story. The imagery in this book is fantastic as is the suspense. What is in that room? Where is that mud coming from? How did the leaves get there? Why is that kid so mean to the kid with the crutch? Can they escape the terror? Many of us on the ABM team felt that students would enjoy this as a read aloud, but that students may struggle with is the unique language spoken by Molly and Kip. We have seen similar situations in books like The Knife of Never Letting Go and Blood Red Road.
When I was watching the Oscars on Sunday night Graham Moore's acceptance speech rang true to me when I thought about I'll Give You the Sun. He said, "I would like for this moment to be for that kid out there who feels like she's weird or she's different or she doesn't fit in anywhere. Yes you do. I promise you do. Stay weird. Stay different, and then when it's your turn, and you are standing on this stage, please pass the same message along."
This is one of these "weird" books, but damn it (can I use that word?) it is so beautifully written. There are young adults out there who need this book, so they can feel a sense of belonging. There has been a lot of talk in the Twitterverse this year about needing more diverse books, and baby this is one. Besides Aristotle & Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe I cannot remember such an eloquently written book on this topic in a while. Usually teen romance has me rolling my eyes and thinking get on with it already, but I never felt that way while reading this. The other night when I was reading the part about Brian and Noah I actually got so lost in their moment I forgot their gender. This book didn't feel forced, it was full of tension and uncertainty, shame, and pride- something many LGBT teens feel. Nelson really had her work set out for her with the plot she created, and I think she handled tying it up well. During our lunch time discussion I brought up the fact that this is the only book besides Under the Egg that I have read in the last two years that really addresses the fine arts, specifically art so well. That part of the book drew me in when both Noah and Jude were creating art, or all of the references to artists. That is a niche market that is not often addressed. That was another audience for this book. Our problem with the book was the voice of Noah. Is that REALLY how a thirteen year old talks? Is that how a thirteen year old thinks? We felt like it was a stretch at times. Just because you add the immature jest of "toilet licker" doesn't make the voice realistic. We also struggled as a junior high staff having this book sitting in our library, or in our classroom without ensuring it had the right reader.
Again, both books could easily go through. Both very different, both outstanding. It became the argument of which lens we should view these books; student as audience or literature that is art?
There have been so many diverse/weird/unique/make you think books this year. Dia and I raise our fists in solidarity for books like Glory O'Brien, The Knife of Impossible Memory and Grasshopper Jungle. We love to celebrate the weird, because well, we are slightly weird.
So with that, our swing vote goes to:
What does Probst always say Smackers? "Expect the Unexpected." Wait. That's Big Brother. Wait. Do we watch way too much reality tv? Wait? Whose idea was it to let me write this? Wait. Who gave me login access?
We made our swing vote using the lens of student audience to make our decision, but all you Sunners will have your chance in the next round to help it rise from the dead. Dia and I may join you. I am also quite sure we broke the universe.