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
Children of Blood and Bone
Far from the Tree
Long Way Down
The Goat
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

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!

Monday, May 14, 2018

The Day Has Come!

 The final day has arrived to decide on a winner for this year. This was a really tough decision for me but I decided to do what I have done all year, and go with the book I think most of my students would connect with. With that said, I have seen students reading all three of these books at school and enjoying them! There are so many great things to say about The Hate U Give, Holding Up The Universe, and Scythe. 

My final winner is Neal Shusterman's Scythe. The reason I have chosen this book as my winner over The Hate U Give (which was a very difficult decision!) is ultimately because I have seen more of my students connecting with it over the course of the year. I have also found myself suggesting Scythe more often to my students who are avid readers. I read The Hate U Give last summer and I absolutely loved it. It is definitely my type of book to read for personal enjoyment. I also enjoyed Jack and Libby's stories in Holding Up The Universe and I am a fan of the way it was written. However, I have been approaching my blogs and voting throughout the year with what I believe is the best book that I would recommend to my students (grade 8 and 9) opposed to the book I am more likely to read for me.

Throughout the year, I have seen students reading all three of these books. They have approached me excitedly about these unique stories, the way they are written, what the characters are like and of course, the endings. With that said, there has been a significant display of more students walking the halls with a copy of Scythe under their arms. I have had several students excited to read Thunderhead and finding a copy as soon as they have finished the first book. I actually ordered several copies of both for our school library and to use as a grade 9 in-class book club.

I look forward to seeing both Scythe and The Hate U Give when they hit theaters!

One Final Smack!

This round feels anti-climactic for a couple of reasons. First, we'd read all three of these books in previous rounds, so there was nothing new to read. Second, none of the three stand out. Last year we loved both Echo and The War that Saved My Life (and some of us loved Wolf by Wolf too). This year we're not passionate about any of the choices (except for Diane who's passionate about the future vision of Neal Shusterman).

The Hate U Give is important, but we didn't love it. 

Scythe may have more appeal for teens - both boys and girls will connect with it.

Holding Up the Universe was our favourite, but, despite the alternating male and female narrators, it may appeal more to teen aged girls. And it wasn't "important". Obesity and hiding behind masks are significant for teens, but not in the same big way racial discrimination is.

In the end, we're casting our votes 4 for Holding Up the Universe and 1 for Scythe

- Renee, Deb, Diane, Alisha - Ottewell
- Jill - Richard Secord
Image result for holding up the universe

Final Round, Final Vote.

Scythe is the best book of the bunch.

It is the book that I recommend to the most students.  It is the book I see the most students reading.  It is the book I most enjoyed, and the one my students enjoyed too.

The others are good, but Scythe gets my vote because it is accessible and engaging.  I found it an innovative perspective on technology, and the characters were not satisfied being victims of their circumstance.

Sunday, May 13, 2018

Final Round

Scythe vs Holding Up the Universe vs The Hate U Give


Well, this is going to be hard one for me.  Holding Up the Universe and the Hate U Give appeals to a slightly older audience than Scythe but......I really liked all of them, for entirely different reasons! Aaaahhh.  OK - I’m going to pick the book that had the most impact on me as a reader.  It really hit home and gave me an understanding of something I thought I had a handle on but clearly did vote goes to the Hate U Give.  I can’t put it in my library my I’ll be recommending it to any age-appropriate kids/adults I can!

Final Vote

Three great books - a hard choice.  

Quotes from Holding Up The Universe by Jennifer Niven

“It’s easy to give everyone what they want, what’s expected. The problem with doing this is you lose sight of where you truly being and where the fake you, the one who tries to be everything to everyone, begins.” ~ Jack on pretensions and being yourself

“But she can’t stop me from dancing. No one’s going to tell me not to dance anymore. No one should tell you what you can or can’t do either. Including you.” ~ Libby on passion

Quotes from Scythe by Neal Shusterman

“Everyone is guilty of something, and everyone still harbors a memory of childhood innocence, no matter how many layers of life wrap around it. Humanity is innocent; humanity is guilty, and both states are undeniably true.” 
― Neal Shusterman, Scythe
“My greatest wish for humanity is not for peace or comfort or joy. It is that we all still die a little inside every time we witness the death of another. For only the pain of empathy will keep us human. There’s no version of God that can help us if we ever lose that.” 
― Neal Shusterman, Scythe

Quotes from The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

“That's the problem. We let people say stuff, and they say it so much that it becomes okay to them and normal for us. What's the point of having a voice if you're gonna be silent in those moments you shouldn't be?” 
― Angie ThomasThe Hate U Give

“I can't change where I come from or what I've been through, so why should I be ashamed of what makes me, me?” 
― Angie ThomasThe Hate U Give

I enjoyed all three books immensely and have been recommending them to many.  My vote goes to Scythe.