“I’ll Give You the Sun” by Jandy Nelson- Vlog Post

Below is my first vlog post for my adolescent literature class! (I can’t promise I will ever make another one).  Read I’ll Give You the Sun, you will not be sorry!

Btw, I am working on more poetry to be posted in the next couple weeks. Yay!


“Warriors Don’t Cry” by Melba Pattillo Beals

Warriors Don’t Cry is a beautiful and terribly moving recollection of Melba Beals experience as one of The Little Rock Nine in Central High School during integration. It is not enough to quickly learn about The Little Rock Nine in class. The violence and hatred that the Little Rock Nine and their families endured is not adequately exposed in newspaper articles or pictures. Beals writes her experience honestly and moves the reader to think about the psychological implications of racism on every race involved. The Little Rock Nine were truly warriors, but they shouldn’t’ have had to be.


“A new voice in my head spoke to me with military-like discipline: Discover ink sprayed on the contents of your locker- don’t fret about it, deal with it. Get another locker assigned, find new books, get going- don’t waste time brooding or taking the hurt so deep inside. Kicked in the shin, tripped on the marble floor- assess the damage and do whatever is necessary to remind mobile. Move out! Warriors keep moving. They don’t stop to lick their wounds and cry” (Beals 128).

(Beals, Melba Pattillo. Warriors Don’t Cry. New York: Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing Division, 1995. Format. )

Below are some useful websites for research on The Little Rock Nine:

-Life Magazine Photo Journal  http://life.time.com/history/little-rock-nine-1957-photos/#1 

– History Channel Civil Rights Movement Videos http://www.history.com/topics/black-history/civil-rights-movement/videos/little-rock-nine-rev

– Little Rock Nine Timeline http://www.timetoast.com/timelines/little-rock-nine–5

– History Channel Integration Videos http://www.history.com/topics/black-history/central-high-school-integration

Primary Sources:

– From CSPAN, Interview with Governor Faubus http://www.c-span.org/video/?288553-1/mike-wallace-interview-governor-orval-faubus

– Elizabeth Eckford Interview https://www.facinghistory.org/for-educators/educator-resources/resource-collections/choosing-to-participate/her-own-words-text-only-version

– NPR “‘Elizabeth and Hazel: The Legacy of Little Rock” Podcast http://www.npr.org/2011/10/02/140953088/elizabeth-and-hazel-the-legacy-of-little-rock

“Grasshopper Jungle” by Andrew A. Smith

What would you do if larger-than-man sized grasshoppers, who only love sex and food, were to take over the planet?

Andrew Smith sends his readers sprawling into a unique apocalyptic world; one taken over by giant man eating and sex crazed grasshoppers. This unique apocalypse is accidentally launched by sixteen year-olds, Austin Szerba and his best friend Robbie in a little (fictional) town called Earling, Iowa. The events unfold through the eyes of Austin. Austin is a history buff who has been writing his own history since he can remember. His voice is honest, humorous, and witty. Outside of discovering the grasshopper mistake and finding an underground shelter called Eden, Austin tries to understand himself. Everything makes him horny (almost). But, he finds he has feelings toward his girlfriend, Shan Collins, and his best friend Robbie.

“Grasshopper Jungle” book cover from Temecula Library is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Much like Levithan’s, Everyday, Smith has a fresh voice and honest (but undramatic) way of exploring human emotion and love. This world is not without problems. But Smith seems to ask us to consider our own humanness, ideologies, and visions in conjunction with others. What would a new world look like if some of those ideologies were left behind? What is essential to the human race? This book could be awesome in a high school classroom in conjunction with Kurt Vonnegut’s, Slaughterhouse Five. Student’s could study the voice and style of these two authors within the science fiction genre.

“Copper Sun” by Sharon M. Draper- Freedom

“Free.” The word felt like cool water on Amari’s lips.

(Draper 300)

 Sharon M. Draper creates a moving and deep slave narrative following Amari and Polly from their enslavement (and indenture) from the Derby family in South Carolina, to freedom.

As a fan of African American literature, I have read a wide range of genres- from Richard Wright’s Native Son, to Frederick Douglass’ Narrative of a Life of Frederick Douglass, An American Slave. Written by Himself, to Butler’s Kindred. Before reading Copper Sun, I did not know what to expect.Would the characters be too one dimensional? Would Draper leave out horrifying, but necessary details on the master/slave dynamic (rape, abuse, ownership)? Would a young audience be left with a shallow idea and vision of slavery that they might get from their textbooks? Luckily, Draper’s narrative is complex, but definitely appropriate for middle and high school students. The reader sees Amari’s family killed by the English slave traders. We are horrified as she is led up to her master’s room to be raped. We also grapple between her hate of the white people around her, but her honest friendship with Polly, a white indentured servant.

This novel could be used to jumpstart class research into slavery and the narratives that developed. A class focusing on power could study Copper Sun along with Douglass’ Narrative, to examine the power of education that slave masters were afraid would topple their fragile system of slavery. Additionally, Draper provides wonderful research sources at the close of the novel.

“Looking For Alaska” by John Green

I think we are all searching for the Great Perhaps. The great possibilities of life that come when we step out of a place of comfort, or boredom.

Miles, or Pudge- a skinny high schooler, looks for the Great Perhaps at Culver Creek Boarding School. His dad’s alma mater. And the place where Perhaps is found in the vinegar taste of Strawberry Hill “wine” and traditional Culver Creek pranking. Perhaps is also found in Alaska Young; a troubled, beautiful, mysterious, impulsive, and creative girl.

Nothing is the same after her.

Green thoughtfully and creatively explores with the reader the meaning of life and death, and all the relationships in between. Alaska asks “How do we get out of this labryinth?” To be honest, I think I am still trying to figure that out.

Below are some pictures I took of my vision of Alaska (without the candle mountain and stacks of books).

Sitting with a bottle of Strawberry Hill and  "The General in His Labryinth."  Photo by: gabrielleheartsongs

Sitting with a bottle of Strawberry Hill and “The General in His Labryinth.”
Photo by: gabrielleheartsongs

Photo by: gabrielleheartsongs

Photo by: gabrielleheartsongs

Photo by: gabrielleheartsongs

Photo by: gabrielleheartsongs

We Should Know More: “Purple Heart” by Patricia McCormick

Purple Heart by Patricia McCormick resonated with me in a way that I did not expect. I am not in the army, nor do I plan to be- although my dad was in the army for a short stint- and I will be the first to admit that I do not know enough about the war that is has been going on for far too long. Sure, there are plenty of news articles. But other than heartbreaking television specials about war-broken families, I do not feel the war. I imagine Americans- both fighting and at home- during WWII felt the war. They withstood rations, cried when their sons were drafted, and felt a common fighting spirit.

But lack of feeling does not make the war less real or the soldier’s sacrifice less true. Todays world is overwrought by distraction. So, it is even more important to seek out information and events that are significant- even when it doesn’t show up on our newsfeeds.

In Purple Heart, Partricia McCormick brings the war closer. She paints a complex portrait of heroism, responsibility, and loyalty in a war zone. Through Private Matt Duffy, the reader is invited to question the nature and goals of the war, while keeping his buddies close. We are asked to move out of the Green Zone and into a world where reality and ideal do not coincide. Where a child becomes an insurgent because of his desire for soccer cleats.


As a project for this book in my Adolescent Literature Class, I decided to participate in a cooperative “race” called GoRuck. The GoRuck challenge is a military inspired and military led event that covers anywhere from 10-20 miles in 10-12 hours. Each participant must wear a ruck (backpack) carrying 20-30 lbs of bricks or sand. This ruck stays on all night.

2 months ago, two friends and I signed up for a GoRuck challenge in Charlottesville on March 6 starting at 9 pm. We each had about 20 lbs in our ruck, lots of water, and a few layers. The weather was going to be cold and the snow on the ground was not encouraging. We arrived at the steps of a library in Charlottesville at 8:45 pm. On this challenge, there would only be eight brave (or foolish) people participating. At nine, Cadre Jesse arrived. He checked our rucks for cab money (which I forgot), water, gloves, food, and team weight, then he introduced us to the rules of GoRuck, which I also promptly forgot. Cadre told us the most important thing we would learn over the night was how to be a leader. We would get cold, tired, hungry, and frustrated, but we would have to lead our team through whatever Cadre told us. Also, the American Flag must not touch anything but the team or we would feel the consequences.

Leadership Rule #1: Give your people clear directions and THINK.

Immediately after rules, our team was told to go into bear crawl position (hands and feet on ground, butt up) with our rucks on. A member from our team was assigned as our leader. He instructed us to line up and bear crawl in a snake pattern, up and down the stairs. At only 10 minutes in, my shoulders burned and my gloves started ripping. I was already sweating under my purple rain jacket. The 30 lb team weight was passed around while we stayed in bear crawl position, walking up and down, up and down the library stairs. We did this for at least an hour and we began to understand Cadre’s demands on leadership. Our leader was chastised when he didn’t tell us directions clearly and we felt guilty when we did not act quick enough.

Leadership Rule #2: Think and plan AHEAD.

For the next 45 min-an hour, our team circled one block. Cadre asked the assigned leader to guess how long it would take the group to jog the block three times with our rucks. I hadn’t practiced running with my ruck, but I was thankful that this exercise wasn’t too difficult. I felt strong and energized. Our leader aimed the time a little too high, so Cadre asked him to rethink and set a new time. The team hit this time perfectly. Next, Cadre chose a new leader and told us we had a casualty. One team member would not be able to hold his/ her ruck and would have to be carried two laps around the block. The leader was asked how long it would take to complete this mission and he was instructed to organize us in carrying the casualty. Our team moved to surround and lift the casualty (three people on both sides of him) and hand the team weight off to the 8th person. These two laps went super slow. The back packs were heavy, our casualty was awkward to hold, and the Flag was becoming a challenge. Luckily, Cadre showed us a more efficient hold- the casualty’s legs are swung over one teammate and the casualty’s upper body is held by another. This hold allowed other teammates to have free hands to hold other things- as we would soon see.

Leadership Rule #3: Watch out for your people. 

For the next 2-3 hours our team would occupy a 2 block radius. Our leader led us to the Cadre’s truck which was filled with 7 awkardly shaped water bottles, a stretcher, a candle, and eggs. We were instructed to circle the blocks carrying all the extra weight with one casualty. At this point, I felt that my training was not sufficient. Bench press, pushups, and leg press did not prepare me to carry two (and at one point three) 25 lb rucks, water bottles, and eggs. The team let out collective grunts as we were instructed walk three, five, seven laps with two casualties and all the equipment. During this portion, our leaders were tested time and time again. They had to estimate how much time it would take for us to complete these laps and how to best spread out the weight. Rachel and I were the only girls, but we were not weak links. She often carried the team weight, while I strapped on additional rucks and water jugs. The men amazed me by carrying both casualties and rucks for hours. At this point, we were only 4 hours in. It was going to be a long night.

Leadership Rule #4: Make small goals to better watch out for your people. 

This three hour section of the night, I was made leader. We were all resting in front of a shopping center walkway. My first action as leader was a mistake. I let the flag touch the ground. Supposedly. I felt the pressure and I was already frustrated. Cadre told me to lead the group in 200 step ups. My Ironman training told me just to do these 200 step ups slow and steady, no breaks. But that was stupid for myself and for my team. At the idea of one teammate, our group did sets of 50, 25, 15 and finally 10 step ups to finally finish and move onto the next mission. After the step ups, Cadre called me over and showed me a destination on his iPhone. He asked me how it would take our group to get to the destination, water jugs and all. I had no idea where we were, luckily one teammate is a  Charlottesville resident, so he took up the responsibility of directionally leading the group. I pulled up the rear and walked next to Cadre. He toyed with my weaknesses. For example, I tend to mumble, even when giving directions. When I was finally heard because I gave directions loudly, he said, “You could have done that first!”

I quickly learned that cold hands in ripped gloves distracted me from thinking clearly. After some badgering, Cadre gave me hand warmers and I borrowed better gloves. With warmth restored, my spirits were a little brighter. Our team took frequent breaks as we steadily made our way to the dot on Cadre’s iPhone. At this point, our team was strong and we worked together- rotating heavy weights and helping those who were weaker. At the destination I was given a pair of night vision goggles and told to look for a bright light. The bright light hid a 45 pound plate. HORRAY! Then, our team walked up a snowy hill and near a low hanging cable till Cadre told us to stop. The moon was falling and the sky was brightening. The team only had about 3 hours left. I was fired as leader and Rachel took up the reigns.

Leadership Rule #5: It’s OK to break the eggs.

Our team went down the hill and back to the starting point with Rachel, then another teammate as leader. There were more casualties and less weights as we hit drop points. The eggs we got on hour three were broken and frozen. Scrambled eggs. I was loopy and the whole team felt lighter and stronger. We all laughed about the night over bagels and coffee. Someone fell asleep over his food. Cadre Jesse told us how pleased he was with the night. Our team worked well together. We didn’t fight with each other even when we were frustrated. Sometimes it’s OK to break the eggs when your helping your team.

In Purple Heart, Matt Duffy is fighting and living with his team to defend each other and their country. They defend each other emotionally, physically, and psychologically. Even when the bigger picture, the goal of the war is unknown, the immediate goal of protecting each other is always relevant. The experience of GoRuck is far from a real war experience. However, from this experience I can believe in that kind of camaraderie and the blessing of a team that will risk anything for each other.

The Secret Book Society by Cathlin Shahriary

I’m not a teacher yet, but I can 100% see this working in a middle school! Maybe in a high school. Maybe. But this is a wonderful ideas for all of us future teacher! Or teacher supporters!

Nerdy Book Club

It started as a spark, a sudden burst of inspiration that struck me over the summer. It was probably due to the insane amount of books I had consumed while being stuck off of my feet recovering from surgery or the pain meds, but nevertheless the idea struck me – I should start a book club. I missed my little voracious readers (previous students) that would be moving on to fifth graders and wanted a way to still talk with them about what they were reading. So, I decided to start a book club.

At my previous school, our fantastic librarian, Mrs. Dobbs, was known to have book clubs with several different grade levels during her lunch. My students loved it. They would come back excitedly continuing their conversation from book club and eager to read the next book. While this worked well for her, I knew it wouldn’t work for…

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