As my students and I returned from a full nine days of Thanksgiving break this week, getting back into the groove of workshop was tough–for all of us. I was totally whacked out from frantically finishing NaNoWriMo, and the kids were all out of sorts from too much turkey and not enough routine.
I needed something that would hook them back into the magic of reading and writing workshop–wonderful books, but more than that…wonderful authors who write those books. So this week and next, my booktalks are all author-talks…book pairings by high-interest authors students love, whose stories captivate and amaze and inspire. Here are seven book pairings by the same author that are insanely popular with my readers.
Rainbow Rowell, Fangirl & Carry On – Fangirl goes over well with my seniors for two reasons–one, it was drafted during NaNoWriMo, and two, it begins on the first day college for the main character, Cath. Cath is an unabashed fangirl who writes her own fanfiction–and that’s where Carry On comes in. Carry On is the fanfic that Cath spent most of Fangirl writing. For a generation who grew up reading as many alternate-ending fanfics for Harry Potter as they did, this unique pairing is a instant hit.
Deborah Wiles, Revolution & Countdown – Penny Kittle has been singing the praises of Revolution for two years now, first at UNHLit and then again this year at NCTE. It’s a brilliant multigenre novel that blends photos from the sixties with the narrative of a girl struggling to deal with that tumultuous time in history herself. Countdown, the first book in the series, is even more popular with my students than Revolution is. The series helps bring to life something they study in history class again and again, all in a unique, compelling format.
Chris Lynch, Freewill & Inexcusable – The award-winning Inexcusable tells a story of sexual violence from the perpetrator’s point of view. Kids are compelled by this tale’s unique presentation of a controversial event, and it helps boys and girls alike gain a new perspective on an act that is often discussed but rarely experienced. After they read Inexcusable, I recommend the Printz-nominated Freewill, the story of a boy who is oddly compelled to create totems in his wood shop class after a rash of local teens begin committing suicide. Themes of grief, guilt, and creative outlet make this one a hit with my students too, as does the unique fact that it’s told in second person point of view.
Laurie Halse Anderson, The Impossible Knife of Memory & Wintergirls – Most students at our school read Speak in ninth grade, and they begin to appreciate Laurie Halse Anderson even more when they read Wintergirls, the story of a teen who battles bulimia and anorexia. The writing in this book is stunning, and the plot is compelling. When kids finish this un-put-down-able book, I recommend The Impossible Knife of Memory, in which a teen girl struggles with her father’s PTSD after his return from Iraq. The novel hooks both boys and girls, as it follows both the father and daughter’s struggle.
Matt de la Pena, The Living & The Hunted – In The Living, Shy is excited to get a job on a cruise liner…until “The Big One”–a major earthquake on the Pacific coast–hits. Most of the passengers and crew aboard the cruise ship are killed, save for a few, including Shy, and a few people also on the dinghy he clings to for life. When Shy learns a secret that people will kill for, he goes from just being one of the living to being one of the hunted. This believable suspense series hooks my students.
M.T. Anderson, Feed & Symphony for the City of the Dead – I learned about Symphony for the City of the Dead, a powerful book detailing the siege of Leningrad during World War II, while standing in line to register for ALAN. Kim McCollum-Clark told a few of us teachers and librarians about this amazing story, which pairs gripping exposition with historical photographs from the time period. Amid brutality, Dmitri Shostakovich wrote a symphony for his dying city that uplifted both its citizens and the Allied forces working to free them. The spies and death and music of the book intrigue my students, and I recommend to them Feed when they finish. Feed is eerily plausible, the story of a future in which smartphones aren’t in our hands, they’re in our heads. The feed contains advertisements, social media, news, sports, and anything we currently look at on our phones–all behind your retinas. When an accident disables Titus’ feed, he struggles with life beyond the feed, and it’s a haunting cautionary tale my students are compelled by.
Jason Reynolds, The Boy in the Black Suit & All-American Boys (with Brendan Kiely) – I picked up The Boy in the Black Suit last year at ALAN, and this year I scored All-American Boys after Amy’s recommendation. In Black Suit, the main character wears a black suit every day for his job at a funeral home, although his peers think it’s some weird tribute to his mother’s recent death. Matt feels like he is barely getting by until he meets Lovey, who is a model of strength despite dealing with even more tragedy than he. All-American Boys is a timely novel that alternates between points of view of Rashad and Quinn as both boys–one black, one white–deal with an incident involving Rashad, a fist-happy cop, and Quinn as a witness. It is haunting and beautifully written and incredibly eye-opening for my readers.
What author-talks are guaranteed to engage your readers? Please share in the comments!