Sunday, June 5, 2011

Thirteen Days to Midnight

Literacy Outside the Box - in Africa!

So it’s the first of June, and I have neglected to post entries about books on this blog since the conference ended.  But as I stated in an interim posting, I have not stopped reading the books!  As a matter of fact, I believe I’ve read five since then, but I may not be counting correctly.  Other things have happened since the 2011 IRC conference besides the birth of my first grandchild (the ASCD conference in San Francisco, the IRA Convention in Orlando, and most recently, my trip with colleagues and student interns to the country of Gambia, in Africa).  It’s been a busy 2 ½ months!  And summer school begins tomorrow on my campus, bringing with it a flurry of other activity. 

Today I had the opportunity to talk to a woman who was a bridesmaid in my brother and sister-in-law’s wedding a LONG time ago.  First of all, it made me reflect on how some friendships last and last while others flutter a little more: she and my sister-in-law have maintained their friendship over the years and miles and are planning on celebrating a big birthday with a trip this summer.  I admire that.  She also had her daughter with her, who is required to read a book this summer and then discuss it with her teacher at the beginning of school in the fall.  Of course we talked about books!  And if I’d had a notepad with me, I would have taken down titles from her.  The good news, of course, is that I know she’s not too far away:  I just need to ask my sister-in-law for her email address or request her as a 'friend' on Facebook and we can be connected.  One of the best wonders of technology. 

So the daughter is going to be a freshman in high school; if anyone reading this blog has a good idea for books for her, please let me know.  Of course I’m recommending some of the ones I reviewed here, but I know there are many other books in the world!  It should be something that is emotionally and cognitively appropriate for someone in her age range and something about which she can be thoughtful and reflective, at least to a point.

One of the books I recommend is one of Patrick Carman’s books:  Thirteen Days to Midnight.  It happens to be the one I’m reading at the moment.  Here’s what it’s done to me: I usually look forward to reading every night before I go to bed, but I’m so emotionally invested in this one and fearful for the main character that I almost dread opening it back up!  Don’t get me wrong – it’s a fabulous story.  The main character, Jacob, has received a power of indestructibility that he’s discovered he can pass around when it’s needed.  He and his best friend (Milo) and a relatively mysterious girl (Ophelia - who ends up being his girlfriend) work together to figure out how best to use the power to benefit others.  At least that’s what’s going on so far, and I’m about 2/3 through the book.  It’s the kind of story that raises all sorts of questions and opinions without even realizing it: “What if the power gets more comfortable in someone else’s body – will he be able to get it back?  What’s the deal with Ophelia: is she good, or is she really bad?  What is in the elusive box that his foster father left behind?  What if he had never shared the power in the first place?  Should he have kept it to himself?” 

While I’m reading, I feel a lot like I do when I’m watching a movie and see something happening that the main character can’t see … you know the feeling … when you just want to jump into the scene and tell him or her what to do or what not to do.  “Do NOT go into that room without a flashlight!”  It’s chilling without being horrifying and it bring up all sorts of questions of ethics without being preachy or even without being obvious. 

It’s a book for a bit older crowd than many of Carman’s other books, so while I love his other work, this is definitely one that’s appropriate for high school students.  True to Carman’s form, there is technology involved with the book: there is a website devoted to it where you can read an overview of the book and listen to the first chapter.  I hope this book is made into a film because it would be a huge success.

I’m worried about what Ophelia’s all about – that’s been gnawing at me all day - and I’m worried for Jacob and Milo’s friendship, and I think he’s going to be able to get into that box pretty soon, so if you’ll please excuse me, I think I’ll put my fears aside and go read …..

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