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January 1, 2011

The Realm of Possibility

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The Realm of Possibility

Author: David Levithan

Page Length: 210

Reading Level:

Genre: Poetry

PLOT SUMMARY: This book is a collection of poems that shares the thoughts, emotions, and stories of different characters. The characters are high school age. Relationships of all types are detailed – boys together, girls together, and boy / girl. The poems cover the gamut of love from reeling elated at the possibility of a new relationship, to feeling low after not finding love, to finding harmony with each other. Some of the characters also endure hardships and discover more about whom they are and why they act as they have.

REVIEW: I did not enjoy reading this book. I find constantly assessing and deciphering the language of poetry tiresome in an entire book form. There were moments of the poems that I enjoyed; however, overall, the book was tedious.

If you love poetry, you will likely love this book and find many examples of well written poems and forms of expression that you could share with your students.

The one poem I found particularly interesting was one where a character starts writing words on the desk to express whatever comes to mind. These words have impact on the students who see them. The result of the expression – a girl who writes all over her body all of the words that define her – to others who react after reading the words – would provide for an interesting discussion of who we really are and why. See “Comeuppance” 153-163. It might even be interesting to provide students with a silhouette of a body shape and have them fill in the words that describe them before or after reading the poem.

AREAS FOR TEACHING: adjectives, description, poetic forms

TOUCHY AREAS-PAGES: poems about sex and love between both heterosexual and homosexual couples, a poem about visiting a sex shop (172-179)

RELATED BOOKS: Boy Meets Boy, All That Glitters, Are We There Yet?, Crush, Kissing Kate, I’ve Known Since I was Eight, Thinking Straight, Hero


REVIEWED BY:  Dayna Taylor

November 3, 2008


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Author: Carrie Mac

Page Length: 106

Reading Level: 3.4

Genre: Fiction         

PLOT SUMMARY: Hope is disappointed when she learns her parents are going to Thailand to build a school and she is being sent to New York to stay a month with her sister, Joy and her loser boyfriend, Bruce.  While there, Hope incurs a huge veterinarian bill and must find a job.  She becomes a nanny for Maira, who introduces her to Larissa, her gay partner. Although Hope has lived in a commune with her hippie parents her entire life, this is her first introduction to “gay living”.  Hope meets Nat, who runs a bike shop, and is attracted to her.  The only problem is that Nat is a girl, too.  Now, she finds herself apart of the gay community as she strives to determine what her sexuality preference really is. 

REVIEW: This book was well written as it deals with a teen girl’s struggle to identify her sexual preference.  The writing is so descriptive that the reader can feel the emotions Hope deals with as she tries to decide what is real and what is imagined.  Although the parents are presented very liberal, I thought their immediate acceptance to Hope and Nat’s relationship, was unrealistic.  Although gay relationship is evidenced openly in our society today, I would question having this book on the shelves in my schoolroom.

TOUCHY AREAS-PAGES: The entire book is about a gay relationship as well as drug use and premarital sex.

AREAS OF TEACHING: Conflict, Compare and Contrast, Imagery (p. 7, 13, 26, 68, 75), Irony, and Character

RELATED BOOKS: Born Confused, Orphea Proud

RELATED WEBSITES:…/TeachersGuides/Orca Soundings/CrushTG.pdf,

REVIEWED BY: Shirley Wagner

August 6, 2008

True Believer

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True Believer

Author: Virginia Euwer Wolff

Page Length: 264

Reading Level: 7

Genre: Fiction

PLOT SUMMARY: LaVaughn is 15. Despite the fact that she lives in poor neighborhood filled with violence, LaVaughn longs to go to college. LaVaughn begins to dream about life after high school. She sees how her friend, Jolly, suffers to make ends meet, take care of her two young fatherless children, and try to earn her credits to graduate. LaVaughn knows that she must find a way to a better life. Her friends have turned to a new interests, and Jody, a boy that used to be a close friend, has moved back to town. LaVaughn’s heart races every time she’s never him or even smells his wonderful chlorine scent left behind in the elevator. Life doesn’t always turn out the way LaVaughn expects. Can she keep her friends and find true love before her sixteenth birthday arrives?

REVIEW: Although this book lists as a reading level of 7, it has the potential to appeal to a lower reading level because of the short , easy to navigate and understand chapters. The only qualifier for a level 7 to me it seems are the large science vocabulary words LaVaughn shares with the reader as she learns them. The book has an excellent message about education and expectations and the discord that can arise between friends and family members who aren’t comfortable with the new developments sometimes perceived as “snootiness” in the person who is changing for the better. The book details friends who were lost to violence and a school shooting. LaVaughn walks in on two males kissing; the readers experience her shock and reaction.

AREAS FOR TEACHING: cause and effect, character sketch, technical vocabulary, conclusions and predictions, setting, theme, characters

TOUCHY AREAS-PAGES: violence, homosexuality, death of a parent, death of a classmate

RELATED BOOKS: Probably Still Nick Swanson, The Mozart Season, Make Lemonade


REVIEWED BY: Dayna Taylor

February 19, 2008

The Hemingway Tradition

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The Hemingway Tradition

Author: Kristin Butcher

Page Length: 92

Reading Level: 4.2


PLOT SUMMARY: As the story opens, Shaw Sebring and his mom are moving to Winnipeg, Canada.  They are trying to recover from the shock and tragedy of the suicidal death of Dyan Sebring, Shaw’s dad and respected author. 


Shaw actually was the person to find his dad, who ended his life by putting a bullet to his head. Sixteen year old Shaw and his mother were unable to cope with the suicidal note, the death, and memories left in the house; so, his mom got a transfer and the move to Winnipeg was made.


Shaw begins school as normally as possible.  He makes a new best friend, Jai, from East India.  Jai invites Shaw to tryout for the volleyball team and they both make the team.  Shaw also meets Tess, a girl in his English class.  Tess is on the newspaper staff and she and Shaw appear to have “something special” between them.


As normal of life as Shaw tries to lead, he is not functioning normally.  He is haunted not only by the visual memory of his dad but also by the note his dad left.  In his note, Dylan Sebring, the world known author, said that he had lived a life full of lies.  He revealed he was gay, and could not longer live the life any longer.


The note left Shaw questioning if what he had considered a happy well-adjusted childhood had also been a lie.  As much as he had wanted to be like his dad when he was alive, he now wants to be as different from him as possible in his death.  As a result, his grades are falling and his mom is concerned.


Through the support of his mom, encouraging him to read his dad’s journal, Shaw comes to grip with his dad’s sexuality and the prejudices his dad felt.  He also is aware of racial prejudices in his school.


REVIEW: I liked this book because Ms. Butcher is able to relate the feelings and emotions that Shaw experiences quite realistically.  Shaw’s thoughts are those of any teen who might experience a death in the family, a move to a new  city—questioning what is real, what is unreal, what is good, what is bad.


The book is short but well written.  It covers several social issues.  I think any high school student would enjoy it. 


TOUCHY AREAS: Teachers should be aware of the referral to the bi-sexual preference subject matter.




REVIEWED BY: Shirley Wagner


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