Tuesday, November 27, 2012

The Books I Honor

Students in my class are writing and creating their own book awards. I wrote a mentor text to use with them in class, blending elements of informative and narrative writing:

The Books I Honor

Books move me. Well, good books move me. I have learned that a good book can come in any format and can be written for any level and still move me. Over the years, so many different books have been a part of my development as a person, reader, and writer: Ernest Hemingway’s A Farewell to Arms; Jack Kerouac’s On the Road; Carson McCullers’ The Heart is a Lonely Hunter; Shel Silverstein’s The Giving Tree; Antoine de Saint-Exupery’s The Little Prince, and A.A. Milne’s Winnie the Pooh just to name a few.

I am honoring any books I read this year with my own special award modeled after the Newberry and Printz awards. My award will be called “The Pooh” in honor of a character from a book that has always stuck with me my entire life, Winnie the Pooh.

The criteria to receive a prestigious “Pooh” is the following:

It moves me emotionally: This can be any emotion. I’m not picky in this regard. I can easily recall sobbing on the floor of my parent’s house after finishing A Farewell to Arms, or being lost in few long moments of quiet reflection upon turning the last page of Patrick Ness’ A Monster Calls. Tears and reverie aside, I love a book that inspires me to change a behavior or belief in something—reading John Steinbeck’s The Winter of Our Discontent may have been the first book that made me want to be a writer myself.

It challenges me morally or spiritually: Some YA literature has moved into controversial themes over the last decade—so much so that I often encounter a phrase similar to “YA books are not just for YA anymore.” Recently, Jay Asher’s Thirteen Reasons Why, Jacqueline Kelly’s The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate, and Francis Stork’s Marcelo in the Real World challenged me—they made me think about issues. They made me think about where I stood on issues that I never had to face in my life on a personal level. Being challenged by books makes me a better person. Books make me more thoughtful. Books open my eyes and ears. Books teach me tolerance for differences and change. Books show me that we survive…that we can get through “this” too.

The characters or people have to face difficult decisions: This is different than slaying-the-dragon-and-saving-the-princess difficult decisions. I want to see the characters face a difficult decision, and I do not necessarily care if it ends up in joy or tragedy. I want it to make sense and feel right. For instance, at the end of Winnie-the-Pooh, Christopher Robin has to leave to go to school—he leaves The Hundred Acre Wood forever. He leaves Pooh Bear behind forever. I love the spirit of inevitable sadness this conjures. On the one hand, it could be argued that this is not truly a difficult decision because Christopher Robin has to go to school—there is no real way around it. However, I would argue. Some decisions in our life may be inevitable, and they may even already by made for us, but that does not make the actual facing of it any less difficult on us.

Since school began, I have not read a book worthy a “Pooh” just yet. I have read some wonderful books that I highly recommend including The Diviners and Every Day, but none that are Pooh-worthy. So, I keep reading, and I keep hoping, because when I discover the type of book I truly love, I am most content, at ease, and joyful. These are the books that make me smile.

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