A Note from the Editor
Pamela Sissi Carroll
About 150 years ago, more or less, I found myself without classes to teach for an entire summer. I had taught 8th graders from August to June, and had earned the right to rest. My plan was to load a beach bag with "good trash" books--- novels that I could consume then forget, in one sitting---then settle into a sandy spot, and read, read, read. With a selfish sense of purpose, I began. Soon, reality shocked me with a startling truth: I didn't like those quick reads any longer. It wasn't a matter of intellectual snobbery; it was just that, after reading high-quality young adult literature with my students all year, the bland and predictable prose of the "good trash" novels simply held no appeal. I emptied the trash, and started Plan B: I headed for a bookstore. There, I filled up on Robert Cormier, Judy Blume, and Robert Lipsyte. These writers' books quenched my summer thirst; they allowed me to read quickly, while providing invigorating, thought-provoking art. I have used the summer as prime time of reading YA books ever since.
Which books will you read this summer? If you have not yet decided, may I make some suggestions? A fine place to start might be books by the three new authors of YAL to whom you will be introduced in this issue of The ALAN Review. John H. Ritter is a baseball novelist, but as the article by Patricia K. Ladd and the interview with Chris Crowe vividly demonstrate, his books are much more than sports stories. The writings that Ladd's students produced in response to Ritter's two novels, Choosing Up Sides (1999) and Over the Wall (2000) are nothing short of amazing. As Crowe tells us, Ritter, who is the Writer in Residence for the Oceanside (California) Unified School District, has already begun to make a strong impact on the field of young adult literature. Susan Vreeland, a teacher in the San Diego (California) Unified Schools, is the author of the highly acclaimed Girl In Hyacinth Blue (1999), her second novel. The email interview that Linda Broughton conducted with Vreeland helps us understand how a Dutch painting found its way into her novel, as well as how she balances the demands of writing with full-time teaching. Laurie H. Anderson contributes a stirring essay about her powerful first novel, Speak, which was nominated for the 1999 National Book Award. The book's protagonist can teach adults significant lessons about what the world looks like from teens' perspectives.
If you have not yet had time to read it, might I also recommend Christopher Paul Curtis' 2000 Newbery Award winner, Bud, Not Buddy (1999)? Fans of Curtis' The Watsons Go to Birmingham---1963 (1995) will be delighted with his new novel, and will enjoy Marjorie M. Kaiser's description, in the Non-Print YAL Connection Column, of the ways she uses an audio-version of the novel in a middle school reading workshop. And Clip and File YA Reviews editor Jeff Kaplan reminds you that you might also add the books in our pullout section to your summer reading list.
As we think about selecting books for our adolescent students, we must also develop the habit of thinking about people in our schools and communities who might have objections to our choices and recommendations. John S. Simmons summarizes recent incidents of school censorship and gives particular attention to books that are frequently challenged in the middle grades. Jean E. Brown, in the Research Connection, presents a provocative "censorship simulation" that she has developed in order to help new and experienced teachers visualize and take necessary action if challenges are raised. Mary Baron discusses her reasons for teaching Shappire's controversial PUSH (1996) and thus encourages us to develop rationales for any potentially objectionable book that we might offer to students. The focus on censorship complements an article by J. Elaine White. White shows how books that reflect adolescents' worlds can become keys to the doors of literacy.
Teachers can also find assistance in opening doors of literacy through the Professional Resource Connection, edited by Kathleen Carico, in which she and her colleagues, Lee H. Brown and Susan Ariew, review resources that address human rights issues. We can also find help in the professional materials reviewed by Clarissa West White, Kimberly Quackenbush, Susan Phelan, and Judy L. Harrison, materials that have the potential for bringing new life and significance to the study of four classroom classics.
If you have decided that this is the summer to consider ways of going interdisciplinary in your teaching, we can help there, too. Jim Brewbaker, editor of the Interdisciplinary Connection column, along with teacher Kerri Deal, suggests ways that science can be "seasoned with literature." Their ideas are definitely worth a bite.
As I think about taking some time to relax this summer, I do so knowing that my work all year long has been made immeasurably easier because of the diligent, intelligent work of my Editorial Assistant, Kim Quackenbush. Kim has now finished her Master's Degree in English Education at Florida State University, and has signed a contract to begin teaching in Hillsborough County, Florida. I will miss her fine work and her sense of humor; I cannot express how fortunate I have been to be able to depend on her as my Assistant this year. Thanks, Kim. Millions. And best wishes to you and your students. I'll expect a batch of Book Bubbles from you, soon!
Reference Citation: Carroll, Pamela Sissi. (2000) "A Note from the Editor." The ALAN Review, Volume 27, Number 3, Pages 1.