Friday, August 3, 2018

What I Bought My Students and Why

A few years ago, I received the Book Love Foundation Grant, which was enough to buy a good 500 brand new books for my classroom library. While these are not "my" books in the sense that I can take them home and keep them, or give them away as birthday gifts, they are my classroom library books. If I move schools, they go with me. I liked that feeling. I liked it so much that I stopped trying to wheedle twenty dollars here and forty dollars there out of my principal in order to add books. I buy my own books now (or seek donations *ahem*) so that nobody else controls my budget, my selections, or the future of my books.

I look for bargains, of course. I hit up Goodwill and library book sales. I have 20% off educator cards at every local bookstore, and I'm a fan of remaindered books. I joined First Books, which gives Title 1 teachers fantastic prices for new books. But I also splurge. My students shouldn't have to hope First Books obtains a title or wait until a book hits Goodwill or the remaindered bin before they can read it. So when a book is too good to resist, I don't even try.

I had my birthday last week. I used this as an excuse to hit up the big downtown Powells and buy a bunch of books. I may have also squeezed a visit to Barnes and Noble in there. Okay, I did, and I obviously was not a typical B & N shopper. After gathering some 15 or so books off their shelves, I sat down to go through them and prioritize. I was looking up reviews on Goodreads, checking to see if the titles were available through First Book, and reading first chapters of books I wasn't already familiar with. I think three different employees stopped to ask me if I needed a cart. I think they just wanted me to know they were aware I was there, but it's possible they were just fascinated by my process. One guy paused to be sure I knew Thunderhead was a sequel, and then circled back to ask me how I'd liked Scythe, because he's thinking of reading it. He said he'd really liked Vicious, and I assured him that if he liked Schwab, he's probably like Shusterman. (And that's how I ended up recommending books to a bookstore employee...)

There were a lot of possibilities. So many. SO MANY. And while I was committed to treating myself and my students, I was still working with a limited budget. So here are the books I finally selected, and why.

 I was just thinking about how, despite my classes being about 70-90% Latinx, I STILL don't have enough #ownvoices material for that population. So when I stumbled across Margarita Engle's new novel in verse, I was thrilled.

I love Chris Crutcher. I've had trouble convincing kids to give his books a try, but that is partly due to the late 90s covers on most of the ones I own. I'm hoping this latest book, with its modern cover and foster-kid protagonist, might introduce a few to the master.

A truly great picture book about immigration, this nonfiction story really demonstrates how desperate people are if they flee their country with their children, and what it was like when seeing The Americans meant you were safe now.

I was reading this multiple point of view/multiple author book about a school shooter to one of my classes last year, and they were really into it. I only had an ebook at the time though, so I promised them I'd track down a hard copy. Powell's had a used one!

I really want to read this one. The style looks really cool. Also, there's that meme going around that says, "Will donate organs to RBG," which is...sadly not as funny as it should be.

This book is not only cute and funny, it's a perfect example of an unreliable narrator. I'm so excited to have it on hand for that conversation!

In my first 13 years of teaching, I had zero openly transgender students. In the last seven, I've had three in class, and four more in the building. This story is such a great metaphor for knowing that who you are on the inside doesn't match what you appear to be on the outside. I want it for the kids who don't get it, and I want it for the kids who aren't sure if they're being seen.  (The picture books were all on the remaindered shelf, which means I got them for $7.99 instead of $18.99, which also drove my purchasing decisions!)

I've never read this book, because, well, I'm really bad about reading issues books, especially set outside of the US. But just like my kids, I'm more willing to tackle a hard topic in graphic novel format. It's why I read the graphic novel version of Kindred too.

A graphic novel about a soccer star. My main concern is that I'll have to replace it regularly. Which is GOOD, but kind of expensive and annoying at the same time. (Books I could have gotten today for that reason: If I Was Your Girl, Babysitters Club graphic novels #3 and 5, and Bang. I chose not to because, SHINY NEW THINGS and also, endless hope that they'll turn up again when kids get back to school.)

My students really like the first book in this series. I can never have too many graphic novels. Who am I kidding? I can never have ENOUGH graphic novels.

I have volumes 2-6 as well as an omnibus edition of the whole series. My students are afraid of the omnibus. I've been looking for volume 1 for a long time, and finally found it at Powell's.

And here are a few books I was tempted to get, but didn't.

This apparently is a sequel to her fantastic book The Earth, My Butt and Other Big Round Things. I love it, and kids love the title, but I've not been able to get anyone to read the whole thing, so getting a sequel seemed silly. But I'm glad to know it exists, and if anyone DOES read the book, I'll get them this as well.

This looked really cool--very heisty and with an African immigrant protagonist. But a) it's long, which scares my students off, and b) the author is white, which isn't my favorite thing to see about the writer of a book with a black POV. Not censoring here, not saying she didn't do a great job, just not a book I'm going to prioritize for my classroom.

This was from Gabbie Hanna's book of poetry, Adultolescence. Some of te poems were a bit too raw for middle school, but we can ALL relate to this one, right?

Finally, in light of the idiot who wrote an op-ed piece in Forbes last week saying we'd be better off closing public libraries and putting that tax money in our own pockets so we could just order from Amazon, I have to share this sign, on the door of my local library. The libraries have air conditioning. Many homes in Oregon, including mine, are not air conditioned. When the temperature gets above 90 for several days, this becomes problematic. At my house we have excellent modern windows can keep it in the mid to high 70s during the day, then open it up at night to cool down with box fans in the bedroom windows. This is obviously not the case in every home. I wonder how Amazon could keep families cool in hot weather for no cost?  (Spoiler: THEY CAN'T. But my library can.)


  1. I hope your students enjoy the books! I read Red in graduate school. I loved it. I have The Breadwinner sitting on my TBR shelf, but it’s not the graphic novel version. I didn’t know there was a graphic novel version.

    That Forbes thing was idiotic. I’m glad they retracted it.

    Aj @ Read All The Things!

  2. Good choices! I can't imagine life without my library, as I'm sure so many of us feel!

  3. I don't even know what to say about that person, who wrote that piece about libraries, except that he probably never really used one. That grant is awesome. You got a nice variety of books for your kids too.

  4. Um, wow. I went and read the article about that op-ed piece. This is just one more instance where someone who has plenty speaks from their own experience. "Hey, people should just buy all their books. And go buy coffee if they want wi-fi. Why not? I can." So frustrating!

    Nicole @ Feed Your Fiction Addiction


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