Starting a Review Club

When I returned from NCTE and ALAN with boxes of books for my classroom, I held a book pass to expose my students to the new titles entering the room. Many of the titles are 2017 releases, which always excites them since they get to read them before anyone else. Since I do this and since these titles haven’t released yet, I haven’t had the chance to read them myself.

Ten years ago when I began teaching I almost always read every single book that entered my classroom. Now that I’ve created such an expansive classroom library and have cultivated a culture of reading in my classroom, I can’t always keep up with my students. I don’t always read every single book I bring into my room. Don’t get me wrong, even with a toddler and a baby on the way, I’m still reading as much as I can as often as I can. But I felt like I needed to do something about the books I haven’t read yet.

My honors freshmen are voracious readers, so I decided to try something with them in regards to these books I haven’t read. I spoke with them about my situation and asked if any of them would be interested in reviewing some of these titles for me. We gathered a small stack of books that I haven’t read, made a list of interested students, and started passing them out. I created a sign-up list on my board. We decided on a process.

My third block honors freshmen have asked for new titles every couple of weeks so they have more time to read the book of their choice and then pass it on to the next person on the list. My first block honors freshmen said they want new books as often as possible (this class tends to read at a faster pace). Once one student is finished with the book, he/she passes it on to the next student on the list. After he/she finishes the book, a review is written and given to me, but we also sit and discuss the likes/dislikes. So far there have been more enthusiastic likes than dislikes! This process gives my students some ownership in the classroom, helps me build deeper relationships with them when we discuss the books, helps the students form relationships with one another as they discuss their common read, and also helps me gain some insight on the books before I read them myself!

Right now I’m thinking about arranging some kind of display in my classroom with these titles and recommendations, but I’m still not sure what it should look like. If you have any suggestions I would love to hear them!

These are the titles my freshmen have been sharing so far:

  • This Is Our Story by Ashley Elston (Goodreads)
  • The Smell of Other People’s Houses by Bonnie-Sue Hitchcock (Goodreads)
  • Ever the Hunted by Erin Summerill (Goodreads)
  • The Murderer’s Ape by Jakob Wegelius (Goodreads)

What I’m Reading Next: The Start of Me and You by Emery Lord

Last year a student named Ari was in my Literature & Composition I Honors class. She is an avid reader, borrowed some of my books over the summer, and even though she isn’t in any of my classes this year she still stops in on a regular basis to borrow and/or discuss books. This morning before school began she brought back The Start of Me and You by Emery Lord (Lord’s second novel) and told me she loved it.

22429350Ari recently read and enjoyed When We Collided after I recommended it, which is why she wanted to read The Start of Me and You next. It didn’t take much prompting on my part to find out why she loved Lord’s sophomore release. She was smiling from ear to ear as she explained to me that she felt like she was the character. That even though she can’t relate with Paige’s grief, everything else about Paige was just like her. She found herself within the pages of this novel and she loved it. Ari told me all about how she spent the majority of her Memorial Day tearing through this story.

One of her favorite aspects of The Start of Me and You is that Paige didn’t need to rely on a love interest to help her find herself or solve her conflict(s). In fact, once we were done discussing the novel and how amazing it is to find ourselves within the pages of books, she asked me if I could recommend any books with similar characters/situations to Paige. I admitted that might be difficult for me since I haven’t read it yet, but I did my best and she chose a novel by Sarah Ockler.

So with that much enthusiasm and joy, how could I not instantly start reading The Start of Me and You? I’ve read both of Emery Lord’s other books and loved them. But it’s more than that. I love how Donalyn Miller says that students will read the books we (teachers) bless, but it ends up being even more powerful when we (teachers) read the books that students bless. And that’s why tonight I’m diving into a novel that Ari blessed.

Which books have you read and loved that students recommended? I’d love to read about it!

 

Trending Books

Jack’s playing and distracted at the moment, so I’m taking advantage of it to write a quick post. I’m trying my best to carve out more blogging and reading time at this point in my crazy school year.

Anyway, as always I’ve been working hard to draw my students’ attention to more books. I’ve been keeping up with my daily book talks, which has been a huge help in this process. Earlier in the school year I decided to use my display book case for student recommendations. I encouraged students to place a book they’ve enjoyed on the shelf along with a notecard with a brief recommendation. It didn’t go as well as I hoped. I mostly had to specifically ask students to place something there because for some reason they weren’t doing it on their own. I grew tired of seeing the shelf which quickly became wallpaper in my room, so I decided to change it a couple weeks ago.

My students often read the same books as friends pass one book to another. They also often ask me what other students are reading. So I decided to use my display shelf to feature “trending books” in my classroom. It’s already been much more successful than when it featured student recommendations; I’ve already switched out many of the books because they’re so often borrowed by students.

During state testing a couple weeks ago, our media specialist was in my classroom and saw my display. It made her think about an area in the library that is rarely, if ever, used. She talked to me about it and she’s going to make that space a trending books area as well. I’m excited to see how hers turns out!

How do you draw attention to books in your classroom? I’d love to see your pictures or hear about your spaces!

So far Everything, Everything, Things We Know By Heart, Perfect Chemistry, The Serpent King, Legend, and Ghosts of Heaven have continued to be popular choices. Which books have been trending in your classroom or library?

 

Students Love Liars, Inc. by Paula Stokes

A few months ago I started a staff book club so more teachers could read and get together to discuss books that will appeal to our students. One of the books we read is Liars, Inc. by Paula Stokes since all of us enjoyed Gone Girl. It’s a fun mystery that I enjoyed reading. When I book talked it in class I told my students that it’s a lighter than Gone Girl, but similar in the sense that it keeps you guessing. It’s only been a month since I brought a copy to class and I haven’t seen it since. It’s been passed between five different students in my first A block class.

I love seeing a book become a hit among my students, so I asked four of them (it’s still with the fifth reader) to write a sentence or two summing up their thoughts about Liars, Inc. Almost every one of them read it within a day or two, many saying they stayed up late reading.

Liars, IncJacob and Will said:

“Liars, Inc. was a great story. I enjoyed it; I couldn’t put it down. I’d recommend it to anyone who likes reading.”

“A great book, kept me guessing the entire time.”

Cory and McKenzie said:

“Liars, Inc. kept me reading all night and kept me guessing the whole time. A great book for anyone who loves a great mystery.”

“Liars, Inc. was impossible to put down. Every time you think you know what’s going to happen you change your mind.”

Summary (From Goodreads):

For fans of Gone Girl, I Hunt Killers, and TV’s How to Get Away with Murder.

Max Cantrell has never been a big fan of the truth, so when the opportunity arises to sell forged permission slips and cover stories to his classmates, it sounds like a good way to make a little money and liven up a boring senior year. With the help of his friends Preston and Parvati, Max starts Liars, Inc. Suddenly everybody needs something and the cash starts pouring in. Who knew lying could be so lucrative?

When Preston wants his own cover story to go visit a girl he met online, Max doesn’t think twice about hooking him up. Until Preston never comes home. Then the evidence starts to pile up—terrifying clues that lead the cops to Preston’s body. Terrifying clues that point to Max as the murderer.

Can Max find the real killer before he goes to prison for a crime he didn’t commit? In a story that Kirkus Reviews called “Captivating to the very end,” Paula Stokes starts with one single white lie and weaves a twisted tale that will have readers guessing until the explosive final chapters.

 

Student Book Reviews: The Summer of Letting Go by Gae Polisner

Since bringing my ARC of The Summer of Letting Go into my classroom, my senior girls have been passing it around quite a bit. It’s been such a favorite this year that three of my students wrote mini book reviews for Gae Polisner’s sophomore release.

Title: The Summer of Letting Go

Author: Gae Polisner

Publisher: Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill

The Summer of Letting GoSummary (From Goodreads):

Just when everything seems to be going wrong, hope and love can appear in the most unexpected places.

Summer has begun, the beach beckons and Francesca Schnell is going nowhere. Four years ago, Francesca’s little brother, Simon, drowned, and Francesca is the one who should have been watching. Now Francesca is about to turn sixteen, but guilt keeps her stuck in the past. Meanwhile, her best friend, Lisette, is moving on most recently with the boy Francesca wants but can’t have. At loose ends, Francesca trails her father, who may be having an affair, to the local country club. There she meets four-year-old Frankie Sky, a little boy who bears an almost eerie resemblance to Simon, and Francesca begins to wonder if it’s possible Frankie could be his reincarnation. Knowing Frankie leads Francesca to places she thought she’d never dare to go and it begins to seem possible to forgive herself, grow up, and even fall in love, whether or not she solves the riddle of Frankie Sky.

Student Reviewer: Alyssa

Student Review:

This book may turn some people away by the love story and what not, but what makes this story so interesting is the aspect nobody tends to think or talk about. The idea of reincarnation.

Francesca Schnell’s story of her brothers passing is absolutely heart breaking. Definitely not something you’d ever wish upon someone, especially a child. Her struggle through getting over it is never ending. Once Frankie Sky, a boy she babysits, comes into her life, everything changes. The fact that her brother could have reincarnated into Frankie Sky is something so unbelievable and makes you wish it could happen in your life. This books pursues a different way of making people knowledgable on the topic of reincarnation. The ups and downs and the adventure of finding this all out is a journey worth reading about. The love aspect of this book is just the cherry on top of it all for me. I give this five stars!

Student Reviewer: Morgan

Student Review:

The Summer of Letting Go by Gae Polisner ws not only a story of moving forward from the past, but also a story of love and friendship. I loved every part of this book, from the cute and daring personality of Frankie Sky, to the conflict Francesca faces in leaving behind the guilt of her brother’s death. I enjoyed the way the story would tie into other parts of the book with Francesca’s past and her younger brother Simon. Every page was entertaining and kept me hoping for more. When it came to tense parts, my heart would start racing as if the story were my own life. I consider this book the best that I have read so far and would highly recommend it to anyone interested in stories of friendship or stories about moving on from the past.

Student Reviewer: Kayla

Student Review:

I absolutely loved this book. It’s 316 pages long and I read it in two days, which never happens. The book takes you to multiple places, from a love story to a story about religion and different beliefs. As cliche as it sounds, I honestly believe this book changed the way I think. I grew up believing that heaven was the only way after death. This book opened my eyes to a whole new world. While I know The Summer of Letting Go is fiction, I connected with it it because I’ve been questioning things. It is a very insightful book that I would recommend to those who enjoy impossible love stories.

Student Book Review: Winger by Andrew Smith

WingerTitle: Winger

Author: Andrew Smith

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Student Reviewer: London

Summary (From Goodreads):

Ryan Dean West is a fourteen-year-old junior at a boarding school for rich kids. He’s living in Opportunity Hall, the dorm for troublemakers, and rooming with the biggest bully on the rugby team. And he’s madly in love with his best friend Annie, who thinks of him as a little boy.

With the help of his sense of humor, rugby buddies, and his penchant for doodling comics, Ryan Dean manages to survive life’s complications and even find some happiness along the way. But when the unthinkable happens, he has to figure out how to hold on to what’s important, even when it feels like everything has fallen apart.

Filled with hand-drawn info-graphics and illustrations and told in a pitch-perfect voice, this realistic depiction of a teen’s experience strikes an exceptional balance of hilarious and heartbreaking.

Student Review:

Winger was the best book I have read this year! I loved the way the author made me feel as if Ryan was a real person. Andrew Smith did this by making the main character Ryan Dean draw doodles and pictures on how he was feeling or what was going on in his life. The doodles were always comical and made me laugh.

I believe that everyone would enjoy reading Winger, it was a quick read. The book had really short chapters which was wonderful, because it made the book easy to pick up and put down. Also, it allowed me to read the book faster because whenever I got spare time I could get in a quick chapter.

Not only did the author do an amazing job of making me feel emotions for these characters, but he made me feel as if I was watching them from afar. Just like a movie. Andrew Smith did an excellent job of describing the setting and made me feel like I actually knew the layout of the boarding school campus, Annie’s house, etc.

Great escape from reality. If you are looking for a light read that will put a smile on you face this is the book for you. The author Andrew takes you inside the mind of a 14 year old boy and it’s extremely entertaining. Winger was a good distraction and didn’t force my brain to have to do a lot of thinking.

Even the ending was eventful and extremely unexpected. I loved this because I thought the book was going to be a typical love story, but then is turned into a tragedy. Although it had me in tears I couldn’t imagine the book ending any other way.

Really loved this book and hope that other people will read it and fall in love with it like I did. I just could relate so easily with the book, because it is about the realities of a high school student. Even though they were at a boarding school most of the conflicts were common and can be found in every high school. I just thought this book was so great and hope others will too.

First Marking Period Favorites

We’re nearing the end of our first marking period (how did that happen?!), so I decided to make a list of the books my students have been reading the most. I have four sections of seniors (with class sizes around 34) and one class of sophomores (35 students).

My seniors in particular have been voracious readers. It’s been exciting watching them recommend and share books during class. Some of my sophomores have even come into class looking for particular books because they heard seniors talking about them. I hope all of this continues throughout the school year!

I Hunt Killers by Barry Lyga: This is one of the most popular books among my seniors right now. Our media specialist ordered three copies to try and keep up with the demand. She also ordered some copies of Game (the sequel) since it’s being read so much.

Divergent by Veronica Roth: This title started off pretty popular but once I came in with my copy of Allegiant and told them my reaction to it, my waiting list for Divergent grew even more.

I Am the Messenger by Markus Zusak: I never expected this to be so popular but after one of my seniors walked into class saying that it changed his life, interest was immediately sparked.

Lessons From a Dead Girl by Jo Knowles: A couple of my senior girls picked this one up, but after I recommended it during Banned Books Week, even more students wanted to read it. Jumping Off Swings has been equally popular.

Anna Dressed in Blood by Kendare Blake: I love how popular this book has become this year. One of my seniors just recommended it to another student in class and pointed out the Kirkus review blurb (“Stephen King ought to start looking over his shoulder.”) on the Girl of Nightmares cover.

Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher: Nothing about the popularity of this title surprises me. 🙂

Purple Heart by Patricia McCormick: My sophomores are loving this book right now.

In Honor by Jessi Kirby: I added this title to my road trip book display a few weeks ago and watched it become a big hit. I’m glad I have three copies of it because my senior girls LOVE it.

Sweethearts by Sara Zarr: I’ve noticed that a few of the books that aren’t my favorites (Shut Out by Kody Keplinger, Lock and Key by Sarah Dessen) are often my girls’ favorites. Sweethearts was good, but I didn’t love it. My senior girls adore it. I think it’s been read by five or six girls already. Once they finish it, they usually pick up Story of a Girl or How to Save a Life.

Living Dead Girl by Elizabeth Scott: I book talked this during Banned Books Week and all five of my copies were borrowed by my sophomores.

Something Like Normal by Trish Doller: A couple of my senior boys read this at the beginning of the year (One was put off by the cover and felt awkward about it so we discussed it as a class) and enjoyed it. A couple of my senior and sophomore girls have read it now as well.

Eon by Alison Goodman: Eon has been read by a group of senior boys in one of my classes. In this class I have a large group of fantasy lovers and they’ve been passing books to each other as they finish them and move on in each series. So far they’ve been reading the Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld series, The Demon King by Cinda Williams Chima series, and this one.

Ellen Hopkins and John Green: Pretty much all of the books by both authors have been huge hits this marking period.

Dead to You by Lisa McMann: My mystery fans have been all over this book. I have three copies and haven’t seen any of them for a while.

More Popular Titles:

  • The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer by Michelle Hodkin
  • A Midsummer’s Nightmare by Kody Keplinger
  • Every Day by David Levithan
  • You by Charles Benoit
  • The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey
  • Leverage by Joshua C. Cohen
  • Boy Toy by Barry Lyga
  • Things I Can’t Forget by Miranda Kenneally

 

 

Stock Your Shelves: Class Library Must-Have Titles

The start of a new school year is just around the corner, although for many of you it’s already started.  Whenever this time of year approaches I’m always making a list of books I need to buy for my classroom library.  I figured I’m not the only one, so I decided to make a list of books that I want to buy and that I recommend for a classroom library.  If you’d like additional title recommendations feel free to leave a comment.

Summer/Fall Releases:

The Infinite Moment of Us by Lauren Myracle (Goodreads)–This releases on August 20th August 27th (edited on 8/20, sorry for the mistake!), so I’ll have a review up shortly. Basically, this is all-around wonderful.

Where the Stars Still Shine by Trish Doller (Goodreads)–This releases on Sept. 24th. I’ll have a review up on the Nerdy Book Club blog before the release and that same review will post here on the release date.  Trish Doller writes magic, people.

Somebody Up There Hates You by Hollis Seamon (Goodreads)–Think The Fault in Our Stars from a funny guy’s point of view, yet totally standing apart from John Green’s hit. I know that might be confusing. This releases on Sept. 3rd.

The Beginning of Everything by Robyn Schneider (Goodreads)–It’s an awful lot like Looking for Alaska, but not as sad (or at least I didn’t think so). Still, it has a different kind of voice and will appeal to teens.  This releases on August 27th.

Books with Guy Appeal:

Winger by Andrew Smith (Goodreads)–I want to buy multiple copies of this.

Swim the Fly by Don Calame (Goodreads)–A lot of my boys really like this book and the companion books. It’s a really funny, quick read.

Stupid Fast by Geoff Herbach (Goodreads)–I’ve been raving about this book since before it was released in 2011.

Gym Candy by Carl Deuker (Goodreads)–I still haven’t read this, but I have multiple copies because my boys in class LOVE it.

Kindness for Weakness by Shawn Goodman (Goodreads)–This is a fantastic and realistic book about a boy in juvie.

I Hunt Killers by Barry Lyga (Goodreads)–This is mysterious, funny, and features the son of a serial killer trying to help the police find a serial killer. Yep, it’s a hit with all of my students.

Verse Novels:

I Heart You, You Haunt Me by Lisa Schroeder (Goodreads)–I recommend buying all of her books. This and Chasing Brooklyn are two of the most popular books in my room.

What My Mother Doesn’t Know by Sonya Sones (Goodreads)–This title has been around for a while. Every year it becomes a new favorite for many of my students.

Glimpse by Carol Lynch Williams (Goodreads)–This is a great title to recommend to your Ellen Hopkins fans.

Ellen Hopkins–ALL of her books are huge hits with my students.

Oldies by Goodies:

Unwind by Neal Shusterman (Goodreads)–This released in 2007 and became popular again when its sequel Unwholly released last fall. The final book in the trilogy, UnSouled, releases on November 7th.

Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson (Goodreads)–Every time this releases with a new cover I buy it. It should be in every library.

The Chocolate War by Robert Cormier (Goodreads)–This originally published in 1974 and I hook some pretty reluctant readers with it.

Story of a Girl by Sara Zarr (Goodreads)–This was my first Sara Zarr book and my favorite until I read How to Save a Life. Sara Zarr writes wonderfully realistic stories.

Forever by Judy Blume (Goodreads)–For many of my girls, this is the book that turns them into readers.

Sci-Fi/Dystopian:

The Obsidian Blade by Pete Hautman (Goodreads)–Time travel, ghosts, and so much more. This is science fiction at its best.

The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness (Goodreads)–I recommend this every year, multiple times a year. It’s amazing.

Legend by Marie Lu (Goodreads)–I love that this has two points of view and appeals to guys and girls. I’m planning on reading it to my seniors while we read 1984.

Insignia by S.J. Kincaid (Goodreads)–Gamers will love this.

“Quiet” YA:

The Pull of Gravity by Gae Polisner (Goodreads)–This wonderful book may not have received a lot of hype from its publishers, but so many of its readers love it. Plus it pairs perfectly with Of Mice and Men.

Fingerprints of You by Kristen-Paige Madonia (Goodreads)–The main character is pregnant, but it’s more than a book about a pregnant teenager.

Like Mandarin by Kirsten Hubbard (Goodreads)–This book will resonate with so many teenage girls. It’s fantastic.

If I Lie by Corrine Jackson (Goodreads)–All it took was one of my girls to read this and rave about it for it to become an instant hit in my classroom.

So. Much. Hype!:

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green (Goodreads): I’ll admit it, I didn’t want to like this. But I really did and my students adore it. My students who didn’t like Looking for Alaska at all loved this.

The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer by Michelle Hodkin (Goodreads): I’ve replaced this book multiple times because it’s gone “missing” so often.

Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell (Goodreads)–One of my boys in class read this and loved it; one of my girls who reads “edgy” books read this and loved it. It’s an all-around winner.

The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey (Goodreads)–I haven’t finished reading this yet, but it went around my room a couple times before the school year ended. The boys who read it said it’s awesome.

Student Book Review: The Berlin Boxing Club by Robert Sharenow

The Berlin Boxing ClubTitle: The Berlin Boxing Club

Author: Robert Sharenow

Publisher: HarperTeen

Student Reviewer: Ayla

Summary (From Goodreads):

Karl Stern has never thought of himself as a Jew; after all, he’s never even been in a synagogue. But the bullies at his school in Nazi-era Berlin don’t care that Karl’s family doesn’t practice religion. Demoralized by their attacks against a heritage he doesn’t accept as his own, Karl longs to prove his worth.

Then Max Schmeling, champion boxer and German hero, makes a deal with Karl’s father to give Karl boxing lessons. A skilled cartoonist, Karl never had an interest in boxing, but now it seems like the perfect chance to reinvent himself.

But when Nazi violence against Jews escalates, Karl must take on a new role: family protector. And as Max’s fame forces him to associate with Nazi elites, Karl begins to wonder where his hero’s sympathies truly lie. Can Karl balance his boxing dreams with his obligation to keep his family out of harm’s way?

Student Review:

In The Berlin Boxing Club, Karl, a young Jewish boy, becomes a boxer to defend himself from the “Hitler Youth” and figures out he wants to become even more than that. As he is trying to strive for perfection in techniques, he finds himself striving to protect his entire family from the SS and getting them out of Nazi Germany.

The Berlin Boxing Club was a perfect story to show how Jewish people were treated and how they personally felt during World War II. The novel was very sad and had an effect on me because Robert Sharenow made the feelings of the characters very lifelike and I felt the emotions of the characters. THE BERLIN BOXING CLUB would be perfect for almost anyone. Especially those who are learning about the Holocaust or learning about the push against Jews in Germany.

The characters in this book were perfectly put together. The most realistic character to me would be Karl’s mother. She goes into a depressed mood any time something bad happens in her life. The book starts right when the Jews are starting to be excluded from mostly everything and she will just lock herself in the bathroom and sit in the bath for hours. I think she would be a real character because she knew there was nothing she could do. The government and the police would have it however they wanted it and the rules were just not in her favor.

Also, I liked the character of Karl’s little sister. She was getting the worst out of all of the characters because she apparently looked like a Jew so there was no way she could actually hide the fact that she was one. She gets tortured in the book and it was realistic because she was tired of being the kind of human she was and she took it out on those who didn’t look like she did and they looked normal. Karl didn’t look Jewish so he got away with it longer than the rest of his family. I could almost relate to her because sometimes I wish I didn’t look they way I do, but don’t we all think that sometimes?

I loved all f the fighting scenes in the book. Karl becomes a great fighter and Robert Sharenow wrote The Berlin Boxing Club so all of the boxing scenes play like a movie in your head. All of the scenes were as if they came out of a Rocky movie. Every detail was thought of and every moment was captured.

This book was shocking and inspiring by the way it was written and the show of determination in the eyes of a young boy going through the worst part of his life.

Student Book Review: October Mourning: A Song for Matthew Shepard by Leslea Newman

A large part of my Young Adult Literature II class requires my students to write book reviews.  They’ve been looking at multiple reviews, written by multiple bloggers to help find a style that suits them best.  Today’s student book review was written by one of my seniors, Sara.  I’ll try to post their reviews on a regular basis until the end of the school year.

October MourningTitle: October Mourning: A Song for Matthew Shepard

Author: Lesléa Newman

Student Reviewer: Sara

Summary (From Goodreads):

WINNER OF A 2013 STONEWALL HONOR!

A masterful poetic exploration of the impact of Matthew Shepard’s murder on the world.

On the night of October 6, 1998, a gay twenty-one-year-old college student named Matthew Shepard was lured from a Wyoming bar by two young men, savagely beaten, tied to a remote fence, and left to die. Gay Awareness Week was beginning at the University of Wyoming, and the keynote speaker was Lesléa Newman, discussing her book Heather Has Two Mommies. Shaken, the author addressed the large audience that gathered, but she remained haunted by Matthew’s murder. October Mourning, a novel in verse, is her deeply felt response to the events of that tragic day. Using her poetic imagination, the author creates fictitious monologues from various points of view, including the fence Matthew was tied to, the stars that watched over him, the deer that kept him company, and Matthew himself. More than a decade later, this stunning cycle of sixty-eight poems serves as an illumination for readers too young to remember, and as a powerful, enduring tribute to Matthew Shepard’s life.

October Mourning: A Song for Matthew Shepard by Lesléa Newman is the best verse novel I have ever read.

This novel is based off of the, unfortunately, true story of a 21 year old, homosexual college student named Matthew Shepard. Matthew is out at the bar one night in October of 1998, in Wyoming. He is tricked by two men, Aaron McKinney and Russell Henderson. They convince him that they are gay as well and take him out to their truck. After he is in their truck, they drive in to a desolate place and beat the tar out of him. They beat him within an inch of his life and then left him to die, hung on a fence by a clothes line.

When I picked up this novel I thought, “This is going to be a boring documentary about a murdered man.” Boy, oh boy, was I wrong! It was indeed, about a man who was murdered but it’s not even close to being boring. This novel was the most attention grabbing, emotion jerking, amazing verse novel I have ever read, by far my favorite. It is beautifully written and it will make you feel something deep in your heart for Matthew Shepard, and all of the other people who have been brutally murdered for being gay.

This book is written in many different points of view and at first it confused me and I didn’t quite like it, but after I read the first 5 or 6 pages, I began to understand and then went back and read it again, this time understanding fully and I fell in love with the way that it’s written. I absolutely love how well all of the words just flow together and how she manages to capture every single emotion and thought of every object, person, and animal that she uses.

October Mourning: A song for Matthew Shepard is a very quick read; I finished it within an hour. But even though it’s a quick read, this chilling story will stick with you forever. I don’t think I will ever forget the descriptive, amazing poems in this novel. I will never forget the emotions I felt while reading this book, and I will never forget Matthew Shepard. His story will stick with me through out all of my life. I could read this book over and over and over again.

My favorite excerpt from this novel is as follows:

“THE FENCE
(that night)

I held him all night long
He was heavy as a broken heart
Tears fell from his unblinking eyes
He was dead weight yet he kept breathing

He was heavy as a broken heart
His own heart wont stop beating
He was dead weight yet he kept breathing
His face streaked with moonlight and blood

His own heart wouldn’t stop beating
The cold wind wouldn’t stop blowing
His face streaked with moonlight and blood
I tightened my grip and held on

The cold wind wouldn’t stop blowing
We were out on the prairie alone
I tightened my grip and held on
I saw what was done to this child

We were out on the prairie alone
Their truck was the last thing he saw
I saw what was done to this child
I cradled him just like a mother

Their truck was the last thing he saw
Tears fell from his unblinking eyes
I cradled him just like a mother
I held him all night long.”

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