Archives For A Long Way Gone

As I anticipated, The Westport Book Sale offered the variety of texts I need to create the “book flood” in my classrooms. After two hours of “grazing” through three tents of books, I had another 10 bags of books to add to the department’s collections for grades 7-12. A quick breakdown of titles included:

Adding to mystery unit

Grades 7 & 8: Copies of The Giver by Lois Lowrey (6) , The Schwa Was Here by Neil Shusterman (2), and Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli (4).  All these are core texts. I also found a copy of the London Eye Mystery by Siobhan Dowd which is a great mystery for this age level. I am considering getting a set of 20 to add to our 8th grade mystery unit, but I would like some student feedback first.

Grade 9: The curriculum for 9th grade is centered around independent reading and choice, but there are units devoted to Greek/Roman Mythology and Anglo-Saxon legends such as King Arthur. I did find a dozen assorted copies of The Lightning Thief, The Sea of Monsters and The Titan’s Curse all by Rick Riordan. While these books are a little below 9th grade level, they dovetail very nicely into the mythology units, and students who may have missed these books in middle school can now make connections to the gods and goddesses of ancient cultures. I also picked up a bagful (20+!) of Anthony Horowitz books: Point Blanc, Scorpia, Crocodile Tears, and Stormbreaker. Thank you to those avid Alex Rider fans!

Grade 10: Night by Elie Wiesel is a core text, as it is in most high schools, and I picked up 11 copies of this memoir. I added 14 almost new copies of Khaled Hosseini’s  The Kite Runner; we almost have 100 copies now for this core text for world literature.

A popular text for 10th grade boys

I found five copies of A Long Way Gone: Memoir of a Boy Soldier by Ishmael Beah.Many of my sophomore students, mostly boys, read this book as an independent read. When I asked them what was good about this book, several indicated the pace and action kept their interest. Perhaps the most important testimony came from a student who said the worst part of the book was, “that what happened to Ishmael was real.” Savings on this text ($7.20/paperback) alone was $31.00.

Grade 11: I found two brand new copies of Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee by Dee Brown. I was pleased to see this book re-released and I am planning on adding a few more copies to the Native American unit that starts the year. To complement this non-fiction classic, I located four copies of Michael Dorris’s Yellow Raft in Blue Water, a more contemporary view on Native American life.

Adding this to Memoir class

Adding this to Memoir class

Grade 12: The Memoir class is the easiest to find books for independent reading. I found two copies of It’s all over but the Shoutin‘ by Rick Bragg which came highly recommended. I also located more copies of Alice Sebold’s Lucky which is very popular with my female students. After today, I now have enough copies (50+) of our core text of The Glass Castle by Jeanette Walls, so other buyers will not have any more competition from me.

Will be a core Text in Journalism

I found one copy of Dave Egger’s Zeitoun which will be a core text for Journalism in 2011. This amazing story follows Abdulrahman Zeitoun, a successful Syrian-born painting contractor, who stays in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. Eggers recounts Zeitoun’s journey through the city in acts of heroism, compassion, and tragedy in a riveting narrative. This text is always a “find” for me.

Other: I found five copies of Dava Sorbel’s Longitude, which I plan to share with some science class….not sure who will be the lucky group? The gentleman who tallied up my large order (Thank you, Dick L.?) asked if he could have the sixth copy I had found. I would have happily paid for that copy based on his service; tallying ten bags of books is serious work, but he was happy to have a copy to purchase on his own to give to his grandson. For the psychology teacher, I collected four copies of Deborah Tannen’s You Just Don’t Understand, and for social studies department, I located five copies of Founding Brothers by Joseph Ellis.

There was something for every reader at this book sale. The efficiency of the volunteers re-stacking the tables (always appreciated)  and those working the cashier’s tables made for a smooth event. The chairman of the sale, Mimi Greenlee, and her team of volunteers are to be credited for their efforts. Book dealer “return” bins, well-marked  sections for literary genres, and an express lane for smaller orders made the sale run efficiently. A tent full of Children’s Literature separated from the other genres this year was also appreciated; my biggest competitor here was an eleven year old girl with an armful of paperbacks, which is always a wonderful sight for a teacher.

Total cost for 10 bags of QUALITY TEXTS? $306.00 Several of these books retail for substantially more than $10.00 copy; I figure that my retail cost would have been over $3,000.00.

I felt like Julius Caesar: I came, I choose, I conquered!

The sophomore curriculum at Wamogo High School is centered on world literature (after CAPT practice, of course). I have aligned our texts to meet the Common Core standards (Reading #6: Analyze a particular point of view or cultural experience reflected in a work of literature from outside the United States, drawing on a wide reading of world literature)

This past April, our thematic approach was “Children Living in Conflict”. They had read Night by Elie Wiesel in conjunction with the social studies department’s unit on the Holocaust. We book-ended the unit with films opening with The Power of One and concluding with the film Hotel Rwanda. There were a series of journal responses to films and an SAT prompt (“Will the 21 Century be marked by genocides?”) as assessments. Our goal was to have students read in small lit circles. For reading during the unit, we offered a series of texts to our sophomores and provided six-eight classes of silent sustained reading.

These texts were listed on (click here).

We already owned:
The Kite Runner*-
Mr. Pip**
Nectar in a Sieve**-Markandaya
My Forbidden Face**-Latifa

PURCHASED USED (5-20 copies of each)
A Long Way Gone
A Thousand Splendid Suns– Hosseini
Falling Leaves– Mah
First They Killed My Father-Loung
Kaffir Boy-Mathebane
Say You’re One of Them- Akpan
Snow Flower and the Little Fan-See
Shanghai Girls-See
The Power of One-Courtenay
We Wish to Inform You that Tomorrow We Will Be Killed with our Families-Gourevitch
What is the What-Eggers


Originally, the idea was to offer the books already in the department’s book room as independent reading. I was able to secure 5-20 copies of all other titles during the school year, so that we were able to expand the offerings by interest and by reading level.

In preparing this unit the previous year, I had planned to offer a variety of texts -particularly a variety of reading levels. My Forbidden Face is a low reading level text, but the subject matter is appropriate for 10th grade students. Persepolis allowed some students to try a graphic novel; the text is also excellent for visual learners. Both of these books are rarely available in used book locations.

The most popular texts were A Long Way Gone, A Thousand Splendid Suns, and The Kite Runner. Fortunately, these titles are very plentiful in the used book market. There are now enough Kite Runner texts to give us the option to change this unit to include a core text. I could not find enough A Thousand Splendid Suns, and several students purchased their own copies! That will be one of the targeted texts this summer!

*40 copies already in book room.
**20 copies purchased at full price for this unit July 2010