The Absolute True Diary of a Part-Time Indian

Author: Sherman Alexie
Reading Range: 4.0 (AR Book Finder)
Interest Range: Young Adult (Follett Library Resources)
Plot:  This story is about a teenage boy named Junior, who lives on the Spokane Indian Reservation. Junior is a cartoonist and he draws about his experiences. He was born with medical problems.  Junior decides he wants a good education so he chooses to go to the white school off the reservation. He was picked on before but now it gets worse.  The Indians are mad him for leaving and now the whites are not too fond of him either. He has to find a way to survive in his new school.
Review: Although this book is at a reading level of 4.0, it is really written for high school students.  It deals with teenage issues like identity, sex and drugs and alcohol and profanit. Sherman is very funny. I went to an author’s talk he did a number of years ago in Buffalo, New York and he was hilarious. He does present reservation life in a very negative light. Truthfully, there are many problems on reservation and they do need to be address. At sametime, there are some good things about reservation life. This is one of the few popular books written about life on the reservation and people might assume that it is the same for all Native people not realizing that we all have different experiences.
Additional Info: This book can be pretty raunchy because of the language and Junior likes to talk abut mastrubuation a lot. Other people seem to take issue with the fact that a lot of the characters around Junior die due to drugs and alcohol.  Honestly, there are a lot of deaths on Indian reservations due to drugs and alcohol so that part is realistic.
Main Characters:

Arnold Spirit, Jr. (Junior) –Junior is a cartoonist who documents his life. He had several medical issues as a child and still has problems. He is going to an off-reservation school.

Junior’s Mom (Agnes Adams) –Junior considers his mother one of the smartest people he knows. He often wonders what her life would be like if she did not live on the reservation.  She is a former alcoholic.

Junior’s Dad (Arnold Spirit, Sr.) –He is a talented musician but he is an alcoholic.

Mr. P –He is a geometry teacher at the reservation school. He encourages Junior to leave the reservation.

Rowdy –He was Junior’s best friend before Junior start to the white school. He is abused by his father. He fights and is considered very tough. Junior spends the book trying to get Rowdy to forgive him.

Mary –Junior’s sister. She is also known as Mary Run Away. She lives in their basement after high school. She secretly writes romance novels.

Gordy –He becomes Junior’s friend while at Reardan. He teaches Junior many things about life and he calls him out when he needs to.

Penelope –Junior’s crush at his new school. They start to “date.” She is bulimic.

Junior’s Grandma (Grandma Spirit) –Grandma Spirit provides Junior advice when he needs it. She believed in tolerance and accepting people for who they are. She travels to different pow wows.

Theme: Death, Man struggles against society, Overcoming adversity

Bibliographic Info:

Alexie, Sherman . (2007). The absolutely true diary of a part-time Indian.   New York, NY: Hachette  Book Group.


Diversity in Tween Literature

For those who do not know-I am Menominee, Mexican, and a daughter of a Seneca man. My family is made of many different cultures and ethnic groups.  We celebrate both Native American and some Mexican traditions. The reason I bring this up is that diversity has been something I have been interest in for a long time because of what I have experienced as a person of multiple backgrounds.  A number of the schools, I went to as a child (and adult) I was either the only Mexican, the only Native student, or sometimes both the only Native and Mexican student. This is hard because I would often be surrounded by white students who were all from the same culture and background who were not exposed to many people from different backgrounds. I was the one they were exposed. I ended up having to teach both students and teachers about my culture.  Sometimes they were sensitive to that and sometimes they were not.  I had to constantly remind myself that they did not experience the things I did, and so they did not realize when they were being ignorant or racist.

I think that is why it is important to have students read books from different cultures. For this blog, I read both “Diary of a Part-Time Indian” and “Bud, Not Buddy.”  There are things in ‘Diary of a Part-Time Indian” that resonate with me because of my own experiences of being a Native in an non-Native environment.  This story is about a Native boy who goes to a non-native school.  It does feel a little like being an alien going to a non-Native school.  I think that for non-Native people this is a good book to read to get some of the experiences of the clashes of culture between Native and non-Native. “Bud, Not Buddy”  shares a different story from the Great Depression because it focuses on African-Americans. Bud is a ten-year old African-American boy whose mother has died. He is searching for his father. It details his experiences as he searches.  It shows how people in a different time period but also a little bit about what happened to children without parents.

Students need to have experiences that are different from their own so that they are better able to relate to people who are different from them.  Reading books from different cultures can provide that exposure and help them to learn more about different people. There is a tendency among tweens to think that anything that is different is “wrong.” The truth is it is just different and it does not make it right or wrong. I just read a study that said people who read are more likely to identify personally with characters in books rather than movies. They are more likely to feel the experience of the character more when reading because they put themselves in the character’s shoes. If this is true, that is why students should read books about people different from themselves.

School of Fear

Author:  Gitty Daneshvari

Reading Range:  6.2 (AR

Interest Range: 4-6 (

Plot:  After annoying their families with their fears, four children are forced by their families to go to the School of Fear during the summer.  This school is hidden and kept secret from anyone who could learn about it.  There they are forced by their ex-beauty queen headmistress, Mrs. Wellington, to face their worst fears.  Madeleine is afraid of spiders. Theo is afraid of death. Lulu is afraid of small spaces. Garrison is afraid of deep water.  Mrs. Wellington’s six-week curriculum is either going to cure their fears or kill them. Is she just insane or an insane genius? A tragedy forces them to band together to save Mrs. Wellington’s beloved bulldog, Macaroni (Mac), and the school. Can they put aside their fears and band together?

Review:  This is a funny book that exaggerate common fears people have.  It does show how fear can limit the lives of people even if it is exaggerated. Madeleine is so afraid of insects that she cannot live without her bug spray the veils she wears to keep bugs away from her. Theo cannot stand not knowing where his family is in case one of them dies. Lulu cannot go into an elevator or any small place. Garrison lives in Florida and they have hurricanes in Florida. What is interesting is that even through Mrs. Wellington seems crazy she sometimes has good insights when she tells Garrison that working through fear is a process and if his father cannot handle that his fear of Garrison’s fear says more about him then Garrison. This book left me smiling at the end and eager to read the next one.

Additional Info:  The first book in the “School of Fear’ series.

Main Characters:

Madeleine Masterson-Madeleine is from London, England.  She is so scared of insects and spiders, she has to cover herself head to toe in bug spray. She is not able to work around without her veil.

Theodore Bartholomew-Theo is from New York city where he lives with his parents and brothers and sisters.  He is so afraid of death and dying he has his family check-in with him nearly every hour. He knows a lot of facts about accidents and death which he annoys people with.

Lulu Punchalower-Lulu is from Providence, Rhode Island.  She lives with her parents and brother. She is tough and with strong views but she has claustrophobia.

Garrison Feldman-He lives in Florida with his parents. He is the star athlete but no one knows his deep, dark secret-his fear of water. He hides this fear because he is afraid of losing his popularity. He finds School of Fear so that he can face his fears.

Mrs. Wellington-The headmistress of School of fear. She founded it and has successful treated nearly every children who came to her except for one. Her curriculum is unusual.

Schmidty-the caretaker.

Macaroni-Or Mac as he is known. He is a bulldog who can sleep electronics.

Themes:  Empowerment, Fear of failure, Overcoming fear

Bibliographic Info:

Daneshvari, G. (2009). School of fear. New York, NY: Scholastic

Tagline: Everyone’s afraid of something. . .

School of Fear

School of Fear.


Four kids are spent to a super-secret school where they are forced to face their fears.

What a student said to me today

Student: “Ms (Name), I like this book so much I smuggled it home.  You know you really like a book when you smuggle it home.”

Me: “Yes, you do.”

He gave me permission to blog that.

A Monster Calls-Review

Author:  Patrick Ness
Reading Range: 4.8
Interest Range:   Young Adult (Follett Library)
Plot:  Conor’s mother has cancer.  He is alone trying to deal with that fact.  One night, a monster comes to him and tells him that he will tell him three stories and Conor has to tell him one in return.  This story is about what Conor fears the most otherwise, he will eat him. As the monster tells his stories, Conor discovers that people are more complex then he realizes.  Conor starts to realize that his mother is not as well as she says.  In fact, his mother has been downplaying how sick she really is.  Conor hopes the monster is here to heal his mother but who is the monster really here for?
Review:  This is a hard book because it is talking about how a boy who is trying to deal with dead and dying.  Conor is only thirteen but he has to handle issues that most adults have trouble dealing with.  There are no easy answers in this book.  The monster is both cruel and kind telling Conor the truths he need to let his mother go. Conor is not perfect.  He is trying to find his way through his mother’s illness.  I would recommend this book to people who like stories that are not easy and do not mind crying.
Additional Info:  This book is based on an idea by the author, Siobhan Dowd.  She died of breast cancer before she could write it.  Patrick Ness took the outline she created and wrote the story.
Main Characters:
Conor O’Malley-His mother is sick with cancer.   He has become “the boy whose mother has cancer” at his school.  He hates that.
Conor’s Mother-She has cancer.  She is not truthful with Conor about how sick she really is.
Liam-Conor’s father who lives in American with his new wife and child.
Grandmother-His mother’s mother.  He does not get along with her.  She is caring for Conor while his mother is in the hospital.

Theme: Circle of lifeDeath,Growing up,Isolation, Loss of innocence

Bibliographic Info: Ness, P. (2011). A monster calls. Somerville, MA: Candlewick.


Lost and Found

Author:  Shaun Tan

Reading Range: 5.6 (AR Finder)

Interest Range:  5-8 (Follett Library Resources)

Plot:  This book features three stories that tell of things that are lost and found.  These three stories were originally published separately then they were gathered together.

Story 1-The Red Tree

This is a simple but visual complex story about a girl who is lost in her life and trying to find her way.

Story 2-The Lost Thing

A boy encounters a being that does not seem to belong anywhere.  He takes it home but he parents tell him that it cannot stay with them.  He decided to find a place where it can be safe and where it can belong.

Story 3-The Rabbits

The rabbits are invaders who come to a place that is different from their own.  They forced their way onto the land and start to change it without regard for what it used to be.  They take the land away from the people who used to live there forcing them to adopted their values and customs.


In the three stories, very few words are used to tell them.  Mostly it is images that convey the feelings and thoughts of the characters.  The illustrations Tan created are very rich in detailed and layered.   All the stories center around the them of losing something and finding something.  In “The Red Tree,” the images can be seen as a metaphor for feeling lost in ones own life.  There is an image of the girl where she is on stage with different object surrounding showing that she does not know who she is supposed to be.  The alien landscapes just magnify how lost and alone she feels in this world.  It is very dreamlike and beautiful.  “The Lost Thing” is the story with the most words but it still has very rich details in the pictures.  This story discuss conformity and what happens when things do not conform.  This story created a world where it is not safe for things that are different even through differences can be wonderful.  “The Rabbits” is the story that I connected to the most because of my background.  I am Native American.  This story can be seen as another metaphor for what happened to Indigenous people when the settlers came to either America or Australia.  The author is Australian and he meant it as a fable for what happened to the Aboriginals.  This one is heartbreaking because in the others stories there is a little hope in the “lostness” but here there is no hope.  I would recommend this book because it shows how beautiful and complex graphic novels can be.  This is a good example of how words and images together can convey something beautiful.

Additional Info:

Main Characters:

The Red Tree:

Girl-She does not have a name but the story follows her through her day.

The Lost Thing:

Boy-He narrators the story of trying to find a place for the Lost Thing.

Lost Thing-It follows around the boy.

The Rabbits:

Rabbits-They come to “The People’s land and take over.

“The People”-They get pushed out by the rabbits.

Themes: Convention and rebellion, Desire to escape, Disillusionment and dreams, Displacement, Vulnerability of the meek

Bibliographic Info:  Tan, S. (2011). Lost and fond. New York, NY: Scholastic.

Tagline: A girl finds a bright spot in a dark world. A boy leads a strange, lost creature home. And a group of peaceful creatures cedes their home to hostile invaders.

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