Lyga, Barry (2009) Boy Toy Boston: HMH Books for Young Readers
Now eighteen years old and still dealing with the aftermath from his child molestation suit involving his teacher–Eve–five years ago, Josh Mendel spends his senior year of high-school grappling with thoughts that he caused his own molestation. Written in present tense and flashbacks, Boy Toy is a moving piece that presents itself in a most didactic way, teaching young adults that even if their problems are not similar to that of Josh’s, there are other ways to cope with various difficulties. Pushing the limits on the themes of sexual assault, this novel was not written just for shock-value. Books of the past that have skimmed the topic of molestation, have not only been challenged by concerned and outraged member of society, but have been banned from libraries–deemed as “crude” and “vulgar”. However, Boy Toy is a novel so eloquently written, that we find ourselves not only being shown a sexual assault victim who overcomes his past, but we take a journey that results in the main character taking the first step to realizing it was not his fault. With this, Barry Lyga’s Boy Toy is a story that extends young adults understanding of the world, and is not just sensationalism
Beaty, Daniel (2013) Knock Knock: My Dad’s Dream For Me. New York: Little Brown and Company.
This children’s book tells a powerful and moving story of a young boy’s growth into a man when his father does not knock on his bedroom door as expected. What makes this book so intriguing in the realm of diverse children’s books, is that it explores the emotions and strength development a child goes through when experiencing the loss or absence of a parent. Here I feel that loss and/or absence is interchangeable. When first reading this book, I interpreted the situation to be that the father voluntarily left the boy and his mother, and that he had either decided to write and send the response letter himself, or that the boy’s mother had written it posing as his father. But now I see that there are other interpretations that can be gained from this reading–perhaps the father died, was incarcerated, etc. It makes the story flexible so that children that are dealing with loss such as this can relate.
Velde, Vivian (2002) Heir Apparent Boston: HMH Books for Young Readers A sequel in the Rasmussem Corporation series, Heir Apparent is a novel about a young girl named Giannine who finds herself in a roundabout within a medieval themed, virtual reality game. While playing at the virtual reality gaming center with the gift certificate she received for her birthday, the center is then bombarded by an anti-fantasy fundamentalist group who destroys a great deal of gaming paraphernalia–resulting in Giannine being trapped in the game until she wins or time runs out, resulting in her death. Making various blunders throughout the course of the game–in which the game starts over at the beginning, and so on and so forth–Giannine finally finds herself making daring and brave choices that result in her winning the game. In regards to the exploration of science fiction, Heir Apparent challenges the young adult reader to expand their imagination–so as to think about the world that is presented in the novel in comparison to the world they live in now. What is interesting about Heir Apparent is that at the time that it was written, it took a greater deal of thought and creative vision when reading, since it did not seem as plausible that technology could advance to producing virtual reality role-playing games such as this one. When reading any type of fiction, one does have to rely on their imagination and how much they believe in the possibility of something so that they may understand concepts of external objects that are not exactly present to the senses. What this novel does is, yields a way for a young reader to broaden their sense of possibility to future worlds, and analyze the extent to which science and technology are accurately reflected in comparison to the present day.
Smith, Charles R., Jr. (2015). 28 Days: Moments in Black History That Changed the World. New York: Roaring Book Press.
What I love about this book in terms of stories for all and diverse books, is that it is not a work of fiction. This is not to say that there is anything wrong with children’s fiction books, as they do provide diversity in allowing children to feel relation to these fictional characters. However, this book which includes 28 descriptions of people and events in black history from 1770 to present day, makes known the importance of African American contributions and milestones. What makes this book even more personable is the fact that it then challenges the reader with a 29th day labeled, “today”. This urges children to ask themselves what today will bring them, how will they make a difference or impact on the world? How will their life story be told? Although it is a succession of biological facts, by including the reader, it allows who ever is reading it to question how they are making a difference in the world.
I should probably preface this by stating that one of my assignments for my Children’s/Young Adult literature class when I was taking courses at the University of Maine was that each week, we read a book from an assigned genre, and were required to write an annotation. My choice for fantasy/fiction was J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit. and though I am ashamed to admit it, it was my FIRST TIME EVER reading this novel. This year, I decided to listen to the audiobook and I was not disappointed. I feel like the annotation I did back in 2013 still holds true here in 2020.
Tolkien, J.R.R. (1937, 2002) The Hobbit or There and Back Again Boston: Houghton Mifflin A prequel to The Lord of the Rings trilogy, Tolkien’s The Hobbit, gives the reader insight to the world of Middle Earth, as well as the year of adventures for Bilbo Baggins. A hobbit who lives in the neighborhood of The Hills, Bilbo Baggins’ life of comfort and solitude is greatly shaken when he receives a visit from the wizard Gandalf who prompts him to join in a quest with a herd of dwarves as a “burglar”. Traveling across Middle Earth in an attempt to gain back the dwarves riches–which results in various scraps with goblins, spiders, wolves, an encounter with a dragon named Smaug the Magnificent, and being witness to the Battle of the Five Armies–Bilbo finds himself enjoying an adventure that he never even dreamed was possible for him to experience. This leads into possibly the strongest and over-occurring theme that presents itself within the novel: overcoming the limits that race/lineage place on an individual’s choices in life, and using that strength to induce heroic acts. Though Bilbo himself does not recognize it, in the beginning of the novel we see the development of the hobbit’s interest in adventure and eagerness to show his bravery. This is made known quite early on in the novel, when we learn of Bilbo’s lineage–a constant struggle between his timid Baggins side and his adventurous Took side. A classic novel, The Hobbit also presents itself as a tool that young adults can use in analyzation as well as an enjoyable read. Aside from creating prominent themes and entertaining characters, Tolkien also uses intensifying imagery to bring to life the geography of Middle Earth, and have the reader feel as though this is a realistic place. This literary process of making the story more realistic geographically, is also used to make the story relatable emotionally. While this is a world of fantasy, the emotions evoked throughout this novel–embracing one’s fears and overcoming them through many an opportunity–open the young adult reader’s eyes; giving solace in knowing that whether real or imaginary, those emotions exist and can be used to one’s benefit in life.