Alexie, Sherman: The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian (2007)
What is it like to be an American Indian today? Arnold Spirit Jr. is a fourteen-year-old Indian growing up on the reservation. However, he is the reservation outcast – an outsider – and he is routinely bullied and beaten up. Arnold, like Sherman Alexie, makes a choice to leave the reservation and attend a white school. Considered a traitor, Arnold is caught between two worlds: his home on the reservation and the white high school he attends. You can listen to the first chapter and read the two first chapters from the book here.
Beah, Ishmael: A Long Way Gone (2007)
We follow 12-year-old Ishmael Beah who lives a fairly happy life in Sierra Leone until the civil war breaks out and he is forced to run for his life. By the age of thirteen he is forcefully recruited by the government army and trained as a child soldier to kill his enemies in the most brutal ways. The novel also depicts the period after he is sent to a UNICEF rehabilitation center.
Read more about the novel, including an excerpt, and watch an interview with Beah on A Long Way Gone .
Boyle T.C.: The Tortilla Curtain (1995)
The Tortilla Curtain is set in Topanga Canyon, California during the 1990s. The novel is considered one of Boyle's most controversial books with its focus on illegal immigration, middle class values and how the two groups interpret the American Dream. It deals with two couples, Delaney and Kyra Mossbacher, a yuppie American family, and Cándido and América Rincon, Mexican illegals living in the bushes on the outskirts of the city. Boyle focuses on the hardships and brutality illegal immigrants experience at the hands of unscrupulous “patróns” or Mexican and American employers once they get over the border.
Read more about the novel, including an excerpt, and learn more about the writer on The Tortilla Curtain .
Bradley, Alan: The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie
The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie is Alan Bradley’s first mystery novel and the first title in his new series, The Buckshaw Chronicles. The novel is set in England where a series of mysterious events gets eleven-year-old Flavia de Luce's attention: a dead bird on the doormat with a rare Black Penny stamp bizarrely pinned to its beak and a dead stranger in their cucumber patch. Murder has come to Buckshaw, and Flavia commits herself to solving the crime.
Read more about the novel, including an excerpt and tasks here.
Cleave, Chris : The Other Hand (Little Bee) (2008)
The Other Hand, also known as Little Bee is a story about Little Bee, a Nigerian asylum-seeker, and Sarah, a British magazine editor, who meet during the oil conflict in the Niger Delta, and are re-united in England several years later. The novel examines the treatment of refugees by the asylum system, as well as issues of British colonialism, globalization, political violence and personal accountability.
Waterstones.com has made this of the novel featuring Chris Cleave. Read an or listen to an excerpt .
Collins Suzanne: The Hunger Games (2008)
The Hunger Games take place in the fictional nation of Panem and is a televised event where young people have to participate. The game is a matter of life and death and it is not over before only one contestant is left. Apart from reflecting the harsh conditions of reality television shows, there are strong allusions to Greek mythology, the Iraq War and governments whose primary goal is to oppress their people.
Foer, Jonathan Safron: Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close (2005)
Oskar is an extraordinary child in many ways. He loves French and one of his dearest idols is the physicist Stephen Hawkings. To cope with his feeling of guilt for not picking up the phone when his dad called from the Twin Towers and the loss of his best friend, his dad, he starts a quest to find a lock matching his dad's key. Oskar believes that the lock belongs to someone with the surname "Black" that can reveal more about whom his dad was.
Read an excerpt from the novel and watch an interview with the author at this link.
Green, John: Looking for Alaska (2005)
First drink, first prank, first friend, first girl, last words! Miles Halter leaves for boarding school where much awaits him, including Alaska Young, the funny, sexy screwed up girl he falls in love with. Then tragedy strikes and changes everything. What really happened to Alaska? (The book has been challenged for content dealing with sexually explicit situations.)
Haddon, Mark: The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time (2003)
It is estimated that 1% of all school children suffer from Asperger syndrome. Some people diagnosed with Asperger seem to have extraordinary skills within specific areas. Take Christopher Boone, the narrator of Mark Haddon's novel, who just loves maths, as an example. Even though Christoper's diagnosis is not explicitly stated, labels like "nerd" and "Einstein" may soon pop into mind. In this novel, we have to rely on the first-person narrator, the 15 year old Christopher. This affects, to a large extent, how the the action is unveiled, and it makes the story incredibly interesting and funny.
Read an excerpt and work with assignments The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time .
Lingard, Joan: Across the Barricades (1972) and Into Exile (1973)
Across the Barricades is the first in the series about the two teenagers, Sadie and Kevin, and is set in Belfast in Northern Ireland during the period called the Troubles. It focuses on the problems experienced by the two teenagers, one a Catholic and the other a Protestant, in an area divided along religious lines.
Into Exile is a continuation of this novel. Here we meet Sadie and Kevin in their exile in England, and witness the young couple's attempt to build a new life in their refuge. This novel is adapted to a short radio play.
Maynard, Joyce: The Usual Rules (2003)
Like Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, this novel also deals with how unpredictable, traumatic events affect us, and in particular children. Joyce Maynard's Wendy (13) has to cope with the loss of her mother who died in the Twin Towers. We first meet Wendy on the morning of 9/11. She is heading to school – anxious to make plans with her best friend, worried about how she looks, mad at her mother for not letting her visit her father in California and impatient with her little brother. An hour later comes the news: A plane has crashed into the World Trade Center. Her mother's building. This is a story not only about children who lose their parents, it is also about the tie between a big sister and her little brother and parents who lose their children, and above all the unexpected ways they sometimes find each other again.
Read an excerpt and work with assignments here: The Usual Rules .
Ransom, Rigg: Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children (2011)
When sixteen-year-old Jacob's grandfather is murdered, Jacob journeys to a remote island off the coast of Wales, to find an explanation. He discovers an abandoned orphanage, the crumbling ruins of Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children. As Jacob explores its abandoned bedrooms, it becomes clear that things are not quite what they seem. By entering a time loop Jacob is taken back to WWII. Gradually we are introduced to the peculiar children, Miss Peregrine and the fascinating story of his grandfather. A strange collection of very curious photographs is essential in the story which includes magical elements blurring the boundaries between fantasy and reality.
Steinbeck, John: Of Mice and Men (1937)
George Milton and Lennie Small are migrant workers traveling together to find work on farms in California. They are best friends and hope that they one day will attain their dream of settling down on their own piece of land. However, although they are good workers, they seem unable to hold down jobs for long. This is mostly due to Lennie's urge to to pet "soft things," including, mice, rabbits, puppies, and…women. In this way they constantly get into trouble. In Soledad, however, everything seems to work out – until the inevitable happens.
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