In her book Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life, Anne Lamott says, “For some of us, books are as important as almost anything else on earth. What a miracle it is that out of these small, flat, rigid squares of paper unfolds world after world after world, worlds that sing to you, comfort and quiet or excite you. Books help us understand who we are and how we are to behave. They show us what community and friendship mean; they show us how to live and die.”

My hope is that this is what books become to you—as important as almost anything else on earth. This blog is about helping you find the miracle in these small, flat, rigid squares of paper while you are in middle school and beyond. Once you read alongside me, you are forever a member of my tribe of readers. No matter how you old you are, when you need to be reminded of the power of a good story, you will find me here, waiting to place one in your hands.

Monday, December 5, 2011

The Girly Books I Wish I Had When I Was in High School

The Summer I Turned Pretty Trilogy by Jenny Han:

Ever since I first read Shugby Jenny Han (her first book, completely separate from this series, but just as good), she has been on my list of all-time favorite authors.  Recently, at the NCTE convention in Chicago, I got to meet her!  Twice! 

I could write a stellar review of the trilogy, but if you click on the links to Jenny Han’s fabulous author site by clicking on the books above, you can see that’s already been done!  When it comes to growing up as a girl in America, Han just has a way of getting it right.  Apparently, I am not the only one who sees it that way.

When I heard her speak at a workshop about culture at the NCTE convention, Han mentioned that she is often asked why she didn’t write about a protagonist who is Asian-American, since she is Asian-American herself.  Her answer was something to the effect that her story is not just a story about growing up Asian-American—it is the story of growing up as a human.  The feelings she was trying to convey weren’t just feelings that other girls who are Asian-American could connect with, but rather any girl (or even boy for that matter). 

I was surprised to hear her relate her own childhood to Shug’s experiences.  In fact, she said that Shug is the most autobiographical book she has written to date.  Han pointed out the similar feelings that resulted from Shug growing up with a mother who wasn’t completely there for her due to alcoholism and her own experience growing up with a mother who could not speak English clearly and did not know American culture.  Han was able to authentically transfer her own feelings of fierce pride and protectiveness over her mother to the character of Shug.  She was also able to vividly write about the pangs of embarrassment caused by her own mother through Shug’s circumstances. 

Listening to Jenny Han made me realize how much more story is lurking beneath the surface of every book I read.  However, reading her books, I am reminded of the pure superficial joy of being enveloped in Belly’s summer world.  I want to visit Susannah’s beach house.  I want to hang with Conrad.  Or would I prefer spending time with Jeremiah?   Either way, all I have to do is pick up a book and my wish is granted.  I am there.


  1. I followed the links from Deb's blog to your other blog to your new blog. What a great idea to encourage your former students! I love the button/badge you made for Deb. May I ask how you made it? Is there a program or website out there for this purpose? I'm looking to make a couple but have no idea how. Also, a suggestion for this new blog of yours (love the color by the way), the print is really small and difficult to read. I love the font because it looks like a printed note. It just needs to be a tad bigger.

  2. Thanks, Bree! I used Adobe Photoshop Elements 9 along with digital kits I bought and downloaded from Two Peas in a Bucket. I am addicted! I also made the headers for my two blogs using that same process. It is difficult to learn, but easy to use once I figured it out. I'd be happy to make any buttons or headers for you if you just want the end result, but I have to admit the process of creating is all the fun!

    Thanks for the suggestion, but I need more help! I am not sure what you are seeing. On my computer the content of the blog posts appear in a regular style of type and just the titles, comments, and extras are the little print. I am not sure how to change the size on those, but I can try. Are you having to read the whole blog post in that tiny handwritten font? YIKES! I have a Mac, so sometimes what I see isn't what the world of PCs sees.

  3. Bree, I just played with the setting. Is it better?

  4. Just added them to my evergrowing list of books on!!


  5. I've thought about picking these books up time and time I have to!

    I just read BUNHEADS yesterday...will you read it so we can talk about it?

  6. I will put Bunheads on my list to read over winter break (which starts tomorrow!!)

    I will let you know when I finish it. I am definitely an admirer of dance, so I am already interested.