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, January 2, 2012

BENEATH A METH MOON by Jacqueline Woodson

copyright date: 2012
primarily marketed for: young adult readers

Sometimes being a teacher has perks—not just the heartwarming, fulfilling in a my-life-is-worthwhile-and-I-love-what-I-do kind of way—but actual, honest-to-goodness tangible material perks.  Like this book.  When I went to the National Council of Teachers of English conference in November, I was given a FREE copy of Beneath a Meth Moon, which I was able to have signed by Jacqueline Woodson.  This book doesn’t even come out until next month.  How cool is that?

I believe Woodson is cool incarnate—if cool was a person walking this earth, cool would be Jacqueline Woodson (or poet Nikki Giovanni, just saying).  She just has a way with words that is smooth and fluid.  Although Beneath a Meth Moon is not written in verse, it is grounded in the language of Woodson’s poetic soul. 

It is not just the language that drew me to this story, though.  I was also drawn to the protagonist herself—Laurel.  Laurel is just a regular teenage girl.  Her family experiences a tragic event.  When she finds herself emerging on the other side of tragedy, finally enjoying life again, it only takes a single moment to shift the path in front of her from success to drug addiction. 

It took me a month to finally pick up this book because having read Ellen Hopkins’s Crank, I wasn’t sure I wanted to enter the world of meth addiction again.  Even if only through ink on a paper. 

However, Woodson begins the story with a glimpse of Laurel as she is in the present: on the road to recovery.  Then, she unfolds Laurel’s story through a series of episodes from various moments in her past.  The memories layer on top of one another, telling the story of her family before, during, and after the tragedy, as well as the story of her addiction, from the first time she experienced to meth, through thinking it was just a hobby, to complete addiction.  Woodson does not pull any punches and even includes failed attempts at recovery.

The way Woodson laces the episodes of meth addiction throughout the rest of Laurel’s story make it tolerable (maybe even enjoyable?) to read the harsh reality of a drug addicted life.   

This is one of those books I wish every young person I have ever known would read to experience drug addiction vicariously—that way you would never ever experience a deceptively innocent moment like Laurel’s first encounter with meth. 

Find this book in February. 


  1. I like the way you ended up, the good reason to read this book. Hopefully many will take the experience & never take such a challenge as trying 'just once'. The book sounds great, & you are right, Woodson is cool!

  2. Sounds fabulous! I understand about wanting to get certain books into students hands..I was that way with Speak. I still push freshman girls to read it. I'll definitely look for this next month

  3. I have read a couple of her books before and enjoyed them so I'm adding them to my TBR list. Thanks!


  4. Just like you, I have just read "Crank". really enjoyed it, but I don't know if I'd like to read another 'druggie' book again just yet. You said you had the same problem, but you still enjoyed reading the book, right?

  5. Yes, Lindsay! I still enjoyed it because of the way she lightened it by giving the end result (positive) first and then going back through time to get to the present again. There is so much more to the story than the drug addiction!

  6. I miss those teacher perks! Before I had babies, I was right there with you! I especially loved CABE conferences, where bilingual educators would gather. There were always amazing mutlicultural resources at our fingertips. Jaquelne Woodson is fantastic! I just read The House You Pass Along the Way this last year. What an amazing coming of age story. I really appreciate your blogging purpose. Your efforts to continue to connect students to books is impressive. IF you have time, I would love for you to check out my site on becoming a writer, with all of the humbling moments along the way... Keep doing what you're doing! Have a great day.