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.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

THE DOWNSIDE OF BEING UP by Alan Lawrence Sitomer

If anyone asks, you did not hear about this book from me.  In fact, let’s just pretend I am not even writing this right now and you, well, you are not really reading it. 

You would understand why all the fuss if you knew what this book is about, but you won’t hear it from me.  I am certainly not going to tell you it is a book about an unfortunate (universal) experience of boy suffering through puberty.  That would be…awkward, especially coming from me.

So, I guess I also better not explain that even though this HILARIOUS book had me laughing out loud (and reading passages out loud to Mr. Levine) page after page, it was also a book with substance.  I won’t mention that amongst the puns and humor, is a story of kid who just wants to get it right.  I am not going to mention that he learns (and therefore teaches us, the readers) an important lesson about the benefits of doing the right thing and being yourself.  I will also avoid saying that the relationship between the protagonist and his family is hysterically funny, grounded in real life, and heartwarming.

And I definitely won’t include this quote to show you just how (inappropriately) funny this book is:

“Seriously I want them to stop. 

But they don’t, or won’t, so I’m forced to hide them.  Oversized shirts that I wear untucked.  Baggy pants with enough room inside the crotch for a microwave oven.  Dictionaries I keep on my lap as if I am eager to look up fourteen-letter vocab words just for the “exuberating experience of exponentially enhancing my grandiloquent education.”

Yeah, right.  The only thing big ol’ Webster’s is good for to a kid like me is hiding my ding-dong when it stands at full attention.”

So, don’t take it from me that this book will make you laugh because I would certainly say nothing of the sort.  In fact, I wouldn’t speak of such embarrassing topics.  If anyone asks, I most definitely did not suggest you pick up a copy of The Downside of Being Up by Alan Lawrence Sitomer if you need page after page of reasons to laugh and to celebrate being a human, awkwardness and all. 

Disclaimer: This is another book I got FREE at the NCTE convention… for teachers!  In fact, here he is signing books:

Oh, and in case you didn’t know this: The author, AlanLawrence Sitomer was awarded the title California teacher of the year—multiple times.  He is a professional who even teaches other teachers.  Here he is doing just that:
 AND did I mention that this guy writes books for DISNEY?  And that's a fact I'll admit to sharing!


  1. Did I miss this new look last time, Christy? Looks great. The book also sounds great, and fun, and after reading your post I now also get the title. Hm-m, do you really think any young student will ask to borrow this? I'm not sure...

  2. Linda, that is precisely why this is a blog of recs for my FORMER students, not my current students. I passed my copy of the book on to a teacher on my team who is the mother of three teenage boys. I could never hand this book to a student face to face... in fact, I couldn't even blog about it :) Which is a shame because it is such a good book (too bad I couldn't tell you about it, though).

  3. Christy, you could be a reviewer! This is fabulous. I love how you wrote this...and now I will add it to my list.

  4. Just so you know, I was trying to be funny, not really questioning your judgement at all. Sometimes my words don't quite get through I think. Your review was great!

  5. Thanks, Linda! I really wasn't sure. I was so hesitant about even blogging about this book, but it was so worth sharing. I know it would be wildly popular amongst my students, but even as liberal about content as I am, I just couldn't imagine handing it to a kid and saying, "I think YOU would like this."

    Hey- don't forget to count this as a comment for The Comment Challenge! I was happy to find your name over on that site!

  6. Awesome. I have this book waiting for review and had no idea of its content! It sounds like something I'm not sure I could entirely blog about either!

  7. You've sold me on this one. Nicely targeted and sensitive post.

    I'm a little horrified by the "My teachers don't read" quote in the blog intro. I know how busy teachers are--my parents were teachers--but how can teachers not be readers?! I hope readers here will make book recommendations to their non-reading teachers.