Module 15: The Things They Carried


O’Brien, T. (1990). The Things They Carried. New York: Penguin Group


The Things They Carried is a compilation of short stories named after the first story in the collection by the same name. All the stories focus around the experiences of Vietnam, both Tim O’brien’s experiences as well as experiences of those around him. He talks about the metaphorical things they are carried into the field and the weight that was put on the soldiers. He talks about the feelings that follow you home, the people that are left behind, as well as the struggle of living with the memories that follow. Many of the experiences are partly autobiographical with poetic liberties. The stories range in context from falling in love, leaving love, killing a man and the haunting memories. It touches on the differences in transition from war to civilian life. Above all, it shows such a strong range in human emotion in trying times and adverse conditions.


I listened to this book on audiobook, narrated by Bryan Cranston. His narration was beautiful, touching, and full of spirit. I felt like having the words wash over me was the best way to experience this book. The language is the star of these short stories. O’brien has a beautiful melodic way of writing in which he paints the words as a picture. He especially employs the technique of repeating phrases to gather emphasis, such as in the short story The Man I Killed when he repeats “his jaw was in his throat, his upper lip and teeth were gone, his one eye was shut, his other eye was a star shaped hole.” He emphasizes how these thoughts would continue to creep into the mind of someone who has suffered trauma. Overall, these short stories are magnificent in their literary quality as well the strength of emotion for this hard subject matter.

Professional Reviews

“In the end . . . a true war story is never about war. It’s about sunlight. It’s about the special way that dawn spreads out on a river when you know you must cross the river and march into the mountains and do things you are afraid to. It’s about love and memory. It’s about sorrow. It’s about sisters who never write back and people who never listen.” In Tim O’Brien’s world, a war story is all that—and more. The author of the National Book Award–winning Going after Cacciato offers fiction in a unique form: a kind of “faction” presented as a collection of related stsories that have the cumulative effect of a unified novel. The “things they carry”—literally—are prosaic things: amphetamines, M-16s, grenades, good-luck charms, Sterno cans, toilet paper, photographs, C-rations. But the men in O’Brien’s platoon—Curt Lemon, Rat Kiley, Henry Dobbins, Kiowa, and the rest—also carry less tangible but more palpable things such as disease, confusion, hatred, love, regret, fear, what passes for courage; in short, the prototypical psychological profile the youthful Vietnam vet. There are 22 pieces here in all, some of which were previously published in such diverse literary arenas as Playboy, Granta, GQ, and Esquire. The prose ranges from staccato soldierly thoughts to raw depictions of violent death to intense personal ruminations by the author that don’t appear to be fictional at all. (“On the Rainy River,” O’Brien’s account of the time he almost fled to Canada after receiving his draft notice, is particularlly moving.) Just when you thought there was nothing left to say about the Vietnam experience . . . there’s plenty.

Martin, B. (1990). [Review of The Things They Carried]. Booklists. Retrieved from:


Veterans from Vietnam to Iraq and Afghanistan—including Sites himself as a war correspondent (In the Hot Zone: One Man, One Year, Twenty Wars, 2007)—tell their tales of the struggle to survive on and after the battlefield, in the hopes that such storytelling may be a way “to release warriors from the bonds of their own silence.”

Lance Cpl. James Sperry writes, “I am only twenty-four and have lived a life I wish on no one.” Such is the common thread of despair to be found among these warriors’ tales. In combat, they did and saw things no one should endure. They killed—the enemy, civilians, their own troops as a result of friendly fire. They saw friends blown apart, and they were wounded. They grew rabid with anger and a desire to kill. Then they were expected to return to friends, family and community unchanged from these horrors. But this was not possible, as veteran after veteran experienced PTSD. Too often in silence, combat veterans suffered from an inability to reconnect, to love, to be simply normal. Sites includes himself among the lost, as he recounts how his “confused incompetent inaction” led to the murder of Iraqi insurgent Taleb Salem Nidal. Sites thus joined the ranks of those suffering from PTSD—covering guilt, shame and fear in a haze of alcohol and marijuana, numbed by taking “a chef’s salad of [prescribed] drugs every day,” losing wives and loved ones who could not understand their sullen withdrawal. However, in sensitive, honest prose, the author emphasizes that this is a book about hope. Most of the wounded warriors eventually found their way back, including Sites, and part of the healing process involves telling their stories. The author allows himself and the combat veterans he interviews the space to do so.

An important book for warriors and the communities that send them to war.

Sites, K. (2008). [Review of The Things They Carried]. Kirkus Reviews. Retrieved from:

Library Uses

This book is a great book for book discussion for the war effects on the people and on society but also for banned books. This book has been subject to censorship at many schools for its language and violence. It is important for students to understand that these are tools the author uses to establish the place and setting of the novel and to make the emotions understandable to a reader who does not have these same life experiences. It would also be key for a display on banned books to bring awareness to censorship issues and the intellectual freedom.

Module 14: Crank


Hopkins, E. (2004). Crank. New York: Margaret K. McElderry Books


Crank is the haunting tale of a young teenage girl named Kristina. She goes to visit her father that has been estranged to her in years and falls into a life of drugs and young love. She calls her desire for “crank” or speed the monster and addresses her alter-ego, Bree who tells her to do drugs, flirt with boys, and smoke cigarettes. Upon meeting her father, who she has idealized for years, she is immediately let down. Thus begins her summer of flirting with temptation, doing drugs under her dad’s supervision, and dating a boy who is currently seeing another girl. She toys with sex, with drugs, and dangerous situations. She describes the highs as well as the lows that are involved with her building addiction. She then travels back home at the end of the summer and is forced to adjust to adjust to real life. She does not succeed and continues to feed her addiction.

This spiral leads to more self-doubt, drugs, and sex. She soon finds that she is pregnant and goes through waves of decisions to abort, adopt, or keep her child. In the end, she decides to keep her child but finds that she cannot be the mother she wanted to be. In the end, the monster calls to her and takes her away from her child.


Written in verse, this book is powerful. Every sentence has an impact, ever feeling is felt. It is a wonderful book to really emphasize the struggle that is a result of addiction. It explains in non-romantic terms how once it takes hold it never lets go. Even in the face of love and commitment to reform, the monster is always present and can never be escaped. As with some drug stories, I find that the stories romanticize drugs until they go wrong. This book does no such thing. From the beginning its a struggle, from the beginning it is not appealing. This is important in the establishment of how people get hooked on drugs. It as well does a wonderful job at establishing the mental addiction that comes with drug addiction. Kristina is no longer herself, she is Bree and Bree controls her decisions when it comes to drugs. Kristina may not approve of what is happening but she is not in control any longer and the split-personality helps establish that lack of control. The ending is heartbreaking, as Kristina gives birth to a child that is not specifically said to have birth defects, but it is implied that some issues exist that make it more difficult. Bree then takes over, as she does, and leads to Kristina leaving her child with her mother as she is not capable of loving him as much as she wants and her addiction is too strong.

What really hits the emotional nerve is the author’s note that explains that this story is loosely based on the author’s daughter, whose child is now 7 years old and in the loving care of the author.

Professional Reviews

Like the teenage crack user in the film Traffic, the young addict in this wrenching, cautionary debut lives in a comfortable, advantaged home with caring parents. Sixteen-year-old Kristina first tries crank, or crystal meth, while visiting her long-estranged father, a crank junkie. Bree is Kristina’s imagined, bolder self, who flirts outrageously and gets high without remorse, and when Kristina returns to her mother and family in Reno, it’s Bree who makes connections with edgy guys and other crank users that escalate into full-blown addiction and heartrending consequences. Hopkins tells Kristina’s story in experimental verse. A few overreaching lines seem out of step with character voices: a boyfriend, for example, tells Kristina that he’d like to wait for sex until she is “free from dreams of yesterday.” But Hopkins uses the spare, fragmented style to powerful effect, heightening the emotional impact of dialogues, inner monologues, and devastating scenes, including a brutal date rape. Readers won’t soon forget smart, sardonic Kristina; her chilling descent into addiction; or the author’s note, which references her own daughter’s struggle with “the monster.”

Engberg, E.  (2004). [Review of Crank]. Booklists. Retrieved from:

While roaming the aisles of a bookstore in 2005, I discovered Crank. The stark white drug slang title on a black background immediately appealed to my curiosity. After reading the author’s note about the story being loosely based on her daughter’s drug addiction, I thumbed through the pages and was surprised to find the narrative told in poetic form. I knew this book was going to be a hit with teens not only because of the edgy topic, but because the unique format is entertaining as well as non-threatening. The lure of wanting to know what happened to a quasi-real character is compelling. With her story Hopkins had a captivated audience.

Crank is unique, and Hopkins has created a winning formula for her book’s success: interesting subject matter, personal experience, and narrative poetry that flows and is easy to comprehend. This book is fluent in teen speak and directly addresses uncomfortable, but important issues. Due to the mature subject matter of the book my and the publisher’s age recommendation is 14-up. (Margaret K. McElderry, 2004. ISBN: 9780689865190)

Kendall, J. (2004). Teen Book Review: Crank. Children’s Books. Retrieved from:

Library Uses

This is the perfect book to lead a discussion with teenagers about addiction, about people they may know with addiction, and the undeniable consequences of addition. It is important for teenagers to feel the consequences as opposed to just learning about the issues that come with drug use, as this book does very well. This book is all about feelings and emotions that follow drugs use. It is a great book to recommend to readers who love beautiful poetry and want to develop empathy for what a drug addict goes through.

Module 13: The Good Neighbors

 good neighbors

Black, H. (2008). The Good Neighbors. New York: Graphix


Rue’s mother is gone following a fight with her father. Her father has fallen into depression and is not going to work. Rue is going through the motions while trying to ignore the weird things she is seeing when her father is accused of murder. As Rue dives into the mystery, tries to find her mother, and prove her father’s innocence she uncovered a world for which she never knew she belongs to. The world of Faeries. Though she now understands her powers, she must decide if she wants to be in the faerie world and debate her obligations to her mother, to her grandfather, and to her father. She goes on an adventure to find the answers and determine who she is.


While reading this book, I found that I had trouble understanding the plot line. Rue’s character begins seeing weird things that aren’t explained in the beginning. She has powers she is not certain of but the illustrations left me questioning what they were. The story line jumps around and I find it hard to follow. While I am a fan of Holly Black and Graphic Novels, this book was a tremendous challenge for me and I am still not sure if I know what was going on fully. This book demands you spend time analyzing the artwork. The artwork in this book also left something to be desired as I had trouble placing the secondary characters. Overall, I think readers who love graphic novels and love paranormal will like this book. Its dark, its creepy, and it goes by fast but I would not recommend this book to anyone on the fence about graphic novels. It does take some considerable studying to place the characters, scenes, and plots.

Professional Reviews

Rue Silver’s everyday life with her professor father and ethereal mother comes crashing to a surreal end when her mother one day simply disappears. As Rue starts noticing oddities in her little town—people with wings or animal faces, or vines that seem to sprout up over everything at night—she tries to tell herself that such things would be crazy. When her extended family appear and claim that she is part of a hidden faerie world, Rue finds herself embroiled in a magical fight for power. The first volume in a series, this book goes a long way in setting up a foreboding, darkly mysterious atmosphere while giving the reader quick details for characterization. Black, one of the authors of the Spiderwick Chronicles, does a wonderful job of weaving an alien faerie world through Rue’s urban landscape, and Naifeh’s art, rich with shadows, is expressive and angular and pulls the reader into the story with a solid sense of place. Urban-fantasy readers of Neil Gaiman, Charles de Lindt, and Terri Windling will be immediate fans of this title.


Coleman, T. (2008). [Review of The Good Neighbors]. Booklists. Retrieved from:


Rue Silver’s life is about to be turned upside down. Already, her mother has disappeared after having a loud argument with her father. Even worse, she’s now beginning to see things — frightening things, like people with horns and wings that no one else notices. What’s worse, the things she sees are looking back at her.

Matters quickly get worse from there. Police are already curious about her mother’s disappearance, but when one of her father’s college students is found murdered after visiting his office, they arrest him. Armed with a determination to uncover the truth, Rue begins investigating the case on her own. What she finds brings her deeper into a fantasy world she knows precious little about, a world she’s a part of whether she likes it or not: the dark and dangerous realm of the faeries. Sometimes known as “the fair folk,” they have some very sinister plans afoot. Rue gets a taste of those plans when she meets the grandfather she never knew. He wants her to come live with him, but Rue is rightfully afraid.

Holly Black has proven she knows her way around this territory, most notably in The Spiderwick Chronicles, but also in the faerie-themed books TITHE, VALIANT and IRONSIDE. This is her first time writing about the faerie world in graphic novel form, though, and for this foray in the medium, she has been paired with a perfect partner in the form of artist Ted Naifeh, himself no stranger to the otherworldly. His Courtney Crumrin series is a top-notch mixture of fantasy and spine-tingling fiction. Here, he nicely gives his artwork a solidly human perspective shaded with dark overtones. He evokes fear and wonder at the same time, and the flow of his panels has a cinematic quality that pair gracefully with Black’s lean prose.

As an introduction to this new series, KIN kicks things off with a bang. It nicely sets the stage for a portentous battle between evil forces and the good people who will try to stop them. The murder mystery at the heart of this story is perhaps too quickly and easily dispatched, but it clears the way for the far more interesting storyline of Rue’s self-discovery. Rue is refreshingly unique, a bright character (it’s nice to see a teenage protagonist who doesn’t have to speak with razor-sharp wit all the time) with a genuine curiosity about life. She’s smart and determined without being affected, a nice touch.

The Good Neighbors shows great promise as a series. It targets an audience 12 and older with a story that effortlessly glides between thriller and mystery. Equally impressive is its fine pacing; it’s a book to savor at leisure and the plot doesn’t feel the need to rush. Still, that kind of pacing can have a dark side, as evidenced by the publishing schedule for future books in the series. The second and third installments are projected to be published in 2009 and 2010, respectively, a long wait for readers anxious to find out what will become of the enchanting Rue Silver.

Hogan, J. (2008). The good neighbors, book one: kin. Teen Reads. Retrieved from:

Library Uses

I would love to use this and other graphic novel books to do a workshop on graphic novels with teens. We could map out the story arc of the book and how it was condensed into a short and graphic work of art. Then the group could create an original story arc or take another novel and work on illustrations, practice with expression, and develop an understanding for adding context to the illustrations.

Module 12: Steve Jobs : The Man Who Thought Different


Blumenthal, K.. (2012). Steve Jobs: The Man Who Thought Different. New York: Feiwal and Friends Book


Finalist for the Yasla-Award Excellence in Young Readers, this biography not only tells the story of Steve Jobs and mature role in the company named Apple, but also tells a great story about the computer revolution. This book, aimed at younger readers, describes Jobs as a younger boy and how restless and difficult he was into being an adult, though still reckless and difficult. It paints the picture of how he brought up his company, the products that made Apple what it is today, while discussing the business side of everything and the different parts of the computer. Styled with pictures and interesting bullet point, this book provides a lot of information in an easy to understand way.


This is a wonderful biography that really explains to the reader not only how Steve Jobs lived and what kind of man he was, but about what life was like in the 1980s when he was growing his business. It explains the state of computers, what different parts of the computer was, and what it meant to build a personal computer in those days. It also does a wonderful job of explaining basic business information to give readers a solid of understanding of Jobs’ decisions and why he did everything he did, as well as his triumphs and failures. With interesting facts presented in a flowing narration to keep readers interested, this book is suitable for older elementary to middle school readers.

Professional Reviews

Walter Isaacson’s best-selling biography, bolstered by 40 interviews with its subject, is the current gold standard for books about Steve Jobs, but Blumenthal’s in-depth look at the innovator’s life makes a close runner-up and a winner for younger audiences. Blumenthal, a former business reporter, uses a speech Jobs made to a graduating class at Stanford as an inviting hook to draw readers in. He told his audience stories about the most important incidents in his life, beginning with his adoption, and how the dots of his life connected in mysterious ways. His adoptive father was skilled with his hands and a perfectionist, a trait Jobs carried on, sometimes to extremes. The worst moments in Jobs’ life, like being fired from Apple, the company he built, led him to bigger and better moments, and an eventual return to Apple, where he would give the world iPods, iPhones, and iPads. His final story was about his cancer, and his message was to “follow your heart and intuition.” Through original interviews, a solid use of source material, and a wonderfully easy-going style, Blumenthal gives a full portrait of Jobs, with his many well-documented flaws (which here might be a tad underplayed), his original and far-sighted aesthetic, and his willingness to push himself and others to achieve the best—as he perceived it. One advantage this has over Isaacson’s book is the well-placed sidebars that explain everything from how computer memory works to Jobs’ distinctive wardrobe. This is a smart book about a smart subject by a smart writer. To be illustrated with photographs. Glossaries and sources are appended.

— Ilene Cooper

Cooper, I. (2012). [Review of Steve Jobs: The Man Who Thought Different]. Booklists. Retrieved from:

Library Uses

This book is all about computers and does a magnificent job of placing readers into what times were like in the 1980’s. This book could help supplement a program about computers and about the building of the computers. It would be excellent to dissect a modern computer with what computers looked like in the 1980’s when they were first being built. I think this program would be wonderful at showing older elementary students and younger middle school students that the things we think of as necessary for every day life were built by someone. They could then brainstorm what they could build that would one day “change the world.”

Module 11: An Egg is Quiet


Aston, D. (2006). An Egg is Quiet. California: Chronicle Books LLC


This informational book introduces eggs to the reader. It explains in poetic fashion, the purpose of an egg, different ways of keeping eggs warm, different variations of eggs and why those variations exist. It shows different eggs in different habitats, such as some being in a tree while others are on the beach. It explains how eggs are nourished within themselves to sustain life and how each part of the egg is important for the development of the animal that inhabits it.


This is a stunning book. The images and variations of eggs is beautiful and a delight to read. The poetic language is very pleasing as well and makes a subject about eggs one that is completely beautiful. This book stands out from a stylistic view and is ideal for younger elementary school readers. As far as using this book for research, it does not contain enough information to really research the subject of eggs significantly but it gives an introduction to how beautiful and unique eggs can be. It also provides a foundation of understanding of how eggs work, how they provide nutrition, and how they result in the birth of a baby animal. I also appreciate the different levels of text that are present in this book, starting with a large, italicized poetic statement, followed by smaller print with more information for older readers to discover.

Professional Reviews

This beautifully illustrated introduction to eggs resembles pages drawn from a naturalist’s diary. The text, scrolled out in elegant brown ink, works on two levels. Larger print makes simple observations that, read together, sound almost like poetry: “An egg is quiet. . . . An egg is colorful. An egg is shapely.” On each spread, words in smaller print match up with illustrations to offer more facts about bird and fish eggs across the animal spectrum. The illustrations are too detailed for read-alouds, but there’s a great deal here to engage children up close. The succinct text will draw young fact hounds, particularly fans of Steve Jenkins’ Biggest, Strongest, Fastest (1995) and his similar titles. Long’s illustrations are elegant and simple, and the gallery of eggs, as brilliantly colored and polished as gems, will inspire kids to marvel at animals’ variety and beauty. A spread showing X-ray views of young embryos growing into animal young makes this a good choice for reinforcing concepts about life cycles.

— Gillian Engberg


Engberg, G. (2006). [Review of An Egg is Quiet]. Booklists. Retrieved from:

Library Uses

This would be a wonderful book to incorporate in a themed story time about eggs. Its beautiful illustrations will please younger readers and the small text can be read for older story times. It would also be a fun felt board to make with the different egg types and different habitats that are shown.

Module 10: Amelia and Eleanor Go for a Ride


Ryan, P.M. (1999). Amelia and Eleanor Go for a Ride. New York: Scholastic, Inc.


This book tells the story of the First Lady of the United States of America, and her best friend Amelia Earhart. The two unexpected buddies do something even more unexpected and go for a midnight ride over the capitol together, against the wishes of the secret service and discover how beautiful the city is at night. The story tells first and foremost, the story of friendship and companionship but also tests the limits of what women can and can’t do. At the time that Eleanor and Amelia were living, it was not normal for women to do what they wanted to show they could or for the fun of it but these two ladies prove them wrong.


This is a great story of friendship featuring powerful women! It is a wonderful read with beautiful illustrations by Brian Selznik. The pencil illustrations really allow for detail and analysis of each picture to discover all the details that are contained. The book introduces readers to the concept that famous people may have known other famous and important people (something I did not realize was that Eleanor Roosevelt and Amelia Earhart were friends) as well as introducing multiple historical figures for them to be connected to more emotionally than just reading about them in a text book. The book shows how Amelia flies Eleanor around and then ends with Eleanor driving Amelia around to show that women can do anything and even do things just for the fun of it.

Professional Reviews

Yes, Amelia Earhart and Eleanor Roosevelt did sneak off for an airplane ride after dinner at the White House. But, no, Earhart did not pilot the plane, as she does in this picture book for older children. Ryan makes clear in her long author’s note at the book’s conclusion that she has changed that fact to make the story more “exciting.” It’s true, the story does work better without the two Eastern Air Transport pilots flying the plane per regulations (though Amelia and Eleanor both took turns at the controls). Still, the central event of this “based on true story” piece of fiction didn’t happen, and kids probably won’t read the author’s note to clarify the text. Too bad about the confusion, because this book has so much going for it–an engaging text and simply wonderful pencil illustrations that not only capture the black-and-white visual sensibility of the 1930s but also feature inventive show-offy scenes–the White House surrounded by masses of cherry blossoms, an aerial view of the Capitol at night, and the captivating dust-jacket illustration of Eleanor and Amelia that will immediately draw readers to the book. Both Ryan and Selznick clearly did their research, and one of the book’s chief attributes is its depiction, in both words and pictures, of two strong women–really pioneers. Despite the change in the incident, children will get a sense of the importance of Earhart and Roosevelt to America’s history in general, and women’s history in particular.


Cooper, I. (1999). [Review of Amelia and Eleanor Go for a Ride]. Booklists. Retrieved from:

Library Uses

I think a program pairing famous people would be really fun! What would two historical figures do together if they had  the night to do whatever they wanted? Using historical information, participants could construct a story line based on history and create their own historical fiction. A plus would be to eat the wonderful recipe listed at the end of this book while doing it!

Module 9: Dead Girls Don’t Write Letters


Gail, G. (2003). Dead Girls Don’t Write Letters. Connecticut: Roaring Brook Press


Sunny is taking care of her family as they fall apart after the death of her sister, Jazz, in a fire. Her mother can’t eat or sleep without pills and her father has taken to drinking all the time. Her sister, who was always more beloved than she, has made a big void in the heart of her families. That is until she comes back, first by writing a letter explaining that she did not die. When she returns home though, it is obvious that she is not Jazz but some sort of imposter who knows way too much about their family. Sunny is trying to break the case to this imposter while trying to preserve her mother’s fragile state.


This story makes you turn the page. It flies by at lightning speed and keeps the reading guessing the entire time of what in the world is going on. Sunny is a very relatable character trying to get by while living in her sisters large shadow. The curiosities of this story continue to grow throughout and will leave readers questioning every contextual clue and plot point to figure the ending out. The book is such a wonderful read for all readers!

Professional Reviews

In Shattering Glass (2002), Giles gave readers a huge surprise at the book’s beginning. Here a major twist, one of several, comes at the end, though it raises more questions than it answers. Ninth-grader Sunny is not entirely sad about the death of her 18-year-old sister in a New York apartment fire. Jazz’s perfection has been a thorn to Sunny, but it was all that sustained their depressive mother and alcoholic father. Her death has pushed both parents over the edge. Then one day, a letter from Jazz arrives, and soon after, Jazz herself returns, claiming she was away and only recently learned about the fire. But this girl isn’t really Jazz, though she does resemble her and seems to know enough about her to assume her life. Both Sunny and her father realize the truth; Mother seems not to. For a while, though, everyone is willing to have Jazz alive. This is a page-turner with sharp dialogue and psychologically intriguing viewpoints. Readers are continually kept off balance as Jazz and her motives change like shapes in a fun-house mirror. But when Sunny asks her final question, “What have I done?” readers might wish for a clearer answer.


Cooper, I. (2003). [Review of Dead Girls Don’t Write Letters]. Booklists. Retrieved from:

Library Uses

This book is perfect for discussing unreliable characters and what clues lead to determining a reliable narrator or not in addition to discussing context clues to determine what a reader thinks the ending means.

Module 8: Coldest Girl in Coldtown


Black, H. (2013). Coldest Girl in Coldtown. New York: Little, Brown and Company


Coldest Girl in Coldtown follows the story of a teenage girl who lives in a vampire filled world. Vampires used to be confined and hidden, killing all their victims until one vampire goes on a rampage and turns them, releasing an uncontrollable virus into the population. Once bit by a vampire, humans become cold and thirst for blood. If they meet their cravings, the virus will mutate in their bodies, killing them, and reanimating them as a vampire. Coldtowns are established to keep the virus contained into cities. Tana’s story begins as she thinks she is infected and knows her ex-boyfriend is. With the help of a vampire, they travel to the nearest coldtown making friends along the way, but once within Coldtown, Tana must battle for her life and the life of those she loves.


This book is excellent and immersive. Holly Black’s writing is fantastic and brings new life into what is a classic story. The characters especially are well developed, though sometimes easy to predict. Going on the journey with these characters will leave readers wanting more. The concept of the Coldtowns brings a dystopian feel to this novel. The coldtowns are run down, lacking in government, and a free for all in terms of crime and parties. Nothing is nice and no one is safe. The coldtowns felt very real and easily place readers into the setting of the book.

Professional Reviews

This eagerly anticipated novel (based on Black’s short story of the same name) bears little relation to the sparkle-infused vampire tales of the last decade.

Ten years ago, a vampire “started romanticizing himself” and went on a rampage, turning people until new vampires were everywhere. As much as possible, they are contained in walled Coldtowns, along with humans who idolize them—or were trapped when the walls went up. Outside, people avoid going out after dark, watch endless feeds from Coldtown parties and idolize vampire hunters. When nihilistic Tana, whose emptiness seems to stem from events surrounding her mother’s infection with vampirism, wakes up in a blood bath to find her ex-boyfriend infected and a terrifying but gorgeous vampire chained beside him, she is determined to make things right. What follows is a journey that takes her into Coldtown and out of the grief that has plagued her for years, with plenty of sharply observed characters and situations that feel absurdly, horribly believable. There’s dry humor and even a relationship (to call it a romance would be too easy; this is something entirely more complex). Perhaps most unexpectedly, there is no happy ending, just a thread of hope in humanity.

You may be ready to put a stake in vampire lit, but read this first: It’s dark and dangerous, bloody and brilliant.

Kirkus Review (2013). [Review of Coldest Girl in Coldtown]. Kirkus Reviews. Retrieved from:

Library Uses

This book is a staple in the collection as a vampire book that goes beyond what reader’s expect. It has a great dialogue on the spreading of diseases and infections and can always be used as a fun fiction supplement to a virus STEM program.

Module 7: Thirteen Reasons Why


Asher, J. (2007). Thirteen Reasons Why. New York: Penguin Group


Thirteen Reasons Why is a uniquely laid out book that follows the story of one teenagers decision to commit suicide and a narration in the form of cassette tapes delivered to thirteen individuals in a sequential order that allows them to understand the part they played in her suicide. Using a slight form of blackmail and one assistant to play out her wishes, the cassette tapes move from one student to another so that they can understand why she committed suicide and understand all the events, both big and small, that played a part in the end of her life.


This book’s format takes a minute to get used to. It consists of the narration of the cassette tapes by a girl, Hannah, who had recorded them prior to committing suicide as they are being listened to Clay. The book consists of both her narration and Clay’s point of view. While this takes a minute to get used to, it definitely adds to the understanding of the book. The book slowly unravels, starting off with small and seemingly petty events that cascade into bigger, more traumatic events as the year unfolds. This is not an easy book by any means. It questions a lot of things that is “typical” teenage behavior. It begs the reader to analyze all the relationships they have and the way they treat people. It explores how a little teasing, bullying, and rumor spreading can catapult a chain of events that no one would want.

Professional Reviews

When Clay Jenson plays the cassette tapes he received in a mysterious package, he’s surprised to hear the voice of dead classmate Hannah Baker. He’s one of 13 people who receive Hannah’s story, which details the circumstances that led to her suicide. Clay spends the rest of the day and long into the night listening to Hannah’s voice and going to the locations she wants him to visit. The text alternates, sometimes quickly, between Hannah’s voice (italicized) and Clay’s thoughts as he listens to her words, which illuminate betrayals and secrets that demonstrate the consequences of even small actions. Hannah, herself, is not free from guilt, her own inaction having played a part in an accidental auto death and a rape. The message about how we treat one another, although sometimes heavy, makes for compelling reading. Give this to fans of Gail Giles psychological thrillers.

Dobrez, C. (2007). [Review of Thireen Reasons Why]. Bookslists. Retrieved from:

Library Uses

Last year, a teenager in the community I lived committed suicide. I did not know the teenager, but I knew the teens that were affected by the loss of a friend and by the questions that come from a suicide. It is not easy to answer these questions for them. It is in fact, impossible, to know what to say in these instances other than to listen and provide resources that may assist them in beginning to understand. This book is a tremendous resource to be recommended to a teen or for a teen to discover.

This book also provides a great conversation on bullying. How innocent teasing can lead to horrible things. How one act can trigger off a string of events. It shows what happens when you stand aside and let bad things happen even if you are not the person doing the bad things. It is a wonderful book of what real consequence looks like.

Module 7: Wonder

Palacio, R.J. (2012). Wonder. New York: Random House Children’s Books


Wonder shares the story of a boy named August (“Auggie”) who was born with a facial deformity. Needing more than 20 surgeries at his young age of 10, these deformities have defined almost all of his life to this point. He is aware of the looks he gets from strangers and the staring they do when they think he is not looking. As the book begins, Auggie is accepted into school after years of being homeschooled. Told from multiple view points including August, his sister – Via, and his friends, this book provides an encompassing look at what it is like to be different.


The character development in this story is truly some of the best development I have seen in a juvenile book. Immediately, all the characters feel real. They have their good sides and their bad sides. They are all struggling with daily problems, big and small. They all have one thing in common; Auggie and the unique life he leads. All of them must fight their initial reaction to anything different, including fear (of both the unknown and fear of being judged) and sadness. The story tells readers that being different is a problem that everyone has, not just those with face deformities, and that we can all overcome it with grace and humor in tact. What makes you different is not what defines you in every aspect but what you make of those differences and how you interact with the world around you. This is a great story that is aimed at such a crucial age when readers may feel different and out of place.

Professional Reviews

Kids’ books about befriending somebody “different” could fill a library. But this debut novel rises to the top through its subtle shifting of focus to those who are “normal,” thereby throwing into doubt presumptions readers may have about any of the characters. Nominally, the story is about 10-year-old August, a homeschooled boy who is about to take the plunge into a private middle school. Even 27 operations later, Auggie’s face has what doctors call “anomolies”; Auggie himself calls it “my tiny, mushed-up face.” He is gentle and smart, but his mere physical presence sends the lives of a dozen people into a tailspin: his sister, his old friends, the new kids he meets, their parents, the school administrators—the list goes on and on. Palacio’s bold move is to leave Auggie’s first-person story to follow these increasingly tangential characters. This storytelling strategy is always fraught with peril because of how readers must refresh their interest level with each new section. However, much like Ilene Cooper’s similarly structured Angel in My Pocket (2011), Palacio’s novel feels not only effortless but downright graceful, and by the stand-up-and-cheer conclusion, readers will be doing just that, and feeling as if they are part of this troubled but ultimately warm-hearted community.

Kraus, D. (2012). [Review of Wonder]. Bookslists. Retrieved from:

Library Uses

This book is a great book discussion book. With the rotating character format, the revolving view points, mixes of characters with their own set of problems and quirks, it lends itself perfectly to discussing being different, perspectives on the world, and the importance of being kind to others.