Tag Archives: young adult literature

January Black by Wendy S. Russo

by Andrew Palmer

When I started the book reviews here on Conservative Teachers of America, there was a specific type of book that I had hoped to be able to find and promote. It is a book that takes the ideas of freedom and liberty and packages it in such a way that a young adult would not realize that they are being taught those values. I am happy to report that I have found such a book with January Black.

This book started off with something extremely rare in young adult literature. Russo states on the dedication page, “Finally, I would like to thank the US military (and their families) for their service and sacrifice to defend our Constitution. Without you, I wouldn’t have had a story to tell, or a voice to tell it.” Rarely do you find young adult authors that could even tell you what the constitution is, let alone actually understand that it matters.

JanuaryBlackJanuary Black is Wendy S. Russo‘s first novel and it is published by the boutique fantasy/science-fiction publisher Crescent Moon Press. Russo is not a professional author and according to her website, she “works for Louisiana State University as an IT analyst. She’s a wife, a mom, a Tiger, a Who Dat, and she falls asleep on her couch at 8:30 on weeknights.”

January Black is a dystopian future science-fiction novel that centers around the main character Matty Ducayn. Matty is expelled from school early in the book. He is given a chance by King Hadrian to answer a question and earn a master’s diploma. The problem for Matty is that the answer to this one question (What was January Black?) will affect everything he believes about the society he lives in and his own family history.

Russo does a lot right with this book. One of the things that I love about her writing is how she slowly reveals the plot to the reader. Every time you uncover something new, the story develops a new layer of mystery. I especially enjoyed how the constitution and the ideas of liberty that founded our nation exist in the background as Matty unravels the mystery behind the question he must answer. There is just enough here to get a high school aged reader curious and asking questions of his/her own about our country’s history.

I would recommend this book for mature high school readers and above. The main characters are around 18, and there is a little bit of sexuality in the story. I have no problem with this, and I was actually quite impressed with how it was handled. We live in a society that teaches young adults that the only purpose of sex is physical pleasure. They are told through multiple mediums that there is no greater meaning attached to the act. The message that rages throughout popular culture today is that there is little value in a committed monogamous relationship. Not so in this book. Teens are presented with a completely different message about the topic. It is a message that I would want my son to be exposed to when he is old enough.

Russo really impressed me with this novel. I was left hoping that this would be turned into a series because I want to know what happens next. We need more author’s like Ms. Russo in young adult literature. Ms. Russo…less sleep, more writing, please!

Buy a copy of January Black in our Amazon Store!

 

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BOOK REVIEW: Bomb: The Race to Build-And Steal-The World’s Most Dangerous Weapon by Steve Sheinkin

Bomb

by Andrew Palmer

While I do enjoy reading a great fiction book, I would much rather curl up with non-fiction book and learn something. I realize that not all readers are like that, and young adult readers are often very reluctant to read non-fiction texts. If more writers wrote non-fiction books like this one, more of you would want to join me, and more of our teens would be interested in history.

In the biography in the back of this book, it says that Steve Sheinkin “has dedicated his life to making up for his previous crimes by crafting gripping narratives of American history.” On the surface this is a humorous quip, the reality is this is a sad truth about American history textbooks. Frankly, most of them suck. They do not engage students in any meaningful way, and they never inspire kids to investigate more. Add in an uninspiring history teacher, and it is no wonder you have a society that is apathetic and knows very little about its own history. Sheinkin has another book out that has been fairly popular with some of my students, it is called The Notorious Benedict ArnoldBenedictArnold

In Bomb, Sheinkin takes three different story lines surrounding the development and building of the world’s most dangerous weapon and weaves them together. The first is the Americans trying to build the atomic bomb. The second is the Soviets and their attempts to steal the bomb through spies. I was fascinated with this part of the book. I was excited to see this written into a book for young adults. Sheinkin also includes a little information on the reality of who Stalin was. Young adults need to hear the truth on who the Soviets really were. Finally, the third story line was the Allies attempts to sabotage the German bomb program. This was really interesting, too. The details of these missions are sure to impress any reader.

Bomb is written in narrative non-fiction. For those that don’t know what this is, it is a genre that takes a historical event and tells it like a narrative story. It is such a valuable genre for getting readers to be interested in history. Those of us that are passionate about history know that it is best told in a story format. I wish more authors would write books in this manner for the young adult book market.

Bomb was a 2013 National Book Award Finalist, a Newbery Honor Book for 2013, a winner of the Excellence in Young Adult Nonfiction Award from YALSA-ALA, and it won the Robert F. Sibert Medal for best informational text. Sheinkin should be applauded for his work in this text.

Consider buying a copy from our online store!

Sheinkin

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BOOK REVIEW: Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card

EndersGameI read several of the Ender’s series in high school. I was excited to find out that Ender’s Game will come out as a movie on November 1, so I thought it would be a good idea to revisit this book. Ender’s Game is a book that will satisfy many young adult readers. For the young reader that likes science fiction, this is a book that cannot be missed.

Ender’s Game is set in a dystopian future on earth. The world has already had one fierce battle with a race of aliens referred to as “buggers.” The world is scared. The International Fleet is created to draft and train the next generation of military leaders to fight the “buggers.”

Ender’s Game is a unique story because the new military leaders in this futuristic world are actually childhood geniuses. To an adult reader, this has an odd feel at times. The characters in this book, especially Ender, have knowledge and wisdom way beyond their years. I found myself trying to remember that this book was written for a young adult audience. The fact that this book was written for young adults is why it matters so much. For a teenager, a challenging part of adolescence is feeling like you don’t have a voice or are not respected by adults. Having a voice requires demonstrating that you actually deserve it. Ender is an intelligent, character-driven leader who shows teens what is required of them to be listened to by adults.

I love the themes in Ender’s Game! Much of this book is about leadership and Ender learning to be a leader. Ender is an advanced kid who is years beyond his peers. Because of this, he has to learn how to deal with bullying from those that are intimidated by his abilities. The discussions that Ender has with himself as he deals with his situations are very valuable to a young adult, especially a student that is “gifted”.

Another theme in the book is the development of the individual. As Ender grows he has to come to terms with the fact that he is a unique individual. Out of the struggles with the other students at battle school, Ender forms an identity that carries him through to his decisions during the climax and the resolution of the story.

Another positive of Ender’s Game is the political themes that run through the book. A reader will think about the relationship between the state, families, and individuals. Ender is a “third.” There are population laws in place. Only the first two children are provided an education. Parents are taxed as they have more children. Religion has been squelched by the international government. People that still practice religion are termed “non-compliant.”

Finally, a lot of the book deals with good versus evil. Ender and his brother, Peter, both walk a fine line between the two throughout the story. The plot events encourage the reader to think a lot about these two concepts and what they mean.

While the book has nothing to do with the topic, Orson Scott Card is an author religious conservatives should be aware of. He has taken much heat for being a defender of traditional marriage and the family. He is also a devout mormon. OrsonScottCard

Buy a copy in our online store!

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Book Review: Thin Wood Walls by David Patneaude

by Andrew Palmer 

ThinWoodWallsSadly, kids and young adults rarely get excited about history. Part of the reason is because history is often not taught to them in a way that engages them. It often comes off as a collection of meaningless dates and facts. As many of us know, history is usually filled with fascinating, engaging stories that illustrate the reality of human nature. I have often found that historical fiction is a way to get a kid to read something on history. David Patneaude should be applauded for his effort with this bookIt is an example of what historical fiction can and should be.

Thin Wood Walls tells the story of a Japanese-American family before and during America’s involvement in World War II. The story is told in the first-person narrative of Joe Hanada, the youngest of two sons in the Hanada family. Joe starts out the story as a normal eleven-year-old kid living in a town near Seattle, Washington. The Japanese bomb Pearl Harbor and suddenly his family is at the center of scorn of an entire nation.

A couple things stood out to me in this book. First, I loved the fact that it tells the truth about this ugly period of American history. The fact is, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, the beloved progressive Democrat, through Executive Order and no congressional approval, tossed 120,000 Japanese-Americans into concentration camps in the Mountain West. The first-person narrative really drives the point home of how cruel this was. You really get angry reading this as this young person tells his perspective of what is happening to him and to his family. Not only does this family get put in a camp, but the father is sent to another camp away from his family for three years!

Second, whether intentional or not*, I love the theme of being fearful of your government. Joe’s Grandmother has no love for governments. She left Japan because of the government, and as events unfold, she has no faith that the American government can or should be trusted either. It seems to me that many young adults in America are being conditioned to have way too much trust in their government. This book shows just how dangerous governments can be. They are ran by human beings, and human beings can be quite fallible. Our constitution was designed to actually protect us from the government. FDR and other progressives violated the constitution and trampled the civil liberties of these American citizens during this period of American history.

Thin Wood Walls is appropriate for kids as young as upper elementary. The younger reader may need a little background on the subject matter of the text, but I think they could handle the book quite well.

Lexile=620

Buy a copy of Thin Wood Walls in our Amazon Store!

*By all appearances, the author of this book is not a conservative. You can check out his blog on the second amendment where he demonstrates he has absolutely no clue what he is talking about. Guns are a plague, and our founding fathers had many inappropriate ideas, and the second amendment has something to do with muskets. Oh, brother…. He also gave Rachel Maddow’s book 4-stars on Goodreads. I debated not putting this review up, but I decided against it. This book is a good read. It has its place in the young adult library. Unlike many on the left, we know our history.

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Reaching Young Minds Through Literature: Yes We Can!

by Andrew Palmer

Conservatives often wonder how they can make an impact on the youth of America. When it comes to the youth and political ideology conservatives tend to believe that it is inappropriate to force political viewpoints onto children and teens. As educators, we acknowledge it is both unethical and unprofessional to push a political agenda in the classroom (of course, this never stopped many of our college professors and teachers growing up).

Admittedly, all educators have political biases. At a fundamental level, some of these ideas are tied to who we are as people. It is impossible for biases to not bleed through at one point or another in our classrooms, that is human nature. I don’t expect perfection of any teacher, liberal or conservative. I do expect them to operate out of a character ethic that respects the development of the students in their classroom.

The question becomes, how do you expose teens to ideas that we would classify as conservative while still being ethical and professional? I have always believed that if you truly teach a child to think critically, to question with boldness, and to use logic and reason instead of emotion they will arrive at some point on the right side of the American political spectrum. The reality is that many educators in our schools do not teach children to think critically, to question with boldness, and to use logic and reason instead of emotion.

So, we are left with a bit of a quandary.

I have a solution, and one I think we, as conservative teachers, can play a large role in. It is an area I would like to see this website focus on. And it is an area that I am going to need your help with.

I think our solution lies in young-adult literature.

The left is successful in this country often because they prey on both the illiterate and alliterate. If you are wondering, alliteracy is the concept that people can read, they just chose not to. I believe that alliterate people are just as dangerous as illiterate people. At least illiterate people know they aren’t educated. Alliterate people often are arrogant know-it-alls that think they have all the solutions for life although they do not have one piece of evidence to back it up.

If you have ever truly examined a liberal argument, on most issues you will find that it is based upon emotion and feeling. Rarely, are their arguments based on statistics and deep study of an issue.

I have read voraciously my entire life. I probably consume somewhere between fifty and seventy-five books a year. I tend to read a wide range of books. As a middle school English teacher, I require myself to read at least thirty books during the school year and many of these books are the same books my middle school readers read.

It is my hope to turn Conservative Teachers of America into a site for some of the best book reviews for young adult literature in the country. Who are the conservative authors for young adults? What books promote the principles of freedom? What are the young-adult books that tell the American story, both good and bad? What are the books that challenge young adults to think? What are the books that encourage students to develop moral principles? I know they are out there because I have read some of them myself. Once we start to identify these books, we can do our part in our local communities to get these books into young-adult hands.

I need your help to do this. Please consider sending me an email at conservativeteachersofamerica@gmail.com with the subject line “YA Book Reviews” if you are interested in helping out with this project. It is my hope to get as many conservatives (teachers, homeschoolers, parents, high school students, etc.) out there to join in on this. The more reviews the better. You will start to see some of my reviews come up here over the next couple of weeks to get an idea of what I am looking for.

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We need your help to make Conservative Teachers of America better!

Interested in helping Conservative Teachers of America grow? We would love to have your help. Below is the Why? and Areas of Focus for Conservative Teachers of America. Please let us know if there is any area that you would like to help with.

Why?

Education takes on many forms in America; private, home school, and public education. Conservatives exist in every form of education delivery. Conservative teachers often feel marginalized in the profession. Believing that they are in the minority or that they do not have a voice, they often remain silent and do not speak out. Conservative Teachers of America is a place for conservatives, both teachers and concerned citizens, to speak out on education related issues.

Areas of Focus:

  • Give conservative teachers a voice.
    • Publish articles from conservatives in education
    • Encourage dialogue, think American Thinker for conservatives about education, not all conservatives are going to agree, but they can disagree respectfully. We are not the left.
  • Encourage teachers to leave the NEA and AFT and join professional teacher organizations.
  • Advocate for local control of schools
  • Encourage opposition to Common Core State Standards
  • Promote quality professional development in the classroom.
  • Encourage conservatives to be informed on and involved with public education.
  • Promote history education that demonstrates the truth about America, both good and bad.
  • Review and promote good young adult literature.
  • Promote freedom of conscience inside of our schools

You can join our discussion group over on Facebook. We would love for you to click Like as well on the side of the page.

We are on Twitter, @ConservTeachers. If you are a conservative teacher on Twitter, tweet with and add the hashtage #TCTOT to your profile page. TCTOT=Top Conservative Teachers on Twitter.

Please follow our editor, Andrew Palmer, on Twitter (@MOConservTchr).

Please contact us through email at conservativeteachersofamerica@gmail.com

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An interview with young adult author Andrew Klavan

by Andrew Palmer

Popular, young-adult author, Andrew Klavan, took time out of his busy schedule Monday night to answer a few questions. Conservatives must understand that we can no longer ignore popular culture. We can not continue to sit around and talk about just policy and expect people to “get it”. I have read Mr. Klavan’s The Last Thing I RememberIt is an outstanding book! Pro-American, pro-freedom values packaged in a fun, easy-to-read fictional book. If you still have some shopping to do this Christmas consider buying a copy or two of this book for the teens in your life.

Tell me a little bit about the new book that just came out If We Survive?

The book is about four kids who go down to a Central American country on a mercy mission to rebuild a school. Just as they are about to leave there is a violent Communist revolution. Suddenly the whole country is overrun by guys looking to kill Americans. Now faced with danger, these four kids have to find their way back to the border.

I noticed on Amazon.com that the book is listed as part of the Homelanders series. Is this right?

No,  If We Survive is a complete stand alone book. For some reason Amazon has it listed that way. I have tried to get them to fix it, but I have not had any luck.

I saw on your website that there is a chance of a Homelanders movie in the works, any update?

I went back and visited the producers that are doing the movie and they have a draft of the script. The script has been sent into the studio. This project is taking a longer time because there has been some unexpected delays. The writer that is working on this project has been called away to work on another movie that is currently in production. There is no idea on a release date for the film as of yet.

Will there be multiple movies that match up to each book in the series?

There may be multiple movies of the Homelanders. The plan right now appears to be to merge the first three books into one script and leave the fourth book in the series open for a sequel.

Where did your first spark or interest in writing come from?  How were you encouraged and what helped you develop as a writer?  Was it a particular class, teacher, author, parents?

My spark in writing came from the fact that I was a real daydreamer as a kid. I had a strange habit, probably a little different from most kids, I wanted my daydreams to actually make sense. As a result I ended up working on them very hard. Writing was always something I wanted to do. To be honest, I didn’t get a lot of encouragement at home. It was really just a burning passion within myself that kept me at it. When I look back on it I feel like I must have been out of my mind because this is such a tough business to break into.

Tell me some books and authors, other than yourself and your books, that you would recommend for today’s youth.

I wouldn’t want to say the top three books because I think there are is an excellent variety of good books to read. A book that really meant a lot to me when I was a kid was the western Shane by Jack Schaefer. That book was just a really good story about being a boy and the rules of manhood that you look for as you grow up. I was very impressed with the Harry Potter novels by J.K. Rowling. She really did an excellent job with those. I think she has an excellent imagination which I think is very rare among today’s writers. There are also a lot of great adventure novels that are great reads that many people have forgotten about. Books like The Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas and Prisoner of Zenda by Anthony Hope that have absolutely outstanding stories. Modern books have gotten a little soft in some respects. Another modern series that I think kids would enjoy is the Rick Riordan series. Oh, and one other book that comes to mind is Tuck Everlasting by Natalie Babbitt.

In your opinion what does it mean to “be a conservative”?

Interestingly enough, I think in America it has a unique meaning because what we are trying to conserve is a revolutionary spirit which is kind of a contradiction in terms. In England when you are a conservative you are really trying to preserve ancient rites of nobleman and an elite class of people. You know, that’s just not true in America. In America, you are trying to preserve this spark of this revolutionary moment. It sort of declared that people have the right to decide their lives for themselves. This is the thing that is so hard to argue especially when you have a media that is on the other side.

Government can do a lot of good things for people, but it can’t do anything for people without compromising their freedom and their property. What you want is a world where nobody falls through the cracks, but you want to make sure that ultimately you can keep the sweat of your brow and you can make your own decisions. So when government starts to tell people what is good for them, they may be doing them a favor, but they are taking away more than they give. So for me, being a conservative in America means to preserve the right of the guy who disagrees with me. I think this is very difficult thing because humans have this instinct to tell one another what to do. A conservatives goal in America should be to “judge not, lest you be judged.”

Have you always been a conservative? If not, what caused the conversion?

No! I grew up in a very liberal household. My brother still doesn’t know what happened to me. The thing that really caused me to change was when the Berlin Wall came down. Only Ronald Reagan said that it would and had predicted that it would. His policies turned the economy around when everybody said they would not. He was constantly derided as a stupid man and a war mongerer. When it turned out that so much of what he said came true I started to reevaluate my positions. I was always a disgruntled liberal, but I didn’t really realize that the people I was taught were evil could actually have a point of view that made sense.

Why do you think conservatives struggle so much with popular culture?

Part of it may be built into our nature. Art tends to be wild and can go off into dark places that offends. Conservatives tend to draw back from that. I think the real truth is that conservatives have been kept out of the arts, almost blacklisted. When you go to the movies and find that your point of view has been derided and denigrated it tends to put you off. You start to think that the movies are not for me, and the books are not to me. So instead you would rather play a videogame or watch a football game.

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Glenn Beck’s Great Deal for Young Adult Readers!

We came across this today and couldn’t resist sharing it. We imagine this may cause severe trauma for those that buy into the progressive ideology.

Glenn Beck has started numerous new ventures in recent months. One of which is Mercury Ink, and it will be the publishing imprint of Mercury Radio Arts. Beck announced the first release today and it’s a sci-fi thriller directed at the young adult book market; Michael Vey: Prisoner of Cell 25 by Richard Paul Evans. And today only, from Barnes and Noble, you can get it 50% off, $8.99 plus shipping.

An overview of the story:

My name is Michael Vey, and the story I’m about to tell you is strange. Very strange. It’s my story.

To everyone at Meridian High School, Michael Vey is an ordinary fourteen-year-old. In fact, the only thing that seems to set him apart is the fact that he has Tourette’s syndrome. But Michael is anything but ordinary. Michael has special powers. Electric powers.

Michael thinks he’s unique until he discovers that a cheerleader named Taylor also has special powers. With the help of Michael’s friend, Ostin, the three of them set out to discover how Michael and Taylor ended up this way, but their investigation brings them to the attention of a powerful group who wants to control the electric children – and through them the world. Michael will have to rely on his wits, powers, and friends if he’s to survive.

Here’s the book trailer:

Go visit the official Michael Vey website.

You can follow Michael Vey on Twitter.

You can like Michael Vey on Facebook.

Now, we can hear the left now. Glenn Beck is violent, Glenn Beck is a racist, Glenn Beck is (enter some generic leftist insult here). Whatever….

Beck says about the book:

Michael Vey is a story about hope and the power of goodness in an increasingly dark world. It exposes the drive in us all to persevere against hardship, peer pressure, and disabilities. It teaches our children that if they persist, and do what they know to be right, no matter how much pressure they face to do otherwise, then anything is possible. And it does all of this teaching without any preaching.

If you want to attack this, there’s something severely wrong with you.

 

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