Teaching Running Out of Time

Running Out of TimeI recently taught Running Out of Time by Margaret Peterson Haddix to two Eighth Grade ELA classes. I have essentially read this book three times: on my own before teaching it, and aloud to two different classes. I’ve had enough. I did not like this book. It has been taught by other teachers at my school for years, and when I was given my classes, I was given the book. I made the most of it. In this entry, I’m going to tell you what I did not like about this book. However, acknowledging its merit to student, I’m going to discuss the benefits of teaching it as well.

I wanted to give a spoiler-free plot summary of this book, but it is extremely difficult to talk or write about this book without spoiling it. If spoilers concern you, stop reading here.

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Making Criminals (The Hate U Give)

The Hate U GiveSo, a little backstory before I dive into this entry: When I was growing up, I loved Drew Barrymore, and Ever After was one of my favorite films starring her. Drew Barrymore’s character, Danielle De Barbarac, loved books, and the last book her father gave her before he died was Utopia by Thomas More. She quotes Utopia in the movie and lives by More’s ideals. She uses the book as a defense against selling servants, quoting More: “For if you suffer your people to be ill-educated, and their manners to be corrupted from their infancy, and then punish them for those crimes to which their first education disposed them, what else is to be concluded from this, but that you first make thieves and then punish them?” The book was published in 1516, so it is old, to say the least. What I find interesting is the idea of an “appearance of justice” More wrote about back then is remarkably similar to the “justice” (or lack thereof) Starr sees in The Hate U Give. 

More’s quote is interestingly similar to Tupac’s verse quoted in The Hate U Give: “The Hate U Give Little Infants F*cks Everybody” (page 17). Both Tupac and More mention infants. Tupac says, “The Hate U Give Little Infants…” More writes, “…and their manners to be corrupted from their infancy…” Both are basically saying neither group is given an opportunity to be more than they are because they are not supported. They are born into their stations and are stuck there.

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Harry Potter 1 & 2: Disconnected Thoughts

Harry Potter and the Chamber of SecretsSchool is finally out. Boy, have I missed reading what I want to read.

I recently restarted the Harry Potter series. I read books 1-3 in high school, but put down book 4 after a few chapters because it was quidditch-heavy, and I hated quidditch. Everyone and their mom seems to have read all seven books, however, including my middle schoolers who give me a hard time for having not finished, so I decided to amend my ways. I have, I guess, reread Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone and Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets so far. I am not going to review these books or summarize the plot for anyone because they are so commonly read, but I do want to share some of my thoughts on each. You probably won’t care about a spoiler warning for these old books, but here it is anyway: read with caution if you haven’t read the books yet.

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Life and Death in The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian

What up, nerds? I am taking a little break from recapping the book series I am covering from the 1990s and early 2000s and am bringing you Shadyside’s first feature. Exciting, right? Before I get into it, though, I want to explain what a Shadyside Feature is. Unlike my recaps (Check out any entry here on Goosebumps or Fear Street) in which I attempt to write about anything and everything I have to say about a book, and unlike a review in which I focus primarily on my opinions on a book and if I would or would not recommend that book to others, a feature covers an aspect of a book I want to look into deeper. I might write about a recurring theme, a character’s development, or why a book should or should not be challenged by schools. Also, unlike my recaps and reviews, you may see me post more than one feature about a book. With features, I either do not have the time or energy to cover everything I want to write about a book, or I have so much to say about one aspect of a book that it warrants its own entry. For this book, the case is very much the latter.

I mentioned I might write about why a book should or should not be challenged by schools, and that is a great segue into the novel I am writing about in this entry, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie. This book is heavily challenged in schools all across the United States for a multitude of reasons. No, I am not going to write about why this book should or should not be challenged (at least not in this entry). I want to focus on a plot device — a motif that I think helps push the novel ahead: death. Before I jump into that, however, I want to first, warn you that spoilers for this book are littered throughout the entry right after the plot summary, and second, give you that plot summary, an introduction to the book.

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