Ah, long weekends! Sleeping in, lazy afternoons in the sun, and losing track of time with a good book. And reading so much you save the blogging for later. Here are four books I devoured last weekend and cannot wait to get into the hands of children.
Patina, Jason Reynolds
"...That's kinda what running was to me. A way to shut people up. A way to... I guess, sometimes even shut myself up. Just turn it all off. Leave everything, all the hurting stuff, the unregular stuff that seemed regular to me, in the dust."
The second in Reynolds' Track series - Patina follows another member of Ghosts' track team, Patina, or Patty. Dedicated "For those who've been passed the baton too young," Patina's volume honors so many young women who are expected to handle it all. Life's difficulties and raw struggles get handed to way too many kids to young, and Patty's story is no different. Patty has always helped with her younger sister Maddy, and especially now so since they live with their Aunt and Uncle and not her mom, who struggles with diabetes, or as she calls it, The Sugar. Patty's to do list centers on her sister, "Make sure Maddy's bathed. make sure Maddy's dressed. Make sure Maddy's fed. Everything." (13-14). Part of Patty's 'everything' is running. Patty has always been a skilled runner, and joining the Defenders, her running team lets her put some serious distance behind her. Fitting in on her track team has been way easier than her new school, Chester Academy, where she feels out of place amongst the rich, white prep school crowd. As there are challenges at home, at school, and at track - you will tear through the pages racing after Patty.
Be the One: Six True Stories of Teens Overcoming Hardship with Hope, Bryon Pitts
"Healing can come from many places, but it starts and ends with you, the individual who finds the hero inside your own heart."As a journalist for over 30 years, Bryon Pitts has heard and shared innumerable stories. This collection takes six young voices who answer the question - "How do you explain it, young people who face what seem like insurmountable odds and yet succeed?" (2) Pitts describes, "These are not bootstrap stories of young people who made it on their own. But rather, young people who endured when they had to, sought out others when they could, and managed to stay faithful to their dreams and ambitions when they could very easily have given up. More than survivors, they are overcomers" (4). From Tania Parker, who Pitts met at her charter school when she was eleven years old, to Pappy a teen refugee who fled Zaire (now the Democratic Republic of the Congo) and now works for a relief agency- each story will leave you humbled and inspired. As Pitts writes, "I wanted others... to know they are not alone and know that heroes come in all sizes and ages" (5).
I Am A Secret Service Agent: My Life Spent Protecting the President, Dan Emmett
"Before entering the room, I took a few seconds to think of my wife and family. I said a quick prayer to the effect that if called upon to kill... I would do so quickly and accurately, and President Clinton would live even if I did not. As my prayer ended, I was filled with a calm rage... no matter what, I would do my job to the best of my abilities."Dan Emmett served as a Secret Service agent for three presidents, President George H.W. Bush, President Bill Clinton, and President George W. Bush. In this incredible biography, Emmett catalogs his lifelong dream of being a secret service agent ever since seeing them in action when President Kennedy was assassinated. With gripping details, he shares the application process, training, and day-to-day life of various Secret Service assignments. Absolutely fascinating to see more of the inner workings of one of the most heralded agencies in the United States. I wish I could rewind and give this book to so many former students of mine. Step by step, you see what it took to even be selected for the Secret Service, and then all the other duties a Secret Service agent does before they even get close to guarding the President. This book will definitely be passed around quickly from student to student - incredible read!
How Dare the Sun Rise, Sandra Uwiringiyimana
"I felt the metal barrel on my temple. I waited for the blast. In that moment, I thought it was all over."Sandra Uwiringiyimana's memoir How Dare the Sun Rise is an incredible portrait of bravery, survival, and strength. From the Democratic Republic of the Congo, at ten years old Sandra watched her mother and sister be shot by rebels who invaded their refugee camp, killing her sister. She escaped with other surviving family members and eventually resettled in Rochester, New York through the UN refugee program. However, life in the United States wasn't exactly what she envisioned either. Making a home somewhere new and unfamiliar, wrestling with scars of the past, trying to create a life somewhat resembling normal - it was not easy, "I had grown up in a war zone, but life in America, I realized was a different kind of war zone" (171). Sandra takes readers through her story with grace, insight, and a keen eye for justice. Her resilience is humbling, and her activism is inspiring. May we all do more to fight for what is right.