Friday, January 25, 2008

Remembering J.D.

Today was probably one of the saddest days of my nineteen year teaching career. One of my favorite high school students collapsed in his shower this morning and died. When I heard, my whole being went numb for a bit. Then, my heart broke,more than a bit. J.D. was one of those kids you just liked, right away. He was intelligent and humorous. He was well-read, and liked to talk about what he was reading--well, to be fair, I'd have to say that he liked to talk...period. :-)

J.D. moved to the South Texas Children's Home at the start of this year, and on his first day in Pettus, he looked around the library and I could tell he didn't think too much of my tiny space or my collection. However, upon browsing the shelves more carefully, he deemed it "small and pathetic looking, but full of some great books." (Is it possible for a well-read student to give a librarian any higher compliment?) During his first week, he came in and asked me about a particular book, titled, "Midshipwizard Halcyon Blithe." I didn't have it in my library, but I could tell how much he wanted it, so I ordered it from Amazon. I will never forget the look on his face when I called him out of class to the library to give it to him. From that moment on, we were friends, and I enjoyed having him in my library. (OK, if I'm honest, at times he could be a tad arrogant and exasperating...but I immensely enjoyed our back and forth banter, which was almost constant.)

Last week he was bugging me about the seventh book in a series, titled "Snakehead." He wanted me to get it...immediately. I wanted to order it so it would be cheaper. Again, though, I could tell how much he wanted last weekend while in Barnes and Noble, I picked it up for him. I couldn't wait to see the look on his face when I handed it to him on Monday morning. I called the office first thing,
to see which class he was in, but he was out sick. Same thing on Tuesday...and Wednesday....and Thursday. Today I saw the book on the counter and realized he would never have the chance to read it. Then I thought of all the books I still wanted to recommend to him, but will never get the chance, and I felt the crack in my heart splinter into more fragments.

He was constantly changing the wallpaper on my circulation computer. His latest bit of handiwork is a picture of a penguin. I think it's from Batman, but I could be wrong. I kept jokingly telling him I was going to change it because it was silly, and not very in tune with my personality. Since the library should reflect the librarian, the circulation computer should at least represent at least a little of my personality. He shot back at me, "You better not change it, Mrs. Schauer--this picture rocks. Besides, your library should also reflect the interests of your students Not only that, if you change it, I will kick your arse." I know now that the penguin picture will remain on my circulation monitor forever, a constant memory of a wonderful soul.

My heart breaks for his parents, for his STCH family, and for the students of Pettus. I know there is a reason for everything, and I do trust that everything experienced on this Earth, be it good or bad, is a tiny snippet of a much greater, more significant master plan. Realizing that in my heart, though, doesn't make the loss any easier to reconcile in my mind. I also find myself in agreement with something Mr. Norvell said at the end of the day: "This is just one more question I can add to my list of things to ask my maker when I finally meet Him, face to face."

Physically, J.D. is gone, but I know, without a doubt, that his memory will live on in the hearts and minds of the students and staff of Pettus High School.
Thanks to Emily T. for the photos

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Twisted, Posted by Mrs. Schauer

TWISTED, by Laurie Halse Anderson
AR: Yes
Interest Level: Upper Grades
Audiobook Available in HS Library

Senior year is just starting and Tyler Miller thinks that this year might just be different. He's always been a socially inept loser, but this year he's coming off of a summer spent working off his sentence for vandalizing the school with graffiti. He's got newly formed muscles, and a reputation that puts him on the "dangerous" side, rather than the invisible side he's always inhabited. The hottest girl in school (also the sister of the biggest bully and the daughter of his dad's boss) is after him and he's being invited to parties--things are going great until everything gets twisted. He is blamed for things he didn't do, there's pressure from home to do well in school--which is next to impossible because of his all-AP course load--his mom's an alcoholic, his dad's an overbearing jerk, and he's trying to do the right thing--but it's getting more and more difficult. As his personal life unravels, Tyler reaches the point where he thinks there's only one way out. I don't want to give away the ending, but I did love this book--which should come as no surprise when you consider the author.

Monday, January 14, 2008

If a Tree Falls at Lunch Period, Posted by Mrs. Schauer

IF A TREE FALLS AT LUNCH PERIOD, by Gennifer Choldenko
AR: Yes
Interest Level: Middle and Upper Grades
Audiobook is available

The scene is a private middle school. The two main characters are Kirsten and Walk. Kirsten is an overweight 7th grader who feels left behind and shut out by her thin "best friend" Rory, who's suddenly started hanging out with the popular (mean) girls. Her parents fight all the time, and Kirsten doesn't understand why. She tries to shield her sister Kippy from the fighting--the two of them are extremely close. Walk, the other main character, is an African American boy who is attending Kirsten's school on a scholarship. Walk is highly intelligent, and understands how it feels to be left out. Kirsten and Walk quickly strike up a friendship--much to the distress of Kirsten's mom. Kirsten doesn't understand why she disapproves of Walk so strongly, until she overhears her parents arguing one night and everything about their marital problems makes glaring sense to Kirsten. I really enjoyed this book and think it would be enjoyed by junior and high school girls.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Ana's Story, Posted by Mrs. Schauer

Ana's Story: A Journey of Hope, by Jenna Bush and Mia Baxter
AR: Yes
Interest Level: Middle and Upper Grades
Audiobook Available in the Library

I listened to this book, and can't wait for the print version to come in so I can read it as well. (As you can tell, I get most of my "reading" done while driving down the highway)Written by Jenna Bush, it tells the story of Ana, whom Jenna met while working in Latin America with UNICEF. Ana was born with HIV/AIDS and this book tells of her life from when she was a small child, until she's seventeen years old. She survives much abuse and hardship because of her disease, and she becomes pregnant at the age of seventeen. Ana is a true survivor and hearing her story gave me hope for the future. In Ana's words, she is "living with AIDS," not dying from it.