09 September 2011

The H.Y.P.E. Challenge

Learn more about H.Y.P.E

This week, a challenge in honor of the H.Y.P.E. (Helping Young People Excel) Teen Center at the Detroit Public Library. 

Getting the right book into the hands of a the right person at the right time can be life-changing. The age old question remains: how can we get that "right book" into children's hands? 

Side note: There has been a lot of buzz lately about Young Adult Literature. Technically, YA is relatively new genre, which quietly started in the 70's and 80's. The latest buzz involves the apparent "darkness as subject matter" that has become a cornerstone of YA Lit. Is the prose and poetry crafted to assist adolescents through their tumultuous move into adulthood, too dark? Some YA books have been compared to car accidents, you can't help but look, but really, you can't help the victim either, so what is a confused adolescent to do if they do not have help processing the book. Then again times are crazy so W.W.H.C.D. -what would Holden Caufield do, remember him from The Catcher in the Rye? Curious? Try searching "Dark YALit" or #YAsaves and read a bit of the buzz. The issue can seem very polar, but there in the middle are the world's teenagers and they need good books to read!

This week's challenge sends you into a time machine, sending you back to your youth, think 12-18. 

Tell the Books for Walls Project about a book that landed in your hands and, if you care to, share how it helped you then and may still help you now? Please post in the comments below and thank you for taking The H.Y.P.E. Challenge!

While you're here, take a moment to read about our visit to Detroit Public Library: (re)DISCOVERING: Detroit Public Library.


  1. Sadly, I do not have a book to add. I really didn't read books when I was a teenager. The Mom and I started reading aloud together when we were dating and then slowly in the last 18 years I've begun to become the reader I am today...

  2. Young Adult Literature is where I LIVE lately. I am trying to stay way ahead of The Sisters and have loads of titles ready that I have at least skimmed. Besides, I love the genre!

    Since I grew up in Detroit in the 70's and 80's I experienced an interesting childhood --my sister and I were carpooled out of the city to attend high school. The time was very tumultuous indeed. Some books did save me --and some books just scared me.

    I kept many of the books that effected me, they are on a shelf for The Sisters when they are ready, the books include:

    I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou --strangely, although I read it at least twice, I cannot remember exactly what I love, I'll reread it and let you know.

    The Glass Menagerie by Tennessee Williams there was something about the family that I just connected with --the story made me feel normal.

    The Painted Bird by Jerzy Kosinski When I was 16 I had a Holocaust Class --I loved my English classes in high school. Even though this was an insanely heavy book, I LOVED it. Following the experiences of a young boy, a little boy really --made my life seem simple. (I totally aced, and deserved it, my Holocaust class --an A, a rare thing for teenage me --even though I was an A student all through grade school.) I wonder what that means about my life at 16/17 --the Holocaust is a dark subject indeed.

  3. The Accidental Librarian2:48 PM

    I distinctly remember reading Roots (Alex Haley) as my first eye-opener book at a transitional age. Nobody had ever talked to me about things like race. Neither did I ever had a clue until then that history may not be limited to textbook content. But what a great way to introduce teens to not so comfortable issues, through rich stories! In a sense, there is already a discussion going on in the story, if teens don't have an opportunity to discuss with others.

    What I'm still learning, though, through my internal struggle of non-fiction vs. fiction, is that there is never, ever going to be a source of absolute truth on a subject...because truth is different for everyone. One persons story is completely different from the next, and they're all right.

  4. Anela Oh3:32 PM

    Persepolisand Persepolis2 by Marjane Satrapi
    I am a young adult reader currently and sometimes it feels like there's nothing out there but vampires and fashion novels. Then there's that aha! moment when you find one that leads to another that leads to another..ect. They aren't even usually by the same author it's just chance! :)
    Persepolis is such a strong political story and also about her growing up in all of the craziness. Her story in later life though is one that is not so unusual but it is so compelling and really makes you stop and think about who exactly you are and what mistakes you don't want to make getting to be the person you want to. Granted there will definitely be mistakes, probably tons but there are some that you just don't want or need to make yourself.
    It is amazing.
    I probably haven't done it justice enough but hopefully it was okay!

  5. Alexis6:55 PM

    Go Ask Alice, A Hero Ain't Nothin' But a Sandwich, Miracle's Boys, Last Summer with Maizon, Jay's Journal, Rainbow Jordan - pretty much anything that I could read and feel like I was entering a whole different world in which I could feel and understand the picture that the main character painted for me. Although a number of these titles made it into my hands in my early teens, I missed the style of writing and viewpoint when it came time for me to read and (forcibly) get into heavier reads in highschool like Toni Morrison and George Steinbeck's works. Perhaps this is reason why I'm a Walter Mosley fan today - high quality written word sprawled over excellent mysteries with a touch of history.

  6. This challenge opened up floodgates again for me, so I'll do one thing at a time. First, "right books at right time." "Is the prose and poetry, crafted to assist adolescents through their tumultuous move into adulthood, too dark?"

    Periodically fairy tales are banned as frightening children by introducing them to monsters such as dragons. G. K. Chesterton settled that once and for all for me with, "Children do not need fairy tales to tell them dragons exist. They know dragons exist. Children need fairy tales to teach them that dragons can be killed." That seems pertinent here. What do these "dark tales" tell them? Do they proclaim that darkness is vanquished by light? Is there courage and hope? Have they learned to experience what they read metaphorically? (As they might have if they grew up on fairy tales.)

  7. Part 2: Some books I would recommend highly for beginning to love reading "classics". These are introductions, if you like something by a particular author, take the next step.

    To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
    The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
    The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway
    Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck
    A raisin in the Sun by Lorraine Hansberry
    The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison
    Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury

    I'm going to stop here because I was reminded by that last that my students introduced me to science fiction and to the novels of Thomas Wolfe and I don't know offhand what else. How important it is that we learn from one another! That we listen to one another, that we share with one another, that we accept our similarities and our differences in a freely given mutual respect.


  8. More More!! Thank you dear jolynbarrett aka The Teacher --we look forward to parts 3-1,000,000 on this subject!! Your words tap into our source of constant inspiration here at BFWP!!

    On Thursday The Mom read a story version of Macbeth by Shakespeare to The Sisters --wow, very intense story, but metaphor galore and gore and beheading and justice and innocence and revenge, etc. The girls loved the story, they understood the message (we discussed as we read). Now they cannot wait to experience it --they are wondering how the beheading of Macbeth will be played out on stage... hmmmmm....

    Much of Shakespeare is definitely YA Literature, meant indeed, to be experienced on stage! Read aloud and ingested word by word!

  9. I remember reading Watership Down by Richard Adams one long summer when I was in Jr. High. I spent afternoons in the tall field grasses behind our house, hidden from my brother, with only the occasional grasshopper to interrupt a sentence. Serious and poignant, beautiful and terrible - it was a unique introduction to society and our responsibility to each other and the world around us. I'm putting it on my list of books I need to read again!

  10. Part 3: a poem - one poem at a time.

    When I was in high school a special teacher brought to our verse choir a poem she found in a periodical. It was "On Work" by Kahlil Gibran. This was someone neither she nor any of us had ever heard of before. But it had a profound effect on me. A couple of years later I discovered THE PROPHET and have not been without a copy since. (Plus a number of his other books)

    A couple of weeks ago I got an email from a former student who had got my address from one of my daughters. She wrote in part, "I mentioned to her (via facebook) that my 17-year-old daughter spent last weekend memorizing Robert Frost's 'The Road Not Taken,' as she had to recite a selection for English class yesterday. She was searching for a poem, and I immediately suggested that one. Whenever I hear it, I always imagine how it would sound in your voice! After all these years, that one poem really stands out as a distinct memory of seventh grade English... More to the point, your way of guiding us through a variety of literature made poetry - which most adolescents don't exactly embrace - seem exciting and enriching. ..."

    Share a poem aloud - and let the power of poetry do its work.

  11. July 4th

    "By the rude bridge that arched the flood,
    Their flags to April's breeze unfurled,
    Here once the embattled farmers stood
    And fired the shot heard round the world."

    I've been saving this last till today, and it seems even more pertinent daily as we listen to people aspiring to the presidency of the U.S. who don't seem have accurate knowledge of our nation's history.

    Part 4: stories, songs, poems, documents, folk tales, histories that speak to us of our country; that show us where we came from and who we are and who we can become, and instill in us pride in being American.

    Let's share novels we've read, plays and movies we've seen, songs we've sung, biographies and autobiographies that inspired us, speeches we've heard -- all and any of which show us at our best and at our worst, in our failures and in our successes what it means to be an American.

    As a resource and starting point I would recommend, as a household reference, A PATRIOT'S HANDBOOK edited by Carolyn Kennedy. Perhaps we could set aside the month of July for patriotic reading and retelling of tales and singing of songs around a campfire and sharing of those things that inspired us as youngsters.

    Perhaps we can start a tradition of every 4th of July reading aloud The Declaration of Independence - or at least parts of it - or listening to it being read on NPR.

    I'm willing to start making lists. What say you?

  12. Dear Teacher --the suggestion is so wonderful, we made a post about it!! Thank you!!

  13. oh, i remember reading Robin Hood when i was an early teen, and just being STRUCK by the unfairness of life and income inequality. i also remember just sobbing at the end. it showed me that books truly have the power to move readers.

    i LOVE the YA genre - i'd say that abt 40% of my reading is YA. it's so much fun, the way authors explore worlds a bit differently than in adult fiction.

  14. @ Jolynbarrett...I love the passage you shared about fairy tales. That has been my take on many different fantasy/science fiction stories that I have read.

    On the other hand, I don't agree with starting with the classics for first time readers. I think they need to start contemporary, get to know their generation of writers, what inspires them, and understanding what they are writing about, what has influenced them in the current society.

    I did not enjoy many of the readings in middle school/high school because I did not understand them. I did not get that Victorian Literature is so long and detailed because books were their only form of entertainment. I didn't understand the politics in "The great gatsby" because I did not live in or ever study the 1920s. And I couldn't have told you why burning books in "fahrenheit 451" was such a big deal. Now, I have a bit more perspective, having studied literature and history at the same time in college.

    @ Everyone...I'm 23, 24 in a couple months, and the first time I started reading was when I was 11 and 12. You might of heard of a little old book series called Harry Potter. That's what I started with and grew up with. When the characters were 12, I was 12. When they were 16, I was 16. I was wonderful and I just expanded massively from there. And, when I was ready and had a bit more understanding of different centuries, I reached out into classic literature because I am now TRUELY interested. I'm in love with Jane Austen and am looking forward to reading "The Secret Garden" and "Wuthering Heights" for the first time EVER!

    @ The Mom...I too live in the YA section of the book store. When Border's was going out of business, I nearly bought out the YA books. I also think it is great that you are reading many of the books that your girls are. Family reading is so important, especially if your girls have questions.

    @ Everyone...Yes, YA has seemed to take a "darker" turn, but is that new? Were Hans Christian Andersen and The Brother's Grimm not, hypothetically speaking, some of the originator's of YA fiction? Where they not "dark?" Also, might I mention that some of the originating Cinderella stories involve Cinderella being disowned by her father, only to rise to power through a marriage and have her stepsisters murdered for their insolence. Disney did not make everything happy until the 1930s. :)

  15. I'm loving this discussion!