ridiculous/hilarious/terrible/cool: a year in an american high school

ridiculous/hilarious/terrible/cool: a year in an american high school

by Elisha Cooper
     
 

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Elisha Cooper spent a year hanging out at a Chicago high school— listening, watching, questioning, and sketching the students. He followed eight kids in particular, mostly seniors, through their entire year, and by telling their specific stories—of classes, extra-curriculars, friends, romances, and family—he gives us a more general picture of what it

Overview

Elisha Cooper spent a year hanging out at a Chicago high school— listening, watching, questioning, and sketching the students. He followed eight kids in particular, mostly seniors, through their entire year, and by telling their specific stories—of classes, extra-curriculars, friends, romances, and family—he gives us a more general picture of what it's like to be a high school student today. Part documentary, part soap opera, part sketchbook, this is an eye-opening, thoroughly entertaining account—one that will appeal equally to readers who are looking forward to high school and those who are looking back.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

Cooper, known for his savvy picture books (Beach; A Good Night Walk) and his parenting memoir, Crawling, trains his sights on teens with this perceptive documentary account of an academic year at Walter Payton High, a magnet school in Chicago (a few references locate the year as 2005-2006). Focusing primarily on seniors, he intersperses scenes about Emily, the straight-A soccer captain "who walks through the halls as if she were knocking people out of the way"; Maya, the intense actor who has a "small-town affect" and "could play the role of The Good Student"; Daniel, the overachieving class president whose role model is Barack Obama; Anais, the dedicated ballet dancer; Diana, the swimmer with a brother in jail; Anthony, obsessed with an ex-girlfriend and permanently ensconced in the cafeteria; Aisha, the only Muslim on campus; and Zef, the failing, caffeine-addicted insomniac. The school milieu is sharply and wittily evoked in deadpan transcriptions of anonymous conversations and descriptions of ordinary events like a basketball game (after it ends, the freshman who misses a key shot "jogs over to the basket and jumps into the air... placing the imaginary ball into its rightful place"). Readers looking for a story, however, may be disappointed; the considerable strengths of the work come from Cooper's genius for observation and confident refusal to dramatize what he finds. Illustrated throughout with small sketches; final art not seen by PW. Ages 12-up. (Mar.)

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Children's Literature - Carrie Hane Hung
Walter Payton High School in Chicago, Illinois is described as "an academic urban alternative to the suburban high schools." The student population comes from various parts of the city to attend the school with the motto "We nurture leaders." The story provides a sketch of the different students that flow through the halls of Payton from September through June. Author Elisha Cooper visited, interviewed, and followed eight Payton High students during the course of the school year. Six of the students were seniors who were applying to colleges. Daniel, Emily, Maya, Diana, Aisha, and Anais shared their individual stories and dreams for the future as they dealt with the present issues of personal goals, family, and college. Zef and Anthony were juniors who were struggling through the school year; one slept through classes and the other sold drugs. Month by month the school year went by and the students described their thoughts and lives. A brief summary at the end of story provided an update about each student six months after graduation. Reviewer: Carrie Hane Hung
School Library Journal

Gr 9 Up -This book recounts the lives of eight students as they finish up their senior year at an alternative high school in Chicago. Readers see brief snippets of their lives, including their friendships and family dramas, struggles for passing grades, and the day-to-day things they do to stay on their individual college paths. While the book does cover the entire year and all of the standard events, it ends up trying to do too much and the result is a surface look at some forgettable types. The book is told from the third-person omniscient point of view, which is awkward, because instead of finding out about the teens, readers are either told things straight out or, even more annoyingly, the students have internal conversations with themselves. All of them fit some sort of label: the jock, the slacker, the class president, etc., although one of them, a Muslim, stands out as somewhat distinctive. Events like teen pregnancy feel glossed over as they are mentioned in passing. Because the book jumps around so much, with each individual receiving at most a paragraph before moving on to the next, it is difficult to get involved in any of these students' lives or to distinguish them from one another.-Jessie Spalding, Queen Creek Branch Library, AZ

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780803731691
Publisher:
Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date:
03/13/2008
Pages:
272
Product dimensions:
5.82(w) x 7.36(h) x 0.98(d)
Age Range:
12 Years

Meet the Author

Elisha Cooper is the author of the acclaimed memoir Crawling: A Father's First Year, the sketchbook A Year in New Dance! among many other illustrated books. He lives in New York City.

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