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VOYAAGERANGE: Ages 11 to Adult.
Over decades, reading young adult novels in small circles or with whole classes has produced rewarding moments for this reviewer and her students. The Young Adult Novels in the Classroom series shows appreciation for the powers of adolescent literature. These two new titles about Katherine Paterson and Walter Dean Myers join books on Mildred Taylor and Robert Cormier. Especially appealing about the Zitlow and Stover titles is that they cast teachers as thoughtful, creative, and experimental, working with students as interactive decision makers. No prescriptive formulas or mindless copy-ready worksheets appear here. Zitlow provides examples of practicing educators' ways of approaching Myers's Fallen Angels, as well as a Harlem grouping of readings and a multigenre grouping. Choices, connections, and critical thinking play key roles in listings of journal invitations, discussion questions, and contemporary film comparisons. The author provides helpful background on Myers, information readily available but perhaps not easily gathered by time-stressed teachers. Writing prompts show process awareness. Stover follows a similar pattern with Paterson's Bridge to Terabithia, as well as historical novels Lyddie and Jacob Have I Loved, plus a literature circle project. Choice, individual student accountability, and feedback are significant elements. Intuitive, student-centered instructors who have worked successfully with classic YA novels may consider these slim volumes unnecessary, but for wary novices or veterans searching for ways to truly engage students in meaningful literacy, these works are indispensable. Stover sadly notes that federal and statemandates may now restrict time, topics, and methodology, stripping educators of autonomy, creativity, and professional judgment. Even so, she demonstrates that intrepid YA believers implement after-school reading programs and family reading circles. These authors and their novels are that powerful. Reviewer: Patti Sylvester Spencer
April 2008 (Vol. 31, No. 1)