Wednesday, November 23, 2022

Punching Bag by Rex Ogle

Genre: Middle Grade, Young Adult, Memoir
Source: I own a copy

If you thought the first book "Free Lunch" by Rex Ogle was hard to read, wait until you read this. We get a glimpse into Rex's life in his first book.We see the poverty, shame, bullying he goes through in middle school. We see the issues he has with his father and mother. Nothing prepares you for the second book. In this book we see what it was like to live in a home filled with violence. What it is like to be the older sibling who practically raises the younger one. What it is like to protect the younger one from the violence that is so often taken out on the author. We see a side of mental illness that so many kids today deal with. Why is it that it is taboo to talk about these things?

After reading Rex Ogle's first book I bought the second one to put on my shelves. I live in a district where this year a house bill is making it difficult to keep books on our shelves.  I fear each day some kid will read this book, a parent will pick it up, complain to the school board and it will be banned. Why do I fear this? This book is open, honest and raw. Ogle doesn't sugar  coat his experiences to make them less traumatizing. He wrote this in such an honest way you feel his pain. That he was able to overcome so much is amazing in itself. I know there are kids out there who live through abuse daily. This book with its darkness also shows a side of hope. It shows the reader that no matter where they are in life there is always hope.  For me it is important to get this into the hands of children everywhere. It is important that there is a resource for those we may never know are hurting. This is a must read.


Tuesday, November 22, 2022

Free Lunch by Rex Ogle

Genre: Middle Grade, Memoir
Source:  Purchased a copy

Free Lunch – Rex Ogle

Genre: Middle Grade, Memoir

Source:  I purchased a copy

Middle school is tough. Most sixth graders feel like a fish out of water on the first day. There are class changes, often it is a new school and then, there is lunch. For Rex Ogle his first year in sixth grade is made tougher by the fact his mom has signed him up for free lunch at his school. He must tell the lunch lady each time he gets lunch that he is on the free program. This is such an embarrassment for him, especially since he has to shout it since the lunch lady can’t hear him. Rex has told his story so honestly it is raw. You feel for him when they are evicted and must live in government housing. It wasn’t bad enough everyone he was once friends with knows he gets free lunch. Their new housing sits close enough to the school that everyone will soon know how poor he is.  As a teacher I found myself very irritated at the teacher who decided Rex would be a trouble maker simply on first impressions. I am not na├»ve enough to think that all teachers are compassionate. I have worked with many teachers that made me wonder why they became a teacher. It wasn’t because they truly loved children. Their behavior told a different story. This story resonates with all kids at all levels. I understood how Rex felt. We went through a financial crisis when I was a teen. I chose not to eat lunch and tell others I just wasn’t hungry. It was less embarrassing. Poverty hits children of all colors and all ages. Thankfully today, students scan their ID card for lunch. No one needs to know if they get free lunch or not. This book has a long waiting list in my class. I recommend it to all teens.


Monday, November 21, 2022

A Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds


Genre: Realistic Fiction, Young Adult, Middle Grade, Novel in Verse
Source: I purchased a copy

This is one of those books that grabs you in the beginning and won't let go. Will is outside his apartment with his best friend when a shooting occurs. From the time he was young, he has been taught what to do. If you hear shots, you "eat the pavement." After a few minutes, he stands up to see who the unlucky person is, only to discover it is his brother. Another thing he is taught is you never cry. He takes his mother back inside, where she numbs herself the way she always does. Finally, he goes to the room he shared with his brother. He looks through his brother's drawer until he finds the gun his brother has. He slides it under his pillow. The third rule of the code he has grown up with is you kill the person who killed your loved one. The next morning Will puts the gun in the back of his pants and gets on the elevator to take care of business. When the elevator stops on each floor, someone from his past gets on and talks with him, his uncle, his dad, and others. They each have advice for him. All of these are people who have died. The question we read to find an answer to is, on this long way down, would he listen to them?

My heart broke for the character losing his brother the way he did. It broke even more, knowing that so many young people live this very life. I had a student many years ago who told me he had not done his homework because they had several drive-by shootings that night. He said his biggest fear was getting struck by a bullet while sitting in his room. This is a quick read since it is written in verse. I am not sure how I feel about the ending. If you want to know what I am referring to you need to read the book.