The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton

Bibliographic Information: Hinton, S.E. (1967). The Outsiders. New York, NY: Speak.  ISBN: 014038572X.  188 pages.

Plot Summary: In Ponyboy Curtis’s world (yes, that’s his real name), there are two things you can be: a greaser or a Soc, short for Social.  Greasers, like Ponyboy and his brothers and all their friends, live on the east side.  They are poor, they slick back their hair and are often considered “hoods” or JD’s, juvenile delinquents, by non-greasers.  Socs, on the other hand, live on the west side, are wealthy, and are not considered to be hoods, but often behave like JD’s toward the greasers.  It seems that when Socs get bored, they beat up greasers for entertainment.  One night 14-year-old Ponyboy and his friend Johnny get jumped, not the first time either of them has been attacked by Socs, but this night things go terribly wrong.  What will happen to Johnny and Ponyboy, who will help them, and how will they survive?

Critical Evaluation: S. E. Hinton was 16 when she wrote this classic coming-of-age novel in the 1960’s.  The Outsiders contains universal themes relevant today.  Tweens and teens struggle with fitting and not fitting in, being labeled and pre-judged, going along with or against the crowd.  All of these challenges are presented in a compelling and engaging story, which is filled with narrator Ponyboy’s thoughtful reflections and raw emotions.  The honest real-life situations of The Outsiders set it apart from other books, for young adults, from the 1960’s.  Perhaps because she herself was a young adult, Hinton captured authentic voices and her readers responded with great delight.  This classic is still meaningful and alive and well today.

Reader’s Annotation: Ponyboy Curtis lives with his two brothers on what some would consider to be the wrong side of the tracks.  When a fateful event brings Ponyboy and his friend Johnny together with the rich socialites, their lives change forever.

Information about the Author: Susan Eloise Hinton was born in Tulsa, OK, in 1950.  She still calls Tulsa her home.  The Outsiders, which takes place in Oklahoma, was inspired by people and the social situations in her own Oklahoma high school.  Her first book was The Outsiders, but she has continued writing, with her most recent book, Some of Tim’s Stories, a book of short stories, being published in 2006. (Hinton, n.d.)

In 1988, Hinton was given the first ever Margaret A. Edwards Award.  She has written several novels for young adults, children and adults.  Several of her novels have been made into movies, including The Outsiders, directed by Francis Ford Coppola and released in 1983.

Genre: Issues, Realistic Fiction

Subgenres/Themes: Issues: Social concerns: Gangs

Topics Covered: Social Status, Fitting In, Outsiders, Gangs, Violence, Love, Friendship, Family

Curriculum Ties: As The Outsiders is a classic, it could be read for an English class with lots to dissect and discuss,

Booktalking Ideas:

  • Imagine being in trouble, the kind of trouble you have no idea how to get out of…

Reading Level/Interest Age: 12 – 16

Challenge Issues: Profanity and violence.  In response to any challenges, one can refer to the library’s collection development policies.  Also, the book is considered by many to be a classic and was, and still is, highly praised by critics.

Why is this book included? As a young teen, I loved this book (and the movie) so much that I decided I would memorize the book.  I was a dreamer, to say the least.  It took me forever to learn the first two sentences and I lost interest in memorizing after that, but not in reading it and re-reading it and re-reading it again.  A classic in YA lit!

References:

Hinton, S. E. (n.d.) Biography.  Retrieved from http://www.sehinton.com/bio.html

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American Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang

Bibliographic Information: Yang, G.L. (2006). American Born Chinese. New York, NY: First Second.  ISBN: 1596431520.  240 pages.

Plot Summary: In three concurrent story lines, American Born Chinese follows Jin Wang, the only Chinese American student in his school; the Monkey King, who is on a quest to become a true deity; and Chin Kee (yes, that is his name), the embodiment of negative Chinese ethnic stereotypes who, when he comes to visit, humiliates his popular, all-American-looking cousin, Danny.  Jin Wang is picked on by bullies, falls in love with an “all-American” girls, and is an all-around sympathetic and likeable character.  The Monkey King’s tale is reminiscent of ancient fables.  And Chin Kee is so over the top, he just might make readers squirm.  Using illustrations with clean lines and a cool, earthy color palette, Yang raises issues of ethnicity, race, identity, and self-acceptance.  Each story gives readers lots to think about.  Are they really separate stories, or is there a connection between them?

Critical Evaluation: Expressive illustrations and carefully chosen text make this graphic novel sophisticated and intelligent.  Yang uses some over-the-top characters, as well as more relatable ones, to demonstrate the complexities of identity and being comfortable in one’s own skin.  His prose is humorous and poignant, entertaining and thought-provoking.  His illustrations work hand in hand with his prose to create a visual story with depth and emotion.  His weaving of the book’s elements into a whole that is so much more than the sum of its excellent parts is what makes Yang a master at his craft and highly praised by critics and award committees.  American Born Chinese has earned many awards and honors, what follows is a selected list: 2006 National Book Award Finalist for Young People’s Literature, winner of the 2007 Eisner Award for Best Graphic Album: New, Winner of the Printz Award, YALSA Great Graphic Novel for Teens – Top Ten List, 2007.

Reader’s Annotation: In three concurrent story lines, colorfully and expressively illustrated American Born Chinese follows Jin Wang, the only Chinese American student in his school; the Monkey King, who is on a quest to become a true deity; and Chin Kee (yes, that is his name), the embodiment of negative Chinese ethnic stereotypes.

Information about the Author: Gene Luen Yang lives in the San Francisco Bay Area; he started writing comic books in 5th grade.  For his Master’s in Education at Cal State Hayward, he wrote his thesis on using comics in education.  He has written several comic books; the highly praised American Born Chinese was his first graphic novel.

Yang is playful and has a great sense of humor, as is demonstrated by his books as well as the following answers to eight questions (as quoted from his Macmillan biography page.

EIGHT QUESTIONS from GENE LUEN YANG

What’s your favorite book that wasn’t written or drawn by you?

I have to pick only one?  I’m gonna say Understanding Comics by Scott McCloud. If it weren’t for that book, I wouldn’t be a cartoonist.

If you were shipwrecked on a desert island, what one piece of media would you take with you?  If it isn’t your favorite book, explain how you came to this peculiar decision. 

A picture of my wife.  Or maybe the Bible.  No, a picture of my wife.  Because she’s so pretty.

What’s your favorite ice cream flavor?

I love all flavors of ice cream, but I’m lactose intolerant so I’ll have to say Rainbow Sherbet.  Not as yummy as Mocha Almond Fudge, but so much better for my stomach.  And for the folks sitting next to me.

How are you planning to survive the zombie apocalypse?

I’m gonna develop a taste for zombie flesh.  Then I’m gonna go buy a large carving knife and lots of hot sauce.

What’s your favorite word?

“Moded.”  Remember when junior high kids used to use that word to diss on their friends?  So fun.  We gotta bring that back.  A whole generation is missing out on getting “moded.”

If you suddenly fell into a dimensional vortex and ended up in 1529, what profession would you adopt?

Ninja assassin!

Black or white?  Cats or dogs?  Apples or oranges?  Robots or vampires?

Black vampire apple-dogs

What’s the worst fortune cookie advice you ever got?  Did you take it? 

You take advice from fortune cookies?  Seriously?  We invented those things as a gimmick to sell you more moo shu pork.  You’re not actually supposed to run your life by them.

Genre: Issues, Humor

SubGenre/Themes: Issues: Racism,

Format: Graphic Novel: Real Life Themes

Topics Covered: Race, Racism, Outsiders, Fitting In

Curriculum Ties: Race in America, Stereotypes

Booktalking Ideas:

  • Thinking about being the only one in your school that…

Reading Level/Interest Age: Ages 13 to 19 to adult

Challenge Issues: Stereotypes.  Response: In response to any challenges, one can refer to the library’s collection development policies.  Also, there are several positive reviews of the book, and it has won numerous awards and honors, four are mentioned above.

Why is this book included? Graphic novels are very popular and often reach out to reluctant readers.  With an enthusiastic endorsement from YASLA and its numerous awards, this book is a great choice for adding diversity to a collection’s formats.

References:

Yang, G.L. (n.d.). Gene Luen Yang. Retrieved from http://us.macmillan.com/author/geneluenyang