This week I worked my way through two books. The first racing through just as Jessica, the main character, was running her races if only in her dreams. I quickly read The Running Dream by Wendelin Van Draanen.
I can’t tell you how I got interested in with book but somehow it showed up in my readings and so I checked it out of the library. This was a 2012 Schneider Family Book Award – Teen Book Winner. As you read you understand why it won this award.
This story follows Jessica an up and coming high school track star. She has everything going for her until there is a bus crash. She wakes up in the hospital to find that she has lost part of her leg.
We watch Jessica struggle to move forward knowing she might never walk, let alone run again. This book takes us into the world of disabilities but it is not only Jessica’s disability that is explored. Draanen pushes us to think about who we see and don’t see, included and don’t included by bringing in the character of Rosa. Rosa is a young girl with Cerebral Palsy who is wheel chair bond. She is bright, gifted in math and ignored by her fellow classmates.
When Jessica returns to school she feels on the outside, ignored and also deeply behind in her schoolwork, especially math. You can see where this is going. Rosa begins to tutor Jessica in math but there are other life lessons that come into play as a friendship develops.
It is a short quick, read and a great one to use to talk about how we include others and look beyond the disability to see the true person. Although it is a high school student this would be a great read for a middle grade classroom. There is so much to think about and discuss –
- Jessica’s determination to return to running,
- The importance of including all people – seeing who we really are
- The role of friendship and family in helping each other
You may know Draanen from Flipped or The Sammy Keyes series. I was glad I read it and now looking for a group of young people to share it with.
My other read was for my adult book group. We took on Americanah
by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (2014). It also deals with what we see or don’t see, what we think we know and may not know about race. This story takes us into the world of what it means to be black in America through the eyes of Ifemelu. She is a Nigerian student who comes to America and discovers America is not the glittering savior she had dreamed it would be. It is a powerful read and one well worth the time.
My book group meets tomorrow so I am excited to see where our discussion will take us. We are a group of teachers who have all retired from the public schools in an urban community. A community with a way to large gap in academic achievement between our white and black students, a growing problem with poverty and a diverse group of English Language Learners.