Sunday, January 06, 2008

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian

I just finished THE ABSOLUTELY TRUE DIARY OF A PART-TIME INDIAN. What an amazing book! Wow! So worthy of the National Book Award that it just won. I would highly recommend it to anyone who reads books.

But, I guess I am surprised to see it on so many Newbery Lists. It seems so young adult to me. I don't remember a book that is this YA ever winning the award. The Prinz Award seems like a better match. It is definitely written for high-school kids. And most Newbery winners are for a much younger audience. I assume that every elementary school in America has copies of most Newbery winners and this one doesn't seem like a good fit for older elementary kids. Don't get me wrong, I think it is worthy of any award it can get, I just think it is meant for much older readers than the Newbery Award has gone to in the past.

But, even if you only read children's/YA books that are appropriate for the students in your class, I would make an exception and read this one for yourself. It is amazing. One of those books you'll remember for a long time. One of the best I've ever read.


  1. i agree! if scrotum caused a kerfuffle, imagine, just imagine, what this book would cause. we'll need a much stronger adjective. is the Prinz not prestigious enough?

    it's not just the casual discussions of masturbation and bowel movements, the characters are totally teens with teen issues. maybe we're at a crossroad because of the explosion of YA lit. the Newbery wasn't created at a time when we had this whole thriving teen targeted genre, but----

    my vote would be to keep the newbery in kid lit and do what we can to increase the value and attention given to the Prinz award and recipients. can they be awarded at the same time??

    i want to be able to shelve all the newbery books in my upper elementary school classroom library. i'm no prude, but this book is one i'll happily recommend to seventh graders and up, but i'll never have a copy on my classroom shelves.

  2. I totally agree. I loved this story, but I was leery about reviewing it on my blog. Most books I review the kids try to read. This book is not made for a fifth grader. And even when I say the book is for older readers, the kids and parents assume I mean it is for experienced readers and assume their child could tackle it. Either that or they want to read it more to find out why I don't want them to read it yet. I am glad that it won the National Book Award. That seems appropriate.

  3. Thanks I'm defintely going to pick up a copy.

  4. I've just got. to. read. this. book. already!

    Jules, 7-Imp

  5. I totally disagree with all of you. I have two sixth graders in my class reading it right now. They love it. I'm not going to go around handing it out to first graders but...first of all, scrotum is just part of your body and, let's face it, most Americans (I'm British) need to loosen up a little when it comes to body parts. I'd like to see more use of honest words like scrotum in children's literature. Secondly, as for masturbating, I have noticed that young readers tend to just ignore bits in a book they're not ready for yet. As a bonus, some kids might read that part and say, " Oh, ok, I'm not some kind of freak. Other people do this too." Are you worried that young innocents will start masturbating because they read this book?
    I think it is worth the risk considering that they will also learn what it means to live and grow up on a reservation in modern day America, learn that life is not so black and white (just because you're a drunk doesn't mean you're not capable of great acts of love and kindness), and that boys can love each other without being homosexuals.

  6. I knew that this would start an interesting discussion:-) I guess when I say elementary, I am talking about K-4 and K-5 schools. I think of 6th grade as middle school. And I don't think the book isn't right for elementary readers because of the body part things. I think the issues raised would be more real to older kids--they would understand the character and the issues better than a 10 year old would. I agree that it is an amazing book but it seems very YA to me and that has nothing to do with body parts. The main character is in high school and most of his issues and the way he understands/writes about them are from a high school perspective.
    So I don't think we totally disagree. It just seemed to me to be much more of a YA book than an elementary one that is more typical of the award.

  7. Yeah, agreed. Not for fifth grade and under. My sister teaches 7th grade and I would think there would be some kids she could recommend it to. It is not the body stuff that steered me away. There was so much more that is way over the heads of fifth and under. I mean a high school main character kind of gives that clue away.
    But it is neat that we all have different opinions and can agree to disagree.

  8. I agree.
    Have any of you read Skin Hunger another National Book Award finalist? I thought it was AMAZING even though there were no scrotums anywhere! I haven't seen it on any one's "Best Of" list.

  9. a quick response about "body parts":

    Higher Power of Lucky was a great book, and fine, just fine, for my fifth/sixth grade library. I've got no problem with using the names of body parts, including scrotum.

    Diary of a Part Time Indian is targeted at a teen audience. Yes. But it's only because of the super frank sexual references that I won't shelve it in my classroom. Even though *I* can think of several sixth grade students of mine who *I* think this book would be great for, I'm not going to recommend it to them. No, I'm not worried they'll start masturbating, and the "Oh, other people do that too and it's normal" theme was something I picked up on and support.

    But for me, in my US public school (k-6), I am very aware and respectful of parents who wouldn't agree with my evaluation of the book or of its appropriateness for their children. I am certainly attuned enough to regional culture to know that most parents in these parts wouldn't want their 12-year-olds reading it.

    I don't think parents ought to censor their kids' reading lives all the way until kids turn 18. I think kids ought to learn to make their own reading choices. And I think one of the roles of public schools is to push kids to look at things from multiple perspectives, but we're talking about a lot of gray areas that each teacher in each community has to navigate thoughtfully. For me, my choice is to honor the huge amount of trust I'm given by parents and to respect values that I don't necessarily share.

    And to be honest: i really wish there were more excellent books that took up racial justice and American Indian issues so that I didn't feel such regret about this choice. Yeah, I have a class set of Birchbark House, but I long for more contemporary stories and characters.

  10. I agree with you. The 6th graders that are reading it in my class brought the book from home. I have several books in my class that are marked in a way that the kids know to ask me before they borrow them. I always tell them that they must look at the book with their parents and decide if it is a book they should read, and I only lend to those I trust will do that.
    I have been a teacher for 5 years and lived in the States for 11. I am still learning the cultural dos and donts. I cross lines all the time without knowing it and that can be a dangerous thing in our line of work. Who knew "ass" was a bad word? I now say "pain in the donkey".

  11. I finally read this book and was kicking myself for having put it off. It was really great. But totally YA.

    I mean, really, if scrotum threw people off this would really blow the socks off the Newbery perception.


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