Middle School Monday: Short Stories for the Win
Like hopefully every middle school librarian on the planet, I’m joyously awaiting the release of Flying Lessons & Other Stories in January—a collection of short stories edited by Ellen Oh (Crown Books, 2017). The publisher’s note: “Whether it is basketball dreams, family fiascos, first crushes, or new neighborhoods, this bold anthology—written by the best children’s authors—celebrates the uniqueness and universality in all of us. In a partnership with We Need Diverse Books, industry giants Kwame Alexander, Soman Chainani, Matt de la Peña, Tim Federle, Grace Lin, Meg Medina, Walter Dean Myers, Tim Tingle, and Jacqueline Woodson join newcomer Kelly J. Baptist in a story collection that is as humorous as it is heartfelt.”
I already have a class set ordered and I’m incredibly excited to use it with English classes. I can’t wait to get those copies! [Unless, you know, anyone out there wants to send me an advance copy for reviewing and lesson plan purposes. Hypothetically.]
Short stories are the perfect way to work with teachers, especially new teachers or those with whom you are trying to build that first collaboration. In terms of time, only a few class periods are necessary to take a deep dive into issues of plot, figurative language, comprehension, connections, or vocabulary. When we’re able to introduce diverse authors into the literary canon, it’s a win.
While we wait for Flying Lessons & Other Stories, please don’t forget about another edited volume that is filled with short stories that are humorous and heartfelt: Open Mic.
Open Mic: Riffs on Life Between Cultures in Ten Voices, is a collection of ten short stories from ten different authors, edited by Mitali Perkins (Candlewick, 2013). It’s now out in paperback and makes another perfect choice for a class set purchase. I love this book! [Open Mic put my decades-long apathy for short stories to rest—which I blame on being assigned to read The Lottery just about every year in school. Why did all the short stories we read have to be so depressing??]
From Open Mic’s publisher: “Using humor as the common denominator, a multicultural cast of YA authors steps up to the mic to share stories touching on race. Listen in as ten YA authors — some familiar, some new — use their own brand of humor to share their stories about growing up between cultures. Edited by acclaimed author and speaker Mitali Perkins, this collection of fiction and nonfiction uses a mix of styles as diverse as their authors, from laugh-out-loud funny to wry, ironic, or poignant, in prose, poetry, and comic form.”
Open Mic is full of stand-outs. There is a short story told in comic/graphic novel format by Gene Yuen Lang called Why I Won’t be Watching the Last Airbender Movie about the whitewashing of the excellent Avatar cartoon. Confessions of a Black Geek by Olugbemisola Rhuday-Perkovich makes me furious [in the best kind of way as a reader] and Lexicon, a poem by Naomi Shihab Nye, is gorgeous. My favorite (?) might be Brotherly Love by Marcelo in the Real World author Francisco X. Stork.
This is a wonderful book for middle school. As Mitali Perkins said, “Once you’ve shared a laugh with someone, it’s almost impossible to see them as ‘other’.”
As we wait for Flying Lessons, console yourself with the beauty and brilliance that is Open Mic!
What short stories do you love using with classes? Let me know in the comments or share with me on Twitter. I’m Julie Stivers at @Bespoke Lib.
Have a great week!
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About Robin Willis
After working in middle school libraries for over 20 years, Robin Willis now works in a public library system in Maryland.
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