Stoked — 1969
By Helene Forst
Recommended by: Francine Silverblank, Professor Emerita, Dowling College, Retiree Council 37
Suitable for: age 12 to adult
Why I chose this book: This book is a five-star, tender and moving read. Jake, an astute, competent 14-year-old, finds life hard because he constantly has to contend with his learning disability — dyslexia. He wants to be able to read, be accepted by his classmates and be like everyone else. His story draws in teen readers with significant issues of trying to keep a weakness hidden, being different, being bullied, friendship and academic and social difficulties.
What I liked best: The book deals with a teen's disability and a singular time in American history — the Vietnam War. The peak of the United States' involvement occurred in the President Lyndon B. Johnson administration, including 1969, when this story takes place. TV exposed people to daily images of war's death and destruction for the first time. Few people understood what was happening and why it was happening, and the result was political turmoil. Some thought joining the armed forces was patriotic; others thought the opposite, and protested the war. Through credible, understanding characters, and plausible, winning dialogue, Forst brings to life this tumultuous period in our history with relevance for today's teens.
How teachers can use this book: The discussions that can follow are loyalty, patriotism, civil disobedience, our responsibilities and rights under the U.S. Constitution, zero tolerance for bullying, being proud of one's uniqueness and the idea that we are all the authors of our own life stories. A teacher's page at www.heleneforst.com encourages students to make thoughtful connections between literature and life, an important strategy for reading comprehension.
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