So, you’ve finished reading The Year of Secret Assignments by Jaclyn Moriarty. I hope I haven’t made you wait too long for the review, but I wanted you to savor every page of this book. As I was reading through it myself (for the third time) I realized just how many important lessons we can learn from this book.

From the main characters, we learn individual lessons.

  • Lydia: A girl who wants to be a writer but believes she will never succeed. Her wild imagination constantly keeps her out of the grip of reality because she experiences only fear and failure when she acknowledges that life is not her own perfect creation.
  • Emily: A bit of an airhead, she has a love of life that borders on recklessness. Emily appears to only care about having fun every chance she gets, but she will fight heart and soul for the things she believes in and the people she loves.
  • Cassie: A tender and caring friend, Cassie lost her father to cancer a year ago. She doesn’t want to burden Emily and Lydia with her pain any longer, so she begins slipping away from them and follows her therapist’s advice to confide in a stranger.
  • Sebastian: Lydia’s Brookfield penfriend, Sebastian struggles with abominably low grades and a volatile temper. He is Lydia’s perfect counterpart. He plays along with and, eventually, encourages her games, but he maintains a rational and practical view of life (even when he compares it to a soccer match).
  • Charlie: Emily’s penfriend, Charlie is the unassuming scapegoat. Self-absorbed, though not arrogant, he is always the last to pick up on the significance of each situation he encounters. By no means stupid, Charlie learns that, with Emily, it is just easier to go along for the ride and ask for details later.
  • Matthew: Cassie’s penfriend, Matthew Dunlop is the catalyst in this entire story. He responds to each of Cassie’s letters with venomous hatred. When she keeps writing, he finally decides to befriend her, only to throw her goodwill back in her face and stomp on it (figuratively). In actuality, Matthew Dunlop is Paul Wilson. A top student at Brookfield, he is respected by every teacher, desired by every girl, and loathed by every self-respecting male student in the school. His craving for power and praise becomes his demise by the end of the book.

First of all, each of these characters proves that teenagers are capable of much greater things than adults usually give them credit for. Even though this book is fictional and maybe a bit exaggerated (but what is the point of fiction if it must be believable, eh?) it teaches a lot about how we treat others. New friendships were forged, and old friendships withstood numerous attacks. Oh, and the good guys caught the bad guy.

So, here’s your secret assignment: Pick a character and tell me what you learned from that character. Did you see yourself in that character? Would you have responded differently in the same position? Are there any qualities you admire in this character? Is this your favorite character, or your least favorite? Why?

Answer one or all of these questions in the comments or with a link to your own blog post. Tomorrow, 15 June 2012, I’ll post my own answers to some of these questions. See you then!

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Hooray for high school literature! I am sure that I will find this to be rocky ground as I am much more familiar with the elementary area and a bit fearful of adolescent matters, but I do love young adult books, so today we will start with one of my favorites.

The Year of Secret Assignments by Jaclyn Moriarty is a book about two rival schools and six students from these two schools. The entire story is told in “diary entries, rude graffiti, hate mail, love letters, revenge plots, date plans, notes between friends, and famous last words” (quote taken from the cover page of the paperback edition). Cassie, Lydia, and Emily are best friends at Ashbury High School. Matthew, Charlie, and Sebastian are not best friends at Brookfield High School. These students are united in their misadventures through the Ashbury-Brookfield pen pal program that is supposed to teach the students to get along with each other. We’ll see how that goes.

Jaclyn Moriarty is an Australian author, and The Year of Secret Assignments is set in Australia. Therefore, if you are not from Australia, be prepared for some mildly confusing terms and phrases. Also, do not be afraid to read this book aloud with a fake Australian accent. Unless, of course, you have a real Australian accent.

Have fun reading this hilarious book, and check out Jaclyn Moriarty’s website, too! The review will be posted on Thursday, 14 June 2012, so prepare those insightful comments. I’ll give you a break – no guidelines for now, just have fun reading!

To kick start this reading adventure, we will begin reading Frindle by Andrew Clements. If I am not mistaken, this is one of his most popular books, and it certainly one of my favorites. This book truly shows what kind of positive impression teachers can have on their students.

So, go to your local library or bookstore and find Frindle. On Friday, 1 June 2012 we will begin reviewing and discussing this book. While you are reading, consider how this book portrays the ideas of creativity, a child’s inquisitive spirit, and the importance of rules in schools and society. Also, as a teacher, how could you use this book in your own classroom?

Have fun reading, and I’ll see you again next week!