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Alexie, Sherman.
Boston : Little, Brown, 2007
ISBN 0316013684

(6 booktalks)

Click on the book to read Amazon reviews
Booktalk #1

Arnold Spirit, aka Junior, is a Spokane Indian from Wellpinit, WA living on the rez.  He is a goofy looking kid and the target of bullies.  He is dirt poor and has little hope of ever changing anything.  That's the way it is on the rez.  When Arnold's teacher suggests that he go to school in the nearby town instead of the rez school, everything changes.  Arnold now travels 20 miles each way, sometimes on foot, to get to the school.  At first, the kids just see the goofy looking Indian boy.  His only friend is a geeky kid who is also an outcast.  And back on the rez, Arnold is seen as a traitor to the rez.  When Arnold makes the basketball team, things change -- but not necessarily for the better.  But with Arnold's sense of humor and his comics, I just know he'll be OK.

Booktalk #2

It all started my freshman year in High School on the day I hit Mr. P in the head with my geometry book. Okay, maybe it all really started when I was born with water on the brain. Well actually with excess cerebral spinal fluid inside my skull which is sort of like brain grease that we all need, but I had too much and my brain was like drowning in grease. 
I wasnít supposed to survive the surgery I had at 6 months old, and should have lived all my life as a vegetable, but apparently even then I was a fighter. Oh, I have all sorts of physical problems, like ten extra teeth that had to be removed and thick ugly black plastic framed eyeglasses and huge feet, and a huge skull, and brain seizures for years, but I got through it all and hadnít had a seizure in seven years. 
And, of course, I belong to the Black-Eye-of-the-Month club because everyone on the rez (yep, you got it, Iím an Indian) calls me a retard about twice a day and retards on the rez get beat up at least once a month. 
I draw a lot because words are tool limited and unpredictable and itís safer to stay at home and read and draw. Itís my way of talking to the world. To have dreams of growing up to be somebody important. 
Iím smart too, and that had something to do with it. You see Mr. P, the geometry teacher, the one who sometimes forgets to come to school, had just handed out our new geometry books for the year. But inside the front cover it said; 
Agnes is my motherís first name, and Adams is her last name. I couldnít believe it. Our tribe is so poor that we had to use the same books our parents did. I was so upset I just threw the book as hard as I could. I wanted to hit something, and Mr. P happened to be in the way. 
Of course I got suspended, but a week into my suspension, Mr. P walked up our driveway and had a talk with me. He had a bit bandage on his face and He apologized to ME!!! He felt he had left us all (us Indians) down and had taught us to give up, which most of us had. But that he felt I had a chance. That the reason I threw the book was because somewhere inside I refused to give up. Just like when I was a baby and should have died. I needed to get off the reservation and find hope. I could do it, he said. 
And, thatís how I decided to leave the reservation school and go to the all white rich school at Reardan. Thatís how I, in the eyes of all my friends at the rez, became a traitor. And how I . . . well, thatís another story
(Sam Marsh, Colorado Blue Spruce Young Adult Book Award Nominees 2009) 

Booktalk #3

Absolutely true? As readers share Juniorís experiences on the reservation and at the all-white high school in the nearby town, they might wonder how much worse adolescence could possibly be. Is this really the true story of Sherman Alexieís high school life? Or does Alexie use fiction to depict the miseries of his own teen years and achieve control over the unexaggerated painful memories? Ironic humor and wit allow Junior to tell the tales of his struggle to rise above his lifeís circumstances and even to draw strength from his misfortune. The skillful writing allows readers to the hardships and empathize with Junior and his friend. 
Although Alexieís previous books were directed to adult audiences, the short story collection The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fist-fight in Heaven, and Smoke Signals, the film derived from it, have had many teen fans. Alexie has given his readers a realistic view of some of the challenges he faced as a Native American teen, and a glimpse into the successful life he has achieved through his introspective and powerful story-telling.
(Marge Erickson Freeburn , Colorado Blue Spruce Young Adult Book Award Nominees 2009)

Booktalk #4

Arnold is having trouble fitting in on the reservation. He is smart and being constantly picked on by others. He is also hilarious, insightful, and an amazing cartoon artist. His best friend Rowdy acts as his protector and they are very close until Junior decides to go to the white school outside of the reservation. He loses his best friend and part of his identity but also gains a new reputation. Who has Arnold become, and is it all worth it? Be prepared to laugh and cry at the same time.  (Rhode Island Teen Book Awards, 2008-09)

Booktalk #5

Arnold Spirit, known as Junior to family and friends, is a Native American teenager with a lot of problems: various medical issues, bullies who regularly seek him out, an alcoholic father, and a dirt-poor family (so poor that theyíre forced to shoot their dog because thereís no money for a vet). Despite all his problems Junior has a great sense of humor. Heís a basketball player and a cartoonist, too, and his drawings are laugh-out-loud funny. Heís the kind of underdog youíll love to root for. Juniorís school on the reservation is terrible: with 30-yr-old textbooks and teachers who forget to come to class. Junior wants to fight that, but finally his math teacher convinces him that things on the rez are never going to change. Mr. P lays it on the line and tells Junior he needs to get off the reservation, before it kills him and his spirit. He encourages Junior to transfer to a wealthy, all-white high school nearby. Talk about culture shock! The only other Indian there is the school mascot. Things are tough at the new school. Kids arenít friendly and make fun of his NA heritage. What makes the situation worse is that the whole reservation thinks Junior's a sell-out. Now he belongs nowhere. This is a seriously funny story about overcoming poverty, handicaps, and discrimination. (Pennsylvania Young Reader's Choice Awards Program, 2009-2010)

Booktalk #6

Arnold Spirit, aka Junior, humorously looks back on his freshman year when he transferred from the reservation school to a nearby all-white school and dealt with racism, was viewed as a traitor to his community, lost his best friend, and coped with family deaths.  (Florida Teen Reads nominee, 2010)

SUBJECTS:     Spokane Indians -- Fiction.
                        Indians of North America -- Washington (State) -- Fiction.
                        Indian reservations -- Fiction.
                        Race relations -- Fiction.
                        Diaries -- Fiction.

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