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Thursday, September 15, 2011

Berwyn Reads: Parrot in the Oven

Click here for the resource guide
Last Saturday I spent a beautiful afternoon manning a table for the kickoff of the second annual Berwyn Reads!  This year's selection is Parrot in the Oven: Mi Vida, the 1996 National Book Award winner for Young People's Literature.

Here is the Booklist review from when it first came out:

Books for Youth, Older Readers: Gr. 7-10. For Mexican American teen Manuel, the main challenge in life, whether he always realizes it or not, is to find a reason to survive amid the negativity and emptiness that pervade his growing up in a city project. His father, unemployed and often drunk, is a source of tension for the whole family, especially Manuel's mother, whose determination to keep them all together is at times superhuman. The novel, written in a fluid, poetic language, resembles a series of vignettes more than one connected story; and this structure not only leaves the character development of Manuel and his family uneven but also generates a disjointedness that is occasionally confusing. There is also a general lack of basic information, such as the exact setting of the story and the ages of Manuel and his siblings, that may make the characters and their environment difficult for readers to visualize. However, the stories themselves, from Manuel's sister's miscarriage to his initiation into a gang to his grandmother's death, are not easily forgotten, and the book is worth purchasing for its authentic portrayal of a Hispanic teen's experiences. ((Reviewed October 15, 1996)) -- Laura Tillotson

The Berwyn Reads committee picked this books for many reasons.  First, it is a YA book with appeal to adults which means we can get more of the community to read and discuss the book since it is at the reading level of a higher percentage of people.  Second, we have a high spanish speaking population with many people enrolled in our ESL classes, and this book was available in english, spanish and literacy versions.  Third, with our high Mexican immigrant population, this is a high interest title.  And finally, our community partners felt they could work with the novel to create programming.

If you click here you can access the excellent resource guide (thanks to our fearless leader Kathy for the strong RA work here).  Inside you will find information about the author, the book, readalikes, and lists of programming.  We are even hosting what will be a provocative immigration debate.

Many towns do "one city, one book" programs, but what I really like about Berwyn's program is how well we get the entire community involved.  Every single freshman at Morton West High School will be reading this novel, and the 16th Street Theater is doing this:
We want you!
In Fall 2011 16th Street Theater joins the Berwyn Library in leading a community wide artistic exploration of the Berwyn Reads book of the year, Parrot In The Oven by Victor Martinez.Additional community partners include Morton High School, Gallery 16, and the North Berwyn Park District. 
During the fall, community groups from across Berwyn will read and discuss Parrot in the Oven and, with the aid of a professional teaching artist, create a performance piece that brings each chapter of the book to life.
The project will culminate in a community performance at FitzGerald’s on Sat, Nov 5th at 12:00 pm
This is just a sampling of what we have planned. It will truly become a community experience.  We have purchased hundreds of copies of the novel and welcome anyone, from anywhere to stop by and check out a copy.  Read it and consider joining us.

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