Recently I went to a reading by my brother at the Vermont College of Fine Arts and tagged along to dinner with him and the other presenting authors. We got into a discussion of what it means to be cool – everyone had a slightly different definition but, in general, it was agreed that someone cool has a coveted confidence, style, air, and/or outlook that sets them apart from a group.
I have documented my daughter’s activities in this blog since she was in kindergarten, and now she has transitioned to middle school (gasp). We are entering a stage where I, the mom, am the least cool person, but, luckily for now, I am hanging in there. I started to volunteer in the middle/high school library, which allows me to still bring home books to share with her and gives me some insight into what is cool to an-almost-eleven-year-old. I share some recommendations here:
- The school librarian is cool! She has reorganized the library by genre (see key to the library at right); it is pretty “cool” to see kids working their way through a section of books, confident that they will find a good choice.
- My daughter loved the book Because of Mr. Terupt. It is a sweet story of a new teacher seeing kids for what they are and building bridges between them. The kids all realize how cool their teacher is and how cool their classmates are because of a tragedy. My daughter shared the book with a beloved elementary school teacher; it gave me a new appreciation for how special this teacher was to her and the impact that has had on her as a person and as a student. Great example of a cool teacher!
- I read One of Us is Lying – a modern version of the Breakfast Club. Four kids from different groups end up in detention, a tragedy occurs, and they need to come together to figure out who lied. Filled with stereotypically cool (and not cool) high school types, it does deliver on suspense and also on the message that it is cool to be yourself and find people who love you for it.
- We were lucky enough to see Hamilton in Boston this fall. I underestimated how the musical would make historical figures cool, but it did. We started by listening to the book My Dear Hamilton about Eliza Schuyler Hamilton. Before the play, my daughter read the graphic novel of Hamilton’s life and, after, she followed up with the Nathan Hale’s Hazardous Tales Lafayette!. (Note: graphic novels can make things cool too.)
- Similarly, she is intrigued by the movement of compilations of biographies such as Rad Girls Can, Stand Up! Stand Out!, First Generation, and Rebel Girls.
- She has also read some great stories that celebrate embracing your identity. The First Rule of Punk about a Mexican American girl moving to a new school and clinging to her dad’s love to punk music and her love of making zines; George about a transgender experience; and even the Wings of Fire series, although it is dragons who come to understand where they came from and how it has impacted them.
I hope we can continue to share books and stories – it gives us a good starting point for discussions about issues, and it helps me to know how she defines cool. I can hope I stay in that category for a while!
Meredith Scott is a parent and CLiF’s Program Director. You can reach her here.