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Book Club for Kids is a podcast where middle school readers discuss the books they love with host Kitty Felde. The author answers questions. A celebrity reads from the book.

Tips for Creating Lifelong Readers

Tip #58: A Book That Can Save a Life

Kitty Felde

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Some books fly under the radar screen. Leave it to the reading experts to find a book that gets even the most reluctant reader to check it out of the school library again and again and again. 

The book is "Yummy, the Last Days of a Southside Shorty" by Jean Neri. It's a graphic non-fiction that examines the life of a young man in Chicago who fell into the gang life and committed a murder. The story is told through the eyes of a classmate. 

Tasara Redekopp says, "This is a book that can save a life."

Tasara is the librarian at DC's Alice Deal Middle School. She says it's tough subject matter, but kids know that it's real life - and the reality resonates. "They think so much about it," she says. "They think deeply, they reread it, and then they read it again."

She says readers ask the big questions about Yummy. "Was he destined to end up this way? Could something have changed? Was he innately a bad person or was it because of his situation?"

The book includes quotes from a Time magazine article about the case. Tassara says that allows her to talk about creating fiction from fact. "Sometimes we have looked at the original non-fiction journalism and seen how it translates into the book." Then she and her students can explore how the imagination of a writer shapes the text.

Librarian Tassara says it's appropriate for fifth graders.