Monday, February 24, 2020

Book Review - A High Five for Glenn Burke by Phil Bildner

There are authors who write books that I love but, for whatever reason, my students don’t connect to. There are authors my students are crazy about, but I cannot see the appeal. Then there are the authors that I’m enamored with and my students cannot get enough of their books. Phil Bilder is in this category.

I have no idea when I “met” Phil over the years, he just seems to have always been in my world. I clearly remember when my youngest son, Liam, was in fifth grade. Phil’s A Whole New Ballgame came out. Liam and his friends were obsessed. I brought the second book in that series into the classroom as an ARC. It made me a hero to them. When Liam lamented that he had to wait a year for book three, Phil sent him the manuscript in an email. 

Holy. Moses.

Liam became a Phil Bildner fan for life.

I tweeted once that my students were struggling on how to decide what point of view to write a story in. Phil sent me a voice message of how he thought of point of view and told me to share it with my students. 

Who does this stuff? Yep, Phil does. 

Sometimes when you meet people in real life, they don’t match the person you first encountered online. Phil surpasses that. He is a genuinely kind and caring person and I couldn't be more proud to tell you about his newest book, A High Five for Glenn Burke. This book comes out on Tuesday of this week and I’m telling you to buy multiple copies. 

Silas is in sixth grade and has to give a biography presentation to his class. As the book opens he is rocking his presentation on former MLB baseball player, Glenn Burke. Silas identifies with Glenn for many reasons - their love of baseball and sense of humor would be two obvious similarities to his classmates. What they don’t know, and what Silas isn’t ready to share yet, is that he and Glenn have another similarity. They are both gay.

Here’s what I love about this book. One, the friendship between Silas and his best friend Zoey is beautiful. Also, Silas’s family is complex and messy, but they love each other. I think that’s super relatable for my students. More than that, I’ve had two students read this so far in seventh grade. Both students have told me they felt it was an important book because while they are heterosexual, this book helped them understand what it is like to come out. One boy told me, “I guess I just assumed when you came out, you were done. But you aren’t. You have to gear up to do that again and again. That must be really hard and scary.”

My class and I talk a lot about how Rudine Sims Bishop's referred to books as windows, mirrors, and doors. For these two kids, this book was a window. But for some of my students, it will be a mirror. I don’t think I can understate how important that is.

Middle grade and young adult books are doing some heavy lifting lately. Between Dee’s Maybe He Just Likes You, Messner’s Chirp, and now Bildner’s A High Five for Glenn Burke, my classroom is certainly a better place. These stories are important. The kids recognize it. I am grateful to authors like Phil for not only being an outstanding person, but for creating books my students need. Check this one out.

Oh, and thanks to Phil for the education into the origin of the high five. How in the heck am I older than that? 

A High Five for Glenn Burke is on sale 2/25/2020.