New York State of United Teachers (NYSUT) is more than 600,000 people strong who “work in, or are retired from, New York’s schools, colleges, and healthcare facilities. The union is made of up of classroom teachers, college and university faculty and professional staff, school bus drivers, custodians, secretaries, cafeteria workers, teacher assistants and aides, nurses and healthcare technicians.”

The January 2017 issue of NYSUT United, a quarterly publications put out by NYSUT, featured a wonderful review of Stoked – 1969.

This is the review as it appears on page 11:

Stoked – 1969


Recommended by: Francine Silverblank, Professor Emerita, Dowling College, Retiree Council 37

Suitable for: age 12 to adult.

Why I chose this book: This book is a five-star, tender and moving read. Jake, an astute, competent 14-year-old, finds life hard because he constantly has to contend with his learning disability – dyslexia. He wants to be able to read, be accepted by his classmates and be like everyone else. His story draws in teen readers with significant issues of trying to keep a weakness hidden, being different, being bullied, friendship and academic and social difficulties.

What I liked best: The book deals with a teen’s disability and a singular time in American history – the Vietnam War. The peak of the United States’ involvement occurred in the President Lyndon B. Johnson administration, including 1969, when this story takes place. TV exposed people to daily images of war’s death and destruction for the first time. Few people understood what was happening and why it was happening, and the result was political turmoil. Some thought joining the armed forces was patriotic; others thought the opposite, and protested the war. Through credible, understanding characters, and plausible winning dialogue, Forst brings to life this tumultuous period in our history with relevance for today’s teens.

How teachers can use this book: The discussions that can follow are loyalty, patriotism, civil disobedience, our responsibilities and rights under the U.S. Constitution, zero tolerance for bullying, being proud of one’s uniqueness and the idea that we are all the authors of our own life stories. A teacher’s page at www.heleneforst.com encourages students to make thoughtful connections between literature and life, an important strategy for reading comprehension.

“Check it Out” features books recommended to teachers and parents by school librarians and other educators.