Black and White by Paul Volponi is the cornerstone of my classroom library! It is the first book that I book talk, the book that goes missing without fail every quarter, and the novel that I hand to all of my reluctant readers. This novel is the English teacher’s dream! Jump to the end of this classroom review of Black and White by Paul Volponi to see a breakdown of the novel’s details.
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The Plot of Black and White Will Pull Reluctant Readers In
Without fail, Black and White always finds a home with some of my reluctant readers every year. Volponi’s novel does a great job of engaging the otherwise un-engageable.
The book follows two best friends, Marcus and Eddie (nicknamed Black and White), who have a deep friendship, despite their different ethnicities. Together, they lead the school basketball team and dream about attending college for the sport.
Neither teen has much extra cash lying around, however, and during senior year, the expenses start to stack: banquets, end-of-year trips, dances, etc. Together, they decide to commit a few stick-ups–just enough to cover the unexpected cots of senior year.
The first few go well, and the boys are able to escape. During one robbery, however, the gun accidentally goes off. The boys run, never looking back.
Suddenly, the world is larger than school and basketball. Did they kill a man? Will the police find them? Will one snitch on the other?
The suspense builds so quickly in Black and White that your students won’t be able to put it down!
What Makes Black and White Great for Reluctant Readers?
Firstly, the main characters in Black and White are relatable: they’re high school seniors who just want to be involved in normal graduation experiences, are a little short on cash, and dream of making it big in basketball. They’re great friends and incredibly loyal.
Their situation is also relatable. Too many of our students know what it’s like to come from a household where money is always tight. Many of our students spend their lives daydreaming about “making it” while worrying about how to survive tomorrow.
There’s also no romance plotline here, which is sometimes hard to find. This book is all action, tension, and suspense. Black and White is purely about the boys’ survival, their hopes and dreams, and the consequences of choices.
Another feature that draws in reluctant readers is the narration style. The narrative switches between the perspectives of the two boys, which keeps the reader on his toes. Every chapter leaves the reader wanting to know more.
Volponi is also able to touch on issues in the criminal justice system, without overly politicizing the storyline.
Which Reluctant Readers will Love Black and White?
Not every reluctant reader is exactly the same, but I can spot the lovers of this book a mile away! The perfect reader match is that basketball player who slumps into the classroom proclaiming (proudly) that he or she hasn’t read a book since middle school. Most of the students I see pick this one up are male, but I have had some girls check this one out too. (They do all tend to be basketball fans, though.)
I usually book talk Black and White by reading the excerpt of the gun accidentally going off. From there, it’s usually a mad dash to check out one of my copies. I try to keep at least 5-6 copies on my shelf, but they go missing so often that it’s not always possible. If you have a limited budget and need to start small, I highly recommend making Black and White by Paul Volponi one of the first additions to your classroom library!
I’m so grateful I found Black and White by Paul Volponi. It filled a hole in my classroom library and suddenly made matching a book to my reluctant readers much easier. Since then, I’ve found others that are also great for this. Check them out in this post, 5 Thrilling Books For High School Students Who Hate to Read.
Have a student who loved Black and White? I also recommend Dear Martin by Nic Stone or Allegedly by Tiffany D. Jackson!