Join the WOW Center Middle School Reading Ambassadors (MSRAP) as we discuss Across the Desert by Dusti Bowling.
This podcast was recorded in the Digital Innovation and Learning Lab (DIALL) in the UArizona College of Education with assistance from the UA COE Tech Team.
Co-Producer: Rebecca Ballenger, WOW Center Associate Director
Co-Producer: Sara Logan, MSRAP Literature Discussant and COE Graduate Student
Audio Engineer: Liam Arias, Student Employee and Radio, TV, Film Major
For more information on the WOW Middle School Reading Ambassadors (MSRAP), visit wowlit.org.
[00:00:00] Welcome to Wow Reads, a podcast of the world's awards center of global literacies and literatures, which is committed to creating an international network of people who share the vision of bringing books and children together, thereby opening windows to the world. We encourage thoughtful dialogue around global literature so that children can reflect on their own cultural experiences and connect to the experiences of children across the globe.
This is our very first season and our very first episode of the Wow Reads Podcast, and we are talking to the Wow Middle School Reading Ambassadors. Okay; Worlds of Words Center of Global Literacies and Literatures Middle School Reading Ambassador Learner Initiative offers middle school students a college experience within the University of Arizona College of Education that focuses on books for middle school students.
Ambassadors learn about young adult literature under the direction of [00:01:00] faculty and staff with expertise in children's literature, education, library science, and marketing. We respectfully acknowledge the University of Arizona is on the land and territories of indigenous peoples. Today, Arizona's home to 22 federally recognized tribes with Tucson being home to the O’Odham and the Yaqui. Committed to diversity and inclusion.
The university strives to build sustainable relationships with sovereign native nations and indigenous communities through education offerings, partnerships, and community service. What would you do if you watched somebody you cared about fall from the sky, from their airplane and into the desert? Today, we'll find out.
Let's introduce ourselves, starting with… I'm Sarah. I am a graduate student here at the University of Arizona, and I help run the literature discussions with our middle school ambassadors. [00:02:00] I'm Quinn and I am one of the middle school reading ambassadors. I'm Avery, and I'm one of the middle school reading ambassadors.
I'm Renee, and like the rest you're gonna hear here, one of the middle school reading ambassadors. I'm Carmen and I'm one of the middle school reading ambassadors. I'm Rebecca, I'm the associate director for the Worlds of Words Center. I'm Quinn, the other one, and I'm also a reading ambassador. I'm Lily and I'm also a reading ambassador.
I am Nia and I'm also a reading ambassador. Today we are reading the book Across the Desert by Dusti Bowling. The book is about a girl named Jolene. She loves to watch, um, this girl named Annie fly her plane across the desert. But one day something happens and the plane crashes. Jolene tries to get help, but no one believes us, so she takes it upon herself to find Annie.
Along the way, Jolene [00:03:00] makes friends with a girl named Marty and they walk together to find Addie. Throughout the book, Jolene also struggles to come to terms with her mom's opioid addiction and to find her mom help. So, Renee, let's start with you. What stood out for you in this book? I think what really stood out was the really great like plot. I don't know how to say the right word, not connection, or I suppose some would say.
how do you say like to go on or You mean like the movement of the plot? Yeah, the flow of the book, or I'm sure I had a fancier word somewhere in my brain, but I'm sure there's a literary term, but more like just how the plot really kept going on. No matter what happened, it had great world building along with it.
It had real connections that definitely could happen if something like this would happen, and it all in all just had a really great realism factor too.
Renee, you mentioned connections. The setting is a huge connection for us [00:04:00] here. What, anybody wanna talk about the setting of the book? Um, so the cafe in the book, there's a cafe near the end where Jolene and her friend Marty go to have breakfast. And the descriptions of the cafe were really fascinating.
For example, in the bathroom there were coins and cash glued to the walls, and then in the main area there were cut ties hanging from the ceiling. Yeah. We have a couple fancy cafes like that here in Tucson, which is not far from Phoenix, where uh, the story actually takes place. And so it's very personal to us here because, hey, we know this place.
Yeah. We have the, that one restaurant in trail dust town that has all the ties hanging from the roof. Pinnacle Peaks. Yes. That's what it's called. and I'd love to jump in and point out the obvious. We, of course, live in a desert just like this. A lot of the stuff you'd see like drinking water. [00:05:00] Yeah, we need to do that too.
Just a lot of like stuff that would happen in the desert we live in. Wow. I didn't know we had to drink water. What about connections to people? I know that some of you, uh, have expressed , uh, an affinity for some of the characters. Yeah, so the main character, Jolene, she makes friends with this older girl named Marty on the bus while she's going out in search of Addie, and they team up.
And Jolene begins to realize that she's not alone with some of the problems that she's facing in the book. Yeah, I really liked Marty for her sort of like sense of adventure and how much she supported Jolene and I think she was just that like older sister character that Jolene really needed. Yeah, especially since she got, [00:06:00] um, how Jolene felt since she lost her sister to an opioid addiction.
So we did get to meet the author Dusty Bowling, and she told us something interesting about Marty. Do you guys remember Marty wasn't originally going to be in the book? It was only because of, uh, her editor. Yeah, the editor that Marty was added into the book in the first place. And even then, originally she was just supposed to have a much smaller role.
Yeah. So shout out to Dusty Bowling's editor. I'm gonna take an unpopular stance here and say, I think I might have preferred it without her in it. Honestly, what? I'm just gonna take that stance, I think. Why? So I think it would've been a lot more interesting to see. , if she didn't have anyone guiding her the entire time would've been a lip, not a lip.
A little bit more interesting to read, in my opinion. I get what you're saying, Renee, because when we were talking, one of the main themes of the book was, uh, [00:07:00] how persistent sometimes young people have to be when, when they're not believed and, and how independent they have to be sometimes. Well, I think it's actually interesting.
you say that, Hey, she should have figured this out by herself. It would be more interesting. Um, I agree that that would make for an interesting story, but the point of Cinderella, uh, is that there was someone who needed help from an abusive situation while Jolene wasn't necessarily in an abusive situation.
It's good to know that she wasn't alone, and I think that was very important. Yeah, the author definitely solved that theme in the book with Jolene’s like feeling of aloneness. So I feel without Marty, they never really would've solved that theme. But with Marty, it opened her up and she found like her family, and also without Marty, her mother's opioid addiction might have continued to go on.
It wouldn't have been [00:08:00] resolved like it was at the end of the. . That's an excellent point. Also, I was thinking of the, I felt so nervous and full of anxiety when Jolene woke up in the, what was it actually in the middle of the night when she started riding her bike? Is that, and I was, cuz she was, I mean, hearing animals and I was like, she needs somebody to help her.
Please Marty, come back into this story. That was how I was feeling. So, So what else did we learn from Dusty when she came to talk with us? We learned that, um, Jolene's mom's addiction to opioid was actually based off of Dusty Bowling's own father because he was an alcoholic and an addict to opioid as well.
And did you guys know very much about opioids or opioids addiction before reading? Uh, a little due to other book [00:09:00] series I've read. One of the things that we talked about, um, with this was that sometimes you see or hear things on the news, but you might not have firsthand experience with it. Um, and that books can, books like this can give you a window into that kind of experience.
Um, would anybody like to talk to that?
From reading the book, um, I learned a lot about opioid addictions. Like before then, I didn't even know what an opioid addiction was, but I learned that it's important that it is recognized that people have them, and that help is more accessible because right now help is available, but it's hard for people to get.
So then even if people want help, they may not be able to get help with their addiction. And it's important that help is provided because eventually people might [00:10:00] die if they, if the addiction gets too, like if it gets worse.
Yeah. I've read a lot of series and it's enlightened me with a lot of new vocabulary wars as I've grown older and got more. Deeper into new books and stuff, but don't laugh at me. That's mean. No, I'm not laughing at you. And, but yeah, there are definitely stories. We even like that where I, I've learned things about the world and I can see it and a new perspective that I wouldn't have known if I hadn't read these stories before.
And Across The Desert is definitely one of them. Is that one of the things that you think makes you a reader? Yes. I also enjoy escapism because life can get hard sometimes and books provide this new world for me where I can relate to these characters and I can enjoy myself without actually, [00:11:00] you know, going out into the desert.
Um, but this book provides great escapism. You feel like you're with the character the entire time, and you feel the stress and the anxiety and the excitement that she has too. And so it's, Yeah, that's why I'm a reader. I know usually the best books, they're the ones that really make you connect to the characters to make you like, if you stop reading at a part that's kind of upsetting, you'll feel the same way, like you'll feel kind of depressed.
But if you stop reading at a part that's uplifting, that's the way you'll feel too. And this book definitely offers that.
I was also thinking about the comment about being a window, the book, into opioid addiction. Um, while that may not be a struggle that maybe we are familiar with, there were some connections that, um, just how Jolene went about [00:12:00] handling that and how by the end of the book we kind of realized that Jolene.
Kind of needed, um, to lean on other people, and that was Marty and her mom. And that was a really neat lesson at the end of the book, that people are there for you in times of struggle in order to help with those situations. So I appreciated that. And you can be there for other people. Mm-hmm. the way that Jolene was there for Addie and her.
Anything, anybody else would like to? Renee, you look like you're about. I was gonna point out how I like how the conflict itself takes a little bit to figure out, and I don't mean like the actual like, oh no she crashed. I mean like the character versus society kind of conflict about it. Cuz I personally think that's what the conflict is.
Uh, I don't really see it being character versus character. Character versus nature. Cuz if you think about it, kind of shallowly it is, but in my opinion, character versus society cuz it's kind of the underlying [00:13:00] moral of it. You don't believe kids. So her kind of story only happened because no one believed her in the first place and she had to persevere or to end up getting help to someone who actually really needed it.
Okay. That was great. Thank you guys so much. Thank you very much ambassadors. Um, does anybody wanna share what books will be, talk what the next book that we'll be talking about on the wow reads. We will be reading The Hidden Knife. Uh, next. That's right. We'll be reading The Hidden Knife. So right now I want to thank everybody for being here, all of our ambassadors, Sara Logan, who runs our lid discussions.
Liam Arias, who is our, um, sound engineer and production guy. We are recording from the DIALL Lab at the University of Arizona College of Education, and so we have to thank them as well.