“Derek will be sure to leave a lasting impact on the lives of many. He has and will continue to touch countless people through the stunning insight of his journal. By documenting his struggle with cancer, he has allowed others to share in his experience, each entry offering a new, brilliant outlook on life. Almost everyone in this world has been affected by cancer in some way or another, and Derek’s words help many to cope with their pain. Wise beyond his years, he preaches that the true meaning of life is love. Nothing else matters.”
—Ciara S., 16 years old
“Derek’s journal is testimony to the latent wisdom within teenagers, that skilled and caring teachers, like Buck, help to nurture and reveal.”
—Ms. Lori Hodin, AP Psychology Teacher, Coordinator of Safe Schools Initiative, Lincoln-Sudbury Regional High School, Sudbury, Massachusetts
Common Core Compatible Nonfiction
Derek’s Gift was co-authored by high school teacher Buck Harris, who has been using Derek’s journal in the classroom for over a decade.
Suggested fiction pairing: The Fault in Our Stars (Fiction) by John Green from Dutton Books
Suggested science pairing: Lesson on cancer and other non-communicable and/or terminal illnesses
Derek’s Gift in the Curriculum
With a 22-minute video and complete lesson plan accompanying the book, Derek’s Gift serves as a unique learning tool for high school students in English or health ed. classes.
Derek’s Gift, a non-fiction book about a cancer-stricken teenager, works well as a non-fiction pairing with the bestselling novel The Fault in Our Stars. Derek’s father (a doctor unable to save his son), his mother (the primary caretaker during his final month), his brother (a young adult caught in his own battle with mental illness), his best friend Alex (an outstanding example of true friendship), and his girlfriend Valerie (someone who stays by Derek through thick and thin, and then is also diagnosed with cancer) are all key people in Derek’s life that demonstrate the complexity of life and the many lessons learned from it.
Bestselling author Michael J. Tougias and teacher Buck Harris share Derek’s journal in a way that students can relate, and ultimately acquire necessary skills to help them become college and career ready.
In a health class setting, key skills that can be taught to students in an enriching way are:
Decision Making: understanding the personal benefits of having healthy relationships like the kind Derek strove to have with his family and friends,
Injury, Prevention and Safety: recognizing abusive relationships and depression,
Analyzing Influences: comprehending external vs. internal influences on oneself, family, and friends, and
Wellness: focusing on the importance of balancing the many aspects of a person’s life and accepting the difficulty to do so, which is clearly a common struggle amongst all the characters in this gritty story.
In an English class setting, key skills that can be taught to students in a creative and interactive manner are:
Communication: Analyzing Derek’s thoughts and the lessons learned clearly and effectively,
Collaboration: Exercising willingness and flexibility by putting together a group project/activity,
Information Literacy: Grasping ethical issues present in Derek’s situation by creating a power point presentation or short documentary,
Media Literacy: Understanding how media can influence beliefs and behaviors by comparing the lessons learned from The Fault in Our Stars and Derek’s Gift, and
Strategically Understanding Perspectives and Cultures: Empathizing with others and becoming flexible to the changing environment as seen in Derek’s struggle with acceptance.