There's no backing down for Lionel Shephard, a new freshman at Bluford High. With a dream of joining the NBA, all he wants to do at school is play basketball. But everyone's trying to stop him. His father thinks basketball is a waste of time; his teachers don't know he can barely read and threaten to fail him; and his dropout friend Jamar wants him to quit school. Unsure where to turn, Lionel must make a choice. Will he pursue his dream or get caught in a nightmare?
What is the Bluford Series? A Gateway to Reading!
The Bluford Series is a collection of high-interest novels that have captivated teens nationwide. Set in fictional Bluford High, a tough but nurturing inner city high school, the novels speak to the interests, struggles, and concerns of today’s 5th–10th graders. Praised by faculty, parents, and students alike, the Bluford Series has transformed entire classrooms into reading zones. A frequent choice for school- and city-wide reading initiatives, the series has been widely reviewed in the Journal for Adolescent and Adult Literacy (JAAL) and repeatedly endorsed by the American Library Association (ALA) and the Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA).
Key Features of the Bluford Series
Relevant topics: Topics, themes, and situations in the Bluford Series engage students’ real-life experiences. By having direct relevance to students’ lives, the books immediately hook readers.
Exciting and uplifting stories: The Bluford Series celebrates teenage characters who make positive choices, especially when such actions are difficult or unpopular. Readers become emotionally engaged in each character’s struggle and often cheer in triumph when it is resolved!
Common Core Aligned: The Bluford Series features a comprehensive teacher's guide that includes a wide range of activities aligned to the Common Core State Standards. Used together, the Bluford Series and the teacher's guide are a powerful Language Arts resource for students. Get details about the Bluford Series and the Common Core Standards.
Accessible writing style: Bluford novels are written to appeal to intermediate readers. While content in the series is sophisticated enough for high-school students and beyond, the reading level for the novels is between 5th and 6th grade.
Short length: Each novel in the Bluford Series contains fewer than 200 pages. This modest length encourages readers to finish their book. And once they read one, most students want to continue—a pivotal step toward becoming regular readers!
Continuity and depth: While each novel stands on its own, many characters and conflicts carry over from book to book. Readers are drawn into a complex fictional world they want to explore.
Broad appeal: Action, suspense, mystery, and romance fill the pages of the Bluford Series, offering something for all readers—boys and girls alike.
Great price: Every novel in the Bluford Series is available at $3 each—an unbeatable value!
Born in Philadelphia, Paul Langan spent his early childhood in the city before moving with his single mother to southern New Jersey. There he attended public school and worked a variety of jobs—including salesperson at a shoe store, attendant at a horse ranch, landscaper at a mental hospital, and a night-shift stockperson in a warehouse store near Atlantic City. “Each job,” he says today, “could be the topic of several juicy novels.”
In 1991, he enrolled at Camden County College and a year later transferred to La Salle University, where he studied creative writing and literature, earning a B.A. in English. While at La Salle, he lived with international students, traveled to his roommate’s home in Kenya, became a prison tutor, and found “the courage” to write.
After graduation, he worked for a nonprofit agency in Philadelphia and then joined Townsend Press (TP) as an Assistant Editor. After he contributed to a number of TP textbooks and taught English at a community college, Paul reconnected to his interests in creative writing through the Bluford Series. Originally working as an assistant with the Bluford novels, Paul’s role steadily grew. He now serves as both editor of the series and author or coauthor of several novels, including The Bully, The Gun, and The Fallen. His stories reflect his personal experiences, including the difficulties of growing up without a father, being the “new kid” in school, and dealing with the loss of a loved one.
In 2001, Paul completed a Master’s degree in Education from the University of Pennsylvania. In addition to expanding the Bluford Series, he dreams of writing a successful movie script, preferably a “supernatural thriller.” Today Paul lives with his wife and three children near Philadelphia and stubbornly clings to the hope that he will one day see the Philadelphia Eagles win the Super Bowl.
You may contact Paul by writing to him at:
439 Kelley Drive
West Berlin, NJ 08091
WHAT EDUCATORS ARE SAYING ABOUT THE BLUFORD SERIES
All comments below are from letters sent to us by educators who are using the Bluford Series.
“My entire school has just finished reading The Bully and thoroughly enjoyed the book. They are moving on to The Gun, the next book in the series, and will begin reading some of the previous books also. In all the years that I have been a librarian, I have never seen urban children so enthused about a book. Our staff members love the books too. Thank you for igniting reading enjoyment in our students.”
—Corlette Mays, Librarian, Hatch Middle School (Camden, NJ)
“My students adore the Bluford Series. We are spreading the joy we find in these books very quickly. We find your books to be so interesting. We love the way they relate to real life situations. My students are reading a lot now because they have found something that really interests them.”
—Audrey Russell, Reading Teacher, Turner Middle School (Philadelphia, PA)
"Thank you for the wonderful Bluford Series! We bought a lot of them for that great price. We were looking for anything our reluctant readers would spend more than 10 minutes reading. Kids are now swapping books, discussing them, not wanting teachers to end SSR time, and teachers have been coming begging for sets for their rooms also.”
—R. Archer, Reading Teacher, Cabrillo High School (Long Beach, CA)
“I teach in a middle school, and there is little my students like less than to be asked to read. The Bluford books, however, have made a huge difference. The boys in particular will pick them up and actually lose themselves in them.”
—H. Pollock, Teacher North Brandywine Middle School (Coatsville, PA)
“We have not been able to keep the Bluford books on the shelves since the first students discovered them. Both boys and girls are reading them like crazy. They are making deals with each other – one brings the book back and another checks it right out. I have students who arrive in the library at 7:30 (school doesn’t start until 8:30). They sit quietly at a table and read while other kids are playing on computers.”
—P. Roche, Librarian/Media Center Director (Camden, NJ)
“My students have finished the series and can’t wait for more books. The Bluford books are wonderful for reluctant readers, and we need more like them.”
—Renee Wedderspoon, Reading Enhancement Program, Badger Ridge Middle School (Verona, WI)
“I would like to thank everyone at Townsend Press for the Bluford Series. The books have been flying off the shelves of the library for months now. Our . . . reading teachers have ordered sets of the novels for next year. These titles certainly filled a need in our school.”
—Deborah Mullin, Librarian, Rush Middle School (Philadelphia, PA)
“My students love the Bluford Series. Students were grabbing the books so quickly I had to keep careful track of them. They were even reading them at home, and their parents were shocked. Please write more!”
—Carole Koroluck, Teacher, Kennett Middle School (Kennett Square, PA)
“I have been using the Bluford High Series in my . . . classroom. I have not been able to keep the books on my shelves, and I've been spreading the word to other teachers about how great these stories are. They are wonderful, and the students are asking for more! It is a rare thing for me to have seen such excitement in [students] over books.”
—Cheryl Boulet, Teacher, Lafayette Parish School System (Lafayette, LA)
“After the Bluford books were delivered to the school, the real changes started. The novels flew off my shelf like hot tamales. The kids would not put them down. They would sneak them during each of their classes, and the other teachers were coming to me befuddled. My colleagues were thrilled that the kids had found books that they could identify with, but they were not paying attention in class. All day long, the students talked about the characters and the plot of each book. They have become inspired! Voracious readers now walk into my . . . classroom.”
—M. Patano, Reading Teacher (Philadelphia, PA)
“I purchased the Bluford Series for my high school library this year. They are WONDERFUL! It is so difficult to find good titles (with realistic characters) for my African American students. Please keep me on your mailing list, and let me know if any titles or new series are added.”
—Martha Gresham, Teacher, Collins High School (Collins, MS)
“One teacher who is using the Bluford Series at our Residence Facility reported that his students did not want to stop reading to go to lunch; they pleaded to stay and finish reading. Other resident students have taken the books to their rooms to continue reading in the evening and have finished all seven titles. Another teacher using the books reported that his students who normally have a very difficult time staying on task and concentrating can now concentrate totally for forty-five minutes while reading the novels. Many of his students have completed all seven books and are . . . completely captured by the stories.”
—M. Donohue, Director of Education, Saint Gabriel’s System (Philadelphia, PA)
“I am a high school Special Education Reading Teacher and work with a lot of disadvantaged students and children of migrant farm workers. I am thrilled with this series. So many of my students love the books, and some have barely read an entire book before reading one of your books. Several students took the books home and gave them to other family members to read and enjoy. Keep up the good work and give us some more books in the Bluford Series.”
—Lois Glennon, Teacher, South Dade Senior High School (Redlands, FL)
“The Bluford Series is a complete hit with my students at West Philadelphia High School. They really can’t get enough of them. Even the kids that you’d least expect to read are enjoying them!”
—Teacher, West Philadelphia High School (Philadelphia, PA)
“My kids LOVE the Bluford books. These are great books for young minds.”
—Deana D. Young, Reading Teacher (Allentown, PA)
“Thank you for these wonderful books and their exciting covers.”
—Doris Jeske, Reading Specialist, Carter School (Chicago, IL)
“Our students love the Bluford Series. I can’t keep the books on the shelves.”
—J. Downing, Library Media Specialist, Grover Washington Jr. Middle School (Philadelphia, PA)
“I am a second-year teacher in North Carolina. I . . . cannot say enough about your books. I have many students who are VERY reluctant to read, but everyone I have talked to loves the Bluford Series. We read to our students during homeroom every morning, and my kids want to keep reading and take the books home. I cannot believe how much interest in reading the series has brought to our school. Will there be more novels? I know my kids will take all they can get.”
—Michele Johnson, Teacher (North Carolina)
“I have personally read all seven books and I would recommend them without hesitation to anyone interested in contemporary urban fiction featuring African American high school students. They would be a welcome addition to any Young Adult library.”
—John F. Caviston, Librarian, Samuel S. Fels High School (Philadelphia, PA)
WHAT CRITICS ARE SAYING ABOUT THE BLUFORD SERIES
All comments below are taken from reviews that have appeared recently in a professional reading journal.
“The novel introduces issues relevant to both male and female teen readers: the magic of budding romance, the personal struggles of children with parents in the throes of serious marital conflict; the importance of social popularity to teens, and, interestingly, male violence against females in teen relationships. . . . In a larger sense, the novel demonstrates how new hope can emerge from personal disillusion and disappointment.”
—A review of Lost and Found by Neal A. Lester in the Journal of Adolescent and Adult Literacy
“[The Bully is] an enjoyable read. . . . The author is a good story teller who weaves in all the realistic details of daily life that make readers forget this is fiction. . . . The daily dramas of high school life—the cruelties, injustices, opportunities, and successes—make a good story when well put together. . . . A simple story simply told that succeeds in its purpose for its intended audience.”
—A review of The Bully by James Blasingame in the Journal of Adolescent and Adult Literacy
“The book is well-written and easy to read. The situations hold the reader’s attention and are ones that teens can relate to.”
—A student review of A Matter of Trust published in the Journal of Adolescent and Adult Literacy
“A Matter of Trust shows the emotional volatility of teen romance, friendships, romantic and sibling rivalry, and relationship betrayals. . . The rhythm of the language—the character’s and the narrator’s—makes the various storylines engaging and real. Schraff captures well the workings of female cliques, parental discord, immediate personal responsibility in conflict with immediate personal desires, and relationship healing.”
—A review of A Matter of Trust by Neal A. Lester in the Journal of Adolescent and Adult Literacy
“[Someone to Love Me] keeps you on the edge of your seat anxiously wondering what will happen next.”
—A student review of Someone to Love Me published in the Journal of Adolescent and Adult Literacy