Thursday, May 29, 2008

Booking Through Thursday - Reading Fundamentals

Here's today's BTT question:

What is reading, anyway? Novels, comics, graphic novels, manga, e-books, audiobooks — which of these is reading these days? Are they all reading? Only some of them? What are your personal qualifications for something to be “reading” — why? If something isn’t reading, why not? Does it matter? Does it impact your desire to sample a source if you find out a premise you liked the sound of is in a format you don’t consider to be reading? Share your personal definition of reading, and how you came to have that stance.

I think my answer is going to be short and sweet on this one because I think all of these are reading. I also think reading aloud is reading, as is reading the newspaper, cereal boxes, blogs, and websites.

It's all reading to me because each of these things provides information in some format whether it be visual or auditory. I can't include TV or movies in this because they don't activate the mind and imagination in the way that an audiobook or a comic does.

I also think we do kids a disservice in today's education but not training them to read all forms of media, including comics, manga, and audiobooks. Each of these genres require specific reading skills. We need to equip our young people to handle all of the reading demands that will be placed on them in the future. That;s probably the driving force for my definition of reading. I believe we need to educate kids for the reading they will face in the future.

Do I prefer to hold a printed, traditional novel with chapters and very few pictures. Yes, but that's probably because that's the way I was taught to read. Do I find reading blogs and websites more difficult? Again, yes, because I haven't had as much education in how to read these forms of media.

Do I think one form is better or really reading over another? No. I have my preferences, but I can also see the allure to all of the above.

What do you think?

Monday, May 26, 2008

The Story of a Seagull and the Cat Who Taught Her to Fly by Luis Sepulveda

I'll be doing some brief posts throughout the summer of books I'm reading to prepare for a move to second grade next year. I'm very excited to be switching grade levels, and I can't wait to share new stories with my students.

This one was highly recommended by my local children's bookstore. It is the story of a cat who raises a seagull chick after witnessing the chick's mother's death.

I liked the plot. However, it is translated from the original Spanish, and I found the sentence structure and word choices to be a bit forced. I think I may read it to my students, but I don't think I'd recommend that they read it on their own.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

The Wednesday Wars by Gary D. Schmidt

This is another one I read for the A to Z Challenge. I read about it in a number of blogs and it has been on my TBR pile for awhile. It doesn't qualify for the In The Pub challenge because, even though it is a recently published book, it is classified as a young adult novel.

The books follows Holling Hoodhood through his seventh grade school year in 1967. Holling lives in a small town where everyone is either Catholic or Jewish. Being a Presbyterian, Holling is not dismissed from school early each Wednesday, much to the dismay of his teacher, Mrs. Baker. Through the Wednesday afternoons of the school year, Holling learns to read Shakespeare, wrangles missing rats, and learns to run for the school's track team. He also learns about himself, his family, and his own humanity in the process.

STRENGTHS OF THE WEDNESDAY WARS: Schmidt created a school, and set of characters, that beg for teachers to read them to their upper elementary school classes. There are parts of the story that are laugh out loud funny, like when the class rats escape and how they are finally found. Schmidt also does a good job of capturing the era with the conflict between Holling's father and sister as well as the military deployment of Mrs. Baker's husband. By making the main character a boy, this is a book that both boys and girls can relate to. I also liked the ending of the book where Holling was, finally, able to stand up for himself and what he wanted. I think that's a great lesson for young people. The last page of the story really highlights Holling's growth and his humanity without being too sentimental. Schmidt did an excellent job of creating a character that young people will enjoy.

WEAKNESSES OF THE WEDNESDAY WARS: I really enjoyed this one so it's hard for me to find any problems with it. The only thing I can say is that it assumes some knowledge of the political events of the era which, unfortunately, may be lacking in the book's target audience. As adults, we assume they know about Vietnam, but they may have never gotten that far in their history classes.

Overall, I'd highly recommend this one. In fact, I'm giving it 5 stars (only the third book I've given all five stars to this year!) It is a funny yet poignant look at the problems of growing up. This would be a great gift to the young person in your life. I would use it to open up a discussion of following your own path and what that really means. If you've read it, I'd love to know what you thought.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

New Meme

I was tagged for this one by Presbyterian Gal.

Rules: The rules of the game get posted at the beginning. Each player answers the questions about himself or herself. At the end of the post, the player then tags five people and posts their names, then goes to their blogs and leaves them a comment, letting them know they’ve been tagged and asking them to read your blog.

Ten years ago:

1998. I was pregnant with SurferGirl and teaching fourth grade where I still teach. I had also just moved into my current house and was knee-deep in painting and gardening.

Five things on today's "to do" list:

I guess this is the what did I get done and what moved to tomorrow's list:

picked up the house
saw Prince Caspian (which I recommend)
played Nintendo with SurferGirl
talked to my parents
getting old clothes to Salvation Army
caught up on my blog book reviews

Moved to tomorrow's list:

shopping trip to Target
planning the next Girl Scout meeting

Things I'd do if I was a billionaire:

provide an endowment fund for my church
fund a Service Learning program at my husband's college - young people need to learn how to give back before it's too late!
create a scholarship fund to help students in my area obtain a private education
buy hybrid vehicles
build a "green" house and provide funding for "green" houses and school buildings
fund early literacy programs for people living in public housing
take care of my friends and family

Five places I've lived:
These are all in the Los Angeles area:
Simi Valley, Northridge, Canoga Park, West Hollywood, Sierra Madre

Five jobs I've had:
Receptionist for SuperCuts
Peon worker at fast food restaurant
Headhunter at two different secretarial placement agencies
Executive assistant to magazine editor and owner of a mail order video company (not those kinds ... historical and aeronautical documentaries)
Teacher - everything from kindergarten music to high school SAT prep

Who do I tag?

anyone who'd like to play along as long as they let me know they've played!

A Certain Justice by P.D. James

This is one I read for the A to Z Challenge. It was given to me by a friend who is a mystery writer. It is the second Adam Dalgliesh book I' ve read. I read The Lighthouse last summer. The review on that one is here.

This book revolves around the murder of Venetia Aldridge, a criminal defense attorney, who is in line to become the head of chambers, which is an honor in the British legal system. Venetia has a rebellious daughter, Octavia, who announces her intent to marry the man her mother recently successfully defended in the murder of his aunt. Dalgliesh and his team are called in to solve the murder and get wrapped up in Octavia's story as well as her mother's family history. This history includes a suicide at the boy's school run by Venetia's father and charges of an improper relationship between a student and teacher.

STRENGTHS OF A CERTAIN JUSTICE: I enjoy the Dalgliesh character. He is witty without being over the top. Once the plot of this one got going, it was a very enjoyable ride. I liked how the author kept a number of suspects viable until the very end of the story. I also liked how James was able to veer off into the secondary story surrounding Octavia and create a whole new set of problems and tensions. In some books, the secondary plot moving to the forefront near the end of the book would have been frustrating. In this one, James built the tension and suspense so well that I really wanted to know how it was all going to end. This is one where I was kept guessing until the very end. I really didn't figure the whole thing out until it was presented to me. James did an excellent job holding the layers of the murder together in a responsible way.

WEAKNESSES OF A CERTAIN JUSTICE: James spent the first 100 pages of the book setting up all the main characters and suspects before the murder even happened. It took longer than that for Dalgliesh to appear. I almost stopped reading at page 50 because there was just so much detail and very little plot development going on. All of this information ended up being relevant to the final plot, but it took too long to get there for my taste.

Overall, I'd give this one 3 stars. If you enjoy British mysteries, then go ahead and take a dip into this one. I'd love to know what anyone else thought of this one, or if anyone has read another James book they would recommend.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Friday Fill In

1. There is absolutely NO way you can get me to go on a tall or loopy roller coaster!
2. Riding in a school bus without air conditioning and windows that don't open reminds me that summer is almost here!
3. I cannot live without my Starbucks!
4. Going to Australia and Europe are two things I'd like to try.
5. When life hands you lemons have a spiked lemonade.
6.Reading Nancy Drew books all summer and riding my bike to the library to get more are my favorite childhood memory.
7. And as for the weekend, tonight I'm looking forward to driving in traffic with three Girl Scouts for a camping trip, tomorrow my plans include camping with over 1000 girls in over 100 degree heat and Sunday, I want to do anything that doesn't involve Scouts and heat!

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

The Forests Of Silence by Emily Rodda

This is not a full review, but I wanted to take a moment and rave about a new, to me, series of children's books I just found. I had the great fortune to attend a teacher workshop given by Jim Trelease who is the guru of reading aloud to kids. I was doubly fortunate because Jim is retiring, and I got to see his last professional southern California workshop. Quite cool.

Anyway, he highly recommended the Deltora Quest series so I had to read the first one. If you have someone who loves fantasy and adventure, but is not quite ready for Harry Potter, give this one a try.

I really loved it and wanted to get the word out on this one. There are seven books in the series which I can see a kid devouring and wanting more!

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Gods in Alabama by Joshilyn Jackson

This is one I read for the A to Z Challenge and, I think, was one of the books I got after the Read-a-thon last Spring. It took me a while to get to it on my growing TBR pile.

It's the story of Arlene Fleet who has left Alabama for Chicago and a new life after a number of traumatic high school events including the death of her father, the insanity of her mother, sexual promiscuity, teen date rape, and a murder. The story goes back and forth between Arlene's current journey back to Alabama and her past, which is filled with secrets and intrigue. This is definitely a novel rooted in the south like Looking for Salvation at the Dairy Queen which I've already blogged about.

STRENGTHS OF GODS IN ALABAMA: This book has one of the best opening lines I've ever read. Arlene's list of the gods in Alabama include: "high school quarterbacks, trucks, big tits, and also Jesus." That line alone made me want to read more. I liked Arlene for her self-deprecating humor and honest portrayal of her life and its quirks. I enjoyed Arlene's aunt also. Jackson gave that character some depth and clarity of thought which I found refreshing.

I also liked the back and forth chapters between the past and the present. It kept me interested in both parts of the story. I think if it had been told in a more linear fashion, then I would have lost interest fairly quickly. I did not anticipate the ending and was quite surprised by the ultimate resolution of the murder.

WEAKNESSES OF GODS IN ALABAMA: I don't tend to be drawn to Southern fiction, which is a very legitimate genre in literature. Many of the characters start to feel too similar and stereotyped. I felt that way about Arlene's cousin, uncle, and other family members. They didn't have enough depth to be very interesting. I find this to be a problem for me in many books in this genre. Maybe it is my southern California bias - I can't always relate to these characters.

Overall, I'd give this one 3 1/2 stars. I kept comparing it to Looking for Salvation at the Dairy Queen which I enjoyed much more. I'd be curious to know what you thought of this one, and if anyone has a recommendation on another of Jackson's books.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Booking Through Thursday - Manual Labor

Here's today's BTT question:

Writing guides, grammar books, punctuation how-tos . . . do you read them? Not read them? How many writing books, grammar books, dictionaries–if any–do you have in your library?

I have read many in my time but I do not look at them now. It feels too much like work since I have to teach these skills every day. The only exception is a dictionary. I do use one every once in a while. I keep one behind my desk at work, and we have a very good two volume one at home.

In all honesty, I rely on spell check to fix my grammar and punctuation. I also tend to throw in commas quite liberally because I can never quite remember, or care, where they really go. I also use the Internet to check words etc.

It's a short and sweet answer - basically, I have very few in my library and rely more on the Internet.