Saturday, May 30, 2009

For Teens, Hello Means 'How About a hug?'

A few days ago, the New York Times posted an article about teens and hugging. It's an interesting article about how hugging, for many, has become a standard form of greeting. As I was reading, and it was mentioned in the article as such, perhaps these teenagers are starving for physical contact as most of their communication is electronic. Interesting thought.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Duckling Ugly

Duckling Ugly is the third in the Dark Fusion series by Neal Shusterman, the first two being Dread Locks and Red Rider's Hood. Duckling Ugly fuses the stories of "The Ugly Duckling" and "The Fountain of Youth." There's one particular piece of this novel that struck me. The protagonist says
How do you judge beauty? They say beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but that's not true. Beauty is in the spirit of the world in which you live. It's where the world tells you it is...and if your world finds beauty in the black pit of ugliness, then that's where your beauty lies. (Shusterman, 2006, p. 200)
With the discussion of commodification in my media class first semester last school year, and the stock that teenagers take on what they see on television, striving to be what can only be achieved with airbrushes, I'm inclined to agree with Shusterman here. I had a discussion with a friend of mine before school let out for the summer about Marilyn Monroe. We saw a picture of her on the wall at Dairy Queen. The question ended up being, at the time of The Seven Year Itch, how much did she weigh?

The idea is that people's perception of what is beautiful is what the media says is beautiful. So if Marilyn Monroe (who is still considered beautiful) is put next to one of the skinny models of today, who do you think people want to look more like?

Shusterman, N. (2006). Duckling Ugly. New York: Speak.

The Squire's Tale (Part 2)

The third question (yes, I realize I skipped the second) asks about our impressions of the novel from a patriarchal standpoint. And my response is as follows:
If we consider patriarchal to be where "women are seen as passive and 'simple' creatures who need men to protect them" (see previous post),
then Morris's THE SQUIRE'S TALE is not patriarchal.

Consider the women of the novel individually: the Very Ugly Woman (Lady Lorie), Morgan, Lady Alisoun, Lady Ettard, Nimue, and Morgause.

Lady Lorie—She is the catalyst that truly begins Sir Gawain’s quest. By guiding the hart and hound through the feast at Camelot, and challenging
Sir Gawain verbally, it is her appearance (in the physical location) that is the initiating event in the cycle of the hero’s journey. She
reappears at the end to challenge Gawain once again, allowing him to prove himself. At no point do we see her as passive and solely in need
of rescue.

Morgan—When Morgan le Fay first appears in THE SQUIRE’S TALE, she appears to Terence as a serpent. As an archetype, the serpent is
representative of evil, most often associated with an allusion to Genesis and the snake that tempted Eve. We find out from Sir Marhault
that Morgan is a temptress, being the woman who encouraged Marhault to boast about his abilities, which ended up getting him cursed. To Gawain,
she appears to offer guidance, which Gawain has been forewarned to heed.

Lady Alisoun—This female character is nicknamed “The Bloodthirsty,” which is an interesting way to introduce a character of the female sex.
Where she might be the first of the three to be considered particularly dainty, it turns out that Lady Alisoun has a penchant for the grotesque
and becomes bored when Gawain won’t indulge her appetites. It seems that Alisoun doesn’t need a man to save her, but she does need one to keep
her in dead bodies, whether it be of others, or of the knights she’s with, themselves.

Lady Ettard—She runs a castle, which probably rules over a portion of the land, without a man to sit behind. She and Pelleas have a symbiotic
relationship: he needs to be insulted by the woman he loves, and she needs to be the one in control. Not characteristic of a damsel in distress.

Nimue—She is the Lady of the Lake. The Lady of the Lake, in some legends, is the person who granted Arthur the sword Excalibur. In THE
SQUIRE’S TALE, is the messenger who tells Gawain he’s not yet finished with Pelleas and Ettard, and one who almost botches the reparation of
that relatioship. Legend has it that Nimue is the character that the Merlin was in love with, and she sealed him in a cave. While this is not
explicitly said, familiarity with the legend lends itself to that inference given the statement made by Kai that "[Merlin] announced one
day that he’d done here, and he was off to take his rest. He walked out of the gates and met a lady—a faery beauty if I know anything—on a white
horse. They rode away together" (Morris, 1998, 192).

Morgause—She is a controlling woman, sending her husband off to war against Arthur only to be killed. She is known as “The Enchantress,”
whose sole purpose is to unseat all of the kings and princes and take over rule of the land.

All of the women in THE SQUIRE’S TALE are neither passive nor simple in the parts they play in the story. Indeed, many of the women seem to have
their own agenda to fulfill and see about using the other characters to do so. By the definition given, I cannot support the idea that this
particular story is patriarchal or masochistic in nature. Because the main characters are male and the story follows the exploits of these men
is not enough reason to give it that label.

Morris, G. (1998). THE SQUIRE'S TALE. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company.

The Squire's Tale (Part 1)

The discussion prompt asked for our favorite character in Gerald Morris's The Squire's Tale. Here is my response.

As much as Morgaine, or Morgan le Fay, is usually my favorite character when it comes to Arthurian Legend, in THE SQUIRE'S TALE, my favorite is
Terence. It is Terence's extreme loyalty to the character with whom he finds himself bound, that draws my attention to him. An admirable
quality in any friend.

Terence shows his loyalty through his actions. When Gawain asks the boy to be his squire, "Terence [looks] hesitantly at the hermit" (Morris,
1998, p. 11), reluctant to leave Trevisant, the man who raised him, alone to fend for himself without a memory. And it isn't without tears
that Terence leaves Trevisant behind.

Terence's loyalty to Gawain is shown in deeds throughout the novel, the first of which is professing the story of Sir Hartubris's defeat to
Arthur, though Gawain had no intention of doing so. As soon as Terence spoke, "he immediately knew he had made a terrible social error...and
Terence realized that none of the other squires in the room had spoken a word" (Morris, 1998, p. 32). But his motive for speaking was noble: to
help Gawain become a knight of the Round Table.

Terence's confidence in his ability to be open with Sir Gawain is further example of Terence's loyalty. To be bold enough to say to
Gawain, "No, milord...I think we should go that way," (Morris, 1998, p.154), shows not only the nature of the relationship between knight and
squire, but also that Terence would not let Gawain head off in the wrong direction.

Finally, Terence shows his loyalty to Gawain once Terence has completed his own quest--that of finding the identity of his parents. Robin,
Terence's guide, offers Terence a place in the Other World on behalf of Terence's father, Ganscotter. When Robin indicates that Terence must go
alone, leaving Gawain behind, Terence chooses to stay with Gawain and return to Camelot.

It is not easy to find loyal friends--so many people have their own agendas that cause manipulation, or a relationship that is less than
symbiotic. With Terence, his own agenda isn't secondary, but his loyalty to his friends takes precedence.
Morris, G. (1998). The Squire's Tale. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company.

ENGL 363 and Summer Plans

The Squire's Tale by is the first of the novels I've read for my ENGL 363 course. First step on my way to an endorsement in Library Science.

What I'll try to do this summer (or at least for the first five weeks) is post here the responses I post to questions raised in my class. Additionally, I'll give comments on some of the things my classmates (no names, of course) discuss that I didn't previously think of.

Before I begin, however, I want to talk a little about novel. The Squire's Tale is the first in a series by the same name by Gerald Morris. This particular installment follows Terence, Sir Gawain's squire, on his adventurous search for his identity. Did I mention that I love Arthurian Legend?

Much like many stories based on legend, The Squire's Tale fits the archetype of the hero journey. It's common knowledge around here that I absolutely love the hero journey. It's a way of making a story make sense to those who need it laid out in a set of labels. I believe I began my discussion of the hero journey last summer when my Book Buddy suggested I read the Percy Jackson and the Olympians series (the fifth of which I'll be talking about here in the near future).

So hooray! for the hero journey, and off we go.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

The Skin I'm In

I wasn't sure I'd like this novel when it was recommended to me. Interestingly, I might have been the one to add it to the list of books we ordered with the grant we received last year. The Skin I'm In was the winner of the Coretta Scott King/John Steptoe Award for New Talent in 1998 and is on a YALSA book list.

One of the reviews in Publisher's Weekly said that the "novel will hit home." and it definitely did that. I was drawn in immediately by the dialect the first person narrator, Maleeka, used. Possibly because it's a dialect that I use when I speak with my cousins back home. And yet, the writing she does for her English class's extra project is written in a Standard American English dialect.

In my sociolinguistics class last semester, we talked about how student have a problem understanding the concept of register when speaking. Because for some, the language they use with their parents is the same as the language they use with their peers. Showing the difference between the two using a character in a novel (which I may very well read aloud) to show the difference might be beneficial.

The main thematic idea is understanding who you are and what you stand for. The new teacher, Ms. Saunders, seems more confident then she really is, Maleeka struggles within a gang-type situation, and Charlese, a main antagonist, only changes who she is in an effort to keep out of trouble.

The question I posed yesterday when I began this book, one that I will use to begin my self-identity unit in the fall, was this:

What does your face say to the world?

Then again, should we really be preoccupied with seeing ourselves through other's eyes?

Excited for RDG 598 in the Fall

I just got an email from my RDG 598 professor with part of the reading list for the fall. Apparently, in addition to this list, we have to read four books of our choosing and four books within (probably) literature circles. This and my research class in the fall and I'll be one class away from graduating!

Reading List:
Myers, W.D. Monster*
Anderson, L.H. Wintergirls
Beah, I. Long Way Gone
Reeve, P. Here Lies Arthur
Carlson, L. Moccasin Thunder
Schlitz, L. Good Masters, Sweet Ladies
Shusterman, N. Unwind*
Resau, L. Red Glass
Stork, F. Marcelo in the Real World
Schmidt. G. Lizzy Bright and the Buckminster Boy

*Books I already own

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Book Vacuum Cleaner

Here's what I've decided. I am a vacuum cleaner. I can't help myself. I have to finish my Professional Development Dossier, but I just can't stop reading. Call me Hoover or something. In the last few weeks I've read
I've also decided that our librarian is an enabler. I just checked out The Skin I'm In and You Don't Know Me from our New Arrivals shelf. And, since we know she's going to be back next year, she's going to let me check out books periodically throughout the summer. Good times.

The Battle of the Red Hot Pepper Weenies

So I'm not sure if the David Lubar of Pepper Weenie fame is the same as the David Lubar from Sleeping Freshmen, but the Pepper Weenie collection of short stories is quite amusing. Geared toward middle school students, Pepper Weenies is a book full of stories with twists. If nothing else, it'll keep the kids reading because they wonder what will happen next, as nothing happens as the reader would expect.

My favorite story from the collection is called "Smart Little Suckers." Here's the jist: The first person narrator has a tire swing in his backyard, a breeding ground for annoying insect life. His dad made mention previously of taking the swing down, but is a little short on the follow-through. Thus, the biting bugs that the narrator encounters every time he goes outside. These bugs, well, they make people smarter. The narrator, he's greedy with the smarts. I'm not going to say anymore if only because I don't want to give away the ending.

Two thumbs up for reluctant readers, though. I bet I could get my students to read these.

Words by Heart

Lena wants nothing more than her father's love. She tries to get it by winning a scripture recitation contest. She tries to get it by giving up her daily schooling to help provide for her family. She doesn't, until the end, realize that she's had it all along. With his love, Lena's father tries to shield her from the injustices the come with being a sharecropper in a predominantly white town. It is through one of Lena's "friends," another boy at school, that she learns this lesson.

The most important sentiment from the novel is this:

I want something for you, Lena. For all my children. And I hope I'm not wrong because it's going to cost you pain, but I want it for you just the same. I want you not to know your place. You have a right to an education and hope and the chance to use your gifts. I pray to God you won't ever have to live your life by someone else's rules. (89)

Challenge all you see fit to challenge. Do not stand idlly by and let other people run over you.

This isn't one I would have chosen for myself, I don't think. It was recommended, for that particular passage, by my school librarian.

Sebestyen, Ouida. Words by Heart. New York: Bantam Doubleday Doll Books for Young Readers, 1979.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Tom Swifties

As you can see from my Shelfari (which has been moved to the left-hand side of the screen), one of the many books I'm currently reading is Sleeping Freshmen Never Lie, by David Lubar. Being the nerdy word people that we are in my family, I immediately keyed in on the "Tom Swifties" from Chapter 5. Here's a little background:

One of the most popular series from long ago was Tom Swift. The key
thing about Tom, for our purposes, was that he never just said
anything. the writer was always ramping thing up. Tom would 'exclaim
surprisedly' or 'shout vigorously.'

Tom's speech habits became so well known that people started making fun of
them. it turned into a word game. (34)

Here are a few Tom Swifties from Sleeping Freshmen:
"I'd like a hot dog," Tom said frankly.
"Stop this horse," Tom said haltingly.
"They're building new apartments down the road," Tom said constructively. (34)
If nothing else, they're an exercise in adverb use. Although, I did hear once, in one of my creative writing classes, that if writers are using many adverbs, then they're not using the right verbs. Nevertheless, I found Tom Swifties to be interesting.

Some fun ones that my family came up with:
  • "That's my underwear," Tom said briefly.
  • "I suppose you want some ice cream," she spat coldly.
  • "Nemo's my movie," she said selfishly.
Isn't that fun? Try your own.

All quotes from Lubar, D. 2005. Sleeping Freshmen Never Lie. New York: Speak.