Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Listen (Video) by Laurie Halse Anderson

I found video on Youtube of Laurie Halse Anderson reading her poem, Listen. The purpose of the poem is to show reader's responses Speak. I think the title is appropriate. Check it out.

On Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson

Before I begin and disappoint my reader, I do want to say I'm limiting my discussion of this novel if only because I'll revisit it once the semester starts. When I do, I'll post discussion/assignments here just as I have before.

Wintergirls (2009) is in the same vein as Speak (1999) and Catalyst (2002), though I don't think it occurs at the same school as these two novels (Melinda, from Speak is mentioned on page 150-something of Catalyst). In this novel, the title character, Lia, is struggling with anorexia and with the death of her bulimic friend, Cassie. Anderson, in an interview on the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE)/ podcast Text Messages talks about the novel and about how she tried to discuss the topic in such a way that the novel didn't become a guide to those teens with eating disorders.

I did want to mention that Anderson made an interesting stylistic choice, in using strikethrough text, in this first person narrated story. I read some criticism of using this technique to get into Lia's head by another blogger a few days ago (and it's my luck I can't find that blog again). The gist of what the blogger said was that it takes away from the story. I must disagree. If Lia's emptiness, which she uses as a synonym for strength, comes from her self-denial, then the reader must be allowed to see that inner struggle. Without the strikethrough text, readers don't see Lia's fight with herself, between what she really wants, and what she wants. It a way, it reminds me of William Faulkner's Light in August where characters are thinking "one thing" and ... thinking something else in their subconscious altogether...

Also the blogger argues that Lia's use of figurative language wasn't authentic--especially not for a 17-year-old high school student. I have to refute with: if she's a reader, it's possible that the language used in Lia's head very well be authentic. If my notebooks from that time in my life still existed, the tone and metaphor use would be similar. Because of this, the language makes it easy for me to relate to and identify with Lia.

I think I'm going to leave you with a link to the poem that Anderson read at the end of the podcast. This one, her reading of it, made me tear. Not good when you're driving down I-10, but a moving poem nonetheless.

For more information about Laurie Halse Anderson, click here for her website, or here for her LiveJournal.

Anderson, Laurie Halse.(2009). Wintergirls. New York: Viking.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Banned Books

S sent me a list of banned books from FindLaw. Check it out here. Personally, I love reading banned books if only because it says "Ha!" to those people who would challenge anyone's freedom of expression. Censorship is always a touchy issue, and on the real, I'm not sure where I stand, especially when it comes to censorship within the school system. I will admit that I suggested one of my book buddies not read Gregory Maguire's Wicked because I didn't think it was appropriate yet, and I'll also admit that I suggested that Lauren Myracle's ttyl be pulled from our middle school library because I don't think the students are mature enough for it. Here's where I differ from many who censor and challenge books -- I've read them both. I actually very much enjoyed both novels. And if my book buddy were older and wanted to read the novel -- either novel, really -- I'd give it to her without a second thought. I'll tell you this much, I wouldn't suggest a ten-year-old read Chuck Pahlinuck's short story "Guts" from Haunted either (if you want to read the story, read Palahiniuk's essay on it first), but I think he's one of the most fantasic writers I've ever read. Maybe the argument about censorship and how one sits on the issues depends upon the evidence the challenger can present and the background the challenger comes to the table with. Challengers have to understand that while they may not want their children exposed to novels like Rowling's Harry Potter, there are parents (even religious parents) who see more than just the setting of the novel, or who will allow their children the choice to read such novels. Is it fair to deny other people's children the choice? At what point do the interests of one parent for his or her child extend to the interests of other people's children?

Some of the books I've read from the list of most banned in the last century:
  • I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, by Maya Angelou
  • The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, by Mark Twain
  • The Handmaid's Tale, by Margaret Atwood
  • The Outsiders, by S.E. Hinton
  • To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee
  • Flowers for Algernon, by Daniel Keyes
  • Harry Potter (Series), by J.K. Rowling
  • James and the Giant Peach, by Roald Dahl
  • Brave New World, by Aldous Huxley
  • Are You There, God? It's Me, Margaret, by Judy Blume
  • Lord of the Flies, by William Golding
  • Native Son, by Richard Wright
  • The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, by Mark Twain
  • Where's Waldo?, by Martin Hanford
  • Summer of My German Soldier, by Bette Greene

Monday, July 20, 2009

Thoughts on the new Half Blood Prince Movie

When I read blogs, I have this tendency to click the links in other people's blog rolls, just to see what's going on outside the world of blogs that I read on a regular basis. I went back to a post from the NCTE Inbox from a while ago on Five Things I've Gained from Reading (which I will address in five posts in the near future -- hopefully), and I came across the responses of another teacher. I will usually -- and did this time -- go to the present to see what else the blogger has written and decide whether or not I want to follow this newly-discovered blog. I have yet to decide if I want to follow TeacherNinja's blog, but I did want to comment on something that he said in response to the new Harry Potter movie. TeacherNinja says:
I saw the most recent Potter film over the weekend and thought it was fine. There's a lot of younguns out there crying that, OMG they changed things from the book!

Get used to it, kids. It's a completely different medium and things gotta change. I can't remember who it was they were interviewing, but many years ago someone asked an author his thoughts on how the movies had ruined his books. He pointed to them up there on his shelf and said, "No they haven't. They're right there."
I absolutely love this response. Yeah, film is a different medium -- they can do with it what they want. Consider Isaac Asmiov's I, Robot. And then look at the Will Smith movie. Similar? In name only. And I didn't hear anyone complaining about that. All I heard was that Will Smith looks good. Can't argue with that, but I'd hardly call it literary criticism. Heck, Douglas Adams's Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy is a novel (a five part trilogy), has been multiple radio programs (which you can get in audio book at iTunes -- man, I want that) and is also a movie. Here's the thing about the movie, though, which is also the case with many of the Harry Potter movies (particularly the first and the sixth): even though they're different, there are certain details removed that people who have read the novel fill in for themselves. For example, in the cave, Harry dips the shell-thingy in the water filled with Inferi. Did anyone explain to only-movie-goers what those things were? Nope! But if you read the book, then you knew why they were there and why they acted the way they did. Chew on that for a minute before you criticize filmmakers too much.

Think about this too: when studios make movies out of books, the sales for that particular book often increase. This is becuause some people want to read the book before they go see the movie. I have been guilty of such things.

And as the author insinutated -- that beloved book will still be intact on the shelf (or under the bed) when you get home from the theatre.

On Read-Alouds

I'm not sure I have a blog roll on my blog anymore, especially since the blogs I follow all run through my Google Reader, but I read this post on The Reading Zone, and had to share.

One of the strategies I started using this year to get my students interested in stories is the read-aloud. I had a novel that I read aloud to the class when we'd have extra time at the end of the period. The only one we got to this year was Dreadlocks by Neal Shusterman, but I already have a list lined up for the fall, including Sherman Alexie's The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, Sharon G. Flake's The Skin I'm In, and Richard Wright's Rite of Passage. I might pull in some more Shusterman, but I haven't decided yet. Hopefully, the book talks I'm planning to put into my weekly podcast will help me and the students decide what I should read to them--what will get them interested in reading the most.

My favorite book off of her list has to be The Giver by Lois Lowry. I recently finished the third in the series, called Messenger. Fantastic. I should have blogged about it, but I think it's one of the novels I read recently that has yet to make it up here.

One aspect of TheReadingZone's post that I particularly liked was her students' comments on their novels. She mentions that she has students read a variety of genres, authors, etc. so at least something resonates with each of her students. What I like even more was that she has them register an opinion. I want to take a page out of her book.

The List of novels (and only the novels) I'm considering for my 8th graders (they'll get to choose)
I think there might be more on that list, but I can't remember off the top of my head.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

More made up words

Sarcaustic: Facetious with an edge.

Inzane: crazy in a funny way.

Vokis and examples will be updated soon.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

For J: On Feed and 1984

I enjoy the book conversations I have with people. These questions are for J, so he has a purpose for reading and some concrete things to think about as he goes. At some point, I'll record our discussion of these questions.

  1. Consider the three party slogans from Orwell's 1984. Give your thoughts/reactions to each in the context of the novel and in the context of your own experience.
  2. M.T. Anderson writes his novel to those who resist the feed. Who are those people? What do they look like in the context of today's society. What do they look like in the context of the novel? Are you one who resists the feed? Why or why not?
  3. Explicate. Consider diction specifically. "You don't have the feed. You are the feed. You're feed. You're being eaten. You're raised for food" (202).
  4. In what ways is the feed in Anderson's novel and Big Brother in Orwell's novel similar? Despite the obvious, how are they different? Given each context, which do you find more intrusive? Why?
  5. Do you think we're moving toward a society resembling that of Feed or like that of 1984? Consider both the current consumer and political climates in your response.
  6. In your mind, what does the idea of utopia look like? Think about the two novels you just read and the novels you read in AP last semester, like Huxley's Brave New World. Outline the virtues and flaws of each society. How do they measure up to your internalized concept of utopia?

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Classic Summer Reads

Despite the big debate between teaching classical literature, teaching YA literature or teaching a combination of the two, a Teen Fiction website that I follow has suggested a few good reads out of the classical canon for teens this summer. I love reading lists. And I love adding to my ever-growing stash of reading lists that I keep in my Evernote. I'm happy to say, that I'm not adding anything to my reading list from this list. I've read all but Joseph Heller's Catch 22, which I remember starting and not finishing when I was in high school, though I did look up the meaning of the term at some point in the recent past.

Take a look at Francine Morrissette's article to see how many you've read or to add some great classic reads to your reading list.

Fence Posting

Capitutipping: the act of giving in on a decision that you had been sitting on the fence about.

Etym: My friend S was pretending to sit on the fence about continuing her education to get a degree in education. Eventually, she was tipped to the side of continuing education. A decision that wasn't a decision in the first place.

For pronunciation, click the play button on the Voki below.

Get a Voki now!

Thursday, July 2, 2009

On Sherman Alexie's The Absolutely True Diary of a Part Time Indian

I was looking for a read-aloud book for my Self-Identity unit in the fall, and really, I don't have to look any farther than The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian. I read this novel on recommendation from one of my buddies who read it in a class a couple of semesters ago. I didn't have time to read it then, so I knocked it out yesterday.

The novel is told in first person by a Spokane Indian, Arnold Spirit, Jr. Arnold decides that he is going to go to the white school about 22 miles up the road rather than continue to attend the school on the reservation. He is the only Indian at the school, and is the recipient of some animosity because they don't know what to expect from him. He has some troubles getting to school, which he cartoons about, his best friend hates him for leaving the reservation, people close to him die, and he joins the basketball team.

I could identify with Junior in that his peers called him an apple--red on the outside, white on the inside--because if an Indian wants to make something of him/herself, he says, then they're considered white. When I was a kid, my cousins called me oreo, black on the outside white on the inside.

The novel discusses how difficult it is to fit in, especially when what you want is outside the norm.

I'm excited to say that this title is soon to be on the shelf in my school library.

Alexie, Sherman. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian. New York: Little Brown, 2007.