Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas everyone! It is snowing outside and I am full of coffee and books as I sit on my futon and read. My Christmas break started about a week ago and I only have read two books but I also got a TV in my room and Netflix has a way of convincing me that I need to rewatch Friends.

So far this break I read Piper by Jay Asher and Jessica Freeburg and Very, very, very, Dreadful: The Influenza Pandemic of 1918 by Albert Marrin. Both books were extremely interesting and fun to read.

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This is not your typical fairy tale and the ending certainly was not what I was expecting. This a graphic novel and the form made the story so much more interesting because a lot of the time the pictures told the story not so much the words. I’ve been reading a lot of graphic novels lately but this particular one reminded me more of a comic book style then the other graphic novels I have been reading.

I really liked the take on the Pied Piper this story took. The story focuses on Maggie, a deaf girl, who lives in the village of Hameln, where she isn’t treated with any respect really, and must to learn to survive. Her parents died when she was young so she and her brother live with the local priest and his sister. Maggie thinks she will be alone forever until the Piper comes to town promising that he can take care of their rat problem. After several days however the villagers aren’t convinced he is doing anything and threaten to turn against him. The Piper agrees to leave if only Maggie will come with him but Maggie doesn’t know what to do. This is a twisted fairy tale because you aren’t sure what is going to happen and the illustrations are beautiful. It is a short very well written graphic novel that looks at a common children’s tale very differently.

 

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This book hasn’t officially come out yet, Jan 2018, so soon. I got an ARC copy at NCTE in November and it was one of the most interesting reads I have read this semester. I knew a little about the Influenza of 1918 because my great-great-aunt was a nurse and my great-great-uncle contracted the flu and couldn’t go to war because of it. Other than that I didn’t know anything about it and how deadly it was. The Spanish Influenza (as it was commonly known) killed more people than WWI did and WWI was the bloodiest war the world has ever seen.

If you are looking for an informational book on the Influenza of 1918 then this is your book. Not only does Marrin talk about the Flu but he also talks about the war, life during the war, the causes of Flu, the Holocaust, how the flu spread. Marrin left no stone unturned and I learned so much from reading this book. For those students who like nonfiction this is a great example and they got their history lesson for the day as well.

-A

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Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen

I have and always will love Jane Austen. I love her even more as I get older because as I tweeted she is the queen of sass. As a kid she was all about the romance but the more I read and grow the more I realize how sassy and sarcastic she is.

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Northanger Abbey is no exception and several times while I was reading the novel I laughed out loud or silently giggled to myself because I was starting to see the parody and the humor.

Northanger Abbey is the story of Catherine, who being a sweet sensitive girl was often railroaded by friends and family but ultimately found love in the end (like any proper Jane Austen novel). There was several times throughout the novel especially near the beginning where I was like “Cat, stand up for yourself already”, but I think Austen was playing with that idea of manners. Catherine didn’t want to offend her potential future-sister-in-law but she didn’t want to offend her friends either and thus she was stuck.

Catherine also had some fun ideas about the gothic because she had read a lot of gothic novels so she was lost in this fantasy world a lot of the time but that endeared her to me even more. She wanted an adventure when she went to Northanger Abbey and even though she didn’t really get one she found love instead. I know this sounds super cheesy but I really liked the pace and flow of this Austen novel. It wasn’t short and stunted like I think Persuasion reads and it wasn’t long and just goes on forever like Mansfield Park. It was the right kind of length and it explored it’s ideas fully in my opinion. There were questions of class, gender, propriety but it didn’t drag nor did it feel rushed.

I really related to Catherine because not only was she young and excited about life but she didn’t know how to speak up for herself. She wanted to be a people pleaser but when she realized that it was ruining her chances of a happy ending she put her foot down. It was a relatively short novel but there was a lot of character growth and it was just a really pleasant read. It was a great book to end the semester on and overall one of the better examples of the novel, as I think of it, that I have seen this semester so far.

-A

Through the Woods by Emily Carroll

Creepy! That is the only word I would use to describe the five story graphic novel by Emily Carroll. Author and Illustrator Emily Carroll (who is also illustrating the graphic novel version of Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson) has created one creepy book through black, white, blue and red illustrations that come to life on the page.

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I love graphic novels and when my friend Regan showed me her latest find I knew I had to read it. That was like a couple months ago but I finally found the time to sit down and look at the amazing illustrations and be completely freaked out as I cuddled beneath my blankets and anxiously turned page after page of amazing illustrations (I know I keep saying that but they are so beautiful). The only colors used throughout the book are red, blue, white, black and sometimes grey but it creates this atmosphere throughout the book that only enhances the creepiness and makes me love it all the more.

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Starting with a story about three sisters who slowly disappear and ending with little red riding hood, with stories in between about ghosts, dismembered bodies, and (insert yuck face) worms (shudder), Carroll has created a delightful collection of creepy stories that are sure to be a hit with anyone who loves to feel that chill creeping up their spine.

-A

Castle of Otranto by Horace Walpole

I didn’t quite know what to expect when I first started reading this book. In the intro it mentioned that André Breton, the father of surrealism, and the surrealist movement  claimed Horace Walpole as one of their own. Walpole himself said it came from a dream and was often dismissed it as a piece of whimsy. Now I didn’t really know what to expect because while I have never studied surrealist writing the surrealist movement in painting is my favorite artistic movement and I have done quite a bit research on it. The surrealists attempted to tap into the subconscious by almost falling asleep and writing from that space, writing from that thin space in-between sleeping and awake. I don’t necessarily know if I would classify Castle of Otranto as a piece of surrealist writing but it certainly didn’t feel entirely gothic or entirely allegory. If I hadn’t known that some people accredited Walpole with the surrealists I might still think of this piece as surrealist.

I really could picture the giant helmet coming down and crushing the son and the giant armor. I have studied enough surrealists to be able to picture it and it was creepy.

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I also think of it as Gothic but it had a dreamlike quality to it I can’t quite place. Considering some liken it to an allegory of Walpole’s own life I don’t know what to really make of it. I also was harkening back to when I read King Henry VIII in my Shakespeare course because Manfred wanted to divorce his wife for a younger woman in the hopes he would get a son so he could pass Otranto onto his son, except as we come to find out Otranto wasn’t his to give away in the first place.

Was the giant knight invading their home part of the curse? Was it an allegory as Walpole struggled with his own problems concerning his birth and inheritance? Was he tapping into his subconscious and writing from a place deep inside where only our dreams can tell us what we are really feeling and thinking?

Compared to the Brontë sisters I wanted something a little more dark and full of a little more fraughtness. I mean people died and there was a lot of fleeing, and terror but I think compared to the horror novels Stephen King writes or to the horror films that are being made it just doesn’t have that scare factor.

It’s definitely dark and dreamy like (not in a good way) but I guess I just wanted a little more supernatural. I know it is only like a 115 pages but still I wanted a little more of “what is going on” factor.

To me the story was more just about fears of inheritance put into a gothic setting.

-A

Professional Development Book #1: In Defense of Read Aloud: Sustaining Best Practice by Steven L. Layne

Steven starts his book about asking about the fuss. That was my question too. What is all the fuss about when it comes to read alouds? I loved read alouds in high school, Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson, Monster by Walter Dean Myers were the two I remember vividly from freshman year of high school. I had such a great experience with read alouds so it was to my dismay that I read the first chapter of Steven’s book and he had stories of complaints by parents about his read alouds. These parents claimed that read aloud wasn’t instruction and to someone that loved read alouds in high school that makes me sad. Steven has study after study showing that read aloud is best practice but the stories of these parents are true. Layne explains that we as teachers need to be leaders and experts in their fields. They need to be able to defend read alouds and show the complaining parents and the administration that doesn’t understand that read aloud time is instruction and it keeps kids coming back.

In chapter two Steven talks about setting up a successful reading time. He starts with the seating plan, which is simple as allowing kids to sit where they want. Don’t force them to sit in their desks if they would prefer to sit on the floor but what if your classroom doesn’t support this? Layne suggests making it your own because it all depends on your classroom and the purpose of your read aloud. If your read aloud is just a bell ringer for five minutes then perhaps your students will stay in their seats but it is all about your classroom and what works for you and your students.

Steven also has a do not disturb sign on his door because that is how important read aloud time is. He says interruptions are the worst because read aloud is instruction. Also Steven used to be a teacher so he is hilarious because he knows what it is like to be in the trenches. He brings a lot of humor to his book which is great because in all the craziness of life sometimes you just need to laugh.

He goes on to talk about launching the read aloud, during the read aloud, how to conclude the read aloud and canceling a read aloud. Steven encourages picking a genre because it encourages higher level thinking and he strongly suggests reading the book through and picking strategic stopping points while reading to encourage your students to be thinking. Don’t ever cancel your read aloud and don’t let someone else conclude it for you.

Chapter 3 talks about selecting the appropriate read aloud which includes listening to your students, consider the genre, and read some nonfiction. At the end of every chapter Steven includes letters teachers wrote to him about questions they had about read aloud and one of the teachers mentioned that she couldn’t get her class of sixth grade boys interested in any of her read alouds. She lists several good books but they are all girl protagonists. That isn’t going to interest a group of young boys. That is what is so important about knowing your students and listening to them when choosing a read aloud. The read aloud is instruction but it is personalized instruction which is why it is so important that you know your students.

Chapter 4 talks about the read aloud itself and how to read aloud. Steven gives some really good tips on how to read aloud because let me tell you not everyone has a great read aloud voice.

The last chapter is also ver applicable because it is full of recommendations by teachers, librarians, and presidents of colleges on what books they found successful for read alouds. I loved reading through these selections because some books I read and was like YES! and others I was like I never heard of these but now I need to check them out!

I really enjoyed this book and honestly it felt like reading Book Love by Penny Kittle all over again. It didn’t read like a text book or even a professional development book. It felt like I was growing and I loved it.

I would totally recommend this book especially if you are considering launching a read aloud in your classroom.

-A

#IMWAYR: Everless by Sara Holland

 

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I got an ARC (advanced reader’s copy) of this book while at NCTE so technically it isn’t out yet (release date January 2018) which frustrates me because guess what…it’s part of a series. I tend to not read series for this exact reason. I hate waiting for the sequel or the third book or whatever is next to come out because by the time it does I don’t remember what I read. That being said I really liked Everless, it’s just going to be forever before I read the sequel, if I remember to.

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Everless is the story of Jules. Jules is just your average girl if you count being able to stop time, being an orphan, being in love with a prince, and having weird visions as normal. Jules lives in the kingdom of Sempera where time is money and money is time. Time lenders extract time from your blood, mold it into a coin and voila! you have money. It’s actually a really cool process unless you don’t have much time and drain yourself dry and die. It’s not so fun after that.

This is what is going to happen to Jules father if she doesn’t return to the palace of Everless where they give out a month coin every week for payment. The one small problem being Jules and her father fled Everless when Jules was a child because of what she witnessed. Will Jules survive returning to Everless or will she bleed herself dry in order to save a friend?

-A