Saturday, September 29, 2012

Banned Books Week - help me sort this out...

The college is really into Banned Books Week. I spent some time reading their display as well as this poster on my literature professor's door:

     I was reading the reasons on this poster and for their purposes I can see why they banned or required parent signature for some of these titles. I'm still not sure what's up with Mary Maclane, but what's the whole push to get kids and young adults to read banned books? We are having a class discussion Monday night on this, but honestly I'm not sure what to think or even how to ask the right question of the presenter to put it all in perspective. Should children and teens have free access to all pieces of literature? In what ways does it benefit the student to seek out a banned book rather than choose from award winners, such as Newberry's? Then there's The Giver - both banned and awarded - I was blown away by this book as an adult but some elementary students may be too sensitive for the book's perspective on the value of life the characters had. I'm not concerned with college students, but as a teacher - how do we approach the topic of banned books?  Should we promote a book just because it's banned ?Even pointing them out as "banned" makes kids want them. What do you think?

And just for fun...

Friday, September 28, 2012
Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Orbis Pictus...ain't no hocus-pictus
Anything can happen during an average college day. Friday - the Undie-Run came through the lunch room, Monday - bombed a physics test, Tuesday - our Children's Literature class had the honor of going through all the Orbis Pictus books nominated for the 2013 Quality Children's Non-Fiction award!

Not all that actually looked like this:

and this.....

      Once we gave our recommendations according to their criteria for the award, we sat back and thought about what it meant. "Oh, just some ol' non-fiction award," most people would think, but the reality was, we were sorting through any new release for children that was not fiction - that means EVERYTHING ELSE! Math, Social Studies, Anatomy, Science. It was so interesting to see books that were fascinating and surprising to see books that made you go, huh? How did THAT get in print? Even a big ol' typo in a book that had very few words - seriously! 

     So it's up to the NCTE Committee to select the winners, but it was amazing getting to give it a whirl and see what it's like to judge brand-spankin' new literature.
Monday, September 17, 2012

Feed your brain with TED

     Most of us are happy with what we know. We go along our day just being ourselves, working, raising kids, sleeping. It isn't until something new and bizarre comes along that we kind of question - how in the world did that  person think of that? 

Think Bill Gates, Steve Jobs.

I read an interesting article titled  "31 Ways to get Smarter in 2012" listing foods that reduce the risk of dementia, coordination exercises, brain games, art websites like MoMA, and my new favorite TED -

Not this Ted

TED stands for Technology Entertainment and Design and has conference style short videos you can watch of people sharing their ideas. They've expanded their content and you can listen to short presentations like a man discussing his idea that the path to design should favor the end user - specifically his infant incubator that won an award but was far from practical. He shares how medical technology needs to be affordable, accessible, and maintainable for third-world hospitals. 
     My favorite so far is the body engineer, Lucy McRae - imagine swallowing a pill and suddenly your sweat is scented with your favorite perfume. You have to watch her 6 minute video and see just what she's coming up with for bodies - imagine an interactive tattoo that lights up when you touch it - WOW. They even have a phone app for TED. Imagine yourself walking into the dentist office, watching a video or two in the waiting room and leaving with new ideas like liquid filled tubing clothes that change color with your mood - sure beats reading about Brad & Angelina and how they make all us real people feel! 
      I challenge you to click on Lucy McRae's link above and spend 6 minutes wow-ing your brain. 

What ideas would you present at a TED conference?  How about interactive landscaping? Select the book you are reading and as you walk through your yard, the scenery changes to the Wayless Wood in Inkheart with the fire elves and water nymphs. Oh yeah, I'm there!

Friday, September 14, 2012

Book Review: Graceling by Kristin Cashore

Graceling by Kristin Cashore
      Kristin Cashore mesmerized me with her characters Katsa and Po in this fantasy/paranormal adventure.  Graceling takes place in the fantasy world called The Seven Kingdoms, where occasionally a person is born with a "Grace". By the time they turn two, their eyes will change to two different colors revealing that they are graced. A grace can be only slightly useful, like being a gifted cake baker or  invaluable like unstoppable sword fighter.

     Katsa is graced, only she's led to believe that her grace is fighting. Not only an excellent archer, she can also fight hand-to-hand and sword fight. No one in the seven kingdoms had ever defeat her, which makes her valuable. He uncle Randa, King of the Middluns, forces her to kill for him until she is motivated by his evil to leave his kingdom and transport a child princess, Bitterblue, to safety in another kingdom.

     Early in the story, Katsa and Po meet  when he allows Katsa to escape King Murgon's courtyard so that he might see what she's up to rescuing his Lienid uncle. The build a strong, beautiful friendship based on trust. Together Po and Katsa try to solve the mystery of who ordered the kidnapping of his old, frail uncle. They spend their time spying and training for battle, fighting  with each other as opponents. Although Po has unrivaled sword fighting ability, Katsa's grace makes her  unbeatable, even for him. One of my favorite scenes in Graceling is when Katsa and Po really go at it fair and square (almost!). Po never expresses embarrassment from the many, many times she's beat him in training, and Katsa is never boastful of her grace. She always just says that's just the way she is, almost sad at times because of the constant threat of people trying to manipulate her for use of her grace.

     Katsa makes a rash decision to take Bitterblue, the young princess of Monsea, over the impassable Monsean mountains in winter. Her trials reveal to her the true nature of her grace, which was not merely fighting. Katsa and Po meet up and Po sufferes a terrible accident that changes his demeanor for the worse. Can Katsa get Bitterblue to safety against all possible odds? Can Katsa help turn Po's outlook back to what it once was? Can she get him to share his secrets?

     Graceling is written in a way that takes you on a nail-biting adventure and soothes it with a friendship that stands out even farther than the romance that  buds from it. Katsa's self-discovery, unashamed and unassuming of her magnificence will make Katsa your heroin for life.

I give Graceling Photobucket 5 stars  and a quiver full of arrows for my heroin!

Check out this alternate cover - worth 1000 words describing Katsa 
See also the companion books Fire & Bitterblue

You can read my review of Fire (here) and as soon as I read Bitterblue I'll post a review.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Wordy-Nerdy Wednesday

     A new addition to Reading, Writing, Raisin' Boys : 
Wordy-Nerdy Wednesday

     Inspired by Ingrid Law, author of Savvy  -  we all need to learn a new goofy word now and then to spark our creativity. Her entire book Scumble was born out of a word of the day definition. BUT, why let Webster or Oxford generate some stuffy, mundane words, noooo, let's have some fun.
the Burgess
      For our second Wordy-Nerdy Wednesday I bring you the Burgess Unabridged - A Classic Dictionary of Words You Have Always Needed, by Gelett Burgess (henceforth - the Burgess) .

This week's definition:

Spuzz, n. 1. Mental energy, an aggressive intellect.  2. Stamina, force, spice
Spuz'zard, n. An active, forceful thinker. 2. A cocktail with a "kick" in it.
Spuz'zy, a. 1. Highly seasoned. charged with brain-electricity.

New Spice Girl "Spuzzy Spice"

Thank you Burgess for providing that definition. I once read that if you make up a word for a novel, you have to use it at least twice to "own" it. Here's my attempt:

Hit me with a double-shot mocha latte, 'cause I got to get my SPUZZ goin' on!  

That girl's got so much SPUZZ she makes my brain hurt when she talks!

Now it's up to you readers - use "Spuzz" in a sentence this week and let us know how it goes!  Can you own it? 

Monday, September 10, 2012

Mom Monday: What could be better than...

watching your son's first game of the season?

Watching TWO son's first games of the season!! 7th grade and "Froshmore"

And next year, when Joshua is driving, we will have son #3, too!


GOOO Panthers!!!

Friday, September 7, 2012

Book Review: Divergent by Veronica Roth

Divergent #1
I bring you Divergent by Veronica Roth, #1 in the Divergent series.
     Imagine having one choice - one choice directing the rest of your life, who you will spend it with, and how you will live it.

     In Beatrice's dystopian society, once members reach the age of sixteen, they must choose which of the five factions they will live - permanently. Factions are separated by their service to the society as a whole and their character traits determine their service: Candor~they deliver honesty, Abnegation~the selfless servants, Dauntless~the brave protectors, Erudite~the brains, and Amity~the peacemakers. The hardest part is deciding to stay in the faction you were born in, or follow your heart and leave your family forever. Beatrice, from Abnegation, has always found it difficult to be what she's been taught is "truly selfless" and chooses to redefine  the meaning of a selfless life - one of bravery and protecting the weak.

     This book needs an award just for its cover - it has the swamp, the defunct city, the darkness with a tiny glimmer of light just above the skyline and the storm brewing. Even the title had two different colors dividing it but not equally, more on a tilt. Best of all is the flaming faction symbol. I've never seen a cover reveal so much about a story.

     At first  Beatrice seems really sheltered and bland, but she's got a spark in her that once fueled with freedom and challenges becomes a roaring flame when she chooses to be 'Tris from Dauntless. She continually accepts challenges, drawing strength from her inner duel between faction traits. Overall, her selflessness shines through chapter after chapter. There's so much to her and hints of so much more just waiting to be tapped. The entire book feels like doors just waiting to be opened to different elements of the society - what have the intelligent been up to?  What are the dauntless protecting the factions from? Is the gate there to keep them in or keep others out? Is Tobias' tattoo right -  would their society be better off uniting and interweaving the traits and factions?

     Overall, I fell fast for this story, its characters, the light romance, its hints towards Insurgent and the cherry on top was the family bond and the strength that it gave her - a rarity in YA fiction. My only reservation was that very, very end of the book. I don't mind that its a cliffhanger, but the very last two and a half pages felt a bit deflated compared to the other  fantastic writing. It did, however, tie in motivation and goals for the characters for the next book. I can't wait to pick the story back up in Insurgent! Hastings - hang onto your bookshelves 'cause I'm on my way....

I give Divergent Photobucket 5 stars!

What faction would YOU choose? What if you could create factions - what would they be?
Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Wordy-Nerdy Wednesday

"The Burgess"
     A new addition to Reading, Writing, Raisin' Boys : Wordy-Nerdy Wednesday. 

     Inspired by Ingrid Law, author of Savvy  -  we all need to learn a new goofy word now and then to spark our creativity. Her entire book Scumble was born out of a word of the day definition. BUT, why let Webster or Oxford generate some stuffy, mundane words, noooo, let's have some fun. 

To start off our Wordy-Nerdy Wednesday I bring you the Burgess Unabridged - A Classic Dictionary of Words You Have Always Needed, by Gelett Burgess (henceforth - the Burgess) .

Since it's our 22nd anniversary, I chose a word that can be used today:

Huz'zle-coo, n. 1. An intimate talk; a "heart-to-heart" conversation; a private confidential chat. 2. a flirtation. 

The huzzlecoo that Mary had
With me, the other night,
Was intimate and personal,
And, - well, you know all right!

The huzzlecoo her father had
With me, soon after that
Was intimate and personal - 
I left without my hat!

Thank you Burgess for providing that definition and poem.  I once read that if you make up a word for a novel, you have to use it at least twice to "own" it. 

Now it's up to you readers - use "huzzlecoo" in a sentence this week and let us know how it goes!  Can you own it? 

Here's my attempt:

Should Dr. Seuss burst through the doors of our fantastical childrens' library in a thneed, he'd no doubt bring about a plethora of huzzlecoo's and hulabaloos.

How'd I do?
Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Audio Book Review: Fire by Kristin Cashore

Fire , book two of the Seven kingdoms Trilogy by Kristin Cashore, narrated by Xanthe Elbrick. This is the second book I have read by her, and every time I think of her books I can't get over the beautiful prose!  I tell you, she uses descriptive language that would make a thesaurus cry!

Fire is a story about a "monster-girl" - not any ordinary monster, but one possessing so much beauty that the other characters cannot even take their eyes off her. She is not only a "monster/human", she's talented, caring, adventurous, unbelievably brave and deeply emotional about people she helps and especially people she loves.

Fire is a multi-faceted love-story that spans across characters as well as kingdoms. Kristin Cashore reveals her character as translucent - there are no secrets with her characters; they are who they are. Fire leaves her sheltered life for one of service to the king. In accomplishing the mission she was requested to complete, she forges a friendship with the king, his brother the prince, as well as a portion of his army. Fire is under constant threat from kidnappers and in the middle of a war. Can she keep a level head and find her purpose in life? Can she allow herself to love and be loved? Fire's journey takes you through colorful and dangerous kingdoms as well as gut-wrenching emotions.

My only reservations were the arc of the book was not what I am accustomed to and that I was completely confused by the family ties. For a 32 chapter book, they were mentioned in only a sentence or two but had a great bearing on the story. I do think some of my confusion is from listening to an audio copy rather than a printed copy that I could easily flip back through. If you read Fire and can help me follow the ties that bind - please post a comment.

Check out this alternate cover for Fire 

I cannot wait to read the companion book Bitterblue which is also a sequel to Graceling.

I give Firefour stars!  Watch the YouTube Trailer here:

Read also her first book in the Graceling Realm , Graceling and her sequel, Bitterblue.