Contented Reader

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Archive for October 2012

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Written by Contented Reader

October 31, 2012 at 6:16 am

Posted in Project Gutenberg

Skinny

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Skinny

Donna Cooner

Scholastic

Yay!  The new Scholastic box arrived in my classroom, and I had enough bonus points to order a lovely little stack of new junior-high books.  This one is brand new, and the Scholastic flyer made it look really appealing.  It was, too.  I predict my students will love it, which generally means, someone will steal it and I’ll have to buy another copy.

Ever is fifteen years old, and she weight 302 pounds.  ‘Skinny’ is the voice in her head, the one that’s constantly telling her what other people are thinking about her, what they’re saying behind her back, why she should be ashamed, why she should hate herself.  She hears Skinny’s voice like an enemy who’s always there.

Ever decides to have gastric bypass surgery.  The book is specific about what that’s like – it turns out that the author is a person who had the surgery herself.  Ever is losing weight, fast.  She can even imagine herself finally fulfilling her two dreams – going to a school dance with Jackson, and trying out for the school musical.

But no matter how much weight she loses, Skinny is still there, in her head, telling her she’ll always fail.

I really liked this book.  Gastric bypass surgery isn’t something I’m expecting to ever do, but the idea of a nasty voice in my head telling me things that are only going to make me miserable and probably aren’t even true?  That I can relate to.  I was cheering Ever on through the whole book, and occasionally urgently wanting to pull her aside and smack her on the side of the head.

I’ll just go add this to the bookshelf in my classroom now.

Written by Contented Reader

October 30, 2012 at 6:36 am

Posted in Reviews

Things to read

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Written by Contented Reader

October 29, 2012 at 6:41 am

Posted in What I'm reading

Other things I read this week

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  • Little Women and Me, by Lauren Baratz-Logsted
  • Star Island, by Carl Hiaasen
  • The Gem Collector, by P. G. Wodehouse
  • Feed, by Mira Grant
  • The Door to Lost Pages, by Claude Lalumiere

Written by Contented Reader

October 26, 2012 at 6:25 am

Posted in What I'm reading

I’m nobody! Who are you?

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I’m nobody! Who are you?: Poems by Emily Dickinson

Emily Dickinson

Scholastic

This slender volume is a Scholastic paper, intended to be sold cheaply to schoolchildren.  It corrects Dickinson’s punctuation, an editorial habit I don’t approve of in general, but can understand for younger readers.  And it’s a well-selected collection, a nice blend of nature, iconoclasm, and death.  I enjoyed reading it, and half-considered keeping it for myself instead of adding it to the classroom library.  And it has a cool new cover, replacing the staid old portrait of Emily that used to be on it.  I couldn’t even find a picture of the new cover, that’s how new it is.

The soul selects her own society,

Then shuts the door;

On her divine majority

Obtrude no more.

Unmoved, she notes the chariot’s passing

At her low gate;

Unmoved, an emperor is kneeling

Upon her mat.

I’ve known her from an ample nation

Choose one;

Then close the valves of her attention

Like stone.

Written by Contented Reader

October 25, 2012 at 6:58 am

Posted in Reviews

Free ebooks

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  • Don Quixote, by Miguel de Cervantes, volume 1 and volume 2.  Laugh at Don Quixote’s ridiculous adventures as he wanders the Spanish countryside mistaking himself for a storybook knight-errant.  Then pause and ask yourself whether it’s better to be realistic, or to live in a happier world of your own imagining.  Hmm.
  • One Hundred Merrie and Delightsome Stories, by Leon Lebeque and Robert B. Douglas.  Not, as I hoped it might be, the ‘Hundred Merry Tales’ that is name-checked in Much Ado About Nothing.  This one is from 1899 France.  Besides being merrie and delightsome, the tales also look like they’re fairly naughty.
  • Personal Memoirs of U.S. Grant.  Mark Twain admired President Grant immensely, and when Grant was ill and bankrupt, it was Twain who published the book, which they both hoped would help him return to solvency.  Unfortunately, Grant died just days after the writing was finished, and the profits went to his heirs instead.

Written by Contented Reader

October 24, 2012 at 5:21 am

Posted in Project Gutenberg

The Rights of the Reader

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The Rights of the Reader

Daniel Pennac, translated by Sarah Adams

Candlewick Press

All babies love to read.  Pick up a one-year old, put her on your lap, and grab a thick cardboard book with lots of pictures.  Read aloud.  The baby will smile, talk, eagerly turn pages and point at familiar images.  One of my fondest family memories is the way my baby nephews would say “More book! More book!” when we finished a book.

But then many of them learn to hate to read.  They start hating to read when they start learning to read in school, start learning to read for themselves.  On the lap of a loved one, being read to, reading is nothing but pleasure.  But when a child is required to learn to read for herself, and then asked questions about what she has read, and if she gets the questions wrong, that is bad… something important changes.  Teachers turn reading from a pleasure to a test.

And then there’s the worried parents, who, wanting to instill the love of reading in their child even though they themselves would much rather be watching TV, force the child to read.  Everything they do to pressure the child to read just increases her anxiety and resentment.

By the time the child is seven or eight, she has changed from a baby who loves books to a child who feels angry and resentful and fearful about them.

It’s a sad story.  Is it inevitable?  Is there another way to invite children to read?

Could we continue reading aloud with children, for pure pleasure, even when they are old enough to read for themselves?

Could we share the stories without so often demanding that the child answer questions or explain what they have read?

Could we allow children to read in the ways that we ourselves read?

Written by Contented Reader

October 23, 2012 at 7:01 am

Posted in Reviews

Things to read

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Written by Contented Reader

October 22, 2012 at 6:23 am

Posted in What I'm reading

A squee for Cat Valente, part 2

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The big day- Catherynne Valente’s visit to my school.

I didn’t start out as excited as I had hoped.  My students were so rotten yesterday that I didn’t trust them not to be obnoxious, and didn’t want to reward them with a treat like this, which, I feared, they wouldn’t appreciate anyway.  Pearls before swine, was my thought, and also, I got a shitty night’s sleep, full of nightmares.

Then the organizer, knowing how excited I was (and is it really so odd, an English teacher who is well-read and gets excited about books?  That makes me so sad), asked if I would introduce her.  My first instinct was to decline, but even though I was absurdly nervous, I said yes, because fear is a stupid reason to not do things.

So I brought my kids to the theater, and there she was, and I said hello and welcomed her and tried hard not to drip squee all over her, though I don’t think I succeeded.  I introduced her, and I was so nervous I was shaking, but that doesn’t mean I’m not glad.  It’s not such a bad thing, for my students to know I have feelings, and that a good writer is worth getting excited and nervous about.

And she was fabulous.  She talked about her experiences as a writer, and answered questions, and my students, bless every last one of them, asked good and thoughtful questions and were not obnoxious.  Then I got my copy of The Girl Who Fell Beneath Fairyland and Led the Revels There signed, to put on the shelf with my new copy of Deathless and my unnecessary/totally necessary splurge copies of the Mira Grant books and read in my own sweet time and without rushing.  And then I went back to my room and we went back to writing in-class essays about A Wrinkle in Time.

I’m glad that happened.

Written by Contented Reader

October 20, 2012 at 8:20 am

Posted in True stories

Other things I read this week

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  • Alphabet of Thorns, by Patricia McKillip
  • An Arsonist’s Guide to Writers’ Homes in New England, by Brock Clarke
  • Them: Adventures with Extremists, by Jon Ronson
  • Objects of Worship, by Claude Lalumiere
  • Kitty Takes a Holiday, by Carrie Vaughn

Written by Contented Reader

October 19, 2012 at 5:57 am

Posted in What I'm reading