My Rock ‘n’ Roll Reading Journey

12 Feb

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This is the next book on my rock & roll reading journey. At 674 pages, it is a mammoth rambling memoir, but fun to read. Told somewhat chronologically, Costello moves back and forth in time,  relating anecdotes about his life that make me think he is still humble and surprised that he ever became the music icon we know today. I wasn’t the kind of kid who was so into music that I had Elvis Costello records. The only songs I remember from my youth are “Alison”,  “Everyday I Write the Book” and “Watching the Detectives”. He was not really my cup of tea, though I thought those songs were OK. But, as I’ve grown older, I’ve seen his influence on the music industry and that’s why I am interested in reading this memoir.

Publisher’s Summary:Born Declan Patrick MacManus, Elvis Costello was raised in London and Liverpool, grandson of a trumpet player on the White Star Line and son of a jazz musician who became a successful radio dance band vocalist. Costello went into the family business and had taken the popular music world by storm before he was twenty-four.

Costello continues to add to one of the most intriguing and extensive songbooks of the day. His performances have taken him from a cardboard guitar in his front room to fronting a rock and roll band on your television screen and performing in the world’s greatest concert halls in a wild variety of company. “Unfaithful Music” describes how Costello’s career has somehow endured for almost four decades through a combination of dumb luck and animal cunning, even managing the occasional absurd episode of pop stardom.

The memoir, written entirely by Costello himself, offers his unique view of his unlikely and sometimes comical rise to international success, with diversions through the previously undocumented emotional foundations of some of his best known songs and the hits of tomorrow. The book contains many stories and observations about his renowned co-writers and co-conspirators, though Costello also pauses along the way for considerations on the less appealing side of infamy.

My sister recommended this book to me. It was one of the books she got for Christmas and I am curious to see what she thinks about it.

Restorative Justice

10 Feb

I can’t quite recall how I got wind of these two graphic novels about restorative justice within indigenous communities of Northern Canada. I’m sure glad I did, though.

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Both explore the issues that led the protagonists into the justice system and follow them as they reconnect to their traditions.

The first book, Three Feathers, written by Richard Van Camp and illustrated by Krystal Mateus, tells the story of three young men sent to live on  the land after wreaking havoc in their community. The book is Mateus’ first graphic novel, but the black and white pictures effectively capture their story.

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Publisher’s Summary: Three young men — Flinch, Bryce, and Rupert — have vandalized their community. They are sent by its Elders to live nine months on the land as part of the circle sentencing process. There, the young men learn to take responsibility for their actions and acquire the humility required to return home. But will they be forgiven for what they have done? Three Feathers explores the power and grace of restorative justice in on Northern community and the cultural legacy that can empower future generations.

The book is published by a small Canadian press, Highwater, a division of Portage & Main Press and is available in several Indigenous languages.

The Outside Circle,  written by Pattie LaBoucane-Benson with art by Kelly Mellings, isn’t an easy read. It touches on things I know of only peripherally and calls readers to face up to Canada’s treatment of its indigenous people. The full color illustrations really bring the story to life.

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Publisher’s Summary:In this important graphic novel, two Aboriginal brothers surrounded by poverty, drug abuse, and gang violence, try to overcome centuries of historic trauma in very different ways to bring about positive change in their lives.

Pete, a young Aboriginal man wrapped up in gang violence, lives with his younger brother, Joey, and his mother who is a heroin addict. One night, Pete and his mother’s boyfriend, Dennis, get into a big fight, which sends Dennis to the morgue and Pete to jail. Initially, Pete keeps up ties to his crew, until a jail brawl forces him to realize the negative influence he has become on Joey, which encourages him to begin a process of rehabilitation that includes traditional Aboriginal healing circles and ceremonies.

Powerful, courageous, and deeply moving, The Outside Circle is drawn from the author’s twenty years of work and research on healing and reconciliation of gang-affiliated or incarcerated Aboriginal men.

This graphic novel comes to us from The House of Anansi Press.

 

 

A Murder of Crows

9 Feb

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The crows were cawing when I arrived home yesterday afternoon. Not just one or two. HUNDREDS of crows. A true murder of crows.

As I climbed the steps of my small home, I spied a neighbor looking outer window at the spectacle of the crows calling and moving from tree to tree in shifts.

“They’re called a murder and you can see why.” I commented.

“Yeah,” she replied, “OPB just ran a documentary on them. Do you think it is mating season?”

“Maybe.” I replied, “Have you ever seen The Birds?”

It always comes round to this question with people of a certain age. My mom tells a story they, shortly after seeing The Birds she ran out to protect my sister and I when a large flock flew over us. I was too young to remember, but this might just be a family myth.

“That’s why I’m looking.” my neighbor replied. “That movie scared me and these crows sort of freak me out.”

I arrived home and took Lucy for her walk. The crows could still be heard, but the flock was slowing moving west, tree by tree. It was pretty spectacular to watch, though a bit noisy. When we got home, I looked for the OPB documentary. I found a few and watched a bit of one. It turns out that crows are moving into urban areas because they are warmer, have fewer natural  predators  and have an ample food supply. They have a bad reputation in cities because they are scavengers that people consider “big and bold and in your face”. But they are also smart, which is why they are tricksters in some cultures.

Thinking about the kids I teach, I have a few crows. Not the low reading group kind, but the “big and bold and in your face” kind.

Who are your crows?

 

 

 

The third book

8 Feb

I’m about 2/3 of the way through the third book in Jonathan Stroud’s Lockwood and Co. series,  The Hollow Boy.

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Although these are books about ghosts, they aren’t really scary, which is why I can read them. The Hollow Boy  gets into much more character development and moves Lucy, our narrator, Lockwood & George beyond the sort of stereotypical Harry Potter trio trope. The humor is still there. Lucy is testing her ability to talk to ghosts, we learn more about Lockwood’s past and George gets a little more depth. The problem of “The Problem” isn’t solved yet, so we can look forward to a fourth book.

Publisher’s Summary: As a massive outbreak of supernatural Visitors baffles Scotland Yard and causes protests throughout London, Lockwood & Co. continue to demonstrate their effectiveness in exterminating spirits. Anthony Lockwood is dashing, George insightful, and Lucy dynamic, while the skull in the jar utters sardonic advice from the sidelines. There is a new spirit of openness in the team now that Lockwood has shared some of his childhood secrets, and Lucy is feeling more and more as if her true home is at Portland Row. It comes as a great shock, then, when Lockwood and George introduce her to an annoyingly perky and hyper-efficient new assistant, Holly Munro.

Meanwhile, there are reports of many new hauntings, including a house where bloody footprints are appearing, and a department store full of strange sounds and shadowy figures. But ghosts seem to be the least of Lockwood & Co.’s concerns when assassins attack during a carnival in the center of the city. Can the team get past their personal issues to save the day on all fronts, or will bad feelings attract yet more trouble?

If you are looking for a not too scary series for a middle grade reader, I highly recommend Lockwood & Co.

2016 HUB Reading Challenge Check-in #2

7 Feb

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I had a  busy book week. I had to finish reading two of the Cybils NF finalists to be prepared for our decision-making discussion yesterday. We had a wonderfully robust discussion. It took three hours for us to whittle down to a winner, which will be announced on Saturday, February 14th.

All this is to explain why I only almost finished one book for the HUB challenge this week. I am about 2/3 of the way through Challenger Deep by Neal Shusterman.

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I will admit, I had a little trouble getting into it, until I realized what was going on. Suddenly, I realized why it won the National Book Award and has gained so many other accolades.  Here is Neal Shusterman’s NBA Acceptance speech.

Publisher’s Summary: Caden Bosch is on a ship that’s headed for the deepest point on Earth: Challenger Deep, the southern part of the Marianas Trench.

Caden Bosch is a brilliant high school student whose friends are starting to notice his odd behavior.

Caden Bosch is designated the ship’s artist in residence, to document the journey with images.

Caden Bosch pretends to join the school track team but spends his days walking for miles, absorbed by the thoughts in his head.

Caden Bosch is split between his allegiance to the captain and the allure of mutiny.

Caden Bosch is torn.

A captivating and powerful novel that lingers long beyond the last page, Challenger Deep is a heartfelt tour de force by one of today’s most admired writers for teens.

When I was reading for the Morris Award, we saw a lot of books about teen mental illness and often discussed how hard and how rarely they give an honest picture of what it is like to have a mental illness. But Challenger Deep  does. It is not an easy read, but the short, meaningful chapters pull you deeper and deeper into the story.

I highly recommend it and I think a lot of adults would enjoy it as well as teens.

A heavenly evening

5 Feb

Marissa Meyer came to Powells yesterday to promote  Stars Above, a Lunar Chronicles story collection.

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My teaching partner, Nina, and I had told the kids about the event and announced that we’d be there. Knowing the event would be busy, we arrived about 45 minutes early and it was already packed. One of our students had beat us there. She and her dad were sitting in the second row. The Powells personnel were busily handing out tickets for a drawing and setting up more chairs.Three more of our students arrived. Then a fifth. We caught sight of a sixth in the stacks. By the time Ms. Meyers arrived, all seats were filled and the stacks along the sides of the seating area were packed with fans and their parents. There was an excited buzz in the air.

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She began by talking about The Lunar Chronicles and her love for fairy tales. She told the audience about her love for the Disney movie The Little Mermaid. This made Nina and I laugh. We might not have been the oldest people there, but we are a lot older that Meyers, who will turn 32  later this month.

Because of her love for fairy tales, her grandmother gave  her a collection and she had us laughing at how horrified she was when she read Hans Christian Andersen’s original version of her Disney favorite. Then she told us his version, with some funny commentary.

I had my question ready when she opened the floor for questions. I don;t often ask questions in large gatherings like this, but I had a good one and I was thrilled when she called on me. I told her that I thought she’d created a fantastic villain in Levana and how much I disliked that character. So, I told her that because I disliked Levana so much, I didn’t want to read Fairest  and feel sympathy for such an evil queen. So, I asked  her to tell me why I should read it.

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She queried the audience to see how many people had read it. Then she asked them how many felt sympathetic for Levana after reading it. Not many hands stayed up. She went on to explain that her intention had not to make readers feel sympathy for Levana, but to explain what happened to her and the bad choices she made, that turned her into the evil queen I hate so much.

The other answer she gave that I really liked was to the young person who asked how to become a writer like her. Yes, she encouraged  them to read and write. What I found most significant was that she also encourage them to let themselves daydream, let their minds wander. She told them to take a walk and not think about what they are writing. She encouraged the to keep with a hobby or activity they enjoy so that, while they are engaged in it, their brain can rest from working on the story,letting the story swirl about in their subconscious so they come back to it with fresh eyes. Amazing!

Finally, it was autograph time. I can hardly wait to read my new book. And yes, I put Fairest on hold at the library. 

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Novels in verse

4 Feb

I’ve mentioned before how much I love novels in verse. As I play catchup with the 2015 books I missed, I have surprised myself by finding a few and two of these are sitting on my shelf right now.

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One by Sarah Crossan

All I can say is conjoined twins!!!!!

Publisher’s Summary:Grace and Tippi. Tippi and Grace. Two sisters. Two hearts. Two dreams. Two lives. But one body.

Grace and Tippi are conjoined twins, joined at the waist, defying the odds of survival for sixteen years. They share everything, and they are everything to each other. They would never imagine being apart. For them, that would be the real tragedy.

But something is happening to them. Something they hoped would never happen. And Grace doesn’t want to admit it. Not even to Tippi.

How long can they hide from the truth—how long before they must face the most impossible choice of their lives?

The other book is Full Cicada Moon by Marilyn Hilton.

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Publisher’s Summary:It’s 1969, and the Apollo 11 mission is getting ready to go to the moon. But for half-black, half-Japanese Mimi, moving to a predominantly white Vermont town is enough to make her feel alien. Suddenly, Mimi’s appearance is all anyone notices. She struggles to fit in with her classmates, even as she fights for her right to stand out by entering science competitions and joining Shop Class instead of Home Ec. And even though teachers and neighbors balk at her mixed-race family and her refusals to conform, Mimi’s dreams of becoming an astronaut never fade—no matter how many times she’s told no.

This historical middle-grade novel is told in poems from Mimi’s perspective over the course of one year in her new town, and shows readers that positive change can start with just one person speaking up.

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