Archive | October, 2015

Enter at your own risk

30 Oct

I’ve been listening to Neil Gaiman’s Trigger Warning during my commute this week.

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Gaiman is not only the author, he is the reader. Not all authors should read their world on an audiobook, but Neil Gaiman definitely should.

Everytime I read Neil Gaiman, I think I should read more Neil Gaiman, which is how I ended up getting this audiobook. I put it on hold after finishing the last one.

The subtitle of Trigger Warning is Short fiction and Other Disturbances and it is apt.It is a collection of works, most, if not all, having been published elsewhere. So far, five discs in, none have been scary. They have all been the perfect accompaniment to my 30 minute commute in the dark week before Halloween: my Halloween candy.

The longest piece in the book is the introduction and so far, that has been my favorite part. Gaiman reflects on writing, Ray Bradbury, life and literature.

Here is a taste of what the book holds; two stories, just for this Halloween eve.

Identity: #GNCelebration

29 Oct

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Goodreads Summary: Yumiko is a young Japanese woman who has made London her home. She has a job, a boyfriend; Japan seems far away. Then, out of the blue, her brother calls to tell her that her father has died in a mountaineering accident.

Yumiko returns to Tokyo for the funeral and finds herself immersed in the rituals of Japanese life and death – and confronting a decision she hadn’t expected to have to make.

Fumio Obata is a Japanese exile himself.  He moved to Britain in 1991 to study illustration at Glasgow School of Art and never left, so he knows all about the conflict of belonging. This is a lovely book that leads me to an illustrated work, which is NOT a graphic novel.

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The Inker’s Shadow, by Allen Say, is a companion to the Sibert Honor Book  Drawing From Memory. 

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In The Inker’s Shadow, we follow young Allen as his father  sends him to an American military academy, so that his son could learn English and “become a success in life.”As the school’s first and only Japanese student, he experienced immediate racism among his fellow cadets and his teachers. Allen  an American military academy, so that his son could learn English and “become a success in life.” He works part-time and his talent is eventually “discovered” by a teacher or two leading to special opportunities and scholarships.

Seasons change: A slice of life story

27 Oct

Kicking aside the leaves in my flip-flops earlier this week, I came to an important decision: I needed new slippers. I’d replaced my ratty old slippers with flip-flops during the July heatwave.

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But the dry leaves in the yard, coupled with the promise of rain on the weekend sent me to the store in search of new slippers. I usually go someplace like Target and get boys plaid slippers, but here were none to be had in the store I went to Sunday. I like one stop shopping and I’d gone to get groceries, and by gum, I was getting slippers, especially since the rain Sunday morning was torrential.

I looked at all the options and settled on a nice pair of Isotoners that just happened to be on sale.  Yeah me!

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And so, the great autumnal transformation has happened.

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Bring it on!

Unbroken

25 Oct

I had a discussion with my class about abridged vs unabridged versions of books. I thought about this as I read the Young Adult adaptation of Laura Hillenbrand’s Unbroken.

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I have to admit, I was a little worried as I began reading. The sentences in the first chapter seemed awfully short to me. As I made my way throughout the book, it got better, and I wondered, was this Hillenbrand’s strategy to help young readers build background knowledge so they could access more difficult and complicated ideas later? I did a little research and found this interesting New York Times article addressing the issue of YA adaptations.

All that said, I really enjoyed this book and I think kids will, too.

Publisher’s Summary: On a May afternoon in 1943, an American military plane crashed into the Pacific Ocean and disappeared, leaving only a spray of debris and a slick of oil, gasoline, and blood. Then, on the ocean surface, a face appeared. It was that of a young lieutenant, the plane’s bombardier, who was struggling to a life raft and pulling himself aboard. So began one of the most extraordinary sagas of the Second World War.

The lieutenant’s name was Louis Zamperini. As a boy, he had been a clever delinquent, breaking into houses, brawling, and stealing. As a teenager, he had channeled his defiance into running, discovering a supreme talent that carried him to the Berlin Olympics. But when war came, the athlete became an airman, embarking on a journey that led to his doomed flight, a tiny raft, and a drift into the unknown.

Ahead of Zamperini lay thousands of miles of open ocean, leaping sharks, a sinking raft, thirst and starvation, enemy aircraft, and, beyond, a trial even greater. Driven to the limits of endurance, Zamperini would respond to desperation with ingenuity, suffering with hope and humor, brutality with rebellion. His fate, whether triumph or tragedy, would hang on the fraying wire of his will.

In this captivating young adult edition of her award-winning #1 New York Timesbestseller, Laura Hillenbrand tells the story of a man’s breathtaking odyssey and the courage, cunning, and fortitude he found to endure and overcome. Lavishly illustrated with more than one hundred photographs and featuring an exclusive interview with Zamperini, Unbroken will introduce a new generation to one of history’s most thrilling survival epics.

Escapist literature #GNCelebration

22 Oct

I am old enough to remember when the Berlin Wall fell in 1989 , but not so old that I remember it going up in 1961.

Simon Schwartz’s The Other Side of the Wall, translated from its original German by Laura Watkinson, tells the story of his parents’ departure from East Germany in 1984.

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Telling the story in black and white illustrations reminiscent of Marjane Satrapi’s Persepolis, 

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Schwartz tells us about his parents’ Communist upbringing in the German Democratic Republic and the ideas and events that eventually brought them to the decision to leave. There is some awkwardness as he shuffles back and forth in time, but the reader comes to understand the difficulties his parents suffered through as they awaited permission to emigrate to West Germany.

This book would pair nicely with The Wall  by Peter Sís, about Sís’ youth in Cold War–era Prague,

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or  Going Over,  Beth Kephart’s YA novel about young love and an escape across the Berlin Wall from East to West.

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 All of these books give readers interesting insights into the Cold War as experienced by those on the other side of the Iron Curtain.

You can join the  celebration and read about more great graphics novels HERE.

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An eerie tale

21 Oct

Like many teachers, I dislike Halloween. It makes teaching difficult for the days leading up to the holiday and, for days following, there is the candy issue. I also dislike the scariness factor.I have never liked scary stories, or too much graphic nastiness, and Halloween brings out the worst aspect of this.

So I approached The Nest,  written by Kenneth Oppel and illustrated by Jon Klassen, with great caution.

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It is a short chapter book that is more eerie than scary, and that is Ok with me, though I still only read such books early in the day, or listen to them in the car. I did a bit of both with The Nest in part because I wanted to enjoy Klassen’s illustrations along with the text.

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Publisher’s summary:Steve just wants to save his baby brother—but what will he lose in the bargain? This is a haunting gothic tale for fans of Coraline, from acclaimed author Kenneth Oppel (SilverwingThe Boundless) with illustrations from Caldecott Medalist Jon Klassen.

For some kids summer is a sun-soaked season of fun. But for Steve, it’s just another season of worries. Worries about his sick newborn baby brother who is fighting to survive, worries about his parents who are struggling to cope, even worries about the wasp’s nest looming ominously from the eaves. So when a mysterious wasp queen invades his dreams, offering to “fix” the baby, Steve thinks his prayers have been answered.

All he has to do is say “Yes.” But “yes” is a powerful word. It is also a dangerous one. And once it is uttered, can it be taken back?

This book is terrifying, but not scary in the way I hate. If you are loping for a short read to set the mood for Halloween, I highly recommend The Nest.

OLW….the quarterly report

20 Oct

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My One Little Word for 2015 was shift.I had three main areas where I planned for shift to happen:

I want to shift the way I think about my job.

We are talking about instructional shifts at school.

I will shift the way I spend my free time.

The new job: You know the old saying  Be careful what you wish for because you just might get it.  Well I got my wish. I moved to middle school and it has been a natural fit. I feel challenged and exhilarated.

Instructional shifts: Middle school is also working through some instructional shifts, specifically around writing. These don’t seem like shifts to me because everything is new to me this year, but some teachers across the district are struggling. We are using the TCRWP Units of Study and all the 6th grade teachers at my school are on board. This is my professional learning community and we are helping each other out with the implementation of Units of Study. You can see why this has been a good shift.

Free time: I’ve read mostly debut YA this year, but as the deadline for our shortlist arrives (Nov. 30 for committee members, public announcement in early December) I’ve been reading more variety. As I anticipated, I haven’t knit much this year, but I picked it back up last week, beginning the first of my Christmas knitting project. I read over 70 books for the Morris Committee, a job I have loved. It will be hard to say goodbye to that commitment, but it does open up some time for me to do other things. Things, like knitting, I’ve put aside.

Will I choose  a new OLW for 2016? I don’t know. This year’s word didn’t guide me, as much as it gave me a focus for my reflection. Maybe that is enough.

Randy Ribay

YA author, teacher, nerd

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