Tag Archives: John Green

John & Hank All the Way Down

31 Oct

Lucy must have sensed how excited I was when I got home because she clearly knew I was going out again and refused to eat her dinner. That upset me, but not enough to keep me home. I was going out to see John & Hank Green!

As I pulled up to Portland’s Revolution Hall, I saw the bus. I didn’t know they were travelling by bus! It seemed to blend right into the neighborhood.

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I was early because I thought it started at 7, when in fact it started at 7:30. Fortunately, the doors opened at 6:30, so I didn’t have to wait long to find my seat, where there was swag.

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Inside the bag was a poster, a signed copy of Turtles All The Way Down, and a tour brochure. The brochure had letters – one to “people who are only here for their friend/      child/partner/sibling”, another to “the people who are here by themselves”, and a third to everyone.

One of the up sides of arriving an hour before the show is that I ran into a few librarians I knew and watch as the hall filled with excited fans of the brothers. Although John Green writes for young adults, I was not the only unaccompanied adult in the room. And there were not as many young people as I expected. There were plenty, don’t get me wrong, just more people closer to my age than I thought there would be.

Slowly, but surely, the hall filled. And then, the show began.

John came out first, alone and did a reading from Turtles All The Way Down,  which is the reason the whole tour was happening in the first place. After the reading, he spoke a little about his own experience with OCD and the importance of novels. Every novel, he said, is a way to live in another person;s consciousness, to see the world through other people’s eyes. I knew that already, but it is always good to be reminded that reading builds empathy.

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After that serious bit, Dr. Lawrence Turtleman came out. (It was really Hank in a turtle suit.) He gave a funny, sciencey talk about the Carl Linnaeus, how animals are classified, and how tuatara have boney protrusions instead of teeth, among other things.

This was followed by John answering questions about the book. One of the questions had to do with the conflict between writing expository and narrative text, which as a teacher of writing, piqued my interest. He spoke about how reading really good expository texts, like the essays of Joan Didion and the works of Toni Morrison, can help shape writers and teach them to write narratively in their expository text. Hey, That’s what I try to teach my students every day!

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A live version of their podcast followed with a Q & A that was simultaneously serious and hilarious. Hank sang some songs that had me watching the ASL interpreter as much as him because he sings fast, complicated songs with a lot of science thrown in.

John came out again and spoke about Amy Krouse Rosenthal. He told us of how she helped him during a difficult period and taught him that the soldiers of WWI sand “We’re here because we’re here” to the tune of Auld Lang Syne. And then he asked us to sing it. I got weepy.  A beautiful denouement.

 

There was an encore that involved another sing along and then we all went home, encouraged by the words “Don’t forget to be awesome!”

 

 

Happy Banned Books Week!

27 Sep

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Banned Books Week (BBW) is the national book community’s annual celebration of the freedom to read. Hundreds of libraries and bookstores around the country draw attention to the problem of censorship by mounting displays of challenged books and hosting a variety of events. The 2015 celebration will be held Sept. 27-Oct. 3. BBW was launched in 1982 in response to a sudden surge in the number of challenges to books in schools, bookstores and libraries. More than 11,300 books have been challenged since 1982 according to the American Library Association. There were 311 challenges reported to the Office of Intellectual Freedom in 2014, and many more go unreported.

The 10 most challenged titles of 2014 were:

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The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian By Sherman Alexie Little, Brown Books for Young Readers Source: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers Why Challenged: anti-family, cultural insensitivity, drugs/alcohol/smoking, gambling, offensive language, sex education, sexually explicit, unsuited for age group, violence, depictions of bullying

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Persepolis By Marjane Satrapi Pantheon Books/Knopf Doubleday Source: Pantheon Books/Knopf Doubleday Why Challenged: gambling, offensive language, political viewpoint, “politically, racially, and socially offensive,” “graphic depictions”

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The Bluest Eye By Toni Morrison Holt, Rinehart, and Winston Why Challenged: Sexually explicit, unsuited for age group. Additional reasons: “contains controversial issues”

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The Kite Runner By Khaled Hosseini Bloomsbury Publishing Source: Bloomsbury Publishing Why Challenged: Offensive language, unsuited to age group, violence

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The Perks of Being a Wallflower By Stephen Chbosky MTV Books/Simon & Schuster Source: MTV Books/Simon & Schuster Why Challenged: drugs/alcohol/smoking, homosexuality, offensive language, sexually explicit, unsuited for age group. Additional reasons: “date rape and masturbation”

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Drama By Raina Telgemeier Graphix/Scholastic Source: Graphix/Scholastic Why Challenged: sexually explicit

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Chinese Handcuffs By Chris Crutcher Greenwillow Books/HarperCollins Source: Greenwillow Books/HarperCollins Why Challenged: depiction of incest, rape, animal torture, teen drug use, breaking and entering, illegal use of a video camera, profanity directed to a school principal, and graphic sexual references

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The Giver By Lois Lowry HMH Books for Young Readers Source: HMH Books for Young Readers Why Challenged: depictions of adolescent drug use, suicide, and lethal injections

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The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros Vintage/Knopf Doubleday Source: Vintage/Knopf Doubleday Why Challenged: mature content, social issues

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Looking for Alaska By John Green Dutton Books/Penguin Random House Source: Dutton Books/Penguin Random House Why Challenged: Sexual content, inappropriate/graphic language

 

Smokey detour

23 Aug

Yesterday the sky was eerie, due to wildfire smoke that was blown down the Columbia River Gorge and into Portland. It truly transformed the city. It also got me thinking about books with smoke on the cover, in pictures or words.

Although it is not smoke from a wildfire, the cover of Looking for Alaska by John Green is quite striking. This is my absolute favorite John Green novel. I loved TFIOS, but this one is even better!

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Publisher’s Summary: Before. Miles “Pudge” Halter is done with his safe life at home. His whole life has been one big non-event, and his obsession with famous last words has only made him crave “the Great Perhaps” even more (Francois Rabelais, poet). He heads off to the sometimes crazy and anything-but-boring world of Culver Creek Boarding School, and his life becomes the opposite of safe. Because down the hall is Alaska Young. The gorgeous, clever, funny, sexy, self-destructive, screwed up, and utterly fascinating Alaska Young. She is an event unto herself. She pulls Pudge into her world, launches him into the Great Perhaps, and steals his heart. Then. . . .

After. Nothing is ever the same.

Local author Laini Taylor captured my attention a few years ago with The Daughter of Smoke and Bone.

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Publisher’s summary: Meet Karou. She fills her sketchbooks with monsters that may or may not be real, she’s prone to disappearing on mysterious “errands”, she speaks many languages – not all of them human – and her bright blue hair actually grows out of her head that color. Who is she? That is the question that haunts her, and she’s about to find out.

When beautiful, haunted Akiva fixes fiery eyes on her in an alley in Marrakesh, the result is blood and starlight, secrets unveiled, and a star-crossed love whose roots drink deep of a violent past. But will Karou live to regret learning the truth about herself?

Ellen Hopkins followed up her novel in verse Burned, with a sequel entitled Smoke. 

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Burned: Seventeen-year-old Pattyn, the eldest daughter in a large Mormon family, is sent to her aunt’s Nevada ranch for the summer, where she temporarily escapes her alcoholic, abusive father and finds love and acceptance, only to lose everything when she returns home.

Smoke: After the death of her abusive father and loss of her beloved Ethan and their unborn child, Pattyn runs away, desperately seeking peace, as her younger sister, a sophomore in high school, also tries to put the pieces of her life back together.

Another great novel with a sequel comes from E. K  Johnston.

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The Story of Owen: Dragon Slayer of Trondheim: In an alternate world where industrialization has caused many species of carbon-eating dragons to thrive, Owen, a slayer being trained by his famous father and aunt, and Siobahn, his bard, face a dragon infestation near their small town in Canada.

Prairie Fire: Every dragon slayer owes the Oil Watch a period of service, and young Owen was no exception. What made him different was that he did not enlist alone; his two closest friends stood with him shoulder to shoulder. Steeled by success and hope, the three were confident in their plan. But the arc of history is long and hardened by dragon fire… and try as they might, Owen and his friends could not twist it to their will. At least, not all the way…

The air in Portland smells a little less smokey this morning and the air should be clear sometime tomorrow. Fortunately, even after the smoke has cleared, we’ll still have these great books.

 

Happy 17th birthday, Alexis!

4 Jul

Today, in addition to it being the 239th birthday of the United States, it is the 17th birthday of my niece, Alexis. This year, I sent her All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven.

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Let me start by saying this one ripped my heart out. It reminded me a little of John Green’s Paper Towns. This is a very sad book about two very sad teens. Violet is overwhelmed by the death of her sister a year before. Finch is depressed and contemplating suicide. They come together accidentally and bond over a geography project.

The story, told in two voices,  unfolds slowly, so don’t give up on it if you get to page 50 and are thinking about abandoning it.

A few things about the novel concern me. First, the inattention and lack of concern for Finch’s mental health on the part of Finch’s parent. Then, the apparent lack of concern of school officials for the suicide attempt in the tower, and the way the school social media made a circus of it.

In spite of that, I highly recommend this to YA and adult readers.

Summer Reading Goal #2

11 Jun

One of the first bits of  “summer fun” I plan to have is a trip to the theatre to see movie adaptation of The Fault in Our Stars by John Green, which I read when it came out.

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Either before I go, or after if I dilly-dally, I also plan to read This Star Won’t Go Out by Esther Earl.

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This is the true story that inspired John Green to write TFiOS. This Star Won’t Go Out is a collection of Esther’s journals, fiction, letters and sketches, compiled by her parents, Lori & Wayne Earl.

I expect to cry at both the movie and the book. I have the kleenex ready.

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