MAY 12-18 IS NATIONAL ‘READING IS FUN’ WEEK

READ A BOOK JUST FOR FUN!

Reading is Fun Week has been around since 1979, a time when I was teaching seventh graders who ranged from loving to read to hating it. Since they had a forty-five minute English class to cover grammar, composition, and literature, my forty-five minute class’s purpose was to motivate and encourage students to read. We dealt with basic skills like finding the main idea, recognizing supporting details, using context clues, making inferences and drawing conclusions; in other words everything that made up comprehension. At that time my biggest goal was to make reading fun, so everything else would fall into place.

We had a bi-weekly magazine from Scholastic titled, Read, which had cool jokes, skits, articles, puzzles, and craziness for pre-teens and teens. I only received 30 copies every other week, so I guarded them with my life! Some of the activities and articles I still use when I want to insert a little humor or fun into my university curriculum. When I left junior high (then, grades 7 and 8) to teach 6th graders in an elementary setting, I packed the magazines in the boxes they were shipped in, labeled them according to month, and stacked them in the teachers closet for my replacement. She said she hardly had to make a lesson plan; she just unpacked a box each first and fifteenth of the month.

The main thing we did for fun was free reading. At first the students took this as an opportunity to goof off or take a little snooze. However, I did nothing during that time myself except read, and often we would take the whole forty-five minutes, leaving those who were not reading bored out of their minds; soon they joined in. We had a “Top Ten” bulletin board, which listed titles and authors on cardboard strips according to popularity, and students loved to see if a book they were reading had placed or moved place each week. Also, these titles provided recommendations from their peers. I was kept busy making trips to Half-Price Books to buy copies for the classroom library. There were no discipline problems; all I had to do was threaten to take the time away, and peer pressure solved the situation. Several times I had enough “points” from book orders from Scholastic to buy a classroom set of the same title. We read S. E. Hinton’s The Outsiders and Where the Red Fern Grows this way. When I introduced a class book, I would read to the first cliffhanger then pass out the books for silent reading. NO ONE was ever asked to read aloud.

My years of teaching 6th, 7th, and 8th graders were some of the “funnest” years of my teaching career, and it was all because reading was FUN!

THE ROSIE RESULT by Graeme Simsion: A Review

This book is the conclusion to the Don Tillman trilogy, but it also makes a great stand-alone novel. Written in 2019, it’s “twist-ending” is the perfect sign off to the series. I was so pleased with the ending, I gave a “yay” out loud and would have clapped my hands together in delight had I not been reaching for reading log and pen to record a review of this fine piece of writing and entertainment.

Don and Rosie’s ten-year-old son, Hudson, the main character in this one, causes his school teacher and counselor some concern, both thinking he should be evaluated for autism. Ironically enough Don does NOT want his son labeled, and he and Rosie fight the school authorities, as Don continuously looks for the stereotypic characteristics of autistic people. Knowing Don, if you have read any of the other two books, The Rosie Project and The Rosie Effect, you will not be surprised he keeps a “list” and tries to check off the boxes there.

Described as “charming, eloquent, and insightful…” by Booklist, the novel is also “…a fitting end to this trilogy that doesn’t pull punches”(Kirkus Review) about autism or any other subject it includes.  The secondary characters, many of whom the reader may have seen in previous books (but knowing them before this part of the trilogy is unnecessary), are admirably drawn, and whom we are attached to before we realize we are “hooked.”

So many themes and subplots fill this hilarious, yet profound ending to the series that it would take too long to describe them, but the “life-lessons” about friendship, betrayal, being “different” in any way, and compassion for others (something “experts” often claim auties are incapable of feeling or expressing) undergirds a great plot and a narrative which “explains” the autistic mind to us amateurs.

READ The Rosie Result. You will be glad you invested your invaluable reading time in this novel.

Sunday (Evening) Post

“Pur Spellrs of the World Unyte!”  This might have well have been written by students in my Kid’s Class (Reading Improvement) this past week as we finished the course “except for the shouting” (as my Grandmother used to say when it was all over… ).This week’s session will be an hour only, with every activity a race, a tournament, or a competition, with plenty of prizes for all.  We will crank up the course again March 9th for a seven week run (taking the week of Spring Break off) before public school ends. So many kids today are shipped off to relatives or to “the other” parent for the summer, that I’m not sure any of the graduates from either RI I session could attend a RI II session during the summer. Summer plans will just have to wait for that–summer!

In the meantime…

What I have finished this past week: A delightful, oftentimes hilarious, fast-paced novel, Small Admissions,which was originally a play, and was my “just for fun” reading for the week. I will review it soon; and Lab Girl (reviewed yesterday) a read I would recommend to anyone who appreciates a good story, excellent writing and an outstanding memoir.

I am continuing to read: Racing in the Rain, which I had to put aside to read library books that were due and The Lowland, a story of India which I am also eager to get back to.

I have also begun Girl in Translation, a coming-to-America story, which I started because the two books mentioned above were in the other room, and I was too lazy (and feet hurt too bad) to walk in there and get one of them.

This week in my Advanced Writing class we begin discussing argumentative writing: What makes an argument? What are credible sources? How does plagiarism happen? How do I prevent procrastination when it comes to starting the argumentative researched paper that is due after Spring Break? Hopefully many will begin their final papers over Spring Break and not leave their tasks until the push after mid-term, for the paper will be written outside of class, and several other written assignments (not counting their blog postings) will have to be done simultaneously with the final paper. Learning time management is something these natural multi-takers must take on. One can hope…Never give up hope!

In light of beginning to talk about argument I hope to pass on these “jewels” to my students: Please argue in a way that will NOT cause me to say, “Don’t make any more points; I’ve made up my mind already.” It is good to SEE both sides of an issue, it’s good to see merits in both sides, but an good essay will TAKE a side and argue it, explaining why the “other side” is just WRONG. I have actually received argument papers that gave both sides and ended with, “What do YOU think?” Also, be receptive to constructive criticism.  Don’t tell me, “I like criticism ; just keep it positive and flattering.”  Finally, if you face failure on the rough draft, don’t take the childish attitude, “If at first you don’t succeed…go play!” Instead, look in the wastebasket, salvage what’s usable and try, try again–maybe from scratch.

It promises to be an interesting week, and I will probably have the need for some “escape reading.”

Just One Damned Thing After Another: A Review

The title comes from the quote (source unknown) “Love is just one damned thing after another,” and Jodi Taylor, the author adapts the quote at the front to, “History is just one damned thing after another” in her first book in the “Chronicles of St. Mary’s” series dealing with romance and time travel. My first note I wrote about this novel is “I want to read the sequel”, which I knew had been published summer of 2016.

The cover of One Damned Thing …describes it as “A carnival ride through laughter and tears, with a bit of time travel thrown in for spice” (Publishers Weekly), an accurate description. St Mary’s Institute of Historical Research has an unassuming exterior, but inside, the researchers, historians, and technicians don’t time travel but “investigate major historical events in contemporary time.”

Max, Madeline Maxwell, PhD is the main character, best described as “a disaster magnet.”and her team go here and there in time, first on training missions, then back to the time of the dinosaurs, where the action really gets hairy as the team encounters other time travelers, not all of them good guys.   All of the characters are well drawn, and the twists of plot satisfy even this reader who is so fond of them. There is plenty of action as witnessed in this quote from the book describing a raptor attack on some time travelers:

“I watched as the first two (raptors) leaped in a pincer movement… and it’s true, they don’t wait until their prey  is dead before eating.  I watched them rip and tear…I watched them snarl and growl and gobble.” This is the most violent and most graphic scene, I have read, fully worthy of any Jurassic Park movie.

The book series, “St. Mary’s,” would make a great TV series.

TEXTBOOK by Amy Krause Rosenthal: A Review

This unusual (for lack of a better name) book is, as the front cover says, “not exactly a memoir”, but “a book about…being alive.”  Published in 2016 ten years after Rosenthal’s Ordinary Life, it is a mix of the author’s thoughts, musings, and feelings on “things” and life in general. The “text” in Textbook, the title, has multiple meanings.  The reader can actually send a text to the author, it is a textbook divided into nine different disciplines from “Geography to ” “Language Arts,” and it often has pictures of texts the author has received.  Sometimes there is only one sentence on a page; sometimes the page is blank, presumably to allow the reader to pause and think about what was just shown or written.  Sometimes the text is a record of thoughts that struck Rosenthal on a facsimile/picture as follows:

In curator style, the author has aligned on the page,

“Existential Napkin

ink printed on a disposable napkin

dispensed at a local restaurant, 1999”

A picture of the napkin where Rosenthal has written follows,

“Aren’t we just trying to leave one, good, lasting thing behind?”

 

And hasn’t the author written one, unique textbook here?

Tuesday Teaser

Tuesday Teaser is a meme I first heard about on sjhigbee’s blog Brainfluff.  I’m not sure if she started it or got involved through someone else’s blog, but it’s lots of fun, and I have adapted it here for PWR members and their friends.

Take a book you’re currently reading and randomly copy a couple of sentences or a paragraph, being sure not to include any spoilers. The idea is to tempt us to read the same book you’re reading, so do not forget to list the title and author as well.

Here is mine for this Tuesday from One Damned Thing After Another, the first book in a time  travel series, “The Chronicles of St. Mary’s”, recommended by the aforementioned sjhigbee in her blog:

“She stepped outside, and I closed the door behind her.  Alone now, the familiar pod smell wrapped itself around me, the electrics, wet carpet, the toilet, the incinerator, a faint whiff of cabbage; awakening memories as painful as lemon juice in a paper cut.  Eau de pod; the most evocative smell in the world.

I eased myself into the seat and checked the console.  Everything seemed OK.

‘Initiate jump.’ And the world went white.”

Scroll all the way down, past the bio information, until you see “Leave a Reply” Click there and type in the box.

THE BOOK THAT MATTERS MOST: A NOVEL: A Review

To tell you what a good read this book was, keep in mind that I read it in a day and a half in a week I didn’t have any time to read in.  It was a fast read; it was an engaging read–I couldn’t wait to get back to it; and it was an informative, actually educational ,read.  And, all this in a novel!

This 2016 publication by Ann Hood includes everything I enjoy in a novel: It was about a book club; it was about a middle age woman whose husband was a cad; it was about friendship and was character driven.  The characters, both major and minor are vividly depicted, and the reader cares about each one. The relationships dissected were mothers and daughters, husbands and wives, and friends and lovers–which all make good reading.

To quote one critic, the novel is a “celebration of all that books awaken within us: joy, love, wisdom, loss, and solace.” There are enough twists and turns to satisfy even this reader who demands them, and Hood is a natural storyteller. It is a book for book clubs, specifically and book lovers, generally.

A bonus in the novel is the description of  year’s worth of the book club’s discussions on the selections of the year’s theme, “The book that matters most to me”, some of which I had not read.  The books discussed (linked to the characters who chose them) are: Pride and Prejudice, The Great Gatsby, Anna Karrenina, One Hundred Years of Solitude, To Kill a Mockingbird, Catcher in the Rye, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, The Unbearable Lightness of Being, and Slaughterhouse Five.   The mystery and revelation involved in the protagonist’s choice is a wonderful “touch,” leaving a twist for the last few pages.

This is an exceptionally satisfying read, stuffed full of the “good stuff” that makes us choose novels as well as a book you will enjoy on many levels.

  

Monday Morning Musings

What’s on my mind this morning?  The same thing that’s on my mind almost all the time-BOOKS.

Sunday’s newspaper was full of lists of “The Year’s Best “, but the one I read every word of was the one titled, “A Look Back at the Year’s Best Titles.” In her introduction, Alyson Wood, the writer, said, “What did you miss?  What should you buy now with that bookstore gift card? It’s impossible to read every worthy book published last year, but don’t leave 2016 without at least one or two of these titles.”

Well, I have read one, The After Party by Anton DISciafani, and I loved every moment I spent reading it.  I purchased it in hardback as soon as it came out and will enjoy lending it to friends for a long time to come.  Ann Patchett’s Commonwealth also made the list, and it is sitting on my dresser, borrowed from the local library, ready for me to start.  I am a bit hesitant because another blogging friend, who is a personal friend as well, said it was “all right.”  Faint praise from someone who seems to enjoy the same type books I do quite often makes me wonder if I want to just send it back.  Have any of you read it and really liked it?

Some of the others that made the list I have read ABOUT, and I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t want to invest my reading time in them: The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead: I’m Thinking of Ending Things by Iaian Reid, the title alone turns me off; The Mothers by Brit Bennett deals with abortion, and although praised strongly would be brutal reading for me.

The YA read, aimed at middle schoolers sounds worth putting on my TBR list.  It is Raymie by Kate DeCamillo, and it deals with girlfriend friendships as well as a dad who has exited his daughter’s life.  I enjoy stories about women’s friendships regardless of the women’s ages. Perhaps this is because I have so many special “girlfriends” whom I travel through vicariously, are my support group ,and keep my  life interesting.

Night Sky With Exit Wounds by Ocean Vuong was selected as the poetry book to read, and because it is described as a “slim volume”, that  places it on my TBR list.  I’m overdue to read a collection of poetry,  Definitely to be added to the list as well are: Before We Visit the Goddess by Chitra Banerjee; a possible consideration is the memoir included on the list, Please Enjoy Your Happiness by Paul Brinkley-Rogers and the non=fiction, March by Andrew Aydin.  Ones I will have to read about on Goodreads or Amazon before putting on my list round out the Best of 2016  List: What is Not Yours Is Not Yours,  and Truevine, a memoir or something like one and a true-crime story, respectively.

What are some of the best books you’ve read that were published in 2016 ?  Maybe you couldn’t list ten you read that you really liked and would recommend to me, but give me five or three or one, anyway.  I am making up my Published in 2016 To Be Read list soon.  Let me know.

And, as a recommendation as the best book published in 2016 I’ve read is Gentleman from Moscow by Amor Towles (reviewed her a while ago).  It is a large book, but worth reading even if you pick it up and put it down and read other books in between for a year!

HAPPY NEW YEAR and  HAPPY READING in 2017!

REMEMBERING CAPTAIN MIDNIGHT

We adopted our first cat in 1968, when we moved to a small town in Texas, the first time we lived in a rent house rather than an apartment in Houston, where we were not allowed to have pets.  When Christmas came, we put up a table top tree, which lasted a full twenty minutes before Prissy climbed it and brought it down.  This Christmas I am remembering the many cats we’ve had. One of the most outstanding was a black male we named Captain Midnight. This is a piece I wrote about him and share this morning with  cat lovers everywhere.

He sits on the ottoman opposite my easy chair waiting for me to lower the newspaper so that he can hop into my lap.  His once sleek black hair is sprinkled with grey.  I read once that when a cat’s skin is scratched badly, the hair follicle is scarred, and the replacing hair grows in white.  Captain Midnight has been neutered many years ago, but he still scraps with intruders who foray into his yard.  “Someone” has removed what would be his eyebrow, for a dime sized circle of white scalp shines above his right eye.  He has the pointed muzzle of a Siamese rather than the flattened face that would indicate Persian blood, and  the slight kink of his tail reflects his Siamese heritage.  He is pure alley cat, a Tom, and the biggest baby of our three cats.

Eight years ago, some junior high students rescued him from the busy traffic outside our school, and we put him into the glass-walled-enclosed courtyard until “someone” could take him home.  I slipped away at lunchtime to play with him, and when I gathered him up, he nuzzled the fleshy part of my ring finger and began to “nurse.” I was hooked.

At first, I thought since it was so close to Halloween, I would name him Count Dracula, but I couldn’t see myself going to the door and calling, “Here, Dracula; come here Drac.” When my husband came up with the original name of Midnight, I hated to veto it, but  I wanted something a bit more creative.  We looked at each other and intoned in the voice of the fifties TV announcer, “Cap…tain…Midnight!”

Even now, my husband will enter the room and see me with 15 pounds of tomcat sprawled across my lap, smacking away, nursing on my finger for security. “Be a man, Cap; be  a man,” he chides. Captain’s only reply is “Smack…slurp…sma-ck.”

Sunday (Evening) Post

What I am reading:   Not much.  This week has been filled with grading papers, leaving very little time for reading.  I am continuing to read The Thoughtful Dresser: The Art of Adornment, The Pleasures of Shopping and Why Clothes Matter by Linda Grant.  I am taking my time reading one chapter here, another there, making this the perfect pick up and put down book. If I had to make up a title, it would be The Philosophy of Fashions and Shopping for Clothes.

What I am watching:  No time for TV or movies–busy week.

What I want to read soon:  The Trouble With Lexie, a novel by Jessica Anya Blau, The Best We Could Do an illustrated memoir by The Bui (like a graphic novel), and A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles, which I have checked out from the local library.

I still have a lesson plan to finish for Wednesday and two latest issues of The New Yorker to catch up on, so I will wish you Happy Reading and Goodnight.