Saturday, October 31, 2009

REVIEW: Spooky ABC

Merriam, E.  (1987).  Spooky ABC.  New York:  Simon & Schuster.

0689853564

Spooky ABC is a Halloween alphabet book.  Each letter features a dark illustration by Lane Smith and a poem by Eve Merriam about a supernatural creature or object.

I liked the illustrations.  They were done in Smith's usual style, if not featuring some more dark colors.  They do have some potential to scare some.

When it comes to themed alphabet books, I'm always entertained by how authors come up with words for some of the most difficult letters.  In this book's case, I feel like choosing "Yeast" for the letter Y was a bit of a tragic fail.  I suppose when yeast is described as "rise rise, seethe spread, fuss fume, foam spume, spread and spread" it could be vaguely creepy.  But only vaguely.  On the plus side, when yeast is included in an alphabet book, it'll most likely provoke the question "what is yeast?"  Sciency teaching moment!  Hope you have some yeast around for a demonstration.

I was also interested that Smith created the illustrations first before Merriam was chosen to write poetry to match them.  But a few of the illustrations were later changed to match the poems Merriam came up with.  Smith had originally planned the illustration for Y to be a Yeti.  Why oh why didn't he fight for Yeti?

Personally, I wasn't too fond of Merriam's poetry.  It often felt like the various poems were just thrown together quickly instead of being well crafted.  Sometimes there's a lot of fun with assonance and alliteration, but not always.  Sometimes there's rhyming.  But not always.

I also consider myself to not be an overly crazy or unreasonable person when it comes to books that challenge religious norms, in fact I encourage ideas that challenge dominant world views.  But the poem for the letter D, "Demon" did make me a little uncomfortable.  In it demons dance and cast a spell to call up the devil.  The poem includes the following lines:

"Make this spot
infernally hot,
put your hate in,
Satan;"

While it's meant in fun, it did make me a little uncomfortable.  I'd still be willing to keep Spooky ABC in my classroom though.  


Activities:


Now, this is not a book intended for actual struggling readers who are still trying to get a grasp on the significance of the various letters.  Spooky ABC is better used as a Halloween treat for older readers who could write their own spooky poems in response.
Quotes of Note:
"Why do the curtains blow?
What do the floorboards know?"
"Jack-o'-lantern,
don't know know
your head is hollow,
you're missing teeth,
you've got no brains
and nothing underneath."

Friday, October 30, 2009

REVIEW: City Witch, Country Switch


Wax, W. (2008). City Witch, Country Switch. Tarrytown, NY: Marshall Cavendish Children.

9780761454298

With a similar title to the the picturebook City Kid, Country Kid, Wax's City Witch, Country Switch contains similar themes, but uses an entirely different approach to describing the different lifestyels of people who live in the city and people who live in the country. City Witch, Country Switch shares the story of Mitzi, a city witch who arrives home to discover that her cousin Muffletump is there and would like to stay. But Muffletump becomes homesick and uses magic to bring some aspects of country life into the city, which leave Mitzi far from pleased...until she decides to join Muffletump in the country for her own vacation.

The illustrations are fun, my favorite part being the faces Mitzi makes at her cousin's unwanted magic spells. Gibala-Broxholm's portrayals of the two witches clothing styles manages to hints well as their underlying personality differences.

While some crazies could accuse this story of glorifying witchcraft (I know you're out there!!!!), at heart this is a story of attempting to find middle ground and being able to relate to one another. This could be a good book to share with girls' who are having trouble working or playing together because they think they are very different.


Activities:

In response to a read aloud, students could write their own Halloween or supernatural themed poems.

City Witch, Country Switch also lends itself to discussions of home and lifestyles, the different ways space is used depending on a location, being considerate of others, trying to understand and respect others' cultures and ways of living, etc.

There is also a slight environmental message that a teacher could draw out, since Muffletump objects to the amount of smog she encounters in the city.


Quotes of Note:

"Mitzi was a city witch
who came home late one night
and saw her window open wide.
Had she left on the light?"

"Remembering a magic spell
to help her [Muffletump] fall asleep,
she chanted "Twinkly-Winkly!"
and...the room filled up with sheep!"

"Bye-bye, noise and smog," she called.
"The country is for me!"
"Wait," yelled Mitzi, "I'll come, too!"
Her cousin whooped, "Yippee!"

Thursday, October 29, 2009

REVIEW: Shiver


Stiefvater, M.  (2009).  Shiver.  New York:  Scholastic Press.

0545123267

390 Pages.

PLOT SUMMARY:  When Grace was younger, she was attacked by a pack of wolves.  The only reason she survived was one wolf with striking eyes prevented it.  As Grace has gotten older "her wolf" continues to watch her, unaware that he is actually a werewolf who has been in love with her since their first meeting.  After one of the boys from school is killed by the local wolves, the town of Mercy Falls, Minnesota begins cleaning their guns, ready to reduce the wolf population, forcing Grace to protect the werewolves and to finally meet her wolf, Sam.

Oh, the romance.  Oh, the angst.  Oh, the paranormal angsty romance?  Is it possible, dear readers, that I have read a similar story before?   Yes, just maybe.

To share Sam and Grace's romance, Shiver switches back and forth between their points of view.  If each chapter weren't marked according to who was narrating (and the temperature), I probably wouldn't be able to tell the difference between Grace and Sam's voices.  Sure every now and then Sam starts creating song lyrics, song LYRICS and more SONG LYRICS.  But the first person narrations from both teens sounds the same.  Very poetic and beautiful (a nice change from many of the other paranormal romances out there), but the same.

I also really liked the concept of a werewolf's transformation being determined by temperature.  I thought it was an interesting interpretation and Stiefvater made it relevant to the setting and underlying tensions of the story.  After all, werewolves in July just doesn't have the same visual appeal as them running through a snowy wood.  I may have, however, started mumbling why don't they just move to Florida around page 100.  By page 150, I was yelling.  LIVE WHERE IT'S WARM!  MOVE SOUTH!  DO IT, DO IT NOW OR I WILL CRY!!!!!!  Luckily, Stiefvater does eventually address this small plot hole.

But then I found a new plot hole.  The end just kinda...ends (before you say, no kidding that's what endings do.  Read this one.  We'll discuss).  Despite the switching back and forth in point of view, there's a lack of switching during dramatic moments.  Grace gets attacked by a wolf.  I want to be with her through that experience.  But I'm with Sam.

On the grand scale, I wouldn't call this a tense novel, more of a slow snowflakes drifting down to the ground with a few icicles of antagonists and drama occasionally dripping water from time to time as you sip hot chocolate and watch kinda book.  I wouldn't have minded a little more tension.  But then, I've always been more of a dark and cold night, breathing out vapor as you're chased and falling on the ice only to be bludgeoned by falling hail kinda reader.

It was hard not to compare Grace to Bella in the Twilight series.  Both characters have parents who are absent, both do the cooking for the family, both have depressive tendencies and both become obsessed with their stalkery love interests.  But, where Bella is consistently a victim, Grace is a tad bit more independent.  Although the, "I did not live until he entered my life" thoughts did still make me roll my eyes.  But, I often roll my eyes at romance, dear readers.  It's probably a contributing factor to why I'm a long-time singleton.

On a much more random note, the book font color drove me crazy.  As you can see above, the book cover features dark blue prominently.  Well, it's trick of the light that the font color used throughout the book seems to match.  It's actually dark grey.  I know this because I devoted way too much time debating the font color as I read.  Literally, I'd put my nose to the page and lean away, watching the font go from grey to blue.  My brain, for the win.


ACTIVITIES:

This book lends itself to being compared to other recent paranormal romances or to being a well-written recommendation for teens who are hooked on the current trend.

The book lends itself to discussions on hunter culture and the reasons and risks associated with hunting.  Student could also explore the way space is presented in the story--who is close to who and when?  How is that a metaphor for their emotional relationships?  On those lines, a teacher could also encourage students to focus on setting and imagery as they read Shiver.

Since Sam is a fan of writing lyrics, students could do the same.  A teacher could incorporate this book into lessons on poetry, particularly focusing on the works of Rainer Maria Rilke.

To go a more sciencey route, a teacher could also give some historical information on how vaccines are developed.


QUOTES OF NOTE:

"I remember lying in the snow, a small red spot of warm going cold, surrounded by wolves.  They were licking me, biting me, worrying at my body, pressing in.  Their huddled bodies blocked what little heat the sun offered" (p. 1).

"I didn't realize that the wolves in the wood were all werewolves until Jack Culpeper was killed" (p. 12).

"I'm sorry.  I feel stupid for not remembering.  It takes a couple hours for me--for my brain--to come back."
He didn't release my fingers, and I didn't take them away, even though it was hard to concentrate with his skin against mine.  "Come back from what?"
"Come back from when," he corrected.  "come back from when I was..."
Sam waited.  He wanted me to say it.  It was harder than I thought it would be, to admit it out loud, even though it shouldn't have been.
"When you were a wolf," I whispered" (p. 67).

"I struggled to find something to say that wouldn't sound like the greeting of an interspecies stalker.  "Good morning," I managed" (p. 84).


TASTY RATING:  !!!!

REVIEW: The Perfect Pumpkin Pie


Cazet, D. (2005). The Perfect Pumpkin Pie. New York: Atheneum Books for Young Readers.

0689864671

So, my favorite part of this time of year is, quite literally, pumpkin pie. I loves me my pumpkin pie. Mmmmmm. *Wanders into the kitchen to get a piece*
...

Back and full of pumpkin pie!

Where was I?


In this case the perfect pumpkin pie is not delicious goodness, but rather is a picturebook, set around Halloween, describing how the perfect pumpkin pie was created. And by that I mean, an elderly Mrs. Wilkerson prepares the perfect pie for her mean husband, only to have him die before he can take the first bite. Mrs. Wilkerson then decides to bury her husband's body in the pumpkin patch before moving far away.

Jack and his grandmother, who have moved into the old Wilkerson house in time for the next Halloween, encounter a ghost in the pumpkin patch who won't leave until he gets his perfect pumpkin pie.

Now, in case you couldn't tell from the description, this humorous picturebook is best left for those middle grade readers who won't be hurt by lighthearted portrayals of death and occasionally darker illustrations (for example, the ghost of Mr. Wilkerson takes his eye out of his skull to examine a pumpkin pie closely. And on that note, the story is at moments text heavy and has some fun with fonts that may intimidate younger readers.


Activities:

Now, a superhero teacher would be able to take a child to a pumpkin patch, have a child help pick one out and then guide said child through all the steps of making pumpkin pie.

I, on the other hand, will take a child by the hand, guide them into the nearest grocery store and let them pick out the best pie from the display case. Then we'll wander on down and find the whipped cream aisle. Good times. That's the way I role.

Students could also have fun dramatizing this story and performing it as a skit. They could have a lot of fun turning the phrases the ghost of Mr. Wilkerson into various styles of songs.


Quotes of Note:

"One Halloween night, wind stirred the leaves in the pumpkin patch outside the old Wilkerson house. Inside the house, Old Man Wilkerson sat, waiting."

"Mmmmm," he said. "I does love a perfect pie."

"That same night, by the light of the Halloween moon, Mrs. Wilkerson buried Mr. Wilkerson in the pumpkin patch."

"Of course, no one ever heard from Mr. Wilkerson again, either. He was, after all, dead. Or was he?"

"He's nothing but cold smoke. He's a ghostly fussbudget with an appetite for a good pie."

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Literary Feast: Wake (Pages 51-100)


Tasty! The Wake Literary Feast continues! This is such a fast read, so let's keep on keeping on. Just be aware there are spoilers below, and I'm not typing about the metaphorical food.

SHEL: I know last time I just complained about Cabel as a love interest based on his greasy hair. And now he's had a SUPER-DUPER-MAGIC-FAN-FICTION-WORTHY makeover. But I still don't like it. No doubt there's a reason for the change. But I'm still not loving it. It's too drastic.



Monica: I like it. I’m not saying it’s not a complete Mary Sue (“Yes, I’d like my boyfriend character to have broader shoulders, and pouty lips, and… ooh, can his hair be cut to gently frame his face? With highlights? I love me some highlights!”) but at the same time, she needs someone a little more respectable to be all anchorish for her for the rest of the book. Think of all the drama on the bus, where he was literally holding her down and trying to protect her from her own mind -- I don’t think he’d be up to it if he was still stumbling around bedecked with the aforementioned greasy ringlets.

Shel: Ugh. All this throwing around of "greasy ringlets." It's upsetting my tummy.



Monica: Am I the only one who is having major and serious Freddy Kreuger flashbacks? To the point where I sort of want to ask the author if she’d been having an all-night Friday the 13th movie marathon the evening prior to writing “Wake,” and then dreamed an evil character that sort of vaguely *TOTALLY* resembled the main character in said films?



Shel: Well, maybe it's Cabel who was so disturbed by Freddy. Am I reaching to far again? I think I might be.



Monica: You might be. But it's okay. We love you anyway.


Shel: It's good to feel loved despite my crazy tendencies.

Monica:  Leaving Knifey-Nails behind, can I mention that I felt *so* bad for Jamie when Cabel pretended not to be Cabel? You can imagine she's walking a pretty tenuous line anyway, sanity-wise. There she was, planning on having a nice chat with Mr. Newly Muscular, and he goes and makes her doubt her own reality? What a jerk.



Shel: My response was, "What a silly moment.  Whatevs."

Monica: Ooooh, I'm loving the interactions with Miss Stubin! It's all Mysterious and Fraught with Portent! Why is she the only one who actually addresses Janie face-to-face? Why did she need Jamie's permission to change the dream?! How hot, really, was the soldier anyway!??!



Shel: I'm liking Miss Stubin overall.  She gets cool points.  I hadn't noticed that she's the only one addressing Janie.  I hope this isn't a "6th Sense" dealie.

Monica: Didn't you just about lose your mind during the bus scene? "He takes her hand with his free hand and strings his fingers in hers. Looks at her hands, and lays his cheek against her hair. After a while, he is asleep too." At this point, I'm screaming at the book. Because AH! Cabel falls ASLEEP! JANIE is ASLEEP! Things can only go pear-shaped from here. And... they do.



Shel: I just kept thinking how much it would suck to appear to have seizure in front of all your classmates.  Not a good time.

Monica: Aw. Page 99 is filled with angst and misery and angst and angst, all in just three lines. I've decided I *do* like the way this book is written... it took me a while to warm up to it, but the liking is definitely there.



Shel: Awww.  I'm glad it won you over for that moment.  On a different note, NOOOOOOOOOOOOO! I don't likes Cabel being knifey-nails. I was expecting a hunt for a Dexter-like serial killer. I can see how your mind made that jump. I, alas, am unable to have flashbacks. The only version of Freddy Kreuger I saw was The Simpson's Halloween spoof.



Tune back in on Friday and the feast can continue with the next fifty pages.

REVIEW: Creature Carnival

Singer, M.  (2004).  Creature Carnival.  New York:  Hyperion Books for Children.

0786818778

Enjoyment Rating:  !!!

My few dear readers, guess what time it is almost?  Here's a hint:  It's my FAVORITE holiday of fun and sweetness!  That's right.  And it's time to get in the mood for some frights.

Welcome to the creature carnival!  One by one, this picturebook goes around the carnival and shares a poem about each of its creatures, making references to fairy tales, folk tales, some movies, classic literature, and myths.  But children of all ages in attendance, beware!  If you don't pass with care, you may find yourself in a snare!

Initially, this concept made me a little uncomfortable, since my mind immediately went to a "people with unusual appearances being taken advantage of place."  But Creature Carnival manages to avoid this issue by using mythical animals or beasts from fairy tales and the displayed creatures.

The illustrations are highly stylized in a gothic fashion, but remain light and fun, which will prevent wee little readers from wee-weeing in their wee little pants.  A big plus.


Activities:

This is a good Halloween read that also promotes poetry.  The artwork will feel familiar to reader who like A Series of Unfortunate Events or Zorgamazoo.  So, Creature Carnival could lead into those longer books.

Since a lot of classic creatures are included in the carnival, a teacher could connect individual poems with lessons on mythical creatures like the Sphinx and Pegasus or to fairy tales.  Since many of the names of the creatures aren't given until the ends of the poem, a teacher could try to turn a read aloud into a guessing game before reading the last line and showing the illustration.


Quotes of Note:

"Come along, children of all ages.
See baled beasts not found in cages.
Spend your parents' hard-earned wages.
It's Creature Carnival time."

"Not a horse, not a bird,
Wouldn't drop an egg on us.
Very sleek, very Greek,
In a word:  Pegasus."

"You can't domesticate a dragon.
He'll never pull a plow or a wagon."

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

A Chance to Meet Winter the Dolphin!

Monica, before you get too excited, I want to warn you that this essay contest is intended for writers a wee bit younger than you.



MEET WINTER THE DOLPHIN
ESSAY CONTEST

Encourage your young readers to enter for a chance to win a visit with Winter the Dolphin at her home in Clearwater Marine Aquarium by telling Scholastic about their favorite animal hero. Download thecontest details (PDF) here.


ABOUT THE CONTEST 

Winter the Dolphin has been an inspiration and hero for children and adults alike.  When Winter was just three months old, she was rescued from a crap trap which had seriously damaged her tail.  It wasn't clear that she would survive but she did.  However, the damage to Winter's tail was so extensive that it fell off.  To everyone's amazement, a prosthetic company stepped in an fitted Winter with a prosthetic tail.  Now Winter is using her new tail and thriving.

Scholastic wants to hear about an animal that has most inspired your children by having them tell us about their favorite animal hero in 200 words or less. 
One grand prize winner and his/her guardian will receive a trip to visit Winter at her home in Clearwater, Florida, one night's stay at a hotel, $500 travel voucher, a Winter prize pack and a Nintendo DS Game system!  10 runners up with receive a copy of Winter's Tail, a Winter's Tail Nintendo DS game and a Winter plush doll!


HOW TO ENTER

Send entries to:
Scholastic's Meet Winter the Dolphin Contest
557 Broadway
New York, NY 10012



Each entry must include student's name, age, and grade; teacher's name; and school name, address, and phone number.


All entries must be received by November 30, 2009.  Winners will be announced on or around December 14th.  No purchase necessary.  Open to legal residences of 50 United States and D.C. ages 6-14 as of November 30th 2009.  Void where prohibited.  Click here for complete contest rules.

REVIEW: The Bravest Knight

Mayer, M.  (1968).  The Bravest Knight.  New York:  Dial Books for Young Readers.
9780803732063

The Bravest Knight, which was reissued in 2007, shares the story of a young modern boy who dreams of having lived a thousand years ago so that he could have been a squire to a knight and enjoy all of the fantasy and romanticism ascribed to that time.

The Bravest Knight is illustrated in Mayer's familiar style with full color and a lot of humor incorporated.  And the reader needs to have acquired visual literacy to be able to understand that humor.

Since this is a classic and is reflective of when it was written with regard to the fact that feminism still hadn't snuck into children's literature yet, the princess figure is rather passive, a character to be rescued.


Activities:

The Bravest Knight could be used to begin a lesson on what daily life would really be like during the dark ages, since the book (at least early on) does a decent description of a squire's duties before shifting into a more fantastic path.

This book could give voice to a desire for those young children who prefer fantasy and imagination to reality.  I wish I had found this book when I was a child.


Quotes of Note:

"I wish I lived a thousand years ago."

"There would be beautiful castles, kings and queens, good knights, bad knights, fair ladies in danger, evil dragons from the mountains..."

"I would work for the bravest knight in the kingdom and be his squire."

"The knight and I would wander through the countryside in search of adventure."

Monday, October 26, 2009

Literary Feast: Wake (Pages 1-50)




Welcome to the second literary feast! Over the next week, we'll be focusing our literary skills on Lisa McMann's Wake. And perhaps after the feast, we can all go off and dream walk through our neighbors' weird and twisty dreams.


As with most beginnings, we'll be beginning with the beginning of the book. Below you'll see our conversation over appetizers. Feel free to add your thoughts. And be aware, as always there are potential spoilers for the book below.



Monica: I have to complain right off the bat about the cover. I am the kind of person who requires their books to be in pristine, just-off-the-printing-press condition. Mint, if you will. And how the heck am I supposed to do that when publishers insist on designing covers using the kind of ink that shows marks if you so much as set it on a table!? Whimper whimper. Shall have to turn the pages with sterilized tongs.


Shel: I like the cover! It's purple. I *heart* purple. Are we going to have to have a fight before the meal is even served, Monica?
I also really like the premise of this book. A teenage dreamwalker = good fun. I am having trouble with the distance the narrating seems to have from Janie though. I feel like I'm not with her, not inside her head. Instead I feel like I'm reading a case file or encyclopedia entry about her experiences. Does that make sense?


Monica: I know exactly what you’re talking about in terms of narrator POV. It feels sort of like I’m reading a novelization of an episode of Unexplained Mysteries – there’s (hopefully going to be more) drama and there’s crazy powers and there’s a puzzle that must be solved, but we’re not really involved ourselves. We’re just viewing it all from a safe, sterile distance.


Shel: I've been thinking about this a little more. MAYBE the distance and sentence structure is an attempt to make the entire novel seem like it's a hazy dream itself. Huh, huh? Could that be it? Am I reaching too far? I suppose if it were actually meant to seem like a dream, a man would randomly pop out and ask Janie if she wanted cheese or there'd be other random weirdness.

Monica: You're definitely reaching too far. However, now it's in my brain and I'm willing to accept it as a viable excuse for the writing style. Curse you, Shel!!

Shel: Hahaha! This means I shall steal the last role of bread. It is mine! *Swipes the bread and glares at all the diners daring someone to challenge me* Any-hoo, I bet the Mom's alcoholism is going to be relevant to the plot later on. For instance, does she drink so she doesn't dreamwalk too, hmm?


Monica: Oooooh. OOOOOOOOOOH. Thank *God* there’s an up-and-coming sequel, eh? ;)

SHEL: Fade is already out...but there's a third one (Gone?) on the way for early next year.

Monica: That name seems like it negates the possibility for a fourth book, alas. Unless she decides to title the next one “Okay, Gone For Reals This Time, Guys.”

Shel: Or RETURN!!!!!!!

Monica: Can I sidenote that I would NOT be cut out for dreamwalking amidst my pre- and pubescent classmates? I don’t care *how* good friends I was with someone, if I’d seen her in a dream with breasts the size of watermelons, I’d have serious trouble making eye contact the next morning. Obviously Janie is better peoples than me.


SHEL: This is true. If somebody annoyed me, it'd be so easy to draw upon my classmates' nightmares to send them running. Also, I don't know how I feel about Cabel as a love interest so far. I got tied up on the "greasy ringlets." Not a fan of grease (unless it's on Snape's head). And Cabel isn't my Snapey.


Monica: Okay, yes, greasy ringlets, but he’s a fifteen-year-old guy. A chivalrous fifteen-year-old guy, to be more precise. How can you not like him after the skateboarding incident!? My biggest problems are a) I keep misspelling his name as Cable, and b) in said misspelling, I automatically think of the Marvel superhero, complete with rippling muscles and psychic powers. (Nate Summers! Call me!)

Shel: OMG me too! I keep seeing Cable's eye flash blue like in the cartoon. Oh, X-men.

On that note...



Check back on Wednesday night, when we'll post discussion on pages 50-100 of Wake. And let us know your thoughts of the book! The more opinions the better!

REVIEW: Jungle Gym Jitters

Richards, C.  (2004).  Jungle Gym Jitters.  New York:  Walker & Company.

0802789315

Jerry J. Jingle has the jungle gym jitters (say that five time fast!).  His dad, George keeps adding to the jungle gym he built in their backyard.  While Judy, Jerry's sister, and all of his friends have no problem climbing up on the giant see saws and towers, Jerry can't do it.  But when he sees that his sister may be in danger, will Jerry be able to conquer his jitters then?

The rhyming couplets and repetition of the J and G sounds lends this book to be used as a read aloud, or at moments, even a tongue twister.

As with Into the Forest by Browne, the illustrations of Jungle Gym Jitters reminded me of the artwork of Chris Van Allsburg.  Richards's style is both surreal and intricate, with a reference to Escher's House of Stairs work:



Richards only uses subtle, dark colors, so that at a distance the pictures appear to be in greyscale, but up close you can see the variations.


Activities:

In terms of potential discussions, Jungle Gym Jitters can be used to discuss assonance and alliteration, or to trigger students' own poetry.  A teacher could recommend students describe their favorite toys (whether real or imagined) in verse and then create a picture to go with it.

On a more personal level, a teacher and student could discuss a fear of heights or getting hurt on a jungle gym as well as the meaning of courage.  Also, this would be a good read aloud before recess to encourage students to participate in physical play or to discuss helping one another.


Quotes of Note:

"Jerry J. Jingle had fun every day,
for Jerry's dad, George, had a brain made for play.
When Dad got an idea that planted its seed,
fun would sprout up like a blossoming weed."

"By late afternoon Dad had proudly unveiled
the new jungle gym his hammer just nailed.
Jerry hung loose with a monkey-faced frown
while Judy, his sister, showed off upside down."

"When Jerry came home his mouth opened in awe.
His friends were sky-high on a giant seesaw.
As he studied the moves of those strange seesaw sitters
he was suddenly sick with the jungle gym litters!"

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Certified Resolution Writing Endeavor Review Report: Week Forty-Three

So, how about that 24-hour readathon, hmm?

Intense.  I'd thought it would have been easier.  I was shocked by how quickly I started to feel tired.  I never realized how good I was at working for four or five hours.  But after those four or five hours, it would seem that my brain quits.  Literally, I think it wandered away for a mental cigarette.  No really, what it actually demanded was a break to recharge in the warm glow of the TV.  That was strange, since I don't consider myself to be a TV-dependent person.

Sign me up for the next one!

I think for the next readathon, I will make a point of setting aside some shorter books to begin with.  Also, I'll plan to not be mid-way through my general exams.  Desperately needing to do homework as a part of my reading was a downer.  It was like I was the grounded kid, watching everyone else play in the street through my closed double-pained window.

The mini-challenges were a lot of fun, especially for providing a sense of community.  Thanks to all the cheerleaders for their comments and encouragement and to those other readers who participated in our mini-challenge.  I never expected we'd get so many hilarious responses.

Also a big wave and a grand welcome *trumpets blare* to those few but super-awesome peeps who have started following our blog.  I hope we manage to amuse you!

My personal readathon continues today, since the hunger for a good book never abates in my house.


Also, don't forget our second literary feast will begin tomorrow night.  Monica and I will be discussing the first 50 pages of Lisa McMann's Wake.  All are invited!  We welcome your thoughts on the book.

In writing news, week three has passed without any rejections.  I don't know what to think.  But I do wonder if this tickle in my chest is the return of hope, my self-esteem or just a cold setting in.

I have discovered the perfect agent.  For me.  I won't say who.  But he or she (no hints!) has represented two of my favorite books, both of which have similar themes and styles to my own.  I plan to prepare a query to go out tomorrow.  I anticipate rejection, of course.  That is always much safer for my mental state.

REVIEW: I Will Never Not Ever Eat a Tomato


Child, L. (2000). I Will Never Not Ever Eat a Tomato. London: Orchard Books.

0763611883

Charlie shares the story of his little sister, Lola. He focuses on her "funny" eating habits and shares dialogue of why Lola thinks various foods are too gross to be eaten. The imaginative Charlie thinks of a way to convince his sister to eat a meal of all the foods she claims to hate.

Charlie's method...I won't go into specifics...is very creative. I can't actually see any children I know falling for it (but then, a teacher can ask, does Lola even fall for it?). But the sense of imagination, the ways of describing foods will impress and entertain most readers.

The style of the artwork and some of the fonts are fun, incorporating newspaper print, actual photos of various foods, and character illustrations that look as though they were drawn by a child.

This is one book in a much larger series featuring the characters, Charlie and Lola. And it's also worth noting that there is also a pop-up version of this story.


Activities:

A teacher or parent could use this book to discuss healthy eating habits and to encourage children to be more adventurous when it comes to eating certain dreaded foods (typed the girl who STILL won't touch lima beans. ICK!) Teachers could also use this book as an opening to have students share narratives (either orally or written) about their siblings or likes and dislikes based on the structure Charlie uses. I Will Never Not Ever Eat a Tomato could also be used as an example to show students what dialogue is.

This story can also be used with older siblings to share how it is important to help parents' with their younger siblings.


Quotes of Note:

"I have this little sister, Lola. She is small and very funny."

"And I am not fond of apples OR rice OR cheese OR fish sticks. And I absolutely will never not ever eat a tomato." (My sister hates tomatoes.)"

"Oh, you think these are carrots.
These are not carrots.
These are orange twiglets from Jupiter."

Readathon: Victory Equals Us!

8:00 AM Update (Monica):

Well, it's official, friends.

After countless pages, waaaay too much caffeine, and many, many hours... I have become one of the undead, staggering around in a gross parody of real life.

If y'all will excuse me, I'm going to lurch upstairs and hope to God my parents don't notice that I am just now making my way to bed.

This has, though, been an absolute blast! I hope you guys enjoyed the Readathon as much as I did! And for first-timers like myself, congrats on making it all the way through.

See you next time. ;)

Readathon: Update 19

7:05 AM Update (Monica):

So tired.
Not... not going to make it.
Blog... wavering... before my eyes.
Want to put down copy of Goose Girl by Shannon Hale but... it is so good... I must keep... keep reading.

In non-comatose news, for those of you still up and coherent, way to be!!!

Readathon: Update 18

6:00 AM Update (Monica):

It was an obvious stroke of genius on my part that led me to check out the LARGE PRINT edition of The Lightning Thief, because it means that even now, with my eyes crossing and watering, and the world zooming in and out of focus, even now, I can still pretty much figure out what's on the page.

Thanks, LARGE PRINT! Thanks!

In other news, this book has inspired me to always refer to my friends by their first *and* last name. If it's good enough for Percy Jackson, it's good enough for me.

Hope you all are having a great morning!

Keep on reading!!

Readathon: Mini Challenge Winner

It's the end of the hour, and as such, our Mini Challenge has come to an end! Aw. I know. Don't tear up too much, though, because then you won't be able to read clearly.

You guys did such a great job! I laughed... I cried... It moved me, Bob.

The winner, officially picked at random, is:

Kim!
"I would rather read than scrape corn flakes out of the bottom of a plastic potty any night!"

Notable runners-up, who receive nothing but mine and Shel's own admiration, are:

Luluette!
"I would rather read than degenerate into hideous puppets any night!"
Amethyst Princess!
"I would rather read than splodge orange paint any night!"
Cass!
"I would rather read than have spells of manic loquaciousness any night!"

Thanks to everyone for participating in our challenge.
Y'all are awesome.
And we love you.

24 Hour Read-A-Thon Challenge!

Hello Read-a-thon challenge takers! How are you guys doing? Has your vision started to blur yet? Do you have your coffee by your side? Have the characters you're reading about started to converse with you in waking dreams? If not, there's still time.


On to the challenge...
(Drumroll, drumroll, etc.)


Your mission, which you MUST accept, is to turn to page 23 of the book you're currently reading (or the nearest page with text on it) and find the most entertaining phrase to complete the following sentence:


"I would rather read than _____________ any night!"


Post your sentence in the comments section for all of our amusement! Fight through the exhaustion! We know you can do it!!


Don't forget to mention which book your new sentence of awesomeness comes from! There will be a prize for one winner (the choice of three books from the Readathon organizers and contributers. You can check out the the list of prizes here)


Happy reading! ;)

Shel and Monica

(Update 2:30: Monica Look! Look at all these *comments*! I'm feeling flush with success, Shel, how about you? Or... or maybe that's the fatigue talking....)

(Update 3:30: Monica Keep them coming, guys! We're going to keep it going for another hour and a half, which is plenty of time for y'all to start a *second* book!)

Update 5:01: Shel Stop! STOP NOW! 92 responses!!! Gad zooks, readers. You're all awesome!!!!! We'll announce the winner soon. I must call Monica..and possibly summon her back from the warm and loving arms of Lady DeathSleep.

(Update 5:19: Monica I know, aren't they so awesome? I want to keep them all for our very own, like a gigantic posting reading posse, but... I am not under any illusions. We all know they're in it for the FANTASTIC PRIZES THANK YOU READATHON!)

Readathon: Update 17 and Mini Challenge

1:30 AM (Monica):

There's a drabble Mini Challenge being hosted at Libri Touches. Having just spent the past hour reading fanfic, I'm loving me this challenge.

Behold!

********

My mother thinks that I have lost my mind. I can tell, because of the way she edges in and out of the room, staring right at me but occasionally flicking her eyes in the general direction of the five feet of books stacked precariously on the edge of our living room coffee table. “Do you want dinner?” “Are you going to bed any time soon?” “Honey, I know you have read Harry Potter one hundred and thirty times already. Put it down. Walk away.” Luckily I can’t hear her over the constantly turning pages. Oh, reading. I love you.


********

I've started on The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan. This is yet another one that I know everyone has read but me. And I want to join that club! That club of cool people who have read The Lightning Thief!

So I shall!

Readathon: Update Many-ish

The readathon continues!  I've taken a risk and am attempting to read in bed.  So far, so good.  I think I have a chance since our mini-challenge begins in a little over an hour and I'll have to be up and kinda-aware.

And here are 5 of my childhood favorites for Lynn's Challenge:

The Hero and the Crown
The Blue Sword
Redwall
The Ear, the Eye and the Arm
Walk Two Moons

Readathon: Update 16 and Mini Challenge

12:30 AM (Monica): Whoo! It's past midnight, I'm still awake, and I'm basking in the glory of my delicious cheese-drenched nachos.

I hope my waistline appreciates the sacrifice I'm making on its behalf.

Chronicle of an Infant Bibliophile is hosting a Mini Challenge right now, and let it never be said I don't love me some challenges!

The question? To list five books I enjoyed as a child.

In no particular order, we have:

Oscar Otter by Nathaniel Benchley
Oscar needs to get home down a slippery mountain populated by large carnivores!
Imogene's Antlers by David Small
Imogene wakes up one morning to discover that she has sprouted antlers during the night!
Sarah's Unicorn by Bruce Coville
Sarah dodges her evil aunt and makes best friends with a beeeaaautiful unicorn!
The Girl Who Loved Wild Horses by Paul Goble
A girl loves horses so much... she may choose to live with them!
Barney Beagle by Jean Bethell
Barney, who lives at a pet shop (and probably was bred under terrible conditions) wants a Boy!

Obviously I only liked books that included the name of the main character in the title?

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Readathon: Update 15

11:30 PM (Monica): Well, Castaways is over, and I am sad.

Aren't you always a little bummed when you finish a good book? Not a *fantastical* book, but one that's just solid and entertaining? I am. Thank goodness the lord of books invented rereading!

I haven't been able to decide what my next book will be -- I might chill on the page-turning for a while and head over to fanfiction.net for some trashy Harry Potter fics. Just for a bit, though! After all, I've promised myself Taco Bell at midnight, and at 1am I'm starting The Virgin and the Dinosaur.

And at 2am... oh, friends, at 2am our Mini Challenge begins! It's Challenge-Tastic! It's Challangerific! It's... It's... okay, it's not actually going to be that complex and snazzy. You'll have to forgive us -- it has been a long day.

Readathon: Update 14ish

So, there's been a necessary break in reading on my part.  A certain someone in the household peed on the couch.

I swear, it wasn't me.

Perhaps I shouldn't have woken the cat this afternoon.  Perhaps I also shouldn't have read aloud to it from When Good Cats Go Bad.  Clearly, I sent a message.

Off to shower and then I shall resume my fun reading ways.  At which time I will pointedly be ignoring a certain cat, while reading 1,001 Ways to Skin a Cat.  I will be earmarking pages and taking notes.

Readathon: Update 14

10:30 PM (Monica): It's official. I want ice cream.

Come, friends! Someone come and bring me an ice cream sandwich!

Ooh, one of the ones with chocolate, strawberry and vanilla all in the same thing.

Yes please!

Also, I am reading. Reading reading reading. And going slightly mad. There are just... so many words!

I'm really enjoying having had a whole day, though, with my books. Normally between homework and work-work and everything else, I'm lucky if I get a few hours a week to read. Having an excuse to sit next to a four-foot-tall stack of novels and just work my way through them has been very fun! We should have Readathons more often, obviously.

Have you all been having a nice day so far? Or are you bleeding out the eyes and wishing you were in bed?

Readathon: Update 13

9:35 PM (Shel):  Wow, these past two hours have ZOOOOOoooooooomed by.  Except, typing the word like that made it seem long.  It was more like zo-.


I will admit, I have turned to chemical dependency to stay energized.  My drug of choice is delicious!  It's four parts coffee, one part soy hazelnut creamer (because that's the way I roll) and 200,000 parts hot chocolate mix.  Yum.


In terms of music, I've had various songs by The Beatles stuck in my head.  (I was reading Kaleidoscope Eyes last night, which mentions a few songs and they've been swimming around my brain ever since.  For the purpose of Jill's mini-challenge, let's focus on "Here Comes the Sun," since I'm reading until the sun comes.


"Here comes the sun, dodadodo
Here comes the sun,
And I say it's all right."


Yeaaaaaaaaaah.


"Sun, sun sun, here it comes!"




P.S.  Don't be surprised if you see fewer posts from me over the next few hours.  It doesn't mean I've wandered away to watch four TVs at once, while playing video games and vowing never to pick up a book again.
I'm just running low of interesting ways to describe sitting in one spot and and staring at a sheet of paper for the time being.

Readathon: Update 13 and Mini Challenge

9:30 PM Update (Monica): Still awake, friends?

Are you sure?

Quick, pinch yourself! You might have fallen asleep in front of the computer and now you're just dreaming that you're reading other people's blogs! This could be a nightmare! Bum bum bum....

Obviously, I'm losing my mind. But don't worry. It always comes back. Eventually.

Castaways is just as entertaining as I remembered. It's been close to a decade since I last read it, and I'd forgotten how absolutely menacing the first part of it was. I almost wish it could have kept going -- I do have a deep love of pirates that the rest of the story doesn't quite fulfill.

And best of all, although I don't remember all the details of the novel, I'm reasonably sure that the dog makes it. (Yes. I'm talking to you, Knife of Never Letting Go. I'm talking to you.)

In other news, we've got a Mini Challenge from Fizzy Thoughts!

What's a song that reminds me of the Readathon? Oh, that's easy. It's "Who Needs Sleep" by the Barenaked Ladies! Sing along, kids!

Who needs sleep?
Well you're never gonna get it.
Who needs sleep?
Tell me what's that for?
Who needs sleep?
Be happy with what you're getting --
There's a guy whose been awake since the Second World War!

Readathon: Halfway Update!

Update (Monica): And without further ado, we've got the official Readathon Halfway Point Meme Thingy!

1. What are you reading right now?

Castaways of the Flying Dutchman

2. How many books have you read so far?

Three and a half. Three and three quarters? Almost four! And some webcomics!

3. What book are you most looking forward to for the second half of the Read-a-thon?

I've got a copy of The Virgin and the Dinosaur set aside, which I've never read before and which I'm pretty sure has the best title of any book ever written. I'm thinking it'll be my 1am book.

4. Did you have to make any special arrangements to free up your whole day?

Oh yes. They consisted of, "Mom? Dad? I claim the living room. Please feed me from time to time."

5. Have you had many interruptions? How did you deal with those?

Not too many interruptions at all! I did have to shower, at one point, and at another point needed to break out into song. But mostly it's just been reading and blogging.

6. What surprises you most about the Read-a-thon, so far?

I never realized how many fantastic blogs there were! I'm having so much fun reading everyone else's posts.

7. Do you have any suggestions for how to improve the Read-a-thon next year?

I'd vote for large gifts of chocolate for every participant, but I do (vaguely) recognize the inherent difficulties with that idea....

8. What would you do differently, as a Reader or a Cheerleader, if you were to do this again next year?

I'd think about the books I was reading ahead of time. I've mostly just been working out of my library stack, but some of them aren't very conducive to reading straight through. I need more brainless, less thinky. ;)

9. Are you getting tired yet?

DEAR GOD YES! PLEASE LET ME SLEEP!

10. Do you have any tips for other Readers or Cheerleaders, something you think is working well for you that others may not have discovered?

Um... caffeine? Oh, and posting in tandem. Shel helps keep me awake and motivated. Yay her!

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