Sunday, July 22, 2007

The Memory Keeper's Daughter - by Kim Edwards

I would recommend this book for a thoughtful read. It is the story of a young doctor who delivers his children in the middle of a snow storm. He and his wife are excited as it is their first child - but unbeknownst to him, his wife is pregnant with twins and the baby girl is born with downs syndrome. He panics thinking about the life she will have, the strain and hardship she will put on the family and he remembers his sister who was chronically ill and what it did to his parents. He makes a life altering decision to tell his wife that the little girl died - then he sends the baby with his nurse to an institution. However, the nurse can't bring herself to leave the child and instead takes her and raises her as her own. This is a story of a marriage suffering from one decision, one lie - the rift between a husband who can't bring himself to tell the woman he loves the truth and a mother who struggles to deal with her overwhelming sense of lose, and the story of an unlikely mother and the joy one little girl brings to her. Edward's characters are complex and the story, like life, has no easy answers, no completely happy ending.

Harry Potter series - J.K. Rowling

Like many of my friends, I have been furiously rereading the books in preparation for the new release of book 7. I do have a couple of predictions that I thought I might share before I open the book: First, I think Snape is on the GOOD side! I think he and Dumbledore set up his death and made sure Harry saw it or "thought" he saw it so that if Voldermort was able to penetrate Harry's mind, he would think Dumbledore was dead -removing a huge threat to him. IF Dumbledore is dead, I think that he made Snape agree to take his life to protect Draco and Harry, this is why he said - please Severus - on the roof prior to his death.
I had a friend email me with an interesting idea which I think is quite plausible - Harry is in fact the last horcrux - this would explain the prophecy - neither can live while the other survives, and it would explain the connection between Voldermort and Harry. However, there is one flaw - wouldn't Voldermort KNOW Harry was a Horcrux as he made them?

Anyway, this is the first time I have reread all of the books, and I must say this was WELL worth my time. I was amazed at the number of connections to events in the later books that are set up in the earlier books. GREAT foreshadowing - shows such a talent for writing. I know lots of people who have just seen the movies and think they KNOW about Potter - AS with most books to movies - the movies are such a different medium - by necessity they leave so much out!

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

A Long Way Gone - A Memoir of a Boy Soldier by Ishmael Beah

I saw this book in Starbucks and couldn't resist the cover. At first I thought it was about one of the lost boys from the Sudan, but it is not. It's Beah's memoir about his life in Sierra Leone. His family falls prey to the rebels who are trying to overthrow what they consider to be a corrupt government. Ishmael, who is 12 at the time, is away in a neighboring village getting ready to perform American rap music with some buddies. He hears of the attack from people who are able to escape. Thus begins his journey from a child to a refugee of war - facing imminent death at each new village until the villagers realize he is just a boy searching for safe harbor.
If memory serves me Sierra Leone is the place depicted in Blood Diamond. And in fact the methods used by the rebels seem right on target with what was depicted in the movie. Beah is terrified of being caught by the rebels (his brother is and he never sees him again) because even if he escapes they will mark him if he is captured by branding their initials in his forehead or cutting off limbs - so even if he escapes, he would be exiled as a member of the rebel forces. The rebels routinely kidnapped young boys and forced them to join the movement and kill - like in Blood Diamond.
I'm not sure if he gets captured but by the title "a boy soldier" I'm guessing he does. It's been a pretty good book so far - AND if you buy it at Starbucks, they will donate a percentage of the proceeds to UNICEF (though it does cost more than on Amazon).

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Blog Musings

I've spent several nights surfing blogs using the "next blog" button. I'm surprised by the assortment of "stuff" out there. The number of entries in languages other than English definitely make one aware that WE are not the center of the universe. I'm also surprised by the sheer variety of posts: everything from gardening, to gadgets, to publishing poetry, to exploring one's sexuality. I must admit I have clicked on several and felt totally uncomfortable with the pornographic images displayed for the world to see. I'm questioning the uses of blogs in education because of this. If I can sign onto a blog and use the "next blog" button to see what is out there, I can imagine students can as well. I would not be comfortable with my students clicking on some of the sites I have seen. How do we address this? Any ideas?

Tuesday, March 6, 2007

My Life as a Freshman

I just finished this book for a study group. It is written by a college anthropology professor who went undercover at the university where she taught to try to better understand the change in her students. She enrolled as a freshman in the dorms with classes where she would not be known. She then went about the business of going to class.
What she found reminded me of my eighth graders. College freshmen didn't speak up in class for fear of being seen as too smart or because they didn't see the point - what does it matter the teacher only wants the answer they have in mind; they don't care about our opinions. Most freshman didn't do the reading or even if they did they skimmed it with little or no comprehension. Kids were more concerned with partying and social connection than academics.
I was so depressed! I have been telling myself that my 8th graders would somehow grow out of this and would someday become engaged in their learing - I don't know some kind of in the end it will all matter type of deal - but then I read that when they get to college they are basically just 8th graders who can drink!
Then I started thinking about it and realized that maybe it is just a transition from one stage of their lives to another. Just like 8th graders are transitioning into highschool - freshman are transitioning into college. Could this be something? The first time I went to college, I was right out of high school, but I had a child and was extremely shy - I dropped out when my dad died of lung cancer. The second time I was a non traditional student hell bent on doing well and proving something to myself. What's my point?? I can't really relate to the book's freshman experience.
So I'm wondering? What were your college freshman days like? Is it all about partying and friends? When did you get serious about studies?

Friday, February 23, 2007

The Uglies (series)

My 8th grade students are devouring these books - Uglies is the first. Then the series moves to the Pretties and then the Specials. I've started the first book but can't seem to keep it in my class long enough to read it. I just can't say no to my students and keep loaning them out. Anyone out there read it? I would love to hear what you think. I do know it has an interesting premise sort of a sci-fi in the future everyone who reaches a certain age is altered to be pretty but that's as far as I am. It also has an interesting start - something about the sky being the color of cat vomit. Great voice!

I hope to receive recommendations and comments as we begin to talk about books.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

The Kite Runner - author Khaled Hosseini

This novel follows the life of Salid, a privileged, spoiled boy in Afghanistan pre the Russian occupation. I would recommend this book with a few reservations. I spent the majority of the novel disgusted with the main character for his self centered choices, including standing by and letting his best friend be tormented and sexually assaulted by several neighborhood bullies. His choice to alienate his childhood confidant to ease his own conscience was saddening and at times difficult to read. However, it is one of those novels that leaves the reader with a lasting impression, albeit an uneasy one. The good news is that by the end of the novel, I had made an uneasy peace with Salid. Hosseini's writing is beautiful and rich though the end of the novel is a bit contrived as he tries to tie up all the loose ends.

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My Sister's Keeper author Jodi Picoult

A great read! Picoult seamlessly weaves differing points of view with each character narrating the story. It's the story of Anna, a young girl who was conceived as a perfect match organ donor for her sister Kate who suffers from acute leukemia. Though her parents love her, Anna feels trapped in a situation she can't control constantly putting her life and dreams on hold to supply her sister with platelets, blood, and bone marrow. Now her sister needs a kidney, and Anna finds the courage to take charge of her life and her own body in a heartbreaking dilemma. If she donates the kidney, where does it stop? If she doesn't, is she killing her sister? Picoult tells the story of a family torn apart and the silkens strands of love that bind them together.

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