The Hunger Games
by Suzanne Collins
Purchased from book fair and audible.com
[#23 in my 75 book challenge]
I did it. I started my re-read of The Hunger Games this week and finished it within 48 hours. I will have it fresh in my mind when I go to see the movie premier at midnight.
For those of you who don’t know the story: 24 kids have to fight each other to the death on national TV. That’s the basic jist. Katniss Everdeen and Peeta Mellark are chosen to represent District 12 as tributes in these awful “games,” which are just one more strategy the Capital uses to oppress and control the citizens of the futuristic, dystopian country of Panem.
Basically it’s, like, my second favorite book ever. I adored it the first time I read it and I adored it the second time. Re-reading was nice because I could keep track of all the different tributes from each district a little better. Cato, Clove, Glimmer, Foxface, Rue, Thresh, and each of the careers.
This time around I really liked that the games didn’t start until halfway through the book. The first time I was just impatient, but I realize that the reaping and the preparation in the Capital were just as important as the Games. I was surprised by how little I actually remembered from the actual scenes in the arena. The scene with Peeta and Katniss stuck in my head, the landmines at the Cornucopia, and the ending but everything else was like, “oh! Yes! I forgot about that!” Of course, I was also thinking about how some of those scenes will play out in the movie. Now I’m SUPER excited.
Watching this as a movie tonight will be intense. It’s one thing to read the book and imagine everything happening, and it’s another to see it taking place right in front of you. Even though I know it’s not real, it will feel real in a different way than the book did. I can already tell you that I will cry in at least one scene, and I will think the psychological terror of what the tributes experience is terrifying.
FINAL GRADE: A I love it. Duh. It may not be stellar prose, but it’s good. The story, the characters, and the pacing are spot on. Recommended to everyone over eleven (my sixth graders do love it). You can read my review of the book as #2 on my all-time favorites or my review of the The Girl Who Was On Fire (a collection of essays about the series) if you love the book as much as I do!
Are you going to the movie tonight? Friday? This weekend? Do you think you’ll be thrilled or disappointed?
I love the Titanic. Since this is the one hundredth anniversary of the ship’s sinking, I’m finding myself fascinated by all the new material out there to learn more about the ill-fated ship. This particular book is great because it covers everything. It may not cover it in full-length-adult-non-fiction depth, but it covered it all well enough for me to learn new things. I especially loved the great statistics at the end about the percentages of total passengers in first, second, and third class and the break down of men, women, and children in each who survived.
Though the book is non-fiction, it tells the story well enough to stand out. Well-written non-fiction can pull you into the story like fiction, and this one does exactly that. To me, a child of the 80′s, sometimes the Titanic can seem like that — fiction. I have to step back sometimes and remember that this actually happened. There is a spot in the Atlantic Ocean where 1,500 people floated in life jackets until they died of hypothermia in the middle of the night. And that is terrifying.
I think that is why the Titanic fascinates us. We all wonder what we would have done in the face of such chaos and tragedy. Would we escape? Become heroes? Accept our fate with peace or terror? The photos and descriptions provide by McPherson left me questioning all of those things. Of course, then I found myself wanting to watch the 1997 Leonardo DiCaprio/Kate Winslet Titanic movie and watch the big-budget Hollywood version of what happened. In fact, two of my favorite quotes in the book come from the movie’s director, James Cameron:
“I made Titanic because I wanted to dive to the shipwreck, not because I particularly wanted to the movie.”
“[The Titanic is] the quintessential story of loss, of coming to terms with death, heroism and cowardice, and the full spectrum of human response before, during, and after a crisis.”
Final Grade: B I’ve said before that it’s hard for a non-fiction book to get an A from me, and that holds with this book. It’s a FABULOUS read, a great non-fiction book, and it definitely stands out among other young adult non-fiction titles and Titanic books alike. But non-fiction always falls a little short of “OMG AMAZING” for me. And that’s okay! My students will love this one, so will adults, and I highly recommend it for everyone over the age of eleven. I could see this paring well for a fiction/non-fiction unit with The Watch The Ends The Night by Allan Wolf, which covers a lot of the same people.
Are you as fascinated by the Titanic as I am? What is is about disasters that fascinates us? And will you go see Rose and Leo on the big screen when they return this spring?
I had a major life event occur over the weekend, which you might have caught if you follow me on Twitter: I got accepted to UNC-Chapel Hill for their Ph.D program in Education! My concentration will be in Culture, Curriculum, and Change, and I will start in the fall of 2012.
I picked this program because it will offer me incredible flexibility in my coursework and my research. Looking at the course list made me giddy! I wanted to take them all! Though I did my undergraduate degree in education at UNC, I will have completely different professors and totally different experience this time around. But I am terribly excited to be going back to my alma mater for another four years(-ish) of being a student!
This news sets me on a new career path! I will be leaving the library and K-12 education to pursue a career in academia as an education professor. Though I love my job, I recognize that our public education system is going through some tough times. I feel the best way for me to contribute to changing public education for the better is through thoughtful research, teaching our future teachers, and utilizing the resources of universities.
I’m still narrowing down my research interests (I want to study everything!!), but I think I will be focusing on either teacher preparation, student transitions to middle school from elementary school, professional development, social media in personal learning networks, or middle grades literacy.
So this blog will still have a librarian focus for the next four months, but eventually my focus will shift. I still plan to primarily read and review young adult literature, but I will likely change the name of the blog and talk about my experiences in academia starting in mid-August. Stay tuned!
I’ve been thinking about this post for some time now. My job is a busy busy one, but sometimes I feel less-than-productive. I fail to realize how many directions I get tugged in over the course of a single day. One day I decided I needed to write down everything I did, minute by minute, to see where my time goes. The day needed to be just a regular, average day so I could really get a good picture of this.After pondering this idea, though, I realized it would also be good for the world to know what I do. I’ve always thought the world needs to see how cram-packed the average teacher’s day is, but I also think that teachers would be surprised by how much media coordinators do. There is a misconception that we have a lot of free time because we don’t have students. While it is true that I have a lot of unstructured time, it doesn’t mean that it is FREE time. My demands are different, as I have to spend a lot of time on planning, putting out fires, and doing library tasks.
The day I picked was Wednesday, February 8. I was supposed to be teaching a class on this day, but we finished the project early and I had a surprise open day in my scheduled. Turns out I ended up being pretty busy! So here it is, a day in the life of a middle school librarian:
5:45 – Wake up. Shower, get dressed, spend five minutes picking out the sassiest scarf, primp, feed the cats, pack my lunch, toast a raspberry Pop-Tart. Run out the door with no coat.
6:20 – Drive to work. Eat the raspberry Pop-Tart. Listen to my audio copy of The Red Blazer Girls that I got from the public library. Briefly turn to the radio to sing a Bruno Mars song on the top of my lungs before realizing I hate Bruno Mars.
7:00 – School Improvement Team meeting. The SIT team is the main governing body of my school. I fought to be on the committee…but I spend most of this meeting picking my fingernails because they are discussing student-led conferences, which I have no part in. Other topics: discipline referrals, school uniform policies for next year.
8:05 – Time to start my day! Thank the kids at the computers for being polite and mature during the SIT meeting. Touch base with my assistant. Turn on my computer and start answering e-mails.
8:15 – HOLD THE PRESSES. Title I folks are here to check our Title I Notebook. The curriculum coordinator runs down with a list of all my Title I orders from this year, requesting two books from each order to take upstairs to “prove” via spot-checking that we’ve cataloged them correctly. Luckily I know my books by heart.
8:30 – Talk to elementary school media specialist. I gave her a heads up that she would need to pull her Title I books for the spot-check. We discuss the abysmal state of our 2007-2008 and 2008-2009 records that we’ll have to fix before May. Received a call from the curriculum coordinator saying our Title I reports were satisfactory. Celebratory fist pump.
8:45 – Sit back down to check emails. Mostly these are about scheduling media center time. All others are about tech issues. Also spend time prepping the TV New PowerPoints/announcements/words of wisdom/birthdays. Breathe. Make some phone calls. Leave myself some sticky notes.
9:25 – TV News. It actually starts at 9:35, but it takes a few minutes to get situated.
9:45 – Talk with Learning Team Facilitator. Discussed TV News flaws and moodle issues. Our Star3 Coordinator from central office joined us as we discussed some ed issues.
9:55 – I make everyone a pot of coffee. Including myself. Since so many people from central office were in my media center, I felt like being nice and playing coffee fairy. They definitely appreciated it. Also, I go to the bathroom.
10:15 – Two students need help setting up a blog. I help them set up a group blog on Blogger. I also utilize my teachable moment speech about netiquette and not doing anything they wouldn’t want their mommas to read.
10:30 – Uploading MARC records. I uploaded the records for February and March Junior Library Guild orders and set them up for Title I cataloging. I look at the box of JLG books and think, “I’m going to catalog those today and it will be fun!” Pull three out and read reviews/blubs on Goodreads.
10:40 – I talk SS curriculum with the Social Studies Program Manager from central office. She just happens to be setting up camp in my media center today, and I just happen to be the media coordinator appointed as the SS ambassador for the new Common Core standards. I have to develop a document with resources for the whole county. We collaborate, yo. And totally geek out.
11:15 – My assistant and I make a sign for the “new book” rack.
11:25 – Elementary media specialist comes in to chat. We discuss the new after school procedures in the media center, how her book fair will run next week, Title I records, phone answering (we have 8 phones between the two of us). We also discuss Renzulli.
11:50 – Social Studies Program Manager shows me a HILARIOUS tumblr. I spend 10 minutes reading the Hey Girl Teacher Tumblr, in all its Ryan Gosling-y goodness and laughing like a fool.
12:00 -My assistant tells me she finished cataloging the JLG order. I didn’t even have to ask her to do it. She read my mind and finished it, quick as a bunny! She’s so amazing. I tell her she’s amazing.
12:05 – Lunch. Spend it making notes for this list, checking Twitter, and talking books with my assistant. I eat pasta salad, a peanut butter sandwich, a banana, applesauce, a lightly-salted rice cake, and a fruit roll-up with a Diet Pepsi.
12:45 – Clean out my email folder. It’s reached 100% for the third time in two weeks. I cannot wait until we switch to Microsoft Live email.
1:00 -Run errands in the main building. Program the gym teacher’s TV, fix the internet on the dance teacher’s laptop, take the SmartBoard out of the auditorium, check my mail, touch base with the principal about tech facilitator interviews, leave a nice note on the staff kudos board. Say hi to at least twenty students in the halls, receive two hug, and exchanged niceties with three teachers. Also end up with several overdue library books.
1:30 – Sit in on the 6th grade Learning Focused workshop. This has been happening in my media center all day during each grade level’s planning period. I chose to sit with sixth grade because the time is the most convenient for me. Topics: lesson planning for acquisition lessons, plus an intense discussion of vocabulary instruction.
2:13 – Talk with principal about tech facilitator interviews. Again.
2:26 – Talk with elementary media specialist. Students are messing with her books on carts and shelves when she’s not around.
2:34 – Help 6th grade teacher. She came to me wanting to schedule media center time, and we ended up discussing her lesson plan because I had just taught it with another class yesterday. Then I showed her the new science resources we got with Title I money, the parent resource center, and our professional resources.
3:06 – Bathroom break. I was about to die.
3:10 – Sub plans. Being out for a day is a lot of work. It’s hard to teach someone that you’ve never met how to do your job for a day! I prepare my sub plans for tomorrow and calling to touch base with the sub.
3:45 – Closing out the day. Helping kids on the computers after school, checking emails again, cleaning up my desk area, making notes about my day for this post, shutting down computers, leaving stuff for sub.
4:10 – Walk out the door. My official quitting time is 3:45, but that never actually happens.
The Watch That Ends The Night: Voices from the Titanic
by Allan Wolf
Purchased from Barnes and Noble
[#7 in my 75 book challenge]
How much of a summary do you really need here? Look at the cover — it’s a book about the Titanic. It’s a verse novel with twenty-four voices telling their stories. First, second, and third class passengers, the captain, the lookouts and stokers, and even the rats and the iceberg are represented in these 480 pages. We all know how it ends (SPOILER: The ship sinks), which is what made this book great — I didn’t know who was going to live and who was going to die.
We’ve all heard, read, and seen lots of stuff about the Titanic. It fascinates us. As we enter the 100th anniversary of the ship’s sinking, lots of new media is being released to profit on that fascination. I’m already seeing it when I go to order books. However, this book won my heart because it showed me angles of the ship’s journey that I had never thought about before. Wolf REALLY did his research when writing the verse and it shows. I had never thought much about the collecting of the bodies, and each section was framed with verses from the undertaker as he collects the bodies from the sea to prepare them for burial. The voice of the iceberg also framed each section quite ominously, representing the inevitability of fate.
The best part, though, was the back matter. Wolf pulled his characters and voices from the real travelers on the Titanic, and he uses the back matter to give as much information as he could about each of these passengers lives (including their lives after the journey, if they lived). He also gives more detailed, objective information about what happened “that fateful night.” His opening to the back matter best describes why he wrote the novel and why it has such a powerful impact on the reader:
“… my aim in writing The Watch That Ends the Night was not to present history. My aim was to present humanity. The people represented in this book lived and breathed and loved. They were as real as you or me. They could have been any one of us.”
Final Grade: A This was a gorgeous and fascinating book. Though it is technically a YA novel, I don’t know how many of my students will really appreciate the complexity in the verse format — but many will enjoy the stories. There will definitely be a library copy ordered in the future (I think I already swapped out a JLG book for it). When the Titanic stuff blows up in the spring I won’t be able to keep any Titanic books on the shelf, including this one. My personal copy of the book was one that I bought, in hardcover, from the bookstore, and I’m glad I own it.
[Also, it really made me want to watch the 1997 movie again.]
So, John Green Week comes to an end today with the release of The Fault in Our Stars. Amazon sent me an email last night saying my copy had shipped, but it probably won’t arrive until Friday (yay for super-saver shipping!). While I’m waiting, I’ve got plenty of awesome books to read. Don’t you worry.
If you didn’t know already, John Green has signed all of the pre-ordered copies of the book. There was many a Vlogbrothers video where poor John Green talked about how intense it is to sign 50,000 books. HOWEVER, I’ll be really excited when I can add the signed copy to my shelf. Maybe I’ll even be one of the lucky few to get a Hanklerfish or a Yeti on my signature page as well.
If you’ve never read a John Green novel, I hope this week of me obsessing over him has inspired you to read one of his fabulous books. My reviews of An Abundance of Katherines and The Fault in Our Stars will be coming as soon as I read them! I did want to wrap up the John Greeny-goodness with some related posts from the blogosphere.
From My Blog
- My weeknight road trip to see John Green in Asheville
- How to be a Nerdfighter
- Me and John Green in the same YouTube video
- Paper Towns and Looking for Alaska as #6 on my All-Time Favorites list
- My review of Will Grayson, Will Grayson
- My review of Looking for Alaska
- My review of Paper Towns
- My review of Geektastic
- My review of Let It Snow
From The Blogosphere
- John and Hank’s Vlogbrothers YouTube channel
- The Education of Nerdfighteria
- From The Reclusive Bibliophile, this is a categorized list of Vlogbrothers videos that contain interesting tidbits of information.
- The Top Ten Things I Like About John Green Novels
- elizzie’s vlog pretty much hits the nail on the head.
- I Eat Words
- Visit the hosts of John Green Week!
- Chime by Franny Billingsley
- My Name is Not Easy by Debbie Dahl Edwardson
- Flesh and Blood So Cheap by Albert Marrin
- Okay for Now by Gary D. Schmidt
I’m kind of bummed that Okay for Now didn’t win, but I’m still holding out for it to win the Newberry. Very few books win both.
I’m kind of glad this book award is over and decided. In case you haven’t heard, the Young People’s Literature category was a bit controversial this year. The award committee called Lauren Myracle and told her she was nominated for her novel Shine. A few days later, they called her back and said it was a mistake…they meant to nominate Chime by Franny Billingsley. Myracle was told to withdraw her novel from consideration for the award. It was a big deal in the YA lit world, so I’ve been watching this award for over a month to see who would actually win out.
I’ve got Flesh and Blood So Cheap and Chime sitting on my desk at school RIGHT NOW, but I haven’t been serious enough about either to actually add them to my TBR list. I was going to read Flesh and Blood So Cheap during my lunch breaks, but I quickly realized that I was kidding myself to think I’d actually get any lunch breaks this year. I eat all my lunches at meetings and while answering emails. However, it fills me with great joy to know that I have a big enough budget from Title I money and a supportive administration to actually have these freshly-published books in my collection and that my kids have access to great books! Inside Out and Back Again is going on display tomorrow in celebration.
Congratulations to Thanhha Lai!
I don’t, but I can’t help getting absorbed in it for the entire month of November because it’s everywhere on book blogs and my Facebook news feed.
If you don’t already know, NaNoWriMo stands for National Novel Writing Month. The tagline is, “Thirty days and nights of literary abandon!” and I think that sums it up. Aspiring writers set a goal to write 50,000 of a novel during the month, often using the website nanowrimo.org to track progress and engage with the NaNoWriMo community for support and encouragement. Anyone who finishes the 50,000 word goal is considered a winner, even though no official prize is given. Last year over 200,000 people participated in the project and 30,000 “won” by crossing the 50,000 finish line.
NaNoWriMo writers always impress me because of the dedication it takes to write a novel in just thirty days. I’ve always wanted to write a novel, but I would probably spend years working on it. To write 50,000 words in 30 days, one must average 1,667 words each day. That’s about the equivalent of six pages. Each day. For all of November. It’s serious stuff.
I was also very interested to see that a couple of novels I recognized started as NaNoWriMo projects. The most famous example is Water For Elephants by Sara Gruen. I also recognized the recent New York Times bestseller The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern and Compound by SA Bodeen, which we have a copy of in our media center.
So if you are participating in NaNoWriMo, kudos to you. I respect your effort and dedication and I am thoroughly impressed! I will be spending my November 1.) Sick 2.) Raking leaves and 3.) Passing out in a turkey coma. Not nearly as cool, but that’s my life. However, if you need some help in January, during NaEdYoShiMo (National Edit Your Shit Month), let me know and I’m be glad to lend my eyes to some story editing.
Last week, NPR’s This American Life featured an episode on middle school. Since middle school is near and dear to me (it’s my life’s work, I guess), I loved the episode and thought I’d share. Click the photo to visit the site and listen to the episode:
Act 2: NPR corespondents attend a middle school dance. Brought up fun mental pictures of Ira Glass at a school dance, even though he was not the reporter that did this segment.
Act 4: Producer Jonathan Menjivar visits a middle school TV news studio for a week and lets the kids report on what they think is news (hilarious!).
Act 6: A teacher at a KIPP school with 91% Free/Reduced lunch students discusses harnessing the power of peer pressure for good when dealing with a difficult student. This act, to me, was most like my every day experiences at my school.
Apparently Amazon is trying to create a service that will be “Netflix for Books.” As both an e-reader enthusiast (remember how much I love my Nook?) and a Netflix subscriber, I am thrilled.
I love Netflix because I don’t like to own my movies. I like to watch movie or series of a show once and be done with it. Netflix lets me watch a great variety of movies without breaking the bank. $8 a month is a fair price for just the priviledge of viewing unlimited movies without ever owning a physical product.
Of course, there are several movies and TV shows that I love enough to buy. I own many seasons of my favorite shows (30 Rock, Big Bang Theory, The L Word, and How I Met Your Mother) and I usually buy movies that I love (Harry Potter, Love Actually, The Secret Garden, etc.). I’m happy with this system because it works for me. I can have my cake and eat it, too.
That’s how I feel about a subscription service for e-books. If I love a book, I will buy it in a heartbeat. However, I am not typically a re-reader of books. A subscription service would allow me to read more books each month on my Kindle (yes, I’d have to buy a Kindle) for a price much cheaper than buying the books outright. I don’t want to own most books and I don’t mind not being able to resell the book if the price is low to being with.
As it stands right now, I consider e-books a treat because of the price. I’m still reading books from my own library and the public library. I far prefer reading digital books over print books, so I can’t wait to see what Amazon does with their service…if it even actually happens any time soon!