So I'm friends with my retired high school English teacher and she recommended this book to me. The timing in my personal life was perfect because my...moreSo I'm friends with my retired high school English teacher and she recommended this book to me. The timing in my personal life was perfect because my husband's aunt is very interested in the Tudor time period and had just loaned me The Six Wives of Henry the Eighth as well as the BBCs production on Queen Elizabeth. It was nice to have all that historical context going into this novel. Those productions focused mostly on the royalty, so Wolf Hall helped me get the councilors and advisers straightened out from each other. I'm curious about how much of this novel is total speculation and how much of it is rooted in fact, which is always the trick with historical fiction. In any case, it was interesting to me. It made Cromwell out to be a decent guy, and for the most part I haven't thought very highly of just about anybody who worked with Henry because he was such a wavering, inconsistent creep that I've felt that most of his advisers didn't have much integrity or else they would have died (of course many of them died anyway).
I had some of the same problems with this novel as others have mentioned. The pronoun "he" gets quite confusing at times. Which "he"? I got to the point where I realized that ambiguous "he" always meant Cromwell, but then occasionally Mantel would throw me off and mean somebody else. It was kind of irritating throughout the whole novel. That was probably the literary thing that bugged me the most in this novel. Everything else I could adapt to easily enough as a writer's licence and style.
Oh, one more thing. It does seem like "Wolf Hall" was a strange name for the novel. I get that there are some things that make it so that it kind of fits, but the whole time I'm expecting Wolf Hall to have something more of substance as a basis for the title. It seems like it ought to be more prominent in such a large novel for the novel to be named that. In fact, I expected a tie in with accusations of incest with Anne Boleyn, but the novel didn't progress that far chronologically, so that wasn't the reason. Jane Seymore was the reason and she was interesting and popped in occasionally but just wasn't a super prominent character, being overshadowed at this time period by Anne. (less)
Some months back I went and had lunch with a friend who is also my former English teacher. Though officially retired, she is still heavily involved in...moreSome months back I went and had lunch with a friend who is also my former English teacher. Though officially retired, she is still heavily involved in my old high school and helps to mentor kids who are going through one of the charter schools that's now a school within the school. She had recently led a discussion group with parents of these students based on this book. I have just finished the book and I am so excited about it! It's just really gotten me thinking. When I mentioned it to a friend, she said it sounded like a business book, and it does relate to business, but it's really a book focused on parenting, education, and mentoring -- and how to do that well so that children become the kind of adults who are are prepared to contribute to the world and the economy in meaningful ways.
The author spends the first chapter reviewing literature that's been written on innovation and education in the past. Then he spends one chapter interviewing young innovators (mostly in their twenties) and their parents and mentors. He also spends a chapter on educational institutions which are being innovative. The last chapter focuses on the parents' suggestions and challenges with fostering innovation within their kids. Throughout, he also shares insights from leaders at some of the most successful and innovative companies on what kind of new hires they need . . . and why traditional schools aren't turning them out. In many cases, these companies struggle to find hires and once they've found them they sometimes have to spend resources re-educating them.
When I first started reading the book I was looking for a good explanation of what is meant by "innovation" in this book. What it comes down to is problem-solving and creative-thinking mixed with curiosity and the courage to try (and willingness to fail).
I have a lot of thoughts on this book and I would like to write them down so I don't forget.
As parenting is my full-time job, this aspect of it really stood out to me. There were some ways I really thought I could do better. For instance, many of the parents pointed out that innovation is often a form of rebellion against the norm, so it's impossible to overemphasize obedience and create successful innovators. This really got me to thinking because we do put a high degree of importance on obedience, partly because that's sort of the broader culture of parenting I think, partly because faithful obedience is an important principle in our religion, and partly because it's our personalities. I wondered how we could change the way we go about this. It also stood out to me because I've been reading Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone to Mario and he is completely and miserably anxious every time Harry breaks the rules (which is often) and it made me realize how high a degree of importance Mario places on obedience even when maybe breaking the rules could be justified.
Many of the parents also addressed the need for allowing children independence. This took several different forms, including unstructured play. My kids get a lot of that, so I didn't worry about that one so much. The one that stuck out to me is independence to explore their world. If we are at my parents' house, then my kids have an immense amount of freedom to roam the yard, dig in the dirt, and explore, and as they get older they'll have even more freedom to go wander in the back forty and see what they see. However, in our own neighborhood, there are some of us mothers that are quite judgmental of the kids who wander the neighborhood freely without any parental supervision. So far the kids have been safe and haven't experienced any adverse consequences for it. I also reflected on a friend who comes from a very large family (maybe 12 kids) who recalls taking a trip by bus from Wisconsin to Texas at the age of 13 to visit an older sister. She can be pretty critical of her parents' methods and their seeming inability to know and adequately attend to all their children. She wonders now what they were thinking to send a young, inexperienced, naive girl across the country alone. Yet, this friend is confident, fearless, happy, and healthy, and she requires a high degree of independence from her own children. She seems as though she can do anything. It made me question my view on this and it made me wonder how I could put my fears aside to allow my children more freedom to explore.
One thing I observed that I questioned was the attitude that the parents' experiences and efforts were the right way to parent, and in fact I did agree or was swayed by many of their efforts. However, it occurred to me that he found them through their own innovative efforts or the innovative efforts of their children. In the first case, when their children were still young, who knows how their children are actually going to turn out? In the second case, what about parents who had similar philosophies whose children didn't turn out to be brilliant entrepreneurs and designers, whose children didn't make it through the system and come out on top? Does that happen? I question whether this parenting philosophy (or any parenting philosophy) is guaranteed to work, as sometimes implied.
In many cases, I had little in common with the parents Wagner highlighted. One family reflected that their children's friends were surprised to see them playing outside. This seemed odd to me. Every parent and family I know puts a high degree of importance on children getting outside to play. Perhaps that's because I'm in Wisconsin and we're all needing to thaw out all summer long. Perhaps that's because we don't live in an especially wealthy area. But that was hard for me to buy. I don't know any parents who would be content to have their kids sitting around inside. The parents all had a sense of swimming against the parenting tide -- of doing things against the norm -- and I guess that comment made me question how much of that was true and how much of that was just their imaginations. Except for a few exceptions, the families all seemed to be quite wealthy and in many cases, the mothers and fathers both worked at highly innovative companies themselves. Neither Patrick nor I is in the business of innovation, so if that's a requirement, our kids are in trouble. Note: I don't really think it is.
According to Wagner, perhaps the biggest thing that parents and mentors can do is allow free play for children to discover things that they can become passionate about.
Education is becoming a passion of mine. The more I learn about it, the more I'm anxious to learn how to do it right. I feel that it is one of the most confusing issues of our (and perhaps any) age. How do you choose which public school, or private school, or charter school? And then what about higher education? How do you find one that is really, truly going to prepare your child to work and compete happily and successfully in the world? Interestingly, Wagner explains that innovation is going to be the most necessary skill of any job in the future, but his focus is on innovative entrepreneurs. Reading the book, I wondered about more traditional careers -- it would have been interesting to hear how innovation can be applied and how it is being applied by lawyers and doctors and mechanics. I believe that it is, but because I'm not sure that every individual is going to start a new business (or maybe that every individual should start a new business since we need these other professions too), I would have been interested to hear about innovation in other contexts.
I was really nicely prepped for this book by having just read an article that introduced me to STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) education. I was hooked on the concept by the article, but Wagner actually argues that this is too narrow, that innovators require an even broader education than these subjects imply. Sometimes STEM education is revised to STEAM (which adds the arts) and perhaps that would serve Wagner's purposes better. What really hooked me in the article, though, was the maker movement, and despite what Wagner said regarding the overemphasis on STEM education, the Maker movement, with organizations such as Curiosity Hacked, sound like a beautiful opportunity to offer children free exploration and exposure to engineering from an early age. As a graduate with a degree in the humanities myself, I can see both Bill Gates' point (who is pushing heavily for increased focused on STEM education) since I often feel afloat without direction when I consider what I would do for a job if it came to it, and Wagner's point since I love the humanities and feel the classes helped to develop my mind and spirit in positive, healthy ways.
What Wagner really communicated in this book was the utter mess our education system is in as a whole. As a homeschooling parent, I found this fascinating. The teacher who loaned me the book said she herself sides with Patrick (who is against homeschooling) and questions if it can be done thoroughly and well. Yet, when I read this book, it didn't reassure me that traditional schooling (either public or private) is necessarily providing the skills that kids need to excel in the future. Wagner really touted the Montessori movement (and listed a number of Who's Who's of the business world who had all been Montessori educated in their pre-k/kindergarten years). Yet overall, he described a deficient system that is becoming more so in many cases. He encourages the U.S. to look to Finland's efforts at education reform as a guide. He has created a documentary on their system that I'm eager to watch (but haven't yet) entitled The Finland Phenomenon. He does not list a single parent who homeschooled among his parents, but that fascinated me because I could see homeschooling as a really fantastic option to foster the creativity and curiosity that the schools are lacking. So is it that the homeschooling movement was much smaller when I was a child and he was interviewing my generation? Or is it that homeschooling fails to provide the necessary skills?
Besides the problems with primary and secondary education, Wagner argues that higher education is really failing to meet the current needs of our progressing and changing economy, and he states that somehow while we are painfully aware of the lack in the earlier years, we still take pride in our universities as being really on-target. He highlights some schools that are being innovative and that are changing their structures and cultures, but these he said are not the norm and they are not being accepted in some cases by their peers from more traditional programs. However, I think that people do realize that higher education needs an overhaul. I recently read an article about it in The Economist, though perhaps Wagner himself is one helping to draw attention to that. Also, while reading the book, I received my alma mater's quarterly magazine and read about an interdisciplinary program that's underway that sounds like it answers beautifully to the needs that Wagner is seeking, so perhaps higher education isn't being as slow to catch on as he believes (or perhaps my alma mater is near the head of the game, which would be cool).
Okay, I have rambled enough for now. I just needed to get thoughts written out to help me think them through. If all you do when you see this blog post is read the introduction and the conclusion, do read this: Check out this book. And if you do check out this book, let me know your thoughts. What does Wagner get right? What is Wagner missing? How does this book motivate you to improve? What changes in mentoring and educating does this book inspire in you? Does this book light up your mind and get you thinking as it does me? Now what I need to do is buy the book and mark it up so I can reference it because I think it could give me food for thought for many years.(less)
So Mary Poppins continues to be not-especially affectionate, pretty grumpy, very uppity, and incredibly vain. Yet she's grown on me in this second boo...moreSo Mary Poppins continues to be not-especially affectionate, pretty grumpy, very uppity, and incredibly vain. Yet she's grown on me in this second book. Not because she's changed but my perception of her has changed. She has to have these characteristics to balance out the adventures and to keep the magic in the realm of reality. Perhaps that doesn't make sense, but I think her attitude keeps the book delightfully "normal" somehow. Anyway, we went ahead and read the next one -- Mary Poppins Opens the Door -- and we enjoyed that. We were both fine with being done after that, though there are two or three more that take place during the other stories. (less)
For my mom's blog, I sometimes read and review animal books she recommends to me (at geefunnyfarm.blogspot.com). Anyway, for that purpose, I literally...moreFor my mom's blog, I sometimes read and review animal books she recommends to me (at geefunnyfarm.blogspot.com). Anyway, for that purpose, I literally laughed out loud while reading the story Enslaved by Ducks by Bob Tarte. If you have ever owned one more pet than you planned, or if you have had an animal worm it’s way into your heart against your will, or if you have possibly owned six more animals than you planned (ahem, Mom and Dad), then you may be able to relate to this book. Unlike Some We Eat (which I reviewed some months back), Enslaved by Ducks only makes the slightest pretense of being informative and no pretense of being scientific. All in all, it’s just a story of a city man turned country bumpkin, who soon finds himself overruled by (mostly) avian masters.
One example of Tarte’s great sense of humor is his anecdote about trying to subtly out-do people in their pet ownership. He tells about sidling up to a woman buying dog food and sighing about how he can’t get a dog himself. She pats his arm sympathetically and says maybe someday he can, and then he (figuratively) pounces . . . listing off how he’s just too busy with his parrots, dove, ducks, geese, turkeys, rabbits, and cats. And he walks off in triumph. But, of course, it’s a lot funnier when he writes it, and if you’ve ever had something which you feel a little like gloating about then you’ll very likely be able to relate. We won’t say that this has ever been the case with a teenaged daughter of GEE Funny Farm owners, but we will just say that sometimes we suspect that some people really do feel and act this way.
His anecdotes about his psychologist visits are less in our line of work (with animals), but can we just say that they, too, are so delightfully funny. What a wonderful character description! When the doctor reads off questions such as, “Do you hear voices? Do people follow you?” Tarte’s response? – Well, that’s just plain wit!
When thinking about my own review, I glanced at Goodreads to see what others were saying. Many people loved it. Many people were indifferent to it. Many people hated it. One of the things we noticed about Tarte’s early animal acquisitions that we knew would end in trouble was his lack of research. That is one of the issues we’re most passionate about: if you’re going to get an animal, then do the research! From dog to bunny to parrot to lizard, you need to know about that specific species’ temperament and needs. We couldn’t be mad at Tarte himself because it’s a mistake so many people make! We just hope that those who read the book will learn from his experience.
Are the Tartes perfect pet-owners? Oh, no, they certainly make mistakes. Is everyone going to be able to relate to them? Probably not. If you don’t have much interest in pets, then this story probably won’t be for you. But all in all, they’re good-hearted people with a delightful, animal-loving story to tell!(less)
So I read this after watching *Saving Mr. Banks.* (I'd never realized before that the movie *Mary Poppins* was actually based on a book.) I was disapp...moreSo I read this after watching *Saving Mr. Banks.* (I'd never realized before that the movie *Mary Poppins* was actually based on a book.) I was disappointed by the severity and vanity of Mary Poppins. She was a little hard to chum up to for me. However, some of the fun things that happen in the book are delightful and surprising. And, yes, there was even a part or two that made my five-year-old laugh out loud, so I went ahead and reserved the second one. (less)
What a playful twist on The Frog Prince. Is it a detailed story? Is it deep and challenging? No. However, it was delightful for me, my three-year-old,...moreWhat a playful twist on The Frog Prince. Is it a detailed story? Is it deep and challenging? No. However, it was delightful for me, my three-year-old, and my five-year-old. Especially for my five-year-old the play on words with mixing up animals was so much fun. He loved mixing up the animals. Plus, the illustrations are just delightful!(less)
Jon Scieszka just writes such funny books! One of my kids picked this up off the library shelf and our librarian saw him and exclaimed how fun it is....moreJon Scieszka just writes such funny books! One of my kids picked this up off the library shelf and our librarian saw him and exclaimed how fun it is. Patrick and I both read it to the kids separately. And we both read it twice -- first read it as *Birthday Bunny* and then Alex's revisions in *Battle Bunny.* I like it for how creative and silly it is. Plus, stylistically, I'm impressed at how inane Scieszka manages to make *Birthday Bunny* so that it's hard to begrudge Alex vandalizing it. I have to say it was so fun to hear Patrick read this story; he definitely read it better than I did. You can tell it's kind of a boy book. But we both enjoyed it. Two things people might want to know going in is that the character Alex did deface a book, so you may want to talk to your kids about that. And we were reading it to a five-year-old and a three-year-old and the language was kind of strong for our kids at least -- it uses the word "butt" which is what we call a "bathroom word" at our house and Alex makes his characters pretty violent. I'm not sorry we read it, but my kids were pretty fired up after words and going crazy as inspired by the story. So I do think it's something to be aware of. (less)
I am not usually all that fond of stories without text, but this one is awesome! I would recommend it to anyone! The illustrations are just beautiful...moreI am not usually all that fond of stories without text, but this one is awesome! I would recommend it to anyone! The illustrations are just beautiful and the girls' adventures are so imaginative. (less)
I have read and enjoyed Kate DiCamillo before, but this book took me completely by surprise! I picked it out because I decided it would be good to loo...moreI have read and enjoyed Kate DiCamillo before, but this book took me completely by surprise! I picked it out because I decided it would be good to look at Newberry Books as ideas for chapter books to read with my five-year-old. This book is so completely ridiculous. The characters and events and format all make it silly-funny and also sweet and beautiful at the same time. DiCamillo also appeals well to boys and girls with this story because the main character is a wonderful girl character, but she reads a comic book story about a superhero (which is an essential element of the story) and befriends a quirky neighbor boy so DiCamillo pulls in the boys well that way and the squirrel (the other protagonist) is also a boy. This story made me laugh out loud. I'm not sure if that was because I was pretty tired from a night of poor sleep or if it was really that funny. I had Patrick read it and he liked it but I kept glancing at him while he was reading it: "You're not laughing. Isn't it funny?!" He did like it and he even laughed out loud a few times, but I'm not sure it tickled him as much as it tickled me. My five-year-old laughed with me, but I think he'll enjoy it even more in a year or two. (less)
A boy goes on an adventure to rescue a dragon on a far-away island and he has some surprising solutions to the dilemmas he faces. I just finished read...moreA boy goes on an adventure to rescue a dragon on a far-away island and he has some surprising solutions to the dilemmas he faces. I just finished reading this to my five-year-old. His three-year-old brother is not generally as excited about chapter books, but he enjoyed the parts that he heard of this one -- it helps that it has illustrations. This book reminds me of *Owl at Home* in its style and perspective on the world -- the events have nothing in common (and I may be the only person in the world who would make any sort of parallel between the two). In any case, I just found it delightful! (less)