As a teacher who has taught Alexie's "Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven" twice now, I wish I had discovered "Reservation Blues" earlier. The nAs a teacher who has taught Alexie's "Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven" twice now, I wish I had discovered "Reservation Blues" earlier. The novel follows the narrative of Alexie's other work - the hardships, trials, and tribulations of life on the Spokane Indian Reservation and features frequent characters Thomas Builds-the-Fire, Victor, Junior, Big Mom, Lester Falls Apart, etc. This novel begins famous blues man Robert Johnson arriving on the reservation, fleeing the devil after his infamous compact to become the greatest guitar player in the world. He leaves his cursed guitar with Victor and the three men and two new female characters create their own rock band and embark on a journey of self-discovery and self-destruction characteristic of Alexie's work. The novel bears Alexie's black, uncomfortable humor and stark portrayal of addiction and poverty that readers of his stories will recognize. At times it will make you laugh. At times it will make you cringe. Either way, you will be learning something. Having taught "Tonto," I have found students often get lost in the post-modern writing style of the short, often abstract short stories. "Reservation Blues" has a singular narrative that is easier to follow and yet serves as a great companion piece to that novel because it features so many of the same characters. The novel's main flaw is that the band's story - their quick rise and even quicker fall from grace falls flat in places. Typical of Alexie, there is no sugar coating here and if you are hoping for a happy ending, you wont find one, at least one that readers would hope for. Still, the novel serves to explain and flesh out long-term Alexie characters and provides a great portrayal of life on the reservation. If you've never read any of Alexie's stories before, this one is a good place to start. ...more
Sherman Alexie may not be for everybody. He is unapologetically critical of American culture, religion, and politics. He tackles issues like domesticSherman Alexie may not be for everybody. He is unapologetically critical of American culture, religion, and politics. He tackles issues like domestic violence, alcoholism, violence, and drug abuse head on, not necessarily with preachy condemnation but with brutal, everyday honesty, portraying them as aspects of reality in scene that are at times both hilarious and uncomfortable. In that regard, I think Alexie should be for everybody. He is a powerful, important voice in American letters - a social critic and satirist who brings the reality of life on the Spokane Indian reservation to life in cringing clarity. The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven is a series of short stories following mostly the same characters but at different periods in their lives. Young Victor, clearly based on Alexie himself, is shown both as a young man and a struggling adult. The other characters in his world, Thomas Builds-the-Fire, Junior, and an assortment of other supporting characters flesh out a world of alcoholism, poverty, and spirituality. These are stories about family, hope, faith, and tradition, stories about alcohol-infused New Year's Eve parties in which two uncles nearly beat each other to death and post-modern quasi-science fiction tales in which futures where Indians are the dominant culture are imagined. Sometimes non-linear and at times unclear who the narrator even is, these stories can lose some readers. As a teacher I've taught it to seniors, many of whom were turned off by the the non-traditional narrative, but with repeated readings the book and Alexie's stories weave together into a single narrative. A strong work and great read for anyone who wants to explore new perspectives. ...more
I wasn't worried never having read The Shining. I've seen both adaptations and was familiar enough with the story to assume I could navigate this bookI wasn't worried never having read The Shining. I've seen both adaptations and was familiar enough with the story to assume I could navigate this book without having read the actual book which, King was sure to make sure the reader understood this book was a sequel to and not the films. Thankfully, I was right and overall, the book helps cement King's status as not only an Elder Statesman of horror fiction but also still on top of his game. Only a master storyteller could pick up with a character who, last time we read about him, was a little boy and is now a man, an alcoholic tormented by demons both interior and others literally realvery real. While you don't have to read the first book to follow this one - he gives us enough backstory to follow along, it could help. This is still Danny, after all, the boy with an alcoholic father who barely escaped the Overlook Hotel with his life all those years ago. Now he's a driter, a man moving from town town, caught in the throes of his own alcoholism. A series of events leads him to clean up his act and forge a new start for himself. He still has "the shining" and uses to help patients die at the hospice center he works at. The core of the novel is the True Knot, a curious and cool concept (think vampires but what they suck is psychic power)and the lead baddies in the novel. They travel the country searching for victims and soon zero in on Danny and a new friend even more powerful in the shining than he is. The novel has most of the things King fans are used to: humorous commen men who offer practical guidance and wisdom; wicked villains; some gruesome and creepy-crawly action to make even seasoned readers wince. It also has, as its heart, a deeply personal exploration of the author's own demons. King is dealing with his own well-documented alcoholism here. The scenes that take place in AA meetings and Danny's dark self-reflections are literary gems and as raw as any author on the shelf. King's take on "real life" drama and has become more pronounced in recent works and has taken a front seat to much of the horror. He continues to show maturity as an artist, and for a man whose sold more books than there are stars in the sky and has more money than Scrooge McDuck, that shows he continues to focus on and improve his craft. Dr. Sleep is a good book for longtime fans and readers of dark fiction alike. ...more
Constance Weaver is known for her work and research on grammar and grammar instruction. The Grammar Plan Book is part review of basic grammar conceptsConstance Weaver is known for her work and research on grammar and grammar instruction. The Grammar Plan Book is part review of basic grammar concepts, part "How To" book of teaching strategy, and part teacher aid in the grammar plan section from which the book takes its name.
Teachers and students both might find her simple, effective explanations and models of traditional grammar concepts useful. Preservice teachers and seasoned veterans looking for guidance on how and when to teacher grammar may find her plan a good resource in the classroom.
The main defect of the book perhaps is the lack of strategies on how to teacher most of these concepts. She treats the teaching of modifiers well enough but barely glosses over other difficult concepts that studets struggle with. However, this is not a traditional grammar book, and she makes no claims that it is. In fact, she mostly bemoans the state of most grammar books and especially most grammar instruction. Her overarcing philosophy is that the teacher must respond to student need and tailor his or her instruction to the individual classroom. Therefore, some readers looking for a smoking gun or secret method for teaching any and all grammar concepts to each and every classroom may be disappointed. ...more
Jim Burke's Effective Instruction is short and to the point, drawing on research and personal experience as a teacher on what works in the class roomJim Burke's Effective Instruction is short and to the point, drawing on research and personal experience as a teacher on what works in the class room to motivate students. His advice is practical and easy to follow. What is impressive to me is that Burke is an English teacher yet wrote this book for any secondary education teacher. Most of the strategies and situations he talks about can be effective in any content area. If you are an education student or already a teacher, some of what he talks about might be familiar, as he draws on current, "hot" theories and ideas about education and student motivation, but for a teacher, new or veteran, looking for additional strategies to bring to the classroom, you should check this out. ...more
Teaching English by Design is a good book about designing units from back to front with the end results, i.e. the instructional goals for the studentsTeaching English by Design is a good book about designing units from back to front with the end results, i.e. the instructional goals for the students in mind. In this book, Smagorinsky advocates taking this type of planning even farther, extending it through the semesters and the whole school year, advocating the use of overarcing themes and concepts that will guide the curriculum. He strongly advocates a constructivist learning approach, one in which learning is social and collaborative. The learning approach is an ideology that not every teacher will find palatable or perhaps even practical for their classroom and yet Smagorinsky uses research and personal experience to back up his arguments and his tactics of teaching units by design is a valuable strategy. The types of strategies Smagorinsky advocates are largely in use and taught in my teacher education program so his ideas were familiar and comfortable to me. This is a good book for preservice teachers or teachers looking for new strategies to bring to their classrooms....more