"Just when you think this war has taken everything you loved, you meet someone and realize that somehow you still have more to give." -- Ruth Sepetys,"Just when you think this war has taken everything you loved, you meet someone and realize that somehow you still have more to give." -- Ruth Sepetys, Salt to the Sea
We were three instead of four, but I think it's just as well that we didn't have to suffer an Alfred.
While working on a short story unit during class, my tenth graders read independent novels on their own and took part in discussions with partners over the last two weeks. For the first time, I joined one of the partnerships, reading about war through the lens of the guilt, fate, shame, and fear of the characters created by Sepetys, whose lives, literally and/or figuratively, began and ended on the Wilhelm Gustloff. What a fascinating experience! To read a novel, for the first time, along with two of my students and discuss our reactions and analysis as we read.
While the topic was difficult, we did find that we loved some of the characters and some of their choices. We feared we knew the shame Emilia bore before she spoke of it; I feared it might be too horrid for 15-year-olds to read. We were taken aback by Florian's willingness to use people, which wasn't readily apparent at the start; we hoped that he still had goodness in him and were heartened when he kissed Halinka and healed one of Emilia's wounds. We loved Opi; we were saddened and repulsed by Alfred. We wanted to cry but also were comforted by Joana and the story's end.
We explored point of view and the layout of the chapters and one of the girls developed an idea. The horrid aspects of the story and the war weren't too gruesome to be read as, at the moment it became too difficult, the perspective changed, which gave a break to the reader. The other characters sometimes processed and resolved some of the trauma of that character, which allowed the reader to do the same. After sharing this, she marveled at her the fact that she finally found a book that she actually loved and wanted to read and that she had such an insight.
Ultimately, we pondered whether part of the salt that spills from us stems from our choices. Yes, war is hell and, yes, unbelievable injustices and evil acts are committed. However, we held to the hope that love still can sweeten the brine. We don't have to ride the waves of fear; we can determine our own fate ... even then. Even during wartime. Even when staring into the face of death. Even in the worst times....more
If you watched the PBS series with Joseph Campbell and Bill Moyers in the late '80's and read this book, you'll shake your head and realize how rightIf you watched the PBS series with Joseph Campbell and Bill Moyers in the late '80's and read this book, you'll shake your head and realize how right Campbell was simply based on reading and understanding myths. Humans are tribal people, with tens of thousands of years of tribal evolution, myth, and ceremony. Living in an isolated world with a lack of shared stories and myths, with a lack of ceremony, and with a lack of meaningful social structure and social interaction will be our undoing unless we act.
Sebastian Junger opens by stating, "Humans don't mind hardship, in fact they thrive on it; what they mind is not feeling necessary. Modern society has perfected the art of making people not feel necessary. It's time for that to end" (xvii). From not holding babies enough to not sleeping communally or from being an American Indian or a colonist in the 1600's and experiencing the different societal structures therein, Junger analyzes and promotes the importance of community and ponders the dangers of the "communities" in which many in Industrialized and modern countries now live. When speaking in terms of human evolution, those communities aren't recognizable, are woefully isolated, and might just be responsible for some (if not much) of the mental illness we see today.
What I assumed would amount to an old story newly illustrated turned into something else.... Two ancient tales woven together with a new twist. First,What I assumed would amount to an old story newly illustrated turned into something else.... Two ancient tales woven together with a new twist. First, I was drawn by the cover and the illustrations; Chris Riddell did an amazing job. With regard to the story itself, I can't share many details as it will give too much away. I will say this appears to be a cautionary tale, one that speaks against those who want others to adore them and, therefore, take the power of those giving their adoration. Or, perhaps, it's more accurate to say that some want to steal the power of others and use adoration toward those ends. Additionally, one might say Gaiman possets that looks can be deceiving and that we can't see the actual situation at hand for the sleep in our eyes. All in all, I'm left wondering who might want power, using adoration to achieve it, and whether or not we're too sleepy to realize it. ...more
After having a colleague all but beg me to read a graphic novel for the past three years, I finally succumbed. Templar, as the title suggests, deals wAfter having a colleague all but beg me to read a graphic novel for the past three years, I finally succumbed. Templar, as the title suggests, deals with the last days of the Templars and a ragtag band not captured on that infamous day on the 13th of October in 1307.
Much as I suspected, graphic novels aren't likely going to be the mainstay of my literary future. This novel, I take it, was a bit different from most ... a hardcover of close to 500 pages, historical, and with limited graphic content. However, what little of the latter existed, calling men "puss**s" and a bath scene with naked women who were existed for sexual dalliances, didn't overly impress me and made me realize I'd be leaving this book at home and not taking it to school for my students. Tame as it is by comparison, I found myself clenching my teeth a few times.
However, I did realize the appeal. Most readers are visual readers; it's as if they have a visual movie playing in their heads as they read. For the percentage of readers who don't have anything playing in their mind's eye as they read, reading can be dull and lifeless unless they engage another of the senses. Some teen boys come to mind. The visuals (and this graphic novels is marvelously illustrated) provide that "movie" and engage the reader differently than s/he would be. I, too, am not a visual reader and never "see" anything when I read. This provided a different experience than I'm used to, having the visual story as well as the words on the page and in my head, drawing me into the tale in a way I'm not used to.
All in all, the storyline itself was interesting, the experience was eye-opening, but I'd rather graphic novels were a bit more "clean" for a younger audience ... at least for a teacher who might like to put some in her classroom library without worry over being brought before the school board. ...more
"A monster is hard to see and even harder to kill. It takes time to grow so huge, time to crawl into the open air. People will tell you it's not there"A monster is hard to see and even harder to kill. It takes time to grow so huge, time to crawl into the open air. People will tell you it's not there; you're imagining things. But a book is a book. Pages are pages. Hawks are hawks. Doves are doves." -Esther, Incantation by Alice Hoffman
As Estrella, our main character goes to the well in the center of town in order to draw water that is said to come directly in heaven; while doing so, she also gathers stories and laughter with her friend, Catalina. As Raven, a childhood nickname, she flits through girlhood into her teen years, not knowing what lives around her, filled only with dreams and mere glimpses into the hearts of others. As Esther, her true but secret name, in a time when Jews aren't allowed to live, she realizes it ... the monster always comes for books first, for the knowledge and power those books hold and to put to ash the memories of the people that are written within.
Incantation works a spell within the reader's mind. It's filled with sparks of truth, like when a character is seen for who she is, truly. Someone who "shone when something bad was happening to someone else" and who, therefore, should never have been trusted at all. That line set fire to a memory from just last week. A student's eyes glittering as she asked a question of another student, a question that she knew would cause pain. Another truth being that "[y]ou cannot disprove the ridiculous. You cannot argue reasonably with evil." If one can't argue reasonably with it, what must one do in order for it not to grow into a monster? Finally, the overall truth being never to forget; for when things are forgotten, they are completely lost.
While there were moments, in the beginning of this story, during which I thought that Hoffman might be about to miss the mark, she crafted yet another tale that is spot on. It goes straight to the heart of something, something that still exists today. Honestly, while I feel I should have cried, I didn't. Instead of crying for characters, as I've done with other books, it's as if their story is now within me ... likely due to the fact that things such as these happened (and continue to happen) to actual people, perpetrated by a monster that actually lived and still does. That's not easily shed but taken in to be remembered. ...more
This new take on the old tale set in a desert harem over a thousand nights intrigued me at the start. The artistry on the coI'm somewhat at a loss....
This new take on the old tale set in a desert harem over a thousand nights intrigued me at the start. The artistry on the cover first drew me. Once chosen, I burned through the first one hundred pages or more, totally taken with the tales spun within. Parts and pieces are poignant, such as when the sisters are taken into the storm by their father in order that they'll become educated in the ways of such a storm and, hopefully, be safe when the waters come again. I didn't question the love between the sisters and was taken with their personalities and choices. Additionally, certain things made me think. Could a man who had been forced to witness great violence and wrongs continue to be a good man or would his goodness be forever twisted, if not lost?
In the end, I'm left wondering if this YA novel is simply another "Black Beard" tale. Another story in which a beauty meets a beast and creates a "new" reality through her stories and words. Leaving the reader, especially a reader in 2016, feeling the piece to be more than somewhat empty and wanting.
After all, this beauty isn't even named, unless one considers what her husband calls her to be her name. Additionally, some of the promise offered at the start is never seen through to the end. So many questions remain unanswered. Too many characters who seem vital turn into shadows of themselves. The power that burns initially, whether the love between sisters or the supernatural lights and ties, seem to fizzle out and disappear, both literally and figuratively.
Is the dichotomy between the start and finish due to an attempt at the symbolic, the hope of a sequel, or to being written by a newer author? I don't now; I do know I'd rather a book not leave me asking those questions. ...more
A collection of poems categorized by theme, this is an oldie that belonged either to my father or mother when they were in their teens or early twentiA collection of poems categorized by theme, this is an oldie that belonged either to my father or mother when they were in their teens or early twenties. "The Charge of the Light Brigade" by Tennyson and "Paul Revere's Ride" by Longfellow. Adventurous and patriotic. "Gunga Din" by Kipling and "Jim Bludso" by Hay are included in the section of all things famous and infamous. Of course, there's also "Casey at the Bat" by Thayer, which is just plain fun. A wildly disparate collection, in theme and appeal. ...more
"But I'd made a mistake. I'd let Usha believe she was a horse; she had no idea of her own strength. She'd never fought like a bear before." -Rain, The"But I'd made a mistake. I'd let Usha believe she was a horse; she had no idea of her own strength. She'd never fought like a bear before." -Rain, The Foretelling by Alice Hoffman
Hoffman crafted this tale for young adults, but, ultimately, full grown women who love Hoffman will be touched by this small offering and will likely glimpse, understand, and take to heart the takeaway message in a way that teens might not. The takeaway message...? To know your own strength.
Rain, born to an Amazon queen in an ancient land of legend and as the result of capture and rape, is named by her mother to signify the sorrow she bore. Rain grows to be an excellent horsewoman and the "sister" of a bear cub, Usha. It was through Usha and an act of violence and love that Rain learned a life-changing lesson. One must know who she truly is, whether Amazon woman or bear. To live as someone or something else is to not know your own strength and to be weak when true strength is most needed.
Various characters, parts and pieces of the plot, and Hoffman's voice engaged my mind and made me feel both aching heartbreak and love. If I had a bit of criticism (and I do), it would be that the ending is somewhat lacking. The voice and tone changes in the end, which might have been meant for symbolic reasons; however, it's so strong and distinctive throughout that the change, which is somewhat subdued, doesn't seem to match the symbolism of Rain finding her own true strength. ...more