I think I'm missing something. Everyone loves this book and I liked it too, but it wasn't amazing or anything.
The Giver felt like a very sparse story...moreI think I'm missing something. Everyone loves this book and I liked it too, but it wasn't amazing or anything.
The Giver felt like a very sparse story to me. First, there isn't much characterization, so I didn't form an emotional connection with any of the characters -- not even with Jonas or the Giver (two central characters). Asher and Fiona (particularly Fiona) are introduced such that you assume they will play greater roles in the book than they do. I don't feel like I knew Mom or Dad or Lily at all. While the lack of an emotional bond with these lesser characters may be due to the nature of their community, Jonas and the Giver should really be more sympathetic, in my opinion.
Second, the description of the community itself is sparse. There is so much more that could've been described about this "utopian" community. I feel like Jonas' selection, his revelation about Release, and his eventual choice could've been built up and framed better. I feel like I got the quick campfire version.
Finally, while I appreciate it's overall message about the importance of individual differences, human emotion, etc., I felt like the book was a bit heavy-handed with its moral. Jonas' initial support of his community and gradual change of heart seems intended to present both viewpoints, but doesn't succeed in my opinion. The book's agenda was clear to me from the beginning. It also doesn't present alternative possibilities (such as a world without Sameness but also without war, a world without Release but also without starvation, etc.) -- the choice is either here (with Sameness and no color) or Elsewhere (with pain and suffering).
When teaching the book, I also felt it was very important for students to understand how this heavy-handed moral (that most of us would agree with somewhat) demonstrates Lowry's (and our own) privilege. That is, the reason it's easy for us to say that Jonas' community is horrible is because of our own relatively privileged lives. If we lived in Darfur, were extremely impoverished, lived in a country where women were treated as property, etc., we may make a very different choice about Jonas' life.
Despite all of this, believe it or not, I did like The Giver. It's an enjoyable read. It had a great plot, the community was interesting, and the ending was fantastic and JUST a little ambiguous -- cool! (less)
I haven't finished this book yet, but have read a lot of it. I skip over some of the daily accounts in favor of the lists / observations / character s...moreI haven't finished this book yet, but have read a lot of it. I skip over some of the daily accounts in favor of the lists / observations / character sketches. I need to go back and fill in the blanks, but it might be awhile before I get to it. For now:
A "pillow book" is a collection of random notes, character sketches, lists, poems, and observations that the Japanese upper class during the Heian period might have kept in the drawers of their wooden pillows. Having an example of the pillow book genre is so intriguing! It's a great snapshot of the life and attitude of the Japanese upper class at the time.
There's tension in this pillow book because Shonagon claims she wants to keep her thoughts private while clearly writing for an outside audience. And oh, what colorful thoughts she has!
Sei is arrogant, privileged, and oblivious or offensive to people she calls "completely insignificant" (think servants, common people, even lowly priests). At one point she mocks a man whose house has burned down by giving him what appears to be an alms slip -- he cannot read, so he thinks she has given him charity -- with a hateful poem written on it instead of alms. The fact that she writes this account in her (widely-read) pillow book and describes it with great mirth suggests that her attitude was common and acceptable among ladies of her rank.
Despite her obvious flaws, Sei appreciates beauty and sympathy (okay, apparently only for the upper class) and humor. I was very surprised by the humorous, playful, confident tone in this text. If someone had mentioned a Japanese woman's diary from the year 900 to me, I'd have assumed it was dry and boring. Not so at all! For the history, Sei's colorful personality, and the fascinating genre of the pillow book itself, this text gets 4 stars. (less)
This book is basically exactly what I was expecting. A mystery heavily peppered with bits of Japanese culture and history. I think the plot, character...moreThis book is basically exactly what I was expecting. A mystery heavily peppered with bits of Japanese culture and history. I think the plot, character development, and writing are entirely secondary to the purpose of introducing young readers to Japan. Considering I have to teach this in my Language Arts class, that annoys me.
ETA: After an interaction with the author that spanned several years, I've decided the negatives of this book and his choices in interacting about it, in addition to his attitude toward the young people I teach, far outweigh any value they could receive from the heavy-handed info about Edo and the Tokugawa Era from this book. I will use one of the earliest books (written by a Japanese author, which makes a lot more sense to me from an broadening-the-canon perspective) to teach them about the Heian Period, instead (excerpts from The Pillow Book of Sei Shonagon, in case you're interested). This review (above, from September 2008) remains unchanged for documenting-the-conversation purposes, but I have reduced my star rating from 2- to 1-star(s) in light of this new information.(less)
I love Bukowski's poetry, but it's also easy to hate it. Or to kind of love it and hate it at the same time. Prepare to be depressed and maybe revolte...moreI love Bukowski's poetry, but it's also easy to hate it. Or to kind of love it and hate it at the same time. Prepare to be depressed and maybe revolted. This book upsets me but also teaches me a lot about common threads and human nature. I like that Bukowski doesn't give me some sort of academic exercise / intellectual self-massage and call it a poem. He's just going to say what he's going to say -- and it's important or it's not -- and you should just shut up and read it or not. I was moved.(less)
This book is a collection of anecdotes, advice, confessions, etc. from a group of 6 - 22 year olds with life-threatening illnesses. It's divided into...moreThis book is a collection of anecdotes, advice, confessions, etc. from a group of 6 - 22 year olds with life-threatening illnesses. It's divided into chapters that focus on subjects such as how the kids learned of their illnesses, what medical realities they face daily, how they make their hospital visits tolerable, how their friends react to them, how they complete schoolwork, etc.
The children suffer from leukemia, bone cancers, blindness (not exactly in keeping with the title, but I love little Cassidy!), hemophilia, arthritis, sickle cell anemia, Denys-dash syndrome, and the results of a failed suicide attempt, to name a few.
I find the book very engaging and I love hearing these kids' voices. Their experiences are all unique, but common themes such as compassionate nurses, misdiagnosis, being strong for their parents, and wanting to feel normal run through everyone's story. I find myself compelled to read the next story . . . and the next . . . and the next!
By the way, in case you're tempted, DON'T read the epilogue first! It's a bittersweet and emotional finale after getting to know each child.(less)
Recently read this again after telling my students I was addicted to YA horror novels when I was little. It had some surprisingly mature content (e.g....moreRecently read this again after telling my students I was addicted to YA horror novels when I was little. It had some surprisingly mature content (e.g. sexual innuendo) and I was glad I didn't just stick it on my classroom shelf! Yikes.
It was all right. Essentially just like I remembered it. Lots of brief, choppy sentences that I suppose were there to build some suspense. It was a bit annoying to discover that many of events in this, RL Stine's first YA book, were repeated in other books afterward (e.g. losing one's memory after a traumatic experience, head-on car collisions after driving recklessly due to being upset, etc.) (less)
In the book, Miller discusses his experience editing his life to be made into a screenplay. Throughout the process, he learns more about what makes a...moreIn the book, Miller discusses his experience editing his life to be made into a screenplay. Throughout the process, he learns more about what makes a meaningful story and realizes his life is comfortable and easy, but not the story he wants it to be. One of his primary realizations was that life involves character transformation — it’s not about achieving a certain goal or reaching certain socially agreed upon milestones like graduating, marrying, and reproducing. Instead, it’s about how the experiences you go through and the stories you set up for yourself (because we do, to an extent, set up our own stories or avoid doing so) change who you are.
Miller discusses how stories have an inciting incident, something that begins the rising action and conflicts of the plot. He refers to this incident as a door that, once you pass through, the story is set in motion and there’s no going back. The story is inevitably less comfortable than not living the story, but it also confers rewards and growth beyond a life of comfort. Miller talks of adding characters and goals to your story, and about how the most unusual — and even the most difficult — experiences are the ones that make life meaningful, not the vanilla days where things have been comfortable.
All in all, the book felt like such a timely read. It’s empowering to read about the ways in which we can decide to create our stories. I also just appreciated Miller’s voice — this isn’t a bubblegum Christian read churned out by the religious industry (I’m a committed Christian and though I love some Bible studies and such that that industry puts out, I’m disillusioned by the machine as a whole.) His faith is clear and devoted even as he talks about sharing a glass of bourbon with friends. There’s no pretense, no legalism disguised as spirituality. I so appreciated that.
I understand the criticism about this being a privileged, middle-class sort of "crisis" that could be pretty galling to someone enduring other sorts o...moreI understand the criticism about this being a privileged, middle-class sort of "crisis" that could be pretty galling to someone enduring other sorts of suffering. In fact, I think I'd usually be the person offering such criticism, BUT...
I feel like it's important not to dismiss all but the most dire circumstances as illegitimate. It's important that we recognize and understand privilege and its influence, but also that we don't grow so concerned with ranking crises that we end up discrediting someone's pain. Feminism is ABOUT debunking the idea of some sort of monolithic female voice (why yes, I did just try to sum up feminism in a phrase -- yikes), so let's not pretend this particular voice isn't important. The fact is, individuals in all different contexts have struggles, and if we were to focus too narrowly, we'd miss important facets of (okay, forgive me) the human experience.
Someone said on one of the reviews that this book was basically Sylvia Plath's big melodramatic whine, and I think that oversimplifies things. For one thing, Esther is NOT that sympathetic a character. At various times in the novel she's complicated, disagreeable, malicious, oblivious, and snotty. Certainly not a poor victim. In addition, the journey she takes pondering gender, sex, and indecision rang really true for me from a feminist point of view. There was lots of, "Oh yes, I've noticed that double-standard or that sentiment," or, "Oh yes, I've felt trapped or labeled in just that way." Characterizing the book as just Sylvia Plath writing an emo "oh, poor me" memoir therefore seems simplistic to me. And also, I just have to ask -- would you call it a big melodramatic "whine" if it were a man writing? Just sayin'.
Apart from all this, I love Plath's voice and imagery. (less)
Rafe Esquith is doing a great job and I appreciate his work. His teaching is effective, but this book isn't!
Teach Like Your Hair's On Fire is very, ve...moreRafe Esquith is doing a great job and I appreciate his work. His teaching is effective, but this book isn't!
Teach Like Your Hair's On Fire is very, very lightweight. As in, there is very little useful content for me whatsoever. I guess I've been reading teaching books lately that are PACKED with impressive experience and wisdom, and this seems more like Esquith just trying to put out another book but not wanting to get too involved in the writing of one. Sometimes this book seems like it was tossed together as a context for a few carefully situated product placements! Seriously.
I strongly agree with the reviewer who notes that some teaching books are inspirational and some detail methodology, and this book tries to straddle the fence, failing to give enough of either side.
The book is loosely divided into sections of a primary classroom: English, Math, History, Science, Art, Phys Ed, etc. In each chapter Esquith will mention a couple of tricks or games he does with the students -- definitely nothing incredible, in my opinion -- and then throw in a website or product he uses that you should buy (so far, number tiles, a national parks booklet, a Science kit, a poster, etc.).
As I mentioned, his hints don't seem that groundbreaking: do hands-on things in Science. Play a math game (similar to Around the World) called Buzz. Show students films. Play historic speeches for students. Play audiobooks for students and add commentary. He describes a few of his art projects.
Redeeming features so far: -He discusses of the six levels of morality, which I am excited to use with my students. -He discusses during the Art chapter about how important and team-building / culture-enhancing it can be for students to embark on challenging, long-term projects together. -He makes everything, even Phys Ed, purposeful: have well-prepared plans, keep track of student achievement, and do specific things to increase achievement (all teachers should be doing this, but surprisingly few in my experience are really data-driven). -He teaches kids specific problem solving ideas.
If you ask me, the key to Rafe Esquith's success boils down to two things: creating a great classroom culture and HIGH EXPECTATIONS. I think this book tries to imply that his actual content and techniques are impressive, but so far they don't seem to be. And actually, the more I read this book the more I'm convinced his culture relies on an "Us vs. THE WORLD" mentality, asking his students for horrible teacher stories, talking about how lame other classes are, making fun of the way the school (and outside world) runs, making his students feel like they're on a special elite team together and everyone else is slacking off. Fine, but if that's how you manage your class, what may be the cost? The students' respect for all other teachers?
Apart from all of this, as other reviewers have noted, Esquith is QUITE self-congratulatory despite all the remarks he makes about being "ordinary." He doesn't hesitate to make snide remarks about his fellow teachers (who sometimes deserve it, admittedly). One example is how he criticizes others for not bringing their classes out to recess and posits unflattering reasons why they don't (maybe they're punishing their classes, maybe they're punishing classes for something only ONE student did! Gasp!). Another great example is when he literally makes a list of the things a "friend" of his (not anymore!) does wrong with his students when taking them to Disneyland and a corresponding list of ways he did an incredible job taking his own students there. I LOLed.
There Are No Shortcuts is a better read, in my opinion.(less)
I love this book. Great introductions to theory and pithy excerpts from everyone from Aristotle to Stanley Fish. It's not the sort of thing you read t...moreI love this book. Great introductions to theory and pithy excerpts from everyone from Aristotle to Stanley Fish. It's not the sort of thing you read through cover to cover. It's more of a reference book. Actually, I'm not going to lie, I know people who would enjoy reading this cover to cover :)(less)
Now one of my 3 favorite books of all time (the others being Their Eyes Were Watching God and One Hundred Years of Solitude) and honestly, probably th...moreNow one of my 3 favorite books of all time (the others being Their Eyes Were Watching God and One Hundred Years of Solitude) and honestly, probably the most amazing writing of the 3. SO smart. There are so many amazing connections. It also happened to be extremely personally relevant to me at my current life juncture. (less)
I think the Odyssey trounces the Iliad, for those keeping score. I love the creativity of each obstacle Odysseus faces. The archetypal journey is fant...moreI think the Odyssey trounces the Iliad, for those keeping score. I love the creativity of each obstacle Odysseus faces. The archetypal journey is fantastic and exciting, and the language is beautiful. I also love looking into what certain translators did to try to stay close to the text -- it's just another layer of interest.(less)
This is like a ZNH pop-up book! It's full of handwritten letters, manuscripts (for poems and the first chapter of Their Eyes Were Watching God), and e...moreThis is like a ZNH pop-up book! It's full of handwritten letters, manuscripts (for poems and the first chapter of Their Eyes Were Watching God), and even a CD of folk songs sung and discussed by ZNH herself!
Also included is the full text of the play Color Struck, beautiful pictures, and fantastic autobiographical info. I LOVE this view of ZNH's life.(less)