Saturday, February 27, 2010

My Husband Went to Massachusetts and All I Got Was This "I Told You So"

I believe I have 28 inches of snow on the ground now. My driveway is shovelled enough that it is just barely maneuverable and my arms and back ache. Oh, and I have no running water. My well and/or well pump went kaput! in the middle of the big snowstorm meaning no toilet flushing unless I pour buckets of melted snow into the bowl. No dishwasher! No washing machine. No hot water and soap after dumping the buckets of melted snow into the toilet. Thank the Lord my daughter and I have extensive hand sanitizer collections! And my husband is in another state until tomorrow night. But I'm not complaining. People all over the world have it much, much worse. Okay, I am complaining a bit, but I am trying to keep it all in perspective. And, I have a "you were right" for consolation. I checked the audiobook version of Neil Gaiman's The Graveyard Book out of the library for my husband's roadtrip even though it is fiction and not strictly written for adults. By cell phone this afternoon he reported that I was right and it is really good. Do you know what? I like being right about as much as I like indoor plumbing. Believe me, that's saying something. If only I could have both!

Thursday, February 25, 2010

No Book Reports Today

We haven't read a single page of a single book today. It's not really a fiction kind of day. This is the snow we had at breakfast time. Now at suppertime there's a good 14 inches on the ground. Today's snow had a kind of melancholy beauty to it. People we care about have received bad news and sadness this week. That made it difficult to feel lighthearted and silly in the snow. We did, however, enjoy taking a walk on our quiet snowy street and in the woods near our home. It felt kind of like being on another planet, a cold, quiet, intensely white planet. The kids are all lounging around now, drawing and playing with blocks. Stay warm and safe and hug the people you love if you can.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Words I Never Thought I Would Hear

"I think this book might be better than Harry Potter," said my nine year old daughter last night of Blue Balliet's Chasing Vermeer. Gobsmacked I was!

Thursday, February 18, 2010

A Little Shakespeare on This Thursday

At a recent holiday party, the elementary school aged son of my school's principal asked one of the English teachers present to tell him a story. All she could come up with off the top of her head was Shakespeare's Hamlet. I believe she was in the middle of teaching it at school. She kept him happily entertained. I love that story. Actually, I love both stories- the one of the Christmas party and Hamlet. I do not love everything the Bard wrote, but I can see the influence of the storyteller. In the hands of a good storyteller (teacher, director, reader), it is easy to see why Shakespeare's works have stood the test of time. In the hands of a bad storyteller (ie the nun who taught my junior and senior years of high school English), studying Shakespeare's plays can make a student fall asleep, cry, or fantasize futilely about worse tortures. In the hands (or camera or mouth) of a good storyteller, Shakespeare's works can thrill and delight. For example, I read King Lear in high school and thought it was awful and boring and made little sense. Two years later in college it was taught to me by a professor visiting from England. He wore a big knitted scarf everyday, knew all of the play by heart it seemed, and loved it like it was a baby. I'll never forget him or how he made me see King Lear as a fabulous and heartbreaking family story. I've really liked the play ever since, although I haven't read it in about a dozen years. Then Gareth Hinds' graphic novel version came across my desk this week. I like King Lear even more now and would definitely use this book with my students if I ever have occasion to teach Lear in the future. First, I know that graphic novels can be a bridge, a way in, for many students. Secondly, the artwork is great and much of Shakespeare's language is kept. Finally, there is something about the way Hinds positions the characters on the page that makes the experience feel as much like viewing a dramatic production as it feels like reading a book. I am now curious to check out Gareth Hinds' version of The Merchant of Venice.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Too Busy to Read?!

This is a ridonculously (as the kids say) busy week in my house. In addition to the usual homework, sports, activities, laundry, and so on, we've got a few big holidays of the religious and ethnic variety, two birthdays, and a fourth grade poetry celebration. If we had tshirts printed for the week, they would read something like, "Happy Valentine's Day. I Cannot Tell a Lie. Laissez Les Bon Temps Roulez. Happy Birthday Times Two. Poetry Rocks and To Dust You Shall Return."
How about that? Catchy, right?

In all of the madness, books are going unread around here. I've been trying to get in a chapter of How to Train Your Dragon (or as one seven year old I know likes to gigglingly call it, How to Drain Your Dragon) and the kids are completing their required minimums for homework, but that's about it.

I have been listening to Twilight on CD in my car. I figure it's necessary for my job as teacher since just about every teenage girl in America has read it and for my job as mom since sooner or later my own nine year old daughter is going to jump on that bandwagon. She even received some Twilight valentines in school this year. My opinion: it's okay, but not fantastic. It certainly is chock full of frequently tested SAT words. That's a plus. I can see why all of those girls love it though. Edward is dreamy, dangerous, brilliant and mature. He desires Bella but doesn't want to "violate" her. She is independent but doesn't mind being protected. It has all of the classic bodice ripper elements with no actual sex. I can't decide what I will say if my daughter wants to read it in the next year or so. Luckily, I don't have to decide for my son. He heard about five minutes of chapter nineteen in the car yesterday on the way to ice hockey practice and said, "No offense, but your book isn't very good."

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Vancouver or Bust

Is it just me or do you find yourself thinking,"Wow, Vancouver would be great for our next family vacation"?

Darn NBC and the Today show! They make everything look so good! Anybody know any good books set in or about Vancouver?

Friday, February 12, 2010

Stuff I Love

As you know, Valentine's Day is just around the corner. It has me thinking of books about love. The loveliest of all those, in my estimation, is Margery Williams' The Velveteen Rabbit. I have written about this book here before, I know, but it bears mentioning again. Revisit it if you haven't read it in awhile. Even better, revisit it with someone you love, someone who has made you "real."

In case you you now think I only love sappy sweet children's books, here are some other things I love in no particular order. (Actually not true- I saved the best for last.)

I love KFC! I mean I love it in an unhealthy obsession kind of way.

I love Harry Potter books and movies.

I currently love Neil Gaiman's The Graveyard Book.

I love fuzzy socks.

I love teaching high school English.

I love the smells of Tide and Downy.

I love everything my mother bakes.

I love my mother and the rest of my family.

I love 80s music.

I love bubblegum and black licorice flavored jelly beans.

I love cute flip flops.

I love these three children and their dad!

Spend some time with who and what you love this weekend. Happy Heart Day!

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

If I Read Any Faster My Tongue Will Fall Off

Awhile back I bought a paperback copy of Cressida Cowell's How To Train Your Dragon Book 1 as a potential book to read aloud with my three kids. Then other books cut it in line and it gathered dust. I finally got around to beginning it one night before bedtime last week. The kids all like it. One or two chapters in, I found out that it "Is now a major motion picture!" which is "opening in March at a theater near you!" which means I have to read like the devil is on my heels.

After six chapters, my three children and I all recommend this tale of Hiccup Horrendous Haddock III. a Viking boy, hoping to be initiated into the Tribe of Hairy Hooligans. The back cover promises that he will become known throughout Vikingdom as "The Dragon Whisperer." He is not there yet in our reading. In fact, at our point in the book, Hiccup has the lamest dragon of all the Viking boys, a pathetic little creature nicknamed Toothless. We cannot wait to read what happens next. As the kids are home today enjoying a snow day we might find out before bedtime tonight.