Monday, January 25, 2010

A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle

Reason: My dear friend Natalie Crowson recommended this book to me. When I told my wonderful colleague Gwen Hines that I was reading it, she was amazed that I had made it this far in life without having read this book. Joy (Picirilli) Erickson told me once that she had named her daughter, Megan, after the Meg of this book. With such credentials, how could I not read this?
Book: This is a work of fantasy. Ever since Dr. Holley made us read Perelandra in World Lit., I have enjoyed this genre. This work moves fast, but the reader doesn't feel like anything important is being left out. From the first chapter, I was enchanted with the story of Meg and Charles Wallace. The second chapter brought Calvin, and then things took off in the quest for Father.
Quotes: I was impressed with some quotes from this book; I even dog-eared their pages in the JOHS library book! If they impress you, feel free to comment on them.
For use when teaching Animal Farm:
"But nobody's ever happy, either," Meg said earnestly. "Maybe if you aren't unhappy sometimes you don't know how to be happy" (p. 133).
Regarding how to handle life:
"We want nothing from you that you do without grace," Mrs. Whatsit said, "or that you do without understanding" (p .183).
Just to please my free-will-believein' English-literature-lovin' self:
"You mean you're comparing our lives to a sonnet? A strict form, but freedom within it" (p.186)?

Up Next: I have decided to tell readers what I am going to read next in case someone wants to read it with me and discuss it at some point. When Dad and I take the boys on a ride, we are listening to Rebel Angels by Libba Bray (see the post on A Great and Terrible Beauty). On the way to and from work, I am listening to The Devil in the White City by Erik Lasron; it is the story of serial killing at the Chicago World's Fair (non-fiction written like fiction). I am reading Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson. I love Anderson (Speak); this book was chosen by the Chicago public library as the best book of the last decade.

Friday, January 22, 2010

A Great and Terrible Beauty by Libba Bray

Book Basics: This book is set in 1890s England. Like all books set in 1890s England, it actually begins in India...with an orphan (or 1/2 an orphan, in this case). Said orphan is then exported back to England where she enrolls in a boarding school and discovers a new family among the girls there. The twist to this novel is that the heroine, Gemma Doyle, is a teenager (not a 10-year-old) who has latent magical powers. The bulk of the novel is spent with Gemma learning how to harness her magical powers; manage complicated teenage friendships (with Felicity, Ann, and Pippa); and sort through those first stirrings caused by Kartik, a young Indian man with secrets.
Judgement: This is a light read that ends with the reader feeling unsatisfied...which leads us to Rebel Angels (book 2). I listened to this book in the car with my dad. Surprisingly, he enjoyed it; we will start Rebel Angels on CD this afternoon.
Situation: One part of this book was uncomfortable for me (since I was listening to it with my dad). Gemma has a sexual dream involving Kartik. Since we were listening to it on tape, I fastforwarded immediately because of my embarassment at listening to it with my dad. When I got to school, I pulled out our copy of the book and read the passage (I mean, if it was bad, I needed to know! I don't want to be blindsided with a parent complaint.) The passage turned out to be fine; I was just afraid of where it might go with my dad sitting right next to me.
Discussion: At what age do people feel comfortable doing adult things in front of their parents? I imagine this question depends on the type of parents you have. If your parents drank, smoked, or used foul language, maybe you would feel more comfortable doing those things in front of them; it would mortify me to do so. Since I'm married with children, I believe my parents have accepted the fact that I am sexually active. This topic is not as embarrasing to encounter around my mom as it was around my dad (see Situation). If one is not married, when it is OK for someone's parents to know a person is sexually active (assuming some of my teenagers at school are)?
A converse question would be: at what age do people feel comfortable practicing adult behaviors in front of their children? Do people who drink, smoke, and cuss do those things in front of their children from birth? When will I feel OK watching a movie with a sex scene with my kids in the same room (answer: NEVER!)?
You can find out more about this book at

Monday, January 4, 2010

The Book Theif by Marcus Zusak

I think this book will always be special to me. You see, I ordered this book for the John Overton High Library Media Center. It came in right before the winter break. Bridget Riley's classes were in the library finishing their research for their papers. A group of girls was sitting at the tables near where I was looking through my new order of books to make sure they were printed correctly (no upside down pages, etc.) and had the correct spine labels. One of the girls stopped her research and asked me if these books were available to check out. I told her that they were not ready yet but that they might be when she returned from the holiday. She sadly told me that she wanted to read The Book Theif but that she was on a waiting list at the public library (a crisis which I have had to endure!). Well, I took that book right then, processed it, and checked it out to her in five minutes. She was so excited! I've helped other students find books before, but this was different. This was my book from start to finish. I found it the School Library Journal. I selected it as worthy of ordering. I checked it in for circulation. I checked it out to a student for the first time. I felt worthy of my job on that day because I had chosen a book that a student was actively looking for!
I finished this book myself over the Christmas break. I got my copy from the public library (our school's copy was checked out!). It was a wonderful book! It is set in Nazi Germany. It puts the average Germans in a new light, not as Nazis but as people trapped in a world where compliance was necessary for life. Read it; it's sad, but so was World War II, so it is to be expected.