How to: Stay in Love with Reading as an English Teaching Major (As told by Hyperbole and a Half Cartoons)

As an English teaching major in my senior year of college (somewhat…I’ll be done soon), I have often faced my biggest fear: falling out of love with English. 

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It started like all relationships. I became infatuated. I read… and read and read and read and read. There weren’t enough books assigned in school or on the library shelf to satisfy my hunger so I wrote…and wrote and wrote and wrote all the stories that didn’t exist but I wanted to read. I was a written word junkie, I tell you!

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So when it came time to pick my college major, I knew it had to involve English. Originally I just chose teaching because I needed to make money. I was idealistic, but I knew that the world wouldn’t just automatically pay me for reading. I had to trick them into paying me! As a teacher, I would get to read and write and get to talk about both all while doing this:

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So basically I outsmarted the system. I breezed through my required core classes, just waiting for my opportunity to sit in high-level English classes and chat with other academics and feed my love of literature and learning!!!!

I had my early English classes that were SUPER easy, and I was essentially conquering the world one sonnet at a time.

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Then my classes started getting harder. They wanted me to read more, and the material was harder. Obviously, I knew this would happen. But what I didn’t realize was that I would get burnt out on something I once loved. Instead of being excited to learn about new works, I didn’t even read them. I didn’t even show up to class. It seemed boring and useless. I had had too much! I was trying to focus on being in every school activity, have a social life, and waste time on the internet so I left myself no time for my English work. At that time, I was also beginning the classes for my education minor. Instead of being all “YAY! Teaching is great!”, my first class was taught by an abrasive professor who basically told us we were stupid and racist. I thought the class was a good idea, but it made me miserable. Something was wrong. I HATED everything about my major. I didn’t know what to do.

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This would continue for months. Couple that with depression and anxiety, and a job I hated, and I was in a crappy situation. I started to like my classes and become interested, but I had no drive. I knew everything that was covered in my classes, but I never turned in the assignments. My mind was screaming at me to stop, but I couldn’t do anything. It felt like I was suffocating. I knew that in order for my life to get better, I had to make a change. No. CHANGES!

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I cut out everything that was making me unhappy. I quit my crappy job. I stopped doing things that weren’t helping me. I started re-focusing on what I wanted and how I was going to achieve my goals.

As far as English, I took a SINGLE summer class. We met once a week for a few weeks, and I absolutely loved it. The professor showed us new ways to utilize technology in the classroom, and I actually READ the books we were assigned. It felt like I was cleaning a filthy window, and I could finally see!

I read and read and read over the summer, and fell in love again. This fall, I have a class on teaching literature, and I actually get to teach a REAL classroom of REAL students in a REAL school. By finally getting to experience and learn about what I want to do for the rest of my life, and it was AWESOME!

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So, for now, I’m back in love with English. I’ve stopped viewing it as a chore and started viewing it as a privilege. I took a break from it. Yes, it’s OK to not love it all the time! I didn’t know this so I’m telling you. It’s fine to not want to read every word ever written. It’s alright if you hate doing mindless assignments or even assignments at all. I learned that a rut is not the end of my life. There will be ruts throughout my life, but I will NOT allow them to stop me from doing what I want!

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After actually getting to do what made me excited again, I’m ready to tackle it head on. I’m not going to lie and say that I do all of my homework or do it with a smile, but I’m better. When I got to talk to students about why English is awesome, I was like- holy crap, I’m RIGHT!

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Getting to talk about and practice for a real classroom made everything seem real. I was no longer just learning the basics of driving, I was behind the wheel!

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Read these comic in their actual context and laugh your head off at: http://hyperboleandahalf.blogspot.com/

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30 Day Book Challenge: Day 28 – Favorite Title

Studies show that people only have seven seconds to make a first impression.

I think it takes maybe two seconds for a book to make a first impression. The first things a reader notices about a book are its cover and title. Those two pieces can hold a TON of information and function to draw readers.

That’s why titles have to be memorable!

For that reason, I chose Sherman Alexie’s The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian.

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Goodreads Summary:
In his first book for young adults, bestselling author Sherman Alexie tells the story of Junior, a budding cartoonist growing up on the Spokane Indian Reservation. Determined to take his future into his own hands, Junior leaves his troubled school on the rez to attend an all-white farm town high school where the only other Indian is the school mascot. Heartbreaking, funny, and beautifully written, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, which is based on the author’s own experiences, coupled with poignant drawings by acclaimed artist Ellen Forney, that reflect the character’s art, chronicles the contemporary adolescence of one Native American boy as he attempts to break away from the life he was destined to live.

I LOVED this book! I hope I get a chance to teach it in my classroom. It’s wonderfully written with a balance of humor and heart and honesty.

Some teachable topics for this book:

-Identity, especially for minorities

-Graphic novels

-Banned books

-American history

-Discrimination and prejudice

I think it also appeals to those reluctant readers because the novel is accessible and relatable. It brings home a serious, thought-provoking message without sounding preachy. There are also PICTURES! Like this one!

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I hate the assumption that pictures in books are meant for children. There is an ever-growing audience for graphic novels that are renowned for their literary content. The pictures in this book add to the story and make it more diary-like.

Finally, this book with an amazing title has recently been banned in New York which, as many readers can attest, makes a book even more interesting!

Disturbing Statistics on Reading

I was in the middle of spending a large portion of my life on Pinterest the other day (follow me here), I came across this infographic about reading. Allow me to address each statistic.

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1. I think once people graduate high school they think: YES! NO MORE HOMEWORK!!! Unless they continue onto higher education, this is exactly the case. Who is there to make them read? Even during higher education, there’s no incentive to actually read books when there are saviors like SparkNotes around. Unless you’re an English major like myself, why would you read a book? My significant other is actually proud of the lack of books he has read in his life. How do we prevent this? As a teacher, it is my job to inspire lifelong learning which includes lifelong reading. We need to adapt the curriculum so that our students see reading as fun instead of punishment. I say this as a kid who HATED reading in school because of the assigned material. It was like torture. Why would I willingly torture myself?! I think a great way to help students overcome this struggle is to introduce them to books OUTSIDE of the classroom. Let them free read or pick from a variety of books.

2. Post-college you are forreal home free. You’re “done” with reading for class or any other reason. Eventually you get caught up in life and grown-up business and forget that there is an entire book-verse out there waiting to be read! A great thing my public library does to engage adult readers is a One Book One Community event each year. They select a book for the entire community to read, and the author comes and talks and autographs books. They also host social gatherings to discuss the books. Reading as an adult can be fun! I swear! Pick a book with friends. It doesn’t have to be Dickens. It can be anything. And you can have adult beverages and yummy snacks. It’s a win-win.

3. Why are we not reading books to completion? There can be a lot of reasons. Sometimes a book isn’t interesting, and you just have to move on. Sometimes books are just super long. I love reading, but let’s face it: some books are INCREDIBLY LONG! It can be daunting. If you have problems finishing books, try reading a series of smaller novels. You get to read the same amount of pages and get that Finished Book Feeling. E-readers can be another solution. I’m an e-reader convert because they’re SO convenient. Read them on the bus. Read them on the treadmill. Wherever!

4. I personally can’t understand not walking into a bookstore. The smell. The books. It’s heavenly. BUT the book industry is changing. I remember frequenting a Borders within the last five years, and those don’t even exist anymore! Bookstores are becoming increasingly rare in this day and age (said in an old lady voice). People have e-readers and buy their books online. There just isn’t a market for bookstores to stay open anymore. Hopefully, they never become extinct because there is nothing like perusing a bookstore in real life.

5. I can see that families aren’t buying or reading books anymore. One, books are expensive! I would love to fill my bookshelves with books, but I’m a poor college student. If I can’t buy them, and they’re practically my drug, I can’t imagine people with limited interest spending money on them. With tense economic situations dominating many households, it’s no wonder that books have taken a backseat.

6. I couldn’t agree more. I can honestly say that I have learned about others through reading. It teaches empathy and gives new perspective on lives a reader may never encounter. It’s important that we teach young readers to read so they can become empathetic, educated adults. We must create LIFELONG LEARNERS!

7. This is a pretty incredible statistic. I think that potential readers often shy away from reading because it appears as an obstacle. You have to read SO many pages, and it takes SO much time. If we spend a FRACTION of the time we spend messing around online or watching TV reading, we could be international experts. Sounds very James Bond. If that’s not enough to get you reading, I don’t know what is!

My Teaching Philosophy

For my education class, we have to come up with our philosophy on teaching.

The thing is the more I learn about being an educator, the more emotional I get. Sometimes I feel like I can’t wait to be a teacher, and other times I feel terrified to stand in front of my own class. It’s a HUGE job! And in a week or so I’ll begin my field experience where I go into a class and (hopefully) get to experience teaching some high school students. Or grade papers. Either way, I’m excited to learn!

I now have to think about what KIND of teacher I’ll be. Some days I feel like I’ll be this teacher:

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Other days I’m all:

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I’m hoping I can pave the road to teaching heaven with good intentions because there’s nothing I love more or am more passionate about.

SO here’s my official (for now) teaching philosophy:

I do not like to limit learning to one type of learning in a classroom. I am more of a non- traditionalist. I want my students to know that learning is constantly taking place and that exchanging ideas and experiencing new things and learning from other people is part of being educated. I think it is important for the teacher to give clear expectations to students so that students can rise to the occasion and become self-sufficient learners. Teachers should use discussion often in the classroom to help expand students’ knowledge and also allow the students to form critical thinking skills. I believe teachers must make an effort to get to know their students as individuals and their classes as a whole so that they can tailor their lessons accordingly. In order to best reach students, a teacher must do their best to be knowledgeable about their subject area, teaching techniques, and new technology. It’s important to always be learning and evolving so that students can follow that example. Teachers should be flexible, caring, and knowledgeable. Ultimately my goal as a teacher is to develop independent students who care about their world, are curious, and are critical thinkers. 

I’d like to hear from you about what you think makes a good or bad teacher. Maybe you could share your memories of your favorite/ least favorite teachers?

30 Day Book Challenge: Day 7- Most Underrated Book

Day 7- Most Underrated Book

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I’m not sure if underrated is the right word, but I feel like no one is talking about Generation Dead by Daniel Waters, maybe because it was written in 2008. I was once again reading this book in a post-Twilight world where EVERYTHING was about vampires and werewolves. I love a good vamp/wolf story, but I was ready for something new. I read it a few years ago, and thought it was so timely and smart and entertaining. It’s a clear allegory for race or sexuality or anything that makes people different. BUT WITH ZOMBIES! It’s great because (before warn bodies hit theaters) it seemed like zombies got no love. For obvious reasons, they are seen as The Abject because they’re basically just walking corpses and aren’t all seductive and mysterious like vampires.

I love this book. I think it’s a great read, and I can even see myself teaching it in the classroom. Pick it up and give it a read. PLEASE!

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Goodreads blurb:

Phoebe Kendall is just your typical Goth girl with a crush. He’s strong and silent…and dead.

All over the country, a strange phenomenon is occurring. Some teenagers who die aren’t staying dead. But when they come back to life, they are no longer the same. Feared and misunderstood, they are doing their best to blend into a society that doesn’t want them.

The administration at Oakvale High attempts to be more welcoming of the “differently biotic.” But the students don’t want to take classes or eat in the cafeteria next to someone who isn’t breathing. And there are no laws that exist to protect the “living impaired” from the people who want them to disappear—for good.

When Phoebe falls for Tommy Williams, the leader of the dead kids, no one can believe it; not her best friend, Margi, and especially not her neighbor, Adam, the star of the football team. Adam has feelings for Phoebe that run much deeper than just friendship; he would do anything for her. But what if protecting Tommy is the one thing that would make her happy?

Cinder by Marissa Meyer

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Remember the sweet fairy tales of Cinderella or the Disney movie with the catchy songs about true love? Marissa Meyer changes everything you thought you knew about the story and turns up the volume. Meyer trades Cinderella, damsel in distress, to Cinder, cyborg on a mission, frolicking animals for androids, and the glass slipper with a mechanical foot.

Set in the futuristic streets of New Beijing, the novel opens on Cinder, a renowned mechanic replacing her mechanical foot with a new, more proportional model when a disguised Prince Kai visits her booth and urges her to fix a very important android for him. Not moments after his departure, a sign of the plague that has been ravaging New Beijing makes an appearance, setting everything into motion. When the plague hits her family and she becomes involved in finding a cure as well as the handsome Prince Kai’s affairs and a potential war with the lunar people from the moon, Cinder begins to learn more about her mysterious past and how her existence may change everything for the world.

It’s no secret that Fairy Tale Revisited is extremely popular right now. For me, it started with Beastly by Alex Flynn, a retelling of Beauty and the Beast that was made into a movie a few years ago. There have been dozens of other contributions to this growing genre including TV shows like Ever After and Grimm and movies like Snow White and the Huntsman. We don’t seem to grow out of our love for fairy tales.

Of course, this is not a new phenomenon. These stories have been around for centuries and come from all parts of the world, constantly changing form for their audience but never losing relevance. Could Charles Perrault or the Brothers Grimm have ever imagined a cyborg version of their Cinderella?

Probably not. Enter the genius of Marissa Meyer.

I can’t begin to express how much I enjoyed this book. The characters, even the background ones, are so great. Cinder is a more modern (obviously) and independent upgrade. She has no need for a fairy godmother, though she is stuck with an evil stepmother and sister. Cinder is an excellent role model because she is so hard working and brave without being inhuman. She has vulnerabilities and valid emotions. THIS is how you create a great young adult novel female protagonist.

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She also represents minorities in that cyborgs in New Beijing are essentially second-class citizens. People treat her with disgust. I think this speaks to readers who find themselves in between identities like those of mixed race or even those with prosthetics. I think discussing these issues would be great in a classroom setting or a book group. Have we ever felt like we didn’t belong because of something that makes us different?

I also enjoyed that the story took place somewhere OTHER than Europe or North America. In fact, it is believed that the story of Cinderella originated in China during the 9th century. Today, China is a booming technology giant. They’re also known for their royal families. Obviously, Meyer knew what she was doing when she set this scene for her story. It is told that Cinder is from Europe (though her exact origin is unknown), but her prince charming, Prince Kai, is clearly Chinese. Interracial love! I don’t think we see enough of it in young adult literature. This could be another discussion point.

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The story has a few flaws as far as practicality and continuity and exploring more of what the author sets up, but there are also three more books in the works after this one so maybe all is explained in the sequels.

As far as teaching the book, I can’t see myself using it in curriculum just because I don’t think the academic tone or writing is there. I also don’t know that this novel would interest young male readers. However, I think the whole cyborg and android thing might carry some weight when trying to appeal to the masculine reader.

I would definitely recommend this to others! I can see it being very popular with late middle school to early high school readers.

Movie rights HAVE been sold and the screenplay is finished. I can’t wait for it to premiere on the silver screen. Romance and robots can’t fail.

Pick this book up immediately. It’s a great and quick read full of futuristic mystery and just enough sweet romance to make your heart do little flips. To tell you how much I enjoyed reading it, I literally downloaded the sequel Scarlet an hour after I finished Cinder. The second book continues where the first left off, adding a Red Riding Hood character into the mix. The next two installments of the series are set to include Rapunzel and Snow White.

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If you enjoy both of these books, Meyer has also come out with short stories, “Glitch” and “The Queen’s Army” as prequels to both of the books. You can read them both for free here:

http://www.marissameyer.com/books/short-stories/

Meyer’s website also includes her book recommendations that I have already added to my MUST READ list. Check it out here:

http://www.marissameyer.com/books/book-recomendations/

Check out Meyer’s pinterest board (how cool) for the Lunar Chronicles here:

http://pinterest.com/marissameyer22/the-lunar-chronicles/

Read an awesome fan interview with Meyer here:

http://izabella.tumblr.com/post/55065922902/we-skyped-with-marissa-meyer-and-she-answered-our

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Looking for Alaska by John Green

If you’re not familiar with John Green, you have either never been to a book store/ library or you’re incredibly lame. I feel sorry for you if either case is true. John Green has become well known in pop culture as a result of his award-winning young adult novels as well as his YouTube contributions which include video conversations between himself and his brother, Hank Green, known as the Vlog Brothers as well as the channel Mental Floss where he uses his knowledge to enlighten the masses in a fun, pithy way.

Vlog Brothers: http://www.youtube.com/user/vlogbrothers

Mental Floss: http://www.youtube.com/user/MentalFlossVideo

In short, John Green is something of a phenomenon right now. And it all started with this book.

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Just a few awards this book has won:

  • Winner, 2006 Michael L. Printz Award
  • Finalist, 2005 Los Angeles Times Book Prize
  • 2006 Top 10 Best Book for Young Adults
  • 2006 Teens’ Top 10 Award
2006 Quick Pick for Reluctant Young Adult Readers
  • A New York Public Library Book for the Teen Age
  • A Booklist Editor’s Choice Pick
Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers Selection
  • Borders Original Voices Selection

After begging his parents to let him go, Miles Halter leaves his Florida home to travel to Culver Creek Preparatory High School where he meets a cast of characters including his roommate, Chip “The Colonel” Martin and Takumi, the school bullies, the “Weekday Warriors,” and Alaska Young, the beautiful, bipolar enigma. The students manage to get into the controversial pastimes of young adulthood like smoking, drinking, and sex- and then Alaska’s death that leads the boys to uncover her life’s mysteries and the mysteries of life.

I read Looking for Alaska when I was in high school after reading a short story Green had written that I really enjoyed. However, I had no patience for the book. I think the writing is gorgeous. I just couldn’t stand the characters. They were too brooding and needlessly “complicated” to endure.  I’m also not a huge fan of books set in prep academies. Maybe it’s because I can’t identify with the experience. Now that I’ve (in my opinion at least) matured a little, I have a new appreciation for the novel, but first, my annoyances with the book.

I have a particular pet peeve for Alaska, the girl, because she feeds into the stereotype that I see in many male-written stories. She’s the all too mysterious, unattainable, troubled, and gorgeous girl that the male protagonist pines for. She’s not real. She’s one-dimensional and a flimsy portrayal of a female character. It’s the same thing Green does in many of his books. He creates his female characters to be ideas instead of real people. I think this is dangerous because I’m not sure young readers understand the concept of the unreliable narrator. Just because the narrator views a person in a certain way doesn’t mean that is how they truly are. Green touches on this, but I worry readers won’t consider it enough.

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I DID like Miles’ fascination with biographies and famous people’s famous last words. I think it guides the book in a great artistic direction. I also think the story is a fantastic one for young adults. It’s not my favorite work by Green, but I think it’s worth a read for the narration’s pure gracefulness.

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Essentially: I did not personally find Looking for Alaska to be my cup of tea, but I think other people should try it because we don’t all like the same flavors of tea. Some of us like coffee or soda or just water so…  yeah…

To no one’s surprise, this book has been surrounded by controversy. To begin with, Green dared to write about anything other than teenagers behaving.  The sexually explicit scenes have been called “pornographic” and “disgusting” by concerned parents when teachers in Buffalo, New York taught the book.  Other parents have been angered over the smoking, drinking, and explicit language featured in the novel.

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Green’s defense:

“Some people say, ‘You wrote a dirty, dirty book.’ But there are very old-fashioned values and even a lot of religion in it,” Green said. “There are some adults who think that the only kind of ethics that matter are sexual ethics. So they miss everything else that is going on in the book.” Green also said, “The book has never been marketed to 12-year-olds. Never. It is packaged like an adult book; it doesn’t even say it’s published by a kids’ book imprint on the cover, and it’s never shelved in the children’s section of bookstores.”

Controversy even surrounded the book’s cover art. Learn about it here:

To best sum it up, I hand the microphone to Michael Cart, former president of the Young Adult Library Services Association and former chair of the Michael L. Printz committee who says in the publisher’s discussion guide:

“There is nothing (I repeat, NOTHING) gratuitous in this book. Everything in it serves to define character, give style to voice, and develop theme.” This probably describes 95% of all books banned for similar reasons.

My opinion as a future teacher:

  1. I HATE the entire (if sometimes necessary or required) practice of book permission slips. Why don’t I just send home a piece of paper that reads, “I’m going to teach a book that challenges ideas and conventions. Please sign below if you’re ok with your child reading a novel that will expand their horizons.” It’s like a red flag for Complainer Parents.
  2. I think this would be a great novel to teach to upperclassmen in high school. I think there could be fun, rich book discussions and essay topics and writing prompts. The only issue would obviously be if there were any controversy coming from parents or my school that would prevent me from doing so.
  3. It’s IMPORTANT to read books that are controversial/ have been banned. I mean, hello! If there’s something in a book people don’t want me to read, I WANT TO READ IT. The reason people have been oppressed since the beginning of time is lack of knowledge. The best way to keep control is to manipulate people’s minds and make them think like you do, which is exactly what book-banners want. I want my students to challenge everything they know because it may be the first or only chance they get.

If you’re interested in reading from the people who disagree with my stance on censorship:

http://www.safelibraries.org/pushers.htm

Let me know either in the comments or through email if you’ve read or taught Looking for Alaska in the classroom or if you agree or disagree with my review.

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children

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Yet another book that had been sitting on my To Read shelf, Mrs. Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children had me at the cover. I’m a huge horror movie fan and lover of the Tim Burton aesthetic so I was all game for this book.

 

The debut novel by American author Ransom Riggs (which, can we just agree is an awesome name) follows Jacob, a young boy, on his quest to discover truth within his grandfather’s fantastical stories about peculiar children that live in an orphanage in Europe.

 

I had low expectations for this novel because I always look for spooky books and get disappointed. It takes true delicacy to craft a story with a mixture of suspense, magic, and heart, but Riggs has done it. I adore this novel. The story is incredible because of its details and wonder. It reminds me of a mixture of Neil Gaiman’s Coraline and Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events (both of which I loved as a kid) and X-Men First Class.

 

Riggs is, by trade, a filmmaker, and his storytelling reflects that. Each description is done with such precision that it becomes a movie in your mind. The pacing in this novel is excellent. It was an easy read and a fast one because I could not wait to finish it and uncover the mystery along with the main character. Riggs also released a book about the methods and ideas of Sherlock Holmes, and I think some of that information has found a home in the pages of this novel because its mystery is so perfectly done.

 

Film rights were sold to 20th Century Fox, and Jane Goldman (Kick Ass, X-Men: First Class, The Woman in Black) is set to adapt it to film, and Tim Burton is set to direct it. (How perfect are these choices?!) According to IMDB.com, the film is set to release in 2015.

 

It has an unexpected element in that the author includes pictures of the home and the people in it that are real photographs from private collections. Riggs has creatively incorporated them as photographic evidence that the children exist, tailoring his story to match the pictures. Apparently, he was only going to assemble a picture book before someone advised him to craft a story to match the photos.  I wonder if the film will include these great pictures because they’re so memorable!

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Here is a great little book trailer that perfectly captures the novel’s beginning.

 

 

As it is of the mystery genre, I don’t want to give away too much about the plot because half the fun of reading is discovering wonders along with Jacob as you move back and forth between time and reality.

 

Quirky, charming, eerie, and moving, this novel is a must-read for the young and old. Scholastic recommends it for grades 6-8 which I think is appropriate given the level of reading difficulty and the content which is just adult enough to interest young readers but not so adult that they are traumatized forever.  I don’t know if I would teach this book in the classroom just because I’m not sure it’s as academic as it is entertaining, but I would be open to the possibility just because I think this is such an engaging book for middle school readers.

 

http://www.scholastic.com/teachers/book/miss-peregrines-home-peculiar-children

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The Book Thief by Marcus Zusak

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I’m ridiculously late to the game on this one. I’ve seen this book’s cover plastered everywhere for years and heard people (including my favorite English teachers) talk about it, but I never took the time to read it until it was required reading for my Young Adult Lit class.

The book has won the Printz award and has topped The New York Times best-seller list for seven years.

I finished it a few weeks ago, but I haven’t been able to put the experience into words. All I can say is that it has earned a permanent spot on My Favorite Books list. There aren’t even the right words, only feelings.

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Let me first say that, in my years of schooling, I have read MANY books about the Holocaust. MANY. I understand why, and I find the subject fascinating, but, at the same time, it can get tiresome. When I heard this book was about Germany in WWII, I was ready to be bored. What more could be said about the subject? What could be different? I’ve never read a story from the German perspective on WWII, and it’s incredibly humanizing.

Liesel Meminger, the main character, is not Jewish. She is an orphan who has lost her mother and brother and is shipped off to live in a foster home. I feared the worst for Liesel, as many foster home stories become horrific, but her new family is anything but. She lives outside Munich at the beginning of Hitler’s reign. Her new home on Hummel Street (German for “heaven”) and everyone she knows is changed by the Nazi regime.

Liesel copes with growing up and everything changing through the power of words. She begins to take books when she can, clinging to them as they serve for milestones in her life. Her foster father teaches her to read, and she shares this gift with her community during bombing raids as well as a Jewish man her family hides in their basement.

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There is so much to this story, but I don’t want to give everything away. Yes, it is unique in that it is told from the Germany perspective, but the most interesting aspect of the novel is that Death is the omniscient narrator. Yeah, the old grim reaper, though he claims he doesn’t carry a scythe or anything foolish like that.  Death is intrigued by Liesel and follows her throughout her life as he carries out his duties.

The way Zusak crafts this story is so beautiful. There are so many phrases in the book that must be read and enjoyed over and over again like a savory food. His stylistic and artistic choices are so different from anything I’ve ever read. You know the ending from the very beginning, and the beginning is divided into several prologues that are unexpected in a young adult novel because of their sophistication.

This novel is a great example of how young adult literature is not only for young adults. The profoundness of the story is something all ages can appreciate. You’ll fall in love with each character. I especially loved Liesel who is an incredible character because of her innocence and her love for words. Obviously, as a fellow bookworm, I appreciate this. She is also, like me, extremely close to her father and credits him for teaching her important tools for life.

Ultimately, I walked away from the book with this deep love for the story Zusak crafted. As a reader, you’ll find a kindred spirit in Liesel. Furthermore, Zusak’s words will stir a familiarity within you that is rare in other stories. There will be images from the novel both beautiful and horrifying that will be burned into your mind.

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Like my last post, The Book Thief was featured on Buzzfeed’s “14 Books to Read Before They Hit the Big Screen” http://www.buzzfeed.com/ariellecalderon/books-to-read-before-they-hit-the-big-screen. It will be interesting to see how they translate Death’s narration onto film. It’s set to release in January 2014 starring Sophie Nélisse and Geoffrey Rush.

Finally, I’m most excited about this book because I can’t wait to teach it in the classroom. I would love to discuss it with my students and study it academically because I believe it is a true piece of literature that will be relevant long after its popularity. I would love to have feedback if anyone has taught this novel in the classroom or had a book discussion.

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