So, so, so cool

Out of the box from Vitamins on Vimeo.

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I love preordering books because when they arrive at my house it is like a surprise present that I bought for myself. On Tuesday of this week John Green’s new book, The Fault in Our Stars, arrived. So far I’m loving it (but should I really expect anything less from Green – he is awesome).

Also, the book trailer is pretty cool.

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These are cool…

…and they make me want to travel and take lots of pictures.

One Week In Japan from Mike Matas on Vimeo.

Morocco & Spain from Mike Matas on Vimeo.

Journey Across India from Mike Matas on Vimeo.

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Newly Updated and Revised

Earlier this year I finished listening to the audiobook of Ironman by Chris Crutcher. Last summer I feel in love with Crutcher’s books. I devoured Deadline, Angry Management, and Staying Fat for Sarah Byrnes. Last year I used Staying Fat as a lit circle choice in my classroom and had students move on to other of Crutcher’s books after having such a positive experience with Staying Fat.

The point of my rambling love fest for the authoring genius of Chris Crutcher is that he has a lot of books, and not just a lot of books, he has a lot of books that students really like. This is a very good thing. It is great to see a student read a book and then immediately go look for another book by the same author. Authors like Crutcher help me get students hooked on reading, making it easier to help a kid move up their reading ladder to more challenging texts.

Because Crutcher has so many books it, makes sense that he has been writing for a long time. Ironman is one of his earlier books, and it is noticeable. It is not that his writing style lacks maturity, that the plot and characters are sophomoric, or any other condemning phrase used by book reviewers the world round. Ironman is dated. There is mention of a Walkman and cassette tapes and cell phones are noticeably absent from the character’s lives, among other small details. Knowing that the book was written over a decade ago explains away these concerns. However, that knowledge does not provide an answer to the question, “Will students be able to connect with the book?”

We all know that students need to be able to connect to what they are reading in order to have a meaningful reading experience. Will they be able to connect to students who are supposedly their peers, yet live in a world completely different from their own? This brings me to the question that inspired this post, “Should authors update their novels to keep them relevant to young (or really any) readers?” I want a student who is a fan of Chris Crutcher to read every book by Crutcher that is available, then I will give them books by Carl Deuker, Matt de la Pena, Walter Dean Myers, Sherman Alexie, I could go on and on and on. What I don’t want to happen is for a student to get stuck on a Crutcher book that is dated and subsequently stop reading.

I may be selling my students short. Maybe they can look beyond the differences between their lives and the lives of a high school student in the mid-90s. Or maybe, I need to make sure my students know their right to give up on a book that they don’t like.

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Level Up

I have been in the middle of a few books for quite some time (my GoodReads “to read” bookshelf can attest to this). I am stuck on the last 100 pages of Lauren Oliver’s Delirium – I am too far in to the book to give up on it, yet I can’t find the motivation to finish. I just want to know what happens so that I can move on.

I started State of Wonder, Ann Patchett’s new book before school started. I was so excited for this book as I loved, loved, loved Bel Canto. I have only read the first few pages, so it is not fair to make a judgement on the book, but I am having trouble jumping in to the plot. I think I need to have faith in Ms. Patchett and give the book a good go when I have a large chunk of time to devote to it.

I have also been reading some professional development books, mostly on PLCs. Although today I got Cris Tovani’s new book, So What do They Really Know? I am excited to read this as I have found Tovani’s other books interesting and useful – the best combination in professional development.

With all of these books in my currently reading pile, I have begun to feel frustrated with not finishing one. Today that changed. I stopped by the library on my way home knowing that there was something there for me (I am constantly requesting and never know what I am going to get). Among the two books and two CDs that I got was Level Up by Gene Luen Yang. I loved American Born Chinese, so I was excited for this book, and it did not disappoint.

Dennis is a young man who wants to play video games despite his parents admonition that he must study so that he can grow up and be successful. Haunted by the expectations of his parents, his father in particular, Dennis enrolls in medical school. Thinking that he is destined to be a gastroenterologist, Dennis is constantly forced in to situations that create adverse reactions. Dennis must face his fears or his parents in order to move forward with his life.

Level Up was not as enjoyable as American Born Chinese (is it fair to compare the two?), but this might be because I thought that the two were very similar and American Born Chinese did it better. Though Level Up did not focus on race, it did put an emphasis on the difference between the dreams of two generations.

Level Up was an enjoyable, quick read. It was nice to move a book so quickly from to be read, to reading, to read. And, today was the perfect fall day to curl up on the couch with a blanket and a good book.

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Organize the Bookcase

I love this video. It is so very creative – and they list all (or at least start to) of the books on the bookshelf at the end of the video.

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Summer Reading Part 2

I have come nowhere close to meeting my goal of reading a book a day this summer, but I have been reading every single day. I have also been updating my 2011 list of books read, but I have not posted a blog in a while. It is late (not really, but I want to spend some time reading before bed) so in lieu of writing out lengthy reviews of all the books that I have read I will simply list them. This seems easier.

  • Twenty Boy Summer – Sarah Ockler
  • Sing You Home – Jodi Picoult
  • Room – Emma Donoghue
  • Rx – Tracy Lynn
  • Naomi and Ely’s No Kiss List – David Levithan and Rachel Cohen
  • Forever – Maggie Stiefvater
  • In the Garden of Beasts – Erik Larson
  • The Line – Teri Hall
  • Ghosts of War – Ryan Smithson
  • Fixing Delilah – Sarah Ockler
  • The Imperfectionists – Tom Rachman
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