Monday, December 23, 2013

It's Monday! What are You Reading? December 23rd

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Winter Break is a wonderful time for me to find some introvert time and do some significant reading.  So far, I've read two YA books since Thursday: Ender's Game and Lunch-Box Dreams.

I really enjoyed Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card. Several of my students recommended this book highly to me and I finally got around to it. It's one of the best YA science fiction books I've read and I hope to read more like it so I can help build a Sci/Fi section in my classroom that does not have to start with Dune.  In this book, the survival of the human race hinges on Ender, a young boy we first meet at age six, who is a potentially gifted military leader.  The humans are fighting against the "buggers," an insectizoid alien life form that have invaded the solar system a couple of times already.  The plot follows Ender through his military training. He struggles with being obviously different, being much younger than the other cadets, who are also children, and being obviously separated out by the military leaders.  He deals with bullies, friends, loneliness, his own inner demons, and not wanting to be a puppet of the adults.  Through it all, he shows himself to be a creative and exemplary leader.  One subplot involves his siblings back one Earth.  His brother is a gifted but scary child the reader expects to become some sort of serial killer.  His sister is brilliant and especially good at influencing people with words and writing.  This book deals not only with the struggles of gifted children in tough times, but is also a nice introduction into political influence.  While some are focused on the bugger war, others are positioning politically and militarily for after the war and humans don't need to be allied together against a common enemy.  I agree with my students and highly recommend this book!

Lunch-Box Dream by Tony Abbott follows three story lines through the South in 1959. A white family from Cleveland is on a road trip to Florida, seeing Civil War battlefields along the way.  A black family in Atlanta sends their nine year old boy to visit family in the country for the summer.  Each chapter is told from different character's perspectives and that makes this book a  little challenging, despite it's shortness and lower reading level.  This book poignantly shows racism both overtly and its more subtle institutionalized ways.  The white family is not a typical racist Southern family, but their fear of the "chocolates" and various comments they make mean they probably don't actually know any African-Americans personally.  The black family deals their fears of the actions of their lively, quick-witted, but ignorant boy. Acting "right" around white people is just part of their lives and is a clear sign of the times they are living in.  Overall, I found the story in this book hard to follow, although each scene was told well.  Since it's relatively short, it's a worthy read to glimpse race issues in an very personal and emotional way, but I did not get into this book like most I read.  It would be a good pairing with The Lions of Little Rock or perhaps Roll of Thunder Hear my Cry.

Up next are The Thing About Luck and Everybody Loves the Ants.

Merry Christmas to those who celebrate it, Happy New Year to everyone and I hope you have some time for family and reading over the next couple of weeks!

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Morning Shave - Slice of Life December 17

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My middle school class has been sharing the books we've read throughout the year on the class blog.  The past few weeks we have been sharing poetry on our blogs.  This week, we started writing and sharing Slices of Life!  It has been wonderful to see them writing and sharing and I'm excited as we move forward as a reading a writing community!

Morning Shave
The bathroom door opens and Clara squints into the bright light.  Her hand reaches up and lowers the lights with the dimmer switch to just above dark. “It hurts my eyes Dada,” she states.    

Towel around my waist, condensation on the mirror, and the cold bedroom air seeping through the open door, I usher Clara in as we continue a ritual that is becoming familiar to both of us.

First, I close the door to save some of the heat from my shower and keep the light out of my wife’s eyes as she dozes in bed.  Clara climbs up on the toilet seat and searches through the cabinet for my shaving cream.  I surreptitiously brighten the lights a few lumens and ask her about her dreams.

I go through the motions of getting shaving cream put on my face and the razor out.  We both wonder how blue gel becomes white once it’s rubbed on my face.  After the first swipe, Clara wants to test how smooth my faces is, her finger gliding along the strip of skin devoid of shaving cream and whiskers on my right cheek.  I crank the lights up a little more and continue shaving. 

Like most men, I have a pattern to how I shave my face.  Clara knows it well enough to tell me where I should shave next and be mostly correct.  Once I’m done, she directs me where I need to wash the remnants of the shaving cream off my face, usually around each ear and under my nose. 

Once I pass her careful inspection, we steel ourselves for the colder air on the other side of the door and go to her room to choose clothes for the day.  This task can be the start of the typical child/parent struggles that lead to frustration, tears, timeouts (for both parties), being late, and continual conflict throughout the day.  But whether it is an easy day or one of the difficult ones, the morning shave is always familiar, cozy and smooth.