Tag: 2012 BTMMLR Challenge

December "Books that made me Love Reading” Challenge part 2

Yes, I know it’s January.  I’ve been busy, between New Year’s activities and a kid home for Christmas break.  So pretend it’s still December, okay? :)

Part 2 of the challenge: Ann M Martin’s Babysitters’ Club.

What girl growing up in the 80’s and 90’s wasn’t familiar with these books? When parents needed a babysitter, they could call a group of middle school girls and easily get a sitter.  Entrepreneurship for kids, basically.  And of course, all the pre-teen drama you could ever want: boys, family issues, cat fights, fashion, etc. And don’t forget how you could always skip the first chapter, because it was the exact same background rehash in every single book.

I first started reading these books in probably second or third grade, when to be in eighth grade was to practically be an adult.  These girls rode the bus to the mall!  They wandered around New York City having adventures! They went on dates!

Looking back, as both an adult and a parent, shows just how silly and unrealistic these books are.  I would never let a junior high kid babysit my son, and he’s the most level-headed, danger-adverse kid I know (“No, Mom, I won’t climb up on the counter to get my own cereal; I could get hurt”); and in some of these books, sixth-graders are babysitting.  Eleven year olds are watching toddlers.  Nope, ain’t gonna happen.

And as for what the girls themselves do – would any parents let their small-town thirteen-year-old daughters wander the streets of New York City unsupervised? Would they let them dress in outfits that make them look five years older?  Would they let them loose to wander the streets of town with other people’s small children in tow? (Okay, yes, some parents probably do let their kids do all that. Those are bad parents.)  Maybe I’m just being a helicopter parents, or maybe times have changed – but I don’t see most parents giving these girls such massive leeway.

I guess it comes down to audience, though.  By the time a girl is in junior high, she’ll have moved on to Twilight and all the teen paranormal romance crap, and she won’t be interested in chaste, unrealistic babysitting adventures.  Girls in elementary school, however, will probably be like I was – too impressed with the adventures to worry about accuracy.

December "Books that made me Love Reading” Challenge part 1

I’m a bit behind on this.  I actually read these books in September and October, but then I took a temp job and just never got around to writing this post.  So, I’m going to cram five posts into the next few days, to get in all twelve entries for the year.

Up first: Beverly Hennen Van Hook’s Supergranny series.

Supergranny is a crime-fighting old lady, assisted by three neighbor children.  In the seven-book series, she starts out combating property theft (shrunken heads stolen from a local museum, pigs from a local farm and a riverboat), then moves on to kidnapping and extortion.  The stakes aren’t super high or violent (pointed guns and getting tied up, mostly), making it perfect for elementary-aged kids.

Each book is about 100 pages, also great for the target demographic.  The writing is clear, the characters are quirky, and the plots are just absurd enough to be fun and plausible.  Although the technology is dated (the first book was written in 1985), the stories are still enjoyable today.

What I like most about these books is that the author is from my hometown.  When I was in third grade, my teacher took me to the David R. Collins Children’s Literature Festival, a day-long conference with workshops and talks by local authors and artists.  Beverly Hennen Van Hook was one of the speakers.

While I enjoyed her books and hearing her speak, the lasting thing I took from the conference was that she was a real live writer, a flesh-and-blood person who was able to attain her writing goals while living in the same town as me.  I’d already decided at that age I wanted to be a writer, like Laura Ingalls Wilder, but I didn’t know anyone who wrote; it was an elusive, mysterious profession where ideas became books on library shelves.

But after meeting Ms. Van Hook, the writing profession became that much more tangible to me.

August "Books that made me Love Reading” Challenge

For August’s entry into Emlyn Chand’s “Books that made me Love Reading” Challenge (I skipped July due to a blogging hiatus), I picked up some Nancy Drew stories.

I remember getting my first Nancy Drew book in about third grade or so.  Like all characters older than me, she seemed so grown-up! She could drive, and solve crimes, and travel all over the world with just her best friends, George and Bess.  I quickly devoured the series, then moved onto the Hardy Brothers cross-overs.  I read the old stuff, from the 40’s.  I read the new stuff.  I read it all.

So for this month, I picked a random assortment from what the library branch had on hand.

First, because as a kid I had a bit of a crush on Frank Hardy, I read two of the new crossovers: Danger Overseas and Terror on Tour, both written in the last few years.  First, they were first person, jumping between Nancy, Joe, and Frank, something that didn’t happen in the ones I’d read as a kid.  It was disconcerting, especially as we’d get multiple perspectives of the same event; it hardly moved the plot forward.  Second, they were overly sanitized – noticing cute members of the opposite sex and wanting to hold their hands; not typical of older teens.

So, I took advantage of the interlibrary loan system and tracked down one I knew I’d read before: A Crime for Christmas, written in 1991.  This book was both accurate, in that all the teenagers had raging hormones, but inaccurate in that you wouldn’t let a bunch of teenagers, even if they’d already graduated from high school, have adventures like this.  “Sure, go to New York City at Christmas, with only your eighteen-year-old friend!”  “Sure, we’ll let two guys who haven’t even finished college be honorary police officers instead of young-looking undercover cops!”  Granted, I did a lot of stuff in high school I probably shouldn’t have (overground Greyhound bus to Cleveland with a sixteen-year-old friend is probably at the top of the list), but what Nancy and the Hardies do is a bit extreme.  No responsible adult would let them do any of this.

Finally, I tracked down a Nancy Drew novel I remember owning, #57: Trail of Lies.  Nancy and her friend George go to Alaska with Nancy’s dad, to visit an old friend.  Again, it was completely unrealistic – 18-yr-olds on the club scene, in the workplace, assisting the police – none of that would actually happen.

Overall, the writing itself wasn’t bad (which is understandable because they bring in ghost writers).  The stories were solid and not completely predictable.

However, I definitely prefer the older stories to the newer ones.  Nancy was a lot more realistic, at least with her feelings, in those.  I looked up the series online, and the ones I read originally were targeted at older kids, whereas the ones currently being written are for younger kids, which is why they tamp down the rampant hormones.  In my opinion, the stories lose a lot that way.  If Nancy is going to be asexual, make her a freshman in high school, not a high school grad.

So, if you’re looking for mysteries, go for the ones written in the 80’s and early 90’s.  The technology is dated, but they’re more realistic.

June "Books that made me Love Reading” Challenge

For June’s entry into Emlyn Chand’s “Books that made me Love Reading” Challenge, I reread Anne McCaffrey’s Harper Hall trilogy:  Dragonsong, Dragonsinger, and Dragondrums.

These books were my first introduction not only to McCaffrey’s dragon world Pern, but to fantasy (other than the Chronicles of Narnia).   I found Dragonsong at the library and devoured the trilogy, then other books in the series.

For those of you somehow not familiar with McCaffrey’s Dragonriders of Pern series, it’s, well, it’s a series about people who live on the planet Pern and ride dragons.  There’s this stuff, Thread, that falls from the sky and destroys every living thing it comes in contact with.  The original colonists genetically engineered fire lizards into fire-breathing dragons that telepathically team up with riders to fly around and destroy Thread, protecting the cave-dwelling people of the planet.  The society is loosely based on feudal Europe, and there’s lots of plotting and scheming and intrigue mixed into the books.

The Harper Hall trilogy unfortunately didn’t hold up as well as I’d remembered.  As a kid I should’ve read Dragonflight first, as that’s the first Pern book, and there are a lot of references to the world and other characters and events in the Harper Hall book.  I knew that then, and I noticed it again this time through.

Unfortunately, most of the books are like that.  For McCaffrey, it’s not so much the characters, or the plots, as the fact that she has her own world!  With its own cultures, and customs, and music, and traditions, and ways of life, and flora and fauna and names!

While there’s character development (Menolly in books 1 and 2, and Piemur in book 3), I had the distinct impression while reading that it was only to showcase her world.  Menolly, a girl, can’t become a harper because that’s a boy job.  But wait, she can because the world is changing!  Let’s travel the world and learn all about it while watching her grow.  Same with Piemur, who has to find a place for himself after his voice changes and he can’t be a singer.

One thing I will give McCaffrey credit for, however, is breaking the gender barrier for fantasy.  She was a successful author with dozens of books under her belt, and she wrote strong female characters (like Menolly).  Her influence is apparent in the work of many other fantasy and sci-fi writers, even if her books all kind of blend together.

May "Books that made me Love Reading” Challenge

For May’s entry into Emlyn Chand’s “Books that made me Love Reading” Challenge, I reread Kim Stanley Robinson’s Mars trilogy.

Like many children, I grew up exposed to a healthy dose of Star Trek – my mom was a fan of The Next Generation, then Deep Space Nine, and yes, I watched more than enough Voyager too.  While their science may have been less than accurate, what always threw me was how happy all the humans were.  Attack by Romulans? The Federation bands together to stop them.  Ferengi backstabbing and power-grabbing?  Humans are above that!

Until Enterprise, humans all got along.  They’d fight with aliens, but not each other.  And that is complete crap.

So when I found a copy of Green Mars (book 2) in high school, I devoured it.  And the other two books in the series, and the short stories in The Martians.

The trilogy is about Earth’s colonization of Mars.  Red Mars starts in 2026 when 100 scientists (the First Hundred, as they come to be known) and a stowaway travel to Mars to start a colony.  The trip gives us a taste of what’s to come – political posturing and fighting, diametrically opposed reasons for joining the expedition (political gain and power vs pure science), and tons of well-researched hardcore science.  The book culminates with Earth wresting away control of Mars from the colonists 35 years later, and who’s left of the First Hundred fleeing to hidden sanctuaries.

This book held up surprisingly well for something written in 1992.  While I don’t see Earthlings on Mars by 2026 (there were decades of planning that led up to this in the novel), it’s definitely feasible.  The technology mentioned is described accurately, and it isn’t that far-fetched (unlike magical “it works because we say it works” stuff in Star Trek).  And the politics are spot on.  In the novel companies have been increasing in power (Citizens United, anyone?) to the point where they’re outright buying and running governments, called “flags of convenience.”  Things get messy on Mars in reaction to things on Earth, and revolution is thwarted.  It’s very reminiscent (premoniscient?) of last year’s Arab Spring and the ongoing tensions in Syria, and to a smaller extent with the Occupy movement in the States.

The second book, Green Mars, doesn’t hold up quite as well science-wise – possibly because it’s further into the future and that stuff is hard to predict?  It’s still a fascinating read on politics and human nature, but the science becomes more and more advanced and not as plausible as the first book.  I’m not saying it won’t ever happen, but there’s more speculation, which I’m not huge on.  And I found it very funny that people in 2125 were sending faxes and using phone cords.

Book Two is about terraforming and the argument about what effect we should have on the environment.  As such, there’s an overload of geological terms and descriptions of the scenery.  I’m not a big description person so I tended to gloss over these paragraphs looking for plot.

The third book, Blue Mars, gets even funkier with the science.  It’s about taking control of our destiny and shaping our political and economic worlds so that everyone’s needs are met. Taken from a sociological standpoint, the book has a lot of merit and relevancy.

Overall, then, despite being 20 years old Kim Stanley Robinson’s Mars Trilogy has stood the test of time, especially for sci-fi.  The science remains accurate and plausible (a huge plus for me), and the characters’ interactions and motivations are messily spot-on.  Although not a quick read, these are something I intend to come back to again.

R is for Reading #atozchallenge

Day 18 of the Blogging from A to Z April challenge. Today’s topic: reading, and specifically my April “Books that made me Love Reading” Challenge blog post.

For April’s entry into Emlyn Chand’s “Books that made me Love Reading” Challenge, I reread Madeleine L’Engle’s Wrinkle in Time books (the first four).

I remember that I read those books, maybe in fifth or sixth grade.  I remember witches and a 2-dimensional dimension, and Noah and nephilim, and a regenerating starfish.  Other than that, I couldn’t tell you anything; plot and characters and overall summary drew a complete blank.

But I also remember that the fourth book inspired my first epic story, complete with map.

In sixth grade, we switched from a pure reading and grammar class, to a twice-a-week writing class.  Up until this point we’d written stories, of course, and poems, but never in their own class.  Unfortunately nothing has survived from this period other than memories, but I was super productive: a fan letter to Ann M. Martin (no relation), author of the Babysitters Club books; a crappy poem about baseball that won a school contest and was published in the local paper; and my epic, which was twelve pages, confused/bored the hell out of my classmates when I read it aloud, and was a pretty solid rip-off of Many Waters, complete with desert girl who may have had the same name as the MW girl and god-like lion (tribute also to The Chronicles of Narnia).

So, here are my impressions of the books:

  • A Wrinkle in Time:  book one, in which the Murray children travel to a distant planet to rescue their dad, a physicist studying time/space travel.  The characters were at times pretty simplistic and straightforward for a kids’ book (Calvin the boyfriend especially – he pretty much existed to just explain what was going on, and he accepted everything way too fast), but the message was pretty decent: when confronted by an evil communist super being, selfless love’ll save the day.
  • A Wind in the Door:  book two continued the message of selfless love, and this quote pretty much sums it up: “Love isn’t how you feel. It’s what you do.”  The MC, Meg, realizes that everyone has some good in them; it’s just a matter of finding it.  She travels with her boyfriend and her principal (huge implausibility issue with the principal, but whatever) into her brother’s mitochondrion.  Everyone ends up sacrificing themselves to save him, hitting home that message of selflessness.
  • A Swiftly Tilting Planet:  book three, which deals with time travel.  Urgh this one irritated me.  I’m of the school of thought that you can’t go back in time and change the past to change the future, but Madeleine doesn’t agree with me.  The story message was good, and the multigenerational plot line was very engaging (although there were a ton of confusingly-similar names), but you can’t change the past to change the future. That pushes you into a parallel universe.  Sorry.  (Tangentially, Futurama explored this pretty well.)
  • Many Waters: probably my favorite book of them all.  This one is completely different, and it tells the story of Noah and his daughter, with seraphim and nephilim thrown in for good measure.  As I said in a previous post, this is why I love history – the stories.  L’Engle does an awesome job of sticking to the biblical-ness of the details.  I wish she’d written this as an adult novel, because there are a ton of themes and subplots that could be explored.

Overall, despite not remembering these books they held up pretty well.  The science is still sound (except the time-travel bit).  The themes – our choices help in the battle of good vs. bad, selfless sacrifice, and love for everyone despite them being jerkfaces – are just as relevant now as they were when the books were written.

    March "Books that made me Love Reading” Challenge

    For March’s entry into Emlyn Chand’s “Books that made me Love Reading” Challenge, I reread some animal stories – Watership Down by Richard Adams and Salamandastron by Brian Jacques.

    Like many kids, I read The Chronicles of Narnia so many times that I still have them memorized.  And even as an adult, I periodically reread them.  Atheists and Christians alike love them. So I thought for this month’s selection, I’d focus on some personified animal stories that may be lesser known.

    First, Watership Down.  When I was in fourth grade, my family visited some childless family friends for Thanksgiving.  I’d just gotten a copy of Salamandastron, and when he saw me reading it, the guy lent me his copy of Watership Down because it was very similar.  This was the first time I remember getting a real book recommendation from someone – up until this point we’d read a book in class (Meet Kirsten and Meet Samantha of the American Girls franchise; The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe; Little House on the Prairie) and I’d followed up with the rest of the series.  But this was different.  This was a nonschool adult talking books with me.

    So I of course devoured it.  It’s similar to Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH, which I’d already read, but it was darker.  Bigger words and more elaborate prose.  Deeper themes.  This was an adult book, recommended to me by an adult.  And because of that, it’s held up over time.  All I remembered before rereading it was that it’s about rabbits forced to look for a new home, but the themes (themes I picked up on as a kid) are still timeless: loyalty and leadership, friendship and survival.  It’s definitely one I want my son to read when he’s a bit bigger.

    The next book I read this month, Salamandastron, had a huge impact on me.  It’s part of Jacques’ Redwall books – a series about forest animals that live at Redwall Abbey – and like all series I went on to read all the books.  But this one I think will always be my favorite for one reason: it’s the first book I remember reading where the good guys die – lots of good guys, and not always for noble reasons.

    There are several interrelated plots to the novel.  A couple stoats have deserted from Ferahgo Weasel’s army and seek food at Redwall Abbey.  Being stoats they’re incompetent, accidentally kill a friar, and take off with the abbey protector’s sword.  Samkin Squirrel and Arula Mole chase after them, eventually crossing paths with Mara Badger and Pikkle Hare, who’ve runaway from the mountain stronghold of Salamandastron and are seeking help from a tribe of shrews in breaking its seige by Farahgo’s army.  Meanwhile, plague hits the abbey and Thrugg Otter has to find a rare plant that’ll cure it before more animals die.

    And die they do.  Friars and sisters and innocent old squirrels die.  Just about every character who gets a name in Farahgo’s army dies, and usually casually or offhandedly before the story moves on.  Soldier hares die.  Shrews die.  Toads who’ve captured Mara and Pikkle die.  Attacking crows die by the dozens.  Mara’s adoptive father dies (spoiler alert there; sorry).

    In most children’s stories, death, especially in battle, is either glossed over, serves a meaningful purpose (usually self-sacrifice for the good of the team), or just doesn’t happen.  Not in the Redwall books, and for me this was extremely eye-opening.  Death happens, and I very much appreciated Brian Jacques not shying away from it.

    One thing that didn’t hold up, however, was the portrayal of good and evil.  There’s a distinct line in those books of who’s good and who’s bad, and it’s never crossed.  Squirrels, mice, badgers, rabbits, moles, otters, and robins are always good.  Rats, weasels, foxes, ferrets, toads, snakes, and crows are always bad. Occasionally one’ll try to switch sides, but it never works out.  Each animal is born into his fate, and despite his best – or worst – intentions will never be able to change that.

    The two messages – death happens no matter how good you are; bad people can never become good – are contradictory.  And while overall the themes in the book (which is a kids’ book, after all) are positive – teamwork, good overcomes bad, karma – it’s all overshadowed by the inability to see past a character’s physical qualities.  I think that’s a lesson that’s just as valuable, if not more so, for today’s youth.

    February "Books that made me Love Reading” Challenge

    For February’s entry into Emlyn Chand’s “Books that made me Love Reading” Challenge, I reread Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House books. 

    My third grade teacher loved these books and read us several of them in class.  I immediately fell in love with them, and the whole pioneer spirit thing.  In sixth grade I got the boxed set for a Christmas present, something I still have on my bookshelf today.  I read them all to the point that I still have them mostly memorized, despite the fact I probably haven’t picked them up since college (except maybe These Happy Golden Years; that’s my favorite).  At the least, I haven’t revisited them in a meaningful way.

    Overall, they held up pretty well.  Here are my thoughts on each one:

    • Little House in the Big Woods – This was always my least favorite one, and it still is.  The whole thing pretty much is descriptive narrative, with very little dialogue.  Mainly it’s just a bunch of vignettes about a year of Laura’s life, with very little character development of anyone.  (Also, just a little nitpick – I drove past Lake Pepin this summer, and it’s really not that big, or even a lake – just a wide spot along the Mississippi.  I guess maybe it seemed a lot bigger to a five year old who lived in the middle of the woods.)  However, it’s very impressive how self-sufficient they were.
    • Little House on the Prairie – Finally we get more plot.  There’s so much historical stuff happening in here, and irrational racism against the Indians, but it’s all filtered through the lens of a small girl.  Also, I’ve lived on the High Prairie (in North Dakota, not Kansas), so I could envision the scene very well.  That helped in reading the story this time around.
    • On the Banks of Plum Creek – These books are constantly evolving, and in this one Laura gets a personality.  She has her own thoughts and feelings, and she’s starting to butt heads with Ma.  Also in this book we’re bombarded by Pa’s optimism for the family.  Things didn’t work out in Kansas, but now they have the chance to earn a comfortable life: horses and buggy, salt pork everyday, silk dresses for Ma.  Even with weather setbacks, that hope for a better future shines through.
    • Farmer Boy – A break in Laura’s story, this one contrasts her childhood with her husband Almanzo’s.  And truth be told, I’d take Laura’s hand-to-mouth existence over his any day.  Almanzo doesn’t get a childhood; it’s work, work work.  Maybe it’s because Laura’s a girl, or because Almanzo’s father has such a big farm, but he rarely gets a moment to himself in between all his chores.  In his family, it’s not about being your own person or candidly expressing your thoughts; it’s about how much work you can do.  His family is pretty well off – they have a nice house, lots of land, always enough to eat, and money in the bank – but I’d take Laura’s laidback, value-you-as-a-person family in a heart beat.
    • By the Shores of Silver Lake – This book picks up four years after the last one left off, and even though it isn’t really discussed in detail you know life has hit the Ingalls family hard.  Mary’s blind; the family’s in debt due to poor crops; and unmentioned is the death of Laura’s little brother.  The optimism in the last book is gone; now it’s just about getting by.  Laura’s character grows even more in this book. Mary is pretty incapacitated, and with no sons, Laura must shoulder a lot of responsibility.  Typical for a teenage girl, she tries to find the balance between being herself, and being the dutiful daughter.
    • The Long Winter – This one was another of my least favorite.  And after surviving one of the top 10 snowiest winters on record in North Dakota, I’m going to have to call the BS card on this book.  Yes, there were quite a few days when you couldn’t see more than about fifteen feet in front of you due to the nasty snow, but it never got to the point where you couldn’t see your own hand in front of your face.  On the plus side, it’s nice to see Almanzo thrown in for the budding romance, since we as readers of course know how it ends.
    Routine January Sunday afternoon drive in North Dakota
    • Little Town on the Prairie – This one I think is best described as “tempered optimism.”  The Ingalls no longer talk about getting rich; now what they want is to have a warm, comfortable house; enough food to eat; and money to send Mary to a college for the blind.  We continue to expand the character development, especially with younger sister Carrie, but it’s obvious that these books were written 75 years ago for kids, as growing up is glossed over to show happy, obedient children.
    • These Happy Golden Years – This one has always been my favorite.  Laura is just about an adult, and she’s cluing into the fact that no one else knows what they’re doing either.  She teaches school even though she doesn’t really want to; realizes Ma hates sewing but does it anyway; and gets herself a boyfriend although she’s pretty ambivalent about leaving home to get married.  On rereading this one, the romance part disappointed me.  Maybe it’s that dated/kids’ book glossing over, but there’s no real sense of falling in love, or being in love, on Laura’s part.  She loves Almanzo’s horses, and she loves the prairie, and she hates Nellie Olesen, but when it comes to her future husband all we get is that after he proposes, she realizes she misses not seeing him.  Maybe it was that this part of her life, like the loss of her baby brother, was too special to share with the world?
    • The First Four Years – Rereading this, I was surprised to find it was a lot better than I remembered.  Yes, it’s rough compared to the other ones, and short – more descriptive narrative than anything else.  But there’s a lot thrown in there that shows us Laura’s character better than any of the other books.  And maybe Almanzo’s dad was right to work hard and save, as Laura and Almanzo accumulate more and more debt, usually because of lack of impulse control.

    As I said above, the Little House books are as good now as when I read them 20+ years ago.  I’m getting things out of them now – themes and character development – that I didn’t notice then, but that just makes me look forward to reading them again in another 20 years and seeing what I find then.

      January "Books that made me Love Reading” Challenge

      For January’s entry into Emlyn Chand’s “Books that made me Love Reading” Challenge, I read a couple of Louis Sachar’s Wayside booksSideways Stories From Wayside School and Wayside School Is Falling Down.

      I started the challenge pretty late into January, and I wasn’t sure what I’d have time to read before the end of the month.  I was browsing at the library yesterday, looking for books for my kid, and I saw these two.  I had copies of them growing up, and I read them each at least a dozen times.

      I remembered that they were funny, and that there were quirky oddball characters:  the almost-passably normal teacher; the lovable recess guy; the 19th floor that doesn’t exist; the girl who loved dead rats more than people because at least dead rats wouldn’t hurt her emotionally.  Most of all, I remembered that I liked them.

      And in rereading them, I wasn’t disappointed.  If anything, they’re funnier this time around because they’re just so off-the-wall absurd!  Many of the chapters left me giggling at the characters’ antics and dialogue.  Summaries of the book say there are supernatural aspects, but I’d go so far as to say it’s magical realism for kids.  Start your third graders on this, and they’ll be loving Gabriel García Márquez when they encounter him in high school.

      The best thing about these books, however, was the reaction I received when sharing them with my students.  I held up the book and one of my students immediately recognized it.  “I read those all the time when I was a kid.  I loved them!” said a boy who professes to now hate reading (interestingly enough, this is the second time I’ve gotten him talking about the joys of reading and books in my class; I loaned him Brent Runyon’s The Burn Journals and he devoured it).  A girl in another class was equally glad to see Louis Sachar’s stories surfacing in the classroom.

      I read them “Chapter 4: Homework” from Wayside School Is Falling Down, a short story about distractions in the classroom.  The teacher, Mrs. Jewls, is trying to teach a lesson on fractions when Mac has a comment.

      “I couldn’t find one of my socks this morning,” said Mac. “Man, I looked everywhere! In my closet, in the bathroom, in the kitchen, but I just couldn’t find it! I asked my mother, but she hadn’t seen it either.”

      “That’s very interesting, Mac,” Mrs. Jewls said patiently, “but what does that have to do with decimals?”

      “Because,” said Mac, “I could only find half of my socks!”

      “Oh. Right,” said Mrs. Jewls. “Does anybody else have any questions about decimals? Yes, John?”

      “Did you look under the bed?” asked John.

      And so it goes; the entire class is more interested in socks than the lesson.  I think any teacher, and any student, can relate to this.  My students certainly could.  Many chuckled while I read the story – not an accomplishment to take lightly when it comes to story time for unmotivated high schoolers.  And then while we were discussing the story and its similarity to our class, they managed to turn the class discussion to fried chicken and football.

      I think we might need to have storytime more often.

      The 2012 “Books that made me Love Reading” Challenge

      Blogger and writer Emlyn Chand is hosting the 2012 “Books that made me Love Reading” Challenge.  Basically, each month you read something you loved as a kid, or that got you hooked on reading, write a review of it, and link to her blog.  Prizes abound.

      I’ve already written a bit about why I love to read and how my tastes have evolved, so as asked I’ll focus this instead on what I plan to reread this year:

      • The Chronicles of Narnia.  I’ll read this in the original order, of course, and possibly with my kid. I usually just read one or two of them (The Voyage of the “Dawn Treader” and The Silver Chair), but for the challenge I’ll read all of them again.
      • Little House on the Prairie.  Taken as a whole, of course.  Little Town on the Prairie and These Happy Golden Years are my favorite.  On one of my many trips from North Dakota to Iowa I discovered I’m not too far from Pepin, Wisconsin, or Burr Oak, Iowa, so I might have to make some random roadtrips to her historical sites this summer.
      • The Giver.  One of my students read this for a class last semester, and in discussing it I realized it’d been many years and many dystopias since I’d read it.  I’m interested to see how it compares to my memories.
      • Redwall.  Not sure which one I’ll pick, probably several.  I loved them when I was a kid, around 3rd-4th grade.  Salamandastron is staring at me as I write this.
      • The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov. I didn’t read this until college, when I got hooked on Russian writers from the late 19th and early 20th centuries, but it’s my favorite book and it’s been a year or two since I’ve read it, so I’m due.
      • Christopher Pike books.  Why not?

       What books made you love reading?

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