Finally got my hands on a copy of Mockingjay. For those not in the know, Mockingjay is the third in a dystopian trilogy for teens. I’ve been waiting for this book for ages, but only just now got a copy to read since I was too cheap to pre-order it.
While I waited I read every teen dystopian novel I could find. Birthmarked by Caragh O’Brien was very engaging, but I didn’t feel like the world completely gelled for me. Matched by Allison Condie, however, was spot on. The dystopian world was well drawn and believable. There is less action than Hunger Games, but I think that many teens (and probably some adults) who were fascinated by the future world Katniss lives in will love Matched.
At the MEMO conference, I attended a session led by three middle and high school librarians about teen fiction. They recommended Maze Runner and its sequel as Hunger Games readalikes. I liked that they recommended two adult novels in the science fiction section: Margaret Atwood’s newest and The Unit by Nina Holmquist. I hope to read both of them. I also have an ARC of the teen novel Water Wars (pub date Jan 2011) sitting on my desk waiting for me to read.
At breakfast with a group of my friends last weekend, the conversation turned to books. Dystopian novels, specifically Fahrenheit 451 and 1984, came up as being favorites of several of us at the table. What is it about these books that fascinate so many people? Are we looking for similarities to our world? Or escaping our reality to something we can’t imagine? I guess it depends on the person and the book. Either way, it’s a highly readable genre that is perennially popular.
What if every day brought personal challenges that everyone around you grasped easily? You lag further behind. You feel anxious, self conscious almost constantly. Imagine years of this. This was Samantha Abeel’s life for thirteen years. For thirteen years, she had no idea what was wrong with her. Why she couldn’t grasp the seemingly simple mathematical concepts that her classmates picked up comparatively easily. By the time she was diagnosed with dyscalculia, she was years behind and suffering from daily anxiety induced stomach-aches.
I had never heard of dyscalculia until I was assigned to review Robert Cimera’s Learning Disabilities: What Are They? for Library Journal a few years ago. I was surprised to learn that dyslexia had a mathematical counterpart, and Cimera’s book was full of valuable information for parents and teachers about ways to help kids with learning disabilities be successful. I learned a lot, but My Thirteenth Winter made it all real.
Samantha’s story takes us from the beginning of her education through college. We are there for the frustration of trying to learn what just won’t make sense to her and also for the elation of finding her identity in writing and poetry. We also see the loneliness of college life and the overwhelming academic hurdles. Throughout it all, she had support, and she comes to accept herself as she is without allowing her disability to hold her back.
I highly recommend this slim memoir to anyone with an LD or those who work with those who do. In addition to being an inspiring story, this is also an inside look at special education. Teachers who want another perspective will want to start here. And perhaps move on, as I did, to Short Bus: A Journey Beyond Normal by Jonathan Mooney, in which a man who grew up in special ed with various labels attached to his file explores his and others’ lives outside the mainstream. I’d been interested in this book since it first came out. I actually wrote a blurb about it for the catalog of the company for which I used to work. But I didn’t around to reading it until recently.
This memoir is about more than just Jonathan’s life or even the lives of the people he visits. It’s a real exploration of identity. The labels we take on and the ones we have imposed on us. He starts with learning disabilities, but he talks to a girl who is deaf-blind, another who has Down Syndrome. He even talks to a FtM transgendered individual. It’s a fascinating story that would make a great discussion starter for teens or adults.
There is no better way to get to know a publishing season than to present at a conference about the newest in children’s books. As a result of my part of a presentation about summer and fall titles that tie in with K-8 curriculum at the MEMO conference two Fridays ago, I feel like I have a pretty good feel for the science and math titles recently released. A few themes I noticed:
Perspective. How much do animals eat?Just how big are they?How am I different from them? There were several great books that compare animals to each other or to humans to put it all into perspective for kids. The best of these, by far, is Steve Jenkins’ newest: Bones. As I pointed out in my presentation, this book could be used in a science class (obviously) but also in a math class to discuss scale. Plus, it’s just great to browse.
Seeds and Plants. I feel like last season had an emphasis on agriculture, and these titles were still trickling in this season. I included Who Will Plant a Tree? and Seed, Soil, Sun in my presentation. The latter having local interest here in Minnesota since the author is from Wisconsin and the photographer lives in the Twin Cities. There were a couple of other titles on this topic that didn’t quite make it in the presentation.
The hardest part of the presentation was choosing the books. By which I mean, cutting down the massive list of books the three of us had initially chosen. Forty-five minutes seems like a good amount of time, but it is only about a hundred books. We, of course, could talk about books all day. In all those books, though, there were still some blank spots in my spreadsheet. I could have used more math books at the 3-5 level. I would also have loved to include a few books about human anatomy or nutrition. And where were all the space/astronomy books? I’ll be looking for them next season.
I had been blogging at Propernoun.net since 2005 or so, and I loved it. I’m not sure I ever had too many readers, but I really enjoyed it nonetheless. Until this past year. Life got really busy, and the blog began to feel like a chore rather than a fun hobby it had been for so long. So when a technical glitch gave me the excuse I needed to put it on the back burner, I must admit I was relieved.
I kept telling myself I would fix it. For months I would plan to sit down and reinstall, so I could get back to blogging. Only when I finally got around to it (nearly nine months later?), it was gone. Years of blogging gone.
I could be mad about it, but I’ve decided to focus on the future. I’m making things simpler, and focusing on what I used to love the most: just writing. I’m also hoping to change things up a little bit. The blogs I like to read the most are the ones that put things in context. They bring the subject alive. I don’t want to just post book reviews. I want to get to the next level.