Thursday, May 31, 2012

Outlander Read-A-Long Participation Post

I've wanted to participate in another read-a-long for some time (my last being Northanger Abbey). And I've wanted to read Outlander by Diana Gabaldon for some time. Now's my chance to do both! I started Outlander long ago and read about 50 pages (where she time travels) before returning the book to the library. Since then, I've picked up the first two books in the series from the library's discard shelf. So, I'm ready to read!

Sign up at The Reading House Wives if you'd like to participate. The read-a-long runs June 11th to July 23rd and I'll be posting, as instructed, every Monday about the book.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Review: Toning the Sweep by Angela Johnson

I am surprised I liked this book. Toning the Sweep is a non-plot driven story. Not a whole lot happens. It focuses more on character development and relationships than the rising action/climax/ resolution of a traditional story arch. Yet, I loved the characters. They felt real. Johnson presents common ground between reader and character which made it easy to empathize which, in my opinion, is one of the most important reasons to read -- to learn about people and see ourselves in their shoes for a moment.

Emmie has always enjoyed visiting her grandmother Ola in the California desert. But, when Emmie and her mother visit Ola now, they know it is for the last time. Ola has cancer and they have come to pack Ola's things and say goodbye. It is a soul-searching experience for Emmie (14) who strives to understand her care-free grandmother and her care-worn mother.

What could have been a sad and depressing story turned out to be an uplifting read. Reading Toning the Sweep felt like watching an incredibly pivotal moment in a family's life on T.V. -- like I was given an insightful snapshot. Emmie documents her grandma's life with a video camera and so the reader sees much of the story through Emmie's camera lens -- a perspective that I enjoyed and worked well in revealing Emmie's concerns.

Ola is a great character. Her eccentric behavior is a testament to her independent spirit but also her flawed character. Has Ola run away to the desert to hide from the past? Her strength carved out a great life there but at a cost to her daughter's well being. Emmie pieces these things together, uncovering more about her mother and grandmother's relationship, as she helps pack Ola's household, sorting the "keep", "donate" and "throw aways" of a lifetime.

David is Emmie's friend who she sees when visiting Ola. One of the few males in the story, David's character is important. He is exploring his Native American past, embracing it as a part of who he is, and helps Emmie think about her African American heritage.

No character in this story is superfluous. Each character adds something important in showing Emmie who her family is and who she is. For a little book, Toning the Sweep packs a big punch. It is a touching story about how life's tragedies effect people so deeply and how people can touch others deeply as well. It is about family and about inter-generational relationships between women. Johnson's writing blended metaphor and symbolism seamlessly, enhancing but never detracting from the story. This book counts towards the POC Reading Challenge!

Publisher: Scholastic, 1994     Pages: 112
Rating: 4 Stars     Source: borrowed from my teacher     

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Review: I Am Different: Can You Find Me? by Manjula Padmanabhan

I Am Different explores sixteen languages giving kids a glimpse into the many languages spoken in North America. Each spread features one language, giving a pronunciation guide and examples of familiar words which originated from the language. The book tells in which direction the script is read. There is an accompanying puzzle for each language in which the reader must identify what is different from everything else in the picture.

It was fun to try the different languages according to the pronunciation guide. I read the Mandarin aloud to my Chinese classmates and they had a good chuckle at my effort before correcting me. I can imagine kids enjoying the puzzle aspect. The pictures are colorful and the icons in the puzzles taken from the language's culture. For instance, the puzzle accompanying Hebrew uses the Star of David. A celebration of diversity, I Am Different will likely be enjoyed by elementary students reading with others as they speak the languages aloud and solve the puzzles together. This book counts towards the POC Reading Challenge.

Publisher: Charlesbridge Pub, 2011.     Pages: 36
Rating: 3.5 Stars     Source: Public Library

Monday, May 7, 2012

Blog Hop: Intro to Summer Reading

This week's Book Blogger Hop questions is: " What are the next five books in your TBR (to-be-read) pile?" I like this question a lot since I'm nearly graduated and am looking forward to reading anything and everything I want! I just picked up some books from the library and a used bookshop today. I'm currently reading North and South but have several books lined up for when I finish.

These are my "Into to Summer Reading" books. 
  1. Deadlocked by Charlaine Harris. The newest book in the Sookie Stackhouse mystery series. Put myself on the hold list months ago and just got it today. =)
  2. Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin. I've already begun this epic fantasy on my Kindle (about 33% through it) but set it aside in favor of N&S. It's good, though, and I'll get back to it.
  3.  Dead End in Norvelt by Jack Gantos. The 2012 Newbery Medal winner! 
  4. Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail by Cheryl Strayed. Thought some nonfiction would be a good idea.
  5. No Country for Old Men by Cormac McCarthy. Saw the movie and loved it. Read two other McCarthy books and liked them. I've read the first 20 pages and know this is a keeper. 
Regular readers may notice I've listed several adult titles. I often review children's and YA titles here (especially as I've taken courses on these types of literature recently) and will continue to do so. However, The Prairie Library has always been an eclectic mix and my summer reading will reflect that. My TBR pile is huge. I could keep listing what I hope to read "next." One page at a time, right? 

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Musings of a Grad Student: Degree Completion Near

I attended my last Library and Information Science (LIS) class yesterday and by this time next week I will have submitted my final paper and therefore completed my master’s degree!

Last month I posted only once -- an all time low -- but I was busy doing the following:

Mid April I completed the poster presentation that is required for graduation. Posters are used by professionals (especially librarians) to showcase their work/research to the public. One’s research topic must grow out of a class assignment. My first semester I wrote about video games in libraries and read what practicing librarians had to say on the subject. The third semester I discovered academics like James Gee and Henry Jenkins who’ve written about video games and literacy. Out of these experiences grew my poster project. I continued to research video games on my own.

During the poster defense we were given 2 minutes to make a formal speech about our research while standing with our posters, next to fellow students and in front of the faculty (about 7 if I remember correctly) . After each student in the group spoke (we were in groups of 6), the faculty questioned each of us for 10ish minutes. Afterwards, the session was open to the public for an hour.

Preparing for the poster presentation was nerve-racking. Getting my abstract approved was suspenseful. Preparing my poster (distilling months of research into a small space with bullet points is tricky) and getting it printed was sweat inducing. Crafting my two minute speech was gut twisting. The actual presentation was tons of fun. Sure, I sweat through my three layers of deodorant. But I was READY and talking to the faculty and the public who attended was enjoyable.

Yesterday I gave a presentation/ submitted a project and I’ve already turned in one final paper. So, what’s left? I’m working on analyzing picture books used for storytimes. Albeit, I have a small sample, I’m interested in seeing what types of books are used with preschoolers, toddlers and babies during storytimes. I'm especially looking for multicultural themes but am looking at genre and types of books used (like ABC books or counting books). This project/paper is due next week...and then I’m done!

Now, it’s job hunting time!