Tag Archives: Grad School

Summer Book List

I have a YA Lit summer class that requires me to read 15 books in 4 weeks… Yes, I said 15 books in 4 weeks. We got a list of categories and options and my tentative selections are as follows:

Contemporary Adult Fiction:
handmaids

The Handmaid’s Tale – Margaret Atwood

Contemporary Adolescent Fiction:

feedgraveyardbook

Feed – M. T. Anderson

The Graveyard Book – Neil Gaiman

“Classic” Adolescent Fiction:

diary

The Diary of A Young Girl – Anne Frank

Multicultural Adolescent Literature:

absolutelytruemonster

 
The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian
– Sherman Alexie

Monster – Walter Dean Myers

Non-Fiction:

hitleryouth

Hitler Youth: Growing up in Hitler’s Shadow – Susan Campbell Bartoletti

Fiction with Themes of Gender & Sexual Identity:

passengers

Ask the Passengers – A. S. King

Graphic Texts:

maus mausII

Maus I & II – Art Spiegelman

Genre Fiction:

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Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children – Ransom Riggs

Books in a Series:

lotr

The Lord of the Rings Series – J. R. R. Tolkien

Your Choice:

sweetsleepinggiantsSleeping Giants – Sylvain Neuvel

SWEET – Emmy Laybourne

I got the list of options and got started immediately. Sleeping Giants & SWEET are already checked off the list! A few of these are re-reads, and I’m really excited about all of them!

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My READ Poster & Toon Teasers

I made a READ Poster for a class project and it is amazing. No, I’m not a celebrity. No, there aren’t any people who really know me who don’t know that The Hobbit is my favorite book. No, this post isn’t necessary. And yet… here it is.

Background image credit to theimaginativeconservative.org

Background image credit to theimaginativeconservative.org

 

I’d also like to take this moment to feature my handmade Toon Teasers for the Maggie Stiefvater books I recently reviewed. If you’ve read them, you’ll understand. If not, they’ll serve their purposes. No spoilers, no worries.

Grace obsesses over a wolf-boy; the weather warms up and they kiss a lot; she desperately wants him to not change back.

Grace obsesses over a wolf-boy; the weather warms up and they kiss a lot; she desperately wants him not to change back.

 

Rich boys commingle; one Raven boy likes Blue; aaaah, dead person.

Rich boys commingle; one Raven boy likes Blue; aaaah, dead person.

 

Horses emerge from the sea; undead carnivorous horses scare locals; girl decides to enter man's race.

Horses emerge from the sea; undead carnivorous horses scare locals; girl decides to enter man’s race.

 

Original reviews here: Shiver, The Raven Boys, and The Scorpio Races

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L: Review of Kazuo Ishiguro’s “Never Let Me Go”

We’ve been learning a valuable lesson in my Education classes about asking “So what?” when composing lessons and that was the question I kept asking myself all the way through Kazuo Ishiguro’s novel, Never Let Me Go. So what???

Click here for Goodreads

Click here for Goodreads

I’ll let Goodreads give you a general synopsis:

As children, Kathy, Ruth, and Tommy were students at Hailsham, an exclusive boarding school secluded in the English countryside. It was a place of mercurial cliques and mysterious rules where teachers were constantly reminding their charges of how special they were. Now, years later, Kathy is a young woman. Ruth and Tommy have reentered her life, and for the first time she is beginning to look back at their shared past and understand just what it is that makes them special–and how that gift will shape the rest of their time together.

For a number of reasons, I definitely didn’t enjoy reading this novel. First of all, I think it’s clear by now that I’m not into books that are all about feelings but, as a future teacher of middle and high school kids, I’m taking great strides to get over that. What irked me about Never Let Me Go was that it kept prompting me to ask, “So what?” and failed to answer that question until the last chapter of the book. About 275 pages of the book are the memories of Kathy, just relaying the events of her childhood with her classmates. The occasional, subtle hints of something being different about these students was the only thing that indicated that the story was building towards anything, and I continued reading hoping that clarification would eventually be given. Every 50 pages or so, readers would gain insight as to how the students were unique, but it would be nonchalantly thrown in among feelings and childish drama.

Finding meaning in this text was like looking for a needle in a haystack. Oh, it’s in there! We had a lovely class discussion about our idea of the meaning of the text, but we had to sift through a lot of hay before we found anything resembling a needle. I will concede to the fact that this novel had meaning; it forces readers to think about life and freedom in a unique way, and I appreciate the reminder that we need to be thankful for those things, which is often easy to forget. However, I found the characters, events, and overall storyline to be unlikable and could’ve easily reached the same moral ending under entirely different circumstances and possibly even enjoyed myself. As it was, however, I regret buying the book.

Another one bites the dust. Better luck next time.

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Class Assignment: Middle School Observations

On Tuesday, I lived out just about everyone’s worst nightmare: I went back to middle school. I was tasked with following the class schedule of a typical 7th grade student at a local middle school in order to put myself into the shoes of today’s student (the very same students, in terms of age, that I hope to one day teach) and get a better understanding of a typical school day from their perspective. I’m extremely glad that I went into this task knowing that this was my purpose, because that completely altered the way I viewed each class period and each teacher, not with the intent to learn something from the teachers (in terms of lessons or practices), but to learn from the kids (in terms of what works and what absolutely does not).

Let me first say that I was exhausted after that day, and my observations hardly even qualify as active participation throughout the day. I cannot give enough credit to those teachers for doing this job, day after day. But I will say that it was very clear which teachers had been… affected by the job, and it was in those same classrooms that the students were little tiny, talkative, distracted, disrespectful monsters. I went to 7 class periods and can honestly say that the kids I shadowed were only willfully engaged in two of them. The first was P.E. and they seemed to enjoy getting away from the lectures and getting to play outside with their friends for a while. Whereas Orchestra class had crept by with the students regularly checking the clock on the wall while some were allowed just to choose not to participate in the activities, P.E. seemed to pass far too quickly. They didn’t want to go inside, because they were having fun participating.

However, the only content class that engaged the students was, luckily for me, English. The teacher was everything I hope to exemplify one day; she was stern enough that they got quiet when she asked and never talked when she was talking but she was personable enough that they still felt like they could participate, sometimes in fun or funny ways.

Nothing speaks to angsty teens like teen angst. Click here for Goodreads

Nothing speaks to angsty teens like teen angst. Click here for Goodreads

They were reading After Ever After by Jordan Sonnenblick and each student’s nose was buried in a copy of the book while an audio version was played aloud. They were engaged with the assignment and with one another in a way that I hadn’t seen for the other 6 hours that day. This wasn’t about playing or talking with friends, like in P.E.; this was a solitary act of reading that each student wanted to do, not because the teacher assigned it (although, Mrs. H. probably could’ve gotten them to do anything), but because they liked the book and wanted to know what happened next. They didn’t want to put the books down when their chapters were completed and I actually heard a few groans as they returned to homeroom for the final bell. When they were actively participating and engaged in the classroom activity, they enjoyed themselves, learned the intended lesson, and were unhappy when it was over. This was a huge juxtaposition to the same kids running out of their Life Science class as though the room was on fire.

I don’t think it’s a surprise to anyone that time flies when you’re having fun and it’s wonderful to see that such is also the case when you’re learning. I learned a lot from this experience; not only is there something about me and/or my appearance that 7th grade females consider to be unbelievably hilarious (I can only assume that they saw through my professional exterior and could detect my jovial spirit, which apparently brought them immense joy), but I now know that with the right teacher, the right disciplinary measures and attitude, and the right classroom activities, kids who are otherwise bored and disinterested in education can be engaged in a way that helps them to see enjoyment in learning and reading. I think I’m closer to knowing what those “right” things are after my middle school repeat. I must say, though, I hope I don’t have to do that again.

Let me just comment that this was utterly enlightening in terms of understanding what is expected of middle grades students and why, I think, it is generally unreasonable. I’m in my late twenties and have received “higher education” and life experience so, by all accounts, I should be better equipped to maintain focus for longer periods of time than I was 15 years ago. However, I wasn’t any more focused than the students I shadowed all day, and I, personally, considered the “constant lectures, constant focus, constant good behavior, constant engagement, minuscule break for lunch and then right back to it, for 8 hours, five days a week, plus homework” expectancy to be not only unattainable, but practically torture! The people making the decisions about what is required of today’s students would do well to go back to 7th grade for a day. We’re asking a lot of these kids and, honestly, it’s no wonder that they can’t focus for a 50 minute lecture, 7 times a day, five days a week. I hope I can remember this in the future when a rowdy student gets on my last nerve, and hopefully I’ll learn plenty of ways that I can harness that energy, or adapt my lessons to suit the needs of these kids.

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L: Review of Emily St. John Mandel’s “Station Eleven”

I had lots of nightmares last night.

Yesterday was my day off and, consequently, I spent the day reading Emily St. John Mandel’s novel, Station Eleven. Right now, you might be jumping to the conclusion that I disliked the book, what with the nightmares and such. Au contraire, mon frere. I had nightmares because the subject matter is just a tad intense and I have a serious problem with projection. Thus, if I spend the entire day reading about a twenty-something, knife-wielding, Shakespeare-loving girl who survives a horrific disease that wipes out 99% of the Earth’s population, you can bet your bottom dollar that I will be said heroine in my dreams but, unfortunately, even in my dreams, I’m a total spazz and can’t survive the apocalypse.

Click Here for Goodreads Description

Click Here for Goodreads Description

Mandel’s novel is a quick read; it’s one of those books that could easily be consumed in one day, and likely will be, since once you start reading it, you’ll be hard-pressed to get yourself to put it down for some waste of time, like sleep or nourishment. As mentioned earlier, most of the book happens from the perspective of Kirsten, who is one of the “lucky” few who somehow avoids catching the Georgian Flu. I put “lucky” in quotation marks because the book masterfully makes readers wonder whether it would be best to survive only to face conditions we find unfathomable here in 2015 or to just die with the rest of the world. At one point, there is a list of things that no longer exist in the post-civilization world and, while at first it seemed obvious and unnecessary, the list kept going and going, listing things we rarely even remember to be thankful for, and to such an extent that readers are forced to face the magnitude of the situation at hand and the unbelievability of such a life.

Much of the novel focuses on Arthur Leander, an actor who bookends our experience of the catastrophe and is dissected throughout the novel; I read Arthur as a representation of the majority of readers: a well-intentioned but self-absorbed member of the 21st century who misses the end of civilization but, by existing before the end and contributing to the lives of others, remains an ongoing part of the new world. Kirsten is motivated by her desire to find more to life than mere survival, and is forced to defend herself and her friends (and the rest of the world’s remaining inhabitants) from the tyranny of those who seek to force their beliefs on others, as well as control and manipulate in order to serve their needs and desires.

This book can easily fit in the the “YA” category, so I attempted to read it not just for pleasure, but also with a perspective of potentially teaching it to students one day. It’s interesting to see how many lessons can be learned, and taught, with this book: the obvious critiques of technology dependence, our fascination with celebrities, and overzealous religious cult mindsets; our lack of appreciation for the many overlook-able blessings of the modern world; finding joy in literature and art can bring light in dark times; life is too short to do anything but that which you love. I’m excited to see what my future students get out of it and how I can use current books like Station Eleven to grab the interest of a larger number of students!

I’d love to know what everyone else thinks and don’t forget to read Hannah’s review if you want to know what both Shrews think!

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Class Assignment – Characters I’d Date

The very fist assignment of my very first Graduate class is a two-parter: first, create a blog (Done! Finally, Untamed Shrews comes in handy) and then post a response to a lit-related question hand-picked by Dr. Kajder. My task was to name ten characters with whom I’d go on a date! Judge ye not any of my decisions; many of my suitors will be considered obvious choices while the others may seem questionable due to ALLEGEDLY being hard-core murderers. It’s 2015, people. We all come with baggage.

Aragorn_King_Wide

Photo from imagozone.com

1. Aragorn from J. R. R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings series. Let me be clear that listing only one of the many datable men in the LOTR trilogy is happening out of sheer willpower and the desire for interest and diversity. Big shout outs to Eomer and Faramir, whom I would totally be dating on the side. I imagine King Elessar and I would sip mead under the somewhat sparse shade of the White Tree of Gondor with Pippin singing in the background.

hp2. Harry Potter from J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter books, because who among us could turn down a date with the boy who lived? We’d obviously enjoy Butterbeers while blindly trying Bertie Bott’s Every Flavor Beans obtained from Honeydukes.

3. Amos Burton from James S. A. Corey’s Expanse series. Amos is an avocado of a person, with a rough and unappealing exterior but hearty goodness inside. Amos and I would drink bulbs of coffee on the spaceship Rocinante while watching the stars and floating in null gravity.

4. Jon Snow from George R. R. Martian’s A Song of Ice and Fire series. Jon’s the brooding type so we’d take Ghost for a silent walk along the top of The Wall until I couldn’t take it and totally spilled the beans on the conspiracy theory about his parentage.

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Photo from businessinsider.com

5. Mark Watney from Andy Weir’s The Martian. Mark survived the impossible, so I’d pretty much just sit and feel totally out of my league while he regaled me with stories over a dinner of anything but potatoes.

Elijah Wood plays Jonathan is

Photo from filmweb.pl

6. Jonathan Safran Foer (the character) from Jonathan Safran Foer’s (the author) Everything is Illuminated. Jonathan is super into his history and heritage so we’d take in a museum on Jewish history and I’d try to be way more intellectual and sensitive than I am.

7. Colonel Brandon from Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility. True to the appropriateness of the times, Colonel Brandon would call on the ladies of the Coleman house and, after nibbling scones and casually mentioning my many good qualities, we would jump to the conclusion that he would be proposing in like a week.

8. Quincey Morris from Bram Stoker’s Dracula. Again, in lieu of the era, Quincey would propose marriage after being around me maybe a handful of times, I would hastily accept due to his wealth, and we’d ride off into the Transylvanian sunset, guns blazing, on his big, American horse.

Photo from doctormacro.com

9. Frankenstein’s monster from Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. He’s clearly my most intelligent bachelor, so we’d sit in a cave in the side of his mountaintop lair, contemplating the meaning of life and the cruelty and ignorance of that butthole, Dr. F. Then I’d quickly realize we weren’t compatible and I’d help him whip up a suitable companion for his South American travels.

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Photo from en.wikipedia.org

10. Dexter from Jeff Lindsay’s Dexter series. Dexter is a busy murderer, I mean man, so we’d pencil in a lunch date, I’d ignore the blood on his collar while he talked about forensics, and I’d leave hoping for another date, blissfully ignorant of the body in his trunk.

Go right ahead, bring out bachelor number one!

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