Archive for August, 2010

A Squick Too Much

August 31st, 2010

Scott Westerfeld loves language. Read Bogus to Bubbly and you’ll see how much effort he puts into creating worlds. I found myself saying “nausea-making” in conversation and realized I had read too much about Tally Youngblood.

I’m reading Behemoth right now and it’s a good follow-up to Leviathan. What I’m noticing, though, is his repeated use of lingo from the time period. In reading a blog post of his about using wordle to judge word choice, I caught on to how I overuse words like “just” or “walked” in my own writing (and offenses from an author whose name rhymes with “Ames Atterson”).

That’s why I’m surprised to see squick, Dummkopf, and barking spiders show up on almost every other page. I’m no Clanker expert, but I’m sure steampunkers have other ways to say words. In Uglies, it was a set of syntax rules. Here, it’s more a short list of vocab words. It doesn’t take too much away from my reading enjoyment, but, as I’m working on a writing project with its own grammar rules, I’m trying to learn for my own nausea-making world-creating.

Teaching Symbolism Using Mockingjay

August 30th, 2010

When I was a Language Arts teacher, I would always look for examples from life of symbolism to help students connect the concept to reality. Things like a heart representing love or a red light representing the idea of stopping translate well.

Where it got tough was connecting it to literature. Sure, we understand a peace sign, but what about a character carrying an olive branch? Sometimes it’s like we’re stretching too much (and it seems like that because, frankly, sometimes we English teachers find symbols everywhere…even if the author didn’t intend them).

Mockingjay (and the whole Hunger Games series) has symbolism all over the place. I want to focus specifically on the mockingjay. It’s a bird that the rebels used in their fight against the Capitol before the first book starts. Throughout the story arc we see the mockingjay show up when freedom is discussed.

But what I think is the really cool spin that Suzanne Collins does is to label Katniss as the mockingjay (most characters call her that at least once). She is now the symbol of freedom for those oppressed by Panem. What makes it work is that Katniss struggles with freedom. She is in constant rebellion and many characters are able to point out that her individualism has swung so far that it is considered a character flaw. She isn’t completely free, though. Throughout she is described as the girl on fire (another symbol) who will fly away, but she doesn’t feel like she has the wings to do it (she even voices her concern for a lack of wings).

Her fight for freedom, not just from Panem but in the larger “transition to adulthood” freedom, is what causes every other plot point. She is a flawed mockingjay figuring out how to fly (cue the Foo Fighters song).

I think that many students will be familiar with the Hunger Games series after a while and that the series will provide a great example for symbolism that they can connect to.

Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins

August 27th, 2010

Usually I give some plot points in my reviews but I will deviate from that for Mockingjay. I also try to recommend books for librarians to put on their shelves and this is a no-brainer, so we’ll get that recommendation out of the way.

What I will say is that Mockingjay is dark. Kat has always struggled with the isolation of life in a very tangible way. I love that, even though she may fight it, there are people who are willing to do the right thing to help her out. Yet, the sacrifices that have been made and will need to be made for peace compound in the final book of the trilogy, leaving her trying to figure stuff out on her own.

I’m intrigued to hear more reactions from students about the differences in this book from the other two. There’s no more glamor of the Capitol. There’s no “good guy group, bad guy group”. There’s war.

Mockingjay is a good end to the trilogy, maintaining the themes of the fragility of life and the lingering consequences of choices made. Both concepts were building in the first two books and, when added to Collins’ skillful characterization, we have a lot of emotions riding on the ending.

I enjoyed it. It met my expectations. I’m trying to think which one of the trilogy is my favorite.

Oh, yeah, and Kat ends up with… just kidding. No spoilers here.

ALA Teen Top Ten

August 25th, 2010

You can vote for your favorite teen books here. Show your support for your favorite authors and get ideas for other books to read.

I have Mockingjay

August 24th, 2010

I’d tell you more but I want to read.

Lies by Michael Grant

August 18th, 2010

Lies is the third book in the Gone series. (Check out my thoughts on Gone and Hunger to catch you up to speed.)

The whole series has so many characters already (sometimes I get confused who is Brittney and who is Brianna), but usually Sam is the main focus. In this one, he pulls a Superman and retreats in angst and leaves everyone else to pick up the pieces. We finally start to see Astrid and Albert step up as leaders. The council takes action, but who gives those kids the authority? Great stuff that earns the series the comparison to Lord of the Flies.

The only thing that drives me nuts is the grammar. Usually I’m not too big of a language snob, but some of the sentences run on into ambiguity. I’m still trying to figure out if he does this to match the style of the character or if they’re legitimate errors. Not a big deal, but it’s noticeable.

The action is still there and doesn’t become tired. Grant finds new ways for the kids of Perdido beach to use their powers. A theme that we’ve seen in other novels is humans vs. mutants, freaks vs. normals. It’s done well in Lies and is a logical progression of the chaos.

Like always, the countdown is appreciated and adds to the tension. Lies is definitely a continuation of a series and doesn’t resolve too much, but it’s still an enjoyable read.

Oregon Trail Online

August 17th, 2010

I’m helping a Social Studies teacher with her westward expansion lesson and we found Westward Trail, which looks very, very similar to the old Apple IIgs game we played when we were in elementary school.

You can find the game by clicking here. May your oxen be healthy and your axles unbreakable.

Side note: the original Oregon Trail is now on the Nintendo DS and on the iPhone and they are both worth checking out.

Filtering out the leading zeroes in patron accounts

August 16th, 2010

We use Follett’s Destiny for our library management system. For the longest time student ID cards would not work when I scanned them because our district’s student information system added zeroes as padding at the beginning of ID numbers. Scan the card and Destiny would return an error because it doesn’t like zeroes. (Don’t ask me why – maybe a clique of zeroes told nasty rumors about Destiny in elementary school.)

Handscanners can be programmed by scanning specific barcodes. If you have a Honeywell handscanner, try scanning the following barcode if you’re having issues with leading zeroes:
the barcode in the attached Word document. Some browsers render the barcode all pixelly. Click here for the Word document. Print that and then scan away.

Your scanner should now filter out the leading zeroes.

You never know what you’ll do in Photoshop each day.

August 13th, 2010

Here’s today’s example, a project for our maintenance staff:

I love the font.


August 11th, 2010

A friend of mine uses FirstGiving to organize fundraising events for HopeKids. I’m wondering if our school could use it for raising money for ALS research/treatments, like what we did with our staff fashion show.