Sunday, January 31, 2010

AMERICAN ON PURPOSE - Craig Ferguson

I recently heard a segment on NPR with Ferguson which was very entertaining and witty. I thought my high school boys would be interested in this book maybe for one of their required nonfiction choices for class. So, I ordered it for my school collection and just finished it. Not that I read every book I buy, of course I don't, but this one I knew wouldn't take very long to read and I was interested in his story. I did enjoy the read but... I am still pondering whether I can put it in my school collection. It is very raw at times and the drinking, drug use, and swearing is beyond what I feel is acceptable for young people. Sometimes it is still permissible if there is a message or some form of remorse is presented but I don't really feel that from him so I am holding off on putting it in.

I would recommend it to any adult that is interested and the greatest parts are probably his political views and for sure the chapter about meeting president Bush and vice president Cheaney. I found it very interesting that on NPR he indicated that he feels he is a true American but wonders if he will go back to Scotland when he retires because they have better health care, mmmmmm.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

MONSTROUS REGIMENT - Terry Pratchett

Adams Central HS students read Monstrous Regiment - Terry Pratchett

At Adams Central High School we have an extra-curricular reading-for-fun group. We meet once a month during a period of the school day set aside for clubs or study time. Some of the kids are reading this book that is one of many set in an alternate universe called Discworld. In this world humans co-exist with all kinds of magical beings. The main character of MR is a young girl who impersonates a boy to join the military. First she has to practice walking like a boy to take up more space, farting and nose picking etc. and soon learns the trick of using socks in her pants to seem more masculine. Her regiment consists of many other "young men" and also a troll, a zombie, and at least one vampire. They are on their way to the front of a war that their country has been involved in so long that not everyone remembers what they are fighting about. Polly/Oliver soon learns that the war is being lost but those at home have no idea. Pratchett uses his funny discworld stories to discuss all kinds of subjects both political and social. We are having a lot of fun with this title and some of the kids have moved on to reading Wee Free Men by Pratchett. Discussion is in two weeks so I will give an update after that. 



2/12 Discussion was today
A little disappointing that only two kids made it to discussion. There have been a lot of extenuating circumstances such as bad weather this week causing us to miss school, and illness so I knew group might be small today. However, we had a great time.  Both of my readers today were young women whom I will call "S" and "SB" they both enjoyed this book. S enjoyed the theme of females doing well in the military and SB pointed out that while reading she was reminded of Joan of Arc. Both girls enjoyed thinking about the references to problems in the real world today such as Corporal Strappi not wanting to let Igor enlist because he is a troll and Seargent Jackrum sternly telling him the rule is "Don't ask, don't tell...enlist him!" (pg. 27), and when thinking about their wars (pg. 224) Vimes says, "...they fought because they had always fought. They made war, in fact, because the sun came up" which they felt referrs to some people today. S particularly liked the way Pratchett explained the thought processes of the characters by the inclusion of footnotes - and especially that of the pigeons. We were all surprised by the end and I hope my students will enjoy other Pratchett books.

Friday, January 29, 2010

THE SECRET OF LOST THINGS - Sheridan Hay

Rebecca read The Secret of Lost Things - Sheridan Hay (twice)

This strange book by Sheridan Hay is a wonderful read. Yes, I read it twice, once for myself and once with my Adams Central Adult Literati group. Again several people I know didn't like it! Oh my, I must be insane but I loved it. After I confess that I bought it for the beautiful cover art, I will say that as I read it I wanted to be Rosemary. I wish that I could have been the kind of young girl that could walk into a bookstore and tell the manager, "I must work here," and walk away with the job! 

Set in the early 70s, at 18 Rosemary fulfills her childhood dream of going to NYC (from her home in Tasmania). She is spunky yet naive and a delightful character. Most of the book takes place in a bookstore called The Arcade which is a thinly disguised representation of The Strand in NYC. The plot line involves unusual and colorful characters who all work in The Arcade, and a missing Melville manuscript. My friend Paula and I both read it right before we took a trip to NYC. It was so much fun to examine the Strand while imagining the scenes that had taken place in the store. We traveled the elevator up so we could get a whiff of the glue in the rare book room, figured out where the restroom was that the manuscript got lost in, and went to the basement looking for the stool in the poetry section. 

There is even a picture gallery in the Strand of long ago scenes of the store enabling Paula and me to well imagine near-blind albino Geist hovering among the stacks, the beautiful Oscar leaving open poetry books about, Mr. Mitchel expounding on the value of books, or Bruno tossing out the occasional shoplifter. There is infatuation, mystery, and great character development in this book. We had a great discussion at book group and about half there really appreciated it while the rest thought it was just OK. I must say though that most of my high school students don't stick with it. 

I am wondering what most who have read it think - was there a real manuscript or was it a ruse to extort money from Geist all along, and was Oscar in on the crime from the beginning?

Thursday, January 28, 2010

GLASS CASTLE - Jeanette Walls

Jay Co. Public Library book group, AC Adult Literati and AC HS Student Literati read Glass Castle

I have read it twice now and found it totally engrossing. Both of the adult groups I attend read this selection earlier, while my student group read it just recently. As far as I could tell all of us liked delving into the eccentricities of the Wall parents and following the four extremely intelligent children into adulthood. 

Ms Walls hooked me specifically into reading it when she was on Oprah upon the book's publication. Her desire was to explain her parents lifestyle choice to live on the street. Ms Walls had kept it a secret for many years and wished to "come out" so to speak, to divest herself of her guilt for not owning her background, but also to free herself from the fear that her friends and colleagues would find out and somehow judge her. The book follows Jeanette and her family through their very difficult childhood. It is a moving and fascinating story of a dysfunctional family who still finds joy in life and love for each other. It is a survivor story and if nothing else makes one think about judging and stereotyping.

The Adams Central Adult Literati in Monroe, Indiana read this book a few years ago. For the most part we all enjoyed it greatly. Perhaps since the AC group is mostly teachers and professionals who work with the public we have experienced enough eccentricity to be able to see beyond that to the worth of persons who are not "typical." I don't know, but we laughed and had a great time discussing it. When it turned up on a reading list for high school, a handful of my student Literati members read it. To my disappointment none of them raved about it or wanted to go into detail discussing too much. Perhaps they aren't mature enough to want to understand the psychology, it but I expect that of kids sometimes. 


Recently the Jay County Public Library reading group read it and only a few of us liked it! Several of this group got so upset with the dysfunction of the family that they claimed to not be able to like them or identify with them. There were some who claimed to get depressed reading the story and found it quite unpleasant. I was taken by surprise, and am just wondering if possibly it has something to do with the life experiences or the sophistication of the reader? Oh well...