Why a good book is a secret door

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Author: Rachel Mollenbernd

Blog 7: YA Novel

Blog 7: YA Novel

I greatly resonated with the discussion of reading preferences. It can be really difficult to pick out what book to read next that you think you’d enjoy. It can be even more difficult to pinpoint what it even was that you liked about books you’ve enjoyed in the past. You could distinguish it by author, genre, or topic, but I think that by always focusing on just one of these aspects could really narrow down your options and hinder the growth of moving into others. I like that there was a discussion about what the students like to read and why they liked to read it. I like even more that they were also asked what they don’t like to read and why. I find that that can be much more useful in recommending books, especially based off of their explanation. I think there’s a lot of bias towards certain topics and genres based off of one book that’s been read under that category. But the reality is, not every book is exactly like that one you’ve based your opinion off of. I think this is important to discuss about in a future classroom and will keep this in mind when recommending books to others and as well as recommendations for myself.

I’ve personally always struggled with the question, “What do you like to read?” I currently have a small bookshelf packed with books that I’ve read over the years and have a difficult time narrowing down these genres or topics. I can certainly group them together based on common themes, but that was never why I chose them or began to read them. The only thing I can say for sure is that my mother, little sister, and a few friends have have influenced my decision on what I should read next. Only a very few recommendations of books that I have borrowed from others have been quickly returned to these people. Most of the time, I end up buying the book myself and the rest of the books if it’s in a series. I’ve also broken my bias towards vampires with 2 book series about vampires on my bookshelf as evidence. Also, my initial absolute insistence on only liking to read fictional fantasy books has deteriorated with books that are still fictional, but much more realistic in its story. So, I think that by just giving other types of books a chance, you could lead yourself into the option of much more paths that branch off into all sorts of topics of interest.

Finn O’Sullivan is a main character in “Bone Gap.” He has dark eyes, brown hair, and is fairly tall. Just not as tall as his older brother. He’s considered very good looking and is even described as looking like a famous actor by one of the popular girls from school, much to his best friend’s Miguel’s obvious resentment. Finn lives in the small town of Bone Gap, Illinois where everyone knows everyone. He has many nicknames that others call him mostly out of endearment. He likes to taunt and tease Miguel and another man he’s close to, Charlie Valentine. But he also does so towards the Rude brothers under unfriendly circumstances that mostly ends up in a fist fight. He gives special attention to his love interest, Priscilla “Petey” Willis and used to towards Roza, who is now missing. Which caused him and his brother, Sean, to not be on much of a communication basis. Although he knows all of these people, he seems to occasionally prefer talking to the animals on the farm and spending time alone outside. Trying to avoid the whisperings from the corn field. He’s very conscious of his actions and how it would affect others, but he still occasionally does some reckless things. He also hardly seems to be mentally present around others or fails to make eye contact, thus his nicknames of Spaceman, Moonface, and Sidetrack.

“Finn shrugged. It was odd to be sitting on a million-dollar horse, talking to Priscilla Willis in the middle of the night, but then it was a relief to be talking to someone besides the cat.”

Even though he’s most often a loner, he still wants/likes to connect with others. He doesn’t hate people. He just prefers not to be around a lot of them that are gossiping and judging others.

I can’t decide if I like the book or not. I think it’s the mysticism sprinkled throughout the realism of the book. It doesn’t seem to mesh very well for me. But the book is primarily realistic, so I find it tolerable. What I mostly enjoy about it is the mystery of what in the world happened to the missing Roza. Her story is told in about every other chapter along with Finn’s and a few other residents of Bone Gap. I’ve always loved stories with alternating character narratives, so that also makes the reading more enjoyable for me! But, I don’t really think that I would recommend it to anyone that I know. I think I need to finish the book for there to be a definitive decision for that. I hope knowing the outcome of the story makes it completely worth reading it!

Blog 6: Graphic Novels

Blog 6: Graphic Novels

Drego Little promotes the usefulness of reading graphic novels and comics in his article titled, “Can the X-men Make You Smarter.” He reflects on his own experience of reading comics as well as introducing his son to this genre and what he’s noticed. His son was having trouble moving on from short picture books to short novels and was concerned that he wouldn’t continue to love reading or have interest in finishing a longer book. He found in “the Read Aloud Handbook,” by Jim Trelase, “that comics are good “bridges” because the language was just as complex as that in regular books but comics broke the text up into manageable bite-size chunks.” Using comics/graphic novels can be a useful transition for those struggling to get through fairly lengthy books. He argues that encouraging comics could even bring down the levels of illiteracy. I could definitely see the implementation of graphic novels being useful for children who are intimidated by the seemingly never ending flow of words in short novels. Even if they never make it to a love of reading the short novels, they are still reading a large amount of text that use fairly big words and often involves context of educational value such as the mythology found in “Thor” and the science or astronomy found in “X-men.” He includes a few recommended graphic novels including one that I would actually be interested in reading myself called, “The Cartoon History of The Universe” by Larry Gonick. And I could see it being a very useful resource while learning history in a classroom and perhaps even make history more inviting to learn about.

I decided to read “El Deafo” by Cece Bell for our graphic novel unit and I’m very glad that I did. As the title indicates, it’s about a girl who becomes deaf. It’s actually a true story about the author who became deaf when she was only four years old due to meningitis. The story follows Cece’s experience being a deaf kid in a regular elementary school and her self-consciousness about being different from everyone else. She realizes that her super powered hearing aid actually gave her some sort of special power since she can hear her teacher anywhere outside of the classroom while at school. It’s from this that she re-invents herself as a secret superhero called El Deafo and it helps her in many ways to embrace who she is.

The panels are neatly placed next to each other, separating moments that help move the timing and the events of the story along. Without it, it would be pretty hard to understand one moment from the next and what is trying to be shown.

The word balloons indicate either thought or speech and who it’s coming from. Without it, you still get a pretty good idea about what’s happening from the art, but you know nothing about the characters personality.

The sound effects help emphasize the sound like a loud sound in big, bold letters saying FLUSH. I don’t exactly find it essential, but it’s definitely more interesting than a narration saying that they heard a loud flush. It helps you to “hear” the sound easier.

Motion lines was especially helpful when the story begins to have ASL and you can tell how they’re moving their hands for sign language. Without it, you wouldn’t always know who a character is looking at or what direction they’re going in or what they’re doing.

When there’s narration, it’s written in a yellow box in the top of the panel to give context about what’s happening or setting the scene. Without it, you wouldn’t know that it’s a new day or what they’re doing in the change of scene. It gives more context without adding more art and panels to explain it.

The background is either where they are or a color that contrasts from the white gutters when the panel is more focused on the character speaking/thinking. You know where they are and know when to just focus on the characters.

I find all of these essential to the story in order to understand it and also to make it more interesting for readers. These are all basically components that are found in short novels, but it’s not all described and conversed through text. Really, you could turn any short novel into a graphic novel using these elements and still have it tell the same story.

Brown Girl Dreaming Lesson

Brown Girl Dreaming Lesson

Jacqueline Woodson’s Brown Girl Dreaming is a collection of poems about different people, places and experiences in her life. Most titles of her poems are different, but the title “how to listen” appears throughout the book consisting of three lines each numbering all the way up to #10. “how to listen #1,” on page 20. It says:

“Somewhere in my brain

each laugh, tear and lullaby

becomes memory”

Think of poem examples in the book where Woodson talks about a certain day, outing, time at home, etc. One example could be “lullaby” on page 58. What details does she provide? Why do you think it’s important to her and what role it played/plays in her life? How does it contribute to her story?

Now, write about one of your memories. It can be sad, or it can be funny, or it can be soothing to remember. Any kind of memory that sticks out to you! Use Woodson’s way with words as a guide, but write it down in any format you like on a page or less. Include a picture/pictures on the other side, if you like, to help aid or tell your memory.

This can be done as an activity sequence using each “how to listen” poem in her book as a prompt. Like Jacqueline does in the book, these pages can eventually be stapled together to make a book that they can give a title to in the end.

Intended grade level: 6th grade

Common Core Standard: CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RL.6.5: Analyze how a particular sentence, chapter, scene, or stanza fits into the overall structure of a text and contributes to the development of the theme, setting, or plot.

I can imagine this being at the beginning of the school year because I think if it’s done as an activity sequence, it could really help the students grow in their writing and show them different ways to get the ideas used in writing including from reading other writings.

They will need the book Brown Girl Dreaming, possibly some strips of different colored sticky notes to mark pages in the book, a pencil, 10 pages of paper if doing the activity sequence and photos of family, friends, places, objects, etc.

I hope that students will learn that much of their writing is influenced by who they are and there’s a number of contributions that compose their lives. If they draw from these many elements, they should be able to write without a problem and be able to better relate to the books/authors they’re reading.

Free Yourself with Verse

Free Yourself with Verse

I chose Brown Girl Dreaming for my free verse book. This was the only genre I wasn’t exactly looking forward to, but this book is so beautifully written by Jacqueline Woodson that I quickly regretted that thought. I got really excited because I recognized the poem “a girl named jack” early in the book that Professor Kittle had showed us in his class that I really liked. And that liking for her poems continues and grows with each page of her book! Sometimes the form can get a little distracting, but I find that it makes me linger on the word a little longer and the next line packs a heavier punch because of it. It also allows me to create more of an image of whatever Woodson’s describing. This book can be used in a classroom when learning about the history of how African Americans fought for their equal rights and the gradual change that came about throughout the North and South because of it.

so much depends


the position of the glowing


over the colors of bloomed


held by a lady with a white