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review 2017-04-12 20:37
Magdalene, by Marie Howe [poetry]
Magdalene: Poems - Marie Howe

I began reading Marie Howe when I was an undergrad taking my first poetry workshops. At first, I wasn't sure I liked her style, which is deceptively simple or plain. This was a contrast to many other poets I was introduced to at the same time, such as Mark Doty and Yusef Komunyakaa. But somewhere along the line, I fell in love with her aesthetic, and that first book of hers I read, What the Living Do, remains a favorite and a touchstone.

 

I now recognize and admire the delicate straightforwardness of Howe's language, which packs as much power as any formal poem or one with more verbal jujitsu. Her lines can be long, with lots of room between them or stanzas. They feel quiet, contemplative, so when there's a turn or revelation coming, it heightens the impact. I'm trying to explain her appeal, but part of it is that I can't. Or I could if I analyzed it to death, and I prefer letting the magic linger.

 

The poems' subjects range from desire to mental health, self-perception, spirituality, and motherhood. Though I don't read the book like one overarching narrative, it does feel like there's an arc; there's a fullness to that arc that somehow replicates the sensation of completing a big, fat novel. You have an idea of a life.

 

Here's a favorite:

 

How the Story Started

 

I was driven toward desire by desire.

believing that the fulfillment of that desire was an end.

There was no end.

 

Others might have looked into the future and seen

a shape inside the coming years --

a house, a child, a man who might be a help.

 

I saw his back bent over what he was working on,

the back of his neck, how he stood in his sneakers,

and wanted to eat him.

 

How could I see another person, I mean who he was--apart from me--

apart from that?

 

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review 2017-04-07 02:40
There Was An Old Lady Who Swallowed A Fly
There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly - Simms Taback

This is a good book to show for sequence of events and chronological order. I would use this in my classroom by having them all pick an animal from the book and getting in a group. We will then play the song and as their animal was said they would have to stand up and act like that animal. I could also use this as a time to relate to other concepts such as long vowel sounds. I would get a tissue box and dress it up as an old lady and they could say that the old lady swallowed long vowel sounds and have to place words in the box. I think this book could be read at any grade level. The Lexile Level is AD250L.

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review 2017-04-06 05:50
Bugs in My Hair
Bugs in My Hair! - David Shannon

This book is about lice. It is about the discovery and journey of getting lice and managing it. I think this would be great to read in the classroom. We can have a health week the month or season lice really starts to show up in student's hair. We can read the book and then talk about the techniques of not getting lice. When we are done, we will then draw a lice on a piece of paper and give them all names. We will then write ways to help not get lice and place them on a bigger piece of paper that is in a shape of a head. The reading grade I thought would be good was Kindergarten and up. I think any grade could benefit from this book. The Lexile Level is AD520L.

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review SPOILER ALERT! 2017-04-03 17:13
Thirteen Reasons Why, by Jay Asher
Thirteen Reasons Why - Jay Asher

I've had this book forever but was prompted to finally read it by the series adaptation that just came to Netflix.

 

(Spoiler-free until the note.)

 

The most impressive element of this book is the fact that it takes on toxic masculinity and rape culture head on. It's the sort of book that I'm not sure would have existed when I was going through high school. That alone makes it a relevant, disturbing, but necessary read for students (and teachers, counselors).

 

The story is divided between protagonist Clay's perspective and Hannah's, the girl at the center of the narrative who committed suicide. One day Clay finds a package containing seven cassette tapes, which he must pass on to the next person spoken about on the tapes (one side per person). Each person had a role in Hannah's downward spiral, so the book is set up as a mystery. What happened to Hannah? Why did she kill herself?

 

Each chapter takes on one tape, and as he listens, Clay follows the map Hannah made and slipped in his locker before she died that marks key spots in her story. It was sometimes difficult for me to engage with this structure; someone wandering around listening to audio tapes isn't all that dynamic. I liked the idea of the book's structure but not necessarily its execution.

 

(SPOILERS) I'm also disappointed in the revelation of Clay's role once he reaches his own tape. I understand the choice to keep Clay a "good guy" in the reader's eyes since his is the point of view we're following, but I think the story would be more impactful if there was something he did or didn't do that forced him to reevaluate his own actions or inaction. He does regret leaving Hannah alone, but it's when she asks him to, which felt a bit problematic because generally when a girl tells you to leave, YOU SHOULD LEAVE, so technically Clay did the right thing. He blames himself for not helping her, for not persisting, but it feels like he's making Hannah's pain about him.

 

Clay also feels guilty and angry at himself for not standing up to others when it comes to how girls are treated, and by the end, in the last scene, we're to understand that will change (in contrast to another person on the tapes he runs into earlier, who still seems incapable of understanding his role--or won't acknowledge it). Though there are girls among the thirteen reasons, there's a way in which their roles enact rape culture and patriarchy (not that this makes them beyond blame). At the same time, the potential saviors the narrative suggests could have made the difference are boys/men, which both fairly places the responsibility on their shoulders--but also suggests the old man-as-rescuer trope. (END SPOILERS)

 

Regardless of my concerns, I'm grateful there's a book like this out there, tackling these subjects, and I'm interested in how the show on Netflix adapts its particular structure.

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review 2017-04-01 22:31
Bugs in my Hair!
Bugs in My Hair! - David Shannon

This book discusses a topic that is not very appealing in a fun and creative way. This topic is lice! I believe this book would be a good one to share with any grade. The exile level of this book is 390L. This could be a great way to open the door to a discussion about health. There is also a writing activity I had heard of that was an extension of this book. The students were asked to complete the following phrase: "I woke up one day and had _______ in my hair!" Once they filled in the blank, they had to illustrate the sentence and write at least three more sentences about it. This allowed the children to use their imagination. 

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