No Brown, No Yellow, No Touchy [Lesson 7]

dognightln1Our last lesson was a lesson on crossover books. I was honestly a bit sad that this was our last class, and that is something that does not happen very often, I can assure you of that. This class has taught me to see beyond books in both positive and negative ways. I am really fond of youth literature, I like learning about why these books are interesting for my students and why. On top of that, I loved to be able to read some of these books that I had read before and not feeling guilty about that for a change, because this time it was really for educational purposes instead of sogging my time away with reading books.

The theme crossover books did not ring any bells with me. It turned out to be a book that appeals to both adults and younger readers. Out of the list I immediately chose The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time. I had read this book before and immediately fell in love with it. The writing style, the puzzles and the mind of the protagonist suck me into the book every time I read it and I took the opportunity to talk through this book with my classmates and see if they feel the same about this book and share experiences.

It turns out that not everybody feels the same about this book. I can get that, you either love it or hate it. Some of the students just could not adapt to the style of the book and the way of thinking of the protagonist, while others started to develop an aversion to the colours brown and yellow and started counting red cars on the way to school. We are all lucky to have a different taste, of course, but it was interesting to see that not everybody fell in love with the book like I did.

We start a journey with young Christopher, who’s neighbors’ dog has died and he is persistent on finding out who killed the dog. We view Asperger’s disease through his point of view and have to separate the crap from the real clues in this book. He provides us with a lot of nonsense next to vital information, and it is up to us to keep up with the story. Christopher is also trying to find himself in a world that is spinning around him. He finds out about ‘doing sex with eachother’ , feels that his body is growing and changing but he cannot quite keep up with all of that. Instead he just ignores what is happening and just focuses on playing Sherlock Holmes for his next door neighbor while his father is telling him to keep his nose out of other people’s business.

In this book, we come across the absence of parents again. The father is present, but only yells at him for doing things wrong instead of really caring for him. Then there is the fact that he has lied to his son that his mother has died while she really has cheated on him and moved away to avoid complicated situations. We also see that even at a school for special kids, Christopher is an outsider. He gets yelled at for being a ‘spazzer’ and an idiot, while Christopher sees them as the retards of the world.

The other books were also books that would be recommended to both adults and young readers. They offer a great story to both readers, but need a critical eye to see between the lines of the story. They all contain humor, action and an attractive storyline to grip both young and older readers.

The age group that I would recommend this book to is that of the age of about 12. It speaks to the imagination and you get sucked into the story the moment you start reading. In the first few pages you immediately find out whether you will finish this book or not. To me, it was a revelation and a lovely peek into the mind of a boy with autism.

To Narnia! [Lesson 6]

Fantasies. Who does not have them? I know I do. All of my youth I have just drowned myself in the Harry Potter books and was always looking for another fix into a different world than the boring one I was living.196301_507740569248360_9540704_n_large

The lion, the witch and the wardrobe indeed had a Pottery feeling about it. I had heard about it before, but have never really set myself to reading it. I really loved the dreamy writing style and the biblical references that were not too out there but could be found when you looked for them. The whole good versus evil and everything in between is what made the book exciting and fun to read, and who would not want to crawl through their wardrobe and find a whole new world lying behind it?

The class discussions made me see the pattern in pretty much every fantasy book. First there is the call. The 2 sons of Adam and 2 daughters of Eve have finally arrived the drag the ice queen (literally) from her throne and make the sun shine in Narnia again. Of course, there  are some obstacles, here being the absence of the genius lion who will eat his way to power if he has to. Then there is the wandering off of one of the sons of Adam, he’d rather eat some Turkish delight in prison rather than throwing around swords and killing demons with bows and arrows. This pattern is apparently applicable to almost every fantasy book. I never really thought of it this way, but during class there was a click in my head that said what a minute, almost every fantasy book I have ever read works this way. I hope this does not spoil my fun of reading in the future, which Literature 1A has done for me with symbolism.

The pattern applies (obviously)  to the other book as well. There is Percy, a secret son of the gods who gets a mission which he has to fulfill with the needed obstacles on the road to eternal glory. Both books (once again) cope with the absence of parents, or they are there but not really aware of the fact that they are parents. In the case of Narnia the parents of the children ship them off to another country so they will not get blown to pieces in the war.

The books provide us with a lot of ‘between the lines’ reading as well. The younger readers might not pick up these hints, but we ourselves most certainly do. Narnia is pretty much a retelling of the bible with a slightly different setting. Percy Jackson: the lightning thief is a story in which a lot of ancient Greek figures and myths can be found amongst us in the real world.

 

Both books are suitable around the age of 11, 12 if you ask me. It speaks to the fantasy, is fun and keeps you turning the page without being able to put either of the books down. Luckily there are lots of sequels, so those of us who are true fantasy lovers at heart can keep getting their fix by reading these amazing stories.

‘People Always Clap for the Wrong Things.’ [Lesson 5]

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This week, all of the books contained a protagonist in what we could call an identity crisis. We are introduced to Holden Caulfield, a young man hitting puberty and has big trouble getting through life. His narcissistic and critical view of the world is recognizable for a lot of us, because we all know that puberty is something we would not like to go through again.

Just as a lot of us, he does not know what he wants to do in life. In this book he provides us with a lot of information of how he sees the world but I think we should not trust everything he says. His view is blurred, his thoughts all over the place and he is trying to push the world away rather than dealing with it. He is trying to fit into multiple identities but has not committed himself  to one. He is looking for himself, what he wants in life and even  thinking about if life is worth it anyway. This is what gave me trouble reading this book and why I have to admit that I have not read it until the last page. I think I recognized too much of myself in my time of puberty, which gave me a hard time reading things that I did not want to go through again.

Both the other books were into identity crisis’s once again. The wasp factory told us about a girl who acts and thinks like a boy but is a girl. She acts out her frustration of puberty by acting it out on animals. Also, it turns out that she has killed 3 children in her family before she was even 10. So we can safely say that even before puberty hit she was pretty much cuckoo.  We find out that she is a girl but looks and feels like a boy because her father has pumped her with hormones to find out if she would turn into a boy. I guess it helped, but it wrecked her brain pretty toughly. This fits into the search for identity and trying on different ones during the period of moratorium again.  The story of Tracy Beaker also told us of her search for herself. She does not know how to commit to friendship and is basically kicking around her because she  does not understand the world she lives in. With her living in an orphanage, we are once again back to the well known topic of the absence of parents.

These books are suitable for teenagers in search for themselves. 16 years and older are probably the best age groups to offer these books to. They are looking for themselves as well. The moment that teenagers are past the shock of becoming a man or a woman physically, the mental shock comes in. who am I, what do I want and what is this life good for? These books answer some of these questions, some don’t. Fact is, the readers will recognize that they are not the only ones going through this phase. You are not alone in this world, and help is there if you want it and are brave enough to ask for it.

You Are My World Now (Barf!) [Lesson 4]

Tumblr_mgfdyqrxnn1s33urro1_500_largeTeaching your teenage daughter how to become completely codependent and how she most certainly should not have  a social life for her own? Twilight is your book. Falling in love with a vampire that forbids you to go out on your own and is willing to flat your tires for it is of course everybody’s dream nowadays, and you better keep your mouth shut or he will let you bleed to death in your sleep.

First things first: I only chose to read this book because it was laying around the house anyway. My little sister had some weird dream telling her that it MIGHT be fun to read. Hence the laying around, the book has lost its use after the first chapter. The other reason why I did not read one of the other books on the list was that my bank account was screaming big red numbers at me and with a big sigh I decided that well, karma has gotten me at last and I would have to bite myself through the most appalling book I have ever heard of.

Basically, this story is about a girl who meets a boy. Falls head over heels in love with him, finds out that he is a vampire and she is fine with that. Now that is where my alarm bells went off, but hey, it looks like she does not have any bells at all. Might be caused by her nickname, or by the fact that she is just drawn to life threatening events and is an adrenaline junkie in disguise.

Bella is an outsider. That is pretty much clear when we get to meet her on her trip to Forks. We creep into her mind and feel what she is thinking and feel what she is feeling- all over the place from time to time. She feels different from all the others, rather reading her worn out copy of wuthering heights than socializing with her friends. Nothing bad with that, but her new found friends think otherwise, which gets even worse when she turns out to be what Edward Cullen has been waiting for. He is an outsider as well, for the obvious reason of not wanting to suck all his classmates dry of course.

Bella makes wrong choices – if you ask me. Choosing to give up your life for somebody who is a secret predator and swallows half of the wildlife in the woods of Washington. He tells her that repeatedly, but stubborn as she is, she has already made the choice to stay with him for the rest of her life – even if he might be the cause that that life will only last for a couple more weeks if he does not watch himself.

 

The other book that was discussed in class was not that much better if I had to believe my classmates. This book might even be worse, if I have to believe some of the quotations that caught my ear during the lessen. The mushy theme is much stronger in this one, dealing with sex and all. This book did come across as if the protagonist is much less obsessed with her object of liking. Their relationship is stronger, but fades during a holiday which sets the protagonist in a hard situation.

I can see why this book would attract a type of readers. And this type of reader is that of the teenage girl with lack of a love life. When you become a teenager your hormones start running and you can feel all over the place all the time. That is why the character of Bella is very relatable to these readers. The book is filled with love, with fantasies of Edward and some hot scenes in which they kiss as if it is their last day. This fills up the hole and provides them with a mushy love story in which they can drown in their own misery. All I can hope for is that they do not set an example for their own lives with this book.

May The Odds Be Ever In Your Favor! [Lesson 3]

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Sending off 24 children between the ages of 12 and 18, build an artificial arena and throw in a couple of weapons for those kids to beat each other to a bloody pulp. That in short sums up the whole concept of the Hunger Games and immediately that what has drawn me to read these books.

A friend of mine recommended them to me after reading them all in three days herself.  Buying the whole series at once, I prepared for what some friends told me the most exciting read in the past couple of years. Boy, were they right.

You get sucked right into the story. For me it was the utter unfairness of the way that the Capitol treats their citizens and their complete arrogance as to forcing their people, their humans  that have to work their asses of to provide the Capitol with the luxury to rest on their laurels while everybody else is starving, to give up their children for slaughter as Abraham was willing to sacrifice Isaac. This story differs slightly, flying limbs and the flowing of blood is not held back by the Capitol when the children seem willing to die for them. No, die they must.

The resemblance to Hollywood and big brother is watching you are new revelations that I have gained during our group discussions. The mind map that we made drove us further and further into the plot of the book, which made it clearer to see what the intentions of the writer were. It is not just about the kids killing each other, but also a deeper sense, that of that we should live and be the society, and not let the society live us. Privacy and free choices are great goods, and we should treat them with respect if we intend to keep them.

The loss of innocence, which we discussed in class, is highly prominent in this book. In my opinion, the loss of Katniss’ innocence starts with the death of her father. From being a child, she is suddenly forced to step into a parental position in order to keep their family from starving to death after her mother seems to have gone into shock and refuses to even utter a word, let alone feed her kids. Katniss does not complain a bit, she steps right into place. Even when starvation is at their door, she is determined and finds new ways to still the hunger of her family every day. We do see moments in which Katniss remembers her father and misses him a lot. This gives us an insight in the fact that even though she might seem like a hard, grown up person on the outside while on the inside she still feels like a child every now and again.

When it comes to age group, I think this book is suitable around the age of 14 and up. The writing is clear and concise and the plot is fairly easy to follow. There is action all around and that is also why I think it is suitable for both boys and girls around that age.

The several other books that we discussed in class were Tuck Everlasting, Pigeon English and Lord of the Flies. Both books face the loss of innocence and life choices that will affect the rest of the characters’ lives. They are offered of forced into big decisions, which makes them grow up very fast. I have not read either of them, but the discussions that were going on around me in class made me very interested in them, and I might read them as well when I have the time.

Down the Rabbit Hole [Lesson 2]

               In class, we first discussed what would make a good novel for children. An intriguing character, a meaningful plot, a captivating setting and an appropriate theme is what according to us would make a book that is enjoyable and suitable for children to read. Of course an accessible and readable style are necessary in order for children to grasp the story and have an understanding of what the story contains and tries to tell them. The first books ever were actually the classics that were retold. The stories that have been told from generation to generation finally made it to paper once the press was invented. The main topics of these stories were innocence and adventure. Alice in Wonderland is a book that fits perfectly in this genre. She visits Wonderland and returns to the real world again, while being entangled in all different sorts of adventures and meeting new people who seem a tad weird. Alice herself has no idea what has come to her and basically just lets it wash over her, this representing her innocence.

            Being a true Tim Burton fan, I have seen the movie ‘Alice in Wonderland’ loads of times. Ashamed that I have not read the actual story up until now, I chose to do so while I can put it to use in the Youth Literature course. It turns out that the book differs a lot from the movie. The character Alice is much younger, much more innocent and if you ask me much more selfish than the character that is portrayed by Tim Burton.   
            My first impression of the book was that the writing style differs a lot from everything that I have ever read before. It takes some time getting used to, but after the first chapter or so you glide through the book like you are in wonderland yourself. The into Alice’s head, dreamily way that the book is written is what both annoyed me and made me enjoy it at the same time. While it gives the Wonderland that the is wandering through a good description, it tends to be a bit annoying when we read the somewhat foolish thoughts that Alice is having.

The insights that I gained during the discussions in class is that the book is that it is actually written as a protest to the way that British girls are raised and treated. Alice is a lightheaded, nitwit kind of girl that should know  better than to talk to herself and be rude to people because she thinks she is so much better than them. I did notice that Alice was very rude to people that tried to be nice to her, but I never gave it much thought that Alice is actually portrayed that way to convey a message to the British culture back in those days.
              Me and the people that took place in our discussion all agreed on the fact that the way Alice talks to herself and others annoyed us to bits. She talks to herself about how absolutely brilliant she is while the whole talking to herself bit makes her look like a complete idiot. We did all like the story but the fact that we all came across the same type of things that we did not like was rather funny.
            The patterns that we found in the book were somewhat similar as well. Everybody had something to add, such as the use of a word with a different meaning than Alice is used to because the way it sounded was almost the same. The returning moments in which Alice is shrinking, growing and then shrinking again was a pattern that we see as well. While discussing we thought this pattern gave us an insight to the naivety of Alice. It is not really normal, according to us, to drink from a bottle while not knowing who put it there or what will happen once you have sucked it dry.

For next week, we have the theme of imperfect world. Upon seeing the Hunger Games on the list I was a happy girl once again. I am a big fan of the series and have read all the books multiple times. Reading them once again for this course will not be a punishment for me, and I look forward to discussing the book with my classmates.