Monday, January 12, 2015

Winter Is for Reading

Winter gives us the perfect excuse to curl up with a good book, write in our journals or read with our children.  The poet William Carlos Williams challenges the howling North Wind in his poem, “January”:

Play louder.
You will not succeed. I am
bound more to my sentences
the more you batter at me
to follow you.

You can always take shelter from the winter winds in your library.

Over the break, I discovered a fantastic reading app that kept my children entertained on the iPads for longer than they should have been.  Reading Rainbow, a show that aired on the Public Broadcasting System in the US for over 20 years, has now put all their wonderful experience into creating a safe, online environment for kids.  If your kids are like mine, you can never have enough reading apps.  You can check Reading Rainbow out for free.

Snowstorm Huda blasted Amman, but I was prepared.  I finished Season of Migration to the North by Tayeb Salih, I'd save this book for college students, or those familiar with Conrad or Achebe.  I don't know that very many high school readers would catch the nuances of the text, post-colonialism, deconstruction, some existentialism, some great feminist stuff.  You need a lot of lenses to unpack this text, which makes it really good reading for those of us who love to read, but probably a little too confusing and complex for those just starting out.  I really liked it though.  It would be great to teach in World Lit.  

I also read Jane Yolen's collection of short stories, Twelve Impossible Things Before Breakfast. It was interesting, but just that, a collection of fantasy short stories for Young Adults.  There were some "horror" stories, but they weren't very scary compared to what kids read today.  My favorites were "Mama Gone," a story set in Appalachia, wherein the young protagonist must face her vampire mother.  "Winter's King" sticks with me, not because of the plot, but because of its beautiful writing.  It reminded me of Game of Thrones.  I thought it was beautiful.  "The Babysitter," perhaps the most "horrorific" of them all had a nice twist at the end.  

My favorite was Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell. My Goodreads reviews are now linked, but I'll repost it here.  I would give one caviat.  In a conservative culture, I would recommend this for 16 and up, no younger, just to be on the safe side with parents.
I wish John Hughes were still alive, because ELEANOR & PARK needs to be made into a John Hughes movie, circa 1986, the year in which it is set in the most unlikely of Midwestern towns, Omaha. Rainbow Rowell, did you make Eleanor into Molly Ringwald on purpose or was it typecasting? It took me two days to read this, and it felt like I was 16 again, hoping, praying, that some boy, any boy, would notice me, but not quite sure how to make it happen. And the bus rides, oh, the bus rides. Wondering what mean girl was stalking you, why you felt ostracized. The music, the Smiths, the Smithereens, U2, Foreigner, the soundtrack of my life. And the quiet, mysterious boy, the one who took martial arts, who probably kept a journal, who didn't talk about it, who melted your insides. Learning to drive. That first kiss. That promise of something more you know will never come true. The golden moment caught in time, like a picture, in your yearbook. Friends Forever, Eleanor & Park. 

Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell. London: Hachette/Orion. ISBN 9781409120544. Pbk.

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