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We Are Water by Wally Lamb

We Are WaterWe Are Water by Wally Lamb

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I often describe Wally Lamb as a writer who really gets in the heads of women so I was pleasantly surprised to see him prominent male characters in We Are Water. Like his other books, this novel delves into some heavy topics of neglect, abuse and the perpetual cycles of both. No character is perfect and each offers many facets. The issues didn’t speak to me personally as much as in She’s Come Undone or The Hour I First Believed, but I thoroughly enjoyed Lamb’s writing especially the historical subplot of the family home. There are many scenes of adult behaviour that I will caution the students in my secondary school library about, but overall Lamb presents complex issues and tests the limits of what any family can deal with.

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Posted by on July 9, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

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CanConnectEd2015: Transliteracy and the teacher-librarian

This week I’ve been attending the Connect conference in Niagara Falls for the first time and as a representative of the Ontario School Library Association Council.  It also gives me a chance to speak about my M.Ed. capping paper on how teacher-librarians are in the ideal position to facilitate transliteracy. I mean, we really do have a very unique perspective….and we are generally non-threatening (unless I’m tired and hungry).  If you don’t have a teacher-librarian in your school, I hope you have someone who is working tirelessly to integrate pedagogy with cross-curricular happenings.

In many ways I need to percolate ideas, and since I wrote that paper I’ve been trying to walk the walk.  So, in my humble opinion, the best of the presentation is in the last few slides where I get to talk about pushing the boundaries of literacy in multiple modes with a) the help of some awesome governing documents by Canadian school library experts and b) some strategies I’ve tried and had some success with this year.  The entire logic thread though is built on the premise that we (as educators in the year 2015) are redefining text and reading.  If you can get your mind around that switch, then you’re ready for more! (insert trumpet flourish)

Here is the presentation in full:

It is set to flip through the slides every 5 seconds so you might not get the opportunity to see the full Miwa Matrayek video at the beginning.  Here is the link to that video in full:

 
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Posted by on May 7, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

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This Changes Everything by Naomi Klein

This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. The ClimateThis Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. The Climate by Naomi Klein

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Reading this book has changed my life. This book is the first book I’ve read from the Ontario Library Association’s Evergreen selections for 2015. Naomi Klein is such an important voice for Canada that this book was on my to-read list well before it was nominated though. I enjoyed reading this book through Audible.com‘s selection so I listened to about 7 hours a week which was wonderful because it has a lot of important information about climate change that are combined with unfamiliar issues such as economics, world trade, environmental law, industrialization, and indentured slavery that I needed to digest in smaller pieces. Klein manages to put all of these issues together into one book and concludes that if we can’t manage to adjust our culture of consumption that we don’t have a chance of stopping global warming. More importantly though, that we need to start making right the crimes that we have committed through industrialization and globalization and make reparations to developing nations that are still disadvantaged by centuries of colonial actions. At home in Canada, Klein argues that we need to demand a higher minimum wage so that people can stop taking McJobs for shitty companies who continue to put capitalism first and human needs and the environment as distant seconds.  In a deeply personal chapter, Klein reveals that her concerns for climate change exploded during her struggles with infertility and points to our dramatic increases in infertility and disease as the red flag symptoms that we continue to ignore by believing in the capitalism-driven pharmaceuticals instead. In summary: I learned a lot.

As a secondary school teacher-librarian, I will carry this book in my library but it isn’t going to be an easy sell. However, as a research tool it will be phenomenal and I will bring bits and pieces of it out to stimulate inquiry research and for discussion for years to come.

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Posted by on March 27, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

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Cinder by Marissa Meyer

Cinder (The Lunar Chronicles, #1)Cinder by Marissa Meyer

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

As much as I wanted to get into this book about a Cyborg with way more problems than Cinderella (who the book loosely resembles), I had trouble with the world-building and the flow of unfolding the politics of this fantastic setting. I had trouble understanding why she wanted the respect of her really mean stepmother. The unintentional relationship that forms between Cinder and Prince Kai seems too natural given the differences in their statuses. There’s barely enough time to realize that Cinder’s true identity will give her an edge in her battle of wills against the threatening Lunars, before she’s asked to make big life decisions. As the reader, I felt more confused by the local politics. Maybe Meyer has too many subplots or maybe she was asked to cut out 100 vital pages, but I felt leaving dissatisfied. I’m not sure that I will pick up the next one.

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Posted by on January 31, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

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The Bear by Claire Cameron

The BearThe Bear by Claire Cameron

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The UGDSB has just chosen this book as our board-wide novel for secondary students and author Ms. Cameron will be visiting schools in May 2015. After reading this terrifying novel, I am nervous about the problematic areas in Cameron’s choices. As a parent, I can only describe the first 2/3 of the books as horrific, as main character Anna, 5 years old, attempts to care for her 2 year old brother in the wilderness of Algonquin Park after a trauma happens to Anna’s parents and the two children are left on their own. Nothing could be scarier except…trying to find food, and exposure to the elements, and the confusion of being suddenly alone. Every minute of Anna’s narration is heartbreaking. As a secondary school librarian, I hope the teens who pick up The Bear won’t be turned off by the narrative voice, and won’t be scared to ever go camping again. There are many issues to explore about wilderness, survival, bears and PTSD so I’m hoping the book will open avenues to inquiry. There is nothing explicitly horrific that I fear censorship on, only that the power of the imagination leads the reader to a dangerous place of what could be around the next corner for Anna with every turn of the page. Having said that I devoured it in 48 hours of my busy life, so I’m hoping teens will have the same reaction.

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Posted by on January 31, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

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Revisiting Treasure Mountain 2014

I need to start off this blog post by once again speaking to the imbalance I experience in blogging itself.  Try as I might, I sometimes take years to process an experience or a reading and I find it really challenging to write regularly.  Today is no exception and I’d like to revisit an experience I had in May 2014 called Treasure Mountain Canada.  Treasure Mountain is a research retreat of school libraries and I’ve attended 2 of them…one in Connecticut in November 2013, and one in Victoria, BC where I presented my M.Ed. capping paper on Transliteracy.

Today we are trying to recreate the experience for the participants at the annual Ontario Library Association conference in Toronto.  To give you some background, there is no better place to start than with Anita Brooks-Kirkland’s blog of the Treasure Mountain experience last May.  The audience at Treasure Mountain is small but extremely diverse … there are major stakeholders in school libraries present.

In the week leading up to today, the revisiting of Treasure Mountain, I have really enjoyed going over my own thought process from January 2014 to May 2014, and I’m glad I was so visible in my thinking about it.  One of my favourite elements to revisit was a Google Hangout experiment where, as part of the capping paper requirements, I needed to present my ideas to a public audience.  I knew Treasure Mountain was coming up in May but wanted to make the experience as authentic as possible.  So….in true transliteracy fashion, I arranged via social media to make a Google Hangout to present my 20 slides and ask my authentic audience of educators some seriously deep questions about implementing transliteracy.  I considered editing this down to something manageable, but at the risk of appearing self-indulgent, here is the whole messy experience.  For at least 3 of the participants, it was their first Google hangout.

Joining me in this video are Kimberley Flood, Kevin Greenshields, Robin Feick, Kathy Inglis, Tim King, Peter McAsh, Daniel Beylerian and Heather Leatham.

As most of you are well aware from your own experiences, I learn a lot each time I present new material, and this time was no different.  Looking back at that experience, I realize now that sometimes I need a big push to try these things.  Reflecting on that idea alone, isn’t that what I ask the staff and students at my school to do every day?  One of my drama students a few years ago said, as she was fearfully preparing to take the stage, “I just need to put my big girl pants on and do it.”  Everytime I feel fearful of risk-taking, or worn out by being a change agent, I say to myself, “Just put your big girl pants on and do it.”  There are times during this presentation where I’m just giddy with happiness of the sharing and comraderie I experienced as I struggled through it.  Treasure Mountain itself, is just like that….a bunch of experienced and knowledgeable people coming together to share and loving the sharing.  I always feel energized and motivated by experiences like this.  This is the reason I’m addicted to supporting my own professional development.

 
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Posted by on January 30, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

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Launching a book club with a riddle

My White Pine book club is growing stale. The same few students join every year (which is awesome) but I’m not reaching as far as I’d like to in my secondary school of 1200 students. So I’m trying an additional book club this year in a different format. The book I’ve chosen is “This Dark Endeavour” by Kenneth Oppel and if you haven’t read it you should!

So each week we’ll run a seminar on an interesting topic within the book in hopes of engaging new students!  I hope it will also promote inquiry-based thinking and lead to new possibilities.

This week’s seminar will be lead by Adam Wallace, and he’s going to talk all about Switzerland and cover many of the places the characters visit in the book.  Here’s our promo:

 
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Posted by on December 1, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

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