A War of Gifts

Orson Scott Card has been one of my favorite authors since I was about twelve years old. It is his book Ender’s Game that helped me fall in love with reading as a young teenager, and I have followed his writing for the last fifteen years. I’ve paid the closest attention to his Ender books, though. They are afterall, the catalyst for my current and continued love of reading. What I’ve always loved most about Card’s books is that although labeled as science fiction, they are really deep character stories that take you through the psychology of growing up, war, and the dynamics of human nature. I’ve appreciated this even more as I’ve grown older. My love for Ender’s universe has been so strong that I read the original book at least once every other year, and recently I have read through the graphic novels developed by Marvel; I’m currently listening to the original book on CD now on my long drives to school and back home. (Big thanks to my Dad for sharing the CD’s with me.) In many ways, Card, with the help of my Dad first handing me the book, has altered the course of my life forever. I have pondered before if I would be a teacher or a writer if not for reading Ender’s Game.

This past week while traveling, I re-encountered the Ender universe by reading a short novella that Card wrote not long ago aptly named The War of Gifts. The short book (only about ninety pages) sucked me right back into the extraordinary world and psychology that Card has built over the last three decades. Written in third person but from different character’s views the story propels the reader back into the days of battle school, but this time the focus is on religious celebrations and holiday practices which are strictly forbidden in battle school. Card exquisitely develops the psychology behind both those who hold close to their culture and those who have been unknowingly oppressed by religion all while reintroducing familiar characters as well as Ender Wiggin himself again. As a fan of the series, I was probably easy to please, but I genuinely feel this is a great, short read for anyone. The writing is superb and the themes leave you thinking well after you finish drinking in the final word.

If you’re a fan of Card’s, or even if you’ve never heard of him before now, I highly recommend checking this novella out in the near future.

PS – If you are an avid Card reader, he just released his newest book as part of the Ender’s Shadow series and will release a prequel about the first formic wars in July. Also, the Ender’s Game movie is slated to be in theaters in March 2013.

Percy Jackson Returns!

The YAL nerd in me has to share briefly how excited I am to see Percy Jackson come alive again on the page with the release of Rick Riordan’s new book, The Son of Neptune, which is the second book in the new Hero’s of Olympus series. I just started the book and hope to finish it very soon. If you’re a fan of the original series, Greek and Roman mythology, adventure, and just good story telling, then pick up these new books. Good times and happy reading!

Book 2 of the Hero's of Olympus series by Rick Riordan

Spring Break Reading List

One part of Spring Break that I absolutely love is it is my opportunity to catch up on some much needed pleasure reading.

Here is my reading list this week:

The Adoration of Jenna Fox by Mary E. Pearson

The Other Side of the Island by Allegra Goodman

The Lost Hero by Rick Riordan

Pathfinder by Orson Scott Card










Admittedly, I’m not a very fast reader. (I don’t mind though because it helps me relate to my students’ struggles.) But, I will certainly look forward to devouring at least these four. Happy Reading!

The Astonishing Life of M.T. Anderson

This past weekend I attended a children’s literature conference at the University of Georgia. I was unsure of what I might be able to take away from the two days as I am a high school teacher and the conference is very much oriented toward elementary level educators. The speakers were all wonderful and I was able to take some of the ideas from the breakout sessions and foresee their use in a high school classroom; however, the highlight of the conference was hearing the author M. T. Anderson speak.

A six year labor of love. Anderson has created a true masterpiece in his historical fiction two parter.

I only knew Anderson through seeing a book or two of his on a shelf in a media center or at a bookstore. Every time I would pass his title The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing, I would get this impulse that I should read the book, but I had always ignored the feeling and left the book on the shelf. But then, I heard the man speak.  Mr. Anderson, you have my undivided attention.

The slight irony of hearing him speak is that he really does look just like a stereotypical, young author–lean, slacks, sweater with a collared shirt and black-rim glasses. What he had to say was anything but stereotypical, however.

His speaking style really appealed to me; he was witty, genuine, humorous, and enlightening. One of the most profound statements he made, and I’m paraphrasing here, was something to the effect of ‘what makes literature real literature is an author’s ability to make the familiar unfamiliar again where the reader has to rediscover that world, idea, or theme all over again.’ Am I the only one who thinks that statement is brilliant?

When asked what he would be if he wasn’t a writer, he simply said he’d be

Anderson has the unique ability to write for a variety of audiences. Pals in Peril explores the mysterious state of Delaware in a very interesting and certainly fictional way.

homeless. This elicited laughter across the large auditorium, but I found myself disappointed by his answer. As he spoke, I found myself thinking what an amazing educator he would be if he were to step into a classroom. It is a shame that the world of education has such a hard time pulling in brilliant minds such as Mr. Anderson’s. (He went on to say that if not homeless he might be good as an extra in a werewolf movie, which I did laugh at.)

I left his presentation wishing he would speak for another hour and inspired to write myself. I finally picked up both his Octavian Nothing volumes and I’m currently devouring them. I would highly recommend them to anyone who is into intriguing mysteries, period writing, historical fiction, and doesn’t mind having new vocabulary thrown at them every other sentence. They have been incredible reads thus far. I also picked up some of his younger-oriented fiction and I’m looking forward to comparing the styles as he writes so differently for each level.

To close, Mr. Anderson, if you ever happen to read this, I want to thank you for your time at the conference and re-inspiring an educator to write more than ever.

To Speak

I find it odd how powerful it can be to use the infinitive form of a verb. By simply placing a ‘to’ in front of any verb, it automatically has added potentency as if there is another level gravity in the verb’s meaning.

One of our greatest abilities is to speak. If you’re lucky enough to live in place where there is no one oppressing that ability, then I have no doubt you practice it daily, or even hourly. We have something very unique in comparison to everything else on this planet. Our inherent capability to speak to one another, voice our minds, talk, and communicate is truly beautiful. What a wonderful verb–to speak.

When we are young, we desperately try to have others hear us. We find many ways to speak because we’re never satisfied that anyone is actually listening, or worse yet, that anyone wants to hear our voice to begin with.

One of Anderson's most acclaimed novels, Speak reminds us powerful words can be when we are young and untrusting.

Author Laurie Halse Anderson has written several YAL novels. One of her most powerful works is simply titled after the verb, Speak. In this novel, the protagonist, a young teenage girl entering high school, is carrying a dark secret. Because of this secret, she has lost her voice–her ability to speak. What she doesn’t understand is how desperately she needs to find her voice and speak the truth that will set her free.

Although a fictional story, Anderson paints a picture that is very real for so many youths. What do you do when no one is listening or you don’t know how to say what needs to be said the most? Anderson has admitted in an interview that it is painful to go back to her youth and write about the experience of adolescence, but since it exists there is no need to avoid the subject if it helps give a voice to someone else. The popularity of her book has lead to a movie production and acclaim for the author. Despite its popularity, I encourage you to read it because of its reminder to us all of that voice we all have and its power.

Anderson’s writing style is honest, but it may not appeal to everyone. I can attest to the fact that I’ve enjoyed some of her other books more, but none are as powerful as Speak.

To speak–it changes everything doesn’t it.