Now that I want to take this blogging thing more seriously, I’ve decided to move to Blogspot. Please check out the new blog.
Having just finished grad school coming straight out of college coming straight out of high school, this year has been the first in my life that hasn’t been filled with assigned reading. I started out excited because I had always complained that I never got to read what I wanted to, but now I miss being handed really great literature without having to do any research to find it for myself. Sure, I always had my summers to read whatever I wanted, but I mostly spent my time catching up on the classics I thought I needed to read that we had missed in school. But after discovering the hilarity of Dave Eggers, David Sedaris, Augusten Burroughs, Chuck Klosterman, and the list goes on, I realized I what had been missing out on: reading for pure enjoyment, no higher purposes. They took me back to the days I first fell in love with Harry Potter back in middle school. (Yes, I’m showing my age here.) I’ve missed that thrill of reading, and have been working on getting it back.
Still keeping up my teacher preparations in my off-year, I try to alternate one adult book just for fun with a young adult book or two to add to my repertoire. Young adult books are easy to find; I’ve bought enough of them over the years to fill my future classroom library that Amazon does a pretty great job recommending good ones to me. But I don’t buy as many of my adult books because I don’t have a reason to keep them, so Amazon can’t do me as much good there. To help me in my search for good books, I started looking for a website with rating and recommendation features similar to Netflix. Netflix makes it so easy to find movies and TV shows I’ll love, and I thought we book lovers deserve the same service. While I haven’t found anything quite as easy and detailed as Netflix for books, I have come across a few helpful sites.
Literature Map is an easy-to-use web of authors. When you enter one of your favorite authors, a cloud of other authors appears around your author. The closer two authors’ names are together, the more likely a reader will like both. Within webs, you can click on different authors to quickly view their webs as well. The Map is always evolving to add new authors and uses information site visitors enter to populate the web, so there are some mistakes. For example, Stephenie Meyer appears in some webs several times with her name spelled different ways, and I shouldn’t be judgmental because I just had to correct the way I spelled her name. I found that the webs did a good job of grouping many of my favorite authors together, so the site seems to be fairly accurate. Although you cannot use the Literature Map to see any of the books the authors have written or view any biographical information, the Map is a good starting point when looking for new authors to explore.
This is a really straightforward site in which you enter a book you like, and it gives you a long list of books that are similar. This site is also run by reader input, so I can’t be sure how close the recommendations are to what you enter, but I will probably try a couple of them. Big picture: It’s free, it’s easy, and it gives you actual book titles instead of just author names. There is an option to register, which may give you more information and control over your recommendations, but I’ve been too afraid of being bombarded by emails to try. Let me know if you’re braver than I am.
This is by far the most elaborate and accurate site of the three, and I have been a registered member for several months. Members can rate books they’ve read, create bookshelves to organize those books by categories you choose, enter books you are reading and plan on reading, and of course receive recommendations for new books to read. One drawback is that the site does not automatically recommend books based on your ratings like Netflix does: you can explore books to read by browsing bookshelves of members who like some of the same books you do and looking through the many helpful lists of books, or you can ask a Goodreads friend (you know, like Facebook friends) to recommend something for you. On Goodreads you can also participate in discussion groups and book clubs and recommend books to your friends. So far, I love it! Below is a piece of one of my Goodreads bookshelves so you can get an idea of how cool it is.
It’s been over a year since I updated this blog, and I think the time is right to take it in a new direction. I have finished my graduate program at Vanderbilt with and M.Ed. Yay! Unfortunately, graduating in August, writing my thesis during prime job hunting time, and having no idea where I wanted to live until late July resulted in no teaching job for me this school year. I’ve worked a couple of unrelated but pretty cool jobs to fill the year and my bill collectors’ pockets.
My first stop was in a preschool for kids with developmental delays. I loved those kids, but apparently a masters degree in secondary English education does not help you one bit in teaching itty bitty kiddos. They walked all over me, and in the end, I decided that they really needed someone who could do a much better job for them than I could. Plus, I needed to retain my sanity for the kids I can hopefully do much better with.
My current job is working for the Bureau of Legislative Research at the Arkansas State Capitol. During the legislative session, I proofed bills before they went to the House and Senate to be voted on. Now we’re getting all the new laws edited and ready to be sent off to the publisher and checking to make sure the publishers don’t make mistakes. There was a pretty big controversy last session in which an unintended “not” made it legal for Arkansans of any age, babies on up, to get married. Whoops! That’s why they need me and my awesome coworkers.
Now I’m working my booty off trying to get a real teaching job for the fall. I’ve had a few interviews and some great responses to my inquiries, but so far no news. It amazes me how long schools drag this out! One school district I’ve contacted says they won’t even start looking until June. Come on people, you’re making my hair turn white. I’m really ready for some certainty in my life for a while. And so ready to use what I’ve been studying for 5+ years now.
Wish me luck!
One of my last assignments for my Vanderbilt career was to write a reflection on my online experiences with educators. I made a comic on Pixton.com, a really cool, easy-to-use online comic builder. I have used it for several comics, including my series about my old cat Smelly (I think they’re pretty entertaining. Check them out!), and can’t wait for an opportunity for students to create their own Pixton comics.
The Discworld series by Terry Pratchett has been around for nearly thirty years now, but it is new to me and probably to many young adult readers. The series, which features wizards, wordplay, and wit, is a hilarious look into an alternate universe of magic. I think any young reader (or adult) who loves fantasy and silliness would enjoy this series. It should be appropriate for readers as early as seventh grade. Enjoy!
ALA’s website has a section for YA literature with booklists updated every year, including one for reluctant readers. There are tons of recommendations that look great. The “Top Ten” lists are especially helpful. This site is not the easiest to navigate, but the content is totally worth it.
I’d love to hear of any other great book lists (perhaps more condensed) for reluctant YA readers if you know of any!
Philbrick is probably best know in the young adult literature world for Freak the Mighty, the story of an unusual pair of friends who go on adventures. I highly recommend this book. Philbrick’s website is a great resource for kids. It offers the standard information about the author, the books, and the awards, but it is obvious that Philbrick genuinely cares about his fans. He has posted pictures of himself, listed his mailing address and promised to read and reply to every letter he receives, answers the top ten questions he is asked, links teaching guides for his books that he has received, and encourages young authors to write and try to get published. He included links for the Scholastic writing contests with advice to be very careful about following the rules for entry because it is very easy to be disqualified. His links to information about the movie made from Freak the Mighty, information about the medical condition one of the boys in that book has, and to his personal blog are all a great touch for the site.
I am most impressed, however, by the fact that he shares the play he has written for Freak the Mighty. He says that he has heard from many teachers who have staged versions of the book and movie, and he thinks it is wonderful. When one of his close friends wanted to stage the book, he wrote a one-act and later a two-act version. He tried to get the play published, but when it was rejected, he decided to just give it to anyone who wants it. If you send him an email address, he will send the scripts for either the one-act or two-act versions in a PDF file for free. It is exciting to see a young adult author who is so willing to help kids and teachers.
This is a great site for a great author. Check it out!