31 January 2014

Story Cubes for 21st Century Learning

If anyone read my article in The Guardian about paper blogging, you will know I am a fan of teaching digital skills using analogue methods. True to form, I discovered another 'blend': using story cubes to teach 21st century skills. No computer or Internet required.

The Partnership for 21st Century Skills identify the four big Cs of skills that are essential for today's learners. These are communication, collaboration, critical thinking and creativity. Generally, I address these skills through digital rather than traditional learning such as blogging or connecting with other classes. However, I believe that some simple cubes can also be used to address these important areas.

My Year 10 second language learners undertake all the regular aspects that I deem important for all my learners, such as silent sustained reading and free writing, every lesson. However, some of the free writing prompts are not always suitable for these learners, who skill set doesn't always allow them to express themselves adequately yet, or whose language is not yet of a level that allows them to hone the nuances of our particular focus. I want to encourage them to progress and to love reading and writing in English, not be put off or intimidated, so I am constantly on the look out for new ways to engage and inspire them.
Rory's Story Cubes

We recently completed a challenging unit, where learners created e-picture books and shared them with a primary class in Malaysia (read about this here). They reflected on how much they enjoyed the unit, despite its challenging nature, and, wanting to build on their new understanding of story structure, I decide to buy some Rory's Story Cubes.

I bought three sets of Story Cubes; one regular, one 'actions' set and one 'voyages' set. Rory's Story Cubes are each a set of nine dice pertaining to one of the themes above, and can be rolled and used to create thousands - the boxes boast 10,000,000+ - of possible prompts for stories. I decided to try them as a prompt for my Year 10's free writing.

I divided my small class into three groups of 4. Each chose a different set of cubes. They then took turns rolling and creating stories.

I circulated as they 'played', talking, listening, contributing - and slowly began to realise how this seemingly simple activity was actually a great learning activity on so many levels. I realised how it was not only encouraging them to engage in English, but was also addressing the 4Cs of 21st century skills.

My learners had to communicate in English. This is English class afterall, but they too easily slip into their own language when communicating with peers. I made sure I organised the groups with a mixture of mother-tongues, forcing them into use a common language to communicate effectively.

The story cubes use images so are in a common language and can be interpreted in whatever way each learner wants. Cultural differences allow for many different and interesting outcomes, and open up new lines of communication and relationships between learners and myself. Learners have to express the story they make up clearly, logically and coherently, meaning they practise basic English, but also more complex areas such as tenses, sequences, and points of view. It expands their vocabulary as they discuss potential plot lines and argue over different interpretations and potential orders of the dice. I have never heard them talk so much, so fluently or for such a sustained length of time.
Collaborating, Communicating, Creating and Thinking Critically using Story Cubes
Initially, learners worked collaboratively to find appropriate 'solutions' for the hand the dice dealt them. Together, they created a story; they sought new vocabulary and helped each other with ideas and structure, in order that they could communicate their collaborative stories and share them with the other groups.

Next, I challenged each member of a group to think critically and create a different story from one roll. One learner rolled their set of story cubes, and each member of the group had to think about a different possible story outcome, on their feet, in real time. I gave them the chance to rearrange the order, but each had to be original. Each time we did this, I challenged them to use less and less ideas from the person before until each were, on the spot, thinking of unique stories - and sharing them in English!

We have used the Story Cubes a few times and each time, their stories become more detailed and elaborate. They are now beginning to write down more fleshed out versions of their oral tellings allowing them to practise writing and all the extra requirements needed over speaking, such as punctuation and spelling.

I have now moved back to using prompts for free writing, but, along with the 'free choice' or 'reworking' options that are always included, I now include the Story Cubes option.

As time progresses, I will encourage them to write down more, allowing them to develop the skills they need and word count requirements of their exams. But more importantly than exam skills, they are developing essential skills that will help them be successful in today's world.

30 January 2014

Year 7 Explore 'The Future of Fiction'

I am currently planning an inquiry based unit asking learners to think about the future of fiction.

Where fiction is going is of great interest to me. I own a few Kindles, though personally, have not fully integrated myself into this realm. I love the fact I can have a book in seconds - but, I still go out and buy the 'real' version of any I read and love on my Kindle. I do not think you can beat the feel and smell and sound of a brand new book.

Geek that I am, nothing excites me more than an hour or so to wander around Kinokunyia (Singapore hosts the largest store outside of Japan), or my lastest arrival from Amazon, of a stack of books to explore and lose myself in.

Throughout my MEd., I have been focusing on where reading and writing might be going for learners growing up in a digital age. I wrote an essay about Kindles, exploring whether they may re-engage learners who read less and less. I also wrote an essay entitled The Future of Fiction?, exploring how technology may enhance learners' engagement with writing.

Learning conversations in the staffroom has fuelled my thinking around these areas. For the past couple of months, I have been mulling over a unit exploring how technology can help to tell a story, and I have met and thrashed out a list of potential tools with the Digital Integrators (word up @Skypunch and @Edtechbailey).

My unit will be co-constructed with my Year 7s. We will cover the essential elements of stories, we will read lots of stories together and share our thoughts on them, we will decide together on the story to tell and what technology tools to use to tell the story.

My site, which is work in progress and updated in real time, can be seen HERE.

The Book Whisperer

I am an advocate of reading. I am an avid reader. Many posts and Tweets contest to such. Always wanting to improve my practice and approach to delivering reading to my learners, I recently picked up a copy of @Donalynbooks The Book Whisperer.

It confirmed much of what I do in regards reading, as sound and effective methodology, such as free-reading, and reading time every day, as well as modelling being an actual reader. The book also gave me some areas to think about and re-work, such as the ubiquitous class novel.
Red Dot Book Awards

We are already reading every lesson, and learners have accepted my Reading Challenge 2014. In addition, as part of my Future of Fiction unit which explores where storytelling might be going, and how technology might help us to tell stories, I am including some reading circles, using books from the Red Dot Book Awards in Singapore.

The Red Dot Book Awards is a student choice book awards organised by the International Schools Libraries Network in Singapore. Each year, four age-grouped categories featuring eight books each are released. Learners read and then vote for their favourite, and a Readers' Cup competition about the books is held later in the year.

Reading Circle Organisation and Implementation

Never one to shy away from changing a lesson mid-way through and always with an eye to teachable moments, I implemented some changes to a lesson yesterday based on my thinking from the book.

I had set up the relevant web-page and resources for the launch lesson. I had arranged time in the library with our librarian @Pak_Shaun.

My initial plan was to:
- introduce the Red Dot Books and fire them up by sharing books Shaun and I had already read
- get groups together to review and decide on their first book
- ask learners to make decisions about their progress and begin!

I finished The Book Whisperer the night before the lesson - and immediately knew I wanted to make some changes. The lesson began at 08.30am, so I went in early to create a review exercise based on ideas from the book. Fortunately, using Google Apps for Education means changes are easy to implement.
Book Whisperer Blog

My plan then became to:
introduce the Red Dot Books and fire them up by sharing books Shaun and I had already read
get individuals to review and evaluate five of the books, giving each a rating out of 5
get groups together to review and decide on their first book
ask learners to make decisions about their progress and begin!

As learners worked away at their evaluations, I decided to implement another change - again based on my reading of The Book Whisperer. I want to allow learners to develop a LOVE of learning. I had initially decided on the groups, mixing up the class to allow for support with reading, challenge others, separate distractors etc. However, as I mingled and discussed their opinions about each book, I realised that I needed to allow them to read with the people who shared a passion and excitement for similar books.

And so, my plan finally became:-
introduce the Red Dot Books and fire them up by sharing books Shaun and I had already read
get individuals to review and evaluate five of the books, giving each a rating out of 5
- stack titles around and ask learners to stand with the one they wanted to read first
ask learners to gather with their groups make decisions about their progress and begin!

Shaun also showed learners how to reserve their next book choice on our library system.

Luckily, as I use Google Sites and Google Docs, I was able to edit the lists and site in real-time - with the learners, so they know I adapt and change things as I go. I allow them to see me learning and changing things to help benefit their educational experience, in the hope they understand that making changes is ok; that we do revise what we do and how we progress depending on how we experience things.

I am hoping they will be more motiviated by their own choices in terms of books and groups. The class is very mixed - some are avide readers, some less so. However, all ARE reading ALL of the time now - and I hope this freedom and voice will cultivate a deeper love and appreciation of reading.

Watch this space!

The whole lesson can be seen HERE. Reviews of some of the books from the Red Dot Awards I have read (so far), can be seen HERE.

20 January 2014

Doll Bones: Review

Doll Bones by Holly Black

Definitely for Middle School readers, this a book about friendship and adventure - with very creepy overtones.

Poppy, Zach and Alice are best friends, and invent magical, fantastical adventures. In their constructed world, the Queen resides over the lands, a precious porcelain antique.

Locked safely away in the cabinet, the friends feel safe to give her powers to rule the kingdoms - but once they take her out, her powers seem real.

A twisted tale underscores the history of this doll; a father, a master craftsman used his dead daughter's corpse to create the doll. Her hair is woven from the remains of the girl's own, the limbs are made from bone china ground out of the little girl's skeleton, and her stuffing is a bag full of her ashes...

The friends are visited by her ghost in their dreams, where she demands to be laid to rest once and for all - or promises a deadly curse upon them all.

Aristotle & Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe: Review

This is a story of friendship, growing-up, loyalty and love. It is a joy and a pleasure and I read with a lump in my throat and tears in my eyes.

Two Hispanic boys more dissimilar than alike, form a bond stronger than friendship, the kind that can teach a lesson to us all.

Whilst written for Young Adults, this is a book that is worth reading by adults too - the role we play in shaping the lives of our children is laid bare and resonates across generations. It forced me to want to be more honest and open, to support and not judge - particularly when my children get to trickier teenage times ahead.
I would recommend this to anyone struggling with the courage to be themselves, or anyone who wonders just whose rules we are living our life by.

If you like this, you will love:
Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green and David Levithan
Every Day by David Levithan
Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell
Paper Towns by John Green
The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

12 January 2014

Writing Challenge: Observe!

In conjunction with my Learners' Reading Challenge, I have also decided to start the year with a writing challenge.

Inspired by a student's blog post, shared by @intrepidteacher, about noticing the sunset and the importance of paying attention to our surroundings, I decided it was time to cajole my learners into noticing more about their world. Everything I read about writing starts with a) reading and b) observing. I think we have the reading part covered, so I want to get my learners to begin to be more present.

Writers all say that we must take note of everything around us - to fuel our characters, plot, dialogue etc. But I am not sure how present my learners are. We have made a great start in writing, and spend time every lesson working on our Spilling Ink journals (see Christmas, Halloween, Inspiring a Writing Community and Spilling Ink Journal agreements). This year, I am also going to include some mentor texts in Spilling Ink time, to develop close reading skills AND model great writing for inspiration. As a mini-project to kick off writing this year, I am setting them a challenge: to chronicle their lives for one week.

They must include a photograph of something significant from their day, accompanied by a paragraph explaining what the image makes them think, feel and wonder. They will do this every day for one week, and they will publish their work on their blogs.

I have included a list of what they MUST include, as well as ideas of what they MAY include. I have many diverse learners and using a MUST and a MAY list, ensures clarity of expectations as well as room for individuality and development.

Learners will use a checklist to self-assess and peer-assess their work, in conjunction with the RUBRIC*, which will be used to assess the finished piece. Final work will be published on their blogs for sharing with the school community. It will also be referred to and revisited in Spilling Ink time throughout the rest of the year, to try to embed the practise of observation into their everyday.

*Assessment focus and progression derived from the English National Curriculum.

Trackers (Book 1): Review

Trackers (Book 1) by Patrick Carman

I am currently planning an inquiry based unit asking learners to think about the future of fiction.

Where fiction is going is of great interest to me. I own a few Kindles, though personally, have not fully integrated myself into this realm. I love the fact I can have a book in seconds - but, I still go out and buy the 'real' version of any I read and love on my Kindle. I do not think you can beat the feel and smell and sound of a brand new book.

Geek that I am, nothing excites me more than an hour or so to wander around Kinokunyia (Singapore hosts the largest store outside of Japan), or the lastest arrival from Amazon, of a stack of books for me to explore and lose myself in.
Kinokunyia, Ngee Ann City, Singapore

Throughout my MEd., I have been focusing on where reading and writing might be going for learners growing up in a digital age. I wrote an essay about Kindles, exploring whether they may re-engage learners who read less and less. I also wrote an essay entitled The Future of Fiction?, exploring how technology may enhance learners' engagement with writing.

Learning conversations in the staffroom has fuelled my thinking around these areas. For the past couple of months, I have been mulling over a unit exploring how technology can help to tell a story, and I have met and thrashed out a list of potential tools with the Digital Integrators (word up @Skypunch and @Edtechbailey). I will post more about this unit as it unfolds, but what I do want, is for learners to begin by researching multi-media and digital texts, in groups, to explore potentials and possibilities. For this, I have had to read, so I can recommend some texts (it's a hard life being an English teacher: Oh no, I HAVE to get more books to read :P).

I have explored fully digital books such as Inanimate Alice, and those on Inklestudios.com, but have looked at blended books such as Patrick Carman's (@patrickcarman) Skeleton Creek, and have just finished Trackers Book 1. Both these are print books, but have passwords dotted throughout them that link to videos that are part of the plot.

Skeleton Creek is told by two narrators: Ryan speaks through print, in the form of a journal and emails; Sarah speaks through print emails, but also through videos hosted at SarahFincher.com. The passwords to access the relevant parts of the narrative are interspersed throughout the novel.

Trackers Book 1 is told from the point of view of Adam Henderson, a 15 year old tech genius, whose father owns a computer repair shop. His story unfolds in the form of a recorded interview between Inspector Ganz and Adam, and has video files as part of the 'evidence' for his statement. These are accessed again through passwords, and hosted on the Trackers Interface

The Trackers Interface
A computer prodigy, Adam has been tinkering since he was seven years old; he has his own workshop, the Vault, and unlimited access to parts through his dad's shop, and money, through selling in the virtual world. Through the course of the interview we meet his 'crew' of trackers, who between them, share enough skills to crack even the most difficult of Internet hacks and catch the most elusive of digital criminals.

Both novels are aimed very much at Middle School readers, and I intend to use them with Year 7. The plots are fast-paced and full of action, they are engaging and hook readers from the start. I think Trackers in particular will appeal to today's audience, as the characters are recognisable and the world is feasible. The blend of print and video is a great way to engage digital learners; I hope that my class will be inspired by these examples into creating their own engaging and exciting digital and multi-media stories. Watch this space.

11 January 2014

Learners' Reading Challenge 2014

I have an obsession with books - as you may see from my posts:

I recently read an interesting post on Donalyn Miller's (@donalynbooksThe Book Whisperer blog entitled, 'What the Kardashians taught me about reading' by Christopher Lehman (@iChrisLehman). In it, Lehman suggests that we should learn from this family's technique of marketing themselves and, as educators, "brand ourselves as readers just as carefully so our students have that vision to aspire to".

Readers in my classroom library
I think am along the way to doing so: I read to share, I have created a library in my classroom of books I have personally read for my learners to borrow, they start every lesson with silent reading, they read for homework and keep a reading journal to document it, they write about their reading regularly.

My Book-a-Month Challenge 2014 shows how some Twitter friends and I have started a virtual book club and have challenged ourselves to read (at least) one newly released novel per month during 2014.

I have decided to set a similar challenge for my learners. We return to school on Monday 13 January. We end the school year on 13 June 2013. That gives my learners to chance to read and review five books (at least) between now and the end of the year. I imagine many of my learners will exceed this, but I know many jump around and never complete a book. I also want learners to start sharing their opinions with the community, it is an experience that enhances my reading so much, and I believe one that will help create a culture of readers.

After each of the books my learners read, they are required to blog or vlog a review. I will collect together these reviews on a dedicated page on my learning portal site. I also plan to create QR codes which I will stick into the books in the school library (or my classroom library) for the community to scan and enjoy.

I hope that sharing and reading peer reviews will help encourage a culture of reading that extends beyond my classroom walls.

Book-a-Month Challenge 2014

As my recent book reviews testify, I have been reading a lot over this winter break. I recently read Fangirl at the same time Starr, a Twitter friend (@mssackstein) so we could talk about it, and have engaged in lots of conversations about books. This led, as things do, to a few of us deciding that we would like to conduct a virtual book club together over Twitter.

As we thrashed out the idea, and tried to come up with a definitive list of titles we all wanted to read, we decided the easiest way, was to go with new releases.

We have decided on the following list (January is a cheat as we started too late) - and invite anyone who wants to, to join us. Please also, make suggestions too - we stick mainly with YA Fiction but are open to lots of suggestions and ideas. Just drop us a line on Twitter #bookamonth

Persepolis: Review

Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi

Persepolis is a graphic novel chronicling the story of the author's unforgettable childhood and coming of age in Tehran during the Islamic Revolution.

Having lived and taught in the Middle East for four years, I have first hand experience of women and girls who live the kind of double-life shown in the book, where "behavior in public and... behavior in private were polar opposites" (p.305). I enjoyed reading about the feelings and opinions of women who had lived without the veil, but who are then forced to wear it. I especially loved Satrapi's statement to a mullah, interviewing her regarding her 'ideologies' for a place at university (once they re-opened having had the curriculum re-written to support Islamic beliefs): 
I have always thought that if women's hair posed so many problems, God would certainly have made us bald. (p. 284).
I enjoyed Satrapi's constant questions about the 'regime', and how the novel points out the contradictions between private life and public life in a country plagued by political upheaval.

As a teacher in an international school, surrounded by third culture kids, it is interesting to read about people who don't feel they 'belong' anywhere in a true sense. The novel documents Satrapi's experimental high school years in Vienna far from her family and her culture, and her homecoming, both sweet and terrible, which she describes as a "calamity" that can be "summarized in one sentence: I was nothing". The dichotomy is that she was "a Westerner in Iran, an Iranian in the West. I had no identity" (p.272). 

As a strong advocate of graphic novels in the classroom, I think Persepolis would be a great book to teach for IBDP particularly. It covers many issues about customs, traditions and culture that would open many interesting discussions. It is an informative, eye-opening and heart-warming read about a culture and life at once outrageous and familiar. Entwined with the history of her country yet filled with the universal trials and joys of growing up, Satrapi will appeal to and teach many about misunderstood areas of the world.

10 January 2014

Fangirl: Review

Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell (@rainbowrowell)

This is the second book by Rainbow Rowell that I have read this year. I loved Eleanor & Park, and my tweets about it led my PLN to read and love it too. As a result, Starr Sackstein (@mssackstein) (her review of E&P) and I decided to read Fangirl together.

We were separated by time by more than half a day, yet we read and chatted about this book via Twitter. It was great to share reading, as although it can be a mostly solitary pursuit, it HAS to be shared. The worlds we inhabit when we read, and the characters we meet have to be talked about.

In The Book Whisperer, Donalyn Miller suggests that readers lead richer lives, more lives, than those who don't read, and I think that one of the main ways I am successful in endearing the majority of my students to reading is because we talk about the characters as if they are real. To me, while I am in the world, they are - and Fangirl was no exception.
My Tweet after finishing Fangirl
Levi sparked some serious conversation on Twitter:
@mssackstein, 2014

@jdrich219, 2014

Levi is an incredible character; perhaps not one appreciated by 18 year old girls, but definitely by those of us twice that age! He steals the show and makes you want to read more - yet he does not figure in any blurbs. In fact, the focus of the blurbs is on Simon Snow, a fictional character (within the fictional world - is he meta-fictional?) with whom the protagonist, Cather, is obsessed. I do not like magicky books, and I found the novel-within-a-novel (meta-novel?) annoying. Yes, it was clever in how it mimicked the action of the novel-proper, but it annoyed me because I just don't like magicky books, and I would have preferred it without those parts. 

A lot of the book deals with Cather's obsession with this (Harry Potter-esque) character and her writing of fan-fiction, which can be viewed as a metaphor for that transient confusing period where we leave home and leave behind childish things. We are not a child. We are not an adult. We are often not quite ready, even though we are at the same time. The need to cling dearly to a huge part of her past manifests in Cather's need to focus on fan-fiction. It is the string that keeps her in her childhood, but one that also prevents her from focusing on her own original material. On herself as an adult. 

I grew to like Cath, and Reagan rang true, but it is the male characters that are the most rounded. Rowell has a knack for creating great male characters - you can see how we feel about Levi from above, but I also like Cath's dad, and I also love Park. I struggle more to envision her female characters, they are weaker and less defined, more sketched and unfocused. But they are real and intriguing. What makes this book worthwhile however is Levi, read it for him if nothing else. He is positive, supportive, kind, generous, attentive and respectful. His smile will stay with you long after the pages are read.

A great book to follow this would be Solanin, which takes place in another period of change, that following graduation from universtiy and entry into the real world.

06 January 2014

Daytripper: Review

Daytripper by Gabriel Ba and Fabio Moon

What are the most important days of your life?

Daytripper is a beautiful collection of ten stories by Brazilian twin brothers that uses the quiet moments to ask the big questions.

Orignally published as ten comics, Daytripper follows the life of one man, Bras de Olivias Dominguez. Each of the ten stories features an important period in Bras’s life and each ends the same way: with his death.

Like a puzzle, the stories fit together to weave a complete tale. Each starts up at a different point in Bras's life, oblivious to his death in the previous chapter, whilst at the same time, ends with him dying again. 

Told in non-linear chronology, the story follows him through his entire existence and the many possibilities life holds for us. Like a book, we read ourselves; we write our own stories. Like books, our lives all must have an end:
No book is complete without its end. And once you get there, only when you reach the last words, will you see how good the book is. (Daytripper, Chapter Nine: Dream)
Daytripper, Gabriel Ba and Fabio Moon

Daytripper is a story about living life to its fullest – because any of us can die at any moment.

Legend Trilogy: Review

Legend Trilogy Boxed Set (Amazon)
Legend, Prodigy and Champion by Marie Lu.

He is a Legend.
She is a Prodigy.
Who will be Champion?

I am a bit of a fan of dystopian fiction; it was Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale that began it all, I think. Anyway, having just steamed my way through Veronica Roth's excellent Divergent trilogy, as well having just watched Catching Fire, Suzanne Collins second in The Hunger Games triology - I wanted more!

A search led me to Lu's Legend trilogy and, it being Christmas and all, I treated myself to a boxed set. The hardcover books are lovely with tactile dustcovers (these things matter in the whole reading experience). Chapters are told in third person but alternatively focus on either June or Day's perspective. Day's chapters are printed in coloured ink to match the colours of each novel - gold, blue and red respectively.

The story occurs in a post-apocolyptic world destroyed and disjointed by immense flooding. The trilogy is set in a United States that has been divided into the Republic and the Colonies. Add Patriots into the mix and you can see a war coming on.

The typical rich/poor divide separates our 'star-crossed' lovers who come from opposing sides - she is the Republic's prodigy; a star soldier who was the only person every to gain 100% in the 'trials', tests taken to determine one's place in society. She inhabits the glittering world that Day can only hope to cause trouble for. He 'failed' his 'trial' and is forced to live on the streets, causing chaos as the legend, the Scarlet Pimpernel of his time. Of course, they are both incredible in their own rights. Of course, fate brings them together. Of course, it is impossible for them to be together...

I read all three in a week and did enjoy them. Out of the three dystopian trilogies mentioned at the start of this post, it would however, be my least favourite, simply because it was a little less believable and a little more implausible, the characters a little less well-defined and therefore less likeable, the relationship a little less intense and therefore less meaningful. Still, it is another great dystopian trilogy to add to my classroom library.

Every You, Every Me: Review

Every You, Every Me by David Levithan

Last year, I read Everyday by David Levithan and became an instant fan. He is what I aspire to be as a writer - unique, original, intelligent, thought-provoking... I am also very much inspired by his writing process.

Will Grayson, Will Grayson, co-authored with John Green (another of my favorite authors - read ALL his books if you haven't yet!), was penned by each author assuming a voice of one of the two protagonists. Each was a 'Will Grayson', and they wrote alternating chapters that together, compromise a wonderfully crafted, realistic depiction of teenage life that appeals to us all. Every You, Every Me does not disappoint in both the way it was written and the final outcome.

Inspired by a photograph seen pinned to a fridge at the home of Jonathan Farmer, Levithan set out to write a psychological thriller inspired by photographs. Farmer sent Levithan images upon which the next part of the novel was constructed. Farmer never knew what Levithan was writing, and Levithan didn't know what image was coming next. The result is intriguing; a mysterious psychological thriller interspersed with haunting photographs.
Ariel, Every You, Every Me
The novel is told from the point of view of Evan, a tortured boy suffering the loss of a best friend. Much of the text is crossed out - leaving the reader to puzzle through the plot as Evan puzzles through the memories of his friendship. Are these representative of the hole left in his life, the words left unsaid? Are these sections thoughts manifest yet never vocalised? Are these words spoken but needing to be re-swallowed and taken back? Do they represent the many different sides that comprise a person?

Levithan himself describes the book as "a very strange, somewhat dark, portrait of a boy on the verge of a complete breakdown"; Every You, Every Me is a one-of-a-kind novel from a one-of-a-kind author.

05 January 2014

A Wrinkle in Time: The Graphic Novel: Review

A Wrinkle in Time is a classic children's favourite. Somehow - don't ask me how - it had gone under my radar until I read When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead, in which time travel plays a huge part due to Miranda, the protagonist, being a fan of L'Engle's novel. And so I bought the graphic novel.

Time travel is something that both fascinates and baffles me. No amount of Back To The Future (the second one in particular) can help me wrap my head around the concept of travelling through time, which in itself is an abstract concept I struggle with.

L'Engle's novel was first published fifty years ago and graphic novelist, Hope Larson, has brought it to life for a whole new generation to enjoy. According to the School Library Journal, Larson's illustrations remain "true to the story, preserving the original chapter format and retaining L’Engle’s voice. Black-and-white artwork is accented with blue, echoing the original cover color" (Amazon).

Courtesy of MacmillanChildrens

My family are avid Dr Who fans, and so terms such as Tesseract are familiar to me, as is the notion of 'bending' time to get to places and other planets - even if I don't understand it all completely. What resonates with me most in this book is that above everything, it is love that saves us; it doesn't matter where we are, who we are or what we want, if we don't have love, we have nothing. Life is never easy, but L'Engle suggests that we must love. Work, children, friends, passions, obsessions - they make us who we are. They make it worthwhile even whilst causing heartache because after all, “a straight line is not the shortest distance between two points" (L'Engle).

Must Reads for 2014

I have started a review and record of all the books I read this year. I already have a huge list of books lined up for this year - lots for the Singapore Red Dot Awards, others from recommendations and others' 2014 lists (see here).

Below is a list of 30(ish) to-reads for this year, so far - though obviously, there will be more along the way. Once read, they will be reviewed and recorded on my Books - 2014 page.

Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell JAN 2014
A Wrinkle in Time: The Graphic Novel by Madeleine L'Engle and Hope Larson JAN 2014
Legend by Marie Lu JAN 2014
Prodigy by Marie Lu JAN 2014
Champion by Marie Lu JAN 2014
Solanin by Inio Asano JAN 2014
Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell JAN 2014
Every You Every Me by David Levithan JAN 2014
Daytripper by Gabriel Ba and Fabio Moon JAN 2014
Little White Duck by Na Liu JAN 2014
Flora and Ulysses by Kate DiCamillo JAN 2014
Trackers by Patrick Carman JAN 2014
Mice: A Novel by Gordon Reece JAN 2014
Boxers by Gene Luen Yang JAN 2014
Saints by Gene Luen Yang JAN 2014
Doll Bones by Holly Black JAN 2014
The Outsiders by SE Hinton
The Accidental Creative by Todd Henry FEB 2014
The Complete Persopolis by Marjane Sartrapi JAN 2014
The Book Whisperer by Donalyn Miller JAN 2014
The Sketchnote Handbook by Mike Rohde JAN 2014
Edgar Allan Poe's Tales of Mystery and Madness by Edgar Allan Poe and Gris Grimley
The Nine Lives of Alexander Baddenfield by John Bemelmans Marciano
Sketch Your World by James Hobbs MAR 2014
The Doodle Revolution by Sunni Brown
Dash and Lilly's Book of Dares by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan
Attachments by Rainbow Rowell JUL 2014
The Other Normals by Ned Vizzini JUN 2014
Landline by Rainbow Rowell AUG 2014
The House of the Scorpion by Nancy Farmer
Fiction Writer's Workshop by Josip Novakovich