cricketmuse

a writer's journey as a reader

Archive for the category “Awards”

Author Snapshot: Lois Lowry


Sometimes a novel is similar to a wave in how its impact builds momentum, breaks, recedes, and begins the cycle all over again. The Giver by Lois Lowry is such a book. First published in 1993 it pushed societal paradigms, gathered a following, and is once again building another following due to the film adaptation. It’s still considered controversial some twenty years later. The story is deceptively simple, yet profound in its impact. There are so many issues presented: government control, euthanasia, loss of innocence, and dystopia versus utopia. Lowry presents these heavy issues with a light hand and leaves reader with hope in its ambiguous ending. It deservedly won the prestigious Newberry Award.

For many years The Giver remained a standalone title. And then Gathering Blue came out in 2000; however, it wasn’t a true continuation of The Giver and frustrated many readers looking for answers, because it teased a bit, alluding only slightly to Jonas’s world. Readers had to wait until 2004 for Messenger, which served as a bridge between The Giver and Gathering Blue. Alas, answers still weren’t totally available and finally in 2012 closure arrived with Son.

Having read The Giver when it first came out, I was impressed with its message, although a bit dissatisfied with its ambiguity at the end. “That’s it?!?” I felt like shaking the book to see if I could render out the last drop, maybe find the missing resolution or at least find a denouement of sorts. I wasn’t aware of the succeeding books that formed the quartet and had the distinctive pleasure of reading the quartet in succession after watching the 2014 film adaptation of The Giver. Due to the sizable waiting list for The Giver (could it be the movie stirred people to seek out the original?) I began reading the other three and saved The Giver for last. Glad I did so, because the library (love my library) bought the newest edition, which is a twenty year celebration of the novel, and it contains an introduction, a reflection, by Lois Lowry. Her humor and unique outlook is prevalent and added a dimension to the reading I wouldn’t have probably gained reading the standard paperback issue. A bonus section (special features?) included interviews of different actors from the movie including Taylor Swift.

Yet, there is more to Lois Lowry than The Giver. Her talent extends to comical middle reading found in the Krupnik series which is about the plucky Anastasia and her rascally brother Sam. Another notable book, her first Newberry Award, is Number the Stars, which covers the Danish Resistance in WWII. Lowry’s diversity is evident when scrolling through her impressive book list of thirty plus titles which range from picture books to historical fiction, and include young adult reads. I have been exploring other Lowry titles and I am amazed by her diversity. For instance, I just finished an audio reading of  Silent Boy, which reminds me of Scout from To Kill a Mockingbird recalling her childhood memories from an adult perspective. Another audio novel, The Willoughbys is radically different from any of her other works. This a parody of all those long ago old-fashioned tales starring orphans who make good after much travail. Think Lemony Snicket meets Pollyana. The reading was enhanced by the reading talents of Arte Johnson, best remembered by his Laugh In days. The humor varies between lampoon and subtle, the vocabulary rivals SAT prep exercises, and there is a constant anticipation of “What next?” right up there with “This is a kid’s book?”
Lowry is one of those authors who provides the reason why adults peruse the kids’ section when searching for a good read.

Interesting bits about Lois Lowry:

  • she’s been a contestant on Jeopardy
  • traveled to Antarctica
  • had The Giver turned into a play, opera, film, and musical
  • she’s been a clue in a New York Times crossword puzzle
  • has owned numerous dogs, cats, and horses
  • has a great little author website
Advertisements

It’s So Lovely


I do so enjoy serendipity finds, those unexpected moments of joyful surprise. The other day as I was scrolling through my notifications I discovered Megan of Make Something Mondays. provided one such moment, by nominating me for the One Lovely Blog Award. Having just finished a long week of parent-teacher conferences and staff meetings, this proved to be just the pick me up needed.

For once I’ll try not to scribble outside the lines in the midst of the procedure.
So, thanks, Megan who can be found at Make Something Mondays

The Rules:
1. Thank the person who nominated you and include a link to their blog in your post [check]
2. List the rules and display the award logo [check]
3. Include seven facts about yourself [check]
4. Nominate ten others and let them know you’ve nominated them [working on…]

Seven Facts About Me:
1. I am a librarian at heart who teaches high school English
2. Absolutely crave light–I have two Happy Lights to survive winter
3. Walking is preferred form of exercise, unless turning pages in a book counts
4. Resisting dark chocolate is tragically pointless for me
5. Soggy cereal is worse than creamed corn in my opinion
6. The Dick Van Dyke show of the sixties is still my all-time favorite TV show
7. I tan walking to the mailbox–is that bragging or a fact?
I nominate the following for also having lovely blogs:
1. Reading with Rhythm–a dog who promotes reading is irresistible
2. Mike Allegra--well, he isn’t lovely but he is lovable
3. Paperback Princess–a definite Book Booster
4. The Room Mom--a cheery, update blog about being a parent/teacher
5. Friendly BookWorm–another wonderful Book Booster
6. Writer Side Up--always lovely to have such an enthusiastic blogger about
7. Sorry, I’m Booked–yup, another Book Booster
8. A Writer’s Life for Me--I do appreciate another writer
9. Mustard Seed Budget–providing thoughtful uplifting messages
10. Eagle-Eyed Editor–one of my first blogging buddies

Wait–only ten?

Drat…

You do know you are ALL lovely, right?

Thanks for stopping by and please visit the others–you won’t be disappointed.

Blue Skies,

Cricket Muse

A Little Birdie Told Me


One aspect of blogging that is a definite benefit is finding new titles to read. Goldfinch by Donna Tarrt is one of those titles. Considering it received the Pulitzer and had so many varied reviews–Loved it!” “Hated it!” I had to decide for myself. I will never truly know how I might have liked it. It’s been relegated to my rare “didn’t finish” designation on my Goodreads tab.  Why?  Admittedly, it takes quite a bit for me to *gasp* abandon reading a book.

image: nytimes.com

 

Here are my impressions:

  • Plot interesting although contrived. I work with teenagers and I have yet to come across any who talk like they are fourteen going on thirty-four.  I know. I know. It’s a novel and there are liberties called artistic license.
  • I’ve read BIG books; however, the story needs to justify the length. Melville or Dickens, this is not. Instead, I found myself getting more and more irritated as  Theo, the protagonist, reveled in TMI (too much information). It’s like being caught in a conversation with someone who keeps adding on instead of continuing on with their story.  I didn’t find all the extra detail to be that significant to moving the plot along.
  • I also found the stereotypes disappointing: the out-of-touch adults trying to counsel Theo; the genius, yet nerdy friend; the dysfunctional wealthy family; the unconventional adult who becomes Theo’s island of solace.
  • Here is the real clincher. I could have continued with the reading. There is enough intrigue and character investment that I had a desire to keep giving it a go, then the dreaded birdie kept flipping up unexpectedly. The boid, the random explosion of f-bombs finally annoyed me enough to say “done” and moving on. I understand profanity adds a certain aspect of verisimilitude; however, certain words remind me of pepper–sprinkle too much on and it actually hinders the flavor instead of enhancing.  The random f-bomb turned into a regular blasting zone and I began to wince. Here’s the deal: “Hey, Theo–you’re a nice enough kid, and you have a great vocabulary, so why the potty  mouth?”
  • I also wondered if this wasn’t  really a dressed out YA. A large portion of the book centers on Theo’s teen years. Then again, I didn’t mind reading Hunger Games; on the other hand, that IS considered YA.

Overall, I would have kept going to read the 700+ pages. It takes several elements for me to finally pull my bookmark and move on. I have way too many books I want to read to keep going with one that wears on me.

Twofold commentary requests here:

1. Anyone agree or disagree with my Goldfinch assessment?

2. How do you handle books that don’t live up to your expectations?  Do you continue or do you move on?

Remaining the Orphaned Narrator


It is always exciting to discover a new-to-me author. In this case it’s Kazuo Ishiguro. I know, I know. I’m a bit late in my discovering; however, better late than never in finding an author of mesmerizing style.


I knew the movie Remains of the Day, before finding the novel and didn’t realize the movie was the adaptation.
How could I possibly pass up a film starring Anthony Hopkins and Emma Thompson?
Flash forward five years later and I’m perusing the AP Literature list (“read that one, will never read this one, not reading this one again”), when I recognized the title Remains of the Day and connected it to the movie. Then I read the author’s name and I must admit I expected something like Adrian Smythe or Winston Greene, not Kazuo Ishiguro. After all, the novel is about a very proper English butler and his reflections of what it takes to become the best of English butlers. Wouldn’t one need to be English to understand that sort of nationalistic pride? I’m not getting points here for narrow-minded thinking, am I?

It turns out Ishiguro is quite well-suited to the task of writing about the English since he moved to England when he was around six years old. This gives him the ability to have an insider’s view with a somewhat detached perspective. The result is  basically a stream-of-consciousness narrative concerning the tunnel vision of a man’s quest for the unattainable. Trying to live a life that is beyond reproach, to achieve a status of perfection, requires sacrifice. Can sacrifice be made without regret? This is the hidden truth Stevens, the butler is searching for, except he does not realize it.
A quest novel of notice did not go unnoticed, for Ishiguro’s debut garnered him the Man Booker Prize and set a bar. Would he be a one shot wonder or would this be the first work of a noteworthy word smith?

image: goodreads.com This cover indicates the layers found within the story.

My literary taste buds curious for more, I trotted down to the library. Grabbing any title of his that caught my eye on the  shelf, I opened up his fifth novel When We Were Orphans. I immersed myself in reading it to the point the MEPA queried, “Still a good book?” Yes, thank you. Prognosis? After reading two novels, indications are Ishiguro is wordsmithing wonder.

Here are some bio facts and  stats:

  • Two novels have been adapted to the screen, Remains of the Day, and the more recent Never Let Me Go. Both have been received well, considering Ishiguro’s stories are mainly first person narratives, making them difficult to translate into a cinematic plot.
  • His novels are historical in nature, with attention to detail.
  • The stylistic viewpoint is that of the unreliable first-person narrator, one who is flawed in outlook.
  • Although born in Japan, he did not return until thirty years later.
  • He has received four Man Booker Prize nominations
  • The Times ranked him 32 on the list of the 50 most influential British writers since 1945.

As for an actual review of When We Were Orphans, I leave it to the more qualified:
New York Times
 review:

I plan on continuing my course of exploring Ishiguro’s work and look forward to introducing a contemporary author to my APters, who, I’m sure, would like a break from dead white folk now and then.

Any thoughts on Ishiguro’s writing? Any suggestions for the next title I should read of his?

The Lowdown on the Upside of NPM


Whew!

Whew! (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

Where did April go? Wasn’t it Sprink Break just a blink ago?  And now I’m making plans for Memorial Day Weekend and soon after school’s out.  Time doesn’t fly these days–it hyperlinks!

 

Among other celebratory events residing in April, Library Week being one such, I choose to go the whole tamale and celebrated National Poetry Month every single day. Planning a daily post involved some careful coordination and creativity.  Have I mentioned how much I appreciate the scheduling feature of WordPress? Couldn’t have done the super stretch of 30 posts without it.

 

I’m in a reflecting kind of mood here, so please bare (bear?) with me for a nanosecond or two. As I get ready to go back to my regularly scheduled program mode I’m not sure I shall.  I learned some things whilst committing to a month of poetry.  Here is my lowdown on the upside of celebrating National Poetry Month:

 

  • a lot of people like poetry–which gives me hope my students will one day grow out of the lip curl mode when immersed in that required unit
  • I gained about 20 new followers–that’s darn right pleasing
  • WordPress makes it easy to batch post–that schedule feature (again)
  • there are a lot of people who want to tell me all about their marketing ideas–thanks, but no thanks, I really do like my day job
  • I had fun selecting various themes and posts–it wasn’t as difficult as I thought to come up with a variety of post material
  • And I got an award!

 

liebster-award_zps3c945071

 

Thanks JenniferK! New blogging follow and a fellow writer.  I think this is the spiffiest award yet–I like the razzle dazzle bling.

 

I will have to come back and name the three or so new blogs to pass on the award.  I really haven’t had time to sift through all the new blogs I’ve come across this month, but hope to set aside this weekend to do so.

 

Last bit of reflection (you’ve been so wonderfully forbearing–here, have a cookie…)

 

 

I’ve decided with May’s arrival, which coincides with Spring–renewal, and all that new growth stuff, I shall try a new direction with the posties.  Something old, something new, and something cool.  The ideas are percolating.

 

Until next post,

 

Blue Skies
CM

 

 

 

 

Loving, Living, and Liebstering


I am always glad to turn the calendar page to February for several reasons.  First all, once January is past I begin to rally and anticipate spring, which, of course is next month, and spring leads into summer.  Secondly, there’s Valentine’s Day, and although I’m not real keen on a forced holiday I do like that it’s about love, appreciation, and chocolate.  Plus, it’s fun to see all those cute red and pink heart decorations when shopping (and there are no annoying overdone Christmas songs blasting all over).

So with my happy dance getting underway it was pleasant to open my blog notification up to see http://artsandyouthlove.wordpress.com/ had nominated me for the Liebster Award.  Lovely!  Thank you!!

The rules of the Liebster Award are as follows :

1. Thank your Liebster Blog Award presenter on your blog and link back to the blogger who presented this award to you.

2. Answer the 11 questions from the nominator, list 11 random facts about yourself and create 11 questions for your nominees.

3. Present the Liebster Blog Award to 11 blogs of 200 followers or less who you feel deserve to be noticed and leave a comment on their blog letting them know they have been chosen. (No tag backs)

4. Copy and Paste the blog award on your blog

Questions Answered:

  1. Do you like answering random questions? If given time to think about the answer, I’m okay with it.
  2. If you could meet anyone, who would it be? Living? Meryl Streep or Bobby McFarrin Past? Helen Keller
  3. If you could change your talent for another talent, what would it be? Hmm, I really like writing, and as much I would like to become a world-renowned juggler I will stick to writing, thanks anyway for the wish wand
  4. Do you listen to more than one genre of music? Absolutely!  I’m open to pretty much everything that doesnt’ involve screaming lyrics or screaming guitars. Not too fond of opera or country music though.
  5. What’s your favorite junk food? Is dark chocolate junk food?
  6. Do you watch tv? Blech!!!!!
  7. How do you feel about Valentine’s Day? Hallmark induced sentimentality.  Everyday is a day to express love and appreciation to people.
  8. What is your favorite movie genre? Old black and white comedies, especially Katherine Hepburns, Gary Coopers, Cary Grants.  Don’t mind a good old John Wayne western now and then.
  9. What is your favorite season? Summer 🙂
  10. Do you find it hard to create and answer random questions? Not really, but is this really a question?
  11. How’s your week going? It’s Friday.  Nice….

Elevensies for the next batch of nominees:

1.  It’s 2pm on a sunny Saturday–where are you and what are you doing?

2.  Given the choice of reading a classic novel or the latest bestseller which do you prefer?

3.  Could you work in a job without a window?

4. How do you celebrate the first day of vacation?

5.  Who is your favorite poet?

6.  Do you think technology is affecting they way we converse with one another?

7.  Here’s the magic wand–what’s your wish?

8.  What country would you visit if you won the sweepstakes?

9.  Which pet do you prefer–traditional (dog) or exotic (hedgehog)?

10.  How many blogs do you read during the week?

11.  What do you think of blog awards?

Here are my nominees (and if you are over 200 followers because I couldn’t find your follower indicator, you are still wonderfully worthy of Liebster Blogging Kudos) and I went with reading/writing-themed blogs this time:

1.http://angelagodbout.wordpress.com/

2. http://wetinkpresspublishing.com/

3.http://alibilibrary.com/

4. http://joanngrasso.wordpress.com/

5. http://lazycoffees.wordpress.com/

6. http://runnerwithwords.wordpress.com/

7. http://redpeffer.me/

8. http://literaryman.com/

9. http://ctwesting.com/

10. http://jenniferkblog.wordpress.com/

11. http://befferkins.wordpress.com/

As for the stuff about me…eh, I’ll pass for now. The sun is out after a long absence and it’s time to walk around the block for a dose of vitamin D.

Happy Pages!

Inspire me or Alice don’t believe everything you read (or eat)


free speech 2

free speech 2 (Photo credit: dogwelder)

Write about your strongest memory of heart-pounding belly-twisting nervousness: what caused the adrenaline? Was it justified? How did you respond?

Well, that was certainly unexpected.  Have you tried out the “Inspire me” Wordpress widget?  Click “new post” and among the various menu options there is a tantalizing bright blue Alice link.  I say Alice because when she stared at the “eat me” tag, how could she resist?  Naturally I succumbed and clicked and the above prompt is what I received.

In terms of nervousness here is an interesting paradox to consider.  I’m a teacher, right?  I face anywhere from 70 to 90 teenagers a day.  Mostly I know my lesson plan and what I plan to say, yet I am not nervous.  Nope, not at all.  Talking in front of people is what I do. This is why I sometimes am faced with a request to speak at a conference or at a retreat or at an event.

“You’re a natural.”

“I laughed so hard the last time you gave the book talk.”

“We really need someone who is comfortable being in front of people.”

All these comments trap me with their fluttering flattery.  I say “yes” and wither a bit each day until the appointed time.  Why?  I have to face a hostile crowd three times a day (okay, not hostile– how about reluctant?) as I teach high school English.  However, knowing I will be speaking and people will be watching and anticipating information or entertainment revs up the flutterbys to flim flamming around as they ride the nervous elevator up and down until my heart freezes after it’s flip flopped about like the caught trout on the bottom of the boat.  I an hooked, lined, and sinkered waiting until I trod up to the podium. But you know what’s really weird?  Once I’m there it’s okay.  I do much better at spontaneous delivery. Epiphany: It’s that countdown that does me in.

Secondary epiphany: Maybe it’s speaking in front of adults that’s so daunting.  Considering they are more polite than teenagers as an audience I should be thrilled at the aspect of having such a nice captive crowd.  This could be a problem should my all-American novel get published and I have to go on a coast-to-coast speaking tour.

Anyone else get nervous about presentations?

On to business, get off the rabbit trail. A couple of days ago Mary of MaryMeddlemore nominated me for The Very Inspiring Blogger Award and now it’s time to pass it on to other blogs that I find inspiring:
1.  http://mustardseedbudget.wordpress.com/ Speaking out about things of faith and importance

2. http://sethsnap.com/about/ Fabulous photography

3. http://bookpolygamist.wordpress.com Caters to my weakness for words

4. http://lesleycarter.wordpress.com/2012/12/21/a-glimpse-onto-my-real-life-with-instagram/ She is a rock star among bloggers–great blog, great success and to think she stops by and visits my posts now and then *wow*

5. http://thebettermanprojects.com/2012/12/21/day-369-my-life/ A most amazing motivational blog

6. http://mikeallegra.com/a-bit-of-bio/ Recently published his first children’s book and that is very inspiring to me

7. http://makesomethingmondays.wordpress.com/2012/12/14/ How does she come up with all those ideas?

 

Usually I don’t bend the rules (I’ve earned quite the reputation for being quite the policy stickler, in fact), yet I’ve got this Agatha Christie I’m needing to finish so I can go on to my next book in th bag. So instead of 15 blogs I’ve shouted out 7 which means instead of 7 facts I’ve done 3 (they are hidden in this paragraph.

Enjoy your holidays one and all!

Blue Skies,

CricketMuse

Fully and Truly


christmas paint

christmas paint (Photo credit: cassie_bedfordgolf)

 

It has been a full week and there is one more day to go.  Monday a snow day (yay!), vocab tests, To Kill a Mockingbird completions, giddy (if not rowdy) teens waiting for Christmas Break to begin, Professional Learning Communities, paperwork, grading, parent meetings, and I would say I am fully and truly ready for Friday to arrive.

 

And so it is ever so nice to click on the notification link and see an award nom.  Ironically, my energy being at its lowest and feeling fairly blah around the edges as I countdown minutes to Christmas Break, Mary Meddlemore nominated me for

 

 

Thanks Mary!!

 

I’m supposed to nominate 15 other inspiring blogs and provide 7 facts about myself…and now that you know how my week has been I know you will let me off the hook.  At least until the weekend?  Great.  Thanks.

 

Until I rally more energy and time I send hugs and luvs to all out there because I know I am not the only one who feels a bit bruised around the edges this week.

 

 

 

The Rush of Falling Down Happy


I ran track in high school and always complained when coach made us take a long run.  “I’m a sprinter! Why do I have to practice for distance?” I would question.  In her wisdom she explained it built up my endurance.

And so it is with NaNoWriMo.  I usually don’t write every day, and I especially don’t write nearly 1,700 words when I do.  My usual writing regime is to toss down an idea, thought-drop a page or two, or a chapter, or pick apart a passage.  I tend to sprint write, in other words.  I’m not much for sitting down hours at end, pushing my muse to exhaustion.

This is why NaNo has been good for me.

Of course I didn’t think that as I realized (often) at 8:30 pm I needed to enter my daily dose of words.  I especially did not embrace the goodness of attempting to write 50,000 words in 30 days.  And I especially wondered why I would think it a good idea to marathon write when my life was pretty full already.

Because it builds up my endurance.

I know now I can do it–oh, have I shown you my certificate of completion yet?

Day Two

Having completed the grueling word run, even in the midst of parent/teacher conferences, posting quarterly grades, preparing for Thanksgiving, and living life as usual, I now know I can go the extra mile at a pace that is uncomfortable at times, but still doable.

I don’t know if I will make NaNoWriMo an annual event; however, I do know I like the feeling, that rush, of falling down happy once done.

To those who persevered NaNo, I raise my bottled water to you in salute.  Even if you didn’t participate I know you were cheering us along the way.  Thanks, I, and we, needed that.

 

 

TaDah and NaNa!


International edition

International edition (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Bette Midler had a great hit with her rendition of “Friends.”  Friends are right up with there with dark chocolate, a good book (okay, a couple of those), and a sky of blue to make it through tough times.

It’s friends like you that saw me through NaNoWriMo this year.  Yup, I just printed out my certificate. Tonight I punched in 50, 316 words and received my prize.  I think I used up all our color ink cartridge printing it out.  It’s a real pretty one this year.

Since my house is small, the hour late, and I’m all out of ginger ale, I will toss out a virtual “Happy NaNo Over Party.” You supply the hats and confetti on your end and I will supply the thank yous on this end.

If there were a NaNo Happy It’s Over and I Finished Party, and we all had the opportunity to step right up to the microphone, here’s what I would say:

“First of all, thanks for stopping by and taking the time to like my posts.  That helped encourage me to keep going and it definitely brightened my day. Secondly, I enjoyed getting to know new bloggers and visiting new sites. Thirdly, what?  My time’s up already? Phooey.  Okay, really fast.  I don’t know what I’ll do with my NaNo novel, but seeing how you hung with it, you’ll be the first to know if anything does happen with it i.e. published, sold the movie rights, t-shirts, bumper sticker quotes–the usual fame route.”

The last post Vera made was about the value of friends, and so here is a tribute about that very subject.  Bettte surely knew what she was singing about: you got to have friends.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Post Navigation

%d bloggers like this: