Saturday, February 4, 2023

Bold and Brave

We had our final "ice day" yesterday and, now, Texas is going to give us two glorious days of sunshine and warmer temperatures! And, yes, I love where I live! The weather may be unpredictable (it's something Texas is known for), but it's wonderful weather about 10 months out of the year. I'm good with that. 

Now, let's move on to a book review:

I've blogged about diving into a "classical education" with my last two posts, but I do like variety in my reading, so let's talk about another book I just finished.

First, let me say, the title appeals to some people...and offends others. To me, those are the best titles because it gets people's attention. The one thing I wish everyone would recognize is that it takes a bold and brave person to give it that title. The real question is whether or not the book lives up to the title. Does it have real substance? Does Jennette McCurdy have reasons for titling her book I'm Glad My Mom Died and will the reader empathize with her reasons?

In my opinion, and from my perspective, McCurdy definitely makes her case. A reader may not think so when they first begin the book, but you quickly learn there's more to this mother/daughter relationship than meets the next-door neighbor's eye. 

While this book spans McCurdy's life from about six years old to present, the book doesn't drag or lag from beginning to end. In fact, I ended up reading the entire book in one "ice day" because I didn't want to put it down for very long. The book moves along at a good pace, and you understand from each story she tells, in sequential order, what her life was like. McCurdy's story is less about her acting career (though it's in there, as it was a huge part of most of her life) and more about her relationship with her mother and what choices were made because of that relationship. 

I think it's important to point out that I know nothing of McCurdy's acting career. I saw her interviewed about the book, which is how I became interested in reading it. I didn't recognize her face or know that she was, at one time, popular on Nickelodeon. I've wondered if her story would be even more powerful to a reader who knew her as an actress. It was certainly powerful for me just reading it as a daughter.

I have a worn-out saying I often use when talking to other teachers and to students. It goes like this: Not everyone goes home to warm cookies and milk. In other words, everyone doesn't have a great home life, loving parents, a safe place, or a responsible adult in their lives. We recognize this, as a society, in severe physical abuse cases that end up on the news or in a movie (like "Mommie Dearest" from 1981) or in a shocking book (A Child Called It by Dave Pelzer published in 1995),...but there are other types of abuse that are just as detrimental and destructive to children, though you may not see marks on their bodies when they are young. But give it enough time to fester in the life of a person and you will, indeed, see the marks in a different way.

I stand up and applaud Jennette McCurdy for her bold and brave decision to write this book. She dedicated the book to her three older brothers, which made me realize just how truly difficult it would've been to be as open and honest about her life as she has been in this book. She has an important story to tell, and I am glad she told it. I hope you'll read it.

Happy reading!

Thursday, February 2, 2023

So, Why Read A "Classic" Young Adult Book?

As I mentioned in yesterday's post, I have already started down the reading path suggested by the book A Thomas Jefferson Education by Oliver DeMille. While I've read three of the five YA books DeMille suggests starting with, I'd like to focus this review on the two I've read, but had never heard of until DeMille's book. The third book on the list was one I believe is quite well-known by many, Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomery, which I read as an adult when another teacher suggested it a few years ago.

The first book I chose to read from DeMille's list was The Chosen by Chaim Potok. I was greatly moved by this book about two Jewish teenage boys in 1940s Brooklyn who become friends, despite the differences that exist within their shared religion. The book teaches so many important life lessons about friendship, loyalty, family, education, and compassion. I loved the book so much, I bought two of the books mentioned by the characters to help with my understanding of higher-level mathematics and the history of the Jewish people. 

I asked myself if the lessons I learned from the book would have been as meaningful to me when I was fifteen, if I'd read the book then. I think they most definitely would have. For example, I didn't have a strong relationship with my father, and I would like to have read about the two fathers in this story (who are very different from each other). As a teenager, I didn't know very much at all about Judaism, except from the viewpoint of the Christian church I was raised in, until I was out of high school. I used to babysit two adorable little boys for a college professor who was Jewish. She encouraged my curiosity and was happy to share their beliefs. I definitely think The Chosen would've been a book I would have enjoyed when I was a teenager.

I had such a great experience reading The Chosen, I was excited to move on to the next book on the list, Little Britches: Father and I Were Ranchers by Ralph Moody. Now, I admit, the title did very little to thrill me,...but I had high hopes for the book - I was on a roll!

Moody's autobiographical fiction novel consists of stories from his childhood in sequential order. It reads like a novel, and I enjoyed it in the beginning. After a while, though, I got tired of all the cowboy stories. I understand the book's place as a "classic" YA novel because it helps young people understand what life would have been like for children in the early 1900s, the responsibilities they carried and how hard they worked to help their families. Ralph's father had the patience of Job and was always teaching good lessons to his son in the book. I appreciate the sentiment behind the book, and I've even considered that a boy might find the book more engaging than I did. I intend to put a few copies in our reading classroom and see if I can get some feedback from our sixth graders. This book is the first in a series, but I'm not interested in reading the series. If some of our students at school decide they like it, I'll buy some for the classroom.

I am continuing to read other books, of course, while I'm on this specific reading journey. Since we have another "ice day" off from school tomorrow, I'll post about a couple of more recently published books I've enjoyed this week while we've been "iced in" all week.

Happy reading!

Wednesday, February 1, 2023

"To Boldly Go..." Where Our Forefathers Went?

I don't know what life is like where you are, but we are currently hunkered down in Texas due to inclement weather. I use the term "inclement weather" because different parts of Texas are experiencing different types of weather. In our neck of the woods, the winter storm is mostly freezing rain, sleet, and a little snow. Our streets are like ice skating rinks, so...I won't be venturing out any time soon. Schools were canceled yesterday, today, and will, most likely, be canceled tomorrow. On a good note, while the weather is keeping me at home, it's also allowing me more reading time! 

I mentioned in my last post I've started a new reading journey, one that may challenge me a bit more than I anticipated. It all started when I read a book entitled Battle for the American Mind: Uprooting a Century of Miseducation by Pete Hegseth with David Goodwin. I wasn't impressed with the first bit of it and felt the authors were a bit pompous (if I'm honest). I continued to read, though, because it always intrigues me when reviews of a book are either "for" or "against" with very few critics staying in the middle of the reading road. I don't have a problem with reading other people's opinions without feeling offended or feeling that I have to agree completely with either side. I take the best and leave the rest by the roadside. (Oh, how I wish more people would learn to do the same.)

Battle for the American Mind addresses some of the problems with public education. After I made it through the first ten percent of the book, the writers got my attention. I'm always interested in history, and I found that the information they presented in the book checked out (I always do my own research for these types of non-fiction books), which surprised me. However, after I read the book and had some conversations with a few long-time educators, I had to admit the book made sense - even though it hurt me, and disappointed me, to admit how broken the public education system really has been...for quite some time. I decided to read more.

The next book I read was A Thomas Jefferson Education: Teaching a Generation of Leaders for the Twenty-first Century by Oliver DeMille. This one really got my attention by explaining how our forefathers were educated, why it worked, and what critical parts are missing in the education of children today. It explained how this could be helped, whether a child is in a public, private, or charter school, or if you homeschool. It also gave a simple plan to follow in the back and a list of important books that should be a part of every person's education.

My education consists of a public education, two years in a community college, and two years in a private university. I didn't receive a "Thomas Jefferson Education," but I found myself intrigued enough to begin the reading suggestions in the back of the book to educate myself. I started with the easy stuff: young adult fiction. What "classic" YA books should I have read as a teenager? What difference, if any, would they have made in my life? I thought that was a good place to start.

I've now read three of the five suggestions, so far. I can't wait to share my review of the first one, which led me down another reading road I didn't expect. More about all that tomorrow. For now, I need to get back to my current read. This ice won't last forever, you know. 

Happy February! And, always, happy reading!