Classic American Literature

Howdy Mrs. Nicastro’s students! There should be two parts to your post–your discussion of your own novel and your discussion of another student’s novel that is similar to your own. Here are some requirements from Mrs. Nicastro to get you started:

How are the tensions of the time reflected in the classic American Literature novel that was read for your independent reading assignment? Before posting, please research the time period of your piece and create an analysis that connects  the American historical perspective with the content of your novel. This connection can be made by comparing the setting, characters, theme, etc. Begin your post with the Title, Author, genre of the novel, and the time period that the novel takes place.

139 comments May 4, 2009

“Twilight” and “New Moon”

“Twilight” and “New Moon” by Stephanie Meyer

Here’s my confession: I hate the “Twilight” series. It has some of the worse writing I have ever read.

I’ve spent several evenings trying to get through the whole thing. I managed the first book, “Twilight.” I tried the second book, “New Moon,” but I could only stand about one-third of it. I wanted to like it–or at least get through all four books–because so many students like it, because I guess the whole world, except me, likes it.

But, seriously, what good is a vampire boyfriend? I’m thinking Edward is perfect for teen girls because he is dangerous, what with his ability to suck the life out of Bella, but he’s harmless, too, because he has to stay away from her and not make sexual advances since it’s too risky. So I guess if I were younger, I’d think of this as a sort of pure, magical love, too. But having been around boys (and later men) who suck the life out of people, I’ve learned that they just aren’t so much fun to hang out with as you might think they would be.

Bella, as a character, is even worse than Edward. Whine, whine, whine–oh, she does stop for frequent klutzy maneuvers that put everyone in danger. But it doesn’t take her long to get back to pouting. ‘Oh, poor me, it’s my 18th birthday and people want to celebrate it and give me flowers and plan a party–how thoughtless! Why can’t they just let me emo my way through the day? Waa, waa–why don’t I get to be an undead, icy vampire who has to suck fresh blood to exist?’

And the writing! Stephanie Meyer is the Queen of the Adverb. He ‘coldly’ this, he ‘coldly’ that. I can’t figure out what’s thrilling about Edward coldly kissing Bella. I know they have this pure love, but I’m guessing that at some point they’ll marry. With Edward being the undead ice king that he is, if this marriage should include any intimacy, I hope there’s someone nearby with an ice pick and a super hot hair dryer.

So–I want to be enlightened. And I have three prizes to offer to any COHS students who can make a good go of it. Make a comment–tell me why you love this book. I’ll pick the three best answers (totally arbitrary–my opinion) and give these prizes:

Third: A biography (book) of the actor who plays Edward

Second: A “Twilight” poster

First: A book about the making of the “Twilight” movie–lots of color photos and star interviews.

8 comments April 22, 2009

“Stargirl” by Jerry Spinelli

Mrs. M. tells me that some of her students in READ 180 classes have completed some of the novels available in the course and might like to comment on them. I hope that if you’re in the class, you’ve chosen to read “Stargirl.” I love this book.

Stargirl is a true nonconformist, a deeply compassionate one. Unlike the ‘nonconformists’ in most books I’ve read who are secretly cool or quite disturbed, Stargirl is a sweet girl whose quirky behavior makes her, by turns, loved and then hated by her classmates at Mica Area High in Mica, Arizona.

The novel’s narrator, Leo Borlock, is fascinated by Stargirl—the way she carries a ukulele to the cafeteria and sings “Happy Birthday” to classmates, cheerleads for her own basketball team and for the opponents as well, and meditates in the desert. He can overlook the fact that she dresses in a very weird way and has a pet rat. When he starts to fall in love with Stargirl, Leo begins to wish that she would just be normal so that he doesn’t have to be an outcast for dating her. He has to decide whether to be loyal to her (and thus to himself) or to fit in with other students.

If you have read “Stargirl,” then follow it up with “Love, Stargirl.” This is a sequel, but the point of view is Stargirl’s rather than Leo’s. “Love, Stargirl” is touching as well because it details the musings of a broken heart, as Stargirl writes “the world’s longest letter” to Leo. As she baby-sits a clever neighbor child and befriends an agoraphobic townswoman, Stargirl shows us that it’s possible to get to the other side of love-grief–and still be kind.

It’s funny because, usually, this sort of lighthearted whimsy is not my thing. I think that says something about the author’s ability to tell Stargirl’s story.

April 22, 2009

Creature of the Night
by Kate Thompson

Bobby’s mother recently moved the family to a cottage in the country, far from his “bad influence friends” in Dublin. Bobby laughs at the simple country folk, such as old Mrs. Dooley, the landlady’s mother, with her tales of malicious fairies. When Bobby steals a car from the cottage and crashes it, he is forced to pay for it by working at the Dooleys’ farm. There he learns the disturbing history of the cottage: the previous renter went missing, the Dooleys say, and a girl was murdered there. And now that Bobby’s brother insists that a strange little woman is visiting the cottage at night, Mrs. Dooley’s tales suddenly seem terrifyingly real.

JLG Review: In Creature of the Night, a chilling suspense tale frames a powerful coming-of-age story. The novel’s eerie cover art and creepy premise will hook readers. However, its authentic teenage voice and realistic depiction of troubled family dynamics are what make this a memorable, affecting read.

NOTE: COHS Titans–The above review is excerpted from the Junior Library Guild. (Meaning that I didn’t write it and don’t want to take credit from something I didn’t do!) We belong to the Junior Library Guild and purchase four books from them each month, so we have access to these reviews. I’m going to start posting excerpts from the reviews in the hope that you will see what great books we get from JLG–and come check them out! If you want to read the whole review, ask your English teacher. I have made copies for him or her to post in the classroom.

April 21, 2009

A Kiss in Time
by Alex Flinn

Talia is a beautiful royal princess whose minor rebellion against her overprotective parents results in the very thing they fear most. She pricks her finger on a spindle and sends the entire kingdom of Euphrasia into a sleep that can only be broken by true love’s kiss. Jack is a twenty-first-century American slacker who has been sent by his parents to spend the summer in “sucky” Europe. Jack has an idea of what happens when you kiss a sleeping princess, but that doesn’t mean he’s ready for the result in this modern take on the classic tale of Sleeping Beauty.

JLG Review: A funny, irreverent romantic adventure, A Kiss in Time manages to skip between two very different characters’ points of view while still remaining sweet and engrossing. Alex Flinn handles the voices of her main characters (selfish, sulky Jack and spoiled, temperamental Talia)—and their subsequent transformations—with affection and good humor.

NOTE: COHS Titans–The above review is excerpted from the Junior Library Guild. (Meaning that I didn’t write it and don’t want to take credit from something I didn’t do!) We belong to the Junior Library Guild and purchase four books from them each month, so we have access to these reviews. I’m going to start posting excerpts from the reviews in the hope that you will see what great books we get from JLG–and come check them out! If you want to read the whole review, ask your English teacher. I have made copies for him or her to post in the classroom.

April 21, 2009

The Rock and the River
by Kekla Magoon

1968: Racial tensions are escalating in cities across America, including fourteen-year-old Sam’s hometown of Chicago. The struggle for racial equality has even divided Sam’s own family—his father is a civil rights activist, but Sam’s older brother, Stephen, a.k.a. Stick, has joined the Black Panthers. Sam respects his father, but as he sees an increasing number of violent acts perpetrated by whites against blacks, he begins to think that Stick has the right idea. Author’s note.

JLG Review: The Rock and the River provides a fresh take on the civil rights movement. Rather than writing only about the division between blacks and whites, debut author Kekla Magoon concentrates on a less-explored aspect of the time period, the split between blacks who practiced nonviolent resistance and those who attempted violent revolution.

NOTE: COHS Titans–The above review is excerpted from the Junior Library Guild. (Meaning that I didn’t write it and don’t want to take credit from something I didn’t do!) We belong to the Junior Library Guild and purchase four books from them each month, so we have access to these reviews. I’m going to start posting excerpts from the reviews in the hope that you will see what great books we get from JLG–and come check them out! If you want to read the whole review, ask your English teacher. I have made copies for him or her to post in the classroom.

April 21, 2009

NOTE: COHS Titans–The following review is excerpted from the Junior Library Guild. (Meaning that I didn’t write it and don’t want to take credit from something I didn’t do!) We belong to the Junior Library Guild and purchase four books from them each month, so we have access to these reviews. I’m going to start posting excerpts from the reviews in the hope that you will see what great books we get from JLG–and come check them out! If you want to read the whole review, ask your English teacher. I have made copies for him or her to post in the classroom.

Why I Fight by J. Adams Oaks

When Uncle Spade, an unemployed drifter, saves twelve-year-old Wyatt Reaves from his neglectful parents, Wyatt thinks he’s found a real home. But all Spade sees in Wyatt is a potential meal ticket: a taller-than-average kid with a mean punch who could become a bare-fist fighting champion with the proper training. By the time Wyatt is fourteen, he can win any fight—but that doesn’t mean he enjoys it. How can he break away from his uncle when Spade is the only family who’s ever really cared for him?

JLG Review: The moving story of a good-hearted boy thrust into the dangerous world of bare-fist fighting, Why I Fight offers a look at how a sport can become a means of escape for someone in desperate circumstances.

April 21, 2009

NOTE: COHS Titans–The following review is excerpted from the Junior Library Guild. (Meaning that I didn’t write it and don’t want to take credit from something I didn’t do!) We belong to the Junior Library Guild and purchase four books from them each month, so we have access to these reviews. I’m going to start posting excerpts from the reviews in the hope that you will see what great books we get from JLG–and come check them out! If you want to read the whole review, ask your English teacher. I have made copies for him or her to post in the classroom.

Some of you enjoyed reading Hoot and FlushScat is by the same author.

Ms. W

Scat
by Carl Hiaasen

Mrs. Starch, the cruelest teacher at the Truman School, humiliates Duane Scrod Jr., an extremely volatile student. Then Mrs. Starch vanishes during a biology field trip to Black Vine Swamp. The authorities initially suspect Duane, but they can’t question him; he’s been missing since the day before the field trip. Certain that something strange is going on, Duane’s classmates Nick and Marta investigate the disappearances. What they discover is definitely strange—it involves endangered panthers, a sleazy oil prospector, and a rampant environmentalist named Twilly Spree.

JLG Review: Carl Hiaasen specializes in accessible and engaging stories with an environmental bent. As with his previous novels for young readers, the conflict in Scat plays out between those who are committed to protecting Florida’s wildlife and the corrupt businessmen trying to profit from it. . . .

Nick and Marta are average kids who just want to know why their teacher suddenly went missing. As they investigate her disappearance, they stumble upon a plot far bigger than they expected. . . .

. . . Combining humor, intrigue, and a dash of danger, Hiaasen has created a fast-paced adventure that will captivate and entertain a wide range of readers—and might even teach them a few things about biology along the way.

April 14, 2009

The Forest of Hands and Teeth
by Carrie Ryan

Mary dreams of a world beyond her village. But she also knows how impossible that dream is; according to the Sisters, no other village still exists. The Unconsecrated, the undead who claw at the village’s fence, have infected everyone outside it. But one day the impossible happens: a normal, healthy-looking young woman emerges from the forest outside the village. Her presence gives Mary hope. It is hope she needs when, soon after, the Unconsecrated breach the village fence. To survive, Mary must escape from the village into the Forest of Hands and Teeth.

JLG Review: The zombies in The Forest of Hands and Teeth are both frightening and familiar—and what’s most frightening is their familiarity. . . . Several pages later, Mary’s mother gets bitten, having wandered too close to the fence after seeing her husband on the other side. . . .

After her mother becomes Unconsecrated and disappears into the Forest, Mary is haunted by her memory. But she finds joy in new love. Mary has been sent to join the ranks of the Sisterhood, the religious order that rules the village. One night, Mary’s friend Travis is brought to the Cathedral, requiring medical attention. Mary treats him and prays with him, and, over time, they secretly grow closer. . . .

Suspenseful and sensitively written, The Forest of Hands and Teeth breathes new life into the genre of the undead.

NOTE: COHS Titans–Theabove review is excerpted from the Junior Library Guild. (Meaning that I didn’t write it and don’t want to take credit from something I didn’t do!) We belong to the Junior Library Guild and purchase four books from them each month, so we have access to these reviews. I’m going to start posting excerpts from the reviews in the hope that you will see what great books we get from JLG–and come check them out! If you want to read the whole review, ask your English teacher. I have made copies for him or her to post in the classroom.

April 14, 2009

You loved Speak–and Wintergirls is by the same author!

Ms. W

Wintergirls
by Laurie Halse Anderson

On Saturday night Lia ignores thirty-three phone calls from her ex-best friend Cassie. On Monday morning Lia learns that Cassie has been found dead in a motel room. Lia has always been skilled at hiding her emotions, and her ongoing struggle with anorexia has taught her how to keep secrets—she sews quarters into her bathrobe to trick the bathroom scale and simulates eating by smearing ketchup on her mouth and making a mess in the microwave. But hiding her guilt over Cassie’s death will push her to the edge—and visions of Cassie’s ghost, beckoning Lia to join her, might push her over it.

JLG Review: “It’s not nice when girls die.” So opens Laurie Halse Anderson’s Wintergirls, a powerful exploration of the distressing world of teen eating disorders. Almost as soon as Lia learns about the death of her former best friend, she becomes haunted by her memories of Cassie. Convinced that she is complicit in Cassie’s death, Lia quickly descends into a familiar pattern of self-destruction. Anderson takes her readers along on Lia’s journey, using a stream-of-consciousness narrative that allows them to understand first-hand Lia’s thoughts and experiences.

This book contains no easy answers. Instead, Anderson precisely details the physical and emotional effects of Lia’s disease. The metaphors she uses are intense, violent images that bring Lia’s inner demons to life.

NOTE: COHS Titans–The above review is excerpted from the Junior Library Guild. (Meaning that I didn’t write it and don’t want to take credit from something I didn’t do!) We belong to the Junior Library Guild and purchase four books from them each month, so we have access to these reviews. I’m going to start posting excerpts from the reviews in the hope that you will see what great books we get from JLG–and come check them out! If you want to read the whole review, ask your English teacher. I have made copies for him or her to post in the classroom.

April 14, 2009

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