Posted in Uncategorized

Test your boundaries and your limits

Apparently there is a six am on Saturday morning.
Apparently there is a six am on Saturday morning.

This weekend I participated in ‘Urban Pursuit’. This  was an event run by Easter Seals NL and took most of my Saturday. I partnered with my sister-in-law, the person with whom I did Drop one this summer. At the celebration party for Drop Zone (where we rappelled down a nine story building) I was told of Urban Pursuit. We decided to sign up and history was made – Team Acrophobia was ready to go.

But what is Urban Pursuit? Urban Pursuit is a race around the city (and surrounding areas) for 10,000$. Teams had to pay to sign up and then were encouraged to fundraise – every 100$ they raised gave them a 30 second time advantage. All money raised went to Easter Seals NL, a group that works hard to give kids with disabilities and their families opportunities and support. For a Divergent person like me – dauntless, erudite and abnegation – plus being a reality tv viewer, this was a great opportunity.

To begin Urban Pursuit, we had to show up at a local mall at 7am Saturday morning. All of the 22 teams were there, ready to run the race. A fast forward was awarded – a team that called themselves Barbie and Ken raised over 12,000$! We were given the first clue as well as our start time – dependent on fundraising. There were rules about speeding, rules about being kind to other teams, rules about leaving our phones in the car and then told to have fun and be safe. We left, ate breakfast in the car as we drove to our first site – the playground behind a town hall. Our team could begin at eight and we were super ready to go. Our first task was running around the woods, looking for hidden clues. Behind each clue was a scrambled word and a number. We had to find all six clues, retrieve all six words , get all six numbers and then return to the start to solve the phrase and add the numbers. We surprised our volunteer – we ran and ran and ran (at one point he was heard saying behind us ‘running…. why is there always the running…?). However, all our running meant little -we couldn’t find one of the clues and had to keep running while looking. When we finally found it, the team that started with us had been back at the start for a while trying to solve the puzzle. Luckily we were able to solve the phrase (Children with disabilities have dreams too) and added the numbers (122222) and we were off – huge comeback to finish our first leg.

One of our clues

Getting back in the car we had a mix of frustration and excitement – we’d done it, but we did mess up a little. We tried to focus on our comeback and went to the next task. And then the next, and the next. Ten tasks in total, each one spread around the city. We found ourselves throwing water balloons, each time saying a wish that it wouldn’t smash on our partner. We played Bocce while sitting, an awareness task to show us the amazing abilities of seated athletes. We identified celebrity mug shots and priced houses, ran with bottles of water to try to fill up a larger bottle and tried to get lucky, finding a key from a pile of 200 to fit our lock. And we climbed stairs. Oh did we climb stairs. We had to climb nine stories of stairs – each story 17 stairs – where each bottom and top stair was labeled with a number. We had to add every fourth number, giving the solution to the people at the bottom. It took us two tries, meaning we climbed EIGHTEEN sets of stairs. Quickly. Doing mental math. IT WAS HARD. My partner kicked butt at a tetris competition while I did pretty darn good at a lego challenge. It was awesome.

We didn’t win. But we came 14th out of 22, a result with which we were pleased. We know that if we had found the clue quicker in the first activity we could have been a contender for top ten. Maybe next year.

My Team Number

As yes, we plan to do it again next year. Urban Pursuit was never about the money – we knew we weren’t going to win. It was about testing limits, using our minds and our physical abilities to their full extent. We were challenged in so many ways – logic, physical ability (THOSE STAIRS!) and teamwork. We never fought, we tried to listen (yes, I fell down on that once) and we played a fair game. We communicated. We both tried to remember to say thank you to all the volunteers – just because we’re in a hurry doesn’t mean we can’t be polite! And we really tested ourselves.

I try to encourage my students to test themselves in as many ways as they can. Run for student office, go out for the musical, try out for the team. Read books, try to do your best academically and be ready to say yes when someone asks you to do something that means you have to stretch your comfort zone. I never thought I’d be running through the woods at eight on a Saturday morning – and I never plan to climb the stairs at Atlantic place again! – but I did it. And I plan to do it again!

I made it! I look tired and messy and accomplished!
I made it! I look tired and messy and accomplished!

If these types of activities are your thing, look up what charities local to you are doing. For this particular one, you have to be over eighteen. However, I’m sure that there are others that you can participate in, even before you turn eighteen. This one was great – I got to challenge myself and a charity got exposure and money. Really, look around and see what you can do, age and money wise. If you need to fundraise, the internet is a great place for that, and your English teacher might chip in some cash as well. Don’t be afraid to get out and do it – you’ll never know unless you try. Get involved, get out there and do it!

Posted in Books, top ten, Uncategorized

Ten for Tuesday

There is a meme going around Facebook – 10 books that stayed with you. It’s funny – I read a lot but books that have stayed with me… harder to list. Here goes:

anne1. ‘Anne of Green Gables’ (and series). Childhood in a series. I remember being quite young and reading my moms copies of the first three green gables books. This lead to the discovery that it was a series of eight – and that L.M. Montgomery published other series such as ‘Emily of New Moon’ and ‘The Story Girl’. This book opened up so much for me, reading wise, that I have to list it as one of my ten – even if it’s not my favorite of the series. Whenever I get a dress and the sleeves are puffy, I think of Anne!

2. ‘Harry Potter and the Philosophers Stone’ (and series). I was a latehp comer to Harry Potter. I think there were four books out when I originally read the first one. This was good in some ways – I didn’t have the same wait in the beginning that most readers had. However, once I started, I couldn’t stop. I read and reread all the books as they came out. I would read the books from start to finish of the series every time a book or movie was released. I left my house the day the last one came out and did not go back until I had it finished. This book reminded me of the joys of childhood reading and the value of friendship – two lessons that no one should be without.

holocaust3. ‘Holocaust’. I reread this one every year it seems. I do a lot with Holocaust studies and this particular book has stayed with me to the point I continued to revisit and even book talk it quite often. The story of a Jewish family, told by a surviving member and the story of Nazi officer as told through his journals, it brings both sides of the story to the page. It was made into a miniseries in the 70s. I’ll be honest – I don’t know if the book was based on the miniseries or the miniseries based on the book but I don’t care. Wonderfully told story – stories – and one that has stuck with me. And the IMDB Trivia for the miniseries is fantastic.
4. Ah… ‘Flowers in the Attic’ by V.C. Andrews. Actually by V.C. Andrews and not the ghostwriter employed after her death. This book was a grudging gift to me by my parents – they were thrilled I was reading but felt it wasn’t good literature. And it’s not. Not really. It’s modern gothic horror at its finest – girl meets boy, girl loves boy, girl and boy run away and get married because they’re uncle and niece, boy dies leaving girls with four kids, girl moves home and locks kids in the attic, never to be seen again. This is their story. It’s been made into a movie and a tv movie and has been rereleased for a modern audience. This was a book that was raw and inappropriate in many ways but for teen age me, was one of my few ways to read young adult literature when I was actually a young adult.

annefrank 5. ‘Diary of a Young Girl’ was a book I bought after reading an excerpt in my English textbook. I think it was after grade seven I found it. I did not have a clue what it was really about (the Holocaust wasn’t really taught, at least in my small town school) and didn’t realize what a big deal it was. I just remember being so touched by the small part of it published in my textbook that I had to seek it out in my small town bookstore and read it. I still have that copy, a book I won’t get rid of even though it’s falling apart. It was learning others thought like I did and relating to this young girl who thought like I did… it was everything at that point in time. Realizing my historical ignorance, especially as I teach Holocaust novels and take kids to DC after intensive Holocaust studies – heck! I’ve done courses from Yad Vashem at this point! – is amazing. This book stuck because it was beautiful and true.

gonewiththewind6. Speaking of historical ignorance…. ‘Gone with the Wind’ taught me about the American Civil War, the Ku Klux Klan and much of the basics of American history. I know so much more now, including how much this was one story and a story that was more about the main character than the world around her. But it is a book I read and reread – devoured even. I was taken in by the world created and the time of lords and ladies of the south. Funnily enough, I never saw anything wrong with what Scarlett did – something she realizes in the (fairly horrible) sequel – she did what she needed to do and made her own way. I liked her, even if I thought she was fairly horrible at times. This is a book I have replaced as it fell apart in the last year or so from overuse!

hungergames7. ‘The Hunger Games’. Has to be included because it opened up a whole world for me. I was a librarian but I wasn’t reading everything I could – I was not totally aware of what was out there. I saw a write up about this book where Jennifer Weiner, Stephanie Meyer and Stephen King praised and recommended this book. Three totally different authors talking about this book. So I picked it up and was engrossed. I was heartbroken when it ended as I didn’t know it was a series. Finding out a new one was going to come out – a sequel! – well it was a good day. I teach this book now and I know it has faults. But for me it was the first real foray into YA lit, a foray that has become a lifestyle.

8. ‘The Red Tent’ fits into my love of historical novels that retell a story from an alternative viewpoint.tent It tells the story of Dinah, sister of Joseph, daughter of Jacob. She gets a mention in the bible but only a mention – she’s not the story. But she has a story and this is one version of it. This book tells the story of the women behind the men, the story of how they lived while being brought from place to place. I love alternative tellings of popular stories and this is one of the best ones I’ve read. It even prompted me to pull out my childhood bible and read the story of her family. Yep, she’s there, as a victim. In this book, she’s a hero. Funny the role perspective plays in a story.

mists9. Speaking of perspective, ‘The Mists of Avalon’ was another story of perspective. The story of Avalon, of King Arthur, of Lords and Ladies, told by Morgan Le Fay. His half sister and mother of his child. Lady of Avalon. Priestess. Welder of power. This is, like the ‘Red Tent’, a story of perspective. The story is familiar but being told from this perspective brings a new view to an old story. For me it awakened ideas of spirituality and beliefs and cemented my views of equality and the need to tell all the stories. I began this book on the plane to China – I was going to a UN conference and NGO forum as the youngest person from my province. I loved China but I couldn’t wait to get back on the plane and finish it.


Book ten. Book ten. I don’t know what to say. ‘The Fault in our Stars’? ‘Charlie and the Chocolate Factory’? ‘The Book Thief’? So many books that mean so much to me. I’m going to leave this particular top ten unfinished. Any of those book – and others – could finish it, but I don’t want to leave any out. To be finished…. later?


Posted in Uncategorized

It’s that time of year again….

It’s that time of year again! People  begin publishing lists of the best of the year, including books. Those are a little depressing – there’s still so much time left in the year and so much left to do! Luckily, other people begin publishing lists of what’s still to come in the year. Those are much more fun at this point – what else can I enjoy before the year is done!

This list in particular is fantastic: CNN: Top 40 Fall Young Adult Book Releases. Forty young adult book coming out between September to December of all different genres. I’ve read a few of them and I have to say, they’re fantastic.

Book Number Three, ‘I’ll Give You The Sun’ was beautiful. It had an interesting way of telling the story – two different story tellers – twins – telling of their lives several years in the difference. It came out September 16th and I’m already seeing it in a bunch of ‘Best of 2014’ discussions.

Book Number Four, ‘Get Even’ was interesting It seemed familiar in plot line but I liked how it dealt with the issue of bullying. At times it was far fetched but the determination and loyalty of friendship brought it back on track. When adding it to my goodreads page, I noticed it’s the first of a series, something that I’d hoped when I read it – it ended leaving me wanting more.

I’ve not read any of the others, but I am looking forward to them. ‘The Blood of Olympus’ is one that people in my house are waiting for anxiously. I’ve preordered book 26, ‘Althea and Oliver’ as well as book 30, ‘Mortal Gods’ and book 35, How it went down. ‘Blue Lily Lily Blue’, book 40, is one I can’t wait for. I’m confused about a few that aren’t there – ‘Blood of my Blood’ should have been there, as well as ‘Isla and the Happily Ever After’. But I am looking forward to the next few months of reading.

This list only goes up to the end of October – hopefully there are more releases so that when we get to the end of 2014 I have a huge list to choose from for favourite releases.

Posted in Books, Reading, school, Uncategorized

Movies and teaching books

Almost anytime I assign a novel, I get asked ‘Miss, is there a movie for this?’. Often, these days, given our use of popular literature and the movie industry tendency to make books of popular literature, the answer is yes. Yes, there is a movie. Yes, we can go see it (if it’s coming out now). Yes, I have seen it. Yes, we are watching it in class.

Because yes. I will show the movie in class. Now, that might seem like an easy lesson plan – show a movie for three or four classes. And, well, it means I’m not talking as much, which is, perhaps, easier for everyone. But it’s got a purpose. By showing the movie, I’m presenting a world to students, a world though up by others based on the same material they read. I’m presenting to them a visual of a text, a visual that may or may not line up with the visual they created for themselves. It’s always interesting hearing the reactions of kids as they see how characters are presented, especially if they really liked the book.

I often start with the movie – I don’t treat it as a reward, I treat it as part of the learning. Sometimes that will depend on the adaptation of the movie – I will start a novel study with ‘Hunger Games’ or ‘Divergent’, but I’ll finish ‘A Christmas Carol’ with the Muppets singing their way though that classic tale. In some ways, even if it’s worst case scenario, knowing the students at least know the story (from watching the movie). In other cases, it’s a chance to see who has connected with the novel. There are students who get quite offended if the movie doesn’t portray their favourites in the right way. There are others who don’t like how the setting they imagined is portrayed. Others notice their favourite parts are changed or left out and exclaim on their disappointment. It’s beautiful to watch their reactions, hear their conversation and talk with them about the edits they would make. Someone took the exact same book you read and made it into a visual – do you agree with what they did or not?

There is always the worry about students not reading the book, instead relying on the movie to teach them the story. And it’s true, that happens. That always has happened, as long as there have been movies based on books. Or Coles notes based on books. Or a kid in the class that reads the book and doesn’t mind telling others the storyline. I’m upfront and tell kids when I’ve seen a movie. They know I will go see movies as soon as they come out if I can. I tell them they may even might get questions asking the differences between the movie and the book. They are told that just knowing the movie will not be useful – and most realize that putting in the work to understand the differences between both without reading the book is a little much. Some try, this I know, but most give it away, in their answers or even in casual conversation that they then support in their answers. It’s hard than you think to pretend you’ve read a book and much easier to just read the darn thing.

Movies are a beautiful thing and there are people out there reading the books and then making them into masterpieces. Enjoy, critique and compare to the visuals in your imagination.

In summary, may I present the inspiration for this blog: the Mockingjay Part One Trailer.


Posted in apps, Books, Reading, Reviews, Uncategorized


Checking out a book through overdrive.

I use Kobo for a lot of my e-reading. However, sometimes I realize that I am spending all kinds of money on ebooks. Sometimes lots of money, money that could go elsewhere. Plus, I like supporting librarians and libraries (seeing as I spent so much time as a librarian and in a library). So I use ‘Overdrive’, an app that allows me to check out books from the public library as ebooks. It’s quick, easy and all I need is a library card from my public library.

Search results for term “John Green”

Once you set up the library in the app (you choose the library you want to access, theoretically, if you have access to a number of libraries that use overdrive, you could choose from them all). You can choose your category (fiction, non fiction, teen fiction, etc) and then see what there is to check out. You can choose to see just what’s available now, if you’re looking for something to read now, or you can see all that’s being offered, if you’re looking for something specific. You can also search for a specific title or author. In addition, overdrive will feature their most popular titles on the front page, as well as popular titles in specific categories.

I find I usually go into the teen fiction section. Then I choose to look at available titles only and pick some books that I wouldn’t have thought of. This means that I get to read books that I may not have thought of had I relied on just Kobo. I select the title and then choose borrow (I can also choose sample, more or wishlist). If I chose sample, I would have been brought to a sample of the book,Checking out books

Checking out books

more takes me to a description of the book with the opportunity to choose all those items and wishlist adds the book to a list that overdrive keeps of wishes of mine. Once I choose checkout, I’m taken to a page to type in my library card number and my PIN. You need to set those up through your public library. Then, when that info is in, you choose to down load the book to read in your browser and boom! You have a book borrowed from the library for 14 days. Yay!

Putting a book on hold.

But what if they list the book you want but someone else has it? Those cads! You can put it on hold. Essentially, where it normally says borrow you can choose to put it on hold. You put in your e-mail address and overdrive will e-mail you when the book is ready. You have to check it out fairly quickly or you lose your claim on the file. So, this won’t work if you already have your limit on books checked out. But it does work if you want a book and are willing to wait for it – and return other books if it means having space to check that one out.

You can play with the settings and chance your checkout times from 7 to 14 days. You can check out pdfs, ebooks and audio books. You can read the books in the app. If you don’t return the book, it returns automatically.  It’s all fantastic.

Well, except for one point. Publishers do not always make books available to libraries and overdrive. Their fear is that they’ll lose out on money as you don’t need to replace ebooks. At times, they’ll make it so an ebook can be checked out a limited amount of times, but most others make it so that their books are not available. Not cool publishers. Not cool. So, if there’s a book you really want to eread and the library doesn’t have it (to borrow or to put on hold), you may just have to buy it. However, if it has the books you want, overdrive is a great alternative to spending the money and helps you support your local library while you do it! Win-win-win!

The images of overdrive were taken on my ipad. I use the Newfoundland and Labrador Public Library (NLPL) as my library of choice.

Authors on Writing (first edition)

Some of my favourite authors have great websites. On these sites, they share background books they’ve written. Sometimes this sharing includes information on the characters – why they did what they did, info on what happens after the book, analysis on choices made. But sometimes it includes how they write. This info is useful if you ever want to be a writer or are interested in the process; how does someone create a world that others buy into and grow to love? Here are links to some of these writers:

April Henry – April Henry Mysteries and So many books, so little time. April Henry writes mystery stories, often inspired by true events. Her books include ones such as ‘The Girl Who Was Supposed to Die‘, ‘Girl, Stolen‘ and ‘The Night She Disappeared‘. Her site talks about her process and her scheduling an what it means to approach writing. These two posts on her live journal are really interesting if you are considering writing as part of your life – 10 Secrets to being a Real Writer and How the Writing Process REALLY works. I came upon her site one day after reading ‘The Girl Who Was Supposed to Die’, a book that she thanks Kathleen Edwards (no relation – I’m just a fan) for indirectly inspiring. I was sucked in by her descriptions of her process and her idea of ‘don’t just research – do’. Very interesting reading, whether you enjoy mysteries or want to write them.

Veronica Roth – Theartofnotwriting or her old site. Author of the Divergent series, including the new Four Chronicles. You know Divergent – a grade 10 novel at our school! Veronica Roth has begun using the tumblr platform, to blog as well as share images that she enjoys, that she finds inspiring or that describe her thoughts on writing. She is very open to fan comments and questions and indulges the fandom that her books has inspired. Her archives are an interesting read through the process of publishing the sequels to ‘Divergent’ (sidenote – imho, ‘Divergent’ is the best in the series but it’s important to know what happens to the characters, especially when your english teacher is DYING to tell you!). This blog shows the life of a writer and how they are people too (honestly!). Lots of information and lots of great links and images.

Due to social media being what it is, authors are everywhere! My goal is to share with you blogs of those who connect, who try to show the writing process and who makes life a little more interesting on the interwebs!