Friday, January 30, 2015

Literacy News on the METRO

The other day,  I was taking a trip to somewhere new using the subway.  Knowing it would be a long ride, I grabbed the Metro paper and found a really cool article called, Fun, games help develop literacy.

It listed some simple and easy ways to boost your child's literacy skills and also work on your own (Family Literacy Fun, 2015).  
  1. Board games - some require reading of instructions or cards that you pick up during your turn (Family Literacy Fun, 2015) .
  2. Singing songs & reciting rhymes - print out some lyrics or just listen to a song and sing along (Family Literacy Fun, 2015).
  3. Cooking - try a new recipe and go through the ingredients and steps together (Family Literacy Fun, 2015).
  4. Signs -  whether travelling by bus or by car or on foot, read the street signs or ad posters you see along the way (Family Literacy Fun, 2015).  
  5. Build things - get instructions for crafts or folding exercises like origami.
  6. Count Money - when buying things, count it out together (Family Literacy Fun, 2015).
And just remember to have fun.  The whole point is to learn naturally and not stress yourself out about it (Family Literacy Fun, 2015).  It isn't meant to be work.


The organization, ABC Life Literacy Canada, sponsored the article and their website even has some other free activities and resources for you to download.

They have so many things to check out like the Race to Literacy board game that you can print out and make.   They also have a couple of reading lists (for children) 

Explore the website and you'll find other great resources and important information.

For example, under the LEARN tab, they have a link to help adults find a learning centre in their town or city that can help them with reading, writing and math (Canada only!). There is also a page on the website with tips and activities for adult literacy, financial literacy, workplace literacy and family literacy.  There isn't just one type of literacy.  There are many and I'm glad this website speaks to some of them.

The site also takes the time to explain the terms they use.  If you're wondering what financial literacy is, they have a whole page dedicated to telling you what it is (i.e. the ability to understand financial matters).  

ABC Life Literacy Canada has a lot to offer people of all ages and from all walks of life.  Give it a chance and take a look.  




Works Cited:
Family Literacy Fun. (2015, January 19). Fun, games help develop literacy. Toronto METRO, p. 23.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

#BellLetsTalk


Today is Wednesday January 28th and in Canada, Bell Let's Talk Day is off to a fantastic start on social media.  You see the tag on twitter.  It's trending.  People you know are retweeting posts with it.  

But what is it and why is it important?

It's a day where people are supposed to come together and talk about mental illness.  If you suffer from a mental illness or a relative suffers from one or if you don't understand what mental illness is and the forms it can take, then today is for you. 

Talk about it.  Why? Because people are afraid to talk about their own suffering.  The stigma borne out of a lack of understanding prevents people from reaching out and asking for help.   



Not only can talking about it breakdown the stigma, but it can raise money for mental health initiatives in Canada.

Bell Let's Talk Website










CAMH Tweet


















I'll be tweeting.  Will you?

Monday, January 12, 2015

McDonald's: A Proud Supporter of Literacy

I was getting coffee the other night with a friend when I noticed the new display for Happy Meal toys.   This time they were books! All of them popular older stories for children.  I admit this is the first time I have seen McDonald's do this even though I have read that this is the second time.

This is such a great thing because not everyone can afford books for their young children. Yes, adult novels are quite expensive. A hardcover could run you up to almost $50 but if you look at the prices of children's books, they are not much better.  For instance, Sam and Dave Dig a Hole by Mac Barnett is $19 in Canada.  For a family on a budget, it's a little much.

McDonald's, HarperCollins and the organization, Reading is Fundamental have teamed up to try and make the world a little better.  I think this is so great and it's going to help a lot of kids out there.

McDonald's website is advertising it so I'll be using some screencaps from there because they are so neat.













There are four books to choose from:

  • If You Give a Mouse a Cookie written by Laura Numeroff & illustrated by Felicia Bond
  • Big Nate: In Class by Himself  by Lincoln Pierce
  • Flat Stanley Goes Camping written by Jeff Brown & illustrated by Mackey Pamintuan
  • Pete the Cat and His Magic Sunglasses written by James Dean and Kimberly Dean & illustrated by James Dean

Each book also comes with something extra to make it just that little bit more special.  For instance, If You Give a Mouse a Cookie comes with pieces to create a small board game. Each one will be different and specific to that book.  Get excited! Buy a Happy Meal and get one of these for the kid in your life because it ends January 22nd.
















Sunday, January 11, 2015

Adapting Classics: Jane Austen


The following graphic novels are about 3 years old now and I have been aware of them but totally forgot to discuss them here on the blog.  It's a bit late but better late than never, right?










Pride and Prejudice
adapted by Nancy Butler
illustrated by Hugo Petrus
Emma
adapted by Nancy Butler
illustrated by Janet Lee

Sense and Sensibility
adapted by Nancy Butler
illustrated by Sonny Liew
Northanger Abbey
adapted by Nancy Butler
illustrated by Janet Lee

I've put in an order for them so I will be reviewing them soon.  

One thing I have seen that threw me off these graphic novels is that the artist who worked on the cover?  Might not be the same one who did the rest of the book.  I've seen pages from Pride and Prejudice that I have found to be less than lovely.  Not all art styles are for me and I apologize to the artists because I know they have worked long and hard at their craft.  

Friday, January 9, 2015

East & West


Just found this new video blog adaptation and it is based on Elizabeth Gaskell's North and South!  My favorite novel from Gaskell, finally.  It's so cool though because in the comments you see other people who enjoyed the novel and miniseries coming out and declaring their love.

It's only three episodes in so it will be easy to catch up.  Give it a shot because it's been fun so far. Despite getting a few things wrong about the area of Milton, Ontario (i.e. no actual Milton University.  I'm an Ontarian so...hi?).   The first video is below but here's a link to the youtube channel.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Relevant to your Interests: Patrick Rothfuss

If you remember from my post on Prince of Thorns, I mentioned that the way women were portrayed in the book gave me considerable pause.   To be clear, I was not remarking on the number of women in the story.   I know there are a few.  I was remarking on what roles they fit into, which seemed to be very cliche: the victim, the evil witch, the vapid queen and the pretty but useless princess.  I was hoping for someone to break the mold and to be more genuine.

Mark Lawrence has said that the female characters presented do show up again in the trilogy and their parts get meatier.  This is something I hope for.  I will be checking out his next novel in the series soon so we shall see.  

But also reading Mark Lawrence's response to female fans is disappointing.  He's actually quite mean about it and turns it around to make it seem like female readers are sort of ridiculous.  They're not.  They see a gap with no logical explanation.  Mr. Lawrence is taking the opinions too personally, which can be really toxic for a writer.  

And let's be clear on one thing, asking for "strong" female characters is NOT silly. Especially, when women are so consistently presented as "lesser" and "smaller" than the men in the realm.  It is this mentality that perpetuates the problems with how women are written in books and how actual women interact with genre fiction.

In other news, I watched a Q & A with Patrick Rothfuss today and he had something to say on the matter.  The gifs below show a tidbit of it, follow this link.





Gifs made by the incredible skyisawake

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Miss Peregrine Will See You Now


I am so excited to see some updates on the Miss Peregrine movie page over at IMDB.  I really believe that Tim Burton will bring the book to life in an amazing way and I can't wait to see what he creates.  He's the right man for the job.












Even though a lot of the cast is still a rumor and not official, it's pretty excited just to see who they are looking at for the part.  Eva Green is such a perfect match though that I hope she sticks around.  Been a fan of hers for a long time so it will be fun to see her play something different from what I'm used to seeing.













Books to the Future #3: 4 Books I Want to Read in 2015












Everyone likes to start the year with listing all the books they want to read.  I've narrowed the list down to 4, which was hard. The new year brings so many new stories that it's difficult to decide what you want to read above all else.  I adding and removing books but here's the final list. Let's get started!

Mark of the Thief
by Jennifer Nielsen

Series: Book 1
Genres: Historical Fantasy, Middle Grade Books
Release Date (May Change): February 24, 2015

After reading the Ascendance Trilogy and loving it so much, I am more than excited to read something new and a little different from Jennifer Nielsen.  Rome, magical objects of a dead Julius Caesar, traitors, spies and a character caught in the middle of a place on the brink of chaos? Sounds like a recipe for fun. I hope it will be.


A Darker Shade of Magic
by V.E. SCHWAB

Series: Book 1
Genres: Adult Fiction, Fantasy
Release Date (May Change): February 24, 2015

I've seen this author mentioned a lot for her previous novel, Vicious (Still on my list of to be read).  What really drew me to this novel is that it involves a magician that travels between several parallel universes. Three versions of London and a fourth that isn't spoken about.  That sounds so cool.  Especially when he reluctantly gains a partner who is a master pickpocket from Georgian London.

I also read up on the book through the author's blog and she made a list of the things included in the novel like: A royal who is equal parts Prince Harry and Jack Harkness, cross dressing thieves & epic magic fights.

V.E. SCHWAB also put up teasers over twitter, which is cool.  The only people I know who do stuff like this are fanfiction writers so this was a lovely surprise.  The little tidbit below had me very interested in the novel and I hope it will hook you too.








The Book of Speculation
by Erika Swyler

Series: Nope.
Genres: Adult Fiction, Fantasy
Release Date (May Change): June 23, 2015

So that is not the official cover art for the novel.  We're a bit away from the release so that's normal.  I just wish I had something more to show but pretty borders and a book title will have to suffice.

A young and lonely librarian is given a mysterious old book that tells the story of two star crossed lovers in a traveling circus.  A story that is over 200 years old. As he reads through the pages and goes through the notes and sketches, he finds links to his own family.  Could the story shed some light on why every woman in his family dies on a specific month and on a specific day?  Can he decode the past fast enough to stop his sister from sharing the same fate?
This author also has a blog and she too made a list but this time of the things she researched for her book.  Things like hats 1790s, puritan prayer, menagerie, Luna Park and  diving girls. Some readers might not care for this, but I love seeing the ideas that go into creating a novel. 

I cannot resist a story involving a mystery, a circus and old books.  Definitely a book I will be watching out for.


The Boy in the Black Suit
by Jason Reynolds

Series: Nope.
Genres: Contemporary Fiction, Young Adult Fiction
Release Date (May Change): January 6, 2015

Matt wears a black suit everyday.  It's not in mourning for his mom.  He doesn't need the suit to do that.  It's for his job at the funeral home.  Missing his mom and working to get by since his dad can't help pay for anything except the next whiskey bottle, things aren't that great.  Then Matt meets a girl with a weird name.  She's been through a lot worse than he has and she's not broken.   She's strong. Matt wishes he could be that tough.  Just as Matt is losing hope, a girl who understands him may be able to change everything.

Saved the best for last. This author, Jason Reynolds, is one to watch.  I think the stories he tells are just really human and that's why they resonate with readers.  We need more stories like this one. I feel so late to the game with this.  I feel like I should apologize to Jason Reynolds for not keeping up.  He also has his own blog and he updates with some interesting adventures.


Monday, January 5, 2015

Books to the Future #2: The Princess & the Pony

The Princess and the Pony
by Kate Beaton

Princess Pinecone really wants a horse for her birthday.  A horse befitting of a warrior princess.  Something huge and strong and majestic. But like all birthday presents of one kind or another, it doesn't quite work out the way she had hoped for.

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This is a little different from Beaton's earlier work because it's geared towards children. However, let's be honest with ourselves.  We are going to read it anyway because it's Kate Beaton.  It looks cute and funny.  I think it will turn out to be a nice surprise.

ALSO: I always wondered if she would release a second volume of her comics and she will be sometime this fall, possibly in September.  Both Amazon and Goodreads say September 22nd, 2015 but we will have to wait and see.

This volume will be called, Step Aside, Pops!  There isn't a cover for it yet but that can wait.  I'm just excited for another book of her comics.  Her jokes about history, culture and literature always make me laugh.  I wonder if she'll throw in some of the comics involving her family? I enjoyed them when I read them on twitter.

Saturday, January 3, 2015

"In the name of the Moon, I'll punish you!"

Who is AC? 
written by Hope Larson 
drawn by Tintin Pantoja

Things are changing fast for Lin.  First, her family moves to a new town. 

Second, she gets zapped by her cellphone and given magical powers.  She's just barely getting the hang of this superhero thing when someone bad starts wreaking havoc in town.

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Firstly, I really liked the main character.  Lin was creative (i.e. created zines) and her attitude was fun.  Her family is also cute and close. It was fun to see how they interacted with each other.  I loved the idea of Lin gaining her powers through technology.  It works so well because so many teens are connected to technological devices whether it be a tablet, the latest smartphone or their thin laptop.  It was an interesting new way to create a magical girl superhero.

The story had its funny moments though, especially with the villain and the one person in town who didn't think Lin's new alter ego was cool.  And when you find out why the villain is the way she is, you just stop for a moment to laugh at how hilariously appropriate it is.  It's a fun read and I hope more people check it out.

Tintin Pantoja's art also keeps the story grounded in fun with her manga influenced style.  I loved how she drew Lin's superhero transformation.  It made me think of Sailor Moon.

It was an exciting start to a series and I hope we get to see new chapters in Lin's story.  It set up so much and really put out a lot to be resolved so I think readers will feel cheated if it doesn't continue. I've been watching Hope Larson's blog for sometime and she does not update it often.  If anything, it seems she's moving onto new projects and not looking back at this one.  It would be sad if we didn't get another chance with this comic and its characters.



Thursday, January 1, 2015

Pacific Rim: Cancelling the Boredom Apocalypse

One of the movies I really love is Pacific Rim, directed by Guillermo del Toro.  Giant robots?  Giant monsters? End of times?  People from all over the planet coming together to save the world?  How could I not love it?

Moving right along.

For some time, I thought that the movie would be the only thing I could have of the universe until the sequel got greenlit by the studios, got filmed and came out in theaters a few years from now (i.e. 2017).  Not true.  There are things out right now that prolong the enjoyment of Pacific Rim for everyone.

Pacific Rim: Tales from Year Zero written by Travis Beacham & illustrated by Sean Chen, Yvel Guichet and Pericles Junior

What I loved about this graphic novel is what it gave readers.  It took us back to the beginning, the first kaiju attack and how the drift system for the jaegers was developed.  Not to mention that it gives us more time with characters such as Stacker Pentecost, Mako Mori, Tendo Choi, Raleigh Becket and Yancy Becket.

I really enjoyed reading a little about Tendo in the graphic novel because I thought he was a lot of fun, but we didn't get to know him enough in the film.  This comic is Guillermo Del Toro and Travis Beacham (i.e. a writer of the Pacific Rim screenplay) approved.  Beacham even supplies an introduction for the comic, which is pretty cool to read.


Pacific Rim: The Official Movie Novelization written by Alex Irvine

I have not read the novelization, but it is on my reading list.  This is a pretty interesting occurrence since I never read novelizations.  I watch the movie and usually do not see the point.  However, I do know that there's a lot of new information in this novel, which has peeked my interest (i.e. character backstories, dates and character thoughts). It just adds a whole other dimension  to the story presented in the film.



Third was a limited time thing that happened at San Diego Comic Con 2014 called the Pacific Rim Oculus Rift experience.  Essentially, you were treated to a virtual reality game where you got to see what it would be like to pilot a Jaeger during the first battle featured in the film (i.e. the one where Raleigh and his brother Yancy fight the kaiju named Knifehead.) (Watercutter, 2014).  It looks pretty cool and I'm envious of anyone who got to try it out.



And apparently, there is an animated series in the works based on the movie that will take place between the first and the second film (Chitwood, 2014).  It is supposed to have an overarching type of story rather than stories and events that find a total resolution at the end of each episode (Chitwood, 2014).

As you can see there is quite a bit to get into right now and even more on its way.  So get out there and start exploring the Pacific Rim universe.

Sources:
Chitwood, A. (2014, July 11). Pacific Rim animated series details from Guillermo del Toro; envisions 13 episode arc. Retrieved from http://collider.com/pacific-rim-animated-series-details/

Watercutter, A. (2014, July 24). You can now pilot a Pacific Rim jaeger in oculus rift. And it's awesome. Retrieved from http://www.wired.com/2014/07/comic-con-liveblog-day-2/#92743367904

Thorns for Reading


Prince of Thorns
by Mark Lawrence

Prince Jorg Ancrath was born again when he was left for dead in a briar patch at the age of 9. His mother and young brother murdered in front of him by his uncle's men, he wanted revenge.  At age 13, he already leads his own murderous crew but he has other plans. He wants to be king.

Jorg heads home to his father's castle but old memories and new betrayals await him at every turn. 


*********************************************************

So after finishing this novel, I still feel a little conflicted and uneasy about it.  I enjoyed the book, mostly, but a lot about this first novel in the Broken Empire trilogy bothers me to no end.

The main character Jorg Ancrath is possibly the only main character that I have completely disliked upon reading a novel.  His hateful and vicious thoughts and his overall childish behavior is made so much worse when you find out that he is, in fact, a 14-year-old boy who leads a band of bandits and thieves.  I could not for the life of me understand his motivations for the longest time until that reveal towards the end, but I felt that it came a bit too late.  I was frustrated with his character too much to be okay with it.  The reveal also doesn't mean he changes much.

I am not new to dark and unfeeling characters.  I actually enjoy them.  Dexter Morgan from Jeff Lindsay's series is an example.  I think they're definitely rich and complex characters.  There is so much to do with them.  However, Jorg happens to be exceedingly annoying. I hate saying all this but I want to be honest.  The only good thing is that he does not offer excuses for the way he is.  If he did, I think I would have enjoyed this book a lot less.

But Prince of Thorns is not a bad novel.  The writing is very solid since what kept me reading was seeing how the next scene would unfold and the action during battle.  I found the battle with the necromancer to be really exciting and frightening because of Lawrence's ability to describe what was happening without making it seem like reading a list of actions.  I really loved the book's whole lore about the ghosts of the dead, the leucrota and the necromancers. The story is also quite interesting.  The political intrigue and the decisions made by characters are fun to watch.  Things happened that I didn't see coming, which was fun. Reading all of that was highly enjoyable.

I also wanted to take a moment to discuss that parts of this book made me uncomfortable.  Mostly, how women were presented and used.  Considering what happened to Jorg's mother and the revenge he believes he is due, how he could condone the same acts being done to other women mystifies me.  And really, Jorg's treatment of the women he meets in general is awful.  The first, he wants to murder because he likes her. The second, he uses as an object.  She isn't even a person.

If you think for a moment that I should not feel this way because it reflects what has happened in the real world or that this is just the way Lawrence's world is built then you should take a step back.  If it's reprehensible in a real society then it is reprehensible everywhere else.  I should not have to accept it.  Also, I think this brings up a larger issue.  If sexual violence and misogyny are used in fantasy and science fiction like they are common place and characters do not react then there is a problem.


I have chosen to check out the next book in the series, King of Thorns, since I am very interested in seeing what happens next in the story.