Saturday, March 7, 2015

What About My Promposal, Blaine?!

by Rhonda Helms

Camilla gets a promposal from someone totally unexpected and sadly, unwanted.  She had hoped her quiet crush, Benjamin, would be the one to ask her to prom.  But being asked in front of the whole school and a news crew can be pretty intimidating.  Camilla says yes, thinking that there was no hope for her and Benjamin anyway.  But when a school project brings Camilla together with her crush, she thinks that maybe she was wrong.

Joshua has his own problems.  His gay best friend, Ethan, begs for his help to craft the perfect promposal.  The tragic part? Joshua is in love with Ethan and the promposal is for someone else.  So is Joshua supposed to fake it until this mess is over? Or does he do something drastic to win Ethan's heart?
Oh boy, this novel.  Where do I start?  I guess I should start with how I didn't particularly enjoy it.

I thought the idea was pretty cool because I've never heard of promposals.  I didn't think people went all out with the ask portion of prom like some people do for marriage proposals. I was pretty excited to read it.  It was also a book about two best friends told from each of their points of view (i.e first person pov from Camilla and Joshua).

The writing is what hurt my reading experience.  The teen voices didn't sound genuine and every line of dialogue was really stiff.  You could get the sense that an adult was writing what they thought teenagers would sound like.  The overabundance of descriptions of particular physical aspects of each person's crush were strange at first but then got annoying. We don't need to revisit how important a character's scent is over and over again.  I don't care how alluring his special brand of Old Spice is.  

And when one of the couples finally gets together? It's so over the top.  There's even that familiar teen movie speech on someone's lawn.  It wasn't even a good speech.  The writing reminded me of fanfiction that had not been beta read.  It's as if no one else got a look at this story or offered the author any advice on how to improve her work.

I had so much hope for this novel, especially, because one of the main characters was gay. And that character got to tell their story from their own perspective.  They had a voice. Joshua's story was the more interesting, however, the writing and the his story's predictability just didn't work for me.

This book was not for me, but it may be for you.  Maybe I'm just too sensitive.  The two stories are cute and it is a quick read.  You could get through it in one sitting.  The author also doesn't waste time in her storytelling.  She tells the reader the important stuff happening to each character and keeps going.  So if you're looking for a short, lighthearted, inclusive and romantic story about prom, then this may be the right book for you.

Monday, March 2, 2015

50th Anniversary of The Sound of Music

The Sound of Music is celebrating its 50th anniversary today.  For a movie made in 1965, the fact that it is celebrated and remembered so many years later shows that it stood the test of time.  What's great is that new generations are still able to discover the music and the story and have it touch their lives.

My mom told me about the movie when we first watched The Princess Diaries and she recognized Julie Andrews.  I watched it sometime later after ordering it from the library. The film was still on VHS tapes back then (i.e. I am old). 

In the spirit of the anniversary, I wanted to share with you something that was inspired by The Sound of Music and Cinderella.  In this case, a Argentinian soap opera musical called Floricienta.  

This show exploded in Europe when it first aired.  You think I'm kidding? It became so popular that other countries scrambled to make their own versions of the show.  Chile, Mexico, Colombia, Portugal and Brazil all have their own.  

The basic story is that a sweet but down-on-her-luck girl named Floricienta is hired as a nanny to several children by their older brother and guardian, Federico Fritzenwalden. Federico runs the house rigidly and hasn't smiled since his parents died in a tragic accident. He's engaged to be married but finds himself falling in love with Floricienta.

No matter what version you watch, they are relatively the same.  The only one that looks drastically different is the version from Mexico named Lola.  It draws aspects from The Sound of Music in that Floricienta sings throughout the series and does so with the children. And she falls in love with her employer, who can be quite stiff and cold like Captain von Trapp.  I know it all sounds very dramatic but the show is actually quite fun (ASIDE: I watched the version from Portugal).

The below video shows the same scene in 3 versions of the show: Floricienta (Argentina), Floribella (Brazil) and Floribella (Portugal).


On the blog lately I've been going beyond just reviewing books and looking at articles.  I've been trying to highlight organizations from all over the world that do good in their communities and in other communities around the world.

Today, I am looking at Room to Read.

What I find so important about this non-profit organization is that it promotes literacy and education in countries such as Nepal, India, Sri Lanka, Tanzania, Zambia, Vietnam, South Africa, Laos, Bangladesh, and Cambodia.  They are also advocates for equality in education, therefore, boys and girls would receive the same opportunities.  

These countries have communities that don't have many resources for literacy or education. Many young children will grow up without learning how to read or write, which in turn hurts their chances at reaching their potential and at survival.  It's pretty wonderful to see an organization helping out and working to fill that gap.  I hope Room to Read does expand to other countries and communities in the developing world to give other children a chance at an education.

But how do they accomplish that goal? They train teachers on literacy education, publish children's books, support education for girls so that they can complete secondary education, construct schools and set up school libraries. 

Below is a little chart from their website showing what they have accomplished so far in each category.

The books they publish are for various reading levels and introduce vocabulary, math and health issues to children.  The stories are based on local stories or are completely original tales.  The authors and illustrators are local talents in the community and country.  As I mentioned before, books are written in the local languages.  For example, India has several local languages and these are the ones Room to Read has published in : Hindi, Garhwali, Telugu, Rajasthani, Bundelkhandi and Chhattisgarhi.

School libraries are meant to act as resource hubs for children.  Not having the internet at home or a wealth of free information on almost every block seems unimaginable, but it is a reality for people in other parts of the world.  Having a place that allows children to keep learning and reading is important for their education.  Also, allowing them to explore how to look for information and decide what is relevant to them is a different aspect of literacy (i.e. information literacy). These libraries have a diverse set of resources on art, poetry, rhymes, the environment, etc.  

What's really great too is that Room to Read goes beyond just building the library.  They help school administration and staff learn how to run it and keep it going.  They also make a conscious effort to help the school integrate the library into school life (i.e. creating opportunities for kids to go to the library during the school day).

So please visit their website and find out how you can contribute to the organization and to getting children their chance at an education.  You can volunteer with the organization, you can start your own fundraising group or adopt a project.  There are a lot of options to choose from so check them out. 

MakerKids in T.O.

What is it?  It's a workshop geared towards children, which allows them to make various things.  MakerKids offers camps, after school workshops and activities for birthday parties centered around "making."  They hold workshops for educators!

What does it offer children? It offers them a chance to get creative using the materials the workshop supplies and to build things.  It also offers them opportunities to learn about 3D printing, electronics, design, cooking, woodworking and programming for video games.   

It's about having them interact with many of the things they have grown up with like technology and taking it beyond just using it.  Kids get to look at what goes into creating the tech and then making it themselves.  

Why is this important?  Because it fosters creativity, curiosity and exploration in children.  It's also fun and kids need that interplay between learning and entertainment.  

I really wish a place like this had existed when I was a kid growing up in the '90s.  

Below is a video from the MakerKids channel on youtube and it shows a 3D printed keyboard.   Press play and find out how well it worked out.  It's so cool.  The only coding I ever learned was in high school and it was about creating an image made up of specific shapes and colours.  I never had the chance to take it to the next level.

And if you are really interested in Makerspaces and the Maker Movement, I've included the video below for more information. The lecturer talks a bit about the history behind the movement and also more about the kinds of things Makerspaces can do.

MakerKids is located in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.  If you're interested in it, please visit their awesome website.

AWKWARD Black Girl

One of my best friend's told me about Issa Rae back in 2011.  We used to have a regular thing where we would hang out at my house, eat delicious food stuffs and watch BBC costume dramas.  One time, we just ate popcorn and marathoned some videos of the Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl over on youtube.  I was instantly hooked.  It was funny, relatable and at times really truthful.   Her channel also has so much more than that series to offer with other things she has had a hand in creating.

Below is the first video in the online series, which is already in its second season!  Warning though, there's some mature language used in the video so if you're sensitive to that sort of thing...please do what is right for you.  I do hope you will still give it a chance.

I bring up Issa Rae now because her star power is growing, and she has her own book now. It came out February 10th, 2015!  

The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl is not a print chronicle of the episodes of the series.  Really, it is a focus on the person behind the show - Issa Rae.  She's awkward.  She's an introvert.  She shares stories and opinions on topics such as learning to accept yourself, public displays of affection, people commenting on your weight and eating out alone. 

I'm really excited to get to know her beyond the web series and learn something new and unexpected about her.