Two roads diverged in a yellow wood

And sorry I couldn’t stop right there

And be one traveler long I stood

And looked at the ground

Praying it would swallow me whole

 

Then closed my eyes and spun around and opened my eyes and walked straight ahead and got lost.

 

Has that made all the difference?

How Katie Got a Voice (and a Cool New Nickname)

  • Author – Pat Mervine
  • # of Pages – 26
  • *includes illustrations

How Katie Got a Voice (and a Cool New Nickname) is a story told by a fourth grade classmate of Katie, the new girl in school. Everyone in the school has a nickname related to individual interests and personalities. When Katie comes into the class, the students are eager to involve her in their activities and to learn what is special about her. This proves to be quite a challenge. Katie has significant physical disabilities. How can Katie fit in with her classmates when she can’t even talk? When Katie is introduced to assistive technology, she is finally able to communicate with her new friends. As a result, the students are delighted to see her as a person with many interests and abilities, just like them. Katie knows she is a valued member of the school when she is given her own special nickname.

Just like its theme, there is a very special concept that differentiates between this book and many other books for young readers. Most times stories written for young kids try to emphasize the idea that being different is okay, and go against the idea of herd mentality – a term that describes how people are influenced by their peers to adopt certain behaviors, follow trends, and/or purchase items. In this case, the book’s starting point is that everyone is different. Miguel, nicknamed “The Punster,” makes up nicknames for kids and staff at school based on what makes them unique (such as Picasso the painter or Tunes the music lover). When Katie shows up he can’t figure out a name for her since she can’t… do anything. Katie doesn’t move or play or talk. She just laughs and looks around. Usually, Katie would be the “special” one, as we often use the word “special” in a negative connotation to hint at disabled kids. However, here her disability specifically is not considered an issue with the kids, they just can’t figure out how to include her in the group. After explaining the issue to her teacher Katie gets sent to a speech therapist, and eventually is connected to a machine that allows her to draw, play music and even talk! The kids, by turn, exclaim out loud that Katie can now participate in their hobbies – reading, painting, playing music, and even cheerleading for the sports team. Now, when they can get to know her, Katie can be given a nickname as well, one that showcases, of course, her uniqueness.

The book How Katie Got a Voice takes a very delicate subject and handles it beautifully. It shows kids that being unique is important, and it also teaches skills such as asking for help and including everyone in the group. When the kids don’t know how to play with Katie or share their hobbies with her they turn to a teacher for help. They don’t avoid Katie, or the problem at hand, and instead choose to actively search for a solution. They want to be able to hang out with their new friend, even if she’s unlike any other kid they’ve met, because that’s what makes kids cool – being different. Moreover, the book had both male and female characters. Many books these days don’t have enough important female characters with actual lines and importance, and so it’s important to start writing well developed characters for both genders in books aimed at kids and young children.

The book’s last pages include some simple tips for kids when dealing with people with disabilities, such as not staring at them or asking about their condition unless they bring it up first. The tips explain that even when someone needs an interpreter or assistant to communicate, you should speak to the person and not the companion, and most importantly, be patient. The author’s website includes a PowerPoint presentation called “Katie’s Lesson in Disability Etiquette,” aimed to help teachers introduce students to the topic.

In conclusion, this is a very good book for kids. It’s relatively short and easy to read, allowing young kids to read it themselves. The illustrations are colorful and very pretty. More importantly, the book deals with many important subjects that parents often don’t know how to bring up with their kids. How Katie Got a Voice can assist parents and teachers in introducing these topics and starting discussions about them with their children. I highly recommend the book both for reading at home, and for reading in class.

*I received a free copy of this book from Story Cartel in exchange for my honest review.

 

Facts I Like To Believe About My Father

My father knows twenty three languages, not including various baby dialects. My father has two first names and two last names and three more in the middle. And a hyphen. My father is a hyphenated guy. My father is the one billion and sixth tallest man in the world. My father gave birth to himself. My father was a published poet at the age of twelve, and wrote his first biography at nineteen. The sequel, Plus One Year, made him the first twenty year old bestselling author. My father has read Artamène ou le Grand Cyrus, the longest novel in the world. And at the point he didn’t even know French. My father made it around the world in eighty days. By foot. My father’s brain is faster than my calculator. My father’s cursive is legible. My father never burns his toast. My father knows when the avocado is ripe. My father can build a card house in the wind. My father can take money out of a piggy bank without breaking it. My father’s teeth are whiter than my wall. My father has a black belt in all forms of martial arts. My father is a professional dancer. On ice and underwater. My father is best friends with the prime minister of Israel. My father is best friends with the president of Palestine. My father has managed to keep this a secret from both of them. My father never finds himself stuck without a bookmark. My mother says my father is an expert at lying. My father says he’s actually just a very good story-teller.

We’re All Just Bad Philosophers Who Eat Too Much, Do Too Little and Never Sleep Enough

Random-point-in-life-crises usually happen at night. Not saying just “mid-life” because this shit usually happens much earlier than that. Unless your life is halfway up by the time you’ve hit puberty. Or finished high school. Or finished college or got fired or really just had any terrible night at an age where you could form coherent thoughts. They usually happen after watching some indie film, or just anything in a foreign language, while making yourself feel guilty for not doing the things you’re actually supposed to be doing.

All of a sudden from master procrastinator and quite possibly soda addict you’ve gone into full philosopher mode. Everything becomes so profound you’re not even sure anymore whether you seriously feel like you’re drowning or if at this point you’re just mocking yourself. Plato, Aristotle, Kant – they’ve got nothing on you. If your questions and queries become any more questioningly inquiring the universe just might fall apart. No, not the universe. Reality. Anything outside of your own mind is unsure, the external world cannot be known, and might not even exist. You realize you’re quoting the Wikipedia article on solipsism and then you’re fucking proud of yourself for reading philosophy articles on the internet.

At this point you’ve grown hungry, possible even starving, because really who knows or understands anything at all. Desires cannot be measured. Nothing makes sense. Everything is a lie. You go search for food, possibly stopping to impart some information to your cat, if you’ve got one.

You’re not really sure what to do now. In some faraway part of your brain you realize the wise decision would be to go to sleep. You organize your computer files and scroll through endless Buzzfeed posts instead. Eventually the panic of going to sleep once it’s light outside settles in. There’s something unsettling about going to sleep when the entire sky is shouting at you that you’ve missed the opportunity to rest. It’s like being yelled at by your mother, but on a whole other scale. Also, the sky is blue. You crawl into bed, promising yourself you’ll shower first thing tomorrow morning. Well, it’s not exactly tomorrow – technically speaking it’s already tomorrow now. That’s supposedly unimportant stuff but at this time, in this state of mind, it’s actually vital you take a moment to recognize this technicality.

The antidote to over thinking, over analyzing, and life crisis-ing is not-night-time. Once it’s properly day again you realize how stupid you are and how unproductive it is to waste away the night, thus ruining the following day as well. You’ve literally achieved nothing. In fact, you’ve even regressed because now you’re very tired, you’ve eaten way more than you ever planned on eating and you have a brand new stock of terrible poetry saved in various states of completeness all over your computer.

Really, your entire life is one big crisis. You can feel the clock ticking, the time passing by. You still haven’t discovered the meaning of life. You’ve probably just gained a few pounds, lost a couple of inches from sleep deprivation, and ruled out a future in creative writing.

Well, considering the fact that you’re a fully formed human who still has no clue what that even means and you’re hopelessly confused about practically everything, and you’re going to die anyway and probably be forgotten the minute it happens, that’s actually a considerable achievement for one night, don’t you think?

Where I Stand – Looking Back, Planning Ahead

The year is nearly over, and with it end a whole list of challenges and begin a whole bunch of other ones. This year, as always, I didn’t reach many of my goals. What usually happens is that I get off to a very good start, and then life gets in the way and by the time the year is over I’ve achieved so much, but not in the categories I planned on succeeding in. This year I read more than one book that was over 500 pages, but I also quit two midway. I planned on completing both 2012 and 2013 Eclectic Reader’s Challenges but finished only one. However, on the way I discovered a hidden love for memoirs, which is really the main idea behind those challenges. I also read two more books from the BBC 100 Book List. I barely passed the halfway mark on my goal of 50 books for the year, but on the other hand I read five books in one week and finally started using my Kindle, after owning one for at least a year and a half prior to use. I’m a to-do list kind of person, but I usually get sidetracked or discover new things and forget old plans, and I always end up somewhere far away from where I thought I’d be in the beginning. I make New Years resolutions, complete barely any, but do so many other things I never dreamed I’d do. All in all, I guess I make up for my failures with unplanned triumphs.

I’ve decided to lower my expectations for 2014. I am now in junior year, which is the hardest year of school, and along with Israel’s mandatory army service I’ve got a busy year of exams, hard work and planning for the future. Instead of taking on too much, I’ll plan for a bit and then see how I proceed.

As I did this year, I still want to retry the 2013 challenge, along with 2014. However, thanks to the Kindle and Goodreads I can now find books I want to read that fit the categories, and not force things in. My 50 books goal seemed achievable around June, but by the start of the school year I knew it was doomed. For 2014 I’ll set it to 35-40, and see how that works.  I also want to try and read more Hebrew. This year I read two books in Hebrew, after originally thinking I’d alternate every other book. That expectation was insane, it’s impossible to go from reading almost no Hebrew to something so intense such as that. Instead, I’ll try and read at least 5-10 this year, and see how that goes.

In terms of blogging, I’d consider this year a success. I started this reading blog without ever having written so much as a book review. I was scared it would fail, that no one would care. I turned out to be wrong. I wrote seven reviews this year, including one I used for a book report that got me a perfect 100. I even reviewed a Douglas Adams book, which I thought I would never be able to do proper justice to. I now have 112 followers (along with a writing blog that has nearly 40) and views from over twenty countries including Pakistan, Egypt, Bermuda, South Africa and more. I’ve had highs and lows this year, with a break during the fall, but my record breaking 29 views on April 16th. All in all, I think it’s gone well for my first year and I’m definitely sticking around. I’d like to do more reviews this year, maybe even come up with memes and post ideas of my own. Again, we’ll see what happens.

“That’s a wrap,” as they say. 2013 was an interesting year. I shared my poetry and short stories in front of a crowd for the first time, had my work showcased in two zines, had a writer write a poem about my work after hearing it and being inspired. I started two short story collection ideas.

My first book for the new year is going to be The Reader by Bernhard Shclink, except I’ll be reading it in Hebrew. In fact, most, if not all of the books I read for January and February will be in Hebrew.

I think I’ll finish this off with a marvelous quote by Zig Zigler that says ““it’s not how far you fall, but how high you bounce that counts.” I hope you’ve all had a great year, and that the coming one is even greater.

So long, and thanks for all the fish.

The Joy of Success

It’s nearly eight pm, Monday, the 30th of December 2013 and I have finished my Silence of the Lambs Kindle Edition and with it the 2012 Ecelctic Reader’s Challenge. I was very worried I wouldn’t finish it in time, and the feeling of joy right now is undescribable. There’s not much to say – I just had to share with you all.

Tomorrow I’ll put up my last post for the year – a summary, and plans for the future. I’ve been waiting nearly a week to publish it, I can’t wait!

I just. I’m done. With 2012. I am so happy.

Anyone else do ERC this year? Or last? Or attempt both at once?

Top Ten Tuesday – Books I Wouldn’t Mind Santa Bringing Me (December 24th)

Hey everyone! It seems like everything on the Internet these days has to do with Christmas, including this week’s Top Ten Tuesday topic, hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. I do not celebrate Christmas, so I guess this is more of a

Books I Wouldn’t Mind People Bringing Me

  1. Maus, Art Spiegelman – this is one of the books I’m planning to read for the ERC challenges. Unfortunately, I highly doubt I’m going to aquire this in any way other than ordering it from Amazon and waiting for someone to bring it to me, or pay the crazy shipping rates. So yes, Santa would be nice. No international shipping fees, thank you very much.
  2. Humans of New York, Brandon Stanton – I really want to get this for my birthday. The photographs are beautiful, but it’s the captions that made me fall in love with the man and the concept. And the book looks amazing.
  3. The Letter Q: Queer Writers’ Notes to their Younger Selves – seems like an interesting choice for ERC 2013 LGBT category. I want to get into reading more non-fiction.
  4. The Zombie Survival Guide, Max Brooks – a book I wanna hold in my hands, not read on a Kindle.
  5. Flash Fiction: 72 Very Short Stories
  6. Not Quite What I Was Planning: Six-Word Memoirs from Writers Famous & Obscure
  7. I Can’t Keep My Own Secrets–Six-Word Memoirs by Teens Famous & Obscure
  8. Tweeting the Universe: Tiny Explanations of Very Big Ideas
  9. Waiting to Be Heard: A Memoir, Amanda Knox
  10. The Woman Who Can’t Forget: The Extraordinary Story of Living with the Most Remarkable Memory Known to Science – A Memoir, Jill Price

Wow, seems like I really do have a bunch of non-fiction books here, compared to my usual fiction to non-fiction reading ratio. I got into memoirs because of the ERC challenges, and then read maybe two or three last year and am planning to cover at least four or five this coming year. A bunch of these aren’t exactly “reading books,” such as Six-Word works, but they’re books I’d like to have available on my shelf for whenever I feel like browsing through some short pieces. The choices this week are actually a lot different from my usual choices during these Top Ten Tuesdays. Have to admit I’m pretty pleased.

Any of you share the same books as me? Different? Let us all know in the comments below!

EDIT: Yes, I’m the type of person who writes up a post four days in advance and then doesn’t post on time.

And now that I was getting an education I was starting to understand what it meant not to have one.

TJ Parsell, Fish: A Memoir of a Boy in a Man’s Prison

Annual End of Year Book Survey – 2013 – Part 3(/3)

This is the last post for my End of Year Survey series, the idea that originated from Jamie @ Perpetual Page Turner. Part 1 can be found here. Part 2 can be found here. To avoid unneccessary repetition, I might not expand on each book because I tend to have similar answers for many questions. Also, removed questions about 2013 debuts because I HAVEN’T READ ANY. I really need to work on that for next year. And one question whose answer has appeared a million times and I keep using the same books for everything so, ya know, unneccesary question.

  • Favorite Relationship From A Book You Read In 2013 (be it romantic, friendship, etc)?

World Cup Wishes (משאלה אחת ימינה) by Eshkol Nevo – best guy friendship I’ve ever read about. I tend to read more… books that include mainly female frienships. Not many people write GOOD “bromances” and this book does that so beautifully it makes your heart hurt.

  • Favorite Book You Read in 2013 From An Author You’ve Read Previously?

Beauty Queens by Libba Bray. Going Bovine, which I read last year, was great but this was a WHOLE other level.

  • Best Book You Read In 2013 That You Read Based SOLELY On A Recommendation From Somebody Else?

World Cup Wishes (משאלה אחת ימינה) by Eshkol Nevo. Not going to elaborate, too much repetition. It’s brilliant.

  • Genre You Read The Most From in 2013?

I think Young Adult. Makes sense.

  • Newest fictional crush from a book you read in 2013?

Hm. Maybe Todd from Tom Perrotta’s Little Children. I really like young father characters, and his personality is really good. I like how he acts with Sarah, and the fact that he’s a stay at home dad is awesome.

  • Most vivid world/imagery in a book you read in 2013?

Room by Emma Donoghue. Reading such an intense book over such a short period of time is insane. It’s one of the worst cases of returning-to-real-life that I’ve ever had. Not sure if it’s really vivid world, but it was definitely an extreme, very vivid mental state.

  • Book That Was The Most Fun To Read in 2013?

This is too hard so instead of choosing a book I’ve already used in a million other questions I’ll go with Orange is the New Black: My Year In a Woman’s Prison by Piper Kerman because there was the extra joy that came with knowing that once I finish I can start watching the TV show. In fact, I was going to watch it, discovered there was a book, downloaded it and read it in three days, and then marathoned the entire show in less than 72 hours. I’m also kind of proud of the fact that I can say I read it BEFORE I watched it.

  • Book That Made You Cry Or Nearly Cry in 2013?

Room by Emma Donoghue. Read all of my other posts. I’ll save ya’ll the lovey dovey word vomit on this one.

  • Book You Read in 2013 That You Think Got Overlooked This Year Or When It Came Out? 

Kind of hard to answer considering I am not aware of many books until I discover them msyelf. This question is kind of weird, don’tcha think?

_______________________________________________

I think these three posts can be summed up as Beauty Queens by Libba Bray, World Cup Wishes (משאלה אחת ימינה) by Eshkol Nevo, Room by Emma Donoghue. I guess when a book is relevant to so many “Best Book About _______” questions, it must really be incredible. The moral of the story, kids, is go read ’em!

Do the survey yourself! It’s fun to go over your reading for the year and remember so many great (or not so great) moments. Is there anything you plan on rereading? What was your favorite? Answer the survey and link below! I’d love to hear what you all loved, and get some new recommendations myself!

Top Ten Tuesday – New-To-Me Authors (w/ A Twist) I Read In 2013 (December 17)

Yay! Another Top Ten Tuesday! (hosted by The Broke and the Bookish)

I’m changing this up a bit and including

  • New To Me Authors that I Plan On Looking For More of Their Books
  • Old to Me Authors that I Discovered Before 2013 and Read More of In 2013

 in order to make this more interesting. Furthermore, I won’t be writing too much about each book because due to December entailing an awful lot of “summary” and “yearly review” posts I end up repeating myself a whole lot more than I’d like to. Alright? Alright.

New To Me Authors that I Plan On Looking For More of Their Books

  1. Eshkol Nevo – I need to read more Hebrew, and since I loved World Cup Wishes (משאלה אחת ימינה) I’ll definitely be looking for more good books by this incredible man. (World Cup Wishes)
  2. Emma Donoghue – Discovered her through Room, which is now one of my favorite books. (Room, Landing)
  3. Tom Perrotta – great writing, very enjoyable reading. (Little Children)
  4. Mohsin Hamid – (The Reluctant Fundamentalist)

Old to Me Authors that I Discovered Before 2013 and Read More of In 2013

  1. George Orwell – loved Animal Farm last year, read 1984 this year. (Animal Farm, 1984)
  2. Libba Bray – genius. Just… genius. (Going Bovine, Beauty Queens)
  3. John Verdon – my friend recommended Think of a Number to me last year, we both loved it. When Shut Your Eyes Tight came out she spent ages trying to get me to read it till in January she got it for me for my brithday and said “that’s it. you have no excuses.” Took me eight months to get to it, three to actually read. (Think of a Number, Shut Your Eyes Tight)
  4. Douglas Adams – To save y’all the repetitiveness, this guy is my inspiration, love, lord and savior. Basically. (Hitchhiker’s Guide Series 1-5, Dirk Gentley’s Hollistic Detective Agency, *Douglas Adam’s Starship Titanic: A Novel By Terry Jones)
  5. David Levithan – inspired my writing this year. (Will Grayson Will Grayson, How They Met & Other Stories)

What new authors have you all discovered? Do you plan on reading more of their books? Are there authors you discovered before 2013 and read even more of this year?

 

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