No More “I’m Done!” by Jennifer Jacobson

I mentioned last year that my son is a very creative child. He is regularly having imaginary adventures with his imaginary friends, and he constantly comes up with stories for me, stories he tells as if he’s surely experienced them. Given his intense interest in creative writing, I was seeking further instruction on how to nurture his creativity in his early years.

No More “I’m Done!” by Jennifer Jacobson (Stenhouse Publishers, 2010) is an inspiring how-to manual for early primary grade teachers. Subtitled “Fostering Independent Writing in the Primary Grades,” Jacobson’s book describes a system of nurturing creative writing that lets children take control of the process. After she describes her system, she provides a year’s worth of mini-lessons for encouraging development of ideas in various segments of writing (including voice, organization, word choice, fluency, details) all using well known and beloved children’s picture books as examples. Although I am not a teacher in a classroom setting, her ideas have given me the confidence to institute some similar casual instruction during our “school time.” It is informative and inspiring, helping one think outside the traditional box of writing prompts.

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Tender is the Night by F. Scott Fitzgerald

F. Scott Fitzgerald’s writing in Tender is the Night (published 1934) is impressive. He writes complex sentences with incredible fluidity and rich vocabulary. This seems to give each sentence, each paragraph, and therefore each page a sense of life. Reading Fitzgerald is an exercise in appreciating the complexities and the beauties of the English language. Since I listened to part of the book on audio, I found that as I slowed down my reading, I better appreciated his writing.

However, to be completely honest (because this blog is a record of my honest impressions of what I’m reading), I finished reading Tender is the Night and thought, “Well, what was the point of that?” Even after discussing the book for more than an hour with my book group, I feel no closer to understanding. Although the writing is delicious and satisfying, the characters he creates are nearly unbearable. The story is billed as his most autobiographical, and it is a deeply psychological novel, with occasional action to drive the characters’ inner development.

Tender is the Night is the story of one man’s downfall from greatness into self-absorption, as he loses the drive and the ability to succeed. My problem was that I never felt like Dick Diver was the fantastic man others believed him to be. I felt that he fell from a rather short distance: he just didn’t realize how mediocre he was from the beginning. My book group all seemed to disagree, however. Whether or not Dick was a fallen hero, though, Dick’s story failed to move me to empathy. I wonder what I missed that may have allowed me to really delve in to this classic.

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Written in Bone by Sally M. Walker

Written in Bone: Buried Lives of Jamestown and Colonial Maryland by Sally M. Walker (Carolrhoda, 2009) is about what we can learn about a few early American settlers from their bones and burial. It is both a lesson in very early American history as well as a scientific exploration of forensic anthropology. Since I’m studying Jamestown this week with my son and since I’m a big fan of the television show Bones for it’s insight into forensic anthropology, I really enjoyed Written in Bone. Walker approaches her subject with obvious passion, clear language, and well done scientific explanations, all for a young adult audience. She teaches without belittling her audience, a difficult task to do when she’s writing for youth as young as 12 and as old as any adult.Continue Reading

(Cybils 2012) Family, Friends, Home, and Neighborhood

It has been another delightful week of Cybils’ reading. This week’s list of books all tend toward family relationships, friendship, or community place, including Zebra putting on an alphabet show with his friends (Z is for Moose), a boy adopting a penguin (One Cool Friend), a bear from a book looking for friends and a place to live (Otto the Book Bear), siblings learning to get along (Chloe, Instead), and one girl’s ability to bring warmth to her community when she finds a never-ending box of yarn (Extra Yarn).

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