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Reading The Girl Who Played with Fire July 19, 2010

Posted by alwaysjan in Entertainment.
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Book #2 in Larsson's Millenium Trilogy, all of which were published after his death.

Holy crap! What a ride! Although I loved Steig Larsson’s The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, the first 100 pages read like an annual report. Larsson’s second book, The Girl Who Played with Fire, puts you in a chokehold on Page One.

I’ve entered Day Five of being consumed by this book, which I literally haven’t been able to put down. Okay on Day One I took it to Children’s Court, but tucked it inside How to Improve Children’s Reading, so as not to tip my hand. It seemed downright wrong to be reading this book with so many children about. My husband pointed out that the movie is now out and got great reviews, but any bibliophile knows it’s not the same. So now I’m looking at another late night.

It’s not that I’m a slow reader, but there are so many twists and turns that I can only read a couple of chapters till I’m flat out exhausted. Then there’s the matter of IKEA. When Lisbeth Salander furnishes her new apartment, every item she buys at IKEA is listed, so it’s like I’ve been inside her apartment. Hey, I’ve got those BILLY shelves too!

Speaking of things that begin with “B.” I’m beginning to think half the surnames in Sweden start with a B, which makes it a challenge to remember who’s who. Blomkvist, the yin to Salander’s yang from the first book is easy to remember along with Berger, his long-time lover, and her husband Beckman. Then there’s Bjurman, Lizbeth’s guardian, and now in this book, detective Bublanski (Good Cop), and Bjorck (Bad Cop) and Bohman (Former Cop). I was half-expecting Bjork to make a cameo appearance.

And what’s with the characters grabbing a bite to eat at a 7-11? Or McDonalds for that matter? Something must be missing in translation as the last place I’d pick up pasta is 7-11. That’s where you go for the bladder-buster-sized soda or some lotto tickets, or to make some quick cash. No not Lotto – robbery!

Lisbeth’s obsession for Billy’s (there’s that “B” again) Pan Pizza got me to wondering, so I googled it. Who would have known?  To learn more about the best pizza you’ve never tried, you can go to Billy’s Pan Pizza – Comfort Food for the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.

Gotta go. Chapter 26 awaits. But if you’d like to read more about the series and Stieg Larsson’s untimely death, check out  Steig Larsson.com.

Post Mortem – I finished the book yesterday and came up for air. Whew, my heartbeat has returned to normal. Book 3, The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest, is now out in hardcover, but I’m biding my time. My husband’s friend couldn’t wait, but didn’t want to shell out the big bucks. His solution?  He went to Borders for three days in a row and stood and read the new book. He says it’s a slam dunk. I can wait, but I am feeling the need to go to IKEA. UPDATE: The Borders Option is no longer available.

Boys Book Club December 6, 2009

Posted by alwaysjan in Teaching.
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Some boys are reluctant readers, and when they do read, it’s not Junie B. Jones. Boys like non-fiction – dinosaurs, bats, and things that go bump in the night. Books with cool pictures of hairy cavemen carrying strategically placed clubs, or of a lion gutting an impala. Books with a high gross-out factor. You know, funny stuff.

Two years ago five boys in my room bought Diary of a Wimpy Kid by Jeff Kinney at the school Book Fair. I’d never seen the boys so excited about reading. I’d recently joined a book club myself and suggested they could form a book club too. When I mumbled something about snacks, the boys were gung ho.

There was just one small problem. This meant I had to actually read Diary of a Wimpy Kid to come up with questions to discuss. It turned out the book was hilarious. Although the book is a 5.2 reading level per Accelerated Reader, my students seemed to understand most of it, so I thought it was worth a shot.

Author Jeff Kinney originally released Diary of a Wimpy Kid online on Funbrain.com in daily installments before he got a book deal. That should warm any blogger’s heart.

Boys Book Club met in the hallway outside our classroom. I propped the door open to keep an eye on the rest of the class while we discussed the questions. Our “signature drink” was apple juice, which is an excellent accompaniment to animal crackers. The boys were most excited because BBC (as it came to be known) did not involve bubbling in the correct answer like they have to on the weekly Open Court test.

As the boys discussed the questions, I learned way more about each boy than I’d known before. It was such a lively discussion that at one point I found myself thinking, “Wow!  This is why I became a teacher.” When we got to the question about nicknames, one of the two Korean boys only knew his nickname in Korean.  The other boy, whose English was much better, thought for a moment and then translated it into English as “Big Sweaty Boy.” We all laughed hysterically, as it was so appropriate. The questions for Diary of a Wimpy Kid at the end of this post. Feel free to steal them.

A few years ago, I stumbled upon Guys Read, a website devoted to getting boys excited about reading especially fiction. Guys Read was started by Jon Scieszka, the author of The True Story of the Three Little Pigs, of which I just happen to have an autographed copy. Everything on Guys Read is incredibly clever, just like everything Scieszka writes.  If you know a guy, big or small, check it out.

Boys’ Book Club
Discussion Questions  for

Diary of a Wimpy Kid

by Jeff Kinney

1.  What made you want to read this book?

2. Do you think the book would be as funny without the illustrations?

3.  When you think of someone who is wimpy, what do you think they’re
like?

4.  Do you think that sometimes you are wimpy?  Why?

5.  The main character, Gregory, thinks his parents treat his younger brother
Manny better than they treat him.  Do you agree?  If you have a brother or
sister, do you think your parents ever treat them differently than you?

6.   Do you think it would be fun to make your own haunted house like Greg
did?  What would you put in it?

7.  When Greg takes wrestling, he’s paired up with Fregley (p. 83).  Have you ever been paired up with someone at school, who you didn’t want to be with? (no names, please!)  How did you deal with it?

8.  Greg told his brother not to circle all the expensive stuff he wanted for Christmas and just to circle a few medium priced gifts because he was more likely to get these.  Do you think this was smart advice?

9.  Greg’s brother, Manny, embarrassed him by calling him by his nickname, “Bubby.”  Do your parents ever call you a name that embarrasses you?

10.  The following expressions/idioms are in the book.  Do you know what they REALLY mean?

p. 18                  But no matter how many “noogies” I give him…
p. 19                  “take him under my wing”
p. 26                  “mopping the floor with him”
p. 30                  “caught red handed”

Making Book on Book Club September 15, 2009

Posted by alwaysjan in Life.
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7 comments

bookclub

The three most important things about our book club are booze, food, and what’s that other one? Oh yeah – books. Our book club had a rather inauspicious beginning. Carmella saw the movie The Jane Austen Book Club. Next thing I knew, we had ourselves a book club.

Our first book was A Thousand Splendid Suns (Kelley’s pick) and we got off to a bang up start eating Middle Eastern food at her place. We’d all read the book and talking about women in burkas generated a lively discussion. That was almost two years ago. We’re all teachers, though we let Tina’s sister Angela join because she has a great house a high tolerance for “teacher talk.”

Some books we’ve liked more than others. To be honest, there’s been several times when half of the members downloaded excepts from the book on-line. I think Angela’s last pick How to Talk About Books You Haven’t Read was an apt choice. Angela was the only one who’d read it, but we still talked about it. And ate. And drank.

We’re all crazy busy, and it’s become apparent that Book Club is just an excuse to get together with people we really like under the guise of talking about books. I envisioned intellectual introspection, but what I got was a second helping of fettucini. Can’t remember the book, but the fettucini was killer.

When I went to England last spring, I went to my friend Lesley’s book club. We met at The Station, the local pub, where we spent a fun evening discussing the book White Tiger and the dark side of life in Mumbai while enjoying the local Asphal cider.

Last summer I visited my college roommate Cathy. She’s been in a book club for like a bazillion years. Her book club even has its own blog, Blather, which you’ll find on my blogroll. I was led to believe it was a Serious Book Club. But while I was there, Cathy’s husband made the observation that they only spend around 20 minutes actually talking about the book at book club. Hmmm. Come to think of it, the last post on Blather was a recipe!

Last Sunday we met at Kristina’s. In the evite there was mention of discussing a possible change to our “book club format.”  Every other month? Only New York Times bestsellers? No. It was proposed that we have a theme for the food and everyone bring a potluck dish related to the theme. “Will the theme be related to the book?” I asked naively. Kristina took a deep breath. “Well, we were thinking that maybe we could just leave out the book part.” She quickly added, “But we can still call it Book Club!”  Oh dear. Is this The End or To Be Continued…?

When I emailed my friend Bev in England about this “change in format,” she sent me a link to a hilarious episode of The Vicar of Dibley about what happens at a book club when no one’s read the book. Actress Dawn French plays the female vicar, self-described as a “Babe with a bob cut and a magnificent bosom.” The book club scene is a minute into the clip and is a hoot. Cheers!

 

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