Tuesday, January 24, 2006

I Knew Someone Would Be Able To Tell Me This

Suzi from Words, words, words wrote to offer some advice on which Terry Pratchett books to read next. (See my Jan. 22 post.) She also sent me a link to The Terry Pratchett Read Order, which is actually way too complex for me.

More Travels With Gail

A week ago this past Sunday, I was in the car for twelve hours--twelve hours!--time enough to listen to all of The People of Sparks by Jeanne DuPrau. Sparks is the sequel to The City of Ember, which my husband was so taken with when we listened to it on CD on our last trip, that he made a trip to the library to find this next book.

There are spoilers coming up, in case anyone cares.

Okay, so the folks from The City of Ember have escaped from their underground spideyhole. I think it's unfortunate that we don't see that happen. At the beginning of The People of Sparks we are told about it. Big no-no. But, moving on, the Emberites come uptop only to learn that the Earth has suffered a few wars and maybe a plague or two a couple of centuries back and society has been thrown back a bit. No power sources, no communication, you know the drill.

My objection to that storyline is the same objection I have to most post-apocalyptic stories. Some people survive the apocalypse, but not a single scientist makes it. Not a science teacher, line repairperson, power plant operator...not a soul who at least knows that energy can be made and that maybe they can figure out a way to make it, too. I believe two centuries had passed in the book since all Hell broke loose. I mean, in two centuries mankind won't move on at all?

Other than that, though, I actually liked Sparks better than Ember. It was deeper and more sophisticated, a parable, one might say, about how wars happen. I don't usually care for instructive stories, but I felt interested rather than preached to.

I hear a lot about teachers favoring "problem books" in the classroom, and that boys don't care for such things and are thus turned off from reading. I think The People of Sparks would make a good classroom read aloud for, say, 4th through 6th graders. There's action, things to talk about, and a main character of each gender.

Something for everyone.

The Last Item I Picked Up In Vermont

When I was in Vermont the second week of January, I read about The Young Writers Project, a "partnership of Vermont students, teachers, professional writers and journalists that aims to encourage and improve writing in Vermont elementary, middle and high schools." The professional writers offer advice along with samples of their work. Student writing is published at a website.

An ambitious effort.

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