Tuesday, October 19, 2010

If I had a Golden Drachma...

Today I read the most fantastic book: "The Lost Hero" by Rick Riordan. He's been creeping up on my list of favorite authors, and after reading his newest publication, I have to say, I think he's topped the list as the author I respect most. Here are my reasons why:

- His books captivate the reader (generally speaking, because they all do this) by engaging them in a believable scenario with characters that are very, very real.

-He knows his stuff. This man has written an entire series on Greek Mythology, is currently working on a series about Egyptian Mythology, and on a series that is incorporating Greek and Roman Mythology together. That is a lot of gods, goddesses, and monsters to remember. And he utilizes them all. It's astounding.

-He's currently writing TWO young adult series. Every spring (starting last spring) he's releasing a book in The Kane Chronicles (the Egyptian series), and every fall (starting last week) he's releasing a book in The Heroes of Olympus Series (The Greek/Roman-I'm assuming? series), for presumably the next five years. Talk about a demanding work ethic.

-The impressive and complicated way that "The Lost Hero" was set up. Every two chapters the point of view would switch narrator, starting with Jason, then Piper, then Leo, continuing in that order, throughout the entire novel, always keeping up with the story, never overlapping, and always providing the perfect side of the story to keep it logical and progressive. Not to mention, the story began and ended with the same character, and it was so logical. That just really impresses me.

-His characters are unbelievable, or rather, super-believable. The heroes (Percy, Annabeth, Jason, Piper, and at least 50 more) are so believable and well-rounded. They're all so individual and realistic. They are completely believable characters, which is the most important aspect of a character. Anyone can relate to the way they think and process their dilemmas.

-And lastly, my favorite reason for liking Rick Riordan: he's very into helping kids read. This includes tons of teaching material on his website. After reading "Percy Jackson and the Olympians," I thought, "Wow, this would be great to use in the classroom with "The Odyssey." And low and behold, there on Rick's website, a whole section dedicated to helping teachers do just that. Awesome. He also recently discussed how to get dyslexic and ADHD kids to read, because apparently that's how the whole Percy Jackson series started, as a way to get his son interested in reading (after all, the main traits of a demigod are ADHD and dyslexia).

So, for those of you still reading (and not completely bored by my obsessive-love for this author), I thought I'd provide you with a list of some of my favorite pieces of literature. Some of them I like because they're entertaining, some of them because they're great "gateway books" (books that get people interested in reading), some of them are guilty pleasures (books that, as an English teacher, I totally shouldn't enjoy), and some are not even books. But it's all great literature (just in case you decide to get off the computer and do some reading!)

Vanessa's Non-Comprehensive, Random-Order List of Fantastic Things You Should Read

  • Harry Potter - J.K. Rowling (fantasy series)
  • The Hunger Games - Suzanne Collins (science-fiction series)
  • Percy Jackson and The Olympians - Rick Riordan (fantasy series)
  • The Heroes of Olympus - Rick Riordan (fantasy series)
  • Twilight (just Twilight, not the series) - Stephenie Meyer (fiction novel)
  • Public Enemies - Bryan Burrough (non-fiction novel)
  • The Unbearable Lightness of Being - Milan Kundera (fiction novel)
  • The Inferno, from The Divine Comedy - Dante Alighieri (classical literature)
  • The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock - T.S. Elliot (poem)
  • The Red Wheelbarrow - William Carlos Williams (poem)
  • The Miller's Tale, from The Canterbury Tales - Geoffrey Chaucer (short story)
  • Our Lady Peace - Mark van Doren (poem)
  • Devil in the White City - Erik Larson
  • The Song of the Lionness - Tamora Pierce (fantasy series)
  • The Lord of the Rings - J. R. R. Tolkien (fantasy series)
  • The Perks of Being a Wallflower - Stephen Chbosky (fiction novel)
  • Pride and Prejudice and Zombies - Jane Austen and Seth Grahame-Smith (fiction novel)
  • And Then There Were None - Agatha Christie (fiction novel)
  • The Giver - Lois Lowry (fiction novel)
  • A Series of Unfortunate Events - Lemony Snicket (series)
  • Holes - Louis Sachar (fiction novel)
  • Freak The Mighty - Rodman Philbrick
  • To Kill a Mockingbird - Harper Lee (fiction novle)
  • In Cold Blood - Truman Capote (non-fiction novel)
  • Catcher in the Rye - J.D. Salinger (fiction novel)

That's probably a longer list than any of you cared to skim. But, it's reading. It's what I do, and I feel that if someone can get half of what I did out of any of those pieces, then it would be worthwhile to them. So there you are, some of the greatest things I've ever read that I think other people should read. Happy Tuesday! 

Vanessa, Stephen, and Anya (although the latter two don't read...)

P.S. If I did have a Golden Drachma, I'd probably Isis-Message Percy and hang out at Camp Half-Blood. But, since I'm not a demigod, they probably wouldn't let me in, so then I'd spend it on lots of books. 

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

buffalo for brunch.

A day in the life of...

...a Substitute Teacher...

can be summed up in one word: exhausting.

But for your entertainment, I'll elaborate. In August I subbed for my supervising teacher from student teaching, Dorell. That was fairly easy, since it was English. This week I subbed for one of the History teachers. I taught 9th grade Geography and 11th grade U.S. History. Turns out teaching is teaching, but it's a little more difficult when you know just about as much as the students do (and oftentimes, less).  I did have one student ask me, "do you have to know a lot about all the subjects to be a sub?" And I said, "I sure hope not, or I'm out of a job." They laughed. But I was serious. Luckily for me, I know the teacher I was subbing for, and he gave me the textbooks beforehand to read. Otherwise I would not have known that the only river contained entirely on a mountain in the United States is the Little River in Alabama. Nor would I have known that the Canadian city with the highest population is Toronto (although, it's Canada, so the answer was either Toronto or Vancouver, right?).

As frustrating as some of the students can be, and as much extra homework as I had to assign today (and as much as I'm hoping he collects it, or else I'm in big trouble the next time I sub), it's not too hard to stand back and look at the funny moments and realize how great teaching can be. For instance:

While looking up terms on the Wild West, one student asked, "So if his name is Sitting Bull, in the glossary is it listed as Bull, Sitting?"  The look on his face? Priceless. His jaw dropped open as soon as the words left his mouth, followed quickly by hurried apologies. Too funny.

Student A: "Does anyone know who Little Crow is?"
Student B: "Probably the son of Big Crow."

Buffalo were defined as: "big, furry animals that Indians killed for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and sometimes brunch."

Continuing with the theme of the Wild West, the students were writing dime novels (western novels once sold cheaply in dime stores) as an assignment and had a hard time coming up with ideas of what to write about (probably because they refused to read the chapter on the time period), and insisted they could re-write the plot to the movie "Back to the Future: Part 3." The English teacher in me was frustrated at their lack of creativity and willingness to do work, while the nerd in me was tickled pink by the fact that they, too, were thinking of "Back to the Future: Part 3" while learning about the Wild West. I mean, everyone thinks of a flying DeLorean and Michael J. Fox when hearing about cowboys and indians? Right? (Remember the scene when Marty arrives in 1885 and gets chased by Indians? Classic!)

I also got called "Madam," which was both mortifying and hilarious.

And, as much as I love my family name, Rao, I have to admit, my new name gets lots of funny nicknames from the students, ranging from MW2, Mrs. H20, and according to them, my gangster name, EM DuB. Goofy freshman. Guess we'll just have to wait till next time I sub to see what goofy stuff they say next. Now, it's time for a nap.

Vanessa, Stephen, and Anya