Saturday, April 28, 2007

It's a Techno-World, After All!

This past week has taken me deeper and deeper into the world of technology.

First, I finished two more Master's classes toward my degree in Information Technology.

Then, Annette Lyon got a group of us all technologically tied together through her Planet:

I set up a second blog of my own,, plus posted at

Next, I got myself registered all over the internet so I could post files at, get subcribers hooked up through my blog at, and signed up to follow how many people are reading my blogs at

But, the biggest feat of all, is tonight I'm ready to advertise the first episode of "The Author's Corner," my podcast. This week features an interview with author Jeff Savage.

Those of you who listen to podcasts can subscribe and your computer will download new episodes to your MP3 (iPod) files as they become available.

Next, I'll be setting up interviews with some of YOU, but maybe I should take a few days off and grade that HUGE and growing stack of papers from my students now that only 20 days are left of school.

To listen to the podcast, click below.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Lu Ann’s Top Ten Classics

My honors students have proven the point that reading the classics does help with vocabulary development, especially when it comes to doing well on standardized tests. I’ve been reading classics since my own school days, and I’ve put together a list of ten books I’ve enjoyed. If you haven’t already ready them, pick one and give it a chance. You might be surprised by how fun it can be to read a novel written before you were born.

Brontë, Charlotte. Jane Eyre. Signet Classics, 1997.
True gothic romance. The story of plain Jane, orphaned as a girl and raised in an abusive school, who becomes a governess of a young girl whose benefactor is irresistible to Jane. Despite their love for one another, his dark past comes between them just as they are to be married.

Dickens, Charles. A Christmas Carol. Bantam, 1986.
Must you ask? The story of Scrooge, miserliness, and finding love in the world. Incredible descriptions are lost if you’ve only seen the movie.

Lee, Harper. To Kill a Mockingbird. Warner Books, 1988.
Set in the small Southern town of Maycomb, Alabama, during the Depression, the story follows three years in the life of 8-year-old Scout Finch, her brother, Jem, and their father, Atticus—three years punctuated by the arrest and eventual trial of a young black man accused of raping a white woman.

Orwell, George. Animal Farm. Signet Classics, 2004.
Believe it or not, I just read this fable of a workers' revolution gone wrong for the first time this year. And who said English majors couldn’t graduate without reading the classic canon?

Shakespeare, William. Romeo & Juliet. Folger Library, 2004.
How could I ever omit my favorite play by my first cousin, twelve times removed ? (We share common ancestors of Robert Arden and Mary Webb.) I memorized the soundtrack to the Zefferelli film version in 1968 and teach this tragic love story every year, yet I continue to love it and learn something new each time I teach it.

Stoker, Bram. Dracula. Peter Bedrick Books, 1989.
The original vampire tale begins when a young Englishman travels to Transylvania to do business with a client, Count Dracula. After showing his true and terrifying colors, Dracula boards a ship for England in search of new, fresh blood.

Stowe, Harriet Beecher. Uncle Tom’s Cabin. Oxford World’s Classic, 1984.
As Eliza flees slavery to protect her son, we see into three plantations, each worse than the other, where even the best plantation leaves a slave at the mercy of fate or death.

Stratton-Porter, Gene. A Girl of the Limberlost. The Library of Indiana Classics, 1984.
This was my mother’s favorite novel when she was a girl. I read it every year from 4th - 12th grade. Once I even visited the Limberlost—or what’s left of it—and Stratton-Porter’s home where Elnora’s butterfly collection is still displayed. The movie doesn’t do this book justice.

Wharton, Edith. Ethan Frome. Signet Classic, 2004.
Another classic that I just discovered this past year. The hard-edged irony and the flashback technique provides an incredible climax in this story of Ethan Frome, his wife Zenobia, and her young cousin Mattie Silver, the woman Ethan learns to love.

Wilder, Thornton. Our Town: A Play in Three Acts. Harper Collins, 2003.
Set in Grover's Corners, N.H., the play relates the story of George Gibbs and Emily Webb as they go through courtship, Emily’s early death from child-birth, and her thoughts as a spirit in the local graveyard.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Playing Tag on the Internet

The latest rage in the blogging game seems to be playing tag, you’re it. Hey, didn’t we play this in grade school? Oh, well, since I’ve already been tagged, I’ll give it a go. Maybe I’ll learn something along the way.
Here we go for my HISTORY TAG.

1. Go to Wikipedia and type in your birthday without the year:

April 27

2. List 3 events that occurred that day:

1667 - The blind, impoverished John Milton sells the copyright of Paradise Lost for £10. (I can feel his financial pain, Oh, the difficulty at finding a well-paying publisher!)
1810 - Beethoven composes his famous piano piece, Für Elise. (One of the few classica pieces of music I can still play!)
1911 - Following the resignation and death of William P. Frye, a compromise is reached to rotate the office of President pro tempore of the United States Senate. (Hey, Frye is the maiden name of my great-grandmother. I wonder if we are related to this guy?)

3. List 2 important birthdays:

1759 - Mary Wollstonecraft, English author (d. 1797) (Here’s woman I’d heard of, but never read. Here’s what Wikipedia has to say about her: “Wollstonecraft is best known for A Vindication of the Rights of Woman (1792), in which she argues that women are not naturally inferior to men, but only appear to be because they lack education.” Since education is very important to me, I think I like her way of thinking.
1899 - Walter Lantz, American cartoonist (d. 1994) (I chose him because my older brother used to go around the house singing the theme song to The Woody Woodpecker Show, a character created by Lantz.)

4. List 1 death:

· 1882 - Ralph Waldo Emerson, American essayist (b. 1803) (In keeping with the literary theme.)

5. List 1 holiday or observance:

· Finland: Veterans' Day (In honor of Annette who tagged me!)

Now for tagging other bloggers: (I know, I’m supposed to tag 5 people, not 2. I have a problem though—all the other bloggers I know have already BEEN tagged in this game!)
Heather Moore
Margy Layton

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Non-Fiction: Just the Facts

Here’s a list of the top ten non-fiction books I’ve read with or recommended to my junior high school students. The kids have told me they loved them.

Ayer, Eleanor. Parallel Journeys. Aladdin, 2000.
The stories of two WWII youths, one a German Jew and the other a Hitler Youth, and how each of them viewed the world of their time. The text is excerpted from their published memoirs.

Barron, Tom. To Walk in Wilderness. Westcliffe Publishers, 1993.
A photo journal accompanied by poetry and journal entries about a month-long journey into the Colorado mountain wilds.

Crowe, Chris. Getting Away with Murder: The True Story of the Emmett Till Case. Dial, 2003.
While researching a book about Mildred D. Taylor, Crowe first learned about Till. Unable to rest without this story being told, the author wrote a children’s novel, Mississippi Trial 1955, the story of a white boy who becomes interested in the trial. But more needed to be explained and this non-fiction book tells the rest.

Frank, Anne. The Diary of a Young Girl. Pocket, 1990.
Everyone should read Anne’s entire diary at least once in their life. There is so much more here than what the play gives students, and understanding the fear of oppression and those who fight for right in the world is just as important today as it was during WWII.

Hickam, Homer. October Sky: A Memoir. Dell, 1999. (also known as Rocket Boys)
Inspired by Werner von Braun and his Cape Canaveral team, 14-year-old Homer Hickam decided in 1957 to build his own rockets. They were his ticket out of Coalwood, West Virginia, a mining town that everyone knew was dying--everyone except Sonny's father, the mine superintendent and a company man so dedicated that his family rarely saw him. A beautiful movie, but even more beautiful memoir.

King, Stephen. On Writing. Pocket, 2002.
A must for any student who would like to improve writing skills. A former English teacher and Best-Selling author, King takes readers through his personal history as well as giving specific advice on writing marketable pieces.

Paulsen, Gary. Caught by the Sea: My Life on Boats. Laurel-Leaf, 2003.
Through this book, fans will enjoy learning about his attraction to the sea and how Paulsen came to live on the sloop Felicity where he wrote the novel Brian=s Winter. The danger he has experienced is real and makes for a great non-fiction read.

Paulsen, Gary. How Angel Peterson Got His Name. Yearling, 2004.
Although Paulsen’s non-fiction is not always squeeky clean, readers will identify with the short pieces in this book as Paulsen recounts his 13th year "of wonderful madness" and extreme sports of the day when he and his friends tried to shoot a waterfall in a barrel, break the world record for speed on skis, hang glide with an Army surplus parachute, and perform other dare-devilish stunts.

Sparks, Dr. Beatrice. Annie's Baby: The Diary of Anonymous, a Pregnant Teenager. Avon, 2004.
Annie, 14, falls in love with wealthy 16-year-old Danny, who takes her to drinking parties, rapes her, then becomes physically and emotionally abusive. Then Annie discovers she is pregnant and must decide what to do.

Ten Boom, Corrie. The Hiding Place. Bantam, 1984.
The true story about the Ten Boom family who hid Jews during WWII and then got sent to a concentration camp themselves.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Graphic Novels: A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words

Kids like picture books, even when they grow up to be teenagers. And the picture books are growing up right along side them. Among the hottest books being published and purchased today are graphic novels. Longer than a comic book, but illustrated in the same manner, graphic novels are a great way for the visual learner to be exposed to the same types of stories and vocabulary that one would gain from a regular novel. If you’ve never read a graphic novel before, here are a few suggested titled to get you started.

Brigman, June and Richardson, Roy. Anna Sewell’s Black Beauty Puffin Graphics, 2005.
This version runs true to the original class novel in tone and art. The story of a horse: gentle, spirited, swift and steady. When his kind owners are forced to sell him, Black Beauty finds himself in a world not so refined.

Cavallaro, Michael. L. Frank Baum’s The Wonderful Wizard of Oz: The Graphic Novel. Puffin Graphics, 2005.
Take the classic children’s book, stir in a little touch of the MGM movie, and add a
Manga touch and you have this story retold for today’s reader.

Greyson, Devin. X Men: Revolution. Marvel Digests, 2003.
Color version of the X-Men team, how they were gathered, and the special skills that make them valuable to society. Based on the television episodes.

Hamilton, Tim. Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island. Puffin Graphics, 2005.
Another graphic that remains true to the original classic, this one is a must for those who are seeking even more on pirates.

Holm, Jennifer. L. Babymouse: Our Hero! Random House, 2005.
Babymouse is terrified by the upcoming dodge ball tournament. Once again, Felicia Furrypaws is good at something that Babymouse is not, but this time, Babymouse is ready.

Holm, Jennifer. L. Babymouse: Queen of the World! Random House, 2005
Babymouse has a problem—she wants to be popular. But her arch nemesis, Felicia Furrypaws, is out to make sure that Babymouse doesn’t get her secret dream fulfilled.
Lobdell, Scott. Hardy Boys #1: Ocean of Osyria. Papercutz/Simon & Schuster, 2005.
MG, 96 pgs. 1597070017, $7.95.
“Frank and Joe Hardy, with Cathy and Iolam search for stolen Mid-Eastern art treasure, the Ocean of Osyeria to free their best friend, Chet Morton.”

Reed, Gary. Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein: The Graphic Novel. Puffin Graphics, 2005.
MG, 176 pgs. 0142404071, $10.99.
The classic tale of Dr. Victor Frankenstein, the monster he creates, and the long-lasting repercussions of abandoning his creation.

Smith, Jeff. Bone: Out from Boneville. Scholastic, 2005.
This is a compilation of the original comic books which follow the adventures of three blobby creatures who have stumbled into a valley full of monsters, magic, farmers, an exiled princess and a huge, cynical dragon.

Speigleman, Art. Maus: A Survivor’s Tale and Here My Troubles Begin. Pantheon, 1996.
The author retells his father’s experiences as a Holocaust survivor. Mature language and situations may not make this appropriate for all age levels.

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Top Ten Books to Read Aloud

No matter how old, kids still like to be read to. Here are ten of the best books I’ve found to read aloud or listen to on audio with teenagers.

Cormier, Robert. The Rag and Bone Shop. Delacorte Books for Young Readers, 2001.
A seven-year-old girl is found dead—a suspected murder. But who did it? The special investigator who is called in is an expert at getting a confession out of his suspect. But what if twelve-year-old Jason really is innocent and Trent is just trying to save his reputation? (Do a little pre-editing for implied content.)

DeFelice, Cynthia. Weasel. Harper Trophy, 1991.
A ruthless villain known as Weasel commits unspeakable atrocities in the frontier wilderness. When 12-year-old Nathan's family is victimized, the boy is determined to avenge the wrongs on his own.

Horowitz, Anthony. Stormbreaker: An Alex Rider Adventure
When Alex Rider’s guardian uncle is killed in an automobile accident, Alex discovers that his uncle was really a spy killed on the job. Alex is taken into the agency in an effort to solve the crime Ian was investigating that involves a gift of computers to all British school children.

Haddix, Margaret Peterson. Among the Hidden. Simon & Schuster BYR, 2006.
Luke was a third child, hidden away from the world for fear the Population Police would find out about him and kill him. The series continues with: Among the Imposters, Among the Betrayed, Among the Barons, Among the Brave, and Among the Free. Works with Anne Frank and the Holocaust.

Haddix, Margaret Peterson. Escape from Memory Simon & Schuster BYR, 2003.
At a sleepover, Kira agrees to let her friends hypnotize her, but she reveals a buried memory of fleeing from danger with her mother and speaking in a language none of them understands. Then her mother disappears, and a woman shows up claiming to be Kira's benevolent Aunt Memory from a community called Crythe.

Plummer, Louise. The Unlikely Romance of Kate Bjorkman. Laurel-Leaf, 2005.
Kate Bjorkman narrates her tale of teen romance in the language and conventions of The Romance Writer's Handbook. This six-foot tall heroine with glasses thick as Coke bottles and an I.Q. off the charts proves that true love awaits even the gawkiest, most socially inept teen.

Taylor, Theodore. Lord of the Kill. Scholastic, 2004.
Sequel to Sniper. Ben is once again left in charge of the wild animal preserve when someone dumps a young woman into a cat cage where she is found dead. Ben must solve the crime before the authorities try to shut down the preserve.

White, Robb. Deathwatch. Laurel-Leaf, 1973.
Always a winner with reluctant readers. Ben is earning money by taking people on hunting trips, but this trip goes all wrong. When Madec shoots an old prospector, he wants to cover up the accident so he can get his bighorn sheep. Ben refuses and finds himself being hunted.

Williams, Carol Lynch. My Angelica. Delacorte Books for Young Readers, 1999.
Sage and George, two wannabe-authors secretly enamored with each other, plan to enter the school writing competition. Sage is eager to enter her "steamy" novel-in-progress, but George knows her writing is awful and wants to spare his beloved a humiliating loss.

Zindel, Paul. The Doom Stone. Hyperion, 2004.
Well-written thriller/horror set in Stonehenge. Jackson arrives in England to help his anthropologist aunt track down a murderous beast, a mutant hominid.