Monday, August 20, 2007


I read Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli for the "Something About Me" reading challenge. It is a young adult novel that takes a look at the conflicting emotions teenagers face when presented with someone different than themselves. The character Stargirl is, well, weird. But in a sweet and endearing way. The other kids don't know what to make of her. Our narrator, Leo, becomes torn between his growing feelings for her and his desire to conform and be accepted by the rest of his peers. The novel was a well-written super fast read. It was enjoyable and I found it easy to relate to the characters.

What I liked:
I think it was a fairly realistic view of kids of high school age (well, except for the complete lack of smoking, drinking and drugging, but those issues weren't the point of the novel, so we'll forgive the omission). I think we all knew someone like Stargirl, an outcast for no other reason than that she was a unique personality and didn't bother to try to conform. Looking back, I think the reason other kids would steer clear of kids like Stargirl was that they envied them their fearlessness, the ability to just be who they were without worrying about the opinions of others.

I liked her random acts of kindness. In particular I LOVED what she does with spare change. So much so, that I intend to do it myself. Which leads me to my favorite excerpt from the book:
Throughout the day, Stargirl had been dropping money. She was the Johnny Appleseed of loose change: a penny here, a nickel there. Tossed to the sidewalk, laid on a shelf or bench. Even quarters.

"I hate change," she said. "It's so... jangly."

"Do you realize how much you must throw away in a year?" I said.

"Did you ever see a little kid's face when he spots a penny on a sidewalk?" she said.

I liked the old man who had become a kind of mentor to a group of the kids. He was a font of wisdom, yet he didn't just dole it out, he made the kids come to the realizations on their own.

What I didn't like:
Well, to be honest, I can't really think of anything. Oh, wait, there is something. Spinelli spelled Hillari with an "i." That replacing the "y" with an "i" thing for the sole purpose of... well, nothing really, annoys the hell out of me. A byproduct of growing up with a bunch of girls named Candy, Mandy, Tracy, Wendy, Becky, etc., who on the same whim everyone was having back then, became Candi, Mandi, Traci, Wendi, Becki, etc., I guess. They're parents didn't do it to them, they did it to themselves, and then they did it to their kids. Oh, the 80s. :) So I didn't like that, but that's just a petty thing.

Overall, great book! My daughter said she hadn't gotten to it yet, so I'm going to push her on it. And I will be getting her the sequel, which I will also read.

I borrowed the image from 3M's review, because the image from Amazon looked like it was glowing like neon.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

The ITHA meeting will now come to order

Hi, welcome to Iced Tea Haters Anonymous (ITHA). My name is Fiona Picklebottom and I'm an iced tea hater. Yes I hate iced tea. Unless it's prefaced by the words "Long Island." But that's another meeting.

My hatred of iced tea would have gone by unnoticed, probably for my entire life, had I not grown up in the south. In Charleston, SC, however, it is perfectly acceptable and even expected that one is offered nothing except iced tea to drink, whether in someone's home for an informal visit or at any type of gathering. Which means I must have said, "No, thanks, could I just have water?" about 974,649 times. Enough to have a T-shirt printed with those words to wear to those gatherings. Wish I'd thought of that then.

Iced tea (sweet, by the way, so it's also known as 'sweet tea' in the south) is such an expected part of the southern meal, that people just assume everyone likes it, and it gets served to you sometimes even when you ask for water. They just think you meant water in addition to your tea. I've even been to restaurants where a glass of iced tea was already at your place setting along with the usual glass of water. Or a pitcher of tea was on the table.

And the looks of absolute shock one gets when the words "No thank you," come out of your mouth in response to an offer of iced tea. It's like the person who offered suddenly does not know what to do. He or she is in a complete state of befuddlement. Sometimes their mouths will even open and close like a fish, like they feel the need to say something but for the life of them can't think of what.

The dislike of iced tea in the south is a sacrilege. Kind of like a southerner disliking grits. I go to that meeting, too.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Christ the Lord: Out of Egypt

I read Christ the Lord: Out of Egypt: A Novel for the "Something About Me" reading challenge. It's not my usual reading fare, but it sounded interesting, so I thought 'what the hell heck.' And it was interesting. This is a novel written by Anne Rice (yes, she of the vampire fame) from the point of view of Jesus as a 7-8 year-old boy. It is a believable story about the events that may have taken place within Jesus's family, thoughts he made have had as a young boy and his awareness or lack thereof that he is somehow different than the other children. Now, I admit that I'm no Bible scholar. I have not read it cover-to-cover (I've tried a couple of times, but I somehow never get past Exodus), and I only know the well-known stories. So I may say that I wondered about something that Rice touched on in this novel, and you may be thinking, "Well, duh, it says all that in the Bible," and you would be right that I am ignorant of it being right there where I could have eased my wondering mind all along.

What I liked:
I liked that Rice gave voice to things I had wondered about regarding the virgin birth. For example, in the novel, it WAS a scandal, people DIDN'T believe Mary. When she returns to Nazareth with Jesus, he is almost denied admittance to the school to learn from the rabbis, because he is thought to be a child conceived in sin. All of this is only alluded to, no one ever comes out and says that people assumed Mary had had sex with someone and become pregnant, but everyone thinks it.

I liked Mary's brother, Jesus's Uncle Cleopas. He's a lot like me in that he was continually amused by people not just saying what they mean. Everyone danced around what they knew, and refused to just come out with it, but Cleopas thought that was ridiculous. The only reason he stayed silent was because he promised Joseph.

I liked that Jesus was portrayed as a real kid, one that liked to run and play, though he was obviously wise beyond his years. It was through play that he realized he had "powers" that others did not - the power to kill, the power to give life. He desires things, as children do, but his desires actually happen. When he wishes for snow, it unexpectedly snows. The wise beyond his years part was what kept him in check. If my almost seven-year-old discovered that whatever she wished for happened, my house would be full of Webkins, and we would eat every meal at Chuck E. Cheese's. But Jesus realizes what is happening and decides to only pray for things that are God's will.

I liked the sibling rivalry. That James, Joseph's older son, could envy and at times even hate Jesus, knowing he was the son of God, was a true testament to the intensity of sibling rivalry.

I liked Jesus's reaction when he finally put together the story of his birth and realized what had happened because of it. Not that it was a happy part of the book. I liked it because Jesus had a very human reaction. We'd probably call it a nervous breakdown. This was the only part of the book that elicited an emotional response from me.

What I didn't like:
There wasn't really anything in particular I didn't like. It was a bit of a slow read, and seemed to drag in places.

One thing I didn't like, because it just wasn't mentioned at all, was that while Mary was 13, Joseph was 60 or thereabouts (right?). And they were betrothed. Pedophilia anyone? Now I know things were different back then, but today Joseph would be in jail, so I thought maybe it deserved a mention and some sort of rationalization.

Overall, it was an interesting novel that I'm glad to have read. It was nice to read some speculation, particularly well-researched speculation, on Jesus at ages that aren't mentioned in the Bible. I think in the Bible we see his birth, he pops up around the age of 12, and then we see him as a man. But what of the child? I'm glad Anne Rice addressed this. BUT... I would have liked to see a more mischievous child-Jesus. I would've liked to see Jesus play some practical jokes with his powers. Something that would have made me able to relate him to my nephews at that age. Maybe next Rice will speculate on a teenage Jesus, call it 'God's Rebellion' or something.

As a side note, the 'Author's Note' at the end of the novel was really worth reading. Rice gives her religious history, details the research involved in writing this novel, and wonders about the various ways to portray Jesus.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Temporary, for Jess

Not a great picture. They are dangly, but not overly so. Small round amethyst at top, then small diamond, then teardrop amethyst. Very simple.

Thursday, August 9, 2007

Special ed teachers left behind act

No time to write a post today, because I have about a dozen places to be all at the same time. (I need one of those replicators that Calvin invented in "Calvin and Hobbes.") But I did take a few moments to comment on a post regarding the "No Child Left Behind Act" over at All Opinions Are Not Equal. It's an interesting discussion, go check it out.

Anyway, for my post here, I'm copying an excerpt from my comments over there. It's regarding how the "No Child Left Behind Act" affects special ed teachers.
As a special ed teacher I know put it, "When they can cure learning disabilities, then these kids will be proficient." She teaches some kids that can't even speak, yet they are expected to sit down and take these tests and test at grade level or higher, or the school won't get federal funds and the teacher is threatened with termination. And this is one of those teachers who is not only great at what she does, she also goes out of her way to make sure these kids have what they need. She has a disproportionate number of kids at or below the poverty level, abused, neglected and being observed by social services. When the kids have no food in the fridge, she gets them groceries; when they have no winter coat, she brings in the outgrown coats of her own kids. And she's constantly under the gun to make her students, many of whom will never be able to function without assistance, pass these test on a proficient level. This is the result of the "No Child Left Behind Act."

What do you think about this act and its effect on public education?