Thursday, May 21, 2009
I first noticed On Subbing: The First Four Years by Dave Roche back in November while browsing at a satellite Powell's store. I sort of put it in the back corner of my mind and didn't think much about it again until this past weekend. Some friends in town suggested we stop in at Microcosm, an independent publisher. Sitting outside the door waiting for me was the latest copy of On Subbing.
This book is crush inducing. Compiled from the zines that were compiled from journal entries, Dave shares with us his experiences as a sub in Portland public schools from 2000-2004. Having moved from Los Angeles to Portland, Dave decided to try out substitute teaching... except in Oregon he wasn't qualified to sub in general education classrooms. He could, however, sub as an Educational Assistant in special education rooms... so that is what he did. Through Dave's journal entries you witness his growth as an advocate for children with severe disablities and/or behavioral challenges. It's clear that Dave wants to connect with students and let them know he's an ally. Of course, Dave's punk so he does it in his own (often hilarious) way.
I loved picturing a vegan, punk, straightedge guy walking into elementary schools and sitting down to work with kindergarteners. I also loved his anecdotes about trying to convince students' he was the dad of various kids who look nothing like him, ie: African Americans. But my favorite parts were when Dave would describe how his jokes and little signs of respect really registered with the students.
Unfortunately, a lawyer for the district came across some of his zines and asserted that Dave didn't enjoy working with the students. Dave eventually moved on from Portland.
Recommendation: If you've ever subbed in any capacity, you'll love this little collection.
Friday, May 1, 2009
The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman... meh. Wasn't into it. I know, I know... it's the 2009 Newbery recipient which automatically means it's amazing... except, not really. And despite all the amazing reviews I keep reading, I know I'm not alone.
The plot is as follows: Toddler's family is gruesomely murdered for an inadequately explained reason you don't learn of until the last few pages. Toddler is lucky enough to escape into a nearby graveyard because for some reason he felt the need to toddle out the front door that murderous night. The ghosts of the graveyard agree to take in the child and keep him safe until adulthood. Then there are some random trips into Hell and a pawnshop. Time moves forward. An all too obvious character shows up and the you-know-what hits the fan.
Honestly, I only managed to finish this book because it was due back to the library (yesterday actually, oops. Don't tell my students I have an overdue book!).
I do like the cover of the book, which I just realized after reading a review features Nobody's silouette. I do like that Gaiman drew inspiration from The Jungle Book. I don't like the book.
Recommendation: If you like the macabre, sure. If you want to read all the Newbery's, sure. If you want a book to dive into, this wasn't it for me.