Thursday, December 20, 2012

Lois Lowry

I'm so behind much to do, so much to say.

I have more pictures to post of my visit to Crestview and Indian Hills in Clive, Iowa, but I'll do that after finishing final grades....this is too time-consuming.

I do, however, want to mention that after Lois Lowry's live online booktalk through School Library Journal, I quickly ordered Gathering Blue (which I had started and never finished), Messenger, and her latest novel in the series, Son. 

Image lifted from Amazon, obviously:
I'm embarrassed to admit that I didn't know these four books were a series. Not having gotten far enough in Gathering Blue to see the connections (which were sort of magically aha-inspiring when I got there), I didn't know that an answer existed in the universe as to what happened to Jonas and Gabe at the end of The Giver, which I've read many times. I love that book so much, I even required it a few times when I taught Humanities Critical Thinking at SCC, in hopes that the idea of treasuring knowledge and learning might sink in.

So, in between grading and the frantic pace of December in a college, I did plow through the last three books. Lois Lowry is a master of character and what I would call magical realism. She creates a dystopian world but makes the characters so heroic and human, even with their gifts, that I couldn't put down any of the books.

Son was truly a crowning end to the series. It's an epic struggle of good-heartedness against controlling society and against evil (is there a difference?). In the Ceremony of "Twelves"--the ceremony where Jonas was named "Receiver" from the "Giver," Claire is named "Birthmother." Birthmothers' job is reminiscent of "Handmaid's Tale" by Maraget Atwood. When something goes terribly wrong with the birth, Claire is deemed unfit for her position in the community and cast out of the birthmothers' dwelling. In a new position, no one remembers to give her the daily pill that eradicates emotion and desire. Hence, she longs for the son she's never seen. The longing leads her on a quest that reaches the edge of the Community and beyond.  Gripping, chilling, delightful, tragic, and heart-warming. Worth every second of reading.

The novel is richer if you've read the whole series--or at least The Giver, but it's a stand-alone story if you haven't.

I wished for just a little more conflict toward the end of the book, even though the tension all the way through made me want to yell the truths at the characters (the only book in the series where dramatic irony pulls us along--we know much more than the characters in this story). So the wish for more conflict wasn't due to a lack of it in the book. It's just that the final "battle" seemed almost too easy...I wanted it to demand just a little more...but who am I to be in the least bit critical of a master storyteller like Lois Lowry????  The book was masterful, powerful, horrifying and wonderful.

Any fan of The Giver should read the entire series.

I think I admire her so much, and love her characters and stories so much that she may have moved up onto my pedestal with Harper Lee and Barbara Kingsolver Dennis LeHayne and Marguerite Henry and Lois Lenski and Carol Ryrie Brink and Mary Calhoun and Astrid Lindgren and Sarah Pennypacker: enduring, forever-favorite writers of stories I love.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Connecticut school shooting

The news is mind-blowing: Shooting at a Connecticut elementary school..
It's so bad, I am at a loss...
Who could shoot a kindergartner? I guess the same kind of person who can abuse a child...
What is wrong with this world?

I don't remember being this shaken by national news except three in my life:
When President Kennedy was shot
When the Challenger blew up
When the World Trade Center blew up

This seems somehow even worse because the disregard of the murderer is so personal and so cruel and so lasting and inflicted by choice.
The world is screwed up beyond my ability to believe.

In the meantime, my heart is breaking for those moms and dads and sisters and brothers and little kids who watched their classmates get shot.

I'll write more when I have more to say or make some sense out of it.

Monday, December 10, 2012

"Gasland" and "Girl Meets Boy"

Have you seen GASLAND?

I finally watched it last night. The documentary had been on my "to watch" list since I heard about it. School and other obligations have kept me from watching a single movie for a long time.

Holy smoke. I want EVERYBODY in the country to watch this movie. The destruction of water systems, drinking water, livelihoods, farmland, human health to say nothing of ANIMAL health, is devastating. And the oil and gas companies don't seem to care because they're making soooo much money.

While I was watching the movie, I kept thinking, this is the new dystopia. We are creating the world we've seen in the Dystopian stories. It's like the world from "The Road" or from "Hunger Games." Frack enough of our countryside, and it looks possible. 

I wish I were kidding. 

And the new Matt Damon movie, Promised Land will be in Theaters everywhere January 4. We all better see it if we want to keep our country.

On a BRIGHTER NOTE, my short story "Mars at Night" is part of "Girl Meets Boy" and Kirkus Review named it one of "Best Teen Books"!! Whooeeee!  (Scroll to the bottom).

Do the two tie together? Yes...actually, the characters in my story "Mars at Night" live on. Some reviewers said they "need their own novel." Well, I've shifted and twisted them, and moved them from rural Iowa to rural Minnesota, and they have new names, but essentially, I think they will live on...and instead of fighting the invasion of hog factories ("Mars at Night") which is a moot point--it has happened; big factory farms have won except in small range-free and organic farms; what Maddie and Ben have to fight: Fracking and Frac-sand plants. Stay tuned.

Crestview and Indian Hills

I lost my phone, and therefore all my photos. I'm hoping to get some photos I can upload here from the schools in Clive, Iowa because those two days were a BLAST.