Monday, April 28, 2014

A Review of 'Anne Frank: The Anne Frank House Authorized Graphic Biography' by Sid Jacobson and Ernie Colon

"Drawing on the unique historical sites, archives, expertise, and unquestioned authority of the Anne Frank House in Amsterdam, the New York Times bestselling authors Sid Jocobsom and Ernie Colon have created the first authorized graphic biography of Anne Frank.  Their account is complete, covering the lives of Anne's parents, Edith and Otto; Anne's first years in Frankfurt; the rise of Nazism; the Frank's immigration to Amsterdam; war and occupation; Anne's years in the Secret Annex; betrayal and arrest; her deportation and tragic death in Bergen-Belsen; the survival of Anne's father; and his recovery and publication of her astounding diary."

I'm not even sure how I found this, but when I did find it, I was in love and I just had to have it.  A graphic novel-style biography of Anne Frank?  Yes please!  I mostly got this to read in the event that I have a classroom of my own and I want to teach The Diary of Anne Frank.  I think this graphic novel would make great supplementary material.

This book provides not only information about Anne's diary and about life and the people in the Secret Annex, but it provides historical context-- what Hitler has taken over, who's involved in the war now, which territories are in the most danger, etc.-- and it provides history that Anne doesn't really provide in her diary.  It even talks about what happened after the Franks and the van Pels were arrested and sent to various concentration camps around Europe.

If you're looking for a version of Anne Frank's story in more context, this is a great resource (teachers, I'm looking at you).

The pictures are great, the order everything was put in makes sense... I think this book will make kids excited about learning about Anne Frank and her diary.

I give 'Anne Frank: The Anne Frank House Authorized Graphic Biography':
Thanks for Reading!


Thursday, April 24, 2014

American-Swedish Institute: The Old Clashes With The New

Over my spring break, I spent my time visiting with some people I care about and also visiting some places around my city.  One of those places was the American-Swedish Institute (ASI), located on the edge of downtown Minneapolis.  I've passed by this castle in the middle of the city so many times, but I had never been in it until recently.  Even my mom, who had been there previously, really enjoyed this visit!

When my mom and I walked into the museum, there was this room to the left of the ticket desk that we were (I think) supposed to go in first).  We entered and we're surrounded by giant pieces of... ornately cut paper.  Yes, paper!  This work is called psaligraphy-- the featured artists were mostly Danish, but there was one or two Swedish artist featured around the museum.  Some works were small, maybe the size of a good-sized plate, while others were bigger, making it necessary to cut two sheets of butcher paper and put the two together.  Many of the pieces were created in separate parts.

But psaligraphy wasn't the only thing that ASI had to offer us.  There was also Turnblad Mansion that we could walk through.  A whole three floors and a basement with rooms filled with furniture from the family that lived there.
But not only are they showing off the mansion and featuring psaligraphy all over the house, they're also featuring some local artists (click pictures to look closer): 
 I liked how this museum brought the old and the new together in this one enormous space.  That was something I never thought that I would see at ASI.  The use of local artists isn't the only way that this museum would combine the old and the new-- keep reading and you'll see a glimpse.

Visitors can go everywhere from the kitchen to the grand staircase to the solarium (which was my absolute favorite.  My future house will have circular alcoves (see picture with me in it, upper left of this section) and I will have a solarium.  They're so warm and I love that it's a room filled with windows!).

Once my mom and I reached the upper floors, there was more gallery space.  The historical aspect of the museum was "wrapping up" and guests could view more modern versions of the traditional psaligraphy we had seen in the newer part of the museum.  Definitely click the pictures below to make them bigger: they're so detailed, you have no choice!

Bits of psaligraphy like this one told a story.  This particular one shows how the French grew potatoes.  Potatoes were found only in the royal garden.  This one was really cool for me because it featured Marie Antoinette and her husband King Louis (the Sun King) and I've visited their palace in Versailles, France.  I fan-girled a little.
This artist computer cut this version of psaligraphy and
made it into a 3-D sculpture.
Finished psaligraphy didn't need to look like it came from a rectangular piece of paper.
Traditional psaligraphy is made out of cut paper, but this artist took the
same idea but used metal (aluminum?) as a medium.
This one is my absolute favorite!
There was also a video that you could stand and watch that featured a woman working on a psaligraphy project.  It's a very purposeful craft.  The artists that were featured in this museum drew out what they were going to eventually cut out before they started cutting (this was good for me to learn-- I thought it was random cutting).  Artists use a tiny scissors and can spend anywhere from the better part of a day to several days (if you added up every hour it was worked on) working on one piece.

 There were also these smaller pieces that were found only on the topmost floor of the mansion.  I can't imagine that they were originally there-- there are modern pieces.  Underneath each fairy was a quip-- a bit of common sense or a virtue that the artist thought was important to have.  The fairy would visually represent the saying underneath.  There were dozens of these fairies around the floor, but these four were some of my favorites.  I just appreciate the amount of detail that is part of these pieces.  They're tiny, but they're so intricate and delicate.  Just look at the wings of the fairy in the upper right-- someone had to carve out each and every one of those tiny spaces.  I realized this after the fact, but the artists who create psaligraphy must have to think the invert of what someone who draws or paints does.  You have to remove the empty spaces in order to get the lines you want.  Painters or those who draw create the lines they want instantly.  This is just fascinating to me.

This is an incredibly long post as it is, so I'll leave you the way I left the museum-- by looking at the exterior of Turnblad Mansion.

This was an awesome experience for me and also for my mom, who just loves paper.  Someday I'll have to go back when the mansion is all decorated for Christmas.  But that won't be this year-- I'll have parts of Europe to share with you!

Thanks for Reading!


Monday, April 21, 2014

A Review of 'A Wrinkle in Time' by Madeleine L'Engle

"It was a dark and stormy night.

Out of this wild night, a strange visitor comes to the Murry house and beckons Meg, her brother Charles Wallace, and their friend Calvin O'Keefe on the most dangerous and extraordinary adventure-- one that will threaten their lives and our universe.

Winner of the 1963 Newberry Medal, A Wrinkle in Time is the first book in Madeleine L'Engle's classic Time Quintet."

One of the things I've been doing during the week while balancing homework, class, and two jobs is volunteering in a fifth grade classroom.  I tutor in math and I run this project called the Mystery Class, which is a project that helps us figure out where certain schools are in the world based on the number of hours of day light they report.  It's cool.  Another thing that I do is run two reading groups.  There's a group of four girls and they read this one.  For the most part, they enjoyed it.  It was a very different reading experience for them, I think.  Especially after reading Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli.

This was even a different reading experience for me.  I don't read a lot of science fiction, and I feel like this book dipped into the science fiction realm quite a lot, what with all of the "wrinkling" (time and space traveling) that they did.  Even though this is science fiction, I genre I haven't had a lot of luck with liking, this was wonderful.  It had a good amount of elements that you'll typically find in a coming of age book-- self-discovery, growth through some kinds of hardship, and a more mature character by the end of the book.  Traveling from planet to planet in search of Meg and Charles Wallace's father helped them grow and learn.

I like that this book wasn't afraid to give young readers the concept of time travel and attempt to explain it (in theory) as well.  Madeleine L'Engle sure gives her readers a lot of credit, which I absolutely love.  She knows that her readers are intelligent people who just want to become more intelligent.  I like that A Wrinkle in Time presents challenges for young and older readers alike.  I had as much fun reading this book as the fifth graders did.  We can't wait to read more of the books in this series!

I give A Wrinkle in Time:
Thanks for Reading!


Thursday, April 17, 2014

Predeparture: How to Prepare

My blog banner announces this pretty loudly (not to mention the fact that I now have a count-down clock), but in August, I'm leaving for a five month stint in the Netherlands!  I haven't talked about this experience a lot here on this blog, but since I've received my acceptance letter and I've started making a lot of preparations before I leave, I thought that I could talk about that here.

While I'm away, I'll be updating friends, family, and whoever else is interested in my adventures while abroad for a whole semester.  Since I'm established with this blog when it comes to what I'm reading and what is going on in my life, I'm going to continue to use this blog.  I'll just specify that a post is related to the Netherlands by calling the post 'Netherlands Adventures!' followed by what I want to talk about.  Then you'll know whether to pass over those posts or to go ahead and read through them.

1. Doctor Appointments.  This will be the most dramatic item on this list, for me.  I don't take kindly to shots and tests that involve sharp objects.  I'm extremely uncomfortable with sharp objects going into my skin.  I'm not afraid of the pain.  I didn't have to get too many shots and I had one TB skin test.  The skin test didn't hurt at all, but because this was the first thing closest to a shot that I've had in a long time, I flipped out.  However, when I went back to get my shots, I found a solution so not freaking out:

  • Ask the nurse to talk to you while she is busy setting things up and when she gives the booster.
  • Close eyes and respond to nurse.  Do what she asks.
  • Take deep breaths
  • Stay and rest for a bit because apparently you get dizzy afterwards... enjoy your fruit snacks.
The good news is, my doctor appointments are basically done!  I just need to go to the eye doctor and the dentist and those doctors aren't scary at all.

2. Get Classes Okay-ed and Spring 2015 Figured Out.  Since I'm participating in a program that my college isn't sponsoring and attending a different university altogether, I have to look at what classes I need to fulfill before I graduate (we have a wonderful tool called Degree Evaluation-- it's my best friend).  I also have to find course descriptions/syllabi for the classes that I want to take while abroad and pay a visit to the heads of departments so they can look over classes that I would want to take and tell me whether they transfer and how they transfer.  That has been the easiest part so far.  What's been difficult is getting Spring 2015 figured out.

It feels really silly worrying about classes that I'm going to take a year in advance, but it's starting to become more and more necessary.  Some classes that I need only take place during the Spring.  Some classes I might need to take at a time not during the school year, and this has been a pain in the butt.  I won't go into detail here, but I'll say that it's been nothing but trouble getting a straight answer regarding the logistics of taking classes elsewhere and/or at a different time of the year than Spring or Fall.

3. Buy Plane Tickets.  I bought my round-trip tickets a few weeks ago!!!  This took a little bit of coordinating because when I return to the U.S., I'll be coming home with my partner and his dad.  They're coming to Europe to see Germany, but before they get there, they'll land in Amsterdam, I'll show them around the area where I'll be living for five months, and then we'll head to Germany for a little over a week before heading home.  

I also learned how to use airline websites (Hurray!).  I've never booked a flight for myself before, so this felt like a very adult thing for me to do.  I'm glad I did it instead of someone else doing it for me, because now I know what to do when I book another flight.  I know that I'll be booking more flights in the future-- to where, I haven't completely figured that out yet.  I'm just glad that while flying to and from Europe, I'll have a window seat.  That means I can sleep!

4. Start Figuring Out Where Else You Want To Go.  This has been a difficult step, but not the most difficult.  I don't have any dates for when I'll be going on excursions with my program, so I can't officially plan weekend trips (in Europe!) yet, but I can at least think about the places that I want to go on my own.  France is definitely a country I'll be visiting again.  I have friends there, so I'll probably be visiting more than once to visit them, including once with my family.  My family has formed a good connection with one of the girls we hosted when I was a sophomore in high school.  They came over and visited their daughter when she came to the U.S. the second time (this time in the summer) and that was a great time!  Our families are so similar, but we live thousands of miles away.  It's a good thing we have things like email and Facebook to keep us in touch.  So we'll be visiting them, for sure.

Our two families
Our "album cover" photo

As I mentioned before, I'll go to Germany for a little over a week after my program ends with my partner and his dad.  I've been invited to tag along, so that's really nice!  I'm not sure if I'll go more than once to Germany though.  One place I want to see is Munich.  I did a history day project about the White Rose Movement that occurred during World War II.  They were in opposition of Hitler and they were caught, interrogated, and executed.  So I want to go see where this all happened.

I will probably also go and visit England.  One of my current roommates is studying abroad for a full year in England, so I'm going to plan to visit her and go see different things in and around London.  I want to go to Platform 9 3/4 for sure.

Other places I'd like to go: Denmark, Italy, Spain, Ireland, Poland, Greece, etc.  I know that I'll have to pick and choose (I can't be gone EVERY weekend!  I have to explore my own stomping grounds in the Netherlands!).  But now I have ideas, at least.

My apologies for the long post.  I figure after this experience is complete, I will want to remember everything, even the stuff that happened months in advance.  

This won't be the last pre-departure post-- I still have to pack!

Thanks for Reading!


Monday, April 14, 2014

A Review of 'Thumped' by Megan McCafferty

"It's been thirty-five weeks since twin sisters Harmony and Melody went their separate ways.  Since then, their story has become irresistible lives, each due to deliver sets of twins... on the same day!  In a future where only teens can "bump," or give birth, babies mean money, status, and freedom.

Married to Ram and living in religious Goodside, Harmony spends her time trying to fight back into the community she once loved and believed in.  But she can't seem to forget about Jondoe, the guy she feel in love with under the strangest of circumstances.

To her adoring fans, Melody has achieved everything she always wanted: a big, fat contract and a coupling with Jondoe, the hottest bump prospect around.  But this image is costing her the one guy she really wants.

Cursed by their own popularity, the girls are obsessively tracked by their millions of fans, who have been eagerly counting down the days to their 'Double Double Due Date.'  Without a doubt, they are two of the most powerful teen girls on the planet, and there's only one thing they could do that would make them more famous than they already are:

Tell the truth."

After reading and being absolutely fascinated by 'Bumped,' I couldn't wait to read 'Thumped.'  Now I'm excited to say that I will be writing a thesis paper on both of these books for my Philosophy of Sex and Sexuality class!***

This book picks up about eight months after 'Bumped' ends.  This means that Harmony is eight-and-a-half months pregnant and Melody is faking her "preg" and promoting their brand (it's sad that girls like Melody aren't people, really.  They're baby-making machines).  Jondoe is pining after Harmony, wanting to be the father-- no-- the DAD that he has never been to any of the children that he's contributed his DNA to.  It's so sweet how he studies up on all things pregnancy and birth-related.

I've rediscovered what an interesting society this book is set in.  There are so many ethical issues with having children beget children (teenagers have the babies because the adults are unable to because of the virus that has spread about the world).  It's really hard for me to tell if the society that we're seeing in Thumped is the idea of the teenagers who are having the children or if it's the idea of the adults who want kids but can't have their own.  Are the teenagers just going along with it or are they completely bought into it?  Some are and some aren't.  I want to know how this society came to be what it is.  Obviously the virus had something huge to do with it, but who decided that this was the way reproduction should occur?  Couldn't sperm and/or eggs be preserved until they're wanted?  There's a lot we don't know about the health of the human anatomy in this series.  We know that no adult can conceive on their own, but are they capable of carrying a child to term if the proper ingredients are saved for when they're reading and willing to have a child?

I have a lot of questions about this book and I can't wait to do a little research around this short series.

I give 'Thumped':
Thanks for Reading!


***Maybe... my topic may be shifting a bit, although still sticking with books.

Monday, April 7, 2014

A Review of 'Small Acts of Amazing Courage' by Gloria Whelan (Audio Book)

"It is 1918, six months after the end of World War I, and Rosalind awaits the return of her father from the warm.  While it is common practice for British children in India to be packed off to boarding school at the age of 6, Rosalind is unusual because she lives and is schooled in India because her mother insists.  The heart of this penetrating story is Rosalind's coming of age set against the hardship life for the India people, Rosalind's daily life in India, and the rise of Ghandi and Rosalind's coming to make her own decisions and become her own person."

I wasn't sure what to expect when I borrowed this audio book from my digital library.  But I was pleasantly surprised.  Rosalind is a charming character with a big heart.  Her acts of kindness and courage started by accident, but then it just came as a natural thing to her.  She's such a figure of social justice, and that's a beautiful thing.

This book takes place at the same time that Ghandi is working for peace and independence for India.  I knew that this happened in history, but I still don't know a lot about it.  It was nice to know how those events fit into someone with a fairly average life in India (well, an average English person in India).

I liked how someone so young as Rosalind can make such a big difference in the lives of a variety of ages, whether that's caring about a baby and finding proper care for him or motivating someone older than her to take control of her life and take what's hers.  She fights for freedom in all kinds of ways.  This is wonderful.

Someday, I'd like to find a hard copy of this book so that I can read it myself as opposed to having it read to me.  The narrator of this book was wonderful, switching between English and Indian accents.  It really added to this book.  I'm glad that I listened first.

I give 'Small Acts of Amazing Courage':
Thanks for Reading!