Who Let the Dogs Out?

Tuesday, 27 May 2014 06:55

dog-therapy1By Kristi Spuhler for LitLovers
These days you never know what creature you might come face-to-face with in your local library. Many of us, it turns out, are meeting up with the furry canine variety. Woof.

Therapy Dog programs are popping up all over the place, aimed at encouraging struggling readers to find comfort—and pleasure—in reading aloud. The dogs provide a helping paw.

Snuggling up next to a canine buddy while reading is meant to help students build confidence in reading skills and generate enthusiasm rather than anxiety for library time.

One volunteer group, BARK, offers 20-minute sessions once a week for young readers to relax and practice. During a session, a child picks out a book and, after a few friendly pats for thedog-therapy2b furry pal, is all set to begin the story. It’s that simple.

A dog offers a friendly ear and no judgement. When students stumble over words in front of peers and teachers, it's intimidating. But dogs take the pressure off, letting young readers focus on the story and on improving their skills.

The results are remarkable. In a study conducted by Tufts University, second graders who read aloud to a canine companion over the summer months retained their reading skills more effectively than those paired with a human buddy.

dog-therapy3Another study by UC Davis in 2010, according to BARK, suggests that kids in reading-to-dog programs improve their reading skills by at least 12% when compared to children not involved in these programs. A fuzzy ear and an encouraging nuzzle may be just what a struggling youngster needs!

Have any of you been involved in a program like this? Leave us a comment—we'd sure love to hear about it!


 

Can You Say LitLovers in Estonian?

Wednesday, 14 May 2014 08:17

estonia-kool-logo1Imagine how it felt on a real ho-hum of a morning to open this missive from far-off Estonia, the beautiful country bordering the Baltic sea.

#1
Hello...I am an English teacher from Minnesota, living and teaching in Estonia, Europe. I am using your book-club questions to help my students discuss what they are reading for my "home-reading" assignments. Thank you so much—they have really helped my students get more out of their reading.
"So what are your students reading?" I write back. And the next morning...I get another email.
#2
My sixth graders have read some graded readers,
Around the World in 80 Days,estonia-kids2 Last of the Mohicans, some sports books about soccer players and so on.

Older kids are interested in the pop literature of the day—the Divergent Series, Lord of the Rings, Hunger Games, The Fault in our Stars. Some kids read biographies or non-fiction as well. They do a mostly good job of summarizing what they have read, but then have difficulty discussing anything further—that is where your questions have really helped us out.
Who is this guy? "Who are you," I ask "and what are you doing in Estonia?" His name is Parry...and next morning, I get a 3rd note!
#3estonia-kool-kids1
I teach at a private school in Tallinn, the capital of Estonia. The school, or kool, is called Rocca al Mare ("rock by the sea") and it is right next to the Baltic Sea in a beautiful forest setting. I am from Minnesota but have been living in Estonia for almost 9 years. I have family here now and have no plans to return to the U.S. anytime soon.

estonia-map-etc3



Most of his kids, Parry writes, are quite fluent in English—speaking and writing with relative ease. It's an "A language," which means they begin learning it in first grade. They're also influenced by the Internet and TV—often inserting English words into sentences when speaking in Estonian. Or they'll take an American verb and "Estonianize" it.

Estonia is so small that language-learning is extremely important, says Parry, even in everyday life. Many people can speak 3, 4, even 5 languages, sometimes fluently. Starting in the 3rd grade, students can also choose a "B language"—French, German, Russian, or Spanish—and later can add a "C language," which at that point includes Finnish.

estonia-songfest1A favorite movie of mine, I tell him, is The Singing Revolution—how Estonia gained independence from the Soviets in 1991. They literally sung their way to freedom. It's a gripping, powerful story.

He knows the movie. "Estonians are very proud of how they won their independence that time. Summer 2014 is the next Summer Song Festival, which is held every four years; you might find videos of past song festivals under the title Laulupidu, which means song festival in Estonian."

Then he ends with..."Of course, Estonia's freedom is very fragile: it has never been free as a nation for any long period of time."


 

Publishers Feelin' the Blues

Monday, 21 April 2014 08:48

blue-where-the-moon2blue-dark-sacred2blue-under-the-wide4blue-wind-is-not2blue-steady-running3blue-all-the-light3blue-in-paradise3blue-snow-queen3
(Click on a cover to see the Reading Guide.)


Notice anything...oh, I dunno...funny? Check out some of 2014's "big" books so far. Clearly, somebody likes blue ... or is pretty sure the rest of us do.

Do you remember the scene in The Devil Wears Prada where boss Miranda chastises Andrea for mocking a popular color of blue? Miranda tells her the shade was chosen after intensive consumer research, followed by a high stakes marketing campaign—all to make women WANT-NEED-BUY that very color. In other words, consumers think we have free will...but we're simply being manipulated.

Is that what's going on with New York publishers (five different houses are represented here)? Is a conspiracy afoot in the literary world? Oh gracious. But then, again, maybe we're just paranoid. Wouldn't be the first time.

So what does blue evoke in YOU?

 

Graphic Novels—from paragraphs to panels

Monday, 14 April 2014 09:56

graphic-novels—By Kristi Spuhler for LitLovers—
The graphic novel
has been fighting a tough battle. Many of us have been too quick to pass off panel comics in favor of traditional books, but in truth we may not know what we’re missing.

Breaking away from spandex-clad superheroes, graphic novels have taken on more serious subject matter—often diving into the realms of historical fiction and autobiographies.

Rich with complicated plot lines and well-developed characters, graphic novels take the art of storytelling in a completely new direction. By incorporating poignant images with well-crafted prose, graphic novels break down slow-moving descriptions into swift actions.

Caught your attention yet? Just in case, take a look at the list we’ve compiled—some of the best stories to ease you into the world of speech bubbles!

Graphic Novels

Watchmen - Alan Moore, Dave Gibbons
The only graphic novel that has been included on the NY Times 100 Best Novels List, Watchmen follows a group of retired superheroes through 1985 America as they try to uncover a plot to kill and discredit all past and present superheroes


Persepolis - Marjane Satrapi
This autobiographical graphic novel follows the author through her childhood and early adult years in Iran during and after the Islamic Revolution. In 2010, Newsweek ranked Persepolis #5 on its list of the top 10 books of the decade.


Maus - Art Spiegleman
This graphic novel, penned by the popular contributing illustrator of the New Yorker, depicts the author interviewing his father, a Polish Jew, about his experiences during the Holocaust.


The Sandman: Preludes and Nocturnes - Neil Gaiman, Sam Keith, Mike Dringenberg
This dark fantasy follows Dream (aka Morpheus) on his quest to find his three magical objects of power after a wrongful 70 year imprisonment at the hands of an evil magician.


Scott Pilgrim - Bryan Lee O’Malley
The title character of this spunky graphic novel is in love—but there are complications. The story follows Scott through a video game-inspired landscape as he battles to defeat his girlfriend’s seven evil exes.


The Walking Dead - Robert Kirkman, Charlie Adlard, Cliff Rathburn, Tony Moore
After being shot in the line of duty, Rick Grimes wakes from a coma to discover that his town has been overrun with walking corpses. The story follows Rick and a group of fellow survivors as they struggle against the odds in a post-apocalyptic world.


V For Vendetta - Alan Moore, David Lloyd
Simply put, the titular character, V, seeks vengeance for those in a corrupt government who have wronged him.



Here's the challenge—pick one of these graphic novels (or any other). Give it a try, and let us know what you think. Tell us which novel...and your thoughts. We'd love to hear back.

 

Share Your Love of Literature—Literally!

Tuesday, 25 March 2014 12:29

free-library1—By Kristi Spuhler for LitLovers—
Looking for an easy way to share your love of literature? Then start a Little Free Library (LFL) right in your front yard!

At its most basic, a Little Free Library is a small, enclosed bookshelf on which you display your favorite titles. Neighbors can borrow and enjoy your books and eventually add their own to the box. Pick a book...leave a book.

Take Swapna Krishna who watched her own LFL project blossom. At first, she was delighted simply to see the books she shared disappear from the shelves. But the best part came when she discovered other books were being left!

So what starts out as a collection of personal favorites can quickly become one of the best places to find a new read!

Sound like fun? Then pay a visit LittleFreeLibrary.org where you can purchase one of the boxes. Or if you want a more personalized approach, download building plans to create your own unique box!

So now the question: what titles would you share? Leave us a comment and let us know!
 

Reading? Don’t Blink!

Wednesday, 05 March 2014 10:22

eye-iris1By Kristi Spuhler for LitLovers—
In the last few years, we have all seen major changes in reading. With the advent of ebooks and ereaders, the materials that people read, where they read and how they read have been flipped upside-down. Gone are the days when people would peruse a quiet bookstore to find their next reading project - with a wifi connection and a series of clicks, readers have a virtual library at their fingertips.

Technology aside, there have even been developments in the way people read. Speed reading has grown in popularity among the college-age set for years and who can blame them? With such a massive amount of text that we’re all dying to pour over, we have to cut out time somewhere! Enter Spritz, a revolutionary new reading system developed by a team in Boston.

The Spritz claim-to-fame is its alleged ability to cut down the 80% of total reading time your eyes waste while moving from word to word. When reading, your eye searches out the ORP (optimal recognition point) in each word. Once the ORP has been located, you then begin processing the information. Repeat this process for every word on a page and you’ve spent quite a long time just moving your eyes!

With Spritz, the ORP in each word is highlighted for you. Each word in a sentence then flashes across a display screen with the ORP cast in the same area each time. This process completely removes your need to move your eyes and allows you to focus fully on the words in front of you. Where before it was necessary to focus on each word, now you can sit back, relax and let your text come to you.

Though the technology behind this new reading system is intriguing, we have to wonder how such a drastic change in reading would affect our audience of LitHounds. When the Kindle and the Nook first started making their appearance a few years back, there were rumblings that the publishing industry would be forever changed. Since that time, we’ve seen differences in the amounts of books that are published in the more traditional fashion, and a marked increase in the prevalence of self-publishing. Even though technology has taken a strong hold in literature, the popularity of the ink and paper book has endured - but can it survive another blow from a popular lit-gadget?

Though it’s easy to be skeptical, it may be best to give Spritz a try before passing judgement. To see what this new gadget is all about click here and then scroll over the blue link in the right upper corner of the page.

What do you think about text streaming - is it here to stay, or will it be gone in the blink of an eye? Leave us a comment below and tell us what you think!


 

Thugnotes—getting to know the classics?!

Thursday, 13 February 2014 12:33

thugnotes—Kristi Spuhler for LitLovers—
We know—it can be difficult to find excitement in a story whose first sentence is a paragraph. (A Tale of Two Cities, anyone?) Just looking at a sentence like that can make us go cross-eyed! For this reason (among others,) younger readers are not as quick to devour antiquated works.

Enter sites like thug-notes.com (**Warning: The videos on this site contain some strong language**)

With modern lingo and a hip edginess, Dr. Sweets, (the moniker of comedian Greg Edwards,) takes well-known titles from the high school English classroom and breaks them down into bite-sized morsels fit to grab the attention of even the most attention-lacking reader. Distilling well-known titles down to their base elements, these video reviews break through the austere shell of many "classic" works and highlight the intrigue, violence, romance and excitement that many readers are seeking - but may not be able to find- in classic literature.

Using pop culture to interest audiences in classic stories isn’t a new idea. We highlighted a few examples of fine works that have been translated into movies in our last post (scroll down), and tv series like Wishbone filled roughly the same purpose to a younger audience. With the prevalence of vlogging* and social sharing sites, it seems that it was only a matter of time before literature would become a topic of conversation on these forums, too. As we should have suspected, the internet has allowed a number of unique interpretations to take hold.

What do you think about modernized video reviews of literature? Are they good for inspiring future LitHounds to explore the classics, or do these stylized versions detract from the original beauty of the work?

*video blog or video log


 

Watch that Book! — 2014 Books-to-Movies

Tuesday, 21 January 2014 09:57

books-movies-2-dogdOur last post highlighted a sizeable list of 2013 films inspired by some of our favorite books. If the following list is any indication, it looks like we’ll be hitting the library before we go to the theaters again this year, too.



Books-to-Movies in 2014
Click on titles for Reading Guides

Monuments Men (January)
Book by Robert M. Edsel
Movie with George Clooney, Matt Damon, et al.

A group of American art specialists come together during World War II to recover world masterpieces stolen by the Nazis.


Winter's Tale  (February)
Book by Mark Helprin
Movie with Colin Farrell, Jessica Brown Findlay

Peter Lake, a thief, falls in love with a woman as she dies in his arms. After discovering his ability to revive the dead, he is determined to save her.


Serena  (April)
Book by Ron Nash
Movie with Jennifer Lawrence, Bradley Cooper

When Serena Pemberton discovers she cannot bear children, the life that she has built with her husband, George, begins to unravel.


Child 44  (June)
Book by Tom Rob Smith
Movie with Tom Hardy, Joel Kinnaman

Investigating a series of child murders in Stalin era Soviet Russia, Leo Demidov must battle the odds to expose a threat the State won’t admit exists.


The Fault in Our Stars  (June)
Book by John Greene
Movie with Shailene Woodley

Hazel and Gus are an inseparable pair of teens who meet in the most unlikely of places—a cancer support group.


Under the Dome(June 2014)
Book by Stephen King
TV series (Season 2)

An invisible and mysterious force field descends upon a small town, trapping residents inside, cut off from the rest of civilization. What is the dome and why is it there?


The Giver  (August)
Book by Lois Lowry
Movie with Meryl Streep

Living in a seemingly perfect community, a young boy is chosen to learn from an elder about the true pain and pleasure of the "real" world.


Outlander (Summer)
Book by Diana Galbaldan
TV series (Season 1)

Claire Randall, a wartime nurse, lives a double life: a husband in 1945 and, by inadvertently touching an ancient stone, a lover in 1743.


This Is Where I Leave You  (September)
Book by Jonathan Tropper
Movie with Jason Bateman

In order to honor their father’s final wish, a non-practicing Jewish family must sit Shivah together for one week.


Gone Girl  (October)
Book by Giullian Flynn
Movie with Rosamund Pike, Ben Affleck

It doesn't take long for Nick to become a suspect when his wife Amy goes missing. But are things always what they seem?


The Hobbit (Part 3)  (December)
Book J.R.R. Tolkien
Movie with Benedict Cumberbatch, Evangeline Lilly

In this third installment, the company of Thorin have reached Smaug’s cave, but can the group reclaim the dwarven treasure?


Before I Go to Sleep (TBA)
Book by S.J. Watson
Movie with Nicole Kidman, Colin Firth

As the result of a tragic accident in her past, Chrissie Lucas awakes everyday with no memories. One day, she discovers new truths that force her to question who she can trust.


Wild  (TBA)
Book by Cheryl Strayed
Movie with Reese Witherspoon

In order to cope with a series of catastrophic life events, Cheryl embarks on a 1,100 mile trek on the Pacific Crest Trail.


* Carry-over from 2013.


We know we've missed
a few, so let us know which ones. And tell us which ones you can't wait to see.


 

Watch that Book! — 2013 Books-to-Movies

Wednesday, 15 January 2014 09:57

books-movies-13 Books hit the box office in a big way last year. Just in case you were visiting another planet—here's a list of notable books found on the screen in 2013. Don't worry, though: if you were clueless about a few...so were we!


Books-to-Movies in 2013
Click on titles for Reading Guides


Austenland
Book by Shannon Hale
Movie with Keri Russell

Jane, a single, modern day New Yorker, is in search of her own Mr. Darcy. What else to do but sign up at a two week fantasy resort for Austen obsessed women!


Beautiful Creatures
Book by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl
Movie with Alden Ehrenreich and Alice Englert

In a few months, when Lena turns 16, she will be "claimed" by the Light or the Dark. Along with her boyfriend Ethan, she must fight off supernatural powers.


The Book Thief
Book by Markus Zusak
Movie with Sophie Nelisse, Emily Watson
Coming-of-age story story in Nazi Germany. Leisel learns to read, and is driven to collect stolen books and a set of peculiar friends, including a Jewish refugee.


Catching Fire
Book by Suzanne Collins
Movie with Jennifer Lawrence

Katniss won the Hunger Games and should feel secure in her family's safety. But she becomes the face of a popular rebellion—and now the capitol wants revenge.


City of Bones
Book by Cassandra Clare
Movie with Lilly Collins

Teenager Clary Fray witnesses a murder, but the body disappears into thin air. Then she meets Jace and is suddenly pulled into the world of the Shadow Hunters.


Enders Game
Book by Orson Scott Card
Movie with Harrison Ford

Government agencies breed child geniuses and train them as soldiers to fight a hostile alien race. One future soldier is brilliant young Andrew "Ender" Wiggin.


The Great Gatsby
Book by F. Scott Fitzgerald
Movie with Leonardo DiCaprio

Baz Lurhmann's take on the great Great Gatsby, an American classic that highlights our penchant to remake ourselves. Upper class shinanigans lead to tragedy.


The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug
Book by J.R.R. Tolkien
Movie with Ian McKellan

Bilbo Baggins, Gandalf, and the Dwarves continue their quest to reclaim their homeland, from Smaug. Bilbo Baggins is in possession of a mysterious and magical ring.


Labor Day
Book by Joyce Maynard
Movie with Kate Winslet and Josh Brolin

Henry Wheeler's life is changed forever when he and his emotionally fragile mother show kindness to a stranger with a terrible secret. A story of love, and treachery.


The Reluctant Fundamentalist
Book by Mohsin Hamid
Movie with Riz Ahmed and Kate Hudson

Changez is living an immigrant’s dream of America. Princeton, Wall Street, and beautiful Eric. But 9/11 changes everything as he discovers more fundamental allegiances.



Safe Haven
Book by Nicholas Sparks
Movie with Julianne Hough and Josh Duhame
A young woman with a mysterious past lands in Southport, North Carolina where her bond with a widower forces her to confront the dark secret that haunts her.



Silver Linings Playbook
Book by Matthew Quick
Movie with Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence

A young woman with a mysterious past lands in Southport, North Carolina where her bond with a widower forces her to confront the dark secret that haunts her.



12 Years a Slave
Book by Solomon Northup
Movie with Chiwetel Ejiofor

The memoir of a black man born free in New York state but kidnapped, sold into slavery and kept in bondage for 12 years in Louisiana before the American Civil War.


Under the Dome
Book by Stephen King
TV series (Season 1)

An invisible and mysterious force field descends upon a small town, trapping residents inside, cut off from the rest of civilization. What is the dome and why is it there?


*We snuck Silver Linings in from late December 2012.


Let us know
if you've got a favorite...or about one that disappointed. Are any of the films better than their books? (Most of us think it's the other way around...but not always.) Did any film inspire you to read the book afterward?

Next up—Books-to-Movies scheculed for 2014. Stay tuned!


 

Book Club Blues—Inviting wives?

Thursday, 14 November 2013 10:31

new-year2
We got some guff from guys objecting to our tale of woe—the woman's book club who invited their husbands to join. Well, here's the other side—here's what happens when Mars opens its door to Venus.


Book Club Calendar

month1-january

"First things first,"
the ladies tell us—
NO T-shirts.
NO cigars.


month2-feb

50 Shades—whoa!
Hot.
Who knew?

month3-mar

NO BEER???
A nice Merlot...?
What the hell's
a Merlot?
 month4-apr

YES! The Masters!!
But can we
reschedule?
Noooo.
 month5-may

Nicholas Sparks?
Again?
You're kidding.


month6-jun

We go "as a club"
to see The Help.
It feels...girly.
month7a-jul

A picnic. We wear
T-shirts!!!! We
drink beer!!!!
We are Men!!!!


month8-aug 

 Not one work of
REAL history—not
military, political,
scientific...
month9-sep

 What's the difference
between history and
historical fiction?
Ans: ROMANCE.
 month10-oct

Breakthrough! What
women call Romance,
we call soft porn.
High Five!

month11-nov

Our 4th book
on Anne Boleyn.
Shoulda seen it
coming.
month12-dec

Christmas party:
$150/couple plus
$20 gift. That's it,
we're outta here.
new-year3   month1-january

Superbowl—yes.
Tudors—no.
Sparks—never.
Who's got beer?
new-year3

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