The Long Lasting Impact of Short Stories

16 Feb

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Hooray! I have returned to the wonderful world of reading. Before I had my daughter, my bedtime routine involved reading in bed before going to sleep. Once I became a mother, I found nothing quite as important as sleep and rest. Now that I have adjusted (more or less) to my new demands as a parent, I find that I need to include reading-for-pleasure in my life to give myself a much needed break from everything else and use a side of my brain that is deteriorating spending all day with a ten month old! Since most of my reading happens in smaller spurts (the luxury of spending a rainy afternoon curled up on the couch is gone), I have found the short story genre to be a perfect match for me.

I grew up reading short stories and one of my earliest memories is my father reading aloud The Gift of the Magi by O. Henry during the holidays. I love anything by Flannery O’Connor, Hemmingway and Jhumpa Lahiri and recently discovered my new short story idol in Alice Munro (female! Canadian! Pulitzer Prize!). For Christmas, my father gave me Hateship, Friendship, Courtship, Loveship, Marriage (a collection of her short stories) and it re-awoke my reading hiatus. While I wanted to devour each story, my lack of free time and my new pace of life forced me to slowly savor the stories and indulge in the mastery of her writing and storytelling.

I am sure in the near future I will find the time and energy to crack open a novel, but right now the short story is all I need to get by.

Here are a few suggestions of short stories (and short story collections) that will amaze you:

The Gift of the Magi by O. Henry

Interpreter of Maladies by Jhumpa Lahiri

The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien

Brokeback Mountain by Annie Prouix

The Telltale Heart by Edgar Allan Poe

The Looking Glass by Anton Chekhov

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Books for Veteran’s Day

10 Nov

In honor of Veteran’s Day, I’ve been thinking of some of my favorite books for young readers that center around war. There are many books on this subject, so I’ve focused on books for early readers and young adult readers* about women who served or women whose lives were greatly impacted by war. Thanks to all our veterans and their families!

*Although these book recommendations are for young adult readers, I would recommend them to adults as well. I love to read books for pleasure geared to all age groups!

As a child, one of my favorite books was about Deborah Sampson, The Secret Soldier by Ann McGovern. Deborah Sampson was a woman who dressed as a man and fought in the Revolutionary War.

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There are a few books about Clara Barton,  she was a teacher and nurse. She started the Red Cross and was a savior on the Civil War battlefield. Clara Barton: History Maker by Candice Ransom is very informative.

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Diary of Anne Frank by Anne Frank and Number the Stars by Lois Lowery are two amazing books about the Holocaust, with young girls as the protagonist. The Diary of Anne Frank is a must read autobiography of Frank’s life in hiding. Number the Stars is a work of historical fiction about the rescue of the Danish Jews.

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There are a few other that come highly recommended, but I haven’t read yet:

Alice Mead’s Soldier Mom, about a young girl whose mother is serving in Iraq during the first Persian Gulf War.

Peacekeepers, by Dianne Linden, which centers around a thirteen-year-old girl whose mother is serving as a peace-keeper in Kosovo.

And, if you see a Veteran on the street please thank him or her for their service.

How Playtime Connects Young Readers to Books

8 Nov

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Do you ever finish a book yet still feel as though it is still alive inside of you? I know I do, and it’s one of the reasons I participate in a book group. As an adult, being part of a book group allows me to delve deeper into the book by asking questions of my fellow readers, listening to the opinions of others, and continuing to let the story simmer in my mind.

Children also need opportunities to make connections to books, especially after the book has been finished. Experiences allow children to add another layer of understanding to their word, and this is even true with reading. Follow-up experiences help young readers make personal connections to books and stories. Lastly, being able to be playful with books fosters a love of reading.

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One of my favorite sites, The Imagination Tree (imaginationtree.com), has a recent post called ’12 Playful Storytelling Activities. Using everyday materials like play dough, garden plants and cardboard children bring the stories to life through play. I highly recommend starting these playful reading activites with children from an early age as children benefit from such interactive experiences, in addition to being active listeners.

14 Aug

 

One of my favorite and most faithful readers recently asked me, “Can you write a blog about where I can find book recommendation of certain genres? For example, best travel stories or best funny fiction books.”  Thanks for such a great question.

My first thought would be to use your library:school_library_lobby_sign

 

Libraries and the librarians who work there are amazing resources if you’re looking for a specific book or if you’re not sure of what you want. I’ve found librarians LOVE to help! When I first moved to Toronto I got my library card in the first week, went to my local branch and familiarized myself with how that particular library was organized. Most libraries also have an online systems where you can search within genres if you’re not particularly sure of the book.

My favorite resource is Goodreads:

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It’s an incredible online site with a community of readers. The online app is very easy. There’s a section organized by genre. Just open the app, go to ‘explore’ and scroll through the genres. With goodreads you can connect with other readers, read in depth book reviews and scan books to add to your personal library. One of my favorite features is a place where you can list books that you’ve read, are currently reading, or hope to read in the future. So many books…so little time!

Happy reading, my friend!

Pop up library…on a beach

29 Jul

http://designtaxi.com/news/359501/In-France-A-Pop-Up-Beach-Library-Lets-You-Borrow-From-350-Titles/

Thanks to Dennis for sending this gem along…

The Paper Chase

4 Jun

 

 

I highly recommend this fascinating and brief article about how the introduction of paperback books changed the way people read.

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http://www.smithsonianmag.com/arts-culture/The-Revolutionary-Effect-of-the-Paperback-Book-204113211.html

Reading Music

30 May

For the past year, I have been singing with the VOCA Chorus of Toronto (vocachorus.ca). The chorus is a wonderful opportunity to sing a variety of music (our concert this Saturday night is Celtic music!), meet new people and practice my sight reading skills. As musicians, we have a whole other world of reading when it comes to reading music. Being able to read music is a skill that I have been working on for at least a decade, and like reading print learning to read music takes time, patience and practice. Music notation is the representation of sound with symbols, from basic notations for pitch, duration, and timing, to more advanced descriptions of expression, timbre, and even special effects (wiki).

Here is an example of  music one might ‘read’:

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To read this piece of music, one must look at a variety of different elements. To keep this post from being really long, I’ve tried to condense my description of reading music to three basic elements.

1.  The Staff:  The staff are the five lines where the notes live. Each note has a distinct tone and these tones go together make up a sound or melody. Each note is given its individual rhythm with either a note head (open or closed), a stem, or a flag (see example in time signature).

notes-on-music-staff

2. The Time Signature:  The time signature (in this example it is 4/4) tells the musician how many beats per measure. In this example, if you were singing you would hold the first note for four beats because it is an open head note with no stem. Then, you would sing each of the notes in the next measure for two beats each, then the next measure each note has a value of four beats, and so on and so on (there is a lot of math in music!).

4_4_vs_2_2

3. Dynamic Markings:  Notice at the beginning of this piece there is a little ‘p‘.  That means ‘pianissimo/piano’ which means softly. The dynamic markings allow the composer a way to articulate her musical vision.  When we are reading music, we must be aware of the dynamics to fully bring the piece to life.  

musical-dynamics_MUSIC

When we learn to read text, we begin learning the letters and sounds and it grows from there, and the same goes for learning music. As Maria von Trapp from The Sound of Music sang, ‘when you read you begin with ABC, when you sing you begin with Do, Re, Mi.’