2017/02/19

The Agatha Raisin Mystery Series (in order)


I am a pretty rabid fan of the two mystery series developed by M.C. Beaton aka Marion Chesney aka Marion Gibbons. This series features the detective and public relation skills of a character called Agatha Raisin who lives in a small village in Carsley. If you haven't ever heard of this series before and you like mysteries, take some time to explore it as it is a fun explore! Here are the books in chronological order for the new reader. Also for fun, these characters have finally been turned into a TV series so you can explore the characters in another format... the books are the best though!



Agatha Raisin and the Quiche of Death (1992)

Agatha Raisin and the Vicious Vet (1993)

Agatha Raisin and the Potted Gardener (1994)

Agatha Raisin and the Walkers of Dembley (1995)

Agatha Raisin and the Murderous Marriage (1996)

Agatha Raisin and the Terrible Tourist (1997)

Agatha Raisin and the Wellspring of Death (1998)

Agatha Raisin and the Wizard of Evesham (1999)

Agatha Raisin and the Witch of Wyckhadden (1999)

Agatha Raisin and the Fairies of Fryfam (2000)

Agatha Raisin and the Love from Hell (2001)

Agatha Raisin and the Day the Floods Came (2002)

Agatha Raisin and the Case of the Curious Curate (2003)

Agatha Raisin and the Haunted House (2003)

Agatha Raisin and the Deadly Dance (2004)

Agatha Raisin and the Perfect Paragon (2005)

Love, Lies and Liquor: An Agatha Raisin mystery (2006)

Kissing Christmas Goodbye: An Agatha Raisin mystery (2007)

Agatha Raisin and a Spoonful of Poison (2008)

Agatha Raisin: There Goes the Bride (2009)

Agatha Raisin and the Busy Body (2010)

Agatha Raisin: As the Pig Turns (October 2011)

Agatha Raisin: Hiss and Hers (2012)

Agatha Raisin: Something Borrowed, Someone Dead (2013)

Agatha Raisin: The Blood of an Englishman (2014)

Agatha Raisin: Dishing the Dirt (2015)

Agatha Raisin: Pushing Up Daisies (2016)

If you are exploring this series for the first time, please let me know how you liked

pictures from: http://www.mcbeaton.com/us/author/, http://www.mcbeaton.com/us/books/agatha_raisin_mysteries/pushing_up_daisies/

2017/02/18

Picture Book Analysis- "When Sheep Cannot Sleep: The Counting Book"


This is a book analysis I completed for a class this semester. This is one of Bug's favorite books so I was pleased to have an excuse to read it some more. I hope you enjoy. :)

In their quest to create and motivate young readers, both authors and publishing houses try to create a work of literature that can stand on its own and that, due to design, storyline and subject matter, can turn more people into readers. Different authors and publishing groups may value different topics and book designs based on past sales or perceived enthusiasm for a topic. This paper attempts to analyze the book “When Sheep Cannot Sleep- The Counting Book” and discuss its distinct place in enjoyable literature for young children.





This beginning reader / picture book was written and illustrated by Satoshi Kitamura who lives in London, England as a Japanese expatriate. He is a prolific author who has won some awards for his varied works. “When Sheep Cannot Sleep” was nominated for a Mockingbird award and was awarded the New York Times Notable Book of the Year award in 1988. The distinctive designs that set the author apart from other illustrators and bold watercolor designs complement the simple storyline of a sheep named Woolly who finds himself unable to fall asleep and goes on an adventure instead. During his adventure he meets other animals and discovers lightning, an empty house, and things to do, draw, chase and eat. Finally he ends up in bed and falling asleep to his quiet thoughts and his images of counting the members of his family in his head.


The straightforwardly moving storyline keeps the book interesting for children ages three to eight years old. However, the author’s secondary purpose is to promote counting for the older preschool reader. They can not only follow the adventures of Woolly, but each page is also set up as a counting game. The reader can enjoy the story of Woolly trying to pick apples, having a conversation with squirrels about the apples, and then using a ladder to reach the apples, while also being able to count upward as the story progresses. His adventure moves from more squirrels than apples, more rungs on the ladder than squirrels and eventually to an empty house with a cozy bed just for him. At the end of the book, the author has made an index that tells the reader what images were meant to be counted in both visuals and words in a clear, easy to read format. By adding a second purpose to the book, the author has created a work that can be used for more than one age group. With bold colors but instructive illustrations that move the story line along, but also ask readers to pause and genuinely look at the pictures, this book invents more opportunities for the reader to interact with the story as they grow. The tension created between the detailed illustrations that ask readers to slow down and ‘look’ and the dialogue which suggests to the reader to speed up was perfect- by the time the reader is developmentally able to notice the tension between words and illustration, he or she is starting to interact by counting and the tension eases.

This book also capitalizes on a few characteristics common to many children’s books. Animals are something that children are highly motivated to learn about, so by creating a main character who is a sheep and several secondary characters that are also animals (squirrels, owls, bats, etc..) there is a strong impetus for the reader to continue on with the story. The illustrations are very colorful which draw the eye towards them and helps to create a sense of peace and lack of urgency in the reader, yet also enthusiasm to continue with the adventure. As a reader, we enjoy following in the path of this poor insomniac sheep because his adventures and environment are simply too interesting- in some ways we as readers no longer have any interest in sleeping either until, with luck, the story promotes in the reader the urge to tuck into bed like Woolly and start to count sheep themselves behind the dark of their own eye lids. The story flows from adventure to peaceful quiet and an urge to join our animal friends in blessed slumber. It also asks the reader to question some of the subtle details in the illustrations: Why are so many animals awake past their bedtime? Why are there so many doors in the house and why are all the doors in the home closed except for one? Why does Woolly feel comfortable entering what appears to be an empty, unknown house that he finds on his adventure and happily cooks some peas and tucks himself into bed? Why are we as readers comfortable with Woolly’s behavior in regards to the house and are not frightened? These questions are only able to be answered by the imagination of the reader.

There are a few themes that are covered in this particular text. The first and most obvious is the pattern of a child having a busy day and then following through the nightly bedtime rituals that put the child in bed and asleep. In some ways, this story reminds us of our lives; we get up, have an adventure, and finish the day in bed ready to begin again on the morrow. Another theme is the pattern of growth- as the story continues, more and more characters or things to count are added to the text, creating depth where there was simplicity. Counting and animals are also themes used in the text. The last theme that comes to mind that is expressed in this book is to simply enjoy the good aspects of life. Giving young children the ability to follow an animal in its evening rituals, to learn more about the world surrounding them, and to create early motivation toward understanding numbers and their uses in our lives is not something to be taken for granted. I highly recommend this particular picture book for any parent with young children for an enjoyable and comfortable read that also encourages fun and learning.



pictures from: http://us.macmillan.com/whensheepcannotsleep/satoshikitamura/9780374483593/, https://cuentoenlasnoches.blogspot.com/2015/03/fernando-furioso-hiawyn-oran-y-satoshi.html, http://us.macmillan.com/whensheepcannotsleep/satoshikitamura/9780374483593/, http://bokmal.com.ua/books/when-sheep-cannot-sleep-kitamura/

2017/02/16

A Short Film Review: Jean-Michel Basquiat "The Radiant Child"


Sometimes a title says more about a film after it is experienced than it expressed before you opened yourself to the knowledge within. Jean-Michel Basquiat was an artist of pure brilliance who not only instinctively seemed to recognize ‘art’ in the differing facets of the world around him, but also understood so much of the human and art history that came before him and allowed that “history (to) walk with me too.” He used many ‘styles’ in his artwork between drawing and painting, graffiti and collage technique, obscured language, and references to other artists in other fields, including biology, archeology, music, etc…

This artist also reminds me of the fact that how we describe people and their work really matters. Think of the images that you conjure in your mind from these descriptive words:

“…terribly young, very ambitious”
“difficult artist”
“sad but so sweet”
“…wild boy”
“Black Picasso”
“…primal expressionism”
“(Were they) in front of new stars… or about to get robbed?”


I find myself quite torn by these phrases for these sentences describe the man I watched painting, smiling… with heightened focus and an independence and creativity of thought that is remarkable. I find myself thinking of the energy and the expressionism of the man… yet these phrases are not commonly used to describe most adults. As the title symbolizes, each of us- his friends, critics and culture describe this vibrant man as a boy…”so sweet, difficult, wild…” These words jar against my ear and my soul and I find myself recognizing the barely veiled racism that Jean Michel dealt with in so much of his life… and the racism inherent in me as I struggle to find the words to describe his work and find my words focus more on the artist and my impressions of him rather than his work itself. Twenty years, later, our culture and each of us is still trying to understand and recognize the way we divide those around us and infantilize African American individuals and culture. As Basquiat found, he became a symbol or representation to the white culture around him of all Black individuals and culture… a stereotype that is fraught with inaccuracies and biases. He too, also recognized the difficulty of critics to critique his work on its own merits… and not his personality. He recognized that no one, including himself, could separate his skin color from his work and he created over 2000 paintings and drawings that covered a wide range of topics including slavery, Black History and racism, poverty, integration, and social commentary.

I found myself both repelled and attracted to his work and as I watched the videos of him painting I found myself drawn to his hand, watching the image change and come to life in front of my eyes. He was so quick and so focused that I found I rarely really understood the image he wanted to create until the completion of his piece. I found myself questioning my views on art creation – How is art defined in my mind and how much does timing and speed of creation factor into my opinions? Why did I want to dismiss his work in the beginning of the biography because it looked like ‘just graffiti’ to me? How did his understanding of history pull me more into his work and create the new admirer I have become? I found I finished this film with a very different image of the artist and his work than I started with only an hour or so previously.

Learning about his life reminded me of a character in Greek mythology named Icarus who also was ambitious, motivated and desired to get the ‘respect he felt he deserved.’ He was always reaching to achieve more and as he reached the heights of youth, fame, and wealth too quickly, his mental wings began to fall apart and the earth lost an amazing thinker and creator too soon at 27 years old. His story is one that I am used to reading in musician or thespian circles (Kurt Cobain, Amy Winehouse, and Heath Ledger come to mind), but not in the clean world I envision art culture to be. His world was uncomfortable so it also didn’t fit into the culture it asked us to look at and think about. I also relate to looking back and feeling embarrassed about my past- thinking about what I should have done differently, etc… In the end his life was so radiant that it encompassed even himself and we can now only look at and try to understand his work and how it speaks to the society around us.

These last two pictures I saw at the Tacoma Art museum recently: "Bird On Money" and "One Million Yen"



pictures from: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jean-Michel_Basquiat, http://www.sankofasofa.com/content/art-and-culture-weapon-jean-michel-basquiat,

2017/02/15

Notice


I gave notice at work today. It felt very brave as I do not have another sure fire job lined up and in some ways quiting can be seen as a pretty stupid move without something else in the bag. I must confess the feeling of relief and peace I feel is pretty overwhelming. It's a mark of how bad things are when you tell your boss that you are leaving and his first words are "You can't do that - we love you! What did we do to you..." That is such an interesting way of responding- control, need, and then acknowledgment that the environment is so poor I must be leaving due to poor treatment. And he's not wrong... I am. It took a few hours to really sink in for him and at one point he asked if I was really serious I must be kidding (I'm not). In the end, I tentatively agreed to stay per diem for a few weeks and see how that goes, but I think my heart is already gone. I love Lily and Sara and Toni and Jane- I have some amazing co-workers- but the damaging culture is just too much. The peace I feel with making the decision even though this decision will create more trials for me is profound. I am so grateful for the ability and opportunity to kneel in prayer and discuss my concerns and to feel heard most of the time... even when I do not like the answers. I am not totally sure how I am going to move forward right now... or at least I haven't pinpointed a firm direction and focus. But I am content with my current choice so let's see where it leads me... and celebrate with french fries (doesn't everyone? :D )

On a silly note, I enjoyed my Valentine's day with my kitties very much and there was much love all around. There is much to be thankful for.

2017/02/13

“Out of My Comfort Zone”: Understanding the Impact of a Service-Learning Experience in Rural El Salvador: An Analysis


While the school age population has been becoming more diverse over time as minority students increase in numbers, the average teacher in the United States continues to be white, middle class and female. This disparity between the lives, cultures, experiences and even financial security of over 30% of the student population and their educators suggests a potentially deep divide between the two groups that can be very hard to recognize, understand and then overcome. There are many ideas about how to bridge this gap, to help create empathy and more understanding between educators and their students and to educate the educators themselves more fully in the areas of diversity. One way that has been attempted to achieve this ideal are short service-learning experiences in areas of direct need that cover many of the cultural, financial and challenging experiences of some of the students who are moving to America and entering our school systems. This paper describes a qualitative case study of a two week service immersion in a rural mountain village in El Salvador called La Secoya. This short term study was produced by Paula J. Beckman and Lea Ann Christenson and was populated with fifteen female students who were all in either pre-education or pre-med degree programs.

Funnily enough, as these two authors work to find ways to bring down barriers, they find themselves in the majority of educators as middle-class or higher white females. Paula J. Beckman is a Professor of Early Childhood: Special Education Program Counseling and counts among her research interests early support for Latino families, community development, the impact of poverty on development, and inclusion for exceptional children. She earned her Ph.D. in Special Education and has written over eighty articles, edited two books and been involved in international research and training projects both in Europe and Central America. Lee Ann Christenson is an Assistant Professor at Towson University with a Ph.D. in Curriculum and Instruction and focuses on early literary acquisition, ‘Study Abroad’ and English as a Second Language instruction. She also has several publications and presentations on these subjects under her belt. There present paper is intended to help express possible mental and behavioral changes that can happen when people are immersed in a culture for even short periods of time. Both authors fully admit that due to their small sample size and lack of other studies, this study is a suggestion and shows short term change pretty clearly in the participants.

This article covered its primary objectives very well. It covered how the two week immersion changed the perspective of the participants from their point of view, using quotes when necessary to help back up the premise that all student participants felt that the experience overall was a positive one for them and their perceptions of people they did not know even though in the case of half of the students, they didn’t understand the actual language being spoken by the villagers. How this experience affected them personally as well as their professional choices was also addressed, asking the students how they had changed or what decisions they were going to change or had changed after the event based on their experiences in El Salvador. Lastly, the authors tried to address how each student’s perspectives on global awareness, immigration, war and privilege were impacted or changed based on this single experience. My major disappointment was that the sample size was so small (and gendered as well) so that, while this was a fascinating article and I am very excited by its conclusions, my excitement is tempered knowing that there isn’t enough evidence to conclude that all student populations would have the same understanding or empathy after the study was complete. I would love for more research to be completed on this topic.

I think this information might be very valuable to a general education teacher. It is important for each of us to recognize and understand what we don’t have experience in. Being able to recognize that a child fluent in Spanish but not English should not be listed as nonverbal, to recognize and truly attempt to understand the varied experiences of those from other cultures or immigrants, to focus on what is needed for the child by understanding his full experience and not just using assumptions from your own perspective and stereotypes- what an amazing gift for a teacher! This information could help a general educator use their limited resources wisely and more appropriately to the situation and not to waste time and energy focusing on things that are not needed. This paper suggests that even short periods of time immersing yourself in the culture of your students can make a large difference in the way that an educator sees and potentially responds to some of their most challenged students. I would highly recommend this article to a teacher for that reason alone.

Here is a link to the article: link