Posts tagged ‘stories’

May 13, 2014

Dystopian Fantasy: The End of the World as We Know it

Dystopian Fantasy: The End of the World as We Know It
by Katherine Higgs-Coulthard38-FE3-KathyHiggs-Coulthard

Hunger Games
Divergent
The Maze Runner
Ender’s Game

What do these books have in common?

a) They’re great books that offer an exciting read.
b) Preteens, tweens, and teens love them.
c) They either have or will soon be made into movies.
d) They are dystopian novels.
e) All of the above.

The answer is e) All of the above!

Books like Hunger Games and Divergent are introducing today’s generation to dystopian fiction. While many adults may not recognize the label “dystopian,” it’s not new. Remember reading Louis Lowry’s The Giver or Stephen King/Richard Bachman’s Running Man back in the 90’s? In fact, a brief Google search will uncover dystopian stories dating back to the 18th Century! But what does “dystopian” mean? The opposite of utopian, dystopian stories take place in a society where people are severely oppressed or live in fear. Usually they take place in an altered reality or a future version of our world where the government wields heavy-handed power.

Dystopian stories draw in middle grade to young adult readers because they offer many of the same features fairy tales offer to younger readers: They show that the world is a dangerous place where people are not always what they seem, but where creativity, intellect, and perseverance can prevail.

If you have a child ages 10 and up, you’ve probably seen them carrying around a copy of Hunger Games or Divergent. But there are more great dystopian books out there than just the blockbusters. Check out these:

 

13th reality

Title: The 13th Reality
Author: James Dashner
Genre: middle grade

 

Title: City of Embercity of ember
Author:
Jeanne Duprau
Genre: middle grade

 

 

Among the HiddenTitle: Among the Hidden
Author: Margaret Peterson Haddix
Genre: middle grade

 

 

Title: The UgliesThe Uglies
Author: Scott Westerfield
Genre: y/a

 

Add to the list! What dystopian novels have your family discovered?

March 12, 2014

Wedgies, Swirlies, and the Last One Picked

Wedgies, Swirlies, and the Last One Picked
by Katherine Higgs-Coulthard38-FE3-KathyHiggs-Coulthard

“It’s just a natural part of growing up.”
“Sticks and stones, you know?”
“He needs to get thicker skin.”
“Maybe he should join a new sport.”

 These are actual comments I received when I tried to talk to adults about the situation my child was facing in school. My son went from being a bubbly, outgoing, goofy fifth grader to a severely depressed sixth grader. We talked to his teachers. We talked to school officials. We were told things were being handled. And they seemed to be. We stopped hearing about the kid at school who called our son names and pushed him in the hallway. We stopped hearing about the group that shunned him at lunch.

We found out two years later that they hadn’t stopped. Our son had just learned that telling us didn’t change anything, so he quit telling us.

As parents we try our best to do the right thing. We didn’t want to make things worse for our son at school, so we trusted the school when they said they were handling the situation. But here’s the thing…bullying is not just about wedgies and swirlies and other outward acts of aggression—it is sneaky and invisible. It is about lack. Lack of invitations. Lack of compliments. Lack of feeling valued and cared for. And it is institutionalized—supported by a school culture that differentially values athletics over the arts, or the arts over athletics, or popularity over everything else.

So what can parents do? Talk to our kids. Believe what they tell us. Help them build social skills for problem solving and teach them kindness and inclusion. Oh! And read these books!

(Epilogue: My son finally found a place where he was valued for his goofiness. He’s a happy high school senior who landed the lead in Rumplestiltskin!)

ChrysanthemumTitle: Chrysanthemum
Author/Illustrator: Kevin Henke
Genre: Picture book

 

Title: The Hundred Dressesthe hundred dresses
Author:
Eleanor Estes
Illustrator: Louis Slobodkin
Genre: Fiction chapter book, Grades 2-6

 

 

dear bullyTitle: Dear Bully: Seventy Authors Tell Their Stories
Author: Dawn Metcalf, Megan Kelley Hall, & Carrie Jones
Genre: Nonfiction Anthology

 

 

Title: Thirteen Reasons Why13 Reasons
Author: Jay Asher
Genre: Fiction–Middle & High School
Genre: Nonfiction–adult resource

 

What stories have you found to help children learn social skills and avoid unkindness?

December 9, 2013

Calm, wintry nights

After seeing the chaos of Black Friday reflected in the news, I pulled my children close and reminded them that we don’t have to be like that. My oldest (who just turned eighteen) said, “Isn’t it ironic that the day after we give thanks, we trample people to death to get a better deal on something we probably could have afforded anyway?”

But it’s easy to get caught up in the hype of Christmas—stores start piping in the music shortly after Halloween. This year a few stores snuck Christmas ornaments on shelves next to cornucopias and Indian corn. I bet they sold more than a couple, too, because Christmas is like pumpkin pie on Thanksgiving—yes, you just stuffed yourself and probably should wait, but why? There’s the pie right there…

But there is a certain joy in waiting.

Of quieting your heart in expectation of what is to come.

To me, that’s what the season between Thanksgiving and Christmas is, quiet expectation. Expectation reflected in the manger scene by our front door—Mary and Joseph near an empty cradle, waiting.

That expectation is also reflected by the pile of books under our Christmas tree. It waits for dinner to be done, dishes to be cleared, hot cocoa to be marshmallowed, and the fire to be crackling. Then the children gather around Daddy and he reads one story each night between Thanksgiving and Christmas.

My favorites are the calm, quiet stories. Here are a few on the top of the pile:

Quiet Christmas coverTitle: The Quiet Christmas Book (New this year!)
Author: Deborah Underwood
Illustrator: Renata Liwska
Genre: picture book
Ages: Listening 3 yrs and up; Independent 8 and up

If you haven’t yet discovered Deborah Underwood, you’re in for a treat.

Her characters are gentle natured woodland animals getting ready for Christmas, but without the hustle and bustle of other books.

Check out the book trailer below!

onewintrynightTitle:  One Wintry Night
Author: Ruth Bell Graham
Illustrator: Richard Jesse Watson
Genre: picture book
Ages: Listening 3 yrs and up; Independent 8 and up

Gorgeously illustrated story about a boy hearing the Christmas story for the first time.

littlefirtreeTitle:  The Little Fir Tree
Author: Margaret Wise Brown
Illustrator: Jim LaMarche
Genre: picture book
Ages: Listening 3 yrs and up; Independent 8 and up

Another sweet book. A little tree wishes to be part of something—anything—and winds up being part of something he never could have imagined.

Image

How about you? Which Christmas books make your family’s must-read list?