Saturday, January 12, 2019

The School for Dangerous Girls

I'm glad I read Eliot Schrefer's other novels before getting to The School for Dangerous Girls. I already knew he was a talented writer who could tell a story full of twists. With the Ape Quartet, Schrefer found his ideal genre and subjects. While his writing skills are still evident in this early novel, it's missing the spark of his other work, as well as his ease with crafting a plot.

Angela has been sent to Hidden Oaks, a last chance school for girls before they end up in prison or on the streets. She has to keep her guard up around the other dangerous girls and sadistic teachers, which she thought was the worst of her problems. The more she learns about her new school, the more trouble she realizes that she is in.

I stayed up late to finish the book, which says something good about it, but there was so much suspension of disbelief required.

SPOILERS: why did Mr. Derrian tow the line in order to pay for his son's college, only to run off with a student? And then his son didn't seem to care, or Schrefer didn't have time to write about it? What happens after the school is shut down? It doesn't seem like Angela or Carmen will be welcome at home, and Harrison's dad has run off. So do they all go live with Ingrid's family, as Carmen jokes? What's Juin's real story? I wonder if I will be brave enough to ask Schrefer any of these questions when he visits my class. END SPOILERS

I won't be recommending this book to my students. Instead, I'll hand them something from the Ape Quartet and let them see Schrefer at the top of his game.

Saturday, January 5, 2019

Thirty Million Words: Building a Child's Brain

So much of my reading these days involves parenting books, so I figured I'd jot some notes about them here so I can refer back.

It's interesting how many parenting books rehash what is taught in the first few weeks of teachers college. I've found that most books have an original nugget and then are padded out with tons of the same child development information. What about parents who already know about the zone of proximal development and Carol Dweck's mindset theory? Lots of skimming to find the heart of the book.

In this case, it's all about meeting your child on their level, talking with them, and truly interacting. Yup, got it. The nugget I'm taking from Thirty Million Words is to try to use the word "it" less frequently and use the actual noun instead, to reinforce the word. It's harder than it sounds! Glad I learned that, but didn't need 300 pages to get there.