Young Adult Lit/Crit

April 30, 2008

Thoughts on A Northern Light

Filed under: A NORTHERN LIGHT — traverse02 @ 9:18 pm

Where to begin….

A Northern Light is a great novel. And as much as I would like to go off the deep end–for the sake of discussion, of course–and rant about how Donnelly vilifies the White Male American, I can’t help but reflect on (and to be honest, sit in awe of) the rebellious spirit coursing through these pages. I especially enjoyed reading Jerry’s post from the previous 619 class where he brought up the historical connotations of the setting and posited that this was very much a 21st century story (or, rather, a story for the 21st century).

I see Mattie as a 21st century woman. And given the name, along with the fact that she is often called Matt, I sometimes read her as a male character. Donnelly toys with this, and ultimately, Mattie’s gender becomes moot. Also, by placing her in this time period, Donnelly sets Mattie in opposition to many classic tragic heroines–and here I can’t help but think of Edna Pontellier in The Awakening–that have been common in literature since Samuel Richardson’s Clarissa. Instead of drowning herself in the proverbial lake, or ocean, or what have you, she manages to overcome the status that has been imposed on her by her family and her community, and becomes truly free (until she enters Grad School or something). As Karen would say, we finally have a female protagonist that doesn’t kill herself.

Sarah and Joyce made some great comments about the scene where Mattie questions the role of motherhood and how it might hinder her development as an artist, and although I do agree with Mattie’s point of view on the matter, I must say, male writers were just as lonely. Two words: Kafka and Poe. Hell, genius is misunderstood whether you are male or female. Motherhood could be a major imposition on how much time is allowed for being creative, but it could also be an inspiration. Fatherhood, for the real men out there that have some character and stand by their families, is just as demanding, and there have been plenty of writers, male and female, who have been had time for family. I really think this was Mattie at her most cynical.

I look forward to discussing this book tomorrow. See y’all then.




Positive Reinforcement

Filed under: Uncategorized — sostrom @ 8:36 pm

As the pressures that come with the close of this semester loom (maybe for some of us more than others) I think this is a perfect time for some positive feedback.  I want to say, simply, “Great job!  I’m proud of us!”  We have all read A LOT of books (and articles, textbooks, blog posts and seminar-related information).  We have done some really thoughtful blogging, had critical discussions about literature and pedagogy, we’ve had the norms of traditional teaching questioned, and we’ve accepted the challenge to improve the classrooms and schools in which we teach. 

Also, I’ve personally learned so much from all the members of this class.  Your insights in lit circles,  facilitation of discussions of our class texts, contributions to the blog and in-class discussions, and the thoroughly researched seminars have all been integral to my experience.  Thank you so much.

Just thought we could all use a reminder of all that we’ve done at the point when we’re focusing on what we still have left to do.  Hang in there.  We’re almost there.  You can do it, everyone!  Looking forward to our discussion of A Northern Light tomorrow and to The Book Thief next Wednesday.  Thank you for a great class.


A NORTHERN LIGHT-Other Bloggers’ Perspectives

Filed under: A NORTHERN LIGHT — sunyprof @ 6:03 pm

I thought you would enjoy reading some of the discussion last year’s class had about the novel, especially this post by Jerry Degan and the comments that follow it.

If you’re interested in browsing the blog, please do. You’ll find much of interest there including some wedding pictures!!!

Also, Chester Gillette was tried and convicted of the murder of Grace Brown (who I’m sure you know he met in Cortland) in the Herkimer, NY, courthouse 100 years ago last month. This is an interesting site to further investigate the case that was made famous by Theodore Dreiser’s AN AMERICAN TRAGEDY, published in 1925 the same year Fitzgerald published GATSBY. KES


Filed under: from your prof — sunyprof @ 3:57 pm

Please forgive me if I do not respond to emails tonight or first thing tomorrow morning. I’m afraid my router is a dead duck. I look forward to reading posts tomorrow. Or it may be miraculously restored when I get home tonight.

Do read this article, Think Future Panel Debates What Makes a YA a YA that appeared today in “Publishers Weekly.” You will see our “good friend,” Sherman Alexie, pictured as a member of this panel discussion. Very relevant for us.

Too, please be sure you have posted some feedback either on the blog or privately to the classmates whose work you have read this week. Thanks!! KES

P.S. If you’ve noticed, THE BOOK THIEF is a long book. And it’s not a book you can read halfway. Very unsatisfying. I keep reminding you I know because we are discussing it next week and it will be daunting if you are not reading NOW–550 pp.!!!!!!!! We don’t want to go out this semester with more violations!! Yes Teach!

A Northern Light

Filed under: A NORTHERN LIGHT — sostrom @ 12:09 pm

I just finished A Northern Light, and it is among my favorites this semester.  There has been blog discussion of reading this novel through a feminist lens, which seems like a natural choice. 

There are several scenes that really struck me as particularly illuminating of the struggle women had (and still have) in trying to balance their roles as daughter/sister/wife/mother with their individual selves.  The scene in which Mattie visits Minnie and her two newborn twins first addresses this issue.  Mattie is shocked to find the house, Minnie and the babies are in utter disarray.  After she gets the house in order, Mattie has the epiphany that “Emily Dickinson was a damned sneaky genius” (273).  She realizes that with a husband and children, the female authors she so admires would never have written a word.  She also notes that male authors didn’t have to choose between loneliness and their passion for writing.  Yet, at the conclusion of this scene, Mattie “nestles against” Royal and finds that “suddenly nothing else seemed to matter” (275). 

What did you think of this scene?  The clear division Mattie feels about her passion for writing and her feelings for Royal?  Do you think that her feelings for Royal are genuine affection, or are they more a combination of the influence of society’s pervasive belief that women should marry and the community’s perception of Royal as a good catch?  Finally, isn’t it amazing that a girl so bright and capable still struggles with self-esteem issues when it comes to her relationship with a man? 

Overall, our discussion of A Northern Light has been very female-centered.  How do you think boys will respond this novel?  I’d love to hear what the men in our class think about this book.

And finally, can someone remind me why this book was challenged?


Lit Circles on May 7

Filed under: from your prof — sunyprof @ 10:31 am

As of Wednesday morning, I understand that we have last of the semester lit circles on HITLER YOUTH and ENTER THREE WITCHES. If anyone else is planning to participate in one of these (and has not yet indicated that on the blog) or has selected a different title, please let us all know. I was so hoping we would have a lit circle on OPHELIA, one of my favorite S’pearean offspring!! KES

An exciting future of access!

Filed under: Adolescent Readers/Reading, Resources to Share — allison @ 7:49 am

Hey eveyone,

Here’s an interesting NPR article that was in my NCTE inbox this morning. Its about libraries putting their collections online. Exciting, right? Think about it: free access to books for everyone. Any Google and Microsoft have offered to put the collections online for free. Nice of them, but it’s a little scary to think of one corporation having their hold on all online texts. The libraries have been putting the texts online themselves, which is really cool. In fact, I just noticed this morning that the onondaga library system now has a bunch of texts and sound files online that you can download. I plan to check this out more later. It’s a great idea, if you ask me.

Of course, I like this because 1. I’m an English teacher and 2. I’m a reader. But what will kids think? Will the texts included online cater to them? presumably, because the whole collection is supposedly being put online. If this is true, we could see a renaissance of the library system amongst young people. Wishful thinking? Maybe. But I believe the internet is their preferred medium, and if libraries are to capture them, the internet would be the way to do it.

Do share thoughts.


April 29, 2008


Filed under: Look What I'm Reading for Book Club! — kariredmond @ 10:31 pm

Last week for bookclub I shared a book that I had just started called TTYL by Lauren Myracle.  It is basically a novel that is entirely written by way of Instant messaging conversations.  There are three best friends that are starting their sophmore year of high school with all of the basic concerns of teenage girls.  Their priorities and worries include frienship, boys, a group of snobby/bullying girls, and parents.  This is a very easy read, there is some sexual reference and content but I don’t see why a HS freshman couldn’t read this novel.  It seems to touch on several issues that teens can relate to, as well as having an interesting dynamic of innapropriate behavior between a student and her teacher. 

This is definately not a book I would normally pick up, but lately I have been reading a ton of heavy novels for teens and this seemed like a good way to break my current mold. Also, as Joyce and I discussed, we have been noticing it’s bright pink cover and smilies (GREAT marketing technique to entice teen girls) every time we pass by the “Whats good for teens” table at B&N and it just jumps off of the shelf. 

In addition, it was recommended to me by a 15-year-old girl at my riding stables that I converse with frequently about YA lit. She told me she had read it and enjoyed it, and also encouraged me to purchase a novel called Perfect which I now own but know nothing about. Mary also let me borrow the movie for Speak so if I can get to it at some point I will let you know how that is!


King of Attolia

Filed under: Lit Circle Picks — kariredmond @ 10:12 pm

Last week (sorry again for the delay) Raph and I had a mini lit circle on a book called The King of Attolia.

(Still trying to figure out this new format of posting…) Both of us agreed that it was difficult to get into and very hard to follow with all of these names and places and situations that we, as readers, were dropped into the middle of. About halfway through the novel I decided to try and investigate some and I realized (as did Raph after he had already started the novel) that it was the last novel of a trilogy. The author, Meg Whalen Turner, does little or nothing to lead into the story of this novel and operates under that assumption that readers have read The Theif and The Queen of Attolia. Despite the logistical difficulties, the book itself made us want to go back and read the first two books so that we would have the neccessary information to process what was happening in the plot and have a better understanding of the interactions between the characters. I was thankful that Raph had a similar experience with this novel because I was worried going into class that he would have gotten more out of it and our discussion would suffer. On the contrary, we had a solid discussion based on the weaknesses of the novel (basically we thought there should be more elements of traditional fantasy ie. dragons) like the lack of introductory background information. In addition we both thought that the author did a good job with dialogue and made the characters interesting enough to make us want to read the rest of the series. I have put The Theif on my summer reading list!

Tony Hawk, Professional Skateboarder

Filed under: Look What I'm Reading for Book Club! — scrollman @ 11:47 am

Following a request for a YA skateboarding title, I picked up Tony Hawk, Professional Skateboarder,  an autiobiography co-written by Sean Mortimer.  In some ways, the beginning of this book reminds of King of the Mild Frontier.  As a child, Tony is prone to serious temper tantrums, and drives his parents up the wall.  At school he is smart, but bored, and frequently gets into trouble.  It is only until his brother gives him his old skateboard that Tony finds an outlet for his intense energy, and begins his long, arduous, and passionate journey toward becoming a professional skateboarder.  This book is fantastic for anyone interested in skateboarding, or a true story about someone who made his dreams come true. 


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