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Sunday, September 30, 2012

Sunday Reads: Casual Vacancy, Tech Tip of the week and Banned Book Week

This has been a busy week with little time for reading.  The one thing I wanted to stop and assure that I did this week was to read Rowling's new book.   As a HUGE Rowling fan, and as a Senior Staffer on The Leaky Cauldron, I am going to admit that I went into this reading bias.  Anything that Rowling does will be washed with the beauty of the kind and amazing woman she is.  I tried my best to look at this book as something that was not Harry Potter and was not supposed to be anything like Harry Potter.

No matter what happens, it is so difficult not to compare this book to Harry Potter.  Rowling herself told Ian Parker of the New York Times that she had a lot of "real world material in her"  and she wanted to write about that.  This book is real world.

First, Rowling is masterful at creating a fantasy-world and making it seem real.  Yet her strength, in my opinion has always been the depth of which her story was conceived.  The "back-story" of characters, their family and their history has been the one thing that sets her apart from others.

 In Casual Vacancy, there is that depth, yet it seems to be rather one sided.  Since this book is a politically minded dark comedy, I knew that I'd get the sense of the author's political slant.  As a reading teacher I would tell my students that the author is a central character in the story because he or she wrote it.  Yet I felt that Rowling's political views were heavy handed in the story.  It is actually my only criticism.  I would have liked to see both sides of the political spectrum written with the same depth.  The story came across "lopsided" in my opinion because I felt I knew one faction well and the other seemed to be very one dimensional.

*Kind of spoilerish below as I reveal plot elements- so don't proceed if you don't want to know anything about the book before you read it*

First, it's dark.  Very dark, but also very real.  Casual Vacancy takes a look at the events in Pagford.  Early in the book, one of the central characters drops dead. What follows is lust, greed, drug addiction, adultery, child abuse and teenagers coming of age.

The book focuses on two opposing political factions and their desire for power. Yes, the plot is real.  There are no magical books, house elves, enchanted candy stores or wonderful old wizards who you should trust with everything,   This story focuses on events that could happen.

 Casual Vacancy is a great read if you are fond of dark stories that focus on political intrigue and abuse.  I felt the character development was a bit lopsided, but overall it was a good story.

  It is not a fantasy - so don't purchase the book hoping that Harry will save the day.  In the real world, there isn't a hero who swoops in on a broom to save us.

We have to save ourselves.

I gave the book 4 out of 5 stars on Goodreads.


My Teacher Tech Tip of the Week:

Edmodo

Edmodo is a social networking platform for educators.  It gives you the opportunity to experience a Facebook like interface but with the privacy needed for students.

I've encouraged teachers to consider using this Web 2.0 tool to allow students to interact with others in outlying districts or to create social media sites for literary characters!  Because it is so much like Facebook most students don't need help with the site, they just need access to it.




Banned Book Week:
Banned Book Week Starts Today  - Banned Book week is when we take time to celebrate our right to read! 


 My banned book of the day suggestion, has to be Harry Potter!

The ALA's Frequently Challenged books list is here.  Take a stand this week, read a book on this list and celebrate your right to read!

My Previous Banned Book Celebrations:
Why I Read Banned Books
Check Out Banned Books
Banned Book Week on The Leaky Cauldron
Banned Books:  I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings
Banned Books:  Huckleberry Finn
Banned Books:  The Chocolate Wars




 


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