Thursday, August 16, 2012

Read-Aloud Poems: Edited by Glorya Hale

Black Dog & Leventhal
Published September 11, 2012
288 pages
Buy here.

This is a lovely collection of 120 poems by some of the classic big names, including Stevenson, Wordsworth, Dickinson, Blake, Carroll, Whitman, Lear, Rossetti, Browning, and Angelou, plus many others.  The poems are thematically arranged by topics such as nature, family, and humor, and include some nice illustrations.

I didn't read a single one of these poems silently, so I will attest to the delight in reading them aloud.  The themes and content of all the poems are adult- and child-friendly, so this book would be a great addition to any parent's read-aloud repertoire (or even serve as a good starting point).  As a teacher, I could definitely see myself using this collection in an ESL class so students could practice pronunciation, rhythm, and sound-spelling relationships.

Rating: 5/5

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

With Respect to the Japanese by John Condon and Tomoko Masumoto (2nd Edition)

Nicholas Brealey Publishing
Published 2010
160 pages
Buy here.

This is a brief, very basic guide to assist American and Canadian business-people better understand the work culture of corporate Japan.  Topics are presented in a general compare/contrast between Japan and America, and cover points such as group mentality vs. individualism, the importance of social hierarchies, everyday interactions with co-workers and bosses, and differences in giving feedback to employees between the two cultures.  Also included is a chapter on the calendar year that covers the more important events and holidays that go on each month.  Overall, the authors provide their own impressions and knowledge, but they also include "data" of sorts in the form of general interview responses from Americans, Canadians, and Japanese employees and employers who have worked with one another in Japan.  Parts of it read almost like a research study, which I felt gave the whole book a bit more weight.

As an ESL teacher who occasionally has Japanese students in my classes, I found this book extrememly relevant, as work culture is, of course, connected to the wider culture of the country.  The book is quite short, but it is an informative and useful guide that acts as a great jumping-off point for further research on all the topics introduced.  I certainly learned quite a few things from this book, and I have every intention of furthering my cultural knowledge of the country beyond a working context, using Condon and Masumoto as a road map of sorts.

Rating: 4/5

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Andy Squared by Jennifer Lavoie

Bold Strokes Books
Published September 18, 2012
216 pages
Buy here.

A work of LGBT young adult fiction, Andy Squared tells the story of seventeen-year-old Andrew Morris as  he goes through significant changes in his life after the catalytic arrival of new classmate Ryder Coltrane.  Ryder, who is gay, opens up to Andrew and helps Andrew realize just what it is that he has failed to understand about himself: that he too is gay.  While Andrew adjusts to this revelation and begins a relationship with Ryder, he must also deal with the challenges of his family and friends adjusting to it as well, particularly his twin sister, Andrea.

I found this to be a delightful coming-of-age and coming-out story.  I love the characters (and occasionally love to hate them), and I like that many of them, not just Andrew, are so dynamic in fairly dramatic ways.   Andrea, for example, goes through her own transformation of understanding her relationship with her twin after he comes out, and, as the title of the book suggests, she is as main a character as Andrew himself.  I actually found the Andrew/Andrea relationship slightly more intriguing than the Andrew/Ryder one, despite Ryder being the initial cause of all the change.  I think this is because Ryder seems to act mostly as a guide for Andrew, and their relationship ironically allows for Andrew an easy transition that balances the resulting conflicts in the other aspects of Andrew's life.  Just as important to the story, but definitely not as painful as Andrew's relationship with Andrea.

Overall, I really enjoyed this book.  The writing is wonderful (especially in the more physical scenes...tasteful yet steamy!), the dialogue feels genuine, and the characters and their motivations are believable.  This is Lavoie's debut work, and I very much look forward to reading more by her in the future!

Rating: 4/5