Thursday, October 29, 2009

The Year of Miss Agnes - Review

Zach and I read the Year of Miss Agnes by Kirkpatrick Hill as part of his core 1 Sonlight curriculum. Yet again Sonlight came through for us and picked a winner. Zach loved it, and I enjoyed reading it with him.

In the novel, our main character is a little girl growing up in a remote Alaskan Indian village. In the first pages, we see yet another teacher in their one-room schoolhouse has quit, but not before insulting the children and expressing her disgust at their culture and customs (such as eating lots of fish). There is apprehension as they wait to see who will be next to teach them. Fortunately, that "who" is Miss Agnes. She brings with her fresh ideas, shelves the old books and opens up a whole new world of thoughts and ideas to the children, inspiring not only the children but the parents to shift some of their ideas. A strong theme in the book is who needs school and how much, including teaching of the deaf, schooling beyond the basic (college) and attitudes towards schooling in a native culture. I won't spoil the ending for you, but suffice to say it leaves open a nice discussion and some thought. My son still likes to come up to me (weeks later) and discuss this novel.

Do *You* Doodle? Or Write? - Review and ideas

We absolutely love the Do You Doodle? series of coloring books in our house. It gives gray line drawings, or partial drawings, to get a little one started, but not complete pictures. So the pictures have to be completed, often in fun or creative ways. Then they can be colored. That is clearly a step up from the basic coloring books. And the themes are not just licensed characters or simple things, but really creative or fun activities, some making the kids think a bit and some just silly and fun, bringing forth a giggle or two. An example from this week in the book was a line drawing of a boy and the instructions to draw him covered in measles! Or a drawing of a boy in a large box or hole with instructions to draw a way for him to get out. My son, age 7, loves these.

This year we took it a step further though. As background, I have a wonderfully creative, sometimes silly little guy. He loves to tell magical, creative stories full of adventure. But when I ask him to write I'm lucky to get one dull sentence. Without adjectives or adverbs. As dull as he can possibly make it. Ninety-nine percent of writing prompts leave him cold. This year we have tried combining his Do You Doodle? book with his writing notebook with much better success. He can do as many Doodle pages as he wants. Then his assignment is to pick just one and write about his picture. He still has not become some amazing writer here, but I get a lot more detail from him, and some of his creative skill is coming out. Just a tad some days. More other days. But a huge improvement! So if you want some fun and creative writing prompts combined with art, give this book a try.