Sunday, January 31, 2010

A Review of Children's Books

For my class on "Writing for Children," I need to keep an annotated list of all the children's literature I have been reading. It is fun to read books that I have not read since middle school and high school. I will be posting my reading list here to keep all of you updated! Enjoy and remember the joys of childhood reading!
Reading List

Writing for Children

Book 1:

January 22, 2010

Jane Eyre. Author: Charlotte Bronte. Publisher:London: Smith, Elder and Co., Cornhill. 3rd edition. Bedford/St. Martin’s. Year Published: 1996. Book style: classic novel. 441 pages.

Plot: A novel that was considered ahead of its time, Jane Eyre, abounds with social criticisms and the journey from youth to adulthood. It tells the life story of young Jane. The story takes us from her childhood at the abusive hands of her relatives, to Lowood School where she acquires friendship and role models while still having some hardships, to her position as governess at Thornfield where she falls in love with the Byronic character Mr. Rochester, to her time spent with the River's family where her cousin St. John proposes a marriage that would be without love, till finally when she is reunited with her beloved Rochester.

Learned and Observations: I have been reading the story of Jane Eyre since I was a young girl. The first time I received the novel was as a gift from my Aunt Chickie. I immediately fell in love. It is a love story that shows the harsh realities of life. The author, Charlotte Bronte, is an amazing author. She truly knows how to spin a tale that keeps your interest from start to finish. When Jane is away at school she meets a young girl named Helen burns. This is the first time we really see someone being a friend to young Jane. It shows a sign of hope. Helen teaches Jane about humility, religion, and how to hold her tongue. The author shows children that sometimes it is necessary to think before you speak which is a very important lesson. Throughout the novel Bronte teaches important lessons such as this in a way that a child or young girl could relate. Jane's new life at Thornfield Manor is very different from her life at Lowood. During this section of the novel Jane really changes from having a young girl's feelings to a woman's love. There is a lot of foreshadowing in this section and always that under current that there is something about Thornfield that we do not know. I think the author does an amazing job with foreshadowing the events that will come about in the novel. I hope to be able to do half as good a job in my own writing. Jane Eyre is a classic novel that everyone should read at some point in their lives. It is a great novel for young women to read. It shows the signs of first love and first heartbreak. Bronte uses many techniques in her writing that make the novel the classic that it became.

Book 2:

January 23, 2010
The Boxcar Children. Author: Gertrude Chandler Warner. Publisher: Albert Whitman & Company. Year published: 1990. Book Style: Youth Chapter book. 154 pages.

Plot: The Boxcar Children, is the first book in a series of books called The Boxcar Children. This first story introduces us to 4 siblings, Henry, Jessie, Violet, and Benny. These 4 children have lost their parents and are living on their own because they do not want their grandfather to find them because they are afraid of him. They believe he is cross and will not like them. The children are out in a storm one night when they come across an old red boxcar. It provides them with shelter from the storm and they decide to make it their home. The children are doing fine on their own till one day young Violet gets ill. This is when Henry brings the doctor to their boxcar, although the doctor already knew where they were living. The children go and stay with the doctor for a few days and he brings their grandfather to meet them. He doesn’t say who it is though so the children learn to like their grandfather before they know who he is. In the end everything works out and the children go to live with their grandfather. He ends up bringing their boxcar home to his backyard, so the children will always have it to go visit if they want to.

Learned and Observations: The author uses many interesting facts in her story to really bring the reader in. it shows children living on their own and taking care of themselves so it serves as a way for children to be independent from their parents. The children also come up with inventive ways of doing things. For example they make refrigerator out of a whole in a rock near the water. They also make a pool by making a dam in the water near their boxcar. The oldest brother, Henry, works in the town for a local doctor and earns them a little bit of money each day. This story is great for young children because it inspires independence and mystery. The author has the children inventing things and managing to take care of themselves. The chapters are short and to the point and are well illustrated. Each chapter is well named for what it is talking about. The way the author named each chapter does a good job of dividing up the story for the reader. It is a great introductory novel for what is a wonderful mystery series for young children.

Book 3:
January 29, 2010
Don’t Hurt Laurie. Author: Willo Davis Roberts. Publisher: Aladdin Books Macmillan Publishing Company. Year Published: 1988. Book Style: Youth chapter book. 166 pages.

Plot: “‘You have no consideration for anyone else! Now clean up this mess!’ Laurie bent down to pick up the things she’d dropped. And Annabelle kicked her…” In the story, Don’t Hurt Laurie, a young girl is keeping a very dangerous secret. Her mother, Annabelle, is hurting her. Laurie lives with her mother, and her two step siblings, and once in a while her stepfather comes home. The family moves a lot because Annabelle does not want Laurie to make any friends, and she also doesn’t want hospital personal to recognize Laurie. As soon as both of these things start to happen the family moves. Luckily this time the family moves in next door to a family with a young son named George. George has health issues; he has a bone disease and problems with his legs. He becomes Laurie’s first true friend and one of the reason’s things will finally change in her young life.

Learned and Observations: In this book a lot of important issues are brought up. Through the main character the issue of child abuse arises. The author shows children the scary and dark side of child abuse, but in a way they can relate to. Laurie has these serious problems at home but she is also like a regular kid. She is scarred her first day at a new school, she fears that adults will not believe her, she has a mean teacher at school, and she gets excited when she is invited to a birthday party for a friend. Laurie’s character goes through ups and downs and you really come to care about her in a short few pages. The book isn’t very long, but it does a great job of covering the issue and all that would come along with it. It covers Laurie gaining the courage to talk with a teacher. But then the teacher ends up leaving the school before she can. It shows her making friends for the first time and relating to her step brother. In the end when Laurie finally gets hurt so badly that she tells an adult it is done very well. The step grandma in the story is the one the kids go to and it is written very well. When Laurie finally has someone to believe her I actually cried. It is such a happy part of the book and yet sad at the same time. I hope to be able to write with enough emotion to convey that sort of feeling in my readers. I learned from this book that it is possible to teach children about important issues in a short concise way that still catches their interest. Even when the subject matter is sad or scary it still needs to be dealt with and it can be done in an interesting relatable way.

Book 4:
January 30, 2010
Who let girls in the boys locker room? Author: Elaine Moore. Publisher: Rainbow Bridge. Year Published: 1994. Book style: youth chapter book. 144 pages.

Plot: The plot of this book is very simple and straightforward. It is all about what happens when budget cuts cause the girls basketball team to be eliminated. At Jefferson Junior High School three girls, Smidge, Skye, and Keisha join the boys basketball team. The story goes through how the girls and boys learn to get along together and really whether or not they can in time for the big basketball game against their arch rivals.
Learned and Observed: This story is great for kids who like sports or even for those who don’t. It goes through the experiences that a young kid would face when they first start Junior High School. That change when you’re not in elementary school, but you’re not in high school either. The author does a good job of showing that important time in a tween’s life.

Book 5
January 30, 2010
Claudia and the Phantom Phone calls. Author: Ann M. martin. Publisher: Scholastic Inc.. Year Published: 1986. Book style: youth chapter book. 153 pages.

Plot: Claudia and the Phantom Phone calls, is the second book in a series of books called The Baby-Sitters Club. The Baby-Sitters Club is a club formed by 4 girls, Kristy, MaryAnn, Claudia, and Stacey. They have meetings three times a week in Claudia’s room, because she has her own phone line, and all the parents in their area can reach the baby-sitters to schedule when they need them. In most of the books there is some kind of mystery that needs to be solved and of course the girls are there to solve it. In this book there is a Phantom Caller in the area who is a jewel thief. The caller calls houses and doesn’t say anything when people answer and than he robs them of their jewelry. The girls worry about what would happen if a burglar ever came to the houses they baby-sit at. They make plans and talk about what they would do. The girls get frightened because they keep getting prank calls just like the phantom caller while they are baby-sitting. They all go through jobs where they are frightened and their regular lives in Junior High School. Eventually the mystery is solved and everything works out.

Learned and Observed: This book is one of a great series of books. I read this series when I was younger. They have well over a hundred books, plus specials, super editions, and mystery editions. When I was growing up it was a very popular series. Children still read them today. While the girls in the book are in seventh grade it would most likely be fourth or fifth graders reading the books. The book does a great job of being relatable for young girls. In this book Claudia, has to hide candy from her parents, has an older sister she feels she cannot live up to, and a group of close knit friends. One of the girls is an artist, one is very shy, one is a tom-boy, and one is very pretty and from New York so she seems older. There is a girl for all types of kids to relate with. The girls go through waiting to be asked to a school dance, dealing with crushes on boys, and having to study for a math test. All sorts of things that a regular tween would have to deal with. The book is well written and a fun mystery for young girls. There is really only one problem I have with the book that I think is unbelievable. At the very end of the book the girls talk about how much money they each made from baby-sitting that week. For one it really has nothing to do with the story so it’s a strange way to end it. On the other hand the amount of money the girls say that they made is very unbelievable by today’s standards. It is also unlikely for the nineties which is when I originally read the series. It is the one factor in the book that doesn’t really make sense and isn’t really relatable for kids who currently baby-sit. Otherwise on the whole this book and the whole series is great for young girls.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Hamlet VS Satan

Have you ever wondered what would happen if you came across Satan? Well I wrote a paper where Shakespeare's Hamlet met up with Milton's Satan, from Paradise Lost. The following story is what came about from my thoughts. Enjoy!

Last night I had a very interesting dream. It started out as any regular night; I brushed my teeth and put on my pajamas in the hopes of an eventless sleep. I lay my head on the pillow, and was soon fast asleep. My dream began in a little pub in England. As I walked into the pub to have a pint and some dinner, I realized it was no ordinary pub I had entered. In the darkened light, I found myself surrounded by characters from literature. Romeo and Juliet were in a corner sharing a kiss by the fire. The three witches of Macbeth set on stools at the bar, chattering about something they had just achieved. Sir Gawain and King Arthur sat at a table deep in conversation about some girdle and Beowulf sat at a nearby table with his young friend Wiglaf. At first I thought perhaps I had walked into a hang out for local actors, but then I realized that this was not the case. I had truly walked into a pub that catered to great characters of literature. I knew that this must be my lucky night. I took a seat at one end of the bar, and saw that at the other end sat a lonely and depressed looking man. He seemed to be down, and I thought of saying something when suddenly a booming voice came out of no where addressing the man.

“What’s your problem buddy?”

The man responded, “I have of late lost my mirth.”

“Lost your mirth? Why does that sound so familiar?” The loud and bawdy man said scratching his head. “Oh no, it can’t be. Tell me you are not the great prince of woe. The prince of Denmark, Shakespeare’s royal fool,” the man, whom I realized was Satan himself, sneered.

“Get behind me Satan,” hamlet responded.

“To the right, to the left? Whether under or above, in front of or behind, the argument is still the same you’re pathetic! You’re more pathetic then the prince they nailed to a tree!”

The fight seemed to be insulting, and I shrank back into my seat, somewhat entranced by what was happening before my eyes.

“Why is it that I am so pathetic, as you say,” questioned Hamlet.

“Tis your entire race that is pathetic, you just stand out amongst them as one of the most pathetic, the great prince of woe.”

“And what is my sin that is so great you feel this way?”

“This is the problem with you humans,” Satan sneered, “you have no action, you’re so pathetic!”

“How am I pathetic? I am not. I am a tragic hero of wisdom!”

“Hero? Wisdom? Ha! You’re no hero. You could not even take action. The underworld spirits thought highly enough of you to send the spirit of your dead father to tell you that your uncle had killed him, and was now lying with your mother. Yet do you do anything to avenge that death? No, it’s only oh woe is me. You even act mad and it is such a pity,” Satan said in a whining imitation of Hamlet.

“I only faked being mad to find out who my true friends are. I used madness to weed out their true colors. You Satan achieved the greatest act of madness by trying to usurp God. That was the ultimate act of vanity and pride, which of course you are full of. What you did was the ultimate madness.” Hamlet threw these words back into Satan’s face.

Then Hamlet continued, “You’re not interested in the truth you great deceiver. You deceived yourself into thinking you could overthrow God, which is insanity. I shall not listen to thee!”

“You feeble minded human! Sitting here drinking your alcohol to dilute yourself. You are not capable of seeing what you could be! You don’t feel you have lived up to your capacity. You hide in your ignorance!” Satan all but screamed his words.

Calmly Hamlet responded, “Deceiver, although you say my veil is ignorance, your veil is arrogance. It is not even like a veil, it is more like a cape. A cape of vanity and arrogance that you wear in your foolish pride. You constantly overestimate yourself. That is why you fail. You always underestimate God, and overestimate yourself!” Hamlet was on a roll.

Satan came back at him, spitting mad, “Tis better to reign in hell than serve in heaven! God wants no equal! That is why I infected the humans. So that they could, have knowledge that God tried to hide. You humans are all capable you just have to reach out and grab it. That is why I had them eat of the tree of knowledge. But you Hamlet, you are nothing. You take no action and do nothing, but whine.”

At this point, everyone in the bar had stopped and was watching the fight. I was worried that it might be getting out of hand, but then it looked like Satan was about to leave.

“Well I have other things to do, see you soon prince of woe. I shall take more of a delight in torturing you for eternity than most, for your lack of action. Truly you should have done yourself in back in the catacombs. Sitting there, oh woe is me, ‘to be or not to be, whether tis nobler in the mind to suffer,’ what a load of crap. You should have taken your life with a dagger, so I’d have seen you sooner. You humans are such drama queens!”

“Do your worst Satan, for I have no fear. You could create no greater hell than I have experience here on Earth, from that of my own conscience,” Hamlet’s rebuttal was.

At that point the room started to spin, and I saw Satan looking miffed and about to say something else, but the colors all spun together, and suddenly I opened my eyes, back in my own bed.

“What a dream!” I said to myself.

That is what happened. I swear it. I wonder if it was reality and I was in an alternate universe, or if it truly happened. Either way I wonder who won the fight. Satan tore Hamlet down, but staying true to himself, I suppose Hamlet showed Satan’s true colors of deception and his web of lies. So in the end Hamlet wins, or you could say in the end Satan loses and God wins.

© copyright Nicole Schiavoni 2010

Monday, January 18, 2010

How to get your food spit on in 8 simple steps

This is an article I wrote for fun. I hope you enjoy it. If you have ever worked in food service than you will greatly appreciate it!

When the weekend arrives we all want the same thing, to go out to a restaurant where we don’t have to cook or clean up after anyone. We want the server to take care of us, and most importantly, we want to have someone that we can blame and yell at for whatever goes wrong, just for fun! Being rude and arrogant is the best way to act when you go out to a restaurant, and below you will learn easy steps to do just that!

Step #1: Your arrival

Now, if you are going to a nice restaurant where you need to have a reservation then be sure to be late! Just about 15 minutes late should do it. This way the host can scramble around trying to find a table for you since she just gave yours away. If you are just going to a casual dining restaurant, then try to choose a busy time of night, for example, 6pm on a Friday or Saturday should do fine. This way you can complain about the wait time. Be sure to tell the host that you have been waiting forever even if it has been only 10-20 minutes. You need to show that you did not want to be waiting at all. When you are taken to your table, it is time for the next step.

Step #2: I refuse to sit there!

Never, ever sit where the host tries to put you. Be sure that you complain about the area being too cold or too warm. You can also say that you don’t want to be so close to the front door, or the bathroom, or that noisy table that is next to you. If you are given a table, be sure to ask for a booth and, of course, vice versa. Be sure to state plainly, “I refuse to sit there! This is not what I wanted!”

Step #3: I don’t want a beverage I’ll just have water

In the last step if you performed well enough, it is likely your server has already been warned about you. That means you are on the right track! As soon as your server comes to the table and greets you, it is likely she will ask how you are doing. This part is key: be sure you either ignore her completely or just look at her with a disgruntled face and say in a clipped tone, “Fine, if you call waiting for an hour in that frigid entrance way being fine!” If your server is worth her salt, she will likely apologize to you for any inconvenience and move on to asking you for your beverage order. Now when this happens you need to say, “I don’t want anything to drink right now, I’ll just take an ice water with not too much ice and a slice of lemon.” If you see a tight-lipped smile on your server’s face then give yourself a pat on the back because you have successfully annoyed her already!

Step #4: I’ll have the same, oh except I want to change…

Alright it is now time for your order to be placed. There are a few ways you can handle this. First, when your server brings your water back to the table and asks if you are ready to order, be sure you ignore her again as if she weren’t standing there. Then, when she asks again, look at her with a disgruntled or irritated facial expression and say, “I guess so.” Now be sure to say that you want to order last and do not be ready when it is your turn. However, make sure you tell the server you just need one more second so that she has to stand there looking at you while you “decide.” If the person you are with has ordered something you like, then say, “I’ll have exactly what he’s having.” Now for the tricky part, just as your server goes to put away her pen add on, “except I do not want my steak rare, I want it medium well. Also I don’t want the baked potato, I’ll take carrots instead.” This way your order that was exactly the same is actually quite different. Another great thing to do here is to make your server repeat herself. If she just rattled off a list of the vegetables for your date, then be sure you were not paying attention, so that she has to do it again. After she has told you what they have, ask for a side order that she did not mention and that you did not see on the menu. For example, if she tells you that the restaurant has broccoli, carrots, or a vegetable medley, be sure you ask for green beans. The final part of your order should be given as she is leaving your table. Just as she starts to walk away yell after her, “Oh and I will take a sprite to drink now.”

Step # 5: Work for that tip

Now that you have placed your order, it is time to get serious about interrupting. It is likely you have gotten a salad, soup, or another appetizer with your dinner. When your appetizer or salad arrives, be sure to ask the server what took so long. Remember it is always the server’s fault and never the kitchens. As your server leaves, be sure to ask for a refill on your beverage. Then as soon as your beverage is brought back, ask for a refill for your date’s drink. Following the return of that, ask for something a simple such as extra napkins, or dressing, or anything you can think of. Remember your server should be running to earn those two dollars you will be leaving her. This should not only be done when your appetizer arrives but when you are eating your meal as well.

Step# 6: Interruption at the correct time

An important aspect of asking for things is knowing the correct time to interrupt. The best time is when your server is at another table. When you see her across the room, you should do one of three things, wave incessantly using your arm as a pinwheel, snap your fingers, or simply shout at her. This is sure to get you prompt service.

Step #7: Dealing with management aka earning well deserved free food

It is possible that by now your server may have told a manager on duty that you are unhappy. If they have it is likely that the manager will be coming over to you. When he or she come to your table and asks how you are doing, your response should be as follows, “Absolutely awful. The food is terrible and the service is nowhere near what it should be. I don’t think I will ever be coming back here again!” At this point the manager will most likely apologize profusely and offer you a free dessert or, if you have truly done your job, a free meal. A bonus of your complaints could be that your server might be suspended or lose her job. This would entail that you have indeed done a great job because one person’s happiness is worth another lower person’s misery.

Step #8: The tip

Now that your meal is over and you have most likely eaten dirt, spit, crud from the floor, and some tasty bodily fluids it is time to give your server that all important two dollars she deserves. Remember you ran her around hard all evening and she really earned that tip. If you truly feel you had exceptional service you should be sure to leave the tip in change, and be sure it is nickels and pennies because that is what servers love to get. A nice pile of change preferably with some sort of sugary sticky substance left from a soft drink on it. If when you get out to the parking lot your server follows you and throws the change in your face yelling “hey jackass you forgot your change,” then you deserve a pat on the back for a job well done.

© Copyright Nicole Schiavoni 2010

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Thoughts from the Pocanoes

I am currently staying in the Pocanoes in a resort called Woodloch Pines. I am here with my fiance and my grandparents. Also along is my grandmother's Senior travel group. The scenery is beautiful here and inspiring to look at. The white snow covered grounds, the looming trees, and the flow of the land inspires one.

In my life now I have a few exciting things going on in the literature side. I am still the Chief Editor for Holy Family University's Literary magazine Folio. Folio is a collection of writings done by students and alumni. I am currently going through the proofs and editing many stories. As my old professor Dr. Lombardi used to say, a piece of writing is never finished and can always always be edited again and again. Along with being the editor I am being published in Folio. Two of my short stories were chosen: "Just Another Day," and "What Goes Down Must Come Up." Both stories can be found here on my blog under the odler posts from last year.

Another exciting event coming up in my literary world is that I will be starting classes at Arcadia University for my graduate degree next week. I am taking two very interesting classes. The first is called "Writing for Children." The class will teach me to write query letters, how to get published, and how to write books from picture books up through young adult novels. The second class I will be taking is a class in American Literature. It is called "The Slave Narrative," and it will be examining different slave texts. This is something I look forward to because as an undergraduate I took many classes in British Literature. Numerous courses actually, and now since this is in American Literature it will be something new. My work within American Literature has been brief so I am excited.

Hopefully soon to come I will have more book reviews and perhaps an article or two and maybe even a short story!
See you soon!