Wow, I've never had such a busy holiday season / end of the semester! And wouldn't it be supremely wonderful if the end of the semester (for those of us involved in school of some kind, and I'd venture that's most of us) did NOT coincide with the holiday season? Or in the spring - with planting season? And if the beginning of the fall semester did not coincide with the harvesting season for gardeners? Well, no such luck! Anyway, while I continue to read, read, read books written by the authors who are coming to the 2011 conference, I have not been posting about them in this blog. Sorry! Later this week I'll write about some of those books that I've completed since the last posting here, but right now I'll just let you know that I'm in the middle of reading one of T.A. Barron's books: The Ancient One. This book is the second in the "Kate" trilogy. We first met Kate in Heartlight, in which she and her astrophysicist grandfather did no less than save the world! Anyway, The Ancient One is set in the state of Oregon in a fictional town. As far as I know (since I have yet to visit that part of the country), the setting is true to the raininess and lush, verdant flora associated with that environment.
Kate is visiting her Aunt Melanie, who serves her spiced tea by the fireplace and teaches her the chants of the extinct Halami Native American tribe (also fictional, but very believable). Aunt Melanie is also a former teacher and has become very involved with the local cause of saving a redwood forest that was found in a nearby, highly inaccessible volcanic crater. Kate and Aunt Melanie are in the crater trying to stop loggers from decimating the ancient redwood forest. Aunt Melanie uses an interesting 'walking' stick, but at one point accidentally leaves it behind. Kate volunteers to retrieve it, and in the process, the stick throws her back several hundred years in time. Thus we have the conflict of the logging of ancient redwoods complicated by the fact that Kate would really like to get back to contemporary times, especially so she can help her Aunt Melanie with the logging issue.
Once again, I'm truly enjoying the story that Barron has created with his characters, and in this case I count the setting as one of those characters because it plays such a vital role in the conflict and how the others interact. He also uses language as lush as the setting, interspersed with his signature similes. If you are a teacher with readers who have a hard time visualizing, this would be an excellent novel to hand to them. Boys might be reluctant to read a book with two strong female characters, but there are several characteristics of this book that might appeal to them: the outdoors setting, the primarily masculine industry of logging, Kate's oft-referenced skills as a shortstop, the supporting male character of Jody, the quest and subsequent action required on Kate's part, and the environmental theme.
Teachers: you should definitely scope out the T.A. Barron web site: there is a place for you to order a free teachers' gift box! You should also investigate The Gloria Barron Prize for Young Heroes I know there are students in Illinois who would qualify as 'outstanding young leaders;' all it takes is someone to nominate them. I've written previously in this blog about Barron's focus on heroes, but I want to emphasize that again.Please do check it out and consider nominating some special young person who might be deserving of the recognition. And while you're at it, you might go ahead and listen to Jane Goodall, Barron's own hero, talking about enjoying his books and also talking about his Prize for Young Heroes.
I know I've put an awful lot of links in this posting, but they're so worth it! Please take a few moments to check them out. And don't forget to register for the 2011 Illinois Reading Council Conference! Hint: you don't have to be from Illinois to attend and enjoy!