Book Review: Maps and Legends (Reading and Writing Along the Borderlands)

I’ve long been a fan of Michael Chabon, ever since I stumbled upon his Summerland book and read it aloud to my first son, then my second son and now I have it in the queu for my third (probably after we finish the Harry Potter series, and we are more than halfway through the last book there). Summerland is a messy book but full of imagination, and it has baseball at the center of its fairy tale narrative. That always hooked my kids.

Then, I loved The Adventures of Kavalier and Clay, with its hook of characters inventing a comic strip. Imagine: an entire novel built around the creation of a comic strip. (The book went on to win a number of literary awards).

So, I did not hesitate to pick up Chabon’s collection of essays when it went on a fire sale at McSweeney’s publishing house. Maps and Legends: Reading and Writing Along the Borderlands is an uneven but always interesting mix of writing and speeches in which Chabon explores the creative areas where writers go to find their way, often without maps or understanding of where they are going. I appreciate the way Chabon takes comics and pulp fiction and science fiction and even ghost stories serious and defends their place in the world of literature. Maps and Legends provides a little window into one writer’s view of the world, and for me, I enjoy getting those glimpses. The insights into Carmac McCarthy, in particular, brought me back to a period of time when I devoured McCarthy’s novels. Chabon reminded me of why I was in that phase.

Chabon ends with the text of a speech he gave a number of times that centers around the discovery of Golems that connect to his childhood, only to let us in on the joke at the end: the narrative is mostly pure fiction, and he did it to understand how much, as readers, we buy into the narratives we are given as fact, and to let us know that, just like the writers, we readers are often in undiscovered countries, making out way forward with only the maps of insight and experience — and even those can’t always be trusted.

Peace (in the lands beyond lands),

Video Game Design and Reluctant Writers

I co-teach one of my four classes with an amazing Special Education teacher, Bob, who is also become a friend. Over the last three years of working together as co-teachers, I have learned a lot from him about strategies that reach all levels of our writers and readers in the classroom. I hope he has learned some things from me, too.

As part of the reflective elements of our ongoing Geological Video Game Design unit, Bob and I sat down to chat about what we are seeing, particularly when it comes to the reluctant writers in our group. He notes the sense of engagement we are noticing, the use of writing on a  topic of high interest, and the way the project is helping to solidify pretty tricky scientific concepts for them.

This video segment is part of a larger documentary I am working on as we move through our video game design unit that connects writing, technology and science with Gamestar Mechanic. Our aim is to help some of our students submit their game designs for the National STEM Video Challenge in March.

Peace (in the sharing),


More Video Game Storyboarding: The Student Perspective

The other day, I shared out my storyboarding process around game design. This week, my students have been working on their own storyboards for their own science-based video games. While this step may not help every single student, it does help many by focusing their attention on development of a game idea over a series of levels, and provides a road map forward. Here, one of my students explains her storyboarding, and her storyboard and two others are down below. (The video is part of a larger video project I am undertaking to document our work with video game design).
Nicole Storyboard
Wes Storyboard
Peace (on the board),