Book Review: Diary of a Wimpy Kid 14 (Wrecking Ball)

I asked my high school freshman son if he wanted to read the latest edition in The Diary of a Wimpy Kid series. I was surprised, to be frank, when he said yes, thinking he had might have grown out of hte series. I joked that he could probably read it in 20 minutes. I think he did. I did, too.

Why was I surprised in my son’s remaining interest? The series is now going on 14 years — nearly as long as he has been alive — and any series of stories that lasts that long eventually loses its luster. In my sixth grade classroom, as an indicator, only one student this year pre-ordered the Jeff Kinney book. At one time, there were a dozen or more kids eagerly awaiting the arrival of the books, peppering me with questions about when they would get it in their hands.

I read somewhere that Kinney first presented a huge, massive book for publication, only to be told to break it into smaller stories which have become the backbone of the entire series, and it amazes me that he had this all planned out, and each year, in November, another Wimpy Kid book comes out, like clockwork.

And I still read them, too.

This latest — Wrecking Ball — is solid and reliable Kinney. Sort of light on plot (Greg Heffley’s family is doing some home renovations, which lead to predictable disastrous moments) but full of funny scenes and interactions, and lots of visual jokes in the illustrations. Twenty minutes in and I was done, a smile on my face but nothing too much deeper than that.

I was fine. Not every book I read needs to be some deep spelunking of self or the world. Sometimes, what we need is something to make us laugh, to giggle, to connect to a familiar character.

Jeff Kinney’s Diary of a Wimpy Kid series does all that, and the series, even as it might be fading, sparked a revolution of comics becoming more integrated into novels, which in turn brought a whole new generation of readers (including the key demographic: boys) into the world of books. If Kinney does nothing else, he’s done that.

Until next November …

Peace (drawn and read),
Kevin

Making Music and Noise in November


Noise flickr photo by AILAVIU. shared under a Creative Commons (BY-NC-SA) license

Sometimes, I will stumble upon something that sparks my interest and feeds my creative spirit, in small bursts. Many times it is writing or poetry. But for November, I saw a call for small pieces of music making over at Mastodon, and decided to dive into NoiseVember, creating small pieces of music across many different apps and platforms, and sharing each day in that federated networking site.

I view what I am doing with NoiseVember as merely experimental, and I am mostly determined to be spending about 15 minutes or less on each track. Many of short — less than a minute long. I keep the “noise” aspect in mind, but also seek to bury melody lines and maybe interesting angles and aspects to the compositions. Some of the tracks, as a result, come out better than others. Some are just plain odd.

Here are the first nine tracks I have done for NoiseVember. Another day, I’ll post more about the places where I am making the music that I am gathering and sharing out.

Peace (sounds like noise),
Kevin

Book Review: Eating the Sun (Small Musings on a Vast Universe)

Oh, this is a lovely little book, full of small essays/musings on science and wonder, often complimented with beautiful drawings. Yes, Eating the Sun (Small Musings on a Vast Universe) by Ella Frances Sanders covers some ground, and some familiar ground, but in such a quiet and poetic way that you are drawn in.

The small essays are often no longer than a page and half, maybe two, but the way she weaves in science — about stars, about electrons, about plants and trees, about human biology, and on and on — with her own poetic observations is just a lovely reading experience.

I took this small book outside, on a beautiful end-of-summer day, and just sat with it for quite a long stretch of time, pausing now and then to think on what she was observing, and then moving forward again into the book. It’s that kind of experience. It feels light, thanks to her writing style and voice, but it’s deep when you pause.

Peace (beyond science),
Kevin

 

Rediscovering ‘A Look At Leeds’ (made by the kid)

During Write Out, I had created a piece about wandering my neighborhood with a historical lens in mind (see below). While pulling that piece together, I rediscovered this video project that my youngest son had done about 8 years ago.

For some time, this was a featured video at our Civic Association site. I helped him with filming and some editing but even at that age, he was doing things on his own with video. (The sad part is watching an interview he did with our neighbors, as the gentleman — Mr. Leary or Sarge — has since passed away).

Here is the one that I did for Write Out:

Peace (around the block and back again),
Kevin

Design and Story: Mapping Interactive Fiction

Interactive Fiction Story Design Maps

My sixth graders are in the midst of building out Interactive Fiction stories via Google Slides, weaving in narrative design and hyperlinks choices for the reader to “play” the story with. The early stages of this project involve design mapping, of charting out all of the possibilities of the story and then using the map to build the story. The theme of our stories are mysterious archeological digs, or discovered civilizations (real or invented), and the stories are told in second person narrative point of view.

If you are curious about what these stories look like, this is a post at our class blog site with some projects from last year.

Here is one I made to share with students as my example:

Peace (this way and that),
Kevin

Slice of Life: She Has My Vote

(This is for the Slice of Life challenge, hosted by Two Writing Teachers. We write on Tuesdays about the small moments in the larger perspective … or is that the larger perspective in the smaller moments? You write, too.)

Today will be the first day I get to go into a voting booth and cast a vote for my wife. She’s running for the board of trustees for our city library, and she’s the most qualified, smartest, thoughtful, and beautiful candidate I know.

🙂

Years ago, I took out nomination papers to run for City Council but then never took the steps to get a political campaign in motion. We had three young kids and there was an incumbent, and …. now I have been able to cheer and support my wife, Leslie, in her first electoral run, inspired by the movement of women to get more involved in local politics.

Leslie for Library!

Leslie for Library

She’s a natural fit for the city’s library board. She’s a school librarian at a vocational and agricultural high school here in our city and she is involved in many local projects, including volunteering at the cot shelter (she was there, serving dinner, last night). She has been working in the field of literacy for 25 years, as teacher and as consultant. She loves books.

Leslie for Library!

There are five people in this one race, for three open seats, and two of the candidates are incumbents. All five are solid candidates, with lots of ideas for improving and supporting our public library. My wife is hopeful for a win on the board but she is realistic, too. The library will be in good hands, no matter what.

The larger picture is that we are seeing more and more people here getting involved in elections, which we hope will spill over nationally into the larger elections, leading to real change in our country’s leadership. Momentum begins local and builds national. It all starts at the ground level.

Leslie for Library! Catchy, right?

Peace (vote it),
Kevin

 

Two SmallPoems about the Clocks


IMG_1697 flickr photo by jmerelo shared under a Creative Commons (BY-SA) license

With the end of Daylight Savings, my brain — already a tricky object at night — is fairly confused, and that makes for some interesting poems, I guess.

Yesterday’s Poem:

Oh,
hour,
lost hour,
you gentle flower –
hidden
in the shadows
of bloom –
we forgot
you were there
until you
reappeared
at the door
of dawn’s
empty room

Today’s Poem:

My brain
won’t believe
what the clock
seems to say

I’m open-eyed
and wide awake
with hours before
the day

Peace (tick tock goes the clock),
Kevin

Curating a Collection of Place-Based SmallPoems

CLMOOC WriteOut Place-Based Daily Poems

Every morning, in October, I used the daily place-based theme of the day for CLMOOC and Write Out to both write poetry (at home, before work) and doodle (at school, with kids). While I was posting the small poems at my poetry site, I wanted to find a way to gather them together, to curate them, with the calendar that Wendy had built for us in CLMOOC with every theme listed.

ThingLink did the trick. Hover over a day, and click the green button to read the poem.

I had the idea of adding an audio version of each poem to the days, but never got to it. Yet. I might still do that, since it is easy enough to upload audio into each tagged item in ThingLink.

Also, here is my complete calendar of daily doodles from the classroom — there’s no real correlation between my doodles on the themes and the poems on the themes, other than both were inspired each day by the same theme.

CLMOOC WriteOut Place-Based Daily Doodles

Peace (day by day, poem by poem, doodle by doodle),
Kevin