Fake book/Fake review

Inspired by something that was shared on Twitter recently, I created this cover to a fake book, and then began soliciting fake book reviews from friends at various sites. It’s a quirky, fun activity, and if you want in, just add your own fake review as a comment to this post. (I created the cover following the steps at this blog site, but it was relatively simple.)

Tread Lightly follows in the vein of recent literary nonsense that, in this reviewer’s humble opinion, has no right occupying the shelves of even dying or near-dying bookstores (I’m talking to you, Borders). That said, the premise of the book is startlingly simple: a tire mark in the dark night leads the protagonist on a frantic search for his dog. The problem is, he never finds the dog nor do we ever learn more about the tire track. And where the elephant comes from is anyone’s guess. It may be that the most interesting element of this tome is the cover. – Kevin


Tread Lightly is a brooding examination of the impact of tire treads on dust, mud, and the human heart. Millertime chronicles a near-fatal obsession with tire treads, taking the reader on a journey of the senses. He reveals the sensuality of the smell of rubber, both burning and otherwise, and the despair at finding dog poo inhabiting that sacred space. A must-read in this reviewer’s humble opinion. – Andrea (via Google Plus)


Autumn has ended… The winter holds a mystery that challenges sleuth Bud B. Light.  Only the spring thaw will allow the clues to surface in a small pool hall pub, yet Light must tread lightly as they lead to small town power. Will Light tread light enough, or will he become the next mystery? — Jennifer C. (via the iAnthology Network)


Tread Lightly is an interesting and fascinating murder-mystery book.  There’s a serial killer on the loose in the rural areas of Virginia and it’s Doc Robinson’s job to put all of the murders together and create a profile of the killer and find him (or her) as soon as possible, before Virginia loses more of it’s hayseed beauties responsible for the cow milking and chicken feeding.  Will he do it?  How many more cows and chickens will be affected by this dangerous debauchery?  We’ll tread lightly to find an answer. — Jennifer S. (via the iAnthology Network)


This fascinating series of vignettes linked only by the common thread of tire tracks deserves a place on every library’s shelves. Who knew that lives could be linked by tire treads? Despite the somewhat lengthy and sometimes tedious descriptions of the tire tracks, this novel ends with a twist that puts all seven characters in the same place at the same time. — Martha (via the iAnthology Network)


Anything but… Parents can not Tread Lightly when they constantly bash the basketball coach due to the fact they don’t like him, his coaching style, or the relationship he builds with the athletes. This modern tale revolves around a basketball coach that built a program to become competitive only to be dismissed from the school he was working for due to parent pressure. Jack D. Aniels is a young coach who believes in his philosophy and somehow gets his athletes to buy into it. However, the parents don’t take too kind to Mr. Aniels and want him fired. What happens with Mr. Aniels after being dismissed sends shock waves through the community and sends the local school district reeling for answers as too what to do next. To any sports nuts out there, this is a must read. It is Miller-time! — Jeremy (via Google Plus)

Peace (in the snarky reviews),


The DAOW of Digital Literacy

I am always curious about various models that help situate digital media and composition. A friend shared this diagram at our National Writing Project iAnthology site where we have been continuing a discussion around digital writing and I thought it was interesting. It comes from Jason Ohler, who has written some very instructive pieces and books on digital storytelling that are well worth your time. I love Ohler’s  emphasis on the artistic process coming in line with the writing process, and also the delivery of the writing through oral tradition.

You can find more about this at his website.

Peace (in the DAOW),

Some BS for SOS

A movement underway called Save our Schools (SOS) seeks to remind our elected officials that public education is crucial, important and worth saving. There was a rally this week in Washington and a blogging effort out of the Cooperative Catalyst collaborative blog space is underway. They are asking bloggers to write about public education and then link to their site. The hope is to show support for public education in a myriad of ways.

I thought about writing something serious, such as my feelings that public education touches more lives than just about any institution in our culture; about how public education does more to equalize opportunity than other other program in the private or public sector; that public education seems increasingly under attack from the government we turn to for support. You know … serious stuff.

But I imagine all that is being said, so then I figured, why not add a little levity. So, here are a series of Boolean Squared comics that I had created around standardized testing, which has become the hallmark and lodestone of so much of educational reform. I have mixed feelings about the testing (the data is useful, the carrot-stick approach is stressful) and I hope that gets captured a bit with these comics.


Peace (in the test),


Using UJam to write Songs

I heard about UJam from a blog post from my friend, Gail D. (aka Blogwalker) and decided to give it a try. I’m always interested in music applications and this one is designed to create songs with your voice. The program analyzes your vocals, and then adds backing music (on a genre that you choose). Or you can make your voice the instrumental track. It’s not perfect, but of course, I didn’t spend hours on it, either.

I quickly wrote this song and recorded it.

Hey Education Man

Hey, Education Man, you really have no clue
My kids have sharpened pencils and they do the best they can do
But all you want is data points – a graph to share online
If you come into my classroom, you’ll see creative minds

I could not get the rhythm of the singing in complete sync with the music, but there is a step where you can do some of that. (I ran out of time). You can also tweak the chords, tinker with the effects, and do a host of things to your music before publishing. When you publish, you can share it at UJam or download it to your desktop.

For students, UJam might be a nice experimental place to try to create cool soundtracks for projects.
Peace (in the songwriting),

Book Review: The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland ….

This novel gets not only a rave review here, but also the award for the longest dang title that I have come across this year. The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making by Catheryn Valente is a magical story that apparently began as a story-within-a-story of another of Valente’s adult novels. This book unfolds with magical twists that echo other famous stories and it comes packed with more than a few obscure English words that had me wishing for a dictionary (or an app for that). I read this book as read-aloud with my six year old son, and while some of the vocabulary had us both scratching our heads, the story itself kept us coming back for more, and more, and more, and I thank my friend, Donalyn Miller, for the recommendation on Twitter.

I won’t give the tale all away, except to say that the protagonist — a complicated yet engaging girl named September, whose mother is a mechanic and whose father has been sent off to war — makes her way to Fairyland with the help of the Green Wind (on the back of a leopard), and she must deal with all sorts of conflicts in order to steer her way to the end of the tale, where the gears of Fairyland and the real world come together. September’s nemesis, the Marquess, wants to pull the gears asunder, dividing the intersections of magic forever. The ending is really quite wonderful, and Valente wisely leaves open the doorway to future stories of September and Fairyland (although what that title would be is something to think about). Woven like a tapestry of fairy tales and stories of magic, with periodic intrusions by the narrator/writer, The Girl was a wonderful diversion from the summer heat for my son and I.

What more can you ask? Oh, and add in a dragon known as a wyvery, whose grandfather is a public library … yep … you read that right … and a witch whose magical power comes from a spoon … yep … and a herd of migrating bicycles ….. sure … and you should get a little taste of what is in store.

As I put down the book for the last time (and then lent it to my nieces for read-aloud at their house), I imagined all of the young readers I have had in the past who would devour this story and whose imaginations would be enriched by the tale and the words, and the technique of this writer. I’ll be on the lookout for them this coming year.

Peace (in the fairylands of imagination),


Days in a Sentence, slightly delayed

I’m going to try this for a second time …. I am not mad at Edublogs, but their upgrade scarfed down my last collection of Days in a Sentence, and no draft post was saved anywhere. Ack. So, anyway, I noticed that when I put out the call for last week’s reflective Days in a Sentence, I forgot to add my own. Here goes ..

Days of humid, hot days transformed into a cold, wet one today, and we are just fine and dandy about that.

And now for you and you and you …

Amy writes of a milestone. Or will it be manymilestones? She writes, “A proud moment as my daughter declared, “I passed!”: now we have a new driver on the road!” Good luck!


Lynn is happy to be back where she belongs. She writes, “After a long week of travel through hot desert countryside, home looks really great to me.”


We are hoping Cindy and her son are feeling better. She writes, “My son’s ears aching and my head throbbing have lead us to the same wish – for a quiet space with the comfort of being alone together.


Jen had two sentences that are questions and I don’t have an answer for either. Sorry, Jen. First, she writes, “An unexpected text from Stephen, the mysteriously kind and handsome man with green bedroom eyes that entrance me, leads to invitations to come and see him at 10:42 at night, but I have been up since 4 in the morning, and just can’t get myself to go – will this be the last invitation?” and then she adds: “My sister, with whom I only really get along via text, email, or the occasional phone call, lets me know she is in Virginia Beach and if I want to spend 2 1/2 hours in rush hour traffic, she’ll consent to see me for dinner – and am I paying in the literal sense, too?


Bonnie is writing and loving it. I love that! She writes, “How is this July different from the last 11? I am not racing to New Paltz every morning. What a wonderful way to spend the morning. I just wrote morning pages with http://750words.com YES!


Gail is already getting herself ready for September. I’m not. ‘Enuff said. She writes, “Looking back on all the work I’ve accomplished readying the new classroom and forward to my first real week of vacation.”


I’d say Denise is pretty darn busy. She writes, “My plans for this week (and the past six) included cleaning off the catch-all corner cabinet in the basement, gardening, blogging, reading, relaxing, exercising, and photographing; I’ve done the important things, and the cluttered cabinet waits.


I’m pretty intrigued by Ari‘s sentence. Just a hint of mystery … He writes, “Creating a fantasy to experience more of reality.


And my friend, Brian, is the first to post a Day in a Sentence on Google Plus. He writes, “In the deepest heat of the summer I find myself thinking backward, trying not to panic, wondering how in the humidified air to move forward.

And that’s it for now. Be on the lookout for a call for new sentences in the coming days, and feel free to add yours to the comment section here, too. We love having you part of our collaborative sharing.

Peace (in short bursts),


Book Review: The Information


It seems like a long time ago that I started The Information:  A History, A Theory, A Flood, by James Gleick. It was. I kept picking it up and putting it down, again and again.  Week after week, there it was. It was stubborn, and so was I, and yet, we found some way to finish our dance. Finally.

I loved the beginning of this book, in which Gleick tracks how primitive cultures used talking drums and other means to disperse information over long distances, and how those methods slowly made their way into such advancements as Morse Code. Information leads to knowledge, perhaps (this isn’t always clear because we don’t always make sense of the information we have or even know it is information), and the more disperse the information, the more likely the possibility that knowledge will also spread. I also loved the ending sections, where Gleick brings us into the modern age of technology and social networks, and the conundrum that we have of having so much information that we don’t know what to do with it. Very interesting.

The middle of the book … I got bogged down with the science of genomes carrying information, and other obscure mathematics that I know are important but I just could not sink my teeth into. I mentioned in a post on Google Plus the other day that here is a book I wish I could remix for myself, so that I could create a powerful tome of ideas. But of course, I would need to know what to leave out, right? I would need more … information.

Would I recommend this book? Yes, for the first few chapters and the last few chapters, and for skimming in the middle. I don’t often skim, but here, I had to. I didn’t give up, either, because I know Gleick is on to something important here, giving our concept of “information” a biography of its own as we try to find some ground to stand upon in this age of boundless and seemingly endless information and data. Gleick gives us one way to at least begin to understand it all.

Peace (in the info),

Using Fakewall for Webcomic Character Facebook

Booleans Fakewall Page
A participant in our Western Massachusetts Writing Project Summer Institute asked me to help her find some resources for a project that she hopes to do this year, using fake Facebook sites with her students to create posts for characters from various novels. She also wondered if there was a place to do this where kids (as literary characters) could interact (in character). That gives the idea a little wrinkle.

After a little research, this what I wrote to her:

First of all, here are some possibilities for creating your own “social network” concept in your classroom:

  • Edmodo is a free networking system for schools. I have not used it but plenty of teachers swear by it and love it. http://www.edmodo.com/ It is closed system, and designed to at least resemble the idea of Facebook within a teacher-monitored framework
  • Edublogs — You could set up blogs for your students, or a single classroom blog (which is what I do) where students contribute to the site. (now ad-free, by the way). http://edublogs.org/
  • Kidblogs — Another free site that popped up last year. I have not used it but other teachers have said they like it. It’s for elementary and middle school students, so there are some limits to what they can do as bloggers. That may not matter, though. http://kidblog.org/home.php
  • Ning — here, you create a real social network, and you can make it private or public. They do have a free service for teachers, sponsored by Pearson (which makes me wary), or paid services. The lowest is about $20 a year, I think. I believe users need to be 13 or older to use it. https://www.ning.com/
  • WordPress — another free blogging platform.

But, if you are looking to replicate Facebook for literary characters, you need to check out:

I hope that all helps. I’d be interested in knowing how it goes for you. If you are at the University level, the Ning platform would be the way to go, if you want my opinion. You could also use some of the Fake Facebook Templates and then embed them into Ning, where conversations could take place.

But I knew I needed to show her, too, and since I had no experiences with this, I decided to use Fakewall to set up a fake Facebook page for my webcomic character, Boolean from Boolean Squared. To be honest, he is not the sort who would stay long on Facebook — too mainstream for a hacker like him. But still …

I found Fakewall very easy to use, and it seems like a simple way for a teacher to bring the concept of social networking around literary characters into the classroom setting. The only downside is that others cannot comment on a page, so the entire fake page is really the work of one person.

See Boolean’s Fakewall Page

Peace (on the fake page),