What I Did Over Christmas Vacation

Well, it is later . . . just not later the same day.  I survived the winter weather outing (and even plan to go back outside today even though it is currently 21 degrees.  I'm telling you, friends: I did not sign up for this. 

But back to the theme.  The required summary of events occurring in my absence.  The stuff that has kept me from this space.  And the reading I've accomplished along the way.  I will confess before beginning that I have been in an odd reading and blogging slump.  More to follow.

1.  Immediately after Christmas, I finished the book for young people Beyond the Station Lies the Sea by German author, Jutta Richter.  Shown here is the German cover from her website.  I read the translation by Anna Brailovsky published by Milkweed.  I was drawn to this book because of the lovely cover art as well as the blurbs on the back about her recently acclaimed The Cat, which I have not read.  Upon further examination, I have found that all her books are beautiful.  Click here to go to her website list of publications.  Gorgeous.  The book, which follows Cosmos and Niner on a fantastical journey with wonderful characterization, was good.  I would easily recommend it to an older reader (some of the themes are a bit mature) who is looking for a thoughtful but relatively quick read.  I'm perhaps most interested in the relative unknown of this highly renowned European author.  My friend, a media specialist with TONS of knowledge on kid lit AND lives and works currently in Europe had not even heard of her.  I am not pointing the finger at my friend; rather, I'm just commenting on how difficult it is to "cross the pond," especially in the smaller and rather glutted children's literature field.  But I do my part here to say: check out this author.  She seems to be a unique and intelligent writer doing good things in YA lit.

2.  I've also been chipping away at Elizabeth Bishop as part of my TPR Challenge.  And I have to admit something almost sacrilegious:  I am not enjoying it.  How could this be?  I love Elizabeth Bishop!  And to be fair, I am still really enjoying the poems when I take the minutes to read a few.  But I am not the type to just sit and read poem after poem after poem at one sitting.  So to fill in the gaps, I've also been reading her collected prose.  Since I love "The Farmer's Children," (which Bishop did not like, apparently), I was looking forward to really enjoying this other side of her writing; however, I haven't been engaged.  Her "The U.S.A. School of Writing" is rather hilarious, but none of the others in this first section of memoir pieces have done much for me.  I'm looking forward to getting into the stories that make up the second section.  I also read the TPR interview and was not impressed.  It doesn't surprise me that she later worried about sounding flighty or unthinking.  It just wasn't a very forceful interview.  Perhaps I will revisit it when I finish the prose collection and do a proper write-up.

3.  As part of a big work project, I had to do a significant literature review on best practices in the teaching of critical thinking last week.  So, I have been smothering in journal articles and education texts, and I've been loving it.  It has been so long since I've done thoughtful research and writing.  That is the biggest reason for my absence, really:  I've been spending my words in other spaces.  And it has been good.

4.  While perusing the stacks as part of the aforementioned research, I came across a book that just called my name: The Life of the Mind: On the Joys and Travails of Thinking by James V. Schall.  I've been reading it as bedtime reading (ha!), and though it is not as well-written as I want it to be (Schall does not maintain a consistent enough focus or thread of thinking for my liking), it has provided some interesting food for thought.  In particular, I love his explanation of the medieval curriculum being divided into two sections: the trivium and the quadrivium.  The trivium refers to three roads (of thinking) converging in a person, and it is made up of the teaching of grammar, rhetoric, and logic.  As this is my particular field of teaching and learning, I loved seeing the historical connections of these three elements.  The quadrivium (four roads) is comprised of arithmetic (number in itself), geometry (number in space), music (number in time), and astronomy (number in space and time).  Again, as a musician who has always viewed the study of music theory as a mathematical practice, I loved the connection and explanation of these discrete units. 

And that's it.  I'll try to gain greater focus soon.  And to get back in blogging shape.  But I ain't making any promises.  Pinky or otherwise.


  1. I will admit something even MORE sacrilegious (maybe I have told you this before?), which is that I don't really like Bishop's poetry at all. I know! Horrible horrible reader.

    Hope you shake your slump before too long, & enjoy other things in the meantime. :-)

  2. Thanks for the words of encouragement, Emily. You had told me of your anti-Bishop-ness, but I was all raring to convince you of how great she is; instead, I might end up having to convince myself.

    Looking over this post, I am appalled at how many careless errors are there. I am truly out of practice! Forgive, please.