Write in Your Own Voice

Boy learning to speak and read.

Do you use “darn” or “dang” instead of “damn”? Or do you avoid swearing at all cost? Do you sprinkle “like” and “you know” into your conversations? How about cool, wicked, bitchin’, or bad? Do you use idiomatic expressions, like “slick as a trout” or “dumb as a box of bricks”? Do you talk in long, rambling sentences or short, snappy phrases – “sentence fragments,” as writing teachers would call them? Those characteristics are all part of a speaker’s voice – the pattern of speech that makes each of us sound a little different from our friends and a lot different from people who grew up in a different region of the country. Your voice and my voice are not the same, even when you ignore pitch and tone. A great deal of our communication, however, doesn’t happen with the spoken word. It’s in writing, and in that mode of Read More […]

Why Do We Need Social Security?

great depression beggar

. . . A family that does not love and care for its children is dysfunctional. A country that does not care for its citizens in times of need is also dysfunctional . . . In the hullaballoo over Social Security, there has been a great deal of argument over whether we actually have a crisis. In that debate, a few people have brought up the issue of why we have a crisis, or even a problem. Still fewer have brought up the reasons for having Social Security in the first place. I think that question must be answered first, or we will never find effective, long-term answers to the first two. The universal understanding is that Social Security exists to guarantee a minimum income to our retired citizens. That’s true, but the effect of Social Security is far more complex. Social Security in the US was born from the Read More […]

Who Reads Raven

Cover by Wieslaw Rosocha for Raven by Dean Whitlock

Book jacket blurbs can give you a hint that a book might be worth reading, but they don’t help a librarian or bookseller when it comes time to recommend a book for a young reader. Here is a review and a little guidance from Beth Reynolds, former bookseller and now a children’s librarian at the Norwich Public Library in Norwich, Vermont. First the guidance: Although very different in setting and action, Sky Carver and Raven can be compared to the Merlin series by T.A. Barron, and to the Rowan of Rin series by Emily Rodda. Raven herself is a younger version of some of the heroines in Tamora Pierce’s many adventures. You can also compare Raven to the Land of Pellinor series by Alison Croggon and Stuart Hill’s The Cry of the Icemark, though it is for an audience that is slightly younger, roughly 9 to 14. Sky Carver also straddles the intermediate and YA Read More […]

Sky Carver in the Classroom

Sky Carver cover art by Trina Schart Hyman

. . . the underlying themes in Sky Carver are endless and important, especially for teenagers . . . This recommendation was written by Sue Martin, a reading teacher for K through 8 students in Piermont, New Hampshire. I would like to state up front that I am not usually a person who recommends slowing the pace of a story so that it can be studied, but I have to admit I was drawn to the possibilities of reading this book with students and devoting a lot of time to debate and collecting ideas. There are two reasons for this. Firstly, the underlying themes in Sky Carver are endless and important, especially for teenagers. It would be a shame to squander the opportunity to point out the economics behind the society, the identity crisis facing the main character, the strength of friendship in any form, the ingenuity we have inherent in us, Read More […]

Taking Time to Think Things Through

campsite above Hartford, CT

. . . thinking is work, particularly if it’s outside the box. That means breaking habits, seeking new paths, venturing into unknown territory: scary stuff . . . It’s hard to finish a thought these days; a deep thought, that is. The sort of “wow, cool!” thought that deserves exploration. The what-ifs that take our thinking beyond mundane tasks and decisions to give us a glimpse of possibilities. Of betterment. Enlightenment. We’ve forfeited that activity to philosophers (studied only in college), news “analysts” (awash in cynicism, watched in an after-work torpor), and talk-show fanatics (so slanted, so adamant, so venomous, and so impossible to interrupt). I’ve worked in corporate America, where there’s lots of blather from management about “thinking outside the box.” But not too far out. And not if it means missing your deadlines or skipping a few meetings or putting off a status report or . . . Read More […]