Book talks for readers at Chisago Lakes Middle School.

Friday, October 24, 2008

The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman

The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman

First lines. I’m a fan. I always take notice of a novel’s first line.

Can you guess these books from their first lines?

a. “Where's Papa going with that ax?' said Fern to her mother as they were setting the table for breakfast.”
b. "Mr. and Mrs. Dursley, of number four, Privet Drive, were proud to say that they were perfectly normal, thank you very much."
c. "It wasn’t there. Then it was.”

The Graveyard Book’s begins like this:

“There was a hand in the darkness, and it held a knife.”

The man named Jack held the blood stained knife while his free hand shook the gate to the cemetery. On the other side of that gate crawled Jack’s prey, crawling on his hands and knees. A figure appeared next to the toddler, like a shimmer or of a faint outline of a person.

The shimmering figure said,

“My baby! He is trying to harm my baby! Protect my Son!”

The child reached for the figure but found nothing but air. “Freshly dead” she was, the ghost of the toddler’s mother.

The man named Jack approached the child when “it seemed as if a swirl of mist had curled around the child, in the moonlight, and that the boy was no longer there: just damp mist and moonlight and swaying grass.”

The man named Jack was puzzled. This graveyard had secrets. It almost seemed as if the shadows were protecting the child.

Jack expected to hear the child cry or at least hear it move. He did not expect the silky smooth voice behind him to say:

“Can I help you?"

Jack was a tall man, but this man was taller. Jack wore dark clothes. This man wore darker clothes. When other people were around Jack, they would find themselves troubled, uncomfortable, and fear would enter their minds. Jack looked up to the man he assumed was the caretaker of the cemetery, and this time he was the one that was troubled.

Jack put his right hand into his coat pocket to hide his knife so it was hidden, but could be ready in an instant.

The caretaker escorted Jack out of the graveyard as Jack walked behind. Jack slowly raised his knife into the air.

The caretaker also puzzled Jack, and during that brief moment of thought Jack realized that somehow the caretaker had already swung open the gate and Jack was standing outside the cemetery.

Jack slipped his knife into its inner sheath, and said, “Good night.”

It's been awhile since I've seen a first chapter from a book present so many questions I wanted to find the answers to, such as: How did that innocent child escape his fate that night? How did the shadows keep them hidden-were they shadows or something else? Why does Jack want him dead? Will Jack be back to pay another visit to the cemetery? Who was the man that even Jack was afraid of? And, of course, how does a toddler without his family survive in a graveyard all alone?

The questions Neil Gaiman, in The Graveyard Book, leaves the reader in chapter 1 are definitely worth finding the answers to.

Here's a review I found helpful: Fuse #8

Friday, October 3, 2008

Take Me Out to the Ballpark: An Illustrated Tour of Baseball Parks Past and Present

This baseball season marks the end of an era. One of the most famous baseball parks of all time has closed its doors. Can you guess which one?

This baseball stadium has been known as "The Stadium," "The House that Ruth Built," and as "The Cathedral." This is the only stadium to witness a perfect game in a World Series. It has hosted more World Series games than any other ballpark. It's one of the few older outdoor stadiums to never have allowed a home run soar out of the park. Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Micky Mantle, Joe DiMaggio, Roger Maris, Reggie Jackson and many others were immortalized here.

Yankee Stadium, an important fixture of our country's culture, has come to an end. The Bronx Bombers, also known as the Yankees, will be moving to a new stadium next year. It seems sad that this monument to baseball Americana cannot be preserved, and will be left only to host games in our fading memories.

But, you can read more about Yankee Stadium in, Take Me Out to the Ballpark, by Josh Leventhal. It's a terrific book especially for baseball fans who haven't been able to visit many ballparks in person, but still would recognize them from TV.

One of the more impressive stadiums of the modern era is Miller Park on page 78, home of the Milwaukee Brewers. Like a car that has a convertable roof, the roof of this stadium is constructed on the same principle-panels that can move and retract. It only takes about 10 minutes for the roof to cover the field. However, there may be a price to pay for the perfect indoor/outdoor stadium. The roof cost more than 50 million, it sometimes leaks, part of the roof can cast a shadow on the grass, and occasionally the roof gets stuck. Once, it got stuck so bad it took $13 million dollars to fix.

If you enjoy baseball and attending games in person, I highly recommend this book. Who knows, you might even be inspired to make a road trip next summer to Miller Park.

For more info about upcoming changes to MLB stadiums check-out the links below:

-The new Twins Stadium: Target Field.
-Take a look at the final farewell to the Cathedral of Baseball, Yankee Stadium.
-Look at the new Yankee Stadium:
-Mets Shea Stadium gets lost in all the media attention given to Yankee Stadium. The Mets are also moving to a new stadium next year. Take a look at the final ceremony and history of Shea Their new field will be called Citi Field.
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