You are your pedagogy.

When we first began our journey through Special Methods, we were told to craft a list of principles. These principles were supposed to be the backbone of our future classroom, the values we would live on and ingrate into our teaching. This list of principles allows us to envision a classroom of readers and learners while also calling into play one important factor: our pedagogy.

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Pedagogy, by definition, is the method of teaching or the aim of education. It is how we approach our teaching style and what we hope to instill in learners. Pedagogy is the methods we use to create the classroom we want. It encompasses a lot – the integration of technology, our teaching methods, the way we approach feedback and grading are just a few examples of this massive field. Pedagogy helps inform the choices we make within the classroom and the teaching practices we use. But what happens for people like me – the new, young teacher who wants to move past the traditional? Where do we start with pedagogical concerns and questions?

The answer to this question is, in my opinion, much simpler than it seems at first glance. We spend years sitting in classrooms while professors drone on and on about assessment and the way our classroom should work instead of asking the one person who will be in it the entire time – us. Our pedagogy should be a reflection of who we are and what we believe. Pedagogy is unique to the individual, and I think it’s about time we believe in that.

You see, I’ve spent a lot of this semester stressed and anxious. With student teaching arriving soon and classes only telling me the things I have to do to not get fired, my lifestyle choice has turned into an abyss of doom that I feel myself having to crawl out of daily. When did a decision that once caused me joy suddenly become a source of exhaustion and worry? It became this way when I thought I needed to be different than who I was. Somewhere along the way, I convinced myself that the principles I created and contemplated were no longer good enough because they didn’t fit into the box devised for me; this, however, is simply not the case.

Luckily, I was reminded of this as I worked through my midterm assignment. While “grading” a sample essay from a student, I ran across a phrase in Christenson’s article “My Dirty Little Secret: I Don’t Grade Student Papers.” In it, Christenson makes a bold statement regarding pedagogy:

Our grading should match our pedagogy. In my classroom I attempt to create aspects of the kind of society I want my students to live in: a society where the work is meaningful and intrinsically rewarding, where people grapple with big ideas they care about, in an environment where they can talk, read, write, and think without worry of failure or ridicule. Students need to feel that their work is important, relevant, and meaningful. If not, why should they spend time on it?

Here, Christenson demonstrates just how integrated our pedagogy is within us. Every single thing we do should match our pedagogy because it is us. Our classrooms should be ran by our visions and values because they reflect our passions and desired outcomes. Grading is an important part of pedagogy (as evidenced by the quote), but it isn’t the only part. I argue that every thing we do in the classroom – from relationships and the way we speak to people to mini lessons and importance placed on various things – is a part of our pedagogical selves. Separating ourselves from the teaching to make it “more correct” in the eyes of others only makes it sterile and bleak, a machine in the world of education. In doing this, we may please others, but we hurt ourselves and our students.

Holding on to your visions and values creates an atmosphere of positivity and love because you stay true to yourself. I don’t personally believe in the traditional system of grading, so while completing my midterm, I made a pedagogical choice that suited me instead of falling in to the notion of grading we are accustomed to (which is undoubtedly more comfortable). I can’t tell you how freeing this was for me. By keeping my visions and values at the forefront of my mind, I was able to fully think about what the student needed from me – not what others needed or wanted.

My pedagogy is mine. It may still be evolving and changing as I build up my arsenal of research and thoughts, but it is mine. Do you claim yours?

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It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? #imwayr 10/30/17

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Another Monday in the books… How do the weeks continue to zip by? It is crazy that we’re already on week 11 of the semester. Before I know it, I’ll be packing up and heading home to branch out into the world of teaching.

Yikes. That’s a scary thought, and it’s one that is recurring. My one solace against these anxiety-ridden nightmares (literally, I’m having nightmares) has been reading. Can I again just say how lucky I am to be majoring in something that brings me such peace and happiness. Ahh…

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I began my week with Victoria Jamieson’s Roller Girl. After hearing so much talk about it from my classmates and fellow English majors, I was worried it wouldn’t live up to the expectations I had for it. Could a book possibly be so good that every single person loved it?

Short answer: YES. Oh my word – you guys, Roller Girl is a must read. Between the graphics and the story line, this novel is one that will leave you sprinting to the nearest person to recommend it. Astrid is practically attached at the hip with her friend, Nicole. They do everything together; from nights of “cultural enlightenment” to sleepovers, Nicole and Astrid have never been apart. After a trip to watch the local roller derby, Astrid is psyched to participate in the summer camp dedicated to the sport. Nicole, however, has different plans and decides to enlist in dance camp with Astrid’s nemesis. Can their friendship survive a summer apart? Can Astrid find the strength to get up every time she is knocked down? Or will she give up on her dream to be a jammer? Roller Girl is a funny, heartwarming graphic novel about friendship, perseverance, and, you guessed it, roller derby.  If you haven’t read it yet, go find a copy right now.

Real-Friends-Cover.jpgIn her new graphic novel memoir, Shannon Hale gives readers an eye into her life. As a middle child, Hale often felt ignored and invisible. Starting school was difficult until she met Adrienne, who became her best friend. Shannon’s mother always said that all you needed was one best friend, so when more girls start to show interest in Adrienne, Shannon immediately feels threatened. How can she fit in with The Group, the friend circle that everyone desperately wants to be a part of? When her friendships start to become based on a rating scale, can Shannon stand up for herself? And, if she does, what happens to the friendships she so desperately needs?

Real Friends doesn’t try to sugarcoat the life of a preteen, and for that, I am grateful. Friendships are never easy; as humans, I think that would be impossible. It’s a messy road to finding friendships that are worth the struggles and occasional squabbles, but it is also so rewarding to have friends that love you.

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Deemed unworthy of a name, Four-Girl’s life began under unfortunate circumstances. Nothing she does is ever good enough for Grandfather who dismisses her as family and calls her a devil. This is nothing new for her, though, with the talk of devils spreading throughout the land. After a trip to the acupuncturist, Four-Girl’s interest is piqued; on his wall hangs the very symbol of the devil that those in the village are talking about. As she returns and listens to the stories, Four-Girl finds a home, belief, and a name – Vibiana – within Christianity. But China is not a safe place for Christians, especially at this point in time. Can she find her true calling, or will she ever hear the Lord’s calling for her? And, if she answers, can she handle the consequences?

Saints was unlike any graphic novel I’ve ever read. It’s roots wound tightly around the Boxer Rebellion in China, this novel explores what it means to believe in something. The visions of Joan of Arc (and the ending) added so much to this novel. I’m looking forward to reading the companion, Boxers, this upcoming week!

Happy reading!

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? #imwayr 10/23/17

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Hello, fellow book lovers!

Can you believe we are half way through this semester? It seems like the first 8 weeks flew by, and I can feel reality setting in that I will be teaching in just a few short weeks. Craziness. I returned back from Midterm Break feeling not quite as refreshed as I had hoped, but still excited and ready to read. Going home was great; between family time and catching up on my DVR recordings, my 5 days away from school was just what I needed.

Through-the-Woods-Emily-Carroll.jpgOne of my favorite parts of break happened while I visited my old high school. My mom is a teacher at our local high school, so while I was home, I dropped by to see her and Kellan at school. She had chatted with me over the weekend about one of her student’s reading habits, asking what books I would recommend. I got to meet her student while at MV, and we got to talking about books (particularly graphic novels), which then led to me voracious recommending numerous titles that were must reads to both him and my mom. I told them that next up on my TBR list for graphic novels was Through the Woods by Emily Carroll. This graphic novels takes place in and around – you guessed it – the woods. With creepy images, beautiful colors, and spine-tingling stories, it’s a sure hit with any reader. I devoured this book containing 5 separate stories in one day. My mom’s student (who just so happens to love creepy stories, too) read it last week after a quick Amazon Prime order, and we are FaceTiming tomorrow to discuss our thoughts and book club together. Guys, I love my future job already. 🙂

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I snatched this graphic novel the second Dr. E set it down after her book talk, and I am so happy I did. All’s Faire in Middle School is a fantastic peek into what it is like to walk the halls of a middle school today and feel the pressures they experience daily. This story follows Imogene (Impy) as she bravely embarks on a new quest – middle school. After being homeschooled her entire life, Impy tries to figure out how to navigate her way through school, friendships, home life, and so much more. Can she be the valiant, honorable knight she has always wanted to be? Or will she end up unleashing her innermost dragon? Filled with beautiful graphics and amazing renaissance fair scenes, this story is a must-read for anyone who loves seeing good conquer evil. Huzzah!

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When magic is no longer believed to be real, Grunhilda finds herself out of a job. She isn’t scary enough to be a fake witch and there are no job titles open for a hag or battle-axe, so she takes the next best opportunity – a position as a lunch lady at the local school. The position puts her in contact with Madison, a girl who desperately wants to be smarter, and a principal who takes every opportunity possible to foil plans. When Madison uncovers Grunhilda’s secret, chaos unfolds and the ancestors are not happy. How will Grunhilda fix the mess she has gotten herself into?

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When life gets tough, Taylor Edwards loves to run. It’s easier to escape than it is to face any issue head on, and with a family that doesn’t like to talk about feelings, leaving has always been the answer. But when Taylor’s dad is given life-altering news that rattles the entire family, Taylor has no choice but to stay and spend the summer at her family’s lake house in the Poconos. Suddenly, Taylor’s history comes rushing back to haunt her; can those she left behind 5 years ago forgive her for what happened? Can she survive the summer without leaving and causing more heartache?

As always, happy reading!

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? #imwayr 10/16/17

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Man, I am loving fall break. Being home for the first time in months is refreshing and relaxing for me. I’ve spent break eating food I didn’t have to buy/make, catching up with family, agreeing to be my sister’s maid of honor, watching the shows I recorded on my DVR, seeing friends, and (of course) reading. What more could I ask for?

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Lighter Than My Shadow is the type of graphic novel memoir that will take your breath away and make your heart ache. This story follows the life of Katie Green as she struggles with eating disorders, fitting in, negative thoughts, and sexual abuse. Green takes traditionally taboo topics and brings them to life on the page, bravely telling her story of struggle and recovery. She is not afraid to take readers into the depths of pain and her innermost thoughts. From her train of thought during a binge to opening up old wounds caused by those she trusted, Katie Green bears it all and shows readers that strength is within even when it seems the bleakest. Lighter Than My Shadow was an emotionally tough read, but it was eye-opening to say the least.

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What does it mean to be a girl in society today? Does it mean pink dresses and dollhouses, or is there something more? Liz Prince explores the topic of gender conformity and norms in her graphic novel memoir Tomboy. In it, readers follow Prince as she grows up. From refusing to wear a dress to being mistaken for a boy at all ages, this read is both entertaining (Prince is hilarious) and important. People tend to see what is on the outside, but Prince challenges us to look deeper as she tells her story about finding out who she truly is. Tomboy takes readers through friend drama, bullies, cooties, gender, and the all-important ball cap. Does she hate girls, or does she hate the societal expectations placed on them? Join Prince as she wrestles with these questions and, as one review puts it, “tells gender norms to eat dirt.”

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American Born Chinese has to be one of the most thought provoking graphic novels I’ve read so far this semester. The novel focuses on three distinct stories: Jin Wang, a boy desperate to fit in when it seems like all he can do is stand out; the monkey king, master of kung fu who is never satisfied with what he has; and Chin-Kee, the stereotypical Chinese character in any 80’s sitcom (Sixteen Candles, anyone?) who is the comic relief while visiting his cousin, Danny. As the novel progresses, the stories weave together in an unexpected but brilliant twist that shocked me. As the characters struggle to find their footing and be treated fairly, readers are exposed to racial stereotypes that are present in society. Pieces of this story reminded me of Kip Fulbeck’s Paper Bullets, which discusses what it’s like to live in a place that ignores multiracial (in his case, Hapa) identity.

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Last, but certainly not least, comes John Green’s new novel Turtles All the Way Down, the novel I have been waiting months for. The story centers around Aza’s life and mental health along with the adventures she pursues with her friend, Daisy. When the pair hears about a $100,000 reward for finding Aza’s old friend, Davis’s, dad, they begin chasing answers to a mystery that might not want to be solved. Filled with Star Wars references and veiled One Direction mentions, TATWD is a must read. One of my favorite pieces of John Green’s writing is his refusal to water down characters. I always feel like he treats each character with the complexity deserved, refusing to use YA as an excuse to not give a full, adequate portrayal. In this novel, Green sticks to this trend more than ever. TATWD dives deep, placing readers directly into Aza’s mind to read her anxieties, inner turmoil, and to follow her spirals. I can’t stress enough how necessary this novel is. Be watching for a follow up post coming soon!

For now, I’ll be enjoying my final hours of break and family time. 🙂

-RG

Five Cheers for Feedback

I don’t think it’s any secret I am a relational person.

I tell people they’re precious, sweet, kind, and awesome nearly every day (because they are, duh). I thrive on long talks and connections made with friends, and I can’t tell you how excited I am to open the door and have my brother bulldoze me over with a hug when I get home tonight. I try to go out of my way to reach out to my friends near and far every week because I value them and our relationship. We, as humans, thrive on feeling appreciated and loved; so why do we not grade this way in our schools?

If you asked me to remember a time in school when someone truly cared about my writing – and I mean really cared, not just checked it for a grade – I’m not sure I could pinpoint a single one. I came to college prepared to churn out papers and essays for a grade and that only. I thought I knew what good writing was, but I really only knew the best way to write to please others – not myself. I was more worried about getting on the good side of the red pen than I was about my own thoughts and opinions. But how can we encourage students to look past the typical notion of grading and really get them to care about their work as their own? I have two words: feedback and relationships.

To me, feedback and relationships are intertwined. Reading and responding to someone’s writing is both a privilege and a responsibility. The writer is handing over their heart on a piece of paper for you to read and respond to – how can you be sure you handle that with care while also reaching back out? Going over all of the ways to give feedback last week was helpful. Between feedback letters, fishbowls, individual conferencing, and small groups, every single student can share their writing in a beneficial way for them. Understanding your students will also be really beneficial in knowing what stage of their writing process they are in. Developing  a rapport with students is incredibly important to the feedback process because students won’t trust us with their writing until they feel that we care about them as people.

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What does traditional feedback give students?

Teaching is relational. I firmly believe this. When I came to college, I was a broken writer. I was afraid to share my work, my words, with others because I had been told for so long that words and writing were meant to be put in a specific order and that was it. My writing was only good if it was quantifiable or got me an A; in other words, it was only good if someone else said it was. I didn’t write creatively, but I did write from an anxious space, constantly wondering if I was good enough. But then I came to college, and my writing was considered an extension of me. It was enough because I was enough. Simple as that. I started receiving positive feedback on my writing instead of red dashes and question marks littering it. I felt a blossoming confidence. I started sharing my blogs to Facebook and allowing others to read my thoughts instead of labeling them as dumb. I started writing from a place deep within me that could heal pain from the past. I opened up and began to produce work that I cared about, but why did it take so long to reach that point?

As a teacher, I want to implement a solid feedback process for my students. I never want a student to label their writing as worthless or dumb because it is anything but that. The turning point for me was getting feedback from other English majors that said I was good enough. They gave positive comments and genuinely cared about me. We built a relationship with each other that was based on trust and care. I want students to walk away from a feedback process feeling empowered and desiring to work further on their piece of writing. I want them to write from a place of knowing they are loved. I want them to understand that their writing matters – to me, to others, and to them. I want them to write for themselves.

Feedback can do this.

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? #imwayr 10/9/17

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Monday Mantra: Just keep swimming, just keep swimming, just keep swimming, swimming, swimming…

Midterm Break right around the corner has me humming this tune allllll week long. I don’t know about you, but I am SO ready for a much-needed break. I can almost feel the Kellan-hug waiting for me Friday night, and I can’t tell you guys how much I need that; it’s been too long since I went home.

But first, books!

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When I first saw this book at Walmart, I was so excited. I recently read Raina Telgemeier’s graphic novel Smile, which I absolutely loved. This novel follows Catrina (Cat) and her family as they move to Northern California due to her sister, Maya’s, medical concerns. Once there, Maya and Cat are clued in on the town secret: Bahia de la Luna is filled with ghosts. Maya is determined to go ghost hunting and meet them, but Cat is hesitant; why would she want to talk with the dead? Can Cat overcome her fear in time to celebrate Day of the Dead – a tradition in her new home? Can she experience this for herself and for Maya?

There were many things I enjoyed about this graphic novel, but there were also some problematic parts. I thought Telgemeier tried hard to include a variety of different topics in a book probably made for a middle school audience. Due to this, some items were glossed over. Attempting to cover mortality, life after death, illness, and a completely different culture is difficult, and I felt like maybe all of these weren’t addressed in a full enough way. Many resources outlined this book as dealing in cultural appropriation; when thinking through the subject, I found the blog post titled Ghosts: Swing and a Hard Miss as well as the post titled Not recommended: Ghosts by Raina Telgemeier to be helpful in understanding the term and what it means.

One of the pieces I loved in the novel was the inclusion of the G-tube within the narrative. Maya, Cat’s sister, has cystic fibrosis and struggles to get enough nourishment. This is the first novel I have ever seen a G-tube mentioned and pictured. My younger brother, Kellan, has Down syndrome and was born without his esophogus. He had one constructed but has had numerous difficulties with it over the years; because of this, he has had a feeding tube for his entire life. He struggles with understanding why he has one and no one else does (I often have to show him my stomach to prove I don’t have a “button” :)) and has also been teased about having one, so seeing this incorporated into the novel was refreshing.

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When Anya falls down a well, the last thing she expects to find is a friend. Growing up, Anya hasn’t always had the best luck at fitting in. From her accent to her clothing, most pieces of her life made her stand out. Finding Emily Reilly, the nearly century old ghost at the bottom of the well, could be Anya’s ticket to a “normal” high school life. Emily helps Anya with school, clothing choices, and boys – but what’s beneath the her facade? Is she as good of a friend as Anya once thought? As the story unravels, Anya must face the truth about her friend’s secret past as well as face the truth about her attitude. Anya’s Ghost is one of my favorite graphic novels from this semester. I love the setting and the real-life implications it asks readers to contemplate. Being a high schooler isn’t easy, and this book questions the need to fit in and conform. (5/5)

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When Sunny heads to Florida to visit her grandfather, she expects a summer full of beaches and Disney World. Instead, she finds herself living in a retirement home with a grandpa who thinks going to the grocery store is an exciting day trip. Her luck changes when she meets Buzz, the son of a maintenance worker who introduces Sunny to the world of comics. Their adventures keep the friends busy; from finding residents’ cats to running from Big Al, the pair never seem to have much of a dull moment. But why was Sunny sent to Florida in the first place? And why does she only name Teddy, her youngest brother, and not Dale when people ask? As the summer moves forward, dark family secrets come to light that Sunny must accept and learn from. Set in the 1970s, this book is full of beautiful images and color. I’m already looking forward to reading the next book. (4/5)

Perfectionism: My worst friend

On Friday, I caught myself doing it again.

It’s just a 1-2 page paper, Regan. Why are you freaking out?

An assignment that should’ve taken me an hour and a half tops stole my entire night, eating up 5 hours of time while simultaneously chiseling away at my self-worth. Something that should have been so simple, easy even, for an English major had once again become my biggest headache of the day. I froze; I couldn’t write without repeatedly telling myself that everything I was writing was futile and complete trash. I felt down, anxious, and like a failure as I tentatively hit submit.

That’s when I heard it: the subtle knock, knock of perfectionism, waltzing its way back into my life.

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Perfectionism. What an ugly word. When I was younger, I proudly categorized myself as a perfectionist. I was very particular with assignments and tasks, leaving nothing undone or to chance. Everything I did had to be perfect, and I needed to be in complete control of the outcome. Perfectionism was encouraged – praised, even – to the point that it was the single most identifiable part of me.

But what happens when we don’t reach the unattainable level of perfection? What do we do when we are forced to remove the rosy colored glasses and face the truth? Perfection is not plausible. As a student, realizing this has been one of the hardest things for me to do. Relinquishing control and accepting my writing as my own imperfect, wonderful thing has been more of a challenge than I can ever articulate. I’ve had to go through long growing periods of understanding that just because my writing doesn’t sound as amazing as her’s and doesn’t have the perfect ending line like his doesn’t mean it’s bad; it means it is mine, which is the only comparison I should need.

So what does this mean for me as a teacher? Clearly, it means I still have work to do. You guys – a classroom is anything but perfect. It is a conglomeration of unique individuals striving to learn and grow together. Each classroom is its own just as each student is different. Will my lesson plans always go just so? No. Will students always react to my thoughts and plans positively? No. Will I always say and do the right thing? No.

But will I constantly try my best to reach and love each student? Yes.

My students deserve a teacher who isn’t focused on perfection. They need someone who understands that not everything can be sculpted into perfection. Most of all, perhaps, they need someone who understands them and their fears. When I take a step back and see what my perfectionism gave me, I realize that many students are walking down the same path. I can’t tell you the number of hours I have spent staring at a blank screen, filled with dread just thinking about the grade I will get on the unwritten paper before me. I have cried, stress eaten, and stared blankly into the abyss more times than I can count. I never want my students to be so focused on perfection that they forget to love themselves and their creations. Perfectionism is a really bad friend, and I want my students to know this fact.

Perfectionism is not a quest for the best. It is the pursuit of the worst in ourselves, the part that tells us that nothing we do will ever be good enough – that we should try harder. – Julia Cameron

Focusing on perfection doesn’t make us any more awesome. It only robs us of our humanness, which is a shame. It’s in the stumbles and falls along with the laughs that we find out who we are. Life is beautiful – why not celebrate all facets of it?

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? #imwayr 10/2/17

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Happy Monday, all!

October has rolled in, and it seems like the weird half fall/half winter season has finally hit us here in Chadron. This past week brought some dreary, gray days and I LOVED IT. Seriously. I’m much more of a “lay in bed and read” type of person than a “go outside and hike” type. Rainy days mean I get to burrow under a blanket and lose myself in a book. Fall also means the best scented candles are back. Victories everywhere.

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I know I stated this last week, but Lucy Knisley is fantastic and I love her. I was beyond excited (and protective) of the new books Dr. Ellington brought me last week; I just love finding new, amazing authors. An Age of License: A Travelogue details Knisley’s experience on her trip abroad. Between the delicious food and attempts to mend her heart while experiencing anxiety about the future, Lucy (I like to think we’re on a first name basis these days) questions her right to an age of license. Is this the time in her life where she can experience and mess up before settling down? The honesty is, once again, unparalleled. Many of Lucy’s fears are ones I have felt bubbling up in my life lately, so this graphic novel really struck a chord. (5/5 – Did you expect anything else?)

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One Knisley book is never enough, so naturally I read Displacement: A Travelogue as well. This novel outlines Lucy’s travel experience as she accompanies her 90+ year old “Grands” on their cruise. As she comes to grip with the fears of aging and watching those she loves slip away, Lucy is still able to bond and grow close with her family while caring and sharing a milestone experience with her grandparents. Lucy walks away from the cruise 10 days later with a full, melancholy heart, which I felt myself agreeing with. Losing my grandparents is common fear among those my age, and I am not immune to this. Lucy took a front row seat to her grandmother’s dementia and her grandfather’s aging issues, but still bonded and found pieces of herself along the way. (5/5)

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If you asked my friends to describe me, I might be labeled as a fixer. One of my greatest joys in life is to see those around me happy, healthy, and loved. With that being said, this book ruined me. This memoir by David Small left me in a puddle of tears, unable to fully express my sympathy for this small boy who was never properly loved. Stitches tells the harrowing tale of David as he grew up with stoic, Midwestern parents. The harm he endures is woven into beautifully crafted graphics that depict the world from his eyes as it unfolds. Loss, health issues, and abuse take center stage in this aptly categorized tragi-comic, but all the hurt gives way to rebirth and love thanks to an individual who cares. Harrowing and dark, this novel is one I will remember for years to come. (5/5 – If you enjoyed [if you truly can enjoy] A Child Called It, you need to read this.)

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Thornhill was just as eerie to read as the cover looks. My fellow graphic novel lover, Marqui, bought this book recently and let me borrow it to read. The story of Thornhill, an orphanage, is told in two very different ways. Mary’s story is told in the form of letters to her diary while Ella’s story of discovery and exploration is told through graphics only. Though they span 35 years apart, the story of Mary and Ella becomes entangled and ultimately deadly. What is the light Ella sees in the abandoned Thornhill house? And who keeps leaving little clues and dolls for her to find? As the mystery of Thornhill unravels, readers will find themselves getting goosebumps and becoming paranoid of a “thump… thump… thump” on the door. Spooky and haunting, this was a novel I couldn’t put down. The 500+ pages seemed like nothing as I continued to unravel the mystery and put the puzzle pieces together. They say misery loves company, but how far can the dead reach? (5/5 – I highly recommend you don’t read this while alone like I did; yikes!)

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I rounded out the week with two YA novels. I finally finished The Great American Whatever, and I have to say that it was as amazing as originally promised. After tragedy hits, Quinn becomes a shell of his former self. No more cell phone, no more time for Geoff, and especially no more time for screenplays, an activity solely done with Annabeth. As Quinn begins to emerge from his shell, he must face a different world. Through the healing, old wounds are cracked open, first love blossoms, and Quinn finally finds a way to be truly himself.

It’s Not Summer Without You is a continuation of the YA trilogy by Jenny Han. Belly is more confused than ever. Cousins used to be her safe haven, but now it holds memories of hurt and loss. Can she ever truly pick what – or who – she wants without breaking anyone’s heart, including her own? Susannah may be gone, but the Fisher boys are still around. Susannah always told Belly she knew that one of her boys would marry Belly someday; but is it true?

Happy October, and happy reading!