Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Connecticut Ho! A memoir of growing up beside Long Island Sound Part 1.

We grew up on L.I. and spent the summers at the beach in Bayville.
On calm days L. I. Sound was like a huge salt-water pool.  Mom called us water rats.

We swam, snorkeled, and explored by the water’s edge.
To us, the Sound was an enormous body of water. But sometimes we could see all the way across to a distant green shore.

I must have asked someone what that distant green shore was.  

Over time that distant strip of green called Connecticut took on mystical qualities-- magical, faraway, unreachable. 


Wednesday, September 23, 2015

The Beast is reviewed by Self-Employed

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

The Beast of Cretacea - a review

The Beast of Cretacea by Todd Strasser 
(Candlewick, 2015)

Seventeen-year-old Ishmael has volunteered for a dangerous assignment - a vaguely outlined stint on Cretacea, where he will work with other adventurers in an untamed environment, harvesting resources bound for Earth. Only the dismal outlook on Earth makes this option seem appealing. Stripped of its natural resources, covered in a perpetual shroud, and dangerously low on breathable air, Earth holds few attractions for Ishmael. His foster family is his only concern, but his foster brother is now headed for assignment, too, and Ishmael hopes to earn enough money on Cretacea to pay for passage from Earth for his foster parents. 

On Cretacea, a prophetic warning from an old neighbor haunts Ishmael as he works onboard the Pequod under the command of the mad Captain Ahab who has set the ship's course to capture the Great Terrafin, a deadly sea creature of near mythical proportions. For Ishmael and his onboard companions, adventures abound in this cleverly crafted homage to Moby Dick. References to Moby Dick (for those familiar with them) are plentiful; however, despite its similarities to Melville's classic, TheBeast of Cretacea is a sci-fi book for the modern age. The Beast of Cretacea confronts modern issues of environmental degradation, resource depletion, wealth and privilege, scientific possibility, and of course, the transcendent coming-of-age issue. Breathtaking excitement is measured with thought-provoking ideas, a rich plotline, and occasional flashbacks. At least one great twist awaits. 

For ponderers, sci-fi enthusiasts, and adventure fans seeking a little something extra. Best for ages 12 and up.

On a shelf near you 10/13/15

Members of my monthly book club recently Skyped with Todd Strasser.  They were impressed by his perseverance (only a summer's worth of reading kept him from repeating the 3rd grade!) and the sheer volume of his work (more than 140 books!). They appreciated his affability and willingness to delay an afternoon of surfing to accommodate us.  As an added bonus, when his daughter (who created the beast on the book's cover) accidentally passed in camera view, he introduced us and gave us a short lesson in the evolution of a book's cover art.

I have two copies of The Beast of Cretacea.  One was provided at my request from Todd Strasser, and the other was subsequently provided byLibraryThing Early Reviewers.  Both will given to members of my book club who cannot wait to read it!!

 More fun Beast of Cretacea content:

A Beast of Cretacea Quiz created by the author: 

A humorous video trailer:
The Beast of Cretacea from todd strasser on Vimeo.

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Friday, April 17, 2015

To Reading Teachers

Dear Teacher,
I know there must be a reason for the phrase “reluctant reader,” but sometimes I wish it could be “emerging,” or “gradually improving,” or even “promising reader.”
To my ear “reluctant” sounds too gloomy and unpromising. Maybe that’s because I truly believe that every young person has the potential to love reading… once they learn to overcome their difficulties and master the skill.

I’m sure that I myself would have been labeled a reluctant reader. In June of 1958, when I reached the end of third grade, my parents were told by the school principal that due to my poor my reading ability I was not ready for fourth grade. Instead I would have to repeat third grade the following year.

Back then, labels like “reluctant reader” and “learning disability” didn’t exist. Dyslexia probably did, but I don’t recall hearing it applied to me. Instead, I was labeled an underachiever, which basically meant I was lazy.

To this day I don’t know why I struggled with reading, or why I still read slowly, or why I still have difficulty spelling. I do know that I was fortunate to have parents who cared enough to send me to a reading tutor that summer, a tutor who got me to read by doing two pretty simple things:    

-- Upon learning that I loved animals and hoped to work at the Bronx Zoo someday, she found the wonderful (and sadly not always in print) stories of Gerald Durrell, a naturalist and zookeeper who traveled the world collecting critters.

-- She motivated me to read those stories by supplying me with pretzels and ginger ale (we weren’t allowed to have candy, salty snacks, or soda at home).

As a result, I spent the summer reading (and only gained a few extra pounds), and was able to go into fourth grade the following fall. Even more importantly, I developed a life-long love of reading. 

These days, I have a special place in my heart for those “promising,” and “gradually improving,” readers. When I’m doing school visit or Skyping with classes, I make a point of telling students about my personal struggles with learning to read and write. Because I think they need to know that it’s okay to struggle, and it’s even okay to fail … as long as they keep trying. 

After all, that’s what I learned to do.

Sincerely,  Todd

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Barb and I got snowed in this weekend and decided to make a video about The Beast of Cretacea.