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Speaking of Death…

One of the most striking things about Markus Zusak’s The Book Thief is his choice of narrator. This unnamed being, who sees all but remains detached, has a unique persepctive on events both local and global. In an interview, Zusak talks briefly about his narrator. Watch the clip at http://gu.com/p/283nd and pay attention especially to his reasoning for Death being the story’s speaker.

Then answer the following questions:

1. Describe the narrator in 5 adjectives (or adjectival phrases).

2. From whose perspective do you wish you could see part, or all, of the story? Why?

3. What is another book you have read with an unusual narrator? What was it, and how was it engaging?

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Introduction to The Book Thief

The Book Thief coverThere are many things that make Markus Zusak’s writing style in The Book Thief unique. Take a quick look at http://www.slideboom.com/presentations/232057/Writing-Style , and then post a sentence (or a short passage) that really stuck out in the first 46 pages of The Book Thief because of the way it was written. Then, explain what your reaction was to it. Lastly, make a prediction about something that may happen later in the story (don’t give anything away if you’ve read beyond page 46!).

And remember: you cannot repost a sentence/passage that someone previously has used, unless you can add insight to the discussion.

Courage in The Book Thief

 In the book there are many, many instances of courage. Describe which act (and by whom) best illustrates courage.

Motifs in The Book Thief

Definition of Motif from Dictionary.com You should be at least halfway through the book by now. At this point, what do you feel is a strong motif in the story? Explain what it is, and give examples. And, if you, make connections to other stories with a similar motif: How is it dealt with similarly or differently? Which makes a stronger impact on the reader? Which comes across more realitistic? etc.

You can have the same motif as someone else, but be sure to give new examples.

Who Do You Love?

Some possible questions for you to answer (don’t answer just one!):

So, who’s your favourite character so far? Why? Has any of your feelings about a character changed? How? See if you can find a picture online that looks (to you) like one of the characters, and paste the link into your bog.

Books We Love to Hate

In the novel, books that are considered threats to Germany, the Nazi Party, and German national pride are burned in bonfires. As Harrison and Andrew showed us today, this is certainly not the only time in history that books have been burned for their alleged offensive and corrupting ideas.

But book burning is not the only way to stop people from reading them. In our society, book banning is a popular pastime. It’s not too hard to predict some of the top offenders over the years, such as Catcher in the Rye (for its language, “loose morals”, and violence) and Harry Potter (for its descriptions of the occult). For a look at the Top 100 Novels of the 20th Century to be banned or challenged, see the American Library Association. Or see the Top 100 Books from 2000-2009.

1. Is there ever a good reason for banning (or burning) books?

2. Have you read any of the Top 100 books (from either list)? Do you agree that it should have limited access?

Are Books Important?

It is obvious that Liesel treasures her books and her time spent learning to read with Hans. Throughout the novel we get the sense that the narrator, and by extension Markus Zusak, also sees the value of books and stories.

No everyone agrees with them, however.

Here are a few quotes from the article “Do You Need to Read Books to be Clever?“:

  • [Half of men] aged 16 to 24…haven’t read a single book in the past 12 months, making this group the least likely to read books, according to [British] government statistics.
  • Professor John Sutherland, who has chaired the Booker prize judging panel: “The best storage system we have is the book. Few artefacts have lasted as enduringly – and few will. If you dropped Chaucer into the middle of Oxford Street today he wouldn’t have a clue what was going on, but if you took him to a bookshop he’d know exactly what they were, even be able to find his own work.”
  • “I didn’t read a book last year and don’t know when I will read one,” says Jamie Sharp, 37. “That doesn’t make me illiterate or stupid, I just get my information in other ways. I read a paper everyday and use the internet. That probably makes me better informed than a lot of book readers out there. They may read a book but it’s just as likely to be David Beckham’s autobiography as it is Shakespeare.” And reading involves intellectual snobbery, he says. “It always has to be about certain types of books. Often people just read them because they think they should, not because they want to. Sometimes they pretend to have read them to look intelligent.”
  • Books are important, but it’s reading itself is an essential skill, says Honor Wilson-Fletcher, project director for the National Year of Reading. “It’s not for nothing that books have been burned over the centuries,” she says. “They are repositories of ideas and ideas empower people and broaden their horizons. But because the cultural landscape is changing so much we need to recognise every variety of reading and acknowledge being able to read has never been so important. No medium is less important than any other, be it a classic novel, Scott’s last message from the North Pole, one of Morrissey’s lyrics or graffiti on a wall – they can all educate and change lives. This is not a year of worthiness, it’s a year of reading.”

The BBC compiled a list several years ago of books they believed everyone should read–but probably hasn’t. In fact, they think that the average person has read only six of the books on the list. How many have you read?

Do books still have value in our society? How often do you, and the people you know, read? Is any of it for pleasure, or is it simply because you have to? Do you think the next generation will value reading? Should books all be in the public domain (so that anyone can read, copy, and distribute them) , such as in Google Books, or should writing and publishing continue to be mostly for-profit? How is the way we are changing the access to books changing our approach to, and value of, them?

That’s a lot of questions! Choose a few to respond to, and/or add any thoughts you have on this topic of the value of books and reading.