Tuesday, November 29, 2016

UtellStory: Author Talk

I discovered UtellStory a few months ago. I explored the website and made my own presentation for Author Talks. I have used this presentation in my visit at Brent International School Manila. The web app is easy to learn and use. There is also an audio feature for narration and background music. More to explore!

In the meantime, here's sharing what I whipped up at UtellStory.

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Book Review: Issued to the Bride: One Navy SEAL

Issued to the Bride: One Navy SEAL (Brides of Chance Creek #1)Issued to the Bride: One Navy SEAL by Cora Seton

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Issued to the Bride: One Navy SEAL is the first book of a new series by Cora Seton that has a lot of heart, just enough magic to tickle your romantic, and a complicated old man who, I am excited to see, will pull through some surprises as the series unfold.

What worked for me

Going back to Chance Creek is like visiting old friends from way back. I have read three series by Cora Seton and by now, I can comfortably predict her plot lines and casually identify with her characters. There is the hesitant or unsure female lead laden with baggage from the past; the alpha male who has gone full circle and is on the path to rebuild his life; an array of supporting characters that move the lead characters into action as well as lending a layer of conflict and exciting dynamics to the plot; villains who get what they deserve; and favorite characters from previous books in the series.

I am on a familiar ground. Not complaining, as I have invested so much on the first series, the Cowboys of Chance Creek. So meeting Cab and Rose again, is a delight. But in this initial book to the series, Brides of Chance Creek, Issued to the Bride: One Navy SEAL, I gathered an insight on the role that men and women play in the family and in the society at large.

I have always believed that women are strong yet, delicate. As a mother, I once told my daughter this: that women are not weak. We have the great capacity to accommodate another life in our beings, in our souls. Thus, the men in our lives have a great role to protect and keep us safe. But as things go in society and in the world, conflict happens and war breaks out. As things go with people, men and women are imperfect. So, we struggle. We try to keep our best to balance and even things out the best way possible.

Cass and her sisters have been terribly fooled by irresponsible men. Without a father for so long, the sisters were easy prey to people who mean them harm. Brian's presence in the ranch allows a modicum of security and protection. This is not to say that Cass and her sisters have been weak or stupid. They are in fact, smart and kind, beautiful and full of talents. But, I admit, they need a man who will respect them for what they can do and who will value their relevance to the family and to the community they belong to. The message of this book to me is this: treat women well; respect them; value them; work along side them in the farm; in the factories, in offices, support them in all their good endeavors even if it means running for public office; and yes, be honest with them when they are about to fail; call them out when they are going out of line. Love them!

Men, love the women in your lives! If this happens more, then, world peace is a dream that can be fulfilled.

As for the women, know how to value this love and honor the men who love you.

What did not work for me

It's a small thing, but, I'll say it anyway. I just wish Cass is not as young as she is compared to Brian.

I enjoyed reading this new book as the first installment in the new series. I look forward to the love story of Connor and Sadie.

View all my reviews

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Movie Review: Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

Source: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt3183660/
Fantastic Beast and Where to Find Them
Director: David Yates
Writer: JK Rowling
Rating: 3.5/5

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them (FBFT) was our family date movie. It is the first JK Rowling creation which my husband truly appreciated. The kids were entertained and we were bawled over Johnny Depp's sneer at the end of the movie. If anything, FBWFT is only an introduction to the menace of a gathering dark that will sweep the world into greater conflict and war.

What I liked

Eddie Redmayne is fantastic as Newt Scamander. He breathed life to a side character of the Potter universe I only knew from short conversations and mere mentions among the major characters of the series. To some extent, I have always been curious about Newt Scamander. He must be a great wizard to travel the world in search for beasts of magic. How noble was his intent too: to write a book so that wizards and witches, young and old, can get a better grasp of understanding them. A true Hufflepuff!

Hufflepuffs are the underrated witches and wizards of the Wizarding world (UK) but in this movie, we saw a Hufflepuff who truly lived up to its house's traits. And yes, I am glad that Newt Scamander did not end up like Cedric Diggory.

Redmayne's portrayal of Scamander, a wizard and scholar, is charmingly geeky, goofy and gauche. I love him! He cares deeply for his creatures but, when faced with a danger bigger than them, he goes after it with his wand, a blazing light in his eyes and apparates to defend his friends and his beasts. I love Gryffindors, but really, a lead Hufflepuff in a Potter movie is something I truly appreciated.

The rest of the characters in the movie are all cut from the same cloths and patterns of JK Rowling's making: misfits, weirdos, eccentrics, oddballs, mavericks, the quintessential rebel, and the hyperbolic stereotypes. To me, it was comforting to be back in this world littered with such characters because, I have read about these flawed characters who became the hero or the villain of the books. This is one of the many reasons why I stuck with the entire series in the first place. Rowling's imperfect characters appeal to me because I learned early on in life that one's imperfections can be a great gift to others. Depending on one's choices, of course, because it can work the other way. One's uniqueness can also bring destruction to the world.

Once again, in FBWTF, Scamander and his newly found friends are all battling their inner demons or nursing a broken heart caused by a friend, a family member, a loved one or the very institution they put their trust on. We see them struggle and exert effort in rebuilding their lives, gathering up courage to dream again and to believe that doing good every day is one way to banish the greater evil that exist in the hearts of men. This is a Potter spin off that stays true to its mould, but it is slowly growing up into young adulthood.

Let's see how JK rowling spins this story thread further on.

What I did not like

There were gaps in the movie that left me bored. I didn't buy the slapstick and the comic relief provided to fill the gaps. I am a Potter head and I have grown up. I am ready for darker materials and the complexities of the human condition.

I am willing to wait for the next installment!

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

In Search of Heroes: What Literature Tells Us About Heroes (and some Villains)

I am invited once again to speak about reading. It is for a library conference in Central Luzon. I choose to talk about books, reading (of course) and the heroes (and some villains) we find there. Here is my prepared introduction. This is still a draft, so, it may change in a week or two from now. 
Before becoming an award winning author, I was, first of all, a lover of words and songs and a reader of books. Thank God, I was blessed with a lola who told me stories and sang me songs from the mother tongue. Sadly, I did not learn Bicol, but my lola’s love for stories and music remained in me to this very day. As a child growing up, my mother, who is also a librarian, read books to me that fed my imagination, encouraged my curiosity and sense of wonder. Now you know why I pursued a career in school librarianship. My writing life came in later when I could no longer hold the desire to write my own stories. I felt I needed to write. So, I did. 
As an afterthought, I can say that my lola and my mother are my heroes. I didn’t know it then, but I claim it now. If not for their efforts and their own way of loving, I wouldn’t be what I am today. My lola and my mother are not perfect. But, I know they tried their best to uphold the values that have been my moral compass since the day I was capable of spreading my own wings and became my own person. And they did it through instilling in me a genuine love for books, reading, literature and the arts. 

By doing so, they have introduced me to many heroes present in myths, legends, ballads and folktales. The tortoise in the Tale of The Monkey and the Tortoise is still a favorite of mine. The trickster Pilandok and Anansi the Spider from the African folk lore are fascinating characters I pull out when I do storytelling with children. From Lam-Ang to Mariang Makiling, Hercules to Athena, Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew, the Little Red Hen and that child who shouted that the emperor has no clothes fueled my imagination and inspired me to aspire for what is good and kind in this world that riddles with chaos and confusion most times. 

And so, I am going to talk about modern day heroes we find in books and literature (including movies and animated films) to find out what makes them so. In the process, we will find ourselves in them since they are as imperfect as you and me. Despite themselves, they made choices and decisions that are difficult. They chose to rise above challenges and sought the path that is not easy but the right one to take. 

Here are our heroes: Frodo the Ring Bearer, nephew of Bilbo the Hobbit; My Neighbor Totoro;
Joy and Sadness; Baymax; Ramona Quimby; Matilda; Geronimo Stilton; Phineas and Ferb; Gru and his minions. 

It is my hope that, by knowing them as heroes, we continue to search for the likes of them in
books and in mainstream literature.

Monday, November 21, 2016

At the Academy Last Week: Poetry and Christmas Reading Passport 2016

Last week at the Academy, we launched the annual Christmas Reading Passport. This reading campaign began three years ago. It has evolved into a program that address reading needs and interests of students. I have also included an aspect of Bibliotherapy by including reflection questions.

Here are posts about the Christmas Reading Passport from previous years:

Christmas Reading Passport 2015
 Christmas Reading Passport 2014
 Christmas Reading Passport 2014 Video

Here's how the Christmas Reading Passport works:

1. Students get a reading passport.

2. The reading passport is designed to encourage students to read four books on the themes of hope, peace, joy and love. There are four questions to be answered, one for each book. This way, students are guided on their book choices. Recommended reads, a list of books about the themes are sent out via email lists to everyone.

3. The passport and the books are taken home over the long holiday break.

4. Students come back after the break with the passports filled out. They submit this to the library staff.

5. They get a token from the library.
 As the grade 9s have started a unit on Poetry in English class, I have put on display books on poetry. Inspired by current events, I picked up some books and stacked them together for a book spine poem I shared with the community.

Friday, November 18, 2016

Pateros Catholic School Memories: Grade School Years 1979 - 1986

This post was originally published from my old blog (that has closed already) back in 2009. I am resurrecting this piece since there will be a grand alumni homecoming of the Pateros Catholic School on December 3, 2016. I mentioned my grade one teacher in this write up. A few years after writing this, I met her at mass in mall in Mandaluyong. Ms. Pagkalinawan, my grade one teacher recognized me and still knew my complete name.

Looking at this retrospective piece, I feel I need to write about my high school memories too. We'll see. The calendar till December is pretty full.

I was a guest speaker/facilitator in a seminar-workshop at my Alma Mater last week. Being in Pateros Catholic School (PCS) after nineteen years was a strange experience. For one, the school changed a lot! It looked small and compact. Two, most of my teachers in grade school and high school have either left or moved on. And three, it felt odd being treated as a guest by my former grade three Reading teacher who is now the school's principal.

But there are so many things to be happy about.

One, my school is already PAASCU accredited. Two, my grade six teacher in Filipino, Mrs. Flery Natividad-Guevara, is now the licensed librarian of the grade school library. Three, I met my batch mate in grade school who teaches there as well. Last, the whole experience of going back and giving back was completing a life cycle.

I've gone full circle. And with it is the remembrance of childhood days spent in the parochial confines of Catholic education.

In grade one, I was the second smallest girl in class. I remember being friends with John-John, a boy who had a runny nose all the time and colored his chickens red. I colored mine brown even though I was very familiar with the story of the Little Red Hen. That Christmas of my first grade in PCS, my teacher, Ms. Pagkalinawan discovered that I could sing. She had me join the annual singing contest where I won second place with my rendition of Silent Night. There was an audition before the contest so I had to regale the judges with the Christmas Alphabet. Thanks to my musically inclined mother and my very artistic aunt. The costume went well with the song choice.

By grade two, my health faltered. I was often absent in class.

It did not improve in third grade, but I managed to work extra hard for missed classes that I reached the top ten of the class. My third grade teacher, Mrs. Aquino, died late that year.

In grade four I made it to the "pilot class" where the smartest and prettiest compete and converge. I wondered what I was doing there but enjoyed the company of the privileged. It was the Bagets year. Aga Muhlach was the poster of that generation. I collected his photos cut from magazines. Raymond Lauchengco and William Martinez suited my fancy as well. Yep. Grade four and a certified fan girl.

Fifth grade had to be the most unforgettable year. I failed Math. Big time. To get a 74 in the report card amongst the best and brightest crushed me completely. Mr. Bautista, my grade five Math teacher taught me a lesson I value to this day -- that one should not sit on one's laurels. I never recovered from my aversion in Math. It shows at my terrible love affair with dates, numbers, scheduling and yes, keeping a budget. But I did understand, only in later years, the meaning of failure and why it is important when you really think about it.

Bouncing back in sixth grade was not easy. Yet, I survived and graduated. Looking back, I learned tenacity and resiliency in PCS earlier on. It is a blessing seeing the worst in me. I came face to face with my own demons but this I realized only recently. It helps me survive. It helps me understand myself more. It helps me overcome them, these demons I call my own.

In retrospect, I had the best teachers in PCS. Mrs. Flery-Natividad Guevara is among them. She was my Filipino teacher and always commented how stylishly written my compositions were though neatness was much to be desired from my formal themes. Apart from this, she stands out because, she has shown her class advisees that the pilot class can be trumped. I did not belong to her homeroom but I was awed when her class, grade six Fortitude won the newspaper drive several times over grade six Love, the "pilot section". What does this experience taught me? That those in the hetero section can rise above mediocrity. With enough determination and focus, the ordinary student can excel in his or her own uniqueness.

Learning does not completely rest on the grades a student gets. My teachers taught me the basics - reading, writing and arithmetic. Best of all, they taught me what life is like and how to live it well. I owe a lot to PCS.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Filipino Librarian of the Month: Tericel C. Tamayao

Librarians like Tericel Tamayao help kids navigate the digital environment
Our Filipino Librarian of the Month is Ms. Tericel C. Tamayao. Tericel is the teacher librarian of the Early Learning Center of Brent International School Manila. 

a. Why did you pursue LIS in college?

16 years ago, a librarian husband and 2 kids later, I met LIS in PUP that I don’t have a choice but to pursue because I was a late enrollee then. All the most popular and exciting courses were closed. That time, I am not really proud about the course and whenever my friends were asking me about it, just to at peace them, I remember that I keep on telling them that I will shift to Journalism next semester (which is my first choice of course). But it didn’t push through. A lot of crazy things happened.
To fast forward, all my dedicated and hardworking professors in PUP greatly influenced and motivated me to continue and finish the LIS course. Most especially when I did my practicum and was exposed to libraries and see how librarians were very enthusiastic and passionate about their job. It was only when I became a librarian that I realized that I didn’t choose to pursue LIS. It is LIS who pursued me.  Now, I know I have the best job in the world! 

My family is very proud that I never gave up being a librarian.

b. What is exciting about your job as a school librarian?

The exciting part of my job as a school librarian is everything! I get to interact with students everyday. I get to read great stories to them and teach them library skills. They are so funny and excited about books. How I wish the whole world loved books as much as they do. They have opened my mind to a world of possibilities in learning, in technology, in life. There are so many wonderful children’s stories out there and I love introducing children to these stories. I love to see their faces glow and get so excited about something we’ve just read and most especially when they found a just right book for them. I enjoy helping students and teachers find answers to questions they have and I love connecting them to good books.

Storytelling and reading aloud are activities that kids look forward to!

c. What challenges do you face as an LIS professional?

The STEREOTYPE! “Oh, do you teach lessons in the library?” There’s the other challenging part: people think we do nothing but sit around, sshhing the kids and read books all day! There are still many people who do not have an understanding of what we do and what we can do. 

I currently have a very supportive administration, but this has not always been the case. We should be advocating for what we do, sharing our abilities and skills with the students, teachers and to the community. Going above and beyond what people expect.
Since becoming a librarian, I have discovered that I need to step up and be visible on who I really am and what I am doing to shine a positive light on my profession. I am very proud of the fact that I am a school librarian serving the school alongside with teachers. I want everyone to know that I am a teacher librarian. I teach kids every day and I engage them to love reading.

Advocating books, reading and literature is a job Teri enjoys doing.
d. Recommend 5 Must-Reads for K-3 readers, teachers and parents.

It is very hard to trim down the recommended must-read books for K-3 readers because I have a long list. But anyway, these 5 books that I chose to take a special place in my heart and were among my top 5 read-aloud favorites.

1. The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein – It’s hard to imagine a story more poignant than the tale of a tree that gives its life for a boy turned self-centered young man. It’s been interpreted along environmentalist and religious lines, but all can agree on the beauty of its underlying theme of generosity.

2. The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle – A cheery caterpillar nibble his way through an assortment of colorful foods and transforms into a butterfly.

3. Love You Forever written by Robert Munsch; illustrated by Sheila McGraw – A mother cradles her sleeping and sings him a lullaby and keeps up the habit for years and years.

4. A Perfectly Messed-Up Story by Patrick McDonnell – Louie becomes angry when the story in which he appears is ruined by messes from jelly, peanut butter, and other things that do not belong in books.

5. The Book With No Pictures by B. J. Novak – In this book with no pictures, the reader has to say every silly word, no matter what.

Book reviews from:

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