Sunday, January 15, 2017

Authors of the Month: John Couret and Dianne de Las Casas

This January, the blog is featuring not just one author, but two! Here is my interview with John Couret and Dianne de Las Casas on their new book, Captain Deadeye: The Bully Shark. 

Why use a pirate as John's alter ego to cope with and combat bullying issues? Aren't pirates bullies in the first place?

John: John becomes a pirate because, in his imagination, a pirate is a person that no one can bully.  As a victim of bullying in the real world, John has no control. When he becomes captain of his own ship, he is able to control the direction in which he wishes to go.

The cool thing about a children's book is that you can create your own reality. Our pirate solves his conflicts without violence. Captain Deadeye uses creative means to stand up to bullying.

Dianne: As a child, John Couret was bullied because of his lazy eyes and called "Deadeye John." When John and I discussed writing an anti-bully book, his life experience of being bullied became the inspiration for the title character. I thought that "Deadeye" sounded like a pirate name and John came up with "Captain" so "Captain Deadeye" was born! During the course of our research, we also discovered that a "Deadeye" was a part of a ship! It was a sign!

Captain Deadeye becomes Master of the Seven Seas. In our anti-bullying program, we teach kids to become masters of the 7 C's to stand up to bullying. They are: Courage, Compassion, Communication, Conflict Resolution, Community, Choices, and Change.
We actually drew the concept of the book on a napkin in a bookstore! Anchors away!

For Dianne: What makes Captain Deadeye  different from the other characters you have created?

Captain Deadeye: The Bully Shark is my first chapter book. My other children's books are picture books and most of them are folktale remixes. Captain Deadeye is a character that John and I believe is bigger than both of us. We believe so wholeheartedly in our anti-bullying initiative, "Stop Bullying! Be a Lifesaver!" We know Captain Deadeye has the power to make a huge splash in the world!

For John: How much of John Couret is in John/Captain Deadeye?

While Deadeye John/Captain Deadeye is a fictional character, there is a lot of my truth in him. As a kid many years ago in Brooklyn, New York, I grew up in a rough neighborhood. I was constantly picked on and teased because of my lazy eyes. The feelings that Deadeye John experiences when he is bullied in the book closely mirrors my own experience as a victim of bullying. While back in the day I didn't particularly dream of being a pirate, I did wish to be bigger and stronger so that my bullies would leave me alone.

What is it like working with John/Dianne? Use pirate language or metaphor to describe the experience of working with John/Dianne.

John: Working with Dianne is a jolly good time. Although we don't always see "eye to eye" (pun tended), we know that if dig deep enough, we ARRR sure to find the buried treasure.

Dianne: Ahoy there! Working with John is an adventure on the high seas. It can be challenging to have two captains steering the writing ship, but we both know that if we stay the course, we are always where we need to be and that the gold is just on the horizon!

Give us a short description or teaser on the learning activities included in the book. Why would schools and families invest in Captain Deadeye?

On our website, we provide cross-curricular activities, a character education guide, book activities, a nautical and pirate glossary, and so much more. Bullying is an issue that does not discriminate. It can be found in every continent on the seven seas. Our mission is to change the world and create Lifesavers, one child at a time.

So, what is next for John Couret / Dianne de Las Casas?

Dianne: We are working on Book 2 of the series: Captain Deadeye: The Killer Whale. In the next book, Deadeye John's best friend, Dee Dee, gets bullied because of her burn scars. Her character is based on my experiences of being bullied because of third degree burns covering a large portion of my body. Dee Dee becomes "Scarlet," a fierce female pirate. 

We are on a Barnes & Noble book tour and have lots of school visits and events coming up. We ARRR excited for the future of Captain Deadeye! We hope that everyone will set sail with us and pledge to Stop Bullying and Be a Lifesaver!

John Couret is the president of Write Hook Media, author of the self help and inspirational book, Breaking Barriers: Live Life as a Champion, and motivational speaker. The sparkling Dianne de Las Casas is vice-president of Write Hook Media, author, international storyteller and poet laureate of the International Reading Association. Together, John and Dianne aim to make this world a better place through their art and advocacy, Stop Bullying and Be a Life Saver!

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Library Bulletin Board: The IB Learner Profile and Recommended Books

Because we want to hit two birds with one stone, we combined the IB Learner Profile with book recommendations as our library bulletin board for this semester.

The IB Learner Profile are the core values of all IB authorized school world wide. These values are the qualities that IB School communities aspire to be. IB Learners (including teachers and staff) strive to be: Inquirers, Knowledgeable, Thinkers, Communicators, Principled, Open-Minded, Caring, Risk-Takers, Balanced and Reflective.

Using the IB Learner Profile as theme for the bulletin board, we're able to remind ourselves of these values and our aspirations. Our context, being a Filipino school, the Beacon Academy is then rooted in the Filipino culture with a vision of a global and international education.

The IB Learner Profile permeates all aspect of the school, academics, school life, teaching and staff professional development as well as in its alumni and parent relations.

To further build on the development of these aspirations, us, in the library, thought of setting up the bulletin board into a reading recommendation services that has the IB Learner Profile as its anchors. The photo of our bulletin board, as shown above, has the ten IB Learner Profile and book covers of selected books that touch on each profile. We will regularly change the book covers, enjoining students, teachers and faculty to contribute.

A reading community learns. A learning community reads!

Friday, January 13, 2017

From Circulation Reports to Reading Guidance for Grade 9 -12

Towards the end of the 1st semester, my library staff and I looked over the circulation reports of our high school students. The numbers reveal a lot about our relationship with them. There are peaks and valleys on book readership from the last four months and this led us to reflect on the daily operations and readers services we provide for our students.

Studying circulation reports on a regular basis is helpful in the assessment of the library collection, reviewing the program and setting directions vis-a-vis curricular requirements and readers' needs or interest. I am reserving my reflections for another post on that matter. How readership affects and impacts collection development is for a separate discussion.

For now, let me share with you our response to sustain the readership and the habit of reading among our students.

I wrote each of them a letter. A generic one that has a record of the books they have borrowed, how far they have gone with their book quota and suggestions on how the library and its resources can further help them learn and grow. Below are my tips and recommendations:

  • Extend your understanding of an author’s life or milieu by reading primary sources like diaries, memoirs, journals, biographies;
  • Understand the context of a group of people in a particular time in history by reading personal stories, looking at a collection of photographs, browsing through timelines of world history books;
  • Test the veracity of a hypothesis by reading secondary sources like researches and studies done by scientists, mathematicians and experts in the field of the social sciences;
  • Look at models, patterns and processes of creation by analyzing case studies, business success stories, how-to-design handbooks, DIY manuals, craft books, art and architecture books;
  • Read up on stories about college life, college admission tips, sample essays written by seniors who successfully got in their college of choice.
  • Pick up a book on improving writing and research skills or being better at communication for business and social entreprenuership;
  • A couple of contemporary fiction, select classics and a book of poetry or two will balance your reading list.

Students who are regular library users responded back right away. The usual suspects borrowed books over the holidays. It remains a challenge for us to entice and offer readers services to the reluctant ones and those who prefer to use another kind or mode of technology. 

Monday, January 9, 2017

Dear School Librarian in Action: Library Activities for Chidlren and Writing Community in Iloilo

Early of December last year, a friend referred me to Hazel Hagerty, a library volunteer in a private school in Iloilo. She is from the United Kingdom and will be in the Philippines for a while to help run a school library for grade school children. I received the following questions from her: 
As you are librarian, could I please ask for your advice... as to what I can do here in this children's library? I really want to plan an author visit too, do you know of any authors that are based in Iloilo or somewhere nearby? 
I sent Hazel my answers:
Here are the writers whom you can get in touch with for author visits and literacy events in your school:
I have rounded up friends from the local book industry and they have given me leads and names. Apparently, there is a book launching of Aklanon children's books on Dec 10, a children's book summit in Iloilo in February, and a growing number of children's book writers in the province. In fact, they have groups and a publishing house already.
Check these links:
Here are names of Ilonggo authors based in Iloilo, Aklan and neighboring areas:

Noel G. De Leon 
Melchor Cichon
Christian George Acevedo
Antonniette Cortez

Now, about the library activities for your children, here is a link to my blog where you will find reading and book activities appropriate for them and the community too.

On Books and Reading

Book Making and Information Literacy Lessons

Book Spine Poetry

I have not heard from Hazel since last week, but here's hoping she's doing well in her bookish and reading endeavors

Sunday, January 8, 2017

12 Days of Christmas Movie Review: Bridget Jones' Diary

Bridget Jones' Diary
Director: Sharon Maguire
Screenplay: Helen Fielding

Bridget Jones' Diary is one of my favorite romcom movies of all time. It follows on the tradition of Jane Austen set in late 20th century London and it could never be any better than that.

Bridget (Renee Zelwegger) is the typical modern woman, or so she tries to be, but kept on failing along the way. Career success and romantic victories do not seem to be her cup of tea, but she keeps drinking from the cup and breaking it abysmally. Her parents' marriage are on the rocks and the man whom she thought could be "the one" is crossing the Atlantic for a lucrative job in international law. But, the hero of the tale, Mark Darcy  (Colin Firth) made a decision that rocked Bridget's world and, I have to say this, made her run in her undies in what seemed to be the coldest winter yet.

I have many favorite scenes from the movie, but this closure caps of everything in a classic, yet, funny and very Bridget HEA. Austen is there, yes. But Fielding and Maguire left their hand prints on this charming tale of love lost and found again. The screenplay is honest, witty, sarcastic and utterly true. Maguirre's direction is whole and solid in showing how Bridget comes full circle.

And so, in this season of the Epiphany, I write this review to remind myself (and I hope those who read my blog too) that enlightenment is not only the mind opening up and the heart welcoming all the unfamiliar and strange things that come with the discovery of love. To know and to feel love is also to act on that love.

Mark Darcy followed his star. Bridget ran after hers. Love makes us do crazy things including, breaking down our own walls of self preservation. And we become better persons from it, despite the challenges and hard ships of loving.

There is a part 2 and 3 of this movie. But that will wait for another review!

Rating: 4.5

Saturday, January 7, 2017

12 Days of Christmas Movie Review: Ang Babae Sa Septic Tank 2

Ang Babae Sa Septic Tank 2: Forever Is Not Enough
Director: Marlon Rivera
Screenplay: Cris Martinez
MMFF 2016

Talagang may mga milagrong nangyayari sa panahon ng kaPaskuhan. Biruin mo, sinamahan ako ni Papadoms manood ng Ang Babae Sa Septic Tank 2: Forever Is Not Enough! Last full show pa ang kinuha naming screening time at 30 minutes bago magsimula ang sine, nakapila na kami sa entrance gate ng cinema.

Syempre, nangunguna ako sa pila. At may nakakatawang kuwento bago kami nakapasok sa loob ng cinema.

Me to Ticket Lady: Miss, nagpapasok na ba?

Ticket Lady: Saan po?

Palibhasa, dalawang cinema kase ang binbantayan niya.

Me: Sa Septic Tank 2.

Ticket Lady: Nililinis pa po.

Wagi ang aming exchange of conversation, di ba? Tawa naman si Papadoms nung marining niya ito. Sapul. Senyales pala ito ng mga katawatawang eksena ng pelikula. Bukod sa katatawanan, makabuluhan rin ang pelikula at napapnahon. Tumawa kami at nag-isip.

Nag-isip, bes. NAG-ISIP.

Kaya heto ang top 5 na nagustugan kong mga eksena at aspeto sa Ang Babae Sa Septic Tank 2.

1. Eugene Domingo. Syempre, fan ako. Pero, bes, ang galing talaga ni Eugene dahil arte sya kung kailangang ang lungkot, saya, pagkadismaya, ka-bekihan, ka-kikayan, lahat na! Panalo sa akin ang tatlong levels ng hugot. Consistent si Eugene sa delivery ng lines sa eksena nila ni Jericho Rosales. Ang gagaling rin nina Joel Torre (walang kupas!), Cai Cortes at Agot Isidro, kahit pa kaunti lang ang role niya dito. Siya pa rin ang ideal na BFF ng bidang babae. She doesn't over run the lead, but makes her presence felt. Ganun din ang naramdaman ko habang pinapanood ko si Cai Cortes.

2. Ang talino ng script. Ang meta. Ang sharp ng dialogue at para sa aking pandinig, ang poetic ng language ni Cris Martinez. Lalo na sa eksena kung saan pikon na pikon na si Kean Cipriano kay Eugene Domingo.

3. Yung mga quiet moments sa movie, ang lakas ng dating. Enough na yung empty room sa condo ni Direk Rainer na magbigay ng hiwatig na olats na si direk kahit marami siyang trophy sa shelf niya.

4. Si Facundo. Need I say more?

5. Ang cover version ni Eugene ng Forever Is Not Enough. Ang organic. Hindi pilit. Authentic.

Ito ang mga dahilan kung bakit masasabi kong wagi ang sequel na ito para sa akin.

Rating: 4.5

Friday, January 6, 2017

12 Days of Christmas Book Review: Unholy Night

*This is a re-post from a previous book review on the blog.

Unholy NightUnholy Night by Seth Grahame-Smith

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

In Seth Gahame-Smith's Unholy Night, the Holy Family was aided by Balthazar, a cunning thief who escaped his own execution, to leave Bethlehem. Together with Melchyor and Gaspar, the trio defended the Holy Family from Herod's men and out to the desert. Balthazar, Melchyor and Gaspar are names associated with the three wise men who gave gold, frankincense and myrrh as gifts to the baby Jesus. In Grahame-Smith's fiction, the three men are wise indeed, but not in a scholarly manner to which the Bible described them to be. They are thieves and criminals out to save their own skin from Herod's fatal punishment. This the conceit to which the book was built upon. Blasphemous? I say it's a work of genius.

What worked

I've often asked who were the Wise men, the Magi. At the feast of the Epiphany, our parish priest would make us all believe that they were scholars from the East who understood the meaning of the messiah's coming. In my own imagination, I see the wise men as sages, astronomers, philosophers who knew something else was going and average people have no knowledge of this. They remain mysterious, if not, mystical men of history. Grahame-Smith filled in this gap and defined the Wise men as great sinners who found redemption not from guilt, but from acts of justice, remorse, forgiveness and love.

I like it that Joseph and Mary were depicted as real people subjected to weakness but strong in faith. This is the strength which assaulted Balthazar internally. Grahame-Smith provides his hero a rich backstory to bring out this internal struggle. Using the child Jesus as a metaphor of hope and blind belief, Balthazar came to forgive himself in the end. As for Melchyor and Gaspar, their redemption came, thirty three years after.

Pontius Pilate and the Roman Army were given a moment to shine as well. Pilate is yet another enigmatic character I hope some fictionist would unravel. Herod was characterized as the ultimate monster king. His evil deeds are enough to set the backdrop of a world in constant chaos. Thus, Jesus' coming to this world, quietly and with no fanfare, remain a puzzle I of the Catholic faith so continuously try to solve.

Grahame-Smith's violence and gruesome narrative did not offend me, in fact, I found it entertaining. Perhaps I was still angry at something or someone to have enjoyed it. It was therapy reading the book. There are some events in life like death and injustice that need to be experienced to see truth and peace. Like the journey to the desert and into Egypt, such an experience is not an easy one to take. This is where we need, not just guts and toughness, but a lot of courage. A lot of faith.

What did not work

The inclusion of magic seemed off, like the warlock from the west. The angels appearing in a dream were fine by me. The warlock came out of nowhere. Grahame-Smith tried to cross genre, but I found this piece misplaced in the novel. It would have worked for me, if Herod was assisted by one of his own priests to glamor up himself and do a trickery on Pilate's army.

Overall, it was a good read. I like Grahame-Smith's bending of history. Here in Unholy Night, he knew enough of religion and faith to respect Joseph, Mary and Jesus. I think I am ready to read Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter.
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