Review: Manga Classics – The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne and Crystal S. Chan

scarlet letter manga.jpg
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Title: Manga Classics – The Scarlet Letter
Author: Nathaniel Hawthorne
Story Adaptation: Crystal S. Chan
English Dialogue Adaptation: Stacy King
Illustrator: SunNeko Lee
Lettering: WT Francis
Publisher: Udon Entertainment and Morpheus Publishing
Paperback: 308 pages
Source: NetGalley
Summary: (taken from Goodreads)

A powerful tale of forbidden love, shame, and revenge comes to life in Manga Classics: The Scarlet Letter. Faithfully adapted by Crystal Chan from the original novel, this new edition features stunning artwork by SunNeko Lee (Manga Classics: Les Miserables) which will give old and new readers alike a fresh insight into the Nathaniel Hawthorne’s tragic saga of Puritan America. Manga Classics editions feature classic stories, faithfully adapted and illustrated in manga style, and available in both hardcover and softcover editions. Proudly presented by UDON Entertainment and Morpheus Publishing

*I received a free copy of this book from the publisher through Netgalley in exchange for my honest review.*

Overall Rating: 4 out of 5

I was first interested in this book, because I’m starting to branch out to reading more manga and I wanted to see how a classic story like The Scarlet Letter would translate to a manga. Overall, I think it’s a huge success. The story itself stays true to the original and the overall main points are still hit, which was a concern of mine when I started it. The pictures are beautifully done, and while I think there were a few too many panels of the priest “clutching his chest,” overall, it works out to be a quick read for a classic, captivating story.

Its strength really lies in how the novel is written in the first place. Hawthorne is someone who likes to be wordy and include a lot of description that is able to simply be shown in the drawings — no need to worry about five pages of foliage, when the foliage is right there in the pictures; it cuts down a lot on the slog and lets the reader focus on the story and characters in general. For people who don’t find Hawthorne’s style to be engaging, but who might like this overall story, reading Manga Classics would be a great way for them to be introduced to this story.

I can also see this as an amazing addition in the classroom, since it can be used as a tool for lower-level readers or those who have a problem with reading a lot of words stay engaged with the story and be able to participate in overall discussions on theme, characters, etc. It can also be used in a lesson where students can compare different story-telling formats and analyze the differences of manga versus prose. What are the strengths and weaknesses of each? Which do they personally prefer? Tons of possible lessons if you introduce a book like this to your classroom.

The Manga Classics version of The Scarlet Letter is a great read and definitely something to check out if you have a struggling reader who wants a bit of help getting through the story, or even if you just want to experience this story in a new format. Very well done — I recommend it.

 

Audiobook Review: The Great Tennessee Monkey Trial by Peter Goodchild

The Great Tennessee Monkey Trial.jpgTitle: The Great Tennessee Monkey Trial
Author: Peter Goodchild
Publisher: LA Theatre Works
Running Time: 1 h 55 min
Source: Audiobook Sync
Summary: (taken from Goodreads)

The Scopes Trial, over the right to teach evolution in public schools, reaffirmed the importance of intellectual freedom as codified in the Bill of Rights. The trial, in a small-town Tennessee courtroom in 1925, set the stage for ongoing debates over the separation of Church and State in a democratic society – debates that continue to this day.

An L.A. Theatre Works full-cast performance featuring Edward Asner, Bill Brochtrup, Kyle Colerider-Krugh, Matthew Patrick Davis, John de Lancie, James Gleason, Harry Groener, Jerry Hardin, Geoffrey Lower, Marnie Mosiman and Kenneth Alan Williams.

The Great Tennessee Monkey Trial is part of L.A. Theatre Works’ Relativity Series featuring science-themed plays. Major funding for the Relativity Series is provided by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation to enhance public understanding of science and technology in the modern world.

©2006 L.A. Theatre Works (P)2006 L.A. Theatre Works

Overall Rating: 3 out of 5

I’m not really sure how I feel about this play, to be quite honest. It’s an interesting subject, and full cast audios are the best, especially when they’re by LA Theatre Works and the actors are actually performing. However, simply based on the fact that it’s supposed to represent a historical event, I just didn’t like that I wasn’t sure which parts were dramatized and which were truly taken from the court records, especially when it came to dialogue. There were some parts that I feel like might have been added simply for entertainment/humor value, but if they weren’t, then that would have interested me in a completely different way, but I was never sure if any/all of it was true or made up.

Besides that, it’s an interesting case that’s worth further study and thought. Since Andrew’s a teacher, and I studied education for my Master’s, the way law and social norms influence how and what we teach is incredibly interesting to me, so that helped a lot for pulling me into the story in general. This case also foreshadows a lot of the textbook wars we have present-day, so it’s fascinating to hear some of these first arguments for/against teaching evolution/religion. Very cool.

However, I think it’d be better to actually see the play or read the book. It was hard for me to keep all the characters straight, and within the trial, I think it’s important to know who is speaking and who is making what argument (even though after a while, you can figure it out). Admittedly, I’m not the best when it comes to remembering details when I’m only getting information through audio, so if audio is your strong suit, then it might not be a problem for you.

Overall, however, I think it was a good dramatization of the trial and it presented a lot of interesting factors that (like the description says) we’re still debating today, especially within education. I just think that I would have much preferred to read this than to listen to it, even with the full cast.

Book Review: Make Good Art by Neil Gaiman

Title: Make Good Art
Author: Neil Gaiman
Designed by: Chip Kidd
Publisher: William Morrow
Hardcover: 80 pages
Summary: (taken from Goodreads)

In May 2012, bestselling author Neil Gaiman stood at a podium at Philadelphia’s University of the Arts to deliver the commencement address. For the next nineteen minutes he shared his thoughts about creativity, bravery, and strength: he encouraged the students before him to break rules and think outside the box. Most of all, he encouraged the fledgling painters, musicians, writers, and dreamers to make good art.

This book, designed by renowned graphic artist Chip Kidd, contains the full text of Gaiman’s inspiring speech. Whether bestowed upon a young artist beginning his or her creative journey, or given as a token of gratitude to an admired mentor, or acquired as a gift to oneself, this volume is a fitting offering for anyone who strives to make good art.

Overall Rating: 5 out of 5

*I received a free copy of this book from the publisher.*

Whenever I’m feeling down, Neil Gaiman’s Make Good Art speech is one of my go-to videos to help me feel better about writing, the job search, or just life in general. It’s everything a commencement speech should be: funny, inspirational, and actually wise. Gaiman is one of the most intelligent people of our time, and he gives good advice for how to live life. It’s not all “do great things” and “change the world,” which is kind of what the speaker for my graduation said; instead, he gives advice for how to be happy and enjoy life. Sometimes, all it takes to make the difficult choice between being happy and having a “steady, grown-up” job is having someone’s permission to do the thing that makes you happy — especially if that someone is Neil Gaiman.

I had my doubts when I heard this speech was made into a book, because I wasn’t sure that print could fully capture the humor, wit, and beauty that Gaiman puts into his words.

I was wrong.

I am now a huge fan of Chip Kidd, the graphic designer for this novel. Let me tell you, it is amazing. He adds depth and meaning to Gaiman’s words by his designs. There’s a part in the speech that says “Make your own rules,” and Kidd does just that by breaking line and sentence conventions. There are a lot of little things in here that make this book so worth a read and a look. By adding a visual example of what it means to break rules, make your own rules, and make good art, Kidd shows how fantastic the results can be when you do the thing that makes you happy.

Just buy it. Read it. Live it. You won’t be disappointed. I think Make Good Art will be replacing Oh, the Places You’ll Go! as my gift to graduates — at least, graduates who are interested in making a career of an art-related field.

Book Review: Lost at School by Dr. Ross W. Greene

Title: Lost at School: Why Our Kids with Behavioral Challenges are Falling through the Cracks and How We Can Help Them
Author: Dr. Ross W. Greene
Publisher: Scribner
Hardcover: 303 pages
Summary: (taken from Goodreads)

Frequent visits to the principal’s office. Detentions. Suspensions. Expulsions. These are the established tools of school discipline for kids who don’t abide by school rules, have a hard time getting along with other kids, don’t seem to respect authority, don’t seem interested in learning, and are disrupting the learning of their classmates. But there’s a big problem with these strategies: They are ineffective for most of the students to whom they are applied.

It’s time for a change in course.

Here, Dr. Ross W. Greene presents an enlightened, clear-cut, and practical alternative. Relying on research from the neurosciences, Dr. Greene offers a new conceptual framework for understanding the difficulties of kids with behavioral challenges and explains why traditional discipline isn’t effective at addressing these difficulties. Emphasizing the revolutionarily simple and positive notion that kids do well if they can, he persuasively argues that kids with behavioral challenges are not attention-seeking, manipulative, limit-testing, coercive, or unmotivated, but that they lack the skills to behave adaptively. And when adults recognize the true factors underlying difficult behavior and teach kids the skills in increments they can handle, the results are astounding: The kids overcome their obstacles; the frustration of teachers, parents, and classmates diminishes; and the well-being and learning of all students are enhanced.
In Lost at School, Dr. Greene describes how his road-tested, evidence-based approach — called Collaborative Problem Solving — can help challenging kids at school.

Backed by years of experience and research, and written with a powerful sense of hope and achievable change, Lost at School gives teachers and parents the realistic strategies and information to impact the classroom experience of every challenging kid.

Overall Rating: 3.5 out of 5

Do you believe that kids do as well as they are able or as well as they want to? Dr. Ross Greene believes that kids do as well as they are able and oftentimes, adults treat the problem as if the kids are wanting to misbehave. The truth is that kids who have the most behavioral challenges do so because they lack the skills necessary to behave appropriately and the disciplinary actions most often taken — suspension or detention for school, or grounding, loss of privileges, etc. for home — don’t make a difference because while they reinforce what kids are doing wrong, they’re not showing kids how to change their behavior.

That is where collaborative problem solving, or Plan B comes in. It functions to address the concerns of both adult and child, teaches children problem solving skills, and allows both adult and child to be heard.

I really like what Greene is saying and he explains everything in a way that makes sense — I think that schools and even parents can really benefit from reading this book and taking its advice to heart. I use the collaborative problem solving strategy with many of the students that I tutor, and I’ve seen great results from it. If nothing else, giving them a voice in the conversation and letting them tell you why they’re acting the way they are is a powerful tool for building a relationship.

Lost at School is easy to follow and pretty much covers everything, from what Plan B is and the theory behind it, to addressing all sorts of common questions that may come up. I did find the “real-life” conversations and story annoying and tedious to get through — they were too scripted and perfect to allow me to see how the theory actually worked in a real-life situation.

But I do suggest that you take a look at this if you work with kids and have to deal with discipline. I could see it being especially helpful for school personnel and parents.