July Book 1 (Adventures of Huckleberry Finn)

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Last year I read one book a month. I’m sharing those books here. This is a post from my old blog:

I don’t know why The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn was so difficult to get into. Perhaps I needed to get used to a story without good ol’ Tom Sawyer (who does make an appearance later in the book). I did say that The Adventures of Tom Sawyer does have a lot of the n-word floating around. Well… This book does it even more. The story is about Tom helping a runaway slave Jim. He doesn’t call Jim anything but the n-word (so disturbing).

Huck’s father has heard of his son’s good fortune. So he forcibly takes his son and locks him in a cabin. I’m not certain if Huck’s Pap is a drunk, psychotic or both. Whichever one of them it is, he becomes violent and Huck starts to fear for his life. He fakes his own death, escapes and meets up with runaway slave Jim. Jim is trying to make his way to a free state where he will buy back his families freedom. That’s when the adventure really begins.

Like I said before, it was difficult to get into. But once I got into, I really enjoyed it. Give it a try, let me know what you think :)

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June Book (Shirley, Goodness and Mercy)

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In 2012 I read a minimum of 1 book a month. I’m sharing some of those books here (taken from my old blog)

This month’s book was fun. Chris van Wyk is a brilliant and honest writer. He tells the story of his life; growing up in Riverlea during apartheid. There is so much history in this book and I am thankful for people like Chris van Wyk who share it. There are honestly so many awesome and tragic stories that are still untold in South Africa. I don’t wanna give too much away. Just prepare yourself for laughs, even in tragic situations. I thoroughly enjoyed this book and I hope you do too. He also includes some of his poetry in the book, which is a bonus.

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May Book 3 (Dance With a Poor Man’s Daughter)

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How in the… I just realised that I read THREE books in May. I don’t remember reading 3 books, but I remember the books. Anyway… I am sharing the books that I read last year. Pulled this from my old blog:

I realise that I said I wouldn’t be reading another book this month because I had quite a bit of writing and album stuff to take care of. So I’m gonna sort of hang my head in shame for a few seconds. *pause*

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The third book for this month is by Pamela Jooste (Dance With a Poor Man;s Daughter). This was another one of those books that my friend Amanda was kind enough to lend me. The book is set in Cape Town during the beginning of coloured people’s forced removals (from ‘The Valley’ to the Cape Flats). It is told told from the perspective of eleven year old Lilly who lives with her grandmother and aunt Stella. The story itself is one that I enjoyed a lot, but there was something about the book that felt a little ‘superficial’. I guess not every author is a Toni Morrison or a Zakes Mda and I certainly cannot hold that against Pamela Jooste. There was a moment when I did entertain that the book could feel a little ‘superficial’ because it is written by a white woman from the perspective of a young coloured girl. I wont spoil the book for you because those are all my own things.

I really did enjoy the story even if I did find it a little ‘holey’ sometimes. Like I always say; read the book and it might be something you enjoy.

May Book 2 (A Brother’s Journey)

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Last year I attempted to read one books a month. It was such a wonderful experiment. I am sharing the book that I read last year. This post is pulled directly from my old blog:

The plan was to finish off the latest draft of my manuscript… But you don’t need me to tell you how tempting everything becomes when there is writing to be done. Today was one of those days where I literally had to sit around waiting for people to do things. So I took a book with me. I had started ‘sort of’ reading it yesterday; the intention was not to get into it.

The book is by Richard B. Pelzer and it is a story about his childhood and how he survived an abusive mother. When I read this book I had no idea that he had a brother who had also written a book about their abusive life (David, who is known as IT in the book). It is a true story and one that left me feeling so sad. I was saddened because Richard seems to think that everyone around them (family, neighbours and teachers) knew what their mother was doing but nobody did anything.

Richard is one of 5 boys who lived with an alcoholic and obviously mentally ill mother. At first her abuse and hate is directed at David, known as IT, but when the authorities take David away she picks Richard as his ‘replacement’. I couldn’t put the book down because I was hoping that someone would come and save him.

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I now want to read his brother’s book: A Boy Called It. No more books this month. I NEED to finish the latest draft.

May Book (Gem Squash Tokoloshe)

Last year I decided to read one book a month and I did a post about it on my old blog. I’m sharing some of those post. Pulled this directly from my old bog.

It took me forever to finish the March book, but it feels like I flew through this months book (Gem Squash Tokoloshe). I had never heard of the author or the book, as mentioned before. Half of the book is set in the 80s (South Africa) and it is told by a seven year old girl named Faith. She lives on a farm with her parents and is oblivious to how big or bad the world. All she knows is her family, their community and the ‘fairies’ that her mother often tells her about.

Faith’s world falls starts unraveling when her parents separate and it seems nothing goes right from that point on. I don’t want to ruin the book for you, so I can’t go into too much detail. The second part of the book is from the perspective of Faith in her 20s. Again I can’t say much but you begin to see the impact that the events of her childhood have had on her.

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I love the story because of how it was stuck between the ‘real’ world and a ‘mystical’ one. I enjoy those kind of things, which is why Beloved is one of my favourite books. Be warned you will come across the k-word a few times. If that doesn’t put you off, keep reading

April Book (Dr Seuss)

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Continuing with my ‘books I’ve read this year’ posts… I grabbed these from my old blog:

When I told Marcee what my April Book was she laughed. I am not kiddding when I say that ‘Oh, The Places You’ll Go’ is one of my favourite books. I only read it 2 years ago and often revisit it when I am feeling down or need perspective. Once when asked to give a talk to a bunch of really inspirational ‘dance for life’ contestants, I read bits from the book to make a few points. Its fun to quote the ‘great thinkers’ of our time but nobody does it better than Dr Seuss.

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But on you will go
though the weather be foul.
On you will go
though your enemies prowl.
On you will go though the Hakken-Kraks howl.
Onward up many
a frightening creek,
though your arms may get sore
and your sneakers may leak.

On and on you will hike.
And I know you’ll hike far
and face up to your problems
whatever they are.

– Dr Seuss (Oh, The Places You’ll Go)

Read this book and thank me later ;)

March Book (Tom Sawyer)

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This year I tried to read at least one book a month. I’m going to be sharing posts (about the books I’ve read) from my previous blog on to here. This is pulled directly from my old spot.

I’m just gonna act like I am not almost 2 months behind with my reading and tell you about the March Book. The Adventures of Tom Sawyer was a lovely read. I often myself laughing out loud or holding my breathe. The book is about the kind of little boy I suspect I might have been… Had a been born male ha ha. I thoroughly enjoyed Tom Sawyers adventures, his infatuation with the new girl (Becky Thatcher) and even his filthy, pipe smoking friend Huck (I am planning to read his book in about 2 months).

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The book was written over a hundred years ago, so I found myself often picking up the dictionary or googling things like ‘spunk water’. I was also very surprised at the use of the n-word as well. Besides that, it was a wonderful book. Put it on your list of books to read :)

February Book 2 (Cion)

I moved from Blogger a few months ago. I’m sharing the books I’ve read this year. At the beginning of 2012 I made a promise that I would read one book a month. In February I read 2 books (I’ll accept my Noddy Badge later). This is what I wrote (pulled directly from my old blog)

I mentioned that February would be Zakes Mda month. I started off with Memoirs of an Outsider and then finished off Cion.

I REALLY enjoyed Ways of Dying about Toloki the professional mourner. In Cion the professional mourner is now in the US and learns about the ancestors of the people with whom he is staying. It took a while to get into the book. But I trust the author so I kept going on. When I got to the end of the book I wanted to know more about what happens to all the characters. I must add that I felt like the characters were a little thin. They were a little hard to bring to ‘life’ but I enjoyed the book none the less.

It would be unfair to compare this book to ‘Ways of Dying’ (which is one of my favourite books). I don’t think you necessarily have to have read Ways of Dying to enjoy Cion. This book reminded me a little of Toni Morrison’s works, which is great because I am a HUGE Toni Morrison fan. Her book A Mercy was the January book.

My Little Stars

In 2009 I joined The Shine Centre as a volunteer. I was working in radio and had a feature on ‘people who are making a difference’. Everyone has a ’cause’ that is close to their hearts. Mine is education. I’m sure you can guess why. The older I get, the more passionate I get about the quality of education South African children are getting. This may very ‘Prophet of Doom-y’ of me, but I believe our education system is in crisis.

We didn’t perform very well in 2 International Assessments: Progress in International Reading Literacy Study (PIRLS) and Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS). It was not necessarily for me to read the numerous articles written on the state of our education system. I’ve known for a long time that it is lacking. Interviewing the founder of The Shine Centre made me want to be part of the solution. My years of complaining had, evidently, done nothing to improve the situation.

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I joined them halfway through the year and it is one of the best things I have ever done. I met a group of dedicated volunteers who work with one (sometimes 2) child. The volunteer is assigned the same child every session. So on Tuesday mornings I met a little girl, who we will call U, and we spent an hour together. During the hour we work on reading and writing. At first it felt like I was not making a difference at all. After 2 months, U still didn’t know the alphabet very well. Then all of a sudden she started reading 3 letter words and eventually she was reading longer words and making better sentences.

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It is my 3rd year as a volunteer at The Shine Centre and I am still amazed at how much progress these children make. Its also wonderful to see someone gain confidence and grow during the school year. When the year ends and they ‘graduate’, it is such an emotional time for me. I’m happy for them because they can read and write at their age level (and most times above). But there is a little bit of sadness because I won’t get to work with them anymore. Meanwhile they move on to the next grade and they perform even better than before.

One of my students loved to build this word because she always got a hug afterwards :)
One of my students loved to build this word because she always got a hug afterwards :)

This year I had the pleasure of working with 4 very bright Grade 2 learners. There were many hugs, high-fives and tears. Well… The tears were from one little angel V. She is very hard on herself and would often get so frustrated if she didn’t ‘get’ something. On mornings like that I would just hug her and then we would build words (see pic above). She score above 90% in her year end assessment!

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My mornings are so empty now that school holidays have started. I often wonder how different South Africa (and the world) would be if we all became the ‘solution’ instead of complaining. I know… You’re gonna call me an idealist blah blah. But just try to imagine.

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