Monday, August 20, 2018

Books: Book Reviews: Wildwood

Hello, Bookworms!

Today, I want to tell you about Wildwood, by Colin Meloy.

Prue lives in Portland, right on the edge of the Impassable Wilderness. She has an ordinary life, ordinary parents, an ordinary baby brother. Until, one day at the park, Prue's brother is kidnapped by a murder of crows and taken to the Impassable Wilderness. Now, Prue has to get her brother back,
and a bothersome classmate, Curtis, keeps trying to help her. Once they are in the Impassable Wilderness, though, they discover it's not impassable at all. Creatures of all types live in North Wood or South Wood, many birds live in the Avian Principality, and the stretch in between, an untamed, dangerous place, is called Wildwood.

I gave this book three stars.



All of the different areas in the Impassable Wilderness are so different, yet extremely believable, and the setting/scenery is incredibly rich. Also, talking animals is somehow magical.


Meloy was trying to comment on some issues, one of them being that individuals' concerns often aren't heard in large governments, and I think this had the ability to be done very well.


So many things were promising about this book. The story was there, the commentary was there, it just needed more work.



Although I liked Prue, at first she was quite mean. We didn't know why she was mean, she just was. She did become nicer by the end of the book, but it would've been nice if she was more rounded and had more of a character arc and motivations.

It Needed More Work.

I loved the idea, the story, the commentary was great, the setting was great, everything had tons of promise. But the pacing was off, the sentences were all structured pretty much the same, things weren't described in an engaging way. . . Like I said, it needed more work.

The story has so much potential, but it makes me sad to see this as the published copy. I'm not trying to be mean; I just think this book would easily be one of my absolute favorites with a little more work.

Have you read Wildwood? What do you think of it?

Spruce Nogard

Saturday, August 11, 2018

Creative Complex: Fire

Hello, Friends.

Today, we have a story starter. Enjoy!

The fire is dancing, turning, writhing. It has a strange lure, almost like the push and pull of the Sea. It has a strange energy, almost like the wrath of the North Wind. It has a power, almost like the might of Time.

Spruce Nogard

Monday, August 6, 2018

Mental Library: Poetry: Types of Poems-- Acrostic, Free Form, Sonnet

Hello, Friends!

Today concludes our poetry series. There is tons more to talk about with poetry, but I'm just providing a basic overview. I enjoy poetry, just not as much as other types of literature. :)

Last week, we looked at a few different types of poems, and this week, we'll finish that. There are millions of types of poems, so these past two poetry posts are not complete at all, but these are just a few I've come into contact with.


Basically, acrostic poems use adjectives starting with the letters in a word. Here's an example:


The first letter of each adjective spells the word "Cat." When I was little, I made acrostic poems for my parents using their names. :)

Free Form

Free form poetry is anything you want it to be. This is fairly self-explanatory, so I'm not going to give you an example.


Hurrah! Sonnets! Sonnets are tricky.

First, there are three stanzas of four lines each. These are called quatrains. After these, there is a couplet. The rhyme scheme is: abab cdcd efef gg.

To make it more complicated, sonnets have to follow a specific foot pattern. Feet are made up of stressed and unstressed syllables (if you do not know what these are, please see here.) Sonnets use iambic pentameter, which means five feet, each consisting of an unstressed syllable followed by a stressed syllable. A famous example from Shakespeare says: (U = unstressed, S = stressed)

Shall I comPARE thee TO a SUMMer's Day?
      U   S  U      S     U     S   U    S        U     S        

Have you heard of any of these before? What type do you prefer to write? What type do you prefer to read?

Spruce Nogard

Saturday, July 28, 2018

On My Mind: West Side Story (and Gun Violence and Immigration) {Part 2 of 2}

Hello, Friends.

First, please, please, please read part 1 of this. I clarify some things, and this post will not make any sense if you do not read part 1. (Part 1 released on Wednesday, so just scroll down a little more. You'll see it.)

And so. I am going to write.

In an interview with the choreographer, Maija García, she was asked: What do you hope audiences take away from this fresh retelling?
And her response blew me away. She said:
“I hope the audience is inspired to look deeply at our world, especially our youth, and resolve to     listen more and feel more. I hope they connect with all the characters and consider the plurality of their experiences. I hope they reflect on the epidemic of gun violence in our country, on institutional
racism and on the criminalization of urban youth. I hope they are inspired to invest in the arts that seek to impact and transform communities. And I hope they see good kids with good hearts who are searching for family, community and acceptance like all of us.”
Ms. García summed the messages of the play up perfectly. She also made this problem about all of us, not just “those naughty kids, “those people who don't do anything,” “those politicians who don't care”. . . The problem is about all of us, and we all have a role to play in it.

School shootings and mass shootings litter the news like garbage litters our streets. At first, when I heard about a school shooting or mass shooting, I was horrified. That was so sad, and why? Why is our world so broken? And now, I hear about a mass shooting or school shooting, and blink and say: another one. Not again. And I move on. Gun violence has become commonplace, and that is unacceptable.

We must do something about shootings and gun violence. In his “Letter from a Birmingham Jail,” Martin Luther King Junior explains time is neutral; It is what we do with time that matters. It's
frustrating that there is evidence that tighter gun laws lead to fewer mass shootings, but we still just say “sorry. That's too bad that happened.” and don't do anything about this issue. I have a very strong and detailed opinion about gun laws, but in the end it comes to this. I am in high school. There have been a sickening number of school shootings in the United States this year. Sometimes, I'll catch myself thinking, What would happen if there was a shooting at my school? And I have to stop that thought, because I don't want to panic. There are ways I can advocate for safer schools, but, I can't vote. Many others can. If you can vote to make our country safer, and make schoolchildren not have to worry about their safety, please do. Because, if we can save lives, we should.

If you would like more information, here is a link to March For Our Lives' mission statement. This link includes specifically what they are fighting for, and some information about them. Here is a link to sign the petition. (I included it because it had really clear guidelines of what they stand for.)

Thank you for reading all this. Please pray for these people. Please pray for our country. Please support children and families any way you can.
Spruce Nogard


Wednesday, July 25, 2018

On My Mind: West Side Story (and Gun Violence and Immigration) {Part 1 of 2}

Hello, Friends.

Wait, wait, wait! Here are two mini notes, and then I have two actual notes, which you need to read (even if you aren't going to read the whole post.) Mini notes:
#1-Sorry this is a long post.
#2-This is the first part of two parts, which is why I posted on Wednesday, not Friday. Part two will come out on Friday.

So, when you saw the title of this post, you may have been surprised. You may have panicked. I'm sorry about that. In light of this, here are two notes before we start.
  1. I do not want to and have no interest in talking about politics on this blog. I do have political opinions, but I believe it is important to have spaces where we do not have to think about politics, both online and in our real lives. However, when our country has problems like these, I believe we should speak about them. Because they are things worth caring about. I know there are many political views on these, but before these were political problems, they were, and are, humanity problems. People are dying. Children are dying. Families are being separated. No matter what we as a country think should be done about it, this is the reality. If we can prevent more school children from dying, or keep immigrant families together, we should.

  2. If this stresses you out, or you would prefer not to read this post, I will not hate you. I don't watch or read the news because there are so many sad things going on in this world, and I just can't, for my emotional well-being. It still makes me sad that all these things are happening, but I can't subject myself to them constantly. Also, If you have different opinions than me, I will not hate you. I hope you can still read and enjoy my blog, and we can set aside our differences in favor of the things we love.
All right. I started writing this post because something needs to be done about these issues. People are dying, families are being separated, and they are people, not some complex political problem.

Then, our sermon at church on Sunday was about just this. Actually, it was about Romans 13, and how the way it has been used to defend the immigration law was completely erroneous. God, in fact, does not call us to submit to government. (Here is a link to the sermon if you want to know why.) Our pastor talked about how no matter what we think should be done about immigration, it is horrible to separate children from their families. We all need to see these immigrants as people, just like us. Because, we are called to love others, and love them always. We need to work to get children and their families back together. Whether that means writing about the immigration law, voting, marching, supporting organizations that are working to reunite families, being open to meeting new people in our neighborhoods, etc., we need to do something about it. We all have different views on what should be done on the political side, and that's fine. Our views can vary, but we can still resolve to see people as humans and love them as humans above all.

A few days later, I saw West Side Story in the theatre with my mom and my sister. It was brilliant. If you haven't heard of West Side Story before, West Side Story is a retelling of Romeo and Juliet, but in the 1950s on Manhattan's west side. Instead of two warring families, there are two warring gangs. Of course, the whole love part is kind of dubious and not actually love (at least, at first), but there are many brilliant messages in this play. A lot of the messages pertain to the gun violence happening across the country today. A lot of the messages pertain to the issue of immigration in today's society. So, here we go.

*Note: This post contains spoilers, but they're not too bad because West Side Story is based on
Romeo and Juliet.

A giant, upside-down Statue of Liberty sometimes appeared in the background.
West Side Story was reimagined, and the choreography was redone for this specific performance. The Sharks are from Puerto Rico, and in this retelling, the Jets represent Americans. (The Jets are more diverse than in the movie version.) Police officers often discriminate against the Puerto Ricans horribly. At one point, the police officers kick the Sharks out of Doc's drugstore. As the Sharks leave, they whistle “My Country, Tis of Thee” (“Sweet Land of Liberty”). At the end of the play, right before Maria (Juliet) runs off (in this version, she doesn't die, just Tony (Romeo) does), she stares back at the Statue of Liberty in the background.

At the end of the play, right after Tony is shot, Maria grabs the gun and asks (something like) “How many? How many can I kill?” She also says, “We all killed [Tony].”
Her words emphasize the problem in our society today: that when people are killed, others want revenge, kill more people, and the violence just keeps escalating. Killing more people doesn't solve the problem. It makes it worse.
Violence is not the way to solve anything, ever.

Bernstein's silence at the end.
Leonard Bernstein wrote the score for West Side Story. Bernstein was musically brilliant, and worked with music in a wide variety of ways. He composed in multiple genres, including theatre, orchestral, film, etc. He also did tons of other amazing stuff, so please look him up and read about him.
In any case, about West Side Story. For the last scene, when Tony has died, and everything else happens, there is silence. No music. None. Bernstein did not offer us nice, tragic music to go with a beautiful tragedy. He did not offer us hopeful music, because maybe the gangs were reconciled now. (After all, they both helped carry Tony's body off the stage.) He did not offer us nice music to end a play, because it was a story, and a story meant for our enjoyment. He gave us silence. And his silence practically shouted. Through his silence, I clearly heard: And what are you going to do about it? This is the question he asked us by not having music at the end. Silence. I said something in my head like: Dang. (I can't remember what I actually said.) Because that was such a powerful question, to end such a powerful play, and one I couldn't simply shove out of my mind.

And so. I am going to write.
Spruce Nogard

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Fairy Tales: Modern Fairy Tales

Hello, Friends.

Sorry this is late! Today, we are talking about modern fairy tales. Fairy tales appear in many more places than we think, and archetypes can reduce pretty much anything to basic fairy tales.

However, our society still loves fairy tales, despite that they're centuries old. Disney's first movies were fairy tales, like Snow White, Sleeping Beauty, and Cinderella. Recently, live action versions of these movies have been made. Books have been based on fairy tales, or if not based on fairy tales, contain some hint of folklore. The Shadow Queen, by C.J. Redwine, the Lunar Chronicles, by Marissa Meyer, and Uprooted, by Naomi Novik are some of them. The Shadow Queen is a retelling of "Snow White," with a few embellishments and characterizations. Cinder, the first book in the Lunar Chronicles, is a retelling of "Cinderella," but set in the future, and although you can clearly see the story of "Cinderella" through the book, the fairy tale is twisted into something completely new. And Uprooted has hints here and there of fairy tales, but doesn't follow one specific tale.

Once Upon a Time is a TV show based on fairy tales. (My mom and sister watch it; I can't. It's too stressful. It's basically fairy tale soap-opera.) George Lucas claimed Star Wars was a modern fairy tale.

What are some modern fairy tales you like? Why?

Spruce Nogard