Forget-Me-Not

There are too many ways to say goodbye, but too few ways to simply forget. 

Ma has, no matter what she does and where she goes, a shadow in her memories and etched in the corners of her heart. Room by Emma Donoghue is a beautifully captivating story of hope, loss, and family. When faced with the most brutal of situations, Ma found endless courage and love in Jack that gave her a reason to continue living. But sometimes, even after we say goodbye to the monsters, we cannot, no matter how hard we try, forget them. Ma’s internal world is very complex and thus, I chose to write a blog post on her personal conflict and the struggles she has to overcome.

After Ma and Jack leave Room, they are sent to a clinic in which they slowly adapt and become accustomed to the world. Jack spends some time living with his grandparents before they are moved to Independent Living and begin to integrate with society. Jack notices that “There’s lots of every kind of thing in the world but it all costs money, even stuff to throw away,” (Donoghue 285). He is learning new things every day and bit by bit, becoming used to the new world around him, and Ma is changing too.

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Ma “says remember, but she doesn’t want to remember Room.” (Donoghue 305). She doesn’t want to remember that 11-by-11 foot space that she had been trapped in for years, but it is so hard for her to forget.

She is only getting used to locked doors and is still sensitive to the idea of being closed in. For example, “When the elevator bangs shut Ma shivers.” (Donoghue 301). This is a serious obstacle Ma has to overcome because it is almost impossible to get anywhere without doors opening and closing. She had to deal with Door opening and closing and knowing that she can never get out, so when she finally escaped, Ma never wants to be trapped alone with no one but Jack ever again.

When she was in Room, Ma craved company. But now, for “‘most days… Jack’s enough for me.'” (Donoghue 314). There are so many people around her that it is overwhelming now, especially when, for years and years, her only real company was Jack. It’s tiring and difficult and Ma is desperately searching for even an echo of the girl she used to be. Ma doesn’t want to shut herself in because “it’s not how I remember myself'” (Donoghue 314), but some days, it is a lot easier being with just Jack and the beautiful knowledge that she has control of her own destiny. Ma wants to treasure that feeling of freedom and never let go.

Goodbye is an inevitable part of life. Sometimes goodbyes are welcome and sometimes goodbyes are dreaded. When Ma and Jack visit Room for the last time, they say their farewells. Jack says,

“‘Good-bye, Room.’
Ma says it but on mute.
I look back one more time. It’s like a crater, a hole where something happened. Then we go out the door.” (Donoghue 321)

When we say farewell to somebody, they will disappear from our lives but they will not disappear from our memories. No matter how much Ma wants to forget, she can’t. She cannot cut out a part of her, even as unwanted as it is, but maybe, Time will cut it out for her.

Bibliography

Donoghue, Emma. Room: A Novel. New York: Little, Brown, 2010. Print.

Bonsai Boy

Jack was a bonsai boy, but now, he can finally start growing. 

Jack doesn’t know how to world works. After spending his first five years in an 11-by-11-foot space, he is like a newborn to society. Room by Emma Donoghue depicts a curious boy and his Ma’s first steps into the world. He is described as a bonsai, “‘a very tiny tree. People keep them in pots indoors and cut them every day so they stay all curled up.'” (Donoghue 216). For this blog post, I decided to compare Jack’s experience with life for my mother when we first moved to Canada and the different things she had to learn.

Book cover of Room

To Jack, the world is baffling. When he is staying with his Grandma he notices, “the playground but it’s all wrong, the swings are on the opposite side. ‘Oh, Jack, that’s a different one,’ says Grandma. ‘There’s playgrounds in every town.’ Lots of the world seems to be a repeat.” (Donoghue 292). When he is at the bookstore, he sees another copy of one of the books he has in Room, Dylan the Digger, and he leaves the store without paying for it, causing a lot of trouble. Jack finds it hard understanding what is Outside or Inside, and how places work in the world because he has been so used to thinking that Outside was everything beyond Room, he does not know what others mean when they say they’re going outside. For example, when they are looking at coins, Jack asks, “‘Is that another bit of America?’ ‘Guam? No, I think it’s somewhere else.’ Maybe it’s how Outsiders spell Room.” (Donoghue 265-266). He asks, “‘Is France in Outside?'” (Donoghue 261) because his understanding of the world and places are distorted.

When my mother, my sister, and I moved to Canada, there were many things we had to get accustomed to. For example, in China, there isn’t a need to tip your waiter or waitress. However, in Canada, you have to leave a tip. My mother said that during the first year there, she had to consciously make an effort to remember to tip the waiter or waitress or else she would forget. In Canada, you often have to call the hospital or clinic in advance while in Beijing, you can go straight to the hospital without having to call beforehand. Like Jack, there are many things that worked differently. For Jack, they were the basic things, like knowing not to play with fire. For my mother, it was the small habits that differed between the East and the West. There weren’t any parking spaces reserved for the disabled in Beijing but in Vancouver, you had to pay attention so you didn’t accidentally park in a reserved space. There are parking meters in Canada but not in China, and it is easy to forget that you paid for a certain amount of time.

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Parking meter in Vancouver (By Brent Arnett, Creative Commons Attribution By-NC-SA 2.0)

Jack is a bonsai boy taking his first steps into society. My mother was becoming accustomed to life in Vancouver. These two completely separate situations have a surprising number of similarities between them that I hope you have seen through this comparison. They are learning the rules, the boundaries, the green lights, and the red lights. Whenever we go to a new place, we have to adapt. Jack may just be a small plant now, but when you take away the scissors and let him grow up freely and properly, he will surely become so much more.

Bibliography

Donoghue, Emma. Room: A Novel. New York: Little, Brown, 2010. Print.

The World Through Jack’s Eyes

Five-year-old Jack has never been outside.

The 11-by-11-foot space is all Jack has ever known and Ma has tried to make her cage that she has been kept in for seven years as friendly for him as possible. Room by Emma Donoghue is a beautifully crafted story told in the perspective of Jack, an innocent boy who has never seen the world outside. Therefore, I chose to do a poem as a multimedia exposition blog post that not only gave the reader an idea of the physical appearance of Jack that Ma sees so much of herself in, it would give the reader a sense of who he is as a person.

See the entire poem on a word document: [embeddoc url=”http://blogs.isb.bj.edu.cn/19gracel/files/2016/01/Poem1.docx” viewer=”microsoft”]

This poem is read from top to bottom, and on rows where there are multiple columns, it is read left to right. Italics are the words Jack have said or his thoughts, while the words in the normal font is Ma. I chose to do this because it shows Jack’s innocence, from the sentences that aren’t grammatically correct to his way of receiving information. For example, when Ma was talking about how Jack is the dead spit of her, Jack thought, “Ma’s spit in Sink doesn’t look a bit like me, mine doesn’t either.” (Donoghue 7). I wanted to show how he takes the facts very literally, and because he thinks that there is only one of everything in the world, he talks about the items like they are people. He says Sink with a capital ‘s’ instead of saying ‘the sink’; furthermore, he says, “I flat the chairs and put them beside Door against Clothes Horse.” (Donoghue 8) rather than saying ‘the door’ and ‘the clothing rack’. This is because he thinks that there is only one door in the entire world because they are the only ones that are real.

Jack thinks that everything else on TV is fake because Ma didn’t want him to realise that there really is another world out there. Thus, his understanding of humanity is very strange. Ma has to correct him, but he still doesn’t really understand. For example:

“’You know what?’ I tell her. ‘When I’m ten I’ll be growed up.’”
‘Oh yea?’
‘I’ll get bigger and bigger and bigger till I turn into a human.’
‘Actually, you’re human already,’ Ma says. ‘Human’s what we both are.’
I thought the word for us was real. The persons in TV are made of just colors.” (Donoghue 13).

Since he had been taught for his entire life that the people in TV are fake, he is confused when Ma tells him he is already human.

The poem shows Jack’s personality and appearance. He is a boy who has never been outside the perimeters of their eleven-by-eleven-foot prison. He has grown up without seeing the sky clearly, without playing in the grass or a playground, and without knowing the feeling of the wind or the smell of freshly cut grass. He would be a different person if he grew up in society. I cannot even begin to imagine who I would be if I lived in Room. I don’t think that I would even be remotely similar to who I am today, and for that, I am so incredibly grateful that I had the chance to see the world.

Bibliography:

Donoghue, Emma. Room: A Novel. New York: Little, Brown, 2010. Print.

An Elegy for the Dead

“How many times did she have to say goodbye?” (Zusak 580).

Reality is far from a fairytale, and Liesel knows that better than anyone else. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak effectively creates a tearjerking story about a girl torn apart by war. Adopted by Rosa and Hans Hubermann, Liesel lives a carefree life until war comes knocking on her door at Himmel Street. “In Molching, they came with bombs.” (Zusak 564). I decided to do a found poem as an elegy for Hans Hubermman, the foster father of Liesel that taught her in his midnight classes how to read and roll cigarettes and played his accordion with smiling silver eyes.

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The found poem can be seen in detail here.

The cigarette was an iconic item for Hans Hubermann, and the activity of rolling cigarettes had also helped Liesel settle down and familiarize herself with her new foster parents. I had originally planned to not colour in the flag, but I decided that the red was much more symbolic and would better demonstrate the ideals of that time. I chose to repeat ‘no one can play like you’ twice because it emphasized Liesel’s sorrow, her desperation and her longing as well as her indirect promise to never forget him. Her connection and her bond with Hans Hubermann was incredibly strong. This sentence perfectly summarized their relationship: “Papa — the accordionist — and Himmel Street. One could not exist without the other, because fore Liesel, both were home.” (Zusak 572).

Bibliography:
Zusak, Markus. The Book Thief. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2006. Print.

Three Children and a Six Year War

“In the space of a few minutes, all of them were gone. A church was chopped down. Earth was destroyed where Max Vandenburg had stayed on his feet.” (Zusak 564)

Liesel’s world was blown apart when the bombs arrived. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak accurately describes devastation and horror when everything she’s ever known – her foster parents, Rudy, even Frau Holtzapfel – are killed by the bombs.  Unfortunately though, Liesel is not the only one. There are thousands of stories depicting the notorious warpath of Nazi Germany, told in different perspectives with a variety of conflicts and themes. Therefore, I will be discussing the similarities and differences in three popular stories for my rising action and climax blog post. I created a mind-map to visually demonstrate the links between The Book Thief by Markus Zusak, The Boy in the Striped Pajamas by John Boyne, and Number the Stars by Lois Lowry.

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The cover of The Book Thief

The characters are drawn together by friendship. “Friends will take care of them. That’s what friends do.” (Lowry 22) This applies to the friendships between Liesel and Rudy, between Bruno and Shumel, as well as between Annemarie and Ellen. It is a vital aspect to the progression of the story and is essential to the characters, especially during such a difficult period in history. However, there is a drastic difference in the relationship in each friendship. In The Book Thief, Rudy and Liesel are both Germans. Max, on the other hand, is a hiding Jew. In The Boy in the Striped Pajamas, Bruno is a German boy and Shmuel is a Jewish boy. “‘You’re my best friend, Shmuel,’ he said. ‘My best friend for life.'” (Boyne 213) Likewise, in Number the Stars, Ellen is a Jewish girl and Annemarie is a Danish girl in Nazi-occupied Denmark. Nonetheless, this does not influence the friendship, not even when Bruno’s father tells him that “those people… well, they’re not people at all, Bruno.” (Boyne 53) This applies to all three stories and describes the situation they were in and the perspective of the world around them, and that excuse is used almost as a justification for Germans to shield themselves with against reality and the cruelty of the concentration camps.

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Movie poster for The Boy in the Striped Pajamas

The conflicts of each story are the same – man-vs-man and man-vs-self. The result of these conflicts in the climax, however, are different. The climax of The Book Thief was the bombing of Himmel Street, which was mostly man-vs-man but also included man-vs-self because of the internal struggle Liesel had to go through in dealing with loss and shock.
“‘What’s happened? Liesel asked. ‘Is this still Himmel Street?'” (Zusak 568) The Boy in the Striped Pajamas had a more vague climax, which was in two different parts of the story line – when Bruno crossed the fence and when they were marched to the gas chamber. It was also man-vs-man and man-vs-self, but the main focus was on friendship rather than on hate. In Number the Stars, the climax occurred when Annemarie was delivering the package. The conflict was the same, but this time, the situation is more man-vs-man when Annemarie runs into Nazi soldiers while delivering the package to Uncle Henrik.

The Book Thief, Number the Stars, and The Boy in the Striped Pajamas have differing plots, conflicts, themes, and perspectives, but at the same time, there are many similarities. Three seemingly different children have been bound by the same six year war, and have lived through horrors I cannot even bear to imagine. If, even during such a dreadful war, these three children can find friendship and hope, then we, in times of this brilliant peace, should try our best to live life to the fullest. Because war and tragedy strikes without warning, just like the bombs on Himmel Street did that blood-chilling night.

Bibliography

Zusak, Markus. The Book Thief. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2006. Print.
Lowry, Lois. Number the Stars. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Co, 1989. Print.
Boyne, John. The Boy in the Striped Pajamas: A Fable. Oxford: David Fickling, 2006. Print.
Miramax Films. The Boy in the Striped Pajamas. Digital image. N.p., n.d. Web. 8 Oct. 2015.
Knopf. The Book Thief. Digital image. N.p., n.d. Web. 8 Oct. 2015.

Weather Forecast for Nazi Germany

It’s hard to love the sky in Beijing, but Markus Zusak’s book, “The Book Thief” has convinced me that there is more to the sky than the grey we see. One of the first things I notice when I read is the figurative language an author uses, and Zusak has astounded me with his remarkable talent. His most prominent use of figurative language is about the sky and its multitude of colours, which played a key role in setting the scene for the story and helping the reader have a vivid image of the setting. Thus, I have decided to do a multimedia exposition post on Zusak’s most stunning descriptions of the sky. Each painting below can be seen in detail here.


soupsky

“The sky was like soup, boiling and stirring. In some places it was burned. There was black crumbs, and pepper, streaked amongst the redness.” (Zusak 13)

I wanted this painting to build tension. The houses were blurry so they had the effect of worn-down and forlorn, resigned to fate, and the air was made to look like danger was brewing in the distance.


slipprysky

“Usually it was like spillage – cold and heavy, slippery and grey – but once in a while some stars had the nerve to rise and glow, if only for a few minutes.” (Zusak 46)

This painting was drawn with an idea of bitter sadness and an sort of wonder that I envisioned when I read that sentence. There is a difference in the shade of black used to portray a sense of otherworldliness and longing.


bleachsky

“In 1942 and early ’43, in that city, the sky was bleached bed-sheet white each morning.” (Zusak 115)

I wanted this painting to seem like all the colour had been washed out already, like the sky had lost its blue. That one stream of red at the bottom represented the blood the soldiers shed that couldn’t be washed off.

Bibliography: 

Zusak, Markus. The Book Thief. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2006. Print.

The Brazilian Butterfly

If you see a Brazilian butterfly flap its wings, will a tornado occur in Texas?

That is a famous question, and the very idea behind it originated from the short science-fiction story, “A Sound of Thunder” written by Ray Bradbury. Referenced thousands of times in distinct pieces of literature, it comes as no surprise that the moral and theme of this story has been discussed countless times. Personally, I believe that Bradbury wanted to convey a strong message of consequence to us, to show us that we cannot blindly make foolish decisions and expect to get away with all of them.        

Eckels, the main character of the story, travels back in time to kill a dinosaur with the Time Safari. Travis, the Safari Guide, warns him to never step off the path. The consequences of what would happen if they stepped off are explained, clear as day, in lines 117-119: “Not knowing it, we might kill an important animal, a small bird, a roach, a flower even, thus destroying an important link in a growing species.” (Bradbury 226). Yet when Eckels sees the Tyrannosaurus Rex, he is utterly petrified and, to escape, Eckels disregards any warning and steps off the path, killing a butterfly. That single action completely distorted the course of human history, and was named the Butterfly Effect. 

A major consequence of Eckel’s action is what nobody wanted to happen in the ‘original’ future but seems to be supported by everybody in the changed future. Deustch won the presidential elections. The language changed as well, which means that some turning points in human history haven’t happened, or that there were too many. History has forever been changed. 

The Butterfly Effect means that one single action can have catastrophic consequences. One small, disregarded detail could change the result. “Step on a mouse and you leave your print, like a Grand Canyon, across Eternity.” (Bradbury, 227)

796px-Monarch_Butterfly_resting_on_fennel,_at_the_Pismo_Butterfly_Grove,_California

“Monarch Butterfly resting on fennel, at the Pismo Butterfly Grove, California” by Docentjoyce is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic.

In 1961, a man called Lorenz was redoing a weather forecast. He entered 0.506 into the calculator instead of the actual number, 0.506127, engendering a completely different situation. He then published his findings in a famous scientific article, Deterministic Non-periodic Flow. Later on in 1972, when Lorenz did not title one of his speeches, Phillip Merilees decided that, “Does the flap of a butterfly’s wings in Brazil set off a tornado in Texas?” would be its title, referencing Ray Bradbury’s “A Sound of Thunder” and becoming one of the most well-known allusions to the Butterfly Effect. 

In science last year, we learned that every action has an equal and opposite reaction, which is very similar to the concept Bradbury is trying to express. The moral is incredibly important but also not very popular in this time and age. Humanity has once acknowledged every consequence, but youth today have a minimal understanding of the realistic implications of the Butterfly Effect. 

Thus, I would like to conclude by stating that the theme and moral of “A Sound of Thunder” is to be conscious of our every action, because we never know what the reaction will be. 

 Bibliography:

Bradbury, Ray. A Sound of Thunder and Other Stories. New York: Harper Perennial, 2005. Print.

“Butterfly Effect.” Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia. Wikimedia Foundation, Inc. 9 Sept. 2015. Web. 28 Aug. 2015.

End of Year Reflection

As the year comes to a close, we are reflecting on our growth as an academic student and a social student. We will consider our use of Learning 21 skills and the development of us as a whole child.

L21 Skills: 

  • Communication
  • Collaboration
  • Leadership and Responsibility
  • Critical Thinking
  • Inquiry and Problem Solving
  • Innovation and Creativity

I believe I have developed my Critical Thinking skills and my Inquiry and Problem Solving abilities. These skills have been vital to our success in Futures Academy due to the nature of our projects. We were forced to solve problems on our own and think of creative solutions for a mammoth problem. For instance, we had to solve Khan Academy problems that we have not learned before by ourselves or with the help of ‘Peer Tutors’. In the Social Enterprise project, we had to constantly strive to be better, smarter, and greater than ourselves and others each time with only the basic knowledge. This has made my problem solving skills grow exponentially.

I still need to improve my Leadership skills and my Communication skills. I believe I should learn how to communicate ideas better with my group and I should understand how different people receive feedback and how they work with me as a team. I should also learn how we can use each other’s own skills to improve our project and work better as a team.

Whole Child: 

I have learned that I am bad at handling stressful situations but that when it is my turn to present, I am able to pull through successfully. I may be nervous before an important presentation, but I have found that my nervousness disappears almost automatically as a presentation starts.

I have learned that if I continue to push myself, contrary to my belief in 6th grade, my math skills can improve drastically, to the point where I can become a Peer Tutor, complete 7th grade in Khan Academy, and move on to 8th grade Khan Academy and Algebra 1. Of course, I believe I should continue to strive for improvement in math usage and understanding. At the same time, I think I should continue to work on my grammar and vocabulary in Humanities as well.

In terms of growing socially, I believe I have been able to open up to more students and develop closer relationships with others. I think that because we had to work with other students that we would normally not work with in major projects, we were forced to ameliorate our communication and collaboration skills in order for our projects to be successful.

Chinese Integration:

I think I have connected to China through the village visits and the Homestay Program. It is disappointing that I was unable to go with the rest of the class during the Chengde trip. I believe that would have been a wonderful opportunity to connect with the Chinese culture and understand the history of China better.

Individualized Learning:

My passion project was to publish an educational book that targets environmental issues throughout the world. This was postponed, unfortunately, due to the consistent stream of other major projects that were more important that our passion project. We were unable to get much work done.

Project-Based Learning: 

I believe I was the most successful in the Empathy Project and Project Blue Sky. This is because I could work with partners that I can trust to get work done efficiently and effectively. In the Empathy Project, we worked without partners but because the workload was not overwhelming, it was manageable and we could finish our project with good quality.

I think I have been able to direct my own learning. With each project, the intensity of the work we have to do and the time we have to do it forced us to manage our time strictly. In math, we had to learn on our own and complete the 7th grade Khan Academy program.

City of Orphans- Questions

City of Orphans                                                                                                                  Avi

I have just finished reading the City of Orphans. Our second reading strategy is asking questions.

  • How does the government in City of Orphans manage the jail?
  • What caused Mr. Brunswick to abandon his family and his own child?
  • Why does Mr. Brunswick want to control the newsies?
  • Bruno, despite his method of following Mr. Brunswick’s orders, doesn’t seem like a particularly bad person. What would his true character be if he never met Mr. Brunswick?

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Back cover of the City of Orphans. The boy drawn on the left hand side is Maks, the main character. The girl drawn on the right hand side is Willa, the daughter of Mr. Brunswick and another main character. 

City of Orphans- Connections

City of Orphans                                                                                                               Avi

I recently began reading City of Orphans by Avi. Our first reading strategy was connections- finding details and situations you can compare and contrast with other situations you have encountered before, through text, self, media, or world.

Text to Text: 

In the City of Orphans, Maks’ world is grim- living off ten cents per day and constantly hiding from mobsters. This story reminds me of the book Letters from Rifka and Kanada because the characters are all facing harsh circumstances. They are all adapting to a new country and living with poverty, separated from their families or their family members.

Text to Self:

Maks’ relationship with his sister is deep, and he is willing to sacrifice everything to prove to the police that his sister is innocent. I have never been in this circumstance before, but I understand his worry and determination. If my sister was going to be sent to prison, I would try anything that I can to bring her back.

Text to Media:

This story reminds me of a show I used to watch with my mother. The story was about a family during the Japanese Invasion. They lived in poverty, and struggled to feed themselves and put food on the table. Families had to provide food to the war effort and people who could barely live had to give up the last of their savings. Many children lost their families, and the streets were plagued with bandits. It was utter chaos. Their circumstance is similar with that of the City of Orphans, much like how Maks’ family is struggling to survive in the United States of America.

Text to World:                     

Poverty still exists in this world. There are people who cannot pay rent anymore, cannot feed themselves, and are constantly beaten up by gangs. As much as the world wants to ignore it, it is always a pressing issue, right in the corner of our eye. The struggle Maks and his family lived through is present in modern families today, throughout the entire world. The story reminds me of the circumstance of people living in poverty today.

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City of Orphans