Kicking it With the Letter “K”

July 3, 2014 at 3:13 pm (The Whim) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

brush-calligraphy-alphabet-kYou may have noticed a meme going around that goes something like this:

Say your favourite book, author, song, film, and object beginning with a particular letter. And that letter will be randomly assigned to you by me, via If you’d like to join in, comment in the comment section and I’ll tell you your letter! (And then, of course, the chain can keep going on your blog.)

From So Many Books I was issued the letter K.  After a day spent at the beach, I think I have made my final decisions.

Bookkung fu
Kung Fu : History, Philosophy, & Technique.

I grew up in a Kung Fu Studio.  I have a third degree black belt and can rank my own students.  For my very first black belt test I had to write  a thesis meets book report on David Chow’s book and its content.  I have never thought the assignment frivolous or regretted the requirement.  It’s a great book.  It’s an important book.  I make my own students read it as well.  In fact, I think my copy is on loan to a student right now.  Even if you aren’t a Kung Fu student, even if you’re knee deep into another style, even if you’ve never pursued any martial art in your life – this book is a valuable piece of history and helps explain a lot of those FAQs that arise when someone finds out you do Kung Fu.  It’s rich as well as concise and informative.  And leaps and bounds a better read than Kite Runner or Krakatoa – which are both excellent books.


On this I have been so torn.  Kingsolver or Kafka?  Kafka? Kingsolver?  I couldn’t decide.  Metamorphosis is one of my favorite books of all time.  I have read it repeatedly.  It made the list of books that have changed my life.  But I have to say, Barbara Kingsolver has won my heart.  The Poisonwood Bible was beautiful and epic.  The Lacuna a fascinating concept.  I have almost all her books waiting on my shelf to be read and I find myself picking her up sparingly, not wanting to waste the moment of reading something of hers for the first time, saving her like I did my virginity.

kiss meSong

I could go old school with Roberta Flack’s “Killing Me Softly,” but although I love belting that song with my Alto-ness, I choose “Sixpence None the Richer’s Kiss Me.”  It’s not even because it’s about sweet kissing, which I love.  It’s all that bearded barley and green, green grass.  It’s frolicking and tree houses and treasure maps.  And the 90’s.  Written and performed by a group who references C.S. Lewis in their band name.


I’m a sucker for all things King Arthur.  From the old Sam Neil movie “Merlin,” to Jamie Campbell Bower’s show “Camelot.”  I picked up all of Rosalind Miles’ Guinevere series, just because they are King Arthur related and have John William Waterhouse paintings on the front cover.  The Lady of Shalott hangs in  my living room over the fireplace.  Naturally, then, I’m choosing “King Arthur” for my K film.  More specifically, the version featuring Clive Owen and Keira Knightly.  I thought it was brilliantly done, I love that Guinevere is a warrior and not just a lady in distress, and the fight scenes are awesome.  Of course, part of my preference for this version is that Horatio Hornblower (ahem, I mean, Ioan Gruffud) plays Lancelot.


Kaleidoscopes are cool.  But I’m going to be cliche on this one and go with Kite.  Mostly because I have a three year old who is fascinated by them, but partially because I can’t see one without singing, “Let’s Go Fly a Kite” from Mary Poppins.  Sometimes in public.  With feeling.  At the top of my lungs.  I try to tell myself it’s because every choir girl has an inner Dick Van Dyke, but I’m not sure the rest of the world agrees with me.

Leave me a comment to keep this fun blog prompt going.


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The Dark is Rising Sequence: Book One

August 19, 2013 at 9:34 pm (Education, Reviews) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

The Dark is Rising SequenceThe Dark is Rising Sequence started in 1965 (probably much sooner if you were to talk to the author) with the publication of Over Sea, Under Stone under the name Susan Cooper Grant.  In 1973, The Dark is Rising would come out, followed by Greenwitch in ’74, The Grey King in ’75, and finally Silver on the Tree in 1977.  The Dark is Rising was a Newberry Honor book (runner up to the Newberry Medal) and The Grey King actually won the Newberry Medal.

The books have stared back at me from shelves my entire life, but I didn’t actually pick them up to read until this year – my 29th year – for a Young Adult book club at Half Price Books (Humble).

Having finished Over Sea, Under Stone I can officially tell you that I’m hooked.  Not only will I finish reading the series, I will be releasing my reviews of each book in a serial here on my blog and I am adding all the books to my daughter’s homeschool curriculum, with some help from a website I stumbled across:

Title: Over Sea, Under Stone

Author: Susan Cooper

I am reading from this edition.

I am reading from this edition.

Genre: Young Adult/ Fantasy/ Mystery

Length: 236 (book one) out of 1082 pages (whole series)

You might wonder why a fantasy series has become a mandatory reading assignment for my daughter. If you follow my blog at all, you might have an idea. Over Sea, Under Stone is just screaming to be part of a King Arthur unit. Pendragon’s name is dropped countless times; myths, legends, fairy tales, and the search for the grail make up all the major plot points; and, it’s full of research and adventure. What better to inspire a ten year old into the exciting world of a lifetime in literature?

The following I took straight from the aforementioned site I stumbled upon re-posted here in case the link ever fails):

A writer must be able to do or manage the skills of writing fiction:

Plot–What sort of story line has Susan Cooper devised? What happens? Is it a satisfying story line? Does it seem appropriate for the story?

Over Sea 2Conflict–What is the conflict of the story? What is at stake if the central characters fail in their quest? Who are the opponents in the story? How do they complicate the plot?

Characters–Who are the main characters in the story? What does Cooper tell you about each one of them? How does each character differ from the others? How does Cooper compare Simon, Jane, and Barney? What is each child’s personality and why is this personality important to the story? Why does Cooper choose children as the heroes and heroine of the story? Why not Great Uncle Merry?

Setting–Where does the story happen? What is the country side like? How is this appropriate to the story? Could Cooper set the story anywhere else and still make it work as effectively as it does now?

Symbols–What objects in the story take on symbolic meaning? In what way is the grail a symbol? Rufus the dog? The manuscript? Each of the characters? The rising tide or the boats? The fact that the grail is found in a cave? The standing stones?

Theme–Considering all of the elements mentioned above, what is Cooper’s point (this gets us into the third form of knowledge; see below)?

Over SeaA writer must know about the Arthurian tradition in general and the grail tradition particular:

The grail is an object of great significance and importance. What did you notice in the stories you read? How does Cooper convey this concept in her story?

The grail can be found only by the most perfect of knights. What qualities do Percival, Galahad, and Bors de Gannis have? Does this suggest a reason why Cooper decided to send children rather than adults on the quest?

Grail knights always demonstrate their perfection by undergoing severe temptations. What temptations do Percival, Galahad, and Bors face? What temptations to Simon, Jane, and Barney face?

In the grail stories the heros live by strict codes of ethics. Describe the grail knights’ value system. What rules do Simon, Jane, and Barney live by?

Grail knights always have a spiritual mentor. Who functions in this role in each story?

How do boats or other symbols like the wind, the number three, or color help to make the stories’ points?

Grail stories often center on illusion and false realities. What illusions do the three grail knights face? How does Cooper suggest that reality is not what the children believe it to be?

Grail stories fundamentally center around the quest for perfection and the test of one’s character. How does the quest test each grail knight or each child in Cooper’s story? What does each child learn from the experience?

Grail stories often involve magical, mysterious, or mystical places like castles or dark forests. Where in Cooper’s story do you notice elements of mystery?

Grail stories ultimately change how the central character views life. What is the effect of the search for the grail on each of the three grail knights? On the three children in Cooper’s story?

A writer must have a message, theme, point, or lesson to communicate.

What is Cooper message? What is she trying to say about the human experience?

In what ways might the children’s experience parallel our own experiences? What do we learn about ourselves from their experience?

What quests do we have to face? How might/should we go about accomplishing these quests? What do we learn from the children’s experiences which might guide our quests?

I love how this enjoyable fiction lends itself so readily to the study of storytelling, the King Arthur tales, the development of legends in general, religious history, as well as the kiddo’s general history lessons as we sort out documented history from legendary fictions developed over time.


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