Wednesday, 23 March 2016

Book Review--The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie

The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by Alan Bradley and read by Jayne Entwistle; accessed through OverDrive.

As always, "reading"* a book via audio combines two components; the story itself and the presentation by the reader.

*Disclaimer:  I put reading in "quotes" because it is a different medium than visually reading the printed page.  However, I maintain that any way you get the story into your brain is actually "reading"; it doesn't matter the mode.

Back to the story and our protagonist, Flavia De Luce.  Agatha Christie would applaud the cleverness of this sleuth and Arthur Conan Doyle might have used her to give lessons to Mr. Holmes in deductive reasoning.  And Lemony Snickett would have devised a series of ever-more-unfortunate events for this aspiring detective as she is only 11 years old. Do not automatically discount this as a children's book due to the age of the main character.  Her level of logic, deduction and reasoning will give you pause for thought as it all makes sense... from her point of view.  1950's-era chemistry knowledge and scientific practices, as well as a different views on parenting add to the flair and freedom of this phenom of the mystery genre.

... and I like it because she reminds me of one of my children.

The added bonus of listening to Jayne Entwhistle read was that I enjoyed a crisp accent that reminded me where the book took place (UK) and didn't leave me to wonder at pronunciations.  Ms. Entwhistle gives the text a brisk, matter-of-fact pace that reflects the character's personality wonderfully.

The double bonus is that this is not a new book and there is already a series featuring this fun little girl so I don't have to wait to find out what new adventures await Miss Flavia!

Shameless plug:  I borrowed this book from my public library's OverDrive collection.  Check your local library for access to downloadable audio and e-books!

Thursday, 3 March 2016

I made a difference today

I made a difference today.  I don't do that every day.  But today was the day.

I had a student come in for my one-on-one computer session.  She said, "I know nothing about computers."  I asked if she had something in particular she wanted to learn how to do and she stared at me blankly for a second.  "I just want to learn how to use it."  So I opened the Control Panel and chose the mouse settings to get her comfortable with double clicking on the test pane for mouse speeds (and we slowed it down considerably for her comfort). She said, "I think my hand is shaking."

I said, "You know, a lot of people come in because they want to learn the computer but they're nervous.  It's o.k.  It's something new.  You can't break these computers, unless you plan on slamming the keyboard around (small smile there).  That brings us to my first rule of using computers: Don't Panic.  And you won't do anything I haven't seen before."  She seemed to relax a little at that.

But, again, when I asked what she wanted to do or work toward, she didn't know.  She said, "what do other people do?"

"Well," I suggested, "A lot of people want to learn how to find things on the internet.  We can look at that.  What are you interested in?  Do you like to do crafts?"

This time, it was a long blank stare.  And then her eyebrows twisted a little and she said, "I don't know what I'm interested in.  I worked as a driver and as a teacher's aide for fifteen years.  Then I took care of my mom.  And then my husband got sick and I took care of him for five years.  I didn't do anything for myself.  My husband passed away in October and I've been grieving.  But I have to come out of it.  It's o.k. to be in grief but then you have to be done.  So, I want to learn to use the computer for me."

"How about we learn about something new.  Let's try National Geographic".

And I helped her click and double click, learn how to use the scroll bar on the side of the screen.  I encouraged and cheered her on.  I told her, "You can come in anytime you want to practice what we just learned and then next week, we'll learn something new.  But if you completely forget everything we did--it's not a big deal, we'll just go over it again.  There's no hurry."

She looked at me and said, "I can come in tomorrow and practice?"

"Yes, anytime.  I'll set you up and you can work on what we just did and if you forget, we'll just learn it again."

"I will do that.  I was really nervous but it's like you can read my mind and I'm not worried about it now.  Thank you!  I'm going to learn to do this!"

And she walked away.  Still working on her grief but seeing her way out and feeling good about her new found abilities.  She walked away smiling.

I made a difference. And she is the reason I love my job.