Friday, March 30, 2012


  1. I pulled together a list of all of the topics NJASL conferences have covered from 2008-2011.
  2. Then I checked out another conference's current conference offerings ( and added more topics to the list of possibilities.
  3. I also included in the list all of the types of sessions NJASL has used 2008-2011 and added a few from ISTE. 
  4. Then I sent the list to the current Board of Trustees as a survey made through
  5. I've asked them to approve the survey to be sent to our membership to ascertain the types of things our members want and to help us determine the kind of conference (and the length of conference) that we want in the future.
Before I was asked to run for office, I asked to volunteer for the 2012 conference committee. In my note to the conference chair., I said the reason why I was volunteering was because the last conference felt 'antiquated.' My gut was apparently right. By performing this exercise in conference analysis, I was disturbed to discover, or perhaps my Rose-colored Glasses will allow me to see this as an enlightenment, how redundant our past four conferences have been! I don't have the numbers in front of me right now, but the topics and presenters sometimes repeated all four years! Are you kidding me??!!

Tuesday, March 27, 2012


I chilled today. I want to do a membership survey about the parts of our conferences our members like before participating in a discussion of what the 2013 conference will consist.
I still have a lot to learn about the association. Lots to read; lots of people with whom I want to talk; lots of organization to ... um... organize.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Day 1: NJASL Vice Prez

I have been all excited to start looking things up about running the conference! Found the 'guide' documents - old and new - and began perusing them. I made a spread sheet of the past 5 years' worth of conference themes and of guest speakers.  I inquired about the budget and was told, "we'll talk." I received encouragement, too, and was told "it's your" -meaning my- conference. The contradictory, political, territorial stuff has already reared its head :-/ 

This is a 3-year commitment; I hope they know what they have in me when they asked me to volunteer. I'm an opinionated, sometimes stubborn,  Pollyanna who has never been shy. My rose-colored glasses and unfiltered thoughts put me out there, and I'm not easily reined in when I believe something strongly. I believe in the inherent good will of people, hence the Pollyannaism, which sometimes allows me to get disappointed or loud, or both.

And I've never been able not to care, which is both an asset and a flaw. All I hope is that this is more of a good experience than a disheartening one.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

My book review: Jersey Angel by Beth Ann Bauman

Jersey Angel
Random House Children's Books
Pub Date:
May 08, 2012
Beth Ann Bauman 
Wendy Lamb Books
FICTION - JUVENILE: Family & Everyday Life: Love & Romance
FICTION - JUVENILE: Family & Everyday Life: Social Issues
FICTION - JUVENILE: Gender-Specific: Girls & Women 
·      The review will first be posted the week of March 18, 2012.
·       Short summary from

An irresistible story about the real people behind the stereotypes of the Jersey Shore. About friendship and how it matters. About what it means to desire, to love, and to betray.
     It's the summer before senior year and the alluring Angel is ready to have fun. She's not like her best friend, Inggy, who has a steady boyfriend, good grades, and college plans. Angel isn't sure what she wants to do yet, but she has confidence and experience beyond her years. Still, her summer doesn't start out as planned. Her good friend Joey doesn't want to fool around anymore. He wants to be her boyfriend, while Angel doesn't want to be tied down. As Joey pulls away, and Inggy tours colleges, Angel finds herself spending more time with Inggy's boyfriend, Cork. With its cast of vivid and memorable characters, this tale from the Jersey shore is sure to make some waves.
BETH ANN BAUMAN is the author of Beautiful Girls, a short story collection for adults, Rosie and Skate, and is the recipient of a New York Foundation for the Arts Fellowship. Growing up, she spent summers on the Jersey Shore. She lives in New York City.

I loved this approximately 208 page book, until I reached page 208. It ended abruptly, almost like the author had to quickly finish up because dinner was almost ready, and she still had to set the table. I was reading a real story with genuine characters, and suddenly I was in a Disney movie where everything turned out okay and a rainbow appeared on the screen.
Let me backtrack. I do like this book, do expect that I will probably be getting it for my high schoollibrary, and do recommend it for older teens (probably 10th grade & up). Bauman created believable characters that I felt showed a reality that many young adult novels don't show: the female as the pursuer. Angel is a multifaceted character with a sex drive. She's a popular, pretty girl who isn't necessarily college material, but who realizes it and isn't pretentious - in spite of the fact that she hangs with rich friends who are going to college. However, she's also a "horndog" who is indiscriminate about the guys with whom she tries to satisfy her amorous nature. This includes her BFF's boyfriend and the guy who everyone thinks is still a virgin (and he is) and who will be one for a long time (not any more, thanks to Angel.)
Angel's friends each have their own personalities, and these come through well in Bauman's writing. Their morals, their relationships, and their actions all seem to reflect people who could really exist, and teen readers like that. The adult characters, in sticking within the genre's expectations, show the adults as flawed - divorced, distracted, and apologetic. Luckily, Bauman also creates teen characters who are imperfect, so there's plenty of room for readers to self-reflect upon their own reactions to the conflicts as the story unfolds.
"An irresistible story about the real people behind the stereotypes of the Jersey Shore. About friendship and how it matters. About what it means to desire, to love, and to betray."
I take issue, however, with the publisher's description of the book - using 'Jersey Shore' to attract readers is one thing (not necessarily a good thing, but that's a different discussion), but calling fictional characters "real" and then portraying the characters as horny and drunk doesn't offer any reality check (pardon the pun) to the stereotypes of the 'Jersey Shore.' The publisher goes on to say, "friendship and how it matters" and "to betray." If that's the case, then Jersey Angeldemonstrates that friendships often matter less than sex does.
Therefore, do not expect this book to eschew family values; you'll be disappointed. What will notdisappoint you, though, is the representation of "what it means to desire, to love, and to betray." I was compelled by this story from the beginning. Even decades after my own high school experience, the characters' actions resonated with me as true, possible, and likely. Teens will  appreciate seeing "real" teens reflected in what they read. I just hope they aren't disappointed that everything works out in the end; it often doesn't in the real world.

Saturday, March 03, 2012

My Book Review: Ferocity Summer by Alissa Grosso

Teens will love this book - older teens, that is. 

Ferocity Summer
Flux Books
Pub Date:
May 08, 2012
Alissa Grosso
FICTION - JUVENILE: Family & Everyday Life: Social Issues

·      The review will first be posted the week of March 4, 2012.
·       Short summary from

What happens when the only escape from crushing despair is betrayal?
It's the hottest summer on record in New Jersey and soon Scilla Davis must stand trial for her involvement in a deadly speedboat accident. With the possibility of conviction looming, life seems empty, unreal, and utterly hopeless. Watching her best friend Willow destroy herself with drugs and booze is especially painful. Yet Scilla can't manage to wrest Willow-or herself-from a path of self-destruction.
With a new drug called Ferocity sweeping the nation, an FBI agent is eager to make a bust. He offers Scilla a way out of this nightmare. But is she willing to betray her own drugdealing boyfriend?

I initially chose this book to review because it is set in New Jersey and so are my students and my school library. I'm glad I chose this book because most teenagers I know, regardless of their relationship -- or lack thereof -- to illegal, recreational drugs, deal with the issues of rebellion or at least of gaining independence from their "parental units." The main character, Priscilla (Scilla) is fraught with peer pressure and questionable self-esteem. The author, Alissa Grosso, does a great job of creating tension based on loyalty vs responsibility.
Scilla and her best friend Willow are financial opposites. Willow is an "upper, middle class" teen whose Mother spoils her in spite of her father's protests, while Scilla must work at the local Quik Mart in spite of a spate of recent robberies. Scilla has an on-again, off-again relationship with Willow's older brother, who is also a rich kid, but he supplements his income by dealing drugs. Scilla describes Willow and Randy's  parents as "nutjobs." Scilla lives with her mother, who "always has some reason to be unhappy with me," as well as with Scilla's friendship with Willow.

The story really began the prior summer when the three teens and Randy's friend, Tigue, borrow​ Tigue's parents' speed boat for a drunken joy ride. They ended up killing a passenger on another small boat. Their trial is at the end of this summer. Though many adults -- a court appointed attorney, her Social Studies teacher, an FBI agent, and her mom --  try to help Scilla maintain a record of good character until the trial begins, Scilla's loyalties are tested as she struggles between what her high, drunk and promiscuous peers expect of her and what the adults expect.
Whether as a matter of fairness, a reflection of humanity, or as a backdrop to highlight Scilla's attributes, the adults in the story are portrayed as flawed as the teens are. Scilla's mom holds a grudge against the upper, middle class; Willow's parents are disciplinary polar extremes; the FBI agent makes a pass at Scilla; and Pablo the Perpetually Stoned is, well, perpetually stoned.
As a bildungsroman, the reader begins to see the beginning of a more mature, more responsible Scilla as the story progresses. However, just as actual teenagers may take more than one summer to grow up, Scilla does not neatly reach her full maturation by the end of the story. This is painfully clear when Scilla doesn't accept Tigue's explanation of his primary culpability for the accident as he describes it in court.
Grosso draws recurring analogies of Scilla as Civil War General William Tecumseh Sherman. Making both military and personal comparisons between Scilla and Sherman distracted me from the story rather than enhanced my experience. Since I am not familiar with Sherman's story, I felt as though I was reading a (wholly unnecessary) frame story. It was as if I had to employ two different reading styles, seesawing back and forth between concentrating on understanding the connections between Scilla and Sherman or simply enjoying the teenagers' tales as they unfolded. 

Throughout the novel, I really enjoyed Grosso's snarky, sarcastic, but witty sense of humor. You'll forgive me if I don't list any of them here. I don't want to be like a movie trailer that gives away the punchline before you even get to see the movie. 

Remember that this book's premise is peer pressure, complete with sex, drugs, and rock-n-roll, and while they certainly are teen issues, I recommend Grosso's treatment of them for older teens. Unfortunately, though the repercussions are periodically  displayed, there are LOTS of drunk driving and under-the-influence driving incidents in the book. At no time do any of the underage teens hesitate to get into a car with any other teen - sober or not. Additionally, Scilla is quite open about her lesbian daydreams. That being said, the teen characters will appeal to real teens, and I will be purchasing this book for my high school's library.