The Inverted-A Press Collection On Polyvore

Today I created the Inverted A Press collection on Polyvore for anyone who might be interested in buying books and shirts based on the books published by this press.


The Inverted-A Press Collection


Book Review: Ping & the Snirkelly People

Ping & the Snirkelly People is a children’s novel written by Aya Katz. Although the novel is about a six year old first grader Ping, who is new to the United States, the reading level and content perhaps make this book more suitable children at or above a fourth grade reading level. Some first graders may also enjoy reading the story about Ping, but some of the grammar and humor will be lost on a younger audience, and this may even true for those with a fourth grade reading comprehension level. Actually, I think children around the age of ten might get the most out of this novel’s content, and this book would especially appeal to kids who are immigrants in a new country.

Ping is Chinese, but the story does not specify what country she is from. It is up to the reader to conjecture, but I think perhaps she might be from Taiwan since Aya taught there. However, perhaps Ping is from China, but the good part about keeping Ping’s origins open-ended is this allows the reader to use their imagination. For people who love the use of fantastical musings, Ping has these in spades, and her interpretation of events is enjoyable to read through-out this novel.

On the first day of school Ping does not understand English, so she makes the mistake of copying the paper of her desk-mate Olivia, who is not the brightest pupil in the class. After realizing Olivia did not understand the cat was supposed to be colored black, and the ball of yarn red, Ping comprehends that she must think for herself, as her teacher Mrs. Eunice also instructs her.

Ping becomes friends with Olivia, and one of their early experiences together helps her realize she can visualize English words.

Aya Katz created a painting of the scene when spots the deer in the woods.
Aya Katz painted the scene where Ping and Olivia spot a deer in the woods.

Olivia is prattling on during their walk when the two spot a deer in the woods. Ping remembers how Olivia says the word “Dee-er!”, and from then on she begins to break up larger words into smaller words. This process helps her decode the English language, and Ping makes quick progress in reading and writing. She is also speaking English quite fluently before she realizes it.

Ping’s father notices she is not stimulated enough, so he orders her books to read outside of school. He has high expectations of Ping, but he is not the helicopter parent who shadows her every move. He even helps Ping run away from home when Olivia dares her to do so, rather than scold her and/or ground her. Ping got the idea of running away from home by reading Tom Sawyer, which is well above the reading comprehension level of the average first grader.

Through out the story Ping struggles to learn the meaning behind the Pledge of Allegiance, and discusses ideas about religion, government, and culture with her classmates, teacher, and parents. Some of her ideas are not always well received by her counterparts, such as Olivia, but I enjoyed reading about things from Ping’s perspective.

This novel illustrates how as an second language learner that a person has be completely immersed in a new culture, and reminds me of why I never truly mastered French or Spanish. As an adult I am beginning to learn a bit more of each language, but to truly master either language, I would have to live in the countries where these are spoken every day.

Ping makes leaps and bounds in the English language because she is confronted with no other choice, and at the end she realizes she has learned much, but what have her classmates learned, she ponders. Ping becomes a philosopher at quite a young age, and the reader is left wondering if there will be a sequel. Well there be one? Until there is news of a sequel, I highly recommend checking out this novel.

Reading Guide Part 3 – Theodosia and the Pirates: The War Against Spain

Theodosia and the Pirates Reading Guide Part 3


So far chapter two of the novel Theodosia and the Pirates: The War Against Spain, is my favorite part of the book.  This is a historical novel by Aya Katz, who has written several other novels.

Chapter two takes place on Snake Island, and I like how the story line is evolving now that I have reached this part of the novel. The descriptions are atmospheric, and I can visualize the characters talking about the houses they are going to build, and the oaths they plan to take. Here are some reading questions I asked myself to focus on the text.

1. How does Theodosia come up with the name for her new baby?

2. What is the name of the house that Jean Laffite builds for his family?

3. What role does Jean appoint himself to on Snake Island?

4. Why does Jean want Theodosia to sew him a flag, and what is her reaction this request?

5. What is the issue of “international significance” Theodosia wishes to discuss with Jean, and how does he allay her fears regarding this subject?