A new fantasy book to recommend

9781770530584In my recent obsession for dystopian fantasy books, I’ve read several series after getting hooked on the first book.  The world-building that takes place in the first installment is often so captivating that I find myself almost obligated to read on and justify the investment.

Recently, however, I had the pleasure of previewing The Braided Path
[affiliate link] by Donna Glee Williams.  Donna Glee is a friend and colleague, although I knew nothing of her writing until I started this book.   She described its genre as “nonmagical fantasy”, which I found to be a perfect description.  When she offered to let me read it before it was officially available, I jumped at the chance (and talked my beautiful wife and avid reader, Stephanie, into reading it, too).

My wife and I made a project of reading through the book in the evenings, after our children had gone to bed, pacing with each other so that we could talk about it before going to sleep.  I recommend this strategy for anyone who is interested in a “couples book club”.  It’s fun to have someone to discuss the book with, and it had been a long time since my wife and I had shared an experience like that.

In the end, we finished The Braided Path with a similar impression: Wow.  This is a book that manages to build a intriguing world in just the first 50 pages.  The early events in the plot leave you with a sense of closure by the end of the fourth chapter.  I kept thinking, “That was very satisfying, but what comes next?”  The answer was SO MUCH.

I won’t spoil this enjoyable and captivating story for you, but suffice to say that you’ll want to read it a second (maybe a third?) time and draw even deeper satisfaction from the themes of love, boundary-pushing, and coming-of-age that permeate the thoughtful prose.  Here is an example of how Williams uses just a few words to paint a detailed picture:

They’ve come this far in silence. He doesn’t know what to say. Walking behind Fox, he’s had a chance to study her back, expressive as any face. There’s something angry about the set of her shoulders, a sort of stiffness, a sort of tension.”

The small book is packed with similar turns of phrase, to the point that I missed the softness of the language when I moved on to other books.  I hope that there are more stories to come from Williams, whether they include these same characters or a new set to fall in love with.

I’m giving away a copy of The Braided Path.  Just leave a comment to put your name in the hat.  I’ll pick the winner on Sunday, March 23 at 5 PM.  One entry/comment per person, please.

Two voices that I respect have expressed very similar ideas about the use of value-added measures (and, by extension, standardized test scores) in the teacher evaluation process.

Here is a brilliant slide from Bill Ferriter:

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Larry Ferlazzo wrote this week about the same issue, using this line,

“Once you include test scores, no matter what percent you include, many teachers will tell you that it quickly becomes the “tail that wags the dog”  — it always stays in the back (or front) of your mind.”

He goes on to share some links to alternative plans that show some serious merit.