Review – The Magic Misfits (Neil Patrick Harris)

Keywords: Year 5+ (ages 8 and up), fiction, humor, adventure, magic, first in a series.

The front cover

I’ve always known Neil Patrick Harris as the womanizer from How I Met Your Mother or Dr Horrible from Dr Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog. He filled my childhood with his acting and singing skills. Knowing all of that, I was still surprised to see that he’s talented in yet another area: writing!

The Magic Misfits is the first middle-school book Neil Patrick Harris has written. Once I knew that, I was very impressed. This book has the strong plot and witty narration of someone’s second, even third middle-school book!

But enough about the celebrity author. It’s time to get down to the good part: the book itself. The main character, Carter, starts his journey by doing someone all of us have dreamed of doing at some point: running away from home. (Wait, it’s just me who has dreamed of that? Oh. Okay.) After hitching a ride from a train, he finds himself in the town of Mineral Wells. Like all fictional small towns, it’s all very charming and full of wonder. And yet, something seems…off. Maybe it’s the circus where everyone frowns at you. Maybe it’s the circus boss that has the creepiest smile in history. Maybe it’s literally just the circus, because it’s a crime gang that sullies the honorable name of magic and entertainment. Clearly, they must be stopped. The Magic Misfits tells the story of how Carter tries to bring them to magical justice. As Carter meets like-minded magicians, he gradually understands the meaning of friendship but also of magic.

The author (Neil Patrick Harris) playing Dr Horrible

…Sorry if that last line was corny, but it’s true! The strongest themes in this book are, in fact, friendship and magic. The friends Carter makes are exactly the sort of people you’d want to befriend. For instance, there’s Leila, the confident and wise-cracking escape artist who always makes you feel welcome. Then there’s Ridley, the clever magician who seems mean at first but becomes her true, kind-hearted self once she trusts you. Finally, there’s my personal favourite: Theo, the violinist who can levitate objects with his music. Honestly, if I had a group of friends like these in my childhood, things would’ve been much more magical!

The main strengths of this book lie in the witty narration, adorable illustrations by Lissy Marlin, and “How to do magic” sections (drawn by Kyle Hilton) that are sprinkled throughout the pages. The humour is the main spectacle, though. There were quite a few things in this book that made me chuckle and laugh (out loud!). The first giggles came when I saw the chapter names:

One – the first

Two – the second one

Three – the third of these

Four – one more than three

Five – one less than six

My two favourite chapter names are definitely these:

Eleven – looks like two lines. Or two lowercase Ls, which could be confusing. For example, this is two lowercase L’s: ll. Looks like this 11, right? Confusing.

Seventeen – six more than nine, multiplied by ten, plus three, then divided by nine

So, those are the strengths! Now onto the weaknesses.

The mysterious Mr Vernon

I’d say my main point would be the very late introduction of the twin siblings Olly and Izzy. You can see them on the front cover on the far right wearing green plaid suits and matching hats. Since I saw them on the front cover, I was expecting them to be significant side characters like Carter’s magic friends. I was pretty disappointed to see that Olly and Izzy were only introduced three-quarters into the book and barely had any lines! Hopefully, we’ll get to see more of Olly and Izzy in future books.

The Magic Misfits isn’t a fantasy book. It does, however, deal a LOT with magic. (I mean, ‘magic’ is literally in the title!) Therefore, magic-loving Felipe can’t help but love it! Light-reader Jun was entranced by the light and witty writing style and the genuine fun he had while reading it. Both cats heartily recommend The Magic Misfits!

Review – Sense and Sensibility (Jane Austen)

Keywords: fiction, classic, romance, drama, Regency period, for older readers (Year 8+), old-fashioned language.

Image result for jane austen
Jane Austen

So. We’re finally here: the moment where I review something by Jane Austen. As one of the most famous and venerated authors of all time, it was inevitable that I talk about her. This is where things get a bit controversial, though. You see, despite all of the hype and acclaim, I’ve never really liked Jane Austen’s books.

Image result for sense and sensibility art
One of the prettiest book covers ever.

I know, I know, but let me explain! While I grew up adoring all the films – Pride and Prejudice, Northanger Abbey etc. – I never really got into the actual books. It’s one of the rare occurences where I found the films better than the books (as blasphemous as that sounds). Austen’s writing style and tendency to focus on unnecessary details made it difficult for me to enjoy her work. On average, I’d spend 80% of the time sludging through descriptions of money and social activities that I just did not care about. Perhaps it’s because of how books have evolved since the 18th century. We’re just much more used to books that get to the point rather than waltz around a topic. While many people enjoy that lengthy writing style, I do not (unless it’s particularly gorgeous and interesting, like Tolstoy’s stuff).

Having said all of that, there are still some parts of Austen’s books that I enjoy. For example, I love it whenever she’s sarcastic (which is fairly often!). Also, the scenes where characters confess their love are second to none. Mr Darcy’s proclamations of love in Pride and Prejudice, for example, will always be one of my favourite moments in literary history. It makes me sigh just thinking about it!

Anyway, I’m getting off-topic. Let’s talk about Sense and Sensibility, the first book Jane Austen ever published.

Image result for elinor dashwood
Elinor Dashwood played by Emma Thompson (you might know her as Nanny McPhee!)

The story is based on one of my favourite tropes: two main characters who are polar opposites. Sisters Elinor and Marianne are completely different in disposition. Where Elinor is completely sensible and in control of her emotions, Marianne is a hopeless romantic. They are on totally different sides on the spectrum of emotion management. Marianne’s tendency to fully give into her emotions and be as clear as possible with her opinions can seem a bit much, especially when compared to Elinor’s behaviour. However, we soon see that Elinor herself is pretty flawed too. She’s able to control herself, yes, but she never communicates about her emotions. Ever. When the sisters meet men they’re interested in – soft-spoken Edward for Elinor and rambunctious Willoughby for Marianne – their personality flaws come into full view. Basically, Sense and Sensibility is a classic tale of “two opposites learn from each-other and become better people by the end”.

The drama and plot twists add to the novel’s spiciness and were by far the most enjoyable parts to read. I also loved whenever Colonel Brandon was in a scene. Despite being rejected by Marianne, he still cares about her and strives to make her happy. He’s just such a sweet guy and I want to give him a huge hug. The fact that he’s played by Alan Rickman in the 1996 film probably influences my opinion too. ๐Ÿ™‚

Image result for colonel brandon
Colonel Brandon played by Alan Rickman (you might know him as Snape from Harry Potter!)

As for the flaws, I’ve already detailed them at the beginning when I ranted about Jane Austen. There were many unnecessary descriptions and scenes that added little to the plot or to my own enjoyment. The writing style was a bit difficult to comprehend sometimes, but that’s because of how old-fashioned it is (I mean, it was written in the early 1800’s!).

Please know that I don’t hate this book. On the contrary, I recommend it! For one thing, it’s a good reading comprehension exercise. If you’re finding your reading to be too basic, try challenging yourself by reading this. It’ll certainly add muscle to your reading comprehension skills as well as your vocabulary! Also, I found it fascinating to see the differences between the book and the 1996 film adaptation (a movie I’ve seen approximately 50 times). The actress who plays Elinor, Emma Thompson, wrote the screenplay and she basically did what I would’ve done: she trimmed out the unnecessary details and focused on the main plot. Plus, she added one or two things that made the film so much more enjoyable. Definitely consider watching the 1996 film after reading the original book!

Clearly, this is a classic book. Because of its historic value, Dmitri heartily recommends it. The book is technically slice-of-life since it shows the daily lives of those in the 18th-19th century. So, Jenny also quite enjoyed Sense and Sensibility.

Reading Passage 7 – A Magic Show ANSWERS

(The Magic Misfits, Neil Patrick Harris.)

Soon enough, Carter was doing all of Uncle Sly’s tricks – only better. Carter had a special talent. His fingers were long and his tendons were taut, which gave him fast hands and expert card-shuffling skills. He could make coins vanish and reappear across the room. He could materialize playing cards out of thin air. He even revised Uncle Sly’s sneeze trick, using ice cubes instead of coins (which was rather impressive, given the size of the average human nostril).

Now, Uncle Sly wasn’t the type of man to celebrate his young nephew’s ability to change up his oldest and best illusion, but he was smart enough to notice an opportunity when it was sneezing ice cubes right in front of him. So on Carter’s birthday, instead of throwing him a party, Uncle Sly decided to test him. He sent the boy up to a random couple on the street to perform his very first show.

As Carter approached, he nervously slicked his blond mop of hair to the side, pinched his pale cheeks, and opened his blue eyes wide.

~After doing card tricks for the couple…~

Carter beamed like the sun. He had brought joy to the young couple. In earning their smiles, he recalled his own parents and their laughter. He didn’t care that there was no party. It was still a very good birthday…

At least until later, when Carter realized his uncle had stolen the man’s wristwatch and the woman’s wedding ring. Uncle Sly had used him. Carter knew too many stories in which villains stole from innocent people. These stories always made him feel as if someone had stolen his parents from him.

What was left of that earlier, good feeling squeezed out of him like a balloon with a leak in it.

Answers

  1. Which of these skills is not mentioned in the passage?

a) Vanishing coins and cards

b) Shuffling cards

c) Sneezing coins and cards

d) Sneezing ice cubes

2. Why is Carter’s ice-cube trick described as ‘impressive’?

a) Coins are much larger than ice cubes

b) His uncle said it was better than his own coin-sneezing trick

c) It’d be difficult to sneeze ice due to how small human nostrils are

d) It’d be difficult to sneeze ice cubes due to how small human nostrils are

3. On Carter’s birthday, Uncle Sly decides to:

a) Throw Carter a birthday party so he can perform magic tricks for the first time

b) Test Carter by seeing how well he can do magic tricks at his party

c) Teach Carter how to do magic tricks, like sneezing ice cubes

d) Tell Carter to perform magic tricks so that Uncle Sly can steal from the audience

4. How does Carter feel about his parents?

a) He dislikes them because Uncle Sly is a better guardian than they are

b) He misses them because they have vanished

c) He loves them because they taught him how to do magic tricks

d) He doesn’t mention his parents at all in this passage

5. When Carter sees the couple’s reaction to his tricks, he feels:

a) Happy, because he successfully distracted them while Uncle Sly stole from them

b) Happy, because doing these sorts of magic tricks is what his parents wanted for him

c) Neutral, because he doesn’t really care about their feelings

d) Happy, because he has made them happy

6. Which of these is an example of a simile?

a) “His fingers were long and his tendons were taut.”

b) “…he was smart enough to notice an opportunity when it was sneezing ice cubes right in front of him.”

c) “What was left of that earlier, good feeling squeezed out of him like a balloon with a leak in it.”

d) “…he nervously slicked his blond mop of hair to the side…”

7. “As Carter approached, he nervously slicked his blond mop of hair to the side, pinched his pale cheeks, and opened his blue eyes wide.” Why does Carter do this?

a) He is a vain person who cares very much about his appearance

b) He wants to look as cute as possible so that the couple likes him

c) He is nervous and doing all of this helps him to calm down

d) He’s trying to impress Uncle Sly with his appearance

8. This passage is broken up into different paragraphs. Would it be better if it was all put together into a single paragraph instead?

a) No, because the paragraph would be too crammed with information

b) No, because the general rule is to write a new paragraph when there’s a new idea

c) No, because readers will find just one big paragraph more difficult to read

d) All of the above

e) None of the above

9. Why do you think the author might have named a character ‘Uncle Sly’?

a) To hint to us that Uncle Sly is sneaky and untrustworthy

b) To show us that Uncle Sly is clever and trustworthy

c) There’s no reason, he just thought it was a nice name

d) The author had a sneaky uncle and wanted to put him in the book

10. This passage comes from a book. Which genre do you think the book could be?

a) Mystery adventure

b) Fantasy

c) Comedy adventure

d) Horror

11. In the last question, you said what the book’s genre could be. Why did you choose this answer? (Reasons can include the passage’s tone, dialogue, plot, etc.)

Any answer involving witty narration (e.g. “which was rather impressive, given the size of the average human nostril”), the light-hearted writing style and/or the funny yet adventurous plot would be acceptable.

The original passage and questions are here!

Note: This passage is from The Magic Misfits by Neil Patrick Harris. To my knowledge, utilising this passage as a free educational exercise falls under fair use. If not, please let me know. I want to make sure that everything on this website is fair and right. The questions are of my own creation.

Reading Passage 7 – A Magic Show

Keywords: age 7+, Year 5-6, 10 MCQs, 1 short-answer question

(The Magic Misfits, Neil Patrick Harris.)

Soon enough, Carter was doing all of Uncle Sly’s tricks – only better. Carter had a special talent. His fingers were long and his tendons were taut, which gave him fast hands and expert card-shuffling skills. He could make coins vanish and reappear across the room. He could materialize playing cards out of thin air. He even revised Uncle Sly’s sneeze trick, using ice cubes instead of coins (which was rather impressive, given the size of the average human nostril).

Now, Uncle Sly wasn’t the type of man to celebrate his young nephew’s ability to change up his oldest and best illusion, but he was smart enough to notice an opportunity when it was sneezing ice cubes right in front of him. So on Carter’s birthday, instead of throwing him a party, Uncle Sly decided to test him. He sent the boy up to a random couple on the street to perform his very first show.

As Carter approached, he nervously slicked his blond mop of hair to the side, pinched his pale cheeks, and opened his blue eyes wide.

~After doing card tricks for the couple…~

Carter beamed like the sun. He had brought joy to the young couple. In earning their smiles, he recalled his own parents and their laughter. He didn’t care that there was no party. It was still a very good birthday…

At least until later, when Carter realized his uncle had stolen the man’s wristwatch and the woman’s wedding ring. Uncle Sly had used him. Carter knew too many stories in which villains stole from innocent people. These stories always made him feel as if someone had stolen his parents from him.

What was left of that earlier, good feeling squeezed out of him like a balloon with a leak in it.

Questions

  1. Which of these skills is not mentioned in the passage?

a) Vanishing coins and cards

b) Shuffling cards

c) Sneezing coins and cards

d) Sneezing ice cubes

2. Why is Carter’s ice-cube trick described as ‘impressive’?

a) Coins are much larger than ice cubes

b) His uncle said it was better than his own coin-sneezing trick

c) It’d be difficult to sneeze ice due to how small human nostrils are

d) It’d be difficult to sneeze ice cubes due to how small human nostrils are

3. On Carter’s birthday, Uncle Sly decides to:

a) Throw Carter a birthday party so he can perform magic tricks for the first time

b) Test Carter by seeing how well he can do magic tricks at his party

c) Teach Carter how to do magic tricks, like sneezing ice cubes

d) Tell Carter to perform magic tricks so that Uncle Sly can steal from the audience

4. How does Carter feel about his parents?

a) He dislikes them because Uncle Sly is a better guardian than they are

b) He misses them because they have vanished

c) He loves them because they taught him how to do magic tricks

d) He doesn’t mention his parents at all in this passage

5. When Carter sees the couple’s reaction to his tricks, he feels:

a) Happy, because he successfully distracted them while Uncle Sly stole from them

b) Happy, because doing these sorts of magic tricks is what his parents wanted for him

c) Neutral, because he doesn’t really care about their feelings

d) Happy, because he has made them happy

6. Which of these is an example of a simile?

a) “His fingers were long and his tendons were taut.”

b) “…he was smart enough to notice an opportunity when it was sneezing ice cubes right in front of him.”

c) “What was left of that earlier, good feeling squeezed out of him like a balloon with a leak in it.”

d) “…he nervously slicked his blond mop of hair to the side…”

7. “As Carter approached, he nervously slicked his blond mop of hair to the side, pinched his pale cheeks, and opened his blue eyes wide.” Why does Carter do this?

a) He is a vain person who cares very much about his appearance

b) He wants to look as cute as possible so that the couple likes him

c) He is nervous and doing all of this helps him to calm down

d) He’s trying to impress Uncle Sly with his appearance

8. This passage is broken up into different paragraphs. Would it be better if it was all put together into a single paragraph instead?

a) No, because the paragraph would be too crammed with information

b) No, because the general rule is to write a new paragraph when there’s a new idea

c) No, because readers will find just one big paragraph more difficult to read

d) All of the above

e) None of the above

9. Why do you think the author might have named a character ‘Uncle Sly’?

a) To hint to us that Uncle Sly is sneaky and untrustworthy

b) To show us that Uncle Sly is clever and trustworthy

c) There’s no reason, he just thought it was a nice name

d) The author had a sneaky uncle and wanted to put him in the book

10. This passage comes from a book. Which genre do you think the book could be?

a) Mystery adventure

b) Fantasy

c) Comedy adventure

d) Horror

11. In the last question, you said what the book’s genre could be. Why did you choose this answer? (Reasons can include the passage’s tone, dialogue, plot, etc.)

__________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Check your answers here!

Note: This passage is from The Magic Misfits by Neil Patrick Harris. To my knowledge, utilising this passage as a free educational exercise falls under fair use. If not, please let me know. I want to make sure that everything on this website is fair and right. The questions are of my own creation.

Review – The Key to Rondo (Emily Rodda)

Key words: fantasy, adventure, fairytale elements, male protagonist, female protagonist, first book in a series, trilogy, 2007.

A short and sweet review for today! If you want a fantasy book with loveable characters, wholesome friendships and a world inside of a music box, this is the book for you. Seriously, it has everything you could possibly want like a model pig named Bertha and a giant talking duck named Freda. (They are the best characters in the book, to be honest.)

Image result for key to rondo front cover
The front cover (featuring Mutt!)

The story revolves around Leo and Mimi, two cousins who don’t particularly like each-other. (Leo thinks Mimi is rude while Mimi thinks Leo is boring. It’s a whole thing.) Their Great-Aunt Bethany Langlander passes away, leaving an old music box to Leo. There are rules that Leo has to follow if he is to take care of this music box:

  1. Wind the box three times only.
  2. Never wind the box while the music plays.
  3. Never move the box while the music plays.
  4. Never close the lid until the music has stopped.

Naturally, Mimi decides to disobey and does the exact opposite, much to Leo’s horror. That’s when the Blue Queen arrives. I don’t want to spoil the plot, but I will say this: the Blue Queen comes from the magical world inside of the music box. The world itself is called, you guessed it, ‘Rondo’. All the music box’s rules are to protect this world and to guard it from intruders. Since they didn’t follow these rules, Leo and Mimi find themselves inside the music box. Why? Because the Blue Queen stole Mimi’s dog (‘Mutt’) and took him back to Rondo. As we all know, stealing dogs is one of the worst crimes you can commit. It makes sense that Leo and Mimi would try to rescue him!

The Key to Rondo: Emily Rodda: 9780545103817: Amazon.com: Books
The blurb (feat. Tye the awesome tiger lady)

Rondo itself is a lovely world to read about. Everyone is named after their occupation (e.g. Posie is the town florist) or their personality (e.g. Jolly is…well, a jolly person!). There are also talking animals. They are definitely my favourite characters, especially Bertha and Freda. They’re hilarious. “How are they hilarious?” you ask. You’ll need to find out for yourself!

The book is the first of the Rondo trilogy. Although it may feel a bit unfinished when you complete the book, remember that there are two more books to read! The Key to Rondo introduces us to the main characters and the setting, which helps us to grow attached to everything in the story. Plus, one of the novel’s main messages is about the importance of imagination!

The Key to Rondo is a marvellous fantasy that’s perfect for light readers. Fantasy enthusiast Felipe and casual reader Jun recommend this book!

Review – The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie (Alan Bradley)

Listen to this narration while you read!

Keywords: mystery, chemistry, 1950’s, fiction, murder, poison, England, detailed descriptions, first in a series, recommended by a friend.

Luci ๐Ÿ™‚

The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie. Now, you don’t see a title like that every day! This was recommended to me by my book-loving friend Luci. When she first suggested this book, I was taken aback by the name. What kind of book could this be? Is it a book about pies?

Not quite! It is, in fact, a mystery book filled with murder, poison, and…well, pie, actually. The main character is named Flavia De Luce (a name as interesting as the book’s title!). She is no ordinary 11 year old (but then again, there’s no such thing!). Living in a literal mansion in the English countryside, she spends her days studying chemistry and taking revenge on her mean-spirited sisters.

The front cover

One day, a dead snipe (a kind of bird) shows up on her doorstep. A red stamp is found pushed through its beak (Take note of that; stamps are a HUGE part of this story). If that’s not weird enough, Flavia’s father reacts to the bird in an incredibly suspicious way. He turns pale and pretty much runs for his life. So that’s, uh, something to consider. Dead birds aren’t pleasant to look at, sure, but to look as though you’re about to be murdered? Highly suspicious.

Flavia thinks so too. So begins her detective work into the issue: who delivered the dead bird and why? Who is that dead body in the garden? Why are her sisters so annoying? (I’d really like to know the answer to that last one!)

Flavia’s vocabulary is something to behold as well. There are some words and phrases in her narration that thoroughly impressed me! The best narration, though, is when she describes her chemical experiments. If you already like chemistry, you’ll love these parts; Flavia takes the time to explain all the chemicals and processes she studies. If you’re like me and you’re a little scared of chemistry (it looks difficult, not gonna lie), don’t worry. Plot twist: you’ll probably like the chemistry parts too! Flavia’s descriptive language makes even the most mundane parts of chemistry seem magical. It’s the closest I’ve ever come to understanding why some people love chemistry so much! Here’s an example:

Flavia de Luce by Brigette Barrager (this is exactly how I pictured her!)

“With the water bubbling furiously, I watched as the steam found its way through the tubing and escaped into the flask among the leaves. Already they were beginning to curl and soften as the hot vapour opened the tiny pockets between their cells, releasing the oils that were the essence of this living plant.

This was the way the ancient alchemists had practised their art: fire and steam, steam and fire. Distillation.” (pg. 11)

How lyrical! It is by far the most enjoyable description of distillation I’ve ever read!

As for flaws, the one thing I can think of is the pacing. When I say ‘pacing’ I’m talking about the speed at which the plot moves. This book – to me at least – felt a bit too slow at times. There were moments where I thought, “Come on, get to the good parts faster!” That’s the only criticism I have, though. Everything else was splendid!

Obviously, Millie loves this mystery book. Louise loves it too, if only for its wonderful description of chemistry experiments!

Psst! Something to think about:

This book’s title is based on a quote you can find on the first page. It goes: “Unless some sweetness at the bottom lie, who cares for all the crinkling of the pie?” (The Art of Cookery, William King). What do you think this means? How does it relate to the book?

Reading Passage 6 – Stepan and Dolly Oblonsky

Keywords: Year 7+, 13 questions overall, 9 MCQs, 4 short-answer questions, classic, Anna Karenina, Leo Tolstoy, 19th century literature, 19th century Russia.

(Chapter 2, Anna Karenina, Leo Tolstoy.)

Stepan Arkadyevitch was a truthful man in his relations with himself. He was incapable of deceiving himself and persuading himself that he repented of his conduct. He could not at this date repent of the fact that he, a handsome, susceptible man of thirty-four, was not in love with his wife, the mother of five living and two dead children, and only a year younger than himself. All he repented of was that he had not succeeded better in hiding it from his wife. But he felt all the difficulty of his position and was sorry for his wife, his children, and himself. Possibly he might have managed to conceal his sins better from his wife if he had anticipated that the knowledge of them would have had such an effect on her. He had never clearly thought out the subject, but he had vaguely conceived that his wife must long ago have suspected him of being unfaithful to her, and shut her eyes to the fact. He had even supposed that she, a worn-out woman no longer young or good-looking, and in no way remarkable or interesting, merely a good mother, ought from a sense of fairness to take an indulgent view. It had turned out quite the other way.

Questions

  1. Stepan’s wife Dolly is mad at him. Why?

a) He isn’t in love with her.

b) He cheated on her with a younger woman.

c) He cheated on her without her knowledge.

d) He doesn’t feel sorry for her and their children.

2. This passage is written in ____________ and in _____________.

a) Third-person, past tense

b) First-person, past tense

c) Third-person, present tense

d) First-person, present tense

3. What assumptions did Stepan make about Dolly’s reaction to the affair?

a) He assumed that she had already known for years and that she decided to just ignore it.

b) He assumed that she would react in the same way she did: being upset and angry.

c) He assumed that she wouldn’t really care about the affair.

d) He assumed she already knew and was waiting for the right time to bring it up.

4. This passage’s writing style can best be described as:

a) Perfunctory and narrative

b) Wordy and persuasive

c) Complex and narrative

d) Informative and narrative

5. What is the main thing Stepan is sorry for?

a) He’s sorry for the way he has hurt Dolly’s feelings.

b) He’s sorry that he has broken Dolly’s trust.

c) He’s sorry that he wasn’t able to hide his affair properly.

d) He doesn’t feel sorry at all.

6. Stepan describes Dolly as “merely a good mother”. This is:

a) An insult, since Stepan doesn’t value motherhood

b) A compliment, since Stepan finds motherhood important

c) An insult, since Dolly isn’t actually a good mother

d) A joke, since Stepan and Dolly don’t have any children

7. Stepan believes that Dolly “ought from a sense of fairness to take an indulgent view”. What does this mean?

a) The fairest reaction Dolly should have towards Stepan’s affair is to allow him to accept it.

b) The fairest reaction Dolly should have towards Stepan’s affair is to have her own affair with someone else.

c) Dolly is being fair in her distressed reaction to Stepan’s affair.

d) Dolly is being fair in her attitude towards Stepan after she found out about the affair.

8. If you had to add a line break (i.e. break up the paragraph), where would be the best place to do it?

a) After the first sentence (“Stepan Arkadyevitch was a truthful man in his relations with himself.”)

b) After the sixth sentence (“Possibly he might have managed to conceal his sins better from his wife if he had anticipated that the knowledge of them would have had such an effect on her.”)

c) After the fourth sentence (“All he repented of was that he had not succeeded better in hiding it from his wife.”)

d) After the ninth sentence (“It had turned out quite the other way.”)

9. What is the overall tone of this passage?

a) Detached and critical

b) Witty and omniscient

c) Comedic and informal

d) Subjective and sagacious

10. If Dolly read this passage, how do you think she’d feel about Stepan’s perspective?

_____________________________________________________________________________________________

11. When is Stepan an honest person? How do we know this?

_____________________________________________________________________________________________

12. Describe Stepan’s character with two different adjectives. Use quotes to support your answer.

_____________________________________________________________________________________________

13. What is Stepan’s opinion of Dolly? Use one quote to support your answer.

_____________________________________________________________________________________________

Check your answers here!

๐Ÿ’ƒ๐Ÿ’ƒ๐Ÿ’ƒ

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Note: This passage is from Chapter 2 of Leo Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina. To my knowledge, utilising this passage as a free educational exercise falls under fair use. If not, please let me know. I want to make sure that everything on this website is fair and right. The questions are of my own creation.

Reading Passage 6 – Stepan and Dolly Oblonsky ANSWERS

Keywords: fiction, Year 7+, 13 questions overall, 9 MCQs, 4 short-answer questions, classic, Anna Karenina, Leo Tolstoy, 19th century literature, 19th century Russia.

(Chapter 2, Anna Karenina, Leo Tolstoy.)

Stepan Arkadyevitch was a truthful man in his relations with himself. He was incapable of deceiving himself and persuading himself that he repented of his conduct. He could not at this date repent of the fact that he, a handsome, susceptible man of thirty-four, was not in love with his wife, the mother of five living and two dead children, and only a year younger than himself. All he repented of was that he had not succeeded better in hiding it from his wife. But he felt all the difficulty of his position and was sorry for his wife, his children, and himself. Possibly he might have managed to conceal his sins better from his wife if he had anticipated that the knowledge of them would have had such an effect on her. He had never clearly thought out the subject, but he had vaguely conceived that his wife must long ago have suspected him of being unfaithful to her, and shut her eyes to the fact. He had even supposed that she, a worn-out woman no longer young or good-looking, and in no way remarkable or interesting, merely a good mother, ought from a sense of fairness to take an indulgent view. It had turned out quite the other way.

Answers

  1. Stepan’s wife Dolly is mad at him. Why?

a) He isn’t in love with her.

b) He cheated on her with a younger woman.

c) He cheated on her without her knowledge.

d) He doesn’t feel sorry for her and their children.

2. This passage is written in ____________ and in _____________.

a) Third-person, past tense

b) First-person, past tense

c) Third-person, present tense

d) First-person, present tense

3. What assumptions did Stepan make about Dolly’s reaction to the affair?

a) He assumed that she had already known for years and that she decided to just ignore it.

b) He assumed that she would react in the same way she did: being upset and angry.

c) He assumed that she wouldn’t really care about the affair.

d) He assumed she already knew and was waiting for the right time to bring it up.

4. This passage’s writing style can best be described as:

a) Perfunctory and narrative

b) Wordy and persuasive

c) Complex and narrative

d) Informative and narrative

5. What is the main thing Stepan is sorry for?

a) He’s sorry for the way he has hurt Dolly’s feelings.

b) He’s sorry that he has broken Dolly’s trust.

c) He’s sorry that he wasn’t able to hide his affair properly.

d) He doesn’t feel sorry at all.

6. Stepan describes Dolly as “merely a good mother”. This is:

a) An insult, since Stepan doesn’t value motherhood

b) A compliment, since Stepan finds motherhood important

c) An insult, since Dolly isn’t actually a good mother

d) A joke, since Stepan and Dolly don’t have any children

7. Stepan believes that Dolly “ought from a sense of fairness to take an indulgent view”. What does this mean?

a) The fairest reaction Dolly should have towards Stepan’s affair is to accept it.

b) The fairest reaction Dolly should have towards Stepan’s affair is to have her own affair with someone else.

c) Dolly is being fair in her distressed reaction to Stepan’s affair.

d) Dolly is being fair in her attitude towards Stepan after she found out about the affair.

8. If you had to add a line break (i.e. break up the paragraph), where would be the best place to do it?

a) After the first sentence (“Stepan Arkadyevitch was a truthful man in his relations with himself.”)

b) After the sixth sentence (“Possibly he might have managed to conceal his sins better from his wife if he had anticipated that the knowledge of them would have had such an effect on her.”)

c) After the fourth sentence (“All he repented of was that he had not succeeded better in hiding it from his wife.”)

d) After the ninth sentence (“It had turned out quite the other way.”)

9. What is the overall tone of this passage?

a) Detached and critical

b) Witty and omniscient

c) Comedic and informal

d) Subjective and sagacious

10. If Dolly read this passage, how do you think she’d feel about Stepan’s perspective?

Considering her negative reaction towards Stepan’s affair, she probably wouldn’t be happy to hear that he isn’t sorry that he hurt her feelings. She’d most likely disagree with Stepan’s logic (and pretty much everything that he’s said in this passage).

11. When is Stepan an honest person? How do we know this?

Stepan is only honest when he thinks about himself. In other words, he never lies to himself. We know this because of the very first line: “Stepan Arkadyevitch was a truthful man in his relations with himself.”

12. Describe Stepan’s character with two different adjectives. Use quotes to support your answer.

Any adjective concerning Stepan’s selfishness, honesty with himself, promiscuity or narcissism would be acceptable. Every sentence is actually related to this question (depending on the adjectives you choose)!

13. What is Stepan’s opinion of Dolly? Use one quote to support your answer.

He doesn’t find her attractive, interesting or young. The best quote to use here would be: “He had even supposed that she, a worn-out woman no longer young or good-looking, and in no way remarkable or interesting…”. Other acceptable answers include his disregard for her feelings or his underestimating her reaction to the affair.

The original passage and questions are here!

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Note: This passage is from Chapter 2 of Leo Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina. To my knowledge, utilising this passage as a free educational exercise falls under fair use. If not, please let me know. I want to make sure that everything on this website is fair and right. The questions are of my own creation.

Review – Book of a Thousand Days (Shannon Hale)

Listen to this narration while you read!

Key words: fantasy, adventure, diary fiction, friendship, romance, growing up, royalty, illustrated, stand-alone, 2007.

Book of a Thousand Days by Shannon Hale
The edition I read as a child.

This is honestly one of my favourite books ever. No, I’m not being hyperbolic. If someone asked me what books I would bring if I was stuck on a desert island, I’d choose Book of a Thousand Days. Twice. (Then I’d bring Little Women, but that’s a story for another post.)

The story is written like a diary, which means its genre is ‘diary fiction’. Adding a bit of spice, the author Shannon Hale decided to create her own world: The Eight Realms. This world prays to seven gods, all of whom represent different things (e.g. Under is the god of mischief). Every kingdom is named after a different god or goddess. One of the kingdoms is named after Titor, god of animals. This is where the majority of the story takes place!

Shannon "buy stuff from ur local bookshop" Hale on Twitter: "More interiors of  BOOK OF A THOUSAND DAYS. 10 years later, I still feel honored that I got to  tell this storyโ€ฆ "
One of Dashti’s drawings (this is her self-portrait!)

The main character, Dashti, is a strong and wise teenager who finds herself trapped in a tower for seven years. Trapped with her is Lady Saren, the Lady of Titor’s Garden. Dashti is Lady Saren’s maid. Because of this, she takes care of Saren and pretty much does all the work around the tower (cooking, cleaning etc.). Not gonna lie, you’ll probably be annoyed by Lady Saren a few times. However, she develops into a braver and more self-realised person, as does Dashti. In fact, I’d say that this book is one of the best examples of character development I’ve ever read!

Without revealing too much, I will describe what’s in this book: war, royal romance, executions, wolves, jokes about ankles (it makes sense in context) and an adorable cat named ‘My Lord’. Plus, Dashti adds her own drawings into the diary, which allows us an even closer glimpse into her life.

A map of The Eight Realms

Dashti’s descriptive language is also something to behold. I’d estimate that the way she writes about the world influenced 30% of my own writing style. It’s just so unique! She describes people as having ‘kind eyes’ and uses wonderful phrases like “Ancestors, forgive me”. Some of the most delightful parts of the story are when Dashti sings. Instead of singing full songs, she instead crafts little poems that heal and comfort. Literally. Her songs genuinely heal people, it’s amazing.

Look, I cannot overemphasise how much this book means to me. If you read it, hit me up; I desperately need someone to talk to about this gem of a story!

This is a great fantasy diary, meaning that Felipe and Jenny adore this book! They cannot recommend it enough.

Reading Passage 5 – Short-term Memory

Keywords: Year 8+, 15 questions, 12 MCQs, 3 short-answer questions, science, non-fiction, National Geographic.

(“Limited Capacity Storage: Short-term memory”. Memory: What It Is, How It Works, and Ways You Can Improve It, National Geographic, Tula Karras.)

Dory from ‘Finding Nemo’ has short-term memory loss.

Limited capacity storage: Short-term memory

Our limited capacity storage systems aren’t meant to retain information for very long. Similar to a Snapchat message or an Instagram story, information that enters our brain through our senses fade rather quickly unless we have a reason to retain it or unless we practice it. While this sounds inefficient — why can’t we hold every bit of information for a long while? — it’s actually a good thing. Like a hoarder with objects they will never use, our brain would become so crowded remembering everything we experienced that we wouldn’t be able to find and retrieve the things we truly need and want to remember. Although experts generally divide our limited capacity storage systems into short-term memory and working memory, many experts consider short-term memory a component within working memory. Science is still trying to distinguish their many features.

Short-term memory

Short-term (or immediate) memory is the ability to remember a short list of things within a short span of time — usually no longer than 30 seconds and sometimes less. Short-term memories are not stored permanently, but rather stay on our radar briefly in the present moment. We often use short-term memory when we don’t have things in our environment to cue us — so we might engage short-term memory to hold a list of grocery items in our mind by repeating it over and over if we can’t write it down, or when remembering someone’s phone number, or when holding figures in our head while doing an arithmetic problem.

Questions

  1. What best summarises the primary aim of this passage?

a) To inform the reader on the attributes of short-term memory

b) To persuade the reader of short-term memory’s flaws

c) To illuminate upon the positive attributes of short-term memory

d) To detail short-term memory and its relationship to working memory

2. Which of these quotes is an example of a simile?

a) “Science is still trying to distinguish their many features.”

b) “…we might engage short-term memory to hold a list of grocery items in our mind…”

c) “…why can’t we hold every bit of information for a long while?”

d) “Like a hoarder with objects they will never use…”

3. Look for any parentheses in the passage. What is their purpose?

a) They include extra, irrelevant information

b) They give a synonym for a previously described term

c) They provide an example to illustrate a point further

d) There are no parentheses in this passage

4. According to the passage, why is short-term memory a positive thing?

a) If it didn’t exist, our memory would become too cluttered with too much information

b) It allows us to consciously forget things

c) If it didn’t exist, we would forget every memory we came across

d) It helps us to study and encode information, like phone numbers

5. “Similar to a Snapchat message or an Instagram story, information that enters our brain through our senses fade rather quickly…” This comparison most likely aims to:

a) Make the article more appealing to the younger generations

b) Illustrate the idea in a way that is understandable to the average reader

c) Make money for the author through Snapchat/Instagram sponsorship

d) Describe the longevity of memory

6. What is the purpose of using sub-sections in this passage?

a) To divide diametrical pieces of information into different areas

b) To make the passage seem less wordy and prolix

c) To categorise pieces of information that focus on different yet related ideas

d) To extend the amount of information that is contained in the passage

7. Look for the em-dashes. In this passage, what are they not used for?

a) To interject with an example that expands upon an idea

b) To clarify an otherwise ambiguous piece of information

c) To divide sentences, making them more efficient

d) To replace a punctuation mark

8. According to the passage, short-term memory is:

a) A well-known and clearly defined concept

b) A definite sub-section within working memory

c) A widely-accepted yet somewhat underdeveloped idea

d) A detailed concept that has remained unchanged from its conception

9. Which of these statements is false?

a) Short-term memory and working memory are two separate concepts

b) Short-term memory holds information for around 30 seconds

c) It’s impossible to remember information held in short-term memory

d) It’s possible that short-term memory is a part of working memory

10. Which of the following would be the best alternate title for this passage?

a) The Disadvantages of Short-term Memory

b) Defining and Explaining Short-term Memory

c) An Analysis of Limited Capacity Storage Systems

d) The Relationship Between Short-term Memory and Working Memory

11. What is this passage’s tone?

a) Direct and avuncular

b) Formal and apoplectic

c) Informative and partial

d) Objective and sagacious

12. Based on this passage, what is a limited-capacity storage system?

a) A kind of memory that only remembers lists for a short time

b) Unlimited storage that contains permanent memories

c) A mental network that creates short-term memories

d) A category of memories that hold information briefly

13. Write down a quote from the passage that uses inclusive language.

_____________________________________________________________________________________________

14. “While this sounds inefficient…“. What is the word ‘this’ referring to?

_____________________________________________________________________________________________

15. List two things the passage has taught you about short-term memory.

_____________________________________________________________________________________________

Check your answers here!

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Note: this passage is from the November 2020 Memory issue of National Geographic Magazine. To my knowledge, utilising this passage as a free educational exercise falls under fair use. If not, please let me know. I want to make sure that everything on this website is fair and right. The questions are of my own creation.