Afrofuturism in Film

Afrofuturism movies: Unknown Movie, Black Panther, Get Out, and design for Afrofuturism.
Image Source: http://www.btglifestyle.com/blog/2018/03/12/afrofuturism-film/

I have a confession to make: I really like Afrofuturism in Films. That’s not much of an admission to you might say? Well, how’s this for one: I don’t really care for it in book form. I can tolerate it in its musical form, but the books have never really moved me in the way they seem to move others.

Why Not Books?

I think the reason is that the books tend to limit themselves far too much. Wait, let me qualify myself before I get myself into trouble. I may have mentioned that my uncle was a seminal presence in my literary life. He took me with him to the public library every month to check out books. Every month. While I had other interests besides fiction in terms of books that I checked out, fiction (specifically, science fiction and fantasy) were the primary genres that I engaged with as a reader (both in children’s books and in general fiction when I grew too old for children’s books). While my library didn’t buy “popular” materials at the time (or at least, not a lot of them), quite a few did end up in the collection as they received starred reviews in Library Journal or Booklist (which were the primary way books were ordered for the library back then). Now, I didn’t know this at the time and only found out that this was how books were decided on based on working there are seeing the process firsthand. However, surprisingly enough, two of the major writers that Afrofuturism has been formed around, Octavia Butler and Samuel Delany, reviewed well and we had a fairly large (5+ books) collection of their work at any one time (usually closer to 6-7 books on the shelf at any one time). I would, from time to time, pick up a book from these two authors, but put it down again after reading the blubs on the back and the inside covers as they were always dealing with some social issue. I wanted galactic empires, world universe conquerors (like Thanos), spaceships, and heroism. While good in their own way, Afrofuturism stories were nothing like what I wanted to read.

Afrofuturism in Film

Not so for film. Even excluding Black Panther for the moment, the films of Will Smith in the 90s and early 2000s alone accounted for what I was missing from the books. Independence Day, I, Robot, I Am Legend, Men in Black, and heck, even Hancock, all are films that really show a diversity in subject and a grandness in scope that I felt was missing from the books by celebrated African American authors–and to be honest, in some ways, I still feel that they’re missing even today.

Based on my reading from Ytasha Womack’s Afrofuturism: The World of Black Sci-Fi Film and Culture I think I figured out the reason: the films use Afrofuturism tropes as a secondary consideration and not part of the main plot, while the books make it part of the main plot and interweave everything (plot, character, setting, all of it) as part of the narrative. For me, that falls more under the category of Social Sci-Fi (a legitimate sub-category of Sci-Fi) that is rarely used these days. Social sci-fi deals with the underlying structures of society and how future societies deal with their societal problems. While you might think this is rife for exploration for science fiction, these types of narratives tend to feature very little in the way of plot and external factors. Much like the absolute worse things about Game of Thrones they focus more on inter-character/societal dynamics and interactions than they do with actual plot or motivating (external factors). For me, as a reader, I find these the types of narrative the most annoying and the most aggravating to get through.

Now one might argue that this is the purest expression of Afrofuturism, but I would argue that it is the opposite. Black Panther featured an external conflict (Killmonger), but in an Afrofuturistic context–does Wakanda hide its wealth and abilities from the world or does it have a greater responsibility? That question is not at the forefront of the movie, but it is answered by the characterization of the hero (T’Challa/Black Panther) and his plot of overcoming his challenge/driving question (can a “good man” be King). The Afrofuturistic elements emerge through the telling of a great narrative–the narrative isn’t “hijacked” to serve the purpose of developing an Afrofuturistic society.

Now, I will probably read one or two of the representative works for , Butler and Delany so as to say that I’ve at least “read” them, but I already know from past experience, I won’t like them very much. For me, Afrofuturism only works if you can weave a compelling story around it–just creating an Afrocenric setting and culture in the future that runs into some sort of internal cultural conflict just isn’t enough to get me excited about the genre.

Sidney

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  • Current Work-in-Progress–February 2019: Project Dog  (Sci-Fi Short-Story – 1st Draft — Character Draft “Finished”)
  • Current Work-in-Progress: Ship of Shadows (Sci-Fi Graphic Novel – Script, Issue # 2, Currently on Script Page 32)
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Finished Traveller RPG! Mini-Review

FF-Classic-Traveller-logo-and-starship-detail-500x500

Traveller RPG Book Cover – Picture of Spaceship with a planet and stars on a black background. Image Source: http://rpgknights.com/category/rpg/traveller/

 

Word Count (What I’m Writing); Updated every 2-3 Days (mostly)

  • Project Ship of Shadows (Graphic Novel) Page Count: 17 (+5 past two weeks)
  • Whale Song Revision (Fantasy Short Story) (2nd Draft)

Goal = 5 Pages a week.  Working on Rough Draft for the next 5 pages on Fridays/Over the Weekend.
Actual = 3/5 Pages done last week. I wanted to do more, but I had a 5000 word paper due by midnight Sunday, 22 July 2018, so I simply didn’t have enough time to really work on it as I would have liked.  Still, I did manage to write fairly consistently, even if it isn’t reflected here as I wrote other things (for a school setting).

Currently Reading (What I’m Reading); Updated Weekly (mostly)

  • For Fun:
    Transhuman edited by Mark L. Van Name and T. F. K. Weisskopf
    Just started this anthology – it was given to me at a LibertyCon some years ago, but I’ve just now gotten around to reading it. I may not finish it/read all the stories, but so far, I’ve read the first story and liked it.
    Traveller RPG: FINISHED!
  • For School:
    Afrofuturism (by Ytasha Womack): This book describes the academic genre of Afrofuturism (essentially African American Science Fiction that deals with social issues in culture).  I just finished Chapter 3 today and I’m at the beginning of Chapter 4 (this book has 10 chapters).
    Here is a summary from Amazon: “In this hip, accessible primer to the music, literature, and art of Afrofuturism, author Ytasha Womack introduces readers to the burgeoning community of artists creating Afrofuturist works, the innovators from the past, and the wide range of subjects they explore. From the sci-fi literature of Samuel Delany, Octavia Butler, and N. K. Jemisin to the musical cosmos of Sun Ra, George Clinton, and the Black Eyed Peas’ will.i.am, to the visual and multimedia artists inspired by African Dogon myths and Egyptian deities, the book’s topics range from the “alien” experience of blacks in America to the “wake up” cry that peppers sci-fi literature, sermons, and activism. With a twofold aim to entertain and enlighten, Afrofuturists strive to break down racial, ethnic, and social limitations to empower and free individuals to be themselves.”
  • For Research/Personal Development:
    Great Aircraft of WWII by Alfred Price and Mike Spick (for Project Skye)
    Great Aircraft of WWII is a book that I’ve had in my collection for sometime–I’ve glanced at it periodically, but never read it cover-to-cover.  Now, with Project Skye, I intend to do just that.

Stepping Away from It

Sorry for not writing. Unfortunately, I still had an outstanding project due on July 22 and I spent much of the week trying to make sure that I was ready for it (I wasn’t, but that’s a blog post for another time). Regardless, it put a damper on my writing endeavors. I still wrote creatively (for the most part), but didn’t really have enough time left to pull together a blog post. Still trying to do these posts ahead of time, but some weeks that’s not an option, so it is sometimes difficult to get blog posts updated in a timely manner.

In a Galaxy Far Away

On Friday, as I was lucky enough to finish the Traveller RPG that I’ve been reading for most of the month. It was the book that I read after finishing Oathbringer.  The tagline for the book is Science Fiction Adventure in the Far Future. I enjoyed the book and believe that it would make a good game for those who are interested in playing either a Space Opera or Hard Science Fiction campaigns.

Space the Final Frontier

One of the things that I like about this game/system is the fact that it allows for one to play a generic Sci-Fi campaign or to tailor make a campaign to match any one of a number universes. There is an “imperium” that could be tailored for a Star Wars like rebels vs empire-like war. However, the best use of the game would be to create a campaign that is much more like an adventure game in space. Elite, Elite Dangerous, or even a “Space Cowboy” world like Firefly would be the best use of this system if one truly wanted to adapt the system to a specific universe.

For my money, I’d probably try to work and to create my own campaign for this rule set, using the “history” and “setting” to try to create something new and fresh.

Overall Grade: B

Sidney




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Finished Oathbringer by Brandon Sanderson (Mini-Review)

Oathbringer_Amazon

Word Count (What I’m Writing); Updated every 2-3 Days (mostly)

  • Project Independence Word Count: 6,000 words (+1,200 words)–1st Draft Finished (7/6/18)
  • Project Ship of Shadows Graphic Novel Page Count: 12

Goal = 5000 words  by July 7. 
Actual = 6,000 Words finished on July 6.  I wrote 1,200 words Friday night while I waited to go home.  I didn’t have a great couple of days, so I just wrote.  I only had 178 words for the 5,000 word goal, but when I got there, I wasn’t finished, so I just kept writing until the story was done.  I’ve given it to my alpha readers and then will do another draft whenever I get the feedback back from them.  I’ll probably work on a revision/revisions for the month of July before delving back into a new project in August.  Watch this space for future developments.

Currently Reading (What I’m Reading); Updated Weekly (mostly)

  • For Fun:
    Transhuman edited by Mark L. Van Name and T. F. K. Weisskopf
    Just started this anthology – it was given to me at a LibertyCon some years ago, but I’ve just now gotten around to reading it. I may not finish it/read all the stories, but so far, I’ve read the first story and liked it.
    Traveller RPG: I started this a while ago as a book that I was reading just before bedtime, but I didn’t really make much headway.  I restarted it and I’ve just finished the introductory character generation section and I’m now moving on to the skills section and will be soon moving into the “lore” section.  This is a revamp (rules 2.0) of an old school British RPG from the 1980s.  Updated for modern times, this fairly short book still gives a great set of rules, game system, and lore that I hope will serve as inspiration for new sci-fi works in my own writing life.
  • For School:
    Ancient Rhetorics, Digital Networks: A book that combines New Media (digital rhetorics) and combines them with ideas and theories of the Ancient Rhetorics.
  • For Research/Personal Development:
    Great Aircraft of WWII by Alfred Price and Mike Spick (for Project Skye)
    Great Aircraft of WWII is a book that I’ve had in my collection for sometime–I’ve glanced at it periodically, but never read it cover-to-cover.  Now, with Project Skye, I intend to do just that.

Finished Oathbringer Last Week

So, I finished Oathbringer last week.  I wasn’t intending to finishing it, but I can’t say that my week was the greatest due to the amount of schoolwork that I had this week and the fact that I didn’t do as well on my presentations that I would have liked.  So, as normal, I retreated into my books, specifically Oathbringer and finished off approximately 250-300 pages this week.  The book clocks in at over 1,200 pages (!) and I had been reading 2-3 chapters per day, until the last couple of weeks.  For those who don’t know, Oathbringer is book 3 in Brandon Sanderson’s Stormlight Archives series.

Dalinar’s Story

Each book in the series, so far, has a focus on one or two major characters while other characters are present, but are in the background.  In each of the two previous, we find out about the background of our “focus” character throughout the course of the novel.  Book 1, The Way of Kings was Kaladin Stormblessed’s story, while Book 2, Words of Radiance  was Shallan’s story.  Even though Jasnah Kholin is on the cover, it is actually her father, Dalinar, who is the “focus” of this novel.  We get to see his history and his motivations as to how he became “Blackthorne,” a figure to be feared and why he moved away from that persona.  Sanderson masterfully weaves the reasons into the story and by the end of the book, we see Dalinar journey on an arc that leaves Dalinar (and the readers) with an understanding of why Dalinar deliberately learned to restrain his battle lust.

Moving the Story Forward

What I like most about this Fantasy series is that it actually moves the story forward.   If there’s one thing Sanderson is good at, it is actually progressing the story.  For instance, the “Big Bad,” Odium, has been teased for two books, but this book, not only do we get to see him, we also get to interact with him and see what makes him the “big bad” in this story.  In other words, he gets Darth Vader it up.  Other contemporary fantasy writers (I won’t name names) tend to stay mired in the potential of the threat, rather than actually getting to the threat itself.  I really liked this book.  While it isn’t my favorite novel in the series–that honor still goes to Book 1, The Way of Kings–I still thought that it was a great novel that really engages the reader while moving the story forward.

Overall Grade: B+

A very good addition to the series.  Maybe not the best one so far, but it definitely slacked my thirst for new content in that universe.  Now that I’ve finished it, however, I’m consigned to wait another 2 to 2 ½ years for Brandon Sanderson to release another.

Sigh.

Sidney




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I earn a small commission on the purchase of these items.

 

 

What’s On My Bookshelf? Master and Commander: Far Side of the World

Word Count (What I’m Writing); Updated Daily (mostly)

  • Project Independence Word Count: @4000 words (+203 words)
  • Project Ship of Shadows Graphic Novel Page Count: 12

Goal = 167 words (5000 words by July 1).
Actual = Rebounded after a day with no words and was able to hit Scrivener’s goal of 167 words, but fell a bit short of my own 250 word (personal) goal.   203 words written last night. 

Currently Reading (What I’m Reading); Updated Daily (mostly)

  • For Fun:
    Oathbringer by Brandon Sanderson (Fantasy Novel, Stormlight Archive Book 3) (somewhere in 850s in terms of page count–more than ¾th of the way through.  Will post a non-spoiler mini-review when I finish.
  • For School:
    Ancient Rhetorics, Digital Networks: A book that combines New Media (digital rhetorics) and combines them with ideas and theories of the Ancient Rhetorics.
    Lingua FractalA Rhetoric book that details the convergence of Rhetoric and Technology and how they interact in today’s world.
  • For Research/Personal Development:
    Great Aircraft of WWII by Alfred Price and Mike Spick (for Project Skye)

Reading two or three chapters in Oathbringer every day.  I really shouldn’t be, but it is so good, that I generally read it while eating dinner (and then I go back out to the library to do reading for school).   Great Aircraft of WWII is a book that I’ve had in my collection for sometime–I’ve glanced at it periodically, but never read it cover-to-cover.  Now, with Project Skye, I intend to do just that.

Game Mode On (What I’m Playing); Updated Weekly (Mondays)

  • Moving Game Mode On to its own (Mostly) Weekly Post

Master and Commander: Far Side of the World

One of the rare non-genre works that I own (and like), Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World (MCTFSotW) is one of those movies that has the rare combination of detail and action combined with history that make it a compelling movie to watch for me.  I’m a history major, but what I find with most history movies is that they tend not to dramatize the action in a manner that I find compelling, preferring to let the exoticness of the setting and time-period to stand in for action and having the characters respond in a manner that “talks” the film’s central problem to death.  Not so with MCTFSotW.  While there is a fair shade of period specific dialogue, it doesn’t seek to resolve the film’s central question via dialogue, but rather through action, which is probably why I like it.

A Captain for All Seasons

This one is realistic not just for the action and ship to ship battles and games of cat and mouse, but also because of the characters.  The friendship between the captain and the doctor is realistically depicted.  Both are clearly friends, but the captain’s duty and his friends personal interests pull them in different directions and they find themselves at odds when duty and interests conflict.  There is even a compelling subplot involving a junior officer no one likes and his conflict with the hands on the ship.  This is the way that I wish most period pieces were handled.  Sadly, this one is the exception to the rule.  The movie version of Last of the Mohicans is probably the closest analogy to this movie.  If you like that movie, then you’ll probably like this one as well, although, to be clear, that one also had a strong romantic subplot between the women and men in the story that many latched on to and made it a must see for them, but this one is purely action and platonic friendship between the captain and the doctor.

Book to Film to  . . . ?

I haven’t really followed the financial success of this film, but gauging that there hasn’t been any follow-up movies, I would have to assume that it did not do as well as the filmmakers’ hoped.  As a librarian, I know this is based off of a series books by Patrick O’Brien (I shelved them enough times, even though I never got a chance to read them) and I figured that this would be start of a series of movies based on how good I thought it was, but alas, it wasn’t to be, I guess.  To be honest, with all of the interest of turning movies/book series into TV series, I fairly surprised that this hasn’t been found someone wanting to take on this property.  I remember that it has a fair number of books in the series.  While not nearly as enormous as Game of Thrones books, I sure that a strong “show runner” could get a BBC length season (10-12 episodes out of each book).  The special effects budget could be impractical, however, as the sea scenes would probably all have to be done with CGI which could get expensive quickly.  Still, it seems like a fairly good fit for today’s current crop of shows on streaming.

Well, that’s all I have for today–have a good day!  🙂

Sidney




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I earn a small commission on the purchase of these items.

 

 

What’s On My Bookshelf: The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson (Signed Copy)

  • Project Paradise Word Count: 113
  • Project Skye Word Count: 1084 
  • Project Independence Word Count: 1723 
  • Project Ship of Shadows Graphic Novel Page Count: 12 (+1)

Summer Reading

So, I bought Brandon Sanderson’s novel Oathbringer (Stormlight Archives Book 3) for my birthday to read as a reward for finishing the Spring Semester.  This semester was so challenging that I was actually tempted (and actually tried) to read Oathbringer before the semester was over.  However, there is a prequel novella called Edgedancer that BS suggested reading before diving in Book 3 proper.  Luckily, MTSU’s Library had a copy and I’ve started reading it in preparation for book 3 in the series.  Today, I wanted to have a quick look at another book on my bookshelf, The Way of Kings (Stormlight Archives Book 1), which I was fortunate enough to have signed by Brandon Sanderson when he came to LibertyCon here is Chattanooga several years back.

The Way of Kings

Brandon Sanderson’s work is one of the few of the “New Generation” of fantasy writers that I like.  Even though George R. R. Martin has been around since the 80’s, his Game of Thrones series kicked off a resurgence of the GrimDark genre.  To be clear, GrimDark has always been around–Stephen R. Donaldson, a few of Piers Anthony’s early Sci-Fi works–not his YA or Fantasy, per se, and Dave Duncan–are just a few writers that immediately spring to mind whose works that I’ve read (and disliked) because of the GrimDark elements  Most writers of Sanderson’s generation are (of course) seeing the popularity (and dollar signs) of GoT and are  trying to emulate his success with their own versions.  Sanderson, however, tells a very different tale–one that, while having its own grim elements, eschews GrimDark for a more hopeful and elegant premise.  The hero is flawed, but not in a “antihero” sort of way, but more in that he keeps trying to protect, but it all seems to come to naught and he is so very tired of not succeeding.  In an era of “Me Too” GoT clones, this was very refreshing.  The world was very well built and I like the way Sanderson plots (he thinks up big, “set-piece” moments and then writes to those moments).  The ending has a bit of twist and ultimately it was the hero and the ending that sold me on the story.

Life Before Death

So, the above heading is the “creed” of one of the forgotten orders of (this world’s) “knights” in the book and is what Brandon Sanderson inscribed on my copy of the book when he came for LibertyCon..  He was very nice and must say that I enjoyed meeting him.  I was, surprisingly, tongue-tied but mentioned that that I was a librarian when I asked him to sign my A.R.C. (Advanced Reader’s Copy) version of the book that I had been given by another librarian a year (or two) earlier.  He was very respectful and said that he enjoyed meeting librarians and the the A.R.C. was fairly rare in that there weren’t many printed and signed my copy.  It is still a treasured addition to my collection even all these years later.  I can only hope that, if ever I reach my goal of being a published speculative fiction novelist, that I am as gracious and nice as Brandon Sanderson was during that event.

Anyway, that’s all for today.  If you’re in to Fantasy in any way, I would highly recommend checking out this series, starting with The Way of Kings.  It is an awesome start to an awesome series by an awesome author!

Here’s hoping you have a good week! 🙂

Sidney




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I earn a small commission on the purchase of these items.

 

What’s All the Hoopla About?

hoopla_hightechsociety

So, I’m a little late today as I got up a bit later than normal.  I would normally do the blog either during breakfast or shortly afterwards, but today (in addition to picking up my car–yay!) I needed to reset my password to Hoopla, a service that my home public library, Chattanooga Public Library subscribes to and that I have access to by being a member.

What is Hoopla?

Hoopla is a streaming service that is more than just a traditional streaming service.  It allows you to borrow (for my institution) 10 items per month.  Notice that I said, items, not movies or TV shows.  It does have movies and television, like Netflix, Amazon Prime, and Hulu.  However, it also has comics/graphic novelsebooksaudiobooks, and music (!).  I’ve used it before and really liked it.  What it lacks in terms of terms of hit releases (very few major releases), it makes up with breadth–there are a lot of good genre materials embedded within each of the categories.

Summer Hoopla

So, while I’ve got a ton of work to do over the summer, in terms of getting ready for my summer classes this summer, I’m going to try to catch up on reading some of the comics/graphic novels (& books) that I’ve put off over the school year.  They have quite a few Marvel graphic novels, Star Wars, Star Trek, and other properties (again, books and graphic novels, mostly, not so much with movies/television).  Still, now that I trying to integrate Popular Culture into my scholarship as a Pop. Culture scholar, I actually need some pop. culture to go with my scholarship.

I would encourage you to check out Hoopla if your library has a subscription.  If not, then you might want to see if your library has something similar.  It is a really useful service that I plan to investigate more over this summer.

Sidney




Amazon Associate Disclaimer:
I earn a small commission on the purchase of these items.

 

A Bibliophile’s Dream: Data Manager 2, Goodreads, and Library Thing

 

So, I’ve always been a bit of a bookish person.  Okay, who am I kidding, I’m an unabashed bibliophile–I love books in all their glorious forms.  Ebooks, print books, trade paperbacks, mass market paperbacks, hardcovers, books with dust covers, books without dust covers, magazines, graphic novels, comic books, spiral bound books, zines, etc.  If it has existed in printed form, I’ll probably love it if I get to see it. In fact, the first two places that I’m liable to visit in any new situation are the bookstores and the libraries of that town, place, or school.  Technology has made reading easier and disseminating print quicker and faster.  One day I might do a blog entry about that, but today I really want to turn my attention to the cataloging of books/media and some of the fun ways that I’ve done it over the years.

datamanager2_terapeak

Data Manager 2, Image Source: Terapeak

Data Manager 2

This is the first database program that I ever discovered.  I’d been using a pen-and-paper system before I discovered this program, but once I found that I could create record using the title, author’s name, publisher, genre, etc., I was in “hog heaven.”  I quickly converted my records into computer format and spent hours looking at the “Reports” function which combined the best of graphing functions of a spreadsheet program with a database program.  I loved comparing authors that I had, series, or most importantly genres to see where they ranked with others that I owned.  Great fun for a bibliophile!

Goodreads

After Data Manager 2, I flitted from database to database on the various computers that I owned, but none seemed as satisfying as DM2.  As much as rail against the whole Web 2.0 paradigm, it did bring in one good thing: Goodreads.  In many ways, it is a combination between a book database and a social networking site centered around books.  I have about half of my collection listed on GR along that with being a “GR Author” meaning that any of my works that are published in book form (not online) should show up (I say should because, with the variation on my name, some of the books that I’m listed in aren’t actually showing up–those periods and commas make a difference).  I really GR, but find that sometimes it is too “Facebook” for me and I actively resist all the social/community features that it pushes.  It has a yearly reading challenge that I like to participate in and you can really go in-depth on the types of books that you read at the end of the year with a year-end round up (pretty snazzy).  They also have an app that will scan your books’ barcodes and add them to your collection, but too be honest, I think the web interface is much more intuitive.

Library Thing

The second major site that I found is Library Thing.  It is also a Web 2.0 paradigm site, but it focuses (in my opinion) more on the books aspect rather than the social aspect.  Make no mistake, it has social/community features galore, but for some reason, whenever I’m there, I feel the focus is on books first, community second unless you really want to make it a community focused site.  I don’t have nearly as many of my books listed there, about a 1/10th of my collection, but I’m adding books there on a weekly basis.  I love that you can order the books by “shelves” (which you can also do on GR) and that you can print out a listing of books (or just the covers) by the shelves that you set up.  They also recommend books to read based on your shelves (again, GR does this as well).   One thing that I liked that came too late for me to use is TinyCat, a mini-library interface that you can checkout books with (sort of a mini-circulation module).  This would have been perfect for my classroom library when I was a 6th grade teacher, but it was implemented until the year that I left–I tried several systems (including GR shelves), but none fit my needs like TC would have.  Too bad, as even with the half solutions, I had a fair amount of buy-in with my students as “librarians.”  Imagine what I could have done with a fully fleshed out check-in/check-out database that the students could have used with their Chromebooks–I would have probably had what I was looking for developing as a 6th grade language arts teacher–a class of readers who would also share my love for books and reading.

Well, that’s all for today–have a good day!

Sidney