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Archive for July 12, 2011

Whale Talk (and a Make-Your-Own-Pizza Bar)

A varsity letter jacket: it’s exclusive, nearly unattainable, revered…and everything that’s screwed up about Cutter High, as far as T.J. Jones is concerned.  That’s why T.J. is determined to have the Cutter All Night Mermen–the unlikeliest swim team a high school as ever seen– earn letter jackets of their own.

It won’t be easy.  For one thing, they don’t even have a pool.  They will fight for their dignity, they will fight with each other, and sometimes they will just fight.  And then they will realize that a single moment can bring lifelong heartache or lifelong friendship.  For T.J. and his crew of misfits, the quest may be far more valuable than the reward.

~Back Cover

When I was in Kindergarten, I lived under the assumption that everyone was nice, that if I didn’t do anything bad to someone, then they wouldn’t do anything bad to me. One day, near the end of my Kindergarten year, I was happily walking up the sidewalk leading into school and, all of a sudden, I found myself on the ground with a skinned knee. My carefully organized folders with my meticulously colored “homework” assignments were scattered all over the sidewalk and even (gasp) in the mud. I looked up, embarrassed that someone had seen me clumsily lose my footing, when I saw another girl laughing at me. I quickly figured out that I had no fallen on my own accord. She had tripped me. Too proud to let her see how distraught I was, I calmly picked up my muddy papers and limped inside, making plans in my head to exact revenge.

Of course, I never really got revenge on this girl, unless you consider losing my friendship forever an act of revenge. Yes, I still remember exactly who this girl is. We are not friends.

In Whale Talk by Chris Crutcher, T.J. finds another way to get back at the people who are mean for the sake of being mean- he creates a swim team.  The only real swimmer on the team is T.J.   The rest include an angry, one-legged student who everyone is afraid of, a body builder, a genius who is looking for a physical extracurricular activity, a massively overweight boy, and a special education student who is mourning the death of his athletically-gifted brother.

If dealing with each other isn’t enough, they live in a homogeneously white community that elicits strong undertones of racism, especially since T.J., our main character, is African- and Japanese-American.

I truly enjoyed this book.  I read it about a month ago and I can’t stop thinking about it.  It is heavier material, but told in a light way so that you do not feel yourself bogged down with dense and depressing reading.

If I Could Change One Thing… I would add a girl to the swim team.  This is a very male book in the sense that there are very few female characters that have any sort of impact on the plot.  I think it would have been fun to add a female character to the swim team to see how that impacts the team dynamic.

I Would Recommend This For… anyone who likes reading about unlikely friendships, fighting the bullies, athletic competition, or struggles against racism and abuse.  Although it is classified as YA Lit, it is valuable for adults to read as well.

Other Reviews

Make-Your-Own-Pizza Bar

After each swim meet, the team stops for pizza on the bus ride home.  It is on these bus rides that they begin to bond as a team and as people.  They tell things about themselves that they have never shared with anyone before.  While some might argue that is a result of the long bus trips together, I firmly believe it is the pizza.  Pizza is my favorite food and it only seems natural that it would make the world a better place. 

Since people have such unique tastes when it comes to pizza, I like to create a make-your-own-pizza station so that everyone gets exactly what they want.
Pizza Dough:

I make two types:  normal and whole wheat.

Normal- this recipe is originally featured over at Simply Recipes

Whole Wheat-  this recipe is originally featured over at Andrea’s Recipes

Pizza Sauce:

Since it is summer, I chose to make my own and my goodness, I am proud of it.

Ingredients:

  • 10 tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup, total, of chopped herbs of your choice (I used oregano, thyme, basil, and rosemary)

Procedure:

  • Preheat your oven to 250F and cut all of your tomatoes in half.  Place on a baking sheet, skin-side down.  Roast for 1-2 hours.
  • Take them out of the oven and remove the skin.  It should be easy to remove at this point.  Put the tomatoes in a larger pot and put the burner on low.  Stir in the cut-up herbs of your choice.  Let simmer for about a half hour.
  • Using an immersion blender or working in batches with a regular blender, blend your sauce until smooth (or leave it chunkier if you like it like that).
  • Put the sauce back in the pot and continue to cook on low heat for 2 more hours.  This will condense the sauce and make it sweet.

Other Toppings:

  • Grate Mozzarella and Parmesan  cheese.
  • Steam broccoli, spinach, mushrooms, and peppers.
  • Grill onions.
  • Grill eggplant.
  • I felt like two different kinds of pizza so I just went ahead and did it!

    Grill ham, sausage, chicken or any other meat you’d like.

Putting it all together:

  • Preheat the oven to 500F.
  • Have everyone assemble their pizzas.  Do not put too much sauce or toppings on.  In this case, less is more.
  • Pop each pizza into the oven for 10 minutes, or until the crust seems done.
  • Eat.

You know you want that.

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