Friday, February 19, 2016




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Thursday, February 11, 2016

33 Ways to Speak Better English- British English Coach

33 ways to speak better English – without taking classes

If you’re reading this, I imagine you want to communicate with confidence and competence in English.
When we communicate effectively we are able to express our ideas and opinions, share experiences, and build relationships with others. When we struggle to express ourselves, we feel unvalued and insecure. As human beings, we want to participate in group discussions and have an impact on the society around us.
In the modern world, we communicate across borders. English is the closest thing we have to an international language.
By speaking better English, people all over the world can hear our voice. But, to speak better English, you need a teacher, don’t you? You need to take English classes, right?
Well, English teachers and English classes definitely help. But, studying English for a few hours a week may not improve your spoken English very much.
What you need is to become a self-directed learner, somebody who takes responsibility for their own learning and creates their own learning programme to develop their English.
Now, it’s certainly true that speaking is a social activity and is best done with other people. However, you could say the same about many activities.  Leo Messi became a wonderful football player because he spent hours every day for many years practising by himself.
You can do the same with your English. Here are 33 ways to speak better English, without going to classes.
1. Record yourself speaking English. Listening to yourself can be strange at first but you get used to it. Listen to a recording of a fluent English speaker (a short audio file) and then record yourself repeating what they said. Compare the difference and try again. Humans are natural mimics so you will find yourself getting better and better. Soundcloud is an excellent tool for voice recording as you or your teacher can make notes about your errors.
2. Read aloud, especially dialogue. Reading aloud is not the same as speaking naturally. However, it is very useful for exercising the vocal muscles. Practise for 5 or 10 minutes a day and you will begin to notice which sounds are difficult for you to produce. Find transcripts of natural dialogues, such as these here, and practise acting them with a friend, you will also learn common phrases which we use when speaking.
3. Sing along to English songs while you’re driving or in the shower. The lyrics to pop songs are often conversational so you can learn lots of common expressions by listening to them. Humans are also able to remember words when used together with music which is why it is difficult to remember poems but easy to remember the words to songs. Here are some songs to get started with.
4. Watch short video clips and pause and repeat what you hear. YouTube is an amazing resource for language learners and you probably already have your favourite clips. My advice is to watch short clips and really study them. With longer videos, you may find your attention wanders. The key to improving by watching videos is to really listen carefully and use the pause button to focus on sounds and words. Many YouTube videos now have captions.
5. Learn vowel and consonant sounds in English. The Phonemic chart is a list of the different vowel and consonant sounds in English. Learning how to make these sounds and then using them to pronounce words correctly will really help you speak English clearly. This is a great resource from the British Council.
6. Learn and identify schwa. What is schwa you might be asking? Well, it’s the most common sound in English: Click here. We use it all the time in words like ‘teacher’ and ‘around’.
7. Learn about weak and strong forms of common words. When you know about the ‘schwa’ sound, you will listen to native speakers in a different way. English is a stress-timed language which means that we use a combination of strong and weak forms of some words. For example, which words do we stress in the following sentence?
I want to go for a drink tonight.
How do native speakers pronounce to / for / a in the sentence? We use the schwa sound so it sounds like:
I wanna go ferra drink tenigh.
Learn how and when to use weak forms and your speaking will improve overnight. You will also learn to focus on stressed words when listening to fast, native-speaker English and you will finally be able to understand us!
8. Learn about word stress. When words have more than one syllable, we stress one or more of them. For example, the word intelligent has four syllables but which syllable do we stress? Click here to find out. Remember that the small vertical mark above the word identifies the stressed syllable: /ɪnˈtel.ɪ.dʒənt/
9. Learn about sentence stress. Sentence stress refers to the word or words we stress in a phrase of a sentence. When we stress a word, we help the listener understand what is important. If we stress the wrong word or don’t stress the key word, the listener may get confused or not realise what is important in the sentence. A few years ago, I enrolled in a gym. I was asked to attend an introductory class at ‘five to six‘. The Hungarian receptionist stressed the word ‘six‘ so I arrived at 5.55. She looked at me and told me that I was late and the class had nearly finished. She should have stressed ‘five‘ and ‘six‘ so would have understood that the class lasted for one hour and began at 5pm! For more on sentence stress, read here.

10. Identify fixed and semi-fixed phrases and practise them. Fixed phrases usually contain between 3 and 7 words and include items like:
to be honest
in a moment
on the other hand
A conversation is made of grammatical structures, vocabulary and fixed or semi-fixed phrases. In fact, to tell the truth , on the whole, most of the time, my friends and I , communicate with each other in a series of fixed and semi-fixed expressions.
Learn the communicative function of these phrases and practise how to pronounce them (remember weak forms, which words are stressed) and use them in your everyday conversation. Click here for a list of 1000 common phrases.
11. Learn about collocations. Words don’t like being alone. They prefer to hang out with their friends and, just like people, some words form close friendships and other never speak to each other.
Yellow doesn’t get on well with hair. Maybe yellow is jealous of blond because blond and hair are frequently seen out together having a great time. Yellow doesn’t understand why hair prefers blond because yellow and blond are so similar.
Listen carefully for common combinations of words. Short and small have similar meanings but people have short hair not small hair. High and tall are often not so different but people have high hopes but not tall hopes. Foxes are sly not devious. Hours can be happy but are never cheerful. Idiots are stupid but rarely silly.
12. Replace regular verbs with phrasal verbs. Many learners of English don’t understand why native speakers use so many phrasal verbs where there are normal verbs (usually with Latin roots) which have the same meaning. English was originally a Germanic language which imported lots of Latin vocabulary after the Norman conquest in the 11th century. Regardless of the historical factors, the fact is that native English speakers use lots and lots of phrasal verbs. If you want to understand us, then try to include them in your conversation. If you make a mistake, you’ll probably make us laugh but you are unlikely to confuse us as we can usually guess what you want to say from the context. Phrasal verbs are spatial and originally referred to movement so when you learn a new one, make physical movements while saying them to help you remember.
13. Learn short automatic responses. Many of our responses are automatic (Right, OK, no problem, alright, fine thanks, just a minute, you’re welcome, fine by me, let’s do it!, yup, no way! you’re joking, right?, Do I have to? etc.) Collect these short automatic responses and start using them.
14. Practise telling stories and using narrative tenses. Humans are designed to tell stories. We use the past simple, past continuous and past perfect for telling stories but when the listener is hooked (very interested), they feel like they are actually experiencing the story right now. So, we often use present tenses to make our stories more dramatic!
15. Learn when to pause for effect. Speaking quickly in English does not make you an effective English speaker. Knowing when to pause to give the listener time to think about what you have said, respond appropriately, and predict what you are going to say does. Imagine you’re an actor on a stage, pausing keeps people interested. Great strategy if you need to speak English in public.
16. Learn about chunking. Chunking means joining words together to make meaningful units. You don’t need to analyse every word to use a phrase. Look at the phrase: Nice to meet you. It’s a short phrase (4 words) which can be remembered as a single item. It is also an example of ellipsis (leaving words out) because the words ‘It’  and ‘is’ are missing at the beginning of the phrase. However, we don’t need to include them.  Learn more here.
17. Learn about typical pronunciation problems in your first language. Japanese learners find it difficult to identify and produce ‘r‘ and ‘l‘ sounds; Spanish don’t distinguish between ‘b‘ and ‘v‘; Germans often use a ‘v‘ sound when they should use a ‘w‘. Find out about the problems people who speak your first language have when speaking English and you will know what you need to focus on.
18. Choose an accent you like and imitate it. We often have an emotional connection with certain nationalities. Do you have more of an interest in British culture or American culture? Do you support Manchester United or Arsenal?  Deciding what variety of English you want to learn is your first step.
19. Find an actor/actress you like and identify what makes them powerful speakers. Do you want to sound like Barack Obama, Benedict Cumberbatch (Sherlock Homes) Beyonce or Steve Jobs? If you want to sound like David Beckham, I advise you to reconsider, unless you want to sound like a young girl!
20. Use a mirror and / or a sheet of paper for identifying aspirated and non-aspirated sounds. Aspirated sounds are those with a short burst of here, such as ‘p‘ in ‘pen, and unaspirated sounds have no or little air, such as the ‘b‘ in ‘Ben‘. Watch this video to learn more.
21. Practise tongue twisters. Tongue twisters are phrases designed to improve your pronunciation of particular sounds. Here is a list for kids but it’s great fun.  Have a go now.Try saying this phrase quickly:
What a terrible tongue twister. What a terrible tongue twister. What a terrible tongue twister.
22. Practise spelling names, numbers and dates aloud. This may seem very basic to some of you but if you don’t practise, you forget how to say them.Have a go here at numbers here and at place names here.
23. Learn about common intonation patterns. Intonation (when the pitch of the voice goes up and down) is complex in English but it is very important as it expresses the feeling or emotion of the speaker. Here is an amusing introduction to intonation.
24. Learn about places of articulation. The articulators are the parts of the mouth we use to turn sound into speech. They can be fixed parts (the teeth, behind the teeth and the roof of the mouth) and mobile parts (the tongue, the lips, the soft palate, and the jaw). Click here for more information.
25. After looking at places of articulation, practise making the movements that native speakers use when they speak. Here’s a video and remember to open the jaws, move the lips and get your tongue moving!
26. Learn why English is a stress-timed language. The rhythm of the language is based on stressed syllables so we shorten the unstressed syllables to fit the rhythm. Syllable-timed languages (such as Spanish) take the same time to pronounce each syllable. Here’s an explanation which might explain why you speak English like a robot or watch this funny clip here.
27. Learn how to interrupt and interject politely and successfully. Click here for a list of interrupting phrases.
28. Learn about ellipsis, assimilation and linking sounds.
29. Speak lower not higher. Studies show that you command attention and demonstrate authority with a deeper vocal tone, especially men. This is particularly important if you have to speak in public. Here is a quick guide.
30. Listen and read along to poetry (or rap songs) to practise the rhythm of English. Limericks (short, funny, rhyming poems) are really useful and demonstrate how English is stress-timed and how we use weak forms.
31. Learn exclamation words and fillers. Watch this video or study this list of 100 common exclamations here.
32. Learn how to paraphrase. Paraphrasing is when we repeat what we have just said to make it clear to the listener or when we repeat what the other person has said by using different words. Here are a few to get started.
33. Use contractions more. Contractions make your speech more efficient because they save time and energy. Say ‘should not’ and then say ‘shouldn’t’: which is easier to say? Very common in fluent speech.
Now, here’s your CALL TO ACTION.
In the next 33 days, spend 15 minutes every day on one of the tips. I’m sure you’ll notice a huge improvement.
And maybe one day you’ll speak English like Messi plays football!

Thursday, February 04, 2016

Unemployed because they can't speak English -

             THE announcement by the government to introduce the new dual-language programme (DLP), as the added educational component to the government’s high-immersion programme (HIP) initiative helmed by the government’s Performance Management Delivery Unit (Pemandu) last year, received an overwhelming response from parents of schoolgoing children and would-be schoolgoing children, educationists, businesses and groups that have a stake in the development of education. It gives many of us hope that changes to the government’s education policy have ended. Under DLP, schools can teach Science, Mathematics, Information Technology and Communication, as well as Design and Technology, in English or Bahasa Malaysia. In its initial stage of implementation, only 300 schools are involved. This number will increase over time. Nonetheless, parents and their children can decline the offer to go to DLP schools. The idea is to check the falling standard of English in schools and raise the standard of education in national schools. It is hoped that our young citizens, after completing their primary education, those who complete secondary schools after 11 years of studies, and in particular, university graduates, will achieve an acceptable standard of mastery of the English language and be ready to start work.  The problem that we have now, where more than 400,000 graduates are unemployed, most of them Malays and mostly because they can’t speak English, according to a study by Pemandu, will be addressed. No graduate will remain unemployed anymore because of their poor command of English. Nonetheless, things are not going smoothly as many thought and hoped for. Due to pressure by political groups and non-governmental organisations, such as, Persatuan Penulis Nasional Malaysia (Pena), and language nationalists, there are objections to the introduction of DLP in national schools. The say DLP will relegate the importance of the national language and introduce yellow culture. Some even feel that DLP threatens the country’s national identity.  Parti Amanah Negara (Amanah), a recently formed opposition political party comprising mostly members of a Pas breakaway group, voiced its objection and is planning to organise a demonstration to oppose DLP. They believe that with the introduction of DLP, the country will make the young embrace the colonised mentality that we saw during the British occupation. This is an argument, which, to many, is absurd. For a party with a large number of Malay professionals, I wonder what is happening to Amanah’s progressive stance. Their stand is disappointing to most of us who had hopes for Amanah to raise the educational level. We have given up on them. Given their stand, and if it is allowed to happen, we will see no progress. PKR and Pas are standing their ground, as expressed by their leaders to maintain the education policy and system that has Bahasa Malaysia, the national language, as the lingua franca in national schools. This is viewed as stagnation, at best, in our standard of education and, therefore, we will also see no progress. I am not surprised to see hypocrisy being practised by high-profile opposition members, who send their children to international schools, despite their stand against the use of English in national schools. Since DLP is optional, no one should have any worry or feel threatened by its implementation, and parents can keep their children in non-DLP national schools, if they object to it. Many of us now are not too sure if opposition parties are objecting to DLP just for the sake of objecting to any new government initiative, or it is just another one of their political ploys. DLP is about being pro gressive and being globally competitive. However, if the majority of people prefer to follow the advice and stand of opposition parties and they do not want the people in this country to be globally competitive, then, there’s no need to change anything. However, they should be prepared for a downfall due to our young’s education level, no progress in education, and be prepared to see more graduates unemployed. It is hoped that the government will maintain its stand on the implementation of DLP, have the commitment to ensure its success, and go for further progress and development for the good of the people. HUSSAINI ABDUL KARIM Shah Alam, Selangor

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Tuesday, January 12, 2016


Tuesday, January 05, 2016

Captain Nobody Book Review 3

Book Review: Captain Nobody

Captain Nobody by Dean Pitchford. Grades 3-5. Putnam Juvenile, July 2009. Copy provided by my local library.

(This is a 2009 Cybils nominee and this review reflects only my personal opinion of the book, not necessarily the opinion of the panel!)Newt Newman is practically invisible. His older brother Chris is a high school football superstar, but even their parents don't seem to notice Newt most of the time. When Chris is injured in a game, Newt feels more invisible than ever until he creates a Captain Nobody costume. In his Captain Nobody costume, Newt discovers that he not only has what it takes to be noticed, he has what it takes to be a hero. 

I loved the tone of Captain Nobody. In my opinion, the book is pitch perfect - funny without being silly and serious without being depressing. Newt is really in a bad way at the beginning of the book, something that's obvious to the reader even though Newt doesn't seem to acknowledge it. Always outshone by his big brother, Newt has assumed the role of invisible helper boy. He makes breakfast for his family (and sometimes they eat it, unless they're distracted by more important things). He can always remember where his mom left her keys. But when they go to Chris's big football game, his parents are so distracted that Newt gets squeezed out of his seat and kicked out of the stadium.

Newt has really internalized his feeling of being invisible. That's the way things have always been and Newt doesn't feel like he has any power over it. All that changes when his two friends insist that he come up with a Halloween costume. From the moment that Newt pulls the mask over his face, he starts to feel different. He gives himself permission to become someone new.

And change he does. Newt starts facing his fears and gets into a few accidental heroic situations and before you know it, he's started believing in himself.

I know, I know. That sounds like it's kind of hokey, right? Well, Pitchford does a great job at keeping it from being hokey. Although the bits where Captain Nobody becomes an accidental hero might stretch your suspension of disbelief, Newt's transformation felt really organic to me. This isn't a book written to teach kids that you should believe in yourself, but rather a book about Newt's journey and the wacky adventures along the way that happen to lead to him believing in himself.

A recurring theme in the book is that things may be different than they appear. Although Captain Nobody is a ten-year-old in a homemade costume, he's a hero to many people in the community. This would make a great choice for book discussions or for reading together with your child and talking about it.

This is a book for wimpy kids and overlooked siblings. This is also a book for kids who maybe need to see that there are different ways of looking at problems and situations. And I love that it's about a boy dealing with emotions, but not in a particularly touchy-feely way.

Did I mention that it's not depressing*?

Captain Nobody Book Review 2

Captain Nobody by Dean Pitchford: Book Rambling

Newton Newman is used to being invisible. His parents are forever caught up in work and his high school football star brother Chris is getting ready for the biggest game of the year. Most people seem surprised to discover Chris has a ten-year-old kid brother. Newton and his two best friends, JJ and Cecil, are the most ignored fourth graders at their school. Halloween is just around the corner and the three friends decide they’ve had enough of hand me down costumes and going as the same old things. They are going to be noticed. They are going to be who they really want to be–“their inner selves.”
Newt has no idea what he’s going to do for his costume. He has notebooks filled with villains and heroes he’s created, but they all have special abilities he can’t mimic, such as turning into wire. He shelves costume planning to attend the big game between his brother’s Fennimore Ferrets and the rival Merrimac team. Merrimac’s got the better record in the rivalry between the two teams, but Chris has given the Ferrets victory against Merrimac before. The game is a battle to the end, when a long play gives Fennimore a touchdown just in time.
But when the players come off the pile in the end zone, one player is not moving. That player is Chris. Heart pounding, Newt watches as his brother is loaded into an ambulance, unconscious. Not allowed to accompany Chris to the hospital, Newt is taken home by neighbors.
When JJ and Cecil arrive to trick or treat, they find Newt wearing half a drawer full of clothes handed down to him by Chris. Newt had been trying to his mom smile, but she left before she could see him all dressed up in Chris’s stuff (she had told Newt she missed Chris). JJ and Cecil help Newt cobble together a hero costume from sweatpants, part of a sweatshirt and a basketball jersey.
In his costume, Newt doesn’t feel so afraid. He feels confident, as if he actually were a hero. Pressed to come up with a name while trick or treating, Newt settles on Captain Nobody. In his costume, he is noticed, not ignored. Discovering the next morning that there are no other clean clothes in his room, Newt takes Captain Nobody to school.
Other kids stare and sneer. Newt’s teacher is taken aback. When he tells her his name, he ends up in the principal’s office briefly. The adults are very concerned with how he is acting, thinking he’s disconnecting after being traumatized by his brother’s injury. They let him keep the costume on, even addressing him as Captain Nobody, but they also call his parents.
Cecil gets caught up in the whole Captain Nobody thing. He brings walkie-talkies for Newt and JJ. He has Captain Nobody rescue a bass drum from the top of a huge garbage pile. Unexpectedly, this incident also gives Newt a chance to help an elderly man with dementia or Alzheimer’s home.
Captain Nobody has a talent for getting into situations because of his friends or bullies that also give him a chance to be brave. A mission to help a jewelery store fix the horrible grammar on its signs ends up giving the jeweler a chance to hit an alarm because a theft was in progress. When the football team mascot, a real ferret, runs out into the middle of a high way, it is up to Captain Nobody to rescue it.
I could well relate to parents who wanted to protect a child from a health scare. Newton’s parents are not telling much about Chris and the feeling of being useless is eating him up inside. He finds they are ripping out articles in the paper about his brother’s health so he doesn’t worry about what’s going on. Newt can’t visit Chris because more tests need to be done. How the parents try to protect Newt is sort of a role reversal in the family.
In many ways, Newt is the caretaker in the family. He took over breakfast duty from his absent minded mother. He’s the one that reminds her where Halloween is. He remembers all the very strange places things get filed in his house (housing contracts are in with cereal these days). Newt is very responsible in some ways, but in others he’s facing a lot of childhood worries and fears. Whenever anyone asks about Chris, he tells them his brother will be fine because that’s what he has to believe.
I loved the sibling bond in this book. Chris and Newt had certain rituals, such as how Newt would wake Chris up in the morning when he had trouble going (watch out for hoses!) and how Chris always told Newt there were monsters under his bed. I found it rewarding to read a book where the popular brother has a good relationship with the more overshadowed sibling.
I found this to be an engrossing read and its ending is sweetly done. The friendships felt strong between the three main kids. While some of the things Captain Nobody ended up doing required some suspension of belief, it was in keeping with the tone of the book. There are some interesting explorations of the consequences of rumors in the aftermath of big events. Some of the circumstances in the book, from the football injury to a brother to the uncertainty of the hospital to the feeling of being faraway and useless reminded me in some ways of Catherine Murdock’s YA The Off Season.


Captain Nobody by Dean Pitchford
DTDL Battle of the Books 2011

Which book has a “prologue? Captain Nobody (p. 1)

Who was falling from Appleton’s last remaining water tower? Newton Newman (p. 1)

In the Prologue of “Captain Nobody” what is happening to the person telling the story? He is falling (p. 1)

What is the name of the newspaper in Captain Nobody? Appleton Sentinel (p. 3)

Why did Newt take over breakfast preparations?
His mother got distracted once and poured milk into a bowl of raw bacon. (p. 3)

In Captain Nobody, what is the name of the town newspaper?
Appleton Sentinel (p. 3)

Who do Newt’s parents swear they named him after? Isaac Newton (p. 4)

Whose picture was on the front page of the sports section? Chris Newman, Newt’s brother (p. 4)

What is the mascot of Fillmore High School? Ferocious Ferret (p. 4)

Who was the crosstown archenemy of Fillmore High? Merrimac High or the Chargers of Merrimac High (p. 4)

What position did Newt’s brother play in football? Quarterback (p. 4)

How many times had Fillmore High won in football against Merrimac High? Twice, Chris Newman’s sophomore & junior years, (p. 5)

What kind of work does Newt’s Dad do?
He is the supervisor for a building company. (p. 5)

What does Newt’s mom do for a job? Sells Real Estate (p. 6)

What does Newt shout to wake his brother Chris up in the morning? He shouts “Hit the showers!” (p. 7)

Which school did Fillmore beat the week before playing Merrimac in the Big Game? Roosevelt Prep (p. 7)

What did Newt say to wake his brother up? “Hit the showers!” (p. 7)
What is the name of the school that Newt attends? He attends Appleton Elementary (p. 11)

What does Newt enjoy drawing in his sketch book? He draws superheroes. (p. 11).

One of Newt’s best friends is called JJ, what do the initials JJ stand for? Juanita Josephina. (p. 12)

What was the name of the first superhero Newt ever created in his sketchbook? Master Key (p. 12)

Who had seen Newt’s Secret Superhero Sketchbooks? JJ, Cecil (p. 12) and Chris (p. 193)

Describe the talents of Master Key.
His hands could transform into keys that could open and lock in existence. (p. 12)

Whose was Newt’s second super hero? Paper Boy came second. (p. 12)

What was Paper Boy’s talent?
Paper Boy could flatten his body until it was so thin that he could slip under any door. (p. 12)

Describe JJ.
She is the tallest girl in the fourth grade with a head full of thick, untamed black hair. (p. 12)

What is Newt’s friend  JJ’s full name?
It is Juanita Josephine Gonzalez. (p. 12)

Who were Newt’s best friends? JJ and Cecil (p. 12)

Describe Cecil Butterworth.
He is shorter and skinnier than Newt and speaks loudly. (p. 13)

What is the wimpy librarian’s new name? It is Guy Wire. (p. 13)

Describe Guy Wire.
He has arms and legs and fingers that could stretch into steel wire and do cool things.

Why did Guy Wire’s body change?
He was exposed to radiation from a meteorite. (p. 13)

What does Cecil think that JJ swallowed? A dictionary. (p. 13)

At what age did JJ begin to read? Age 3. (p. 13)

Who taught JJ to read?
She taught herself with a wooden alphabet puzzle and a really big brain. (p. 13)

What is Cecil’s dream?
He dreams of becoming a drummer. (p. 13)

What is Cecil’s last name? Butterworth (p. 13)

Which one of Newt’s superheroes used to be a wimpy librarian? Guy Wire (p. 13)

Why did Cecil, JJ & Newt dislike their previous Halloween costumes? They had always been forced to wear hand‐me‐downs. (p. 14)

Describe Cecil and Newt being ignored in school.
1.    Kids stepping on us in the hallways (p. 15)
2.    People shove you away from the water fountain (p. 16)
3.    People slide your food off the table and squeeze us out of our seats? (p. 16)

Who had the idea of the “inner other ‐personal hero” Halloween costumes? It was Cecil. (p. 16)

Cecil claims he can wrap himself in sheet music and go trick‐or‐treating as a what? Symphony (P. 17)

Newt thinks if he could “whip up a white robe and glue on a beard” he could be what for Halloween? A Greek god. (p. 20)

Why did JJ explode about the banner on the Spirit Squad truck? The apostrophe in Ferrets was wrong and unnecessary. (p. 21)

What can Tommy Origami do?
He can fold his body into a packet the size of a postage stamp. (p. 23)

What is Dwight’s special talent?
Dwight, The Mighty Termite can chew his way through a wood wall in ten seconds. (p. 23)

What can Gas Man clear?
He can clear a shopping mall full of people… (p. 23)

Why couldn’t Newt’s mom find the egg rolls at the tailgate? They had already been eaten. (p. 27)

On which yard line do Newt’s parents usually sit at football games? The fifty‐yard line. (p. 27)

In Captain Nobody, which day of the week did Halloween fall on? Sunday (p. 27)

Who was the # 1 defensive end in the county for 3 years? Reggie Ratner from Merrimac High. (p. 28)

How did Newt wind watching the football through the fence?
He was squeezed off the bench, went down the aisle to the railing and couldn’t produce his ticket when the usher asked it. (p. 28, 29, 30)

Why did Newt watch most of the football game from the parking lot? Because he lost his ticket (p. 30)

What are Fillmore High School’s school colors? Red and white (p. 31)

Who scored the winning touchdown in the big game? Chris Newman. (p. 32)

How old is Newt Newman?
10 years old (p. 39)

The first afternoon when Chris was in the hospital, what did JJ & Cecil bring to cheer up Newt? They each brought a CD. (p. 40)

When would the Ferrets’ Victory Parade occur? When Chris Newman was able to celebrate. (p. 41)

Who postponed the Victory Parade?
The principal of Fillmore High School. (p. 41)

Who was accused of delivering the blow that knocked Chris unconscious? Reggie Ratner (p.42)

In Newt’s first dream after the Big Game, what are he and Chris doing? Ice skating (p. 45)

What had Newt been for Halloween in previous years? A Cowboy (p. 47)

How did the Captain Nobody costume get created?
Newt was going to dress up in Chris’s old clothes to cheer his mother up (p. 50)

Describe JJ’s Halloween costume & makeup.
Black gown edged with silver cord, long black gloves, hair twirled around pipe cleaners, shiny black lip glass, black and white eye shadow, silver crystal earrings. (p. 51)

Describe Cecil’s Halloween costume.
Green velvet jacket crisscrossed with colored ribbons, green velvet pants, long gray socks and green high‐top
tennis shoes and hair whitened with baby powder. (p. 51 & 52)

Who was Cecil’s Halloween character?
It was The Wolf‐ Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. (p. 52)

What color was JJ’s Halloween costume? Black  (p. 52)

Who does JJ dress up as for Halloween?
Splendida, the Queen of the Dungeon of Dreams (p. 52)
Who does Cecil dress up as for Halloween? Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (p. 52)

What was Captain Nobody’s cape made out of? A gray sweatshirt (p. 56)

What kind of shoes did Captain Nobody wear?
Silver track shoes striped with lightning bolts   (p. 56)

Describe Newt’s costume made with JJ & Cecil.
Red sweatpants, Chris’ old silver track shoes with lightning bolts, purple baseball jersey with a gray sweatshirt cape, red t‐shirt mask with “CN” on it. (p. 56, 57)

What one item changed Newt’s opinion of his costume? The mask (p. 57)

Which part of an old t‐shirt was used to make Captain Nobody’s mask? A short sleeve (p. 57)

What letters were on Newt’s mask? C N (p. 60)

Who prompted Newt to come up with the name “Captain Nobody”?
The couple passing out treats who wanted the kids to identify who they were dressed up as (p. 61)

What did JJ and Cecil claim CN stood for before Newt came up with “Captain Nobody”? Commander Nuclear (p. 61)

What did Newt do with his Halloween sack after he got home? He pushed it down into the kitchen trash. (p. 67)

Newt dreamed that Captain Nobody patched a hole in the side of a sinking ship using what? Gum (p. 68)

What was on Reggie Ratner’s lawn after Halloween?
Fifty cans of garbage had been emptied on the lawn. (p. 69)

Why did Newt wear his costume to school the day after Halloween? (Two reasons) Because the outfit made him feel strong and confident (p. 70)
And because his mother had washed all of his clothes but forgot to dry them (p. 71)

How did Newt feel when he wore the “Captain Nobody” costume?
He felt strong, assured, confident that Chris was OK, certain that Mom wouldn’t cry, worry free, special, amazing
(p. 70)  Okay, right (p. 71)  Good (p. 78) Super amazing, magical (p. 91)

Captain Nobody is “defender of the” what? Little guy (p. 73)

Who is the principal at Appleton Elementary? Mr. Toomey (p. 73)

Why was Newt allowed to remain in school wearing a costume? Because of what had happened to Chris (p. 75)

How did Captain communicate with his friends? By walkie‐talkie (p. 77)

What did Cecil use to call Captain Nobody? He used a walkie talkie. (p. 80)

Which one of Newt’s best friends is the first to call Captain Nobody via the walkie talkies? Cecil (p. 80)

What did Cecil find in the dumpster? A bass drum (p. 81)

What was Newt’s big fear?
He was afraid of heights. (p. 82)

Why did Captain Nobody scream like a cheerleader?
A gnarled hand shot out from a stack of cardboard boxes and grabbed his ankle. (p. 84)

Who did the boys find near the dumpster? Mr. Clay (p. 85)

In what way had Mr. Clay helped Newt’s mother?
He would pick locks and make keys – he was a locksmith (p. 86)

What is Mr. Clay’s profession? He is a locksmith. (p. 86)

Which one of Newt’s parents did Mr. Clay work with in the past? Newt’s mom (p. 86)

Who does Captain Nobody save on his first adventure? Mr. Clay the locksmith (p. 86)

How did Captain Nobody assist Mr. Clay? He walked him back to his home (p. 87)

What did Newt’s father apologize for to Newt? He apologized for neglecting Newt. (p. 90)

Who called Newt’s parents at the hospital concerning Newt?
Principal Toomey, Mrs. Young, the guidance counselor and other people. (p. 90)

When Newt’s mom is close to selling a house what does she call the pair of heels that she wears? Her “seal‐the‐deal‐heels.” (p. 91)

Which call for assistance did Captain Nobody ignore? Moving a freezer out of a basement  (p. 93)

How did Newt see his brother while the “no visitor” was in effect? His Mom took a video with her cell phone. (p. 94)

In one of Newt’s dreams, he imagines everyone at the football stadium getting what kind of food?
Pizza, a slice of pizza (p. 96)

Newt tells JJ and Cecil that if it is a “real, true emergency you’d better” do what? Call 911 (p. 98)

What does Cecil require Newt & JJ to say when they are done talking into their walkie‐talkies? They are supposed to say “over.” (p. 98)

What grade is Ricky Ratner in? Seventh grade (p. 99)

Name Reggie Ratner’s cousin. Ricky Ratner. (p. 99)

What did Ricky want Captain Nobody to do?
Call off Chris’ friends and football players who keep hassling his cousin. (p. 100)

Who stood up for Captain Nobody when Ricky was making his demand?
Cecil, JJ, Basher, Evan McGee and all the rest of the fourth‐grade boys. (p. 101)

What did Sullivan’s Jewelry Store do to upset JJ? They misspelled words on their sign (p. 105)

How was necklace spelled on the sign in front of Sullivan’s Jewelry Store? N‐E‐C‐K‐L‐E‐S‐S (p. 105)

Not counting Captain Nobody, how many customers were in the jewelry store when Newt entered? One (p. 107)

The word karat was spelled wrong on the sign in front of Sullivan’s Jewelry Store, how was it supposed to be spelled?
K‐A‐R‐A‐T (p. 108)

Which nationality are Mr. and Mrs. Sullivan, the jewelry store owners? Irish (p. 108)

What was going on when JJ and Newt went into Sullivan’s Jewelry Store? There was a robbery in progress (p. 110)

What were the three signs in the jewelry store window that upset JJ?
1.    Ask about our 24 carrot gold!
2.    Every neckless on sale.
3.    All earring’s half off!!!

Why did Newt refuse to be a witness at the jewelry store?
The robber said he would hunt Newt down and hurt him. (p. 110, 111)

Why was Captain Nobody not seen on the surveillance camera?
The cameras were aimed to view adults, “normal” sized people. (p. 114)

How was Captain Nobody referred to in news reports?
The little guy, a savior, subnormal, a midget, a hero, wee folk, a leprechaun (p. 114) Some little bozo, an escaped mental patient, punk, villain or a hero (p. 136), a human fly ( p. 185)

What do Mr. and Mrs. Sullivan mistake Captain Nobody for being? A leprechaun (p. 114)

Why did Newt’s Mom throw away the newspaper page?
It had an article about Chris which was not good. (p. 118, 119)

Where was the jewel thief recognized and caught? In a McDonald’s near the Jewelry Store (p. 118)

Medical experts said Chris Newman would be ok unless he remained in a coma for more than how many days? Six days (p. 119)

Who is head cheerleader at Fillmore High School? Colby Bryn (p. 121)

Who was the mascot for Fillmore High School? Ferocious the Ferret (p. 122)

Describe Ferocious the Ferret.
He looks like a puzzled cat whose body has been stretched long and low to the ground. (p. 123)

Newt claimed that Ferocious the Ferret “looks like a puzzled” what? Cat (p. 123)

What is the wagon that carries Ferocious around the field before football games called? The Ferret Ferrari (p. 123)

Who volunteers Newt to take home the high school’s mascot? Cecil (p. 124).

What can Cecil do that his teacher refers to as “earsplitting”? Whistle (p. 124)

Who was going to be the fourth grade Friend of Ferocious? Captain Nobody (p. 124)

True or False: It was a well known fact that Chris Newman had a younger brother. False (p. 124)

Ferocious the Ferret is what two colors? Black and white (p. 125)

What is the mascot of Merrimac High School? The Merrimac Charger (p. 127)

How were peopling “torturing” Reggie Ratner?
They were calling 40 times a night and waking up the family & ordering Chinese  takeout for Reggie’s address, writing “blame Reggie” on the Charger.. (p. 127)

Who was the mascot for Merrimac High School? The Merrimac Charger (p. 127)

What statue is on the front lawn of Merrimac High School?
The Merrimac Charger, a huge bronze guy on horseback. (p. 127)

How was Ferocious the Ferret able to escape from his cage?
It opened up when Ricky Ratner and his friends tried to grab it away from Newt (p. 129)

Why did Captain Nobody stop traffic on the freeway? Because Ferocious the Ferret ran into the road (p. 131)

What happened while Captain Nobody was chasing Ferocious on the highway?
The traffic stopped and angry drivers beeped their horns. A small pane with engine trouble landed on the cleared highway. (p. 132, 133)

What happened because of traffic being stopped on the highway?
A small passenger plane with engine trouble was able to land there (p. 135)

When did Newt realize whose helmet met Chris’ causing his injury?
He had a dream about the highway and the cars became football players and the final play of the game was
replayed in slow motion. (p. 140)

Whose helmet connected with Chris’ helmet? Darryl Peeps. (p. 140)

Who actually made the contact that sent Chris to the hospital? Darryl Peeps (p. 141)

What time frame were the doctors giving Chris to get better? Six days (p. 143)

When JJ was five she decided everyone must call her Princess Zarzuela and that she would only eat foods that were what color?
White (p. 144)

Why did the police think Reggie was up on the water tower?
That he was depressed as students and fans of Fillmore High School had repeatedly harassed him and his family and he was going to commit suicide. (p. 147)

Why did everyone think Reggie Ratner climbed up the water tower? To commit suicide  (p. 147)

Why did Newt think that he was the only person who could change Reggie’s mind? Because he was Chris’s brother and also because he knew what really happened  (p. 150)

Newt admits that he is scared of heights. What are JJ and Cecil afraid of? JJ – spiders   Cecil – plastic garbage bags  (p. 151)

What fear does Captain Nobody help Newt overcome? His fear of heights. (p. 151)

Why is Cecil scared of plastic garbage bags?
They are slimy. (p. 151)

Who helped boost Newt onto the water tower ladder? JJ (p. 154)

What part of the costume came off as Newt was climbing up the water tower? The mask  (p. 155)

Did Newt lose his Captain Nobody mask on the way up or down the water tower? The climb up the water tower (p. 156)

Newt thinks to crawl or “slither” over the water tower like which of his make‐believe crime fighters? Sticky Ricky (p. 157)

True or False: Reggie was not surprised to see Newt on the water tower. False (p. 157)

What two secrets had Newt told Ferocious?
He told Ferocious how badly he missed Chris and how Darryl’s helmet had connected with Chris’.

Why had Reggie Ratner climbed the water tower?
He wanted to spray “Go Merrimac” on the side of the tower so he would be remembered for something that he
had really done. (p. 159)

What are Merrimac’s school colors? Orange and green (p. 159)

How many bagels did Reggie have for breakfast the day he got stuck on the water tower? Seven (p. 161)

Why was Reggie stuck on the water tower roof?
He couldn’t untie his shoe to remove his foot when it went through the roof and got stuck. (p. 162)

Why did Newt fall from the ladder?
He let go of the ladder when a chunk of rung bonked him in the middle of his forehead. (p. 165)

Why did the boys fall from the water tower?
The ladder broke as they tried to climb down (p. 165)

What happened to put Newt in the hospital? Reggie fell on top of him   (p. 168)

Did Reggie get hurt in his fall? No, Newt broke his fall. (p. 169)

What were Newt’s injuries after Reggie fell on him? He had a broken ankle and two broken ribs. (p. 170)

When Newt found out he was at the hospital, what did he want to do? Visit Chris  (p. 170)

Why were Cecil and JJ giving interviews on TV?
To explain how Captain Nobody got involved in the water tower rescue (p. 171)

What did Reggie tell everyone was the reason he climbed the water tower? He needed to think   (p. 176)

What did Newt yell at Chris to get him to wake up? “Hit the showers!”   (p. 180)

What did Newt’s Mom order for him to eat in the hospital?
She ordered a hamburger, lettuce, no tomato and lots of mustard. (p. 183)

How did Newt get back to his home after being in the hospital? An ambulance drove him (p. 185)

How did Chris leave the hospital? In a limousine (p. 186)

Chris told the mayor that there was only one real hero in Appleton. Who was the hero? Newton! (p. 188)

When the mayor asked Chris if he was ready to ride in the victory parade, Chris declined.  What reason did he give? Chris said that the parade should be led by heroes, and Newt was the real hero  (p. 188)

In which month did the Fillmore victory parade finally take place? November (p. 190)

What did Mr. and Mrs. Sullivan give JJ to show their appreciation? A pair of diamond earrings (p. 191)

Who chipped in to give Cecil drums and lessons?
The pilot and passengers of the plane that made the emergency landing  (p. 191)

What did the mayor of Appleton present to Newt for all the good he had done? The Key to the City (p. 192)

After the parade, what presentations happened?
1.    Chris accepted the big gold statue on behalf of the Ferrets football team. (p. 191)
2.     Mr. and Mrs. Sullivan gave JJ diamond solitaire earrings. (p. 191)
3.    The pilot and passengers of the small plane gave Cecil a drum set, lessons and his parents’ earplugs. (p.
4.    Mr. Clay made a special gold “Key to the City” and the mayor gave it to Newt. (p. 192)

Name 5 of the super heroes that Newt has created. Master Key (p. 12)
Paper Boy (p. 12) Guy Wire (p. 13) Tommy Origami (p. 23)
Dwight, the Mighty Termite (p. 23)
Gas Man (p. 23)
Captain Nobody (p. 62)
Sticky Ricky (157)

Name 4 of Captain Nobody’s adventures
1.    He climbed up and into the dumpster to retrieve the bass drum for Cecil. (p. 81‐84)
2.    He walked Mr. Clay home. (p. 87)
3.    In his dream, Captain Nobody froze every one by yelling “Ollie, ollie oxen STOP!”  Chris walked off the
field unhurt, he unfroze everyone and then he ordered 1,000 pizzas & everyone in the stadium got a slice. (P. 95‐96)
4.    He interrupted a robbery Sullivan’s Jewelry Store while explaining the misspellings and incorrect grammar on their signs. (p. 107‐111)
5.    He dashed out into the traffic on the four lane highway waving his arms and screaming “Stop! Stop!” The traffic stopped and a small plane landed. (p. 131 ‐ 133)
6.    He climbed the water tower to talk to Reggie Ratner. (p. 157) The most daring rescue in Appleton history. (p. 171)

Where were the keys to the house on Elwood Street? They were in the freezer behind the frozen waffles (p. 6)

Where did Newt’s inspiration for drawing superheroes originate? Inspiration was from his brother’s comic book collection. (p. 12)

Where did Cecil, JJ and Newt meet?
They met at school in first grade. (p. 14) Appleton Elementary
Where did JJ’s Halloween character come from?
She was named Splendida, the Queen of the Dungeon of Dreams from The Crystal Cavern Chronicles. (p. 52)

Where was the jewel thief recognized and caught? In a McDonald’s near the Jewelry Store (p. 118)

Captain Nobody - Review


Captain Nobody

Life can be difficult at 10 years old. You’re not old enough for anyone to take you seriously, and you’re just beginning to combat the hormone jungle. It also doesn’t help if your high school-aged brother is the star quarterback of the local football team, your family is so busy they tend to rely on you for everything, and you have the mysterious power of blending into the background at school so that no one notices you. Indeed, life can be hard when you’re a nobody.
Newton Newman, or Newt, isn’t prepared for what happens next. His football-star older brother, Chris, is critically injured during the last play of the biggest game of the year and is unexpectedly struck into a coma. While the prognosis is positive, it’s also a bit mysterious: Chris’s vital signs are excellent; he’s just not waking up. Newt’s parents start spending all their time at the hospital, leave Newt at home, and forget to help him prepare for one of the most important holidays of the year --- Halloween. Cecil and JJ, Newt’s friends, try and take his mind off of Chris’s situation by challenging Newt to come up with a new and original costume.       
With all of the pressures from school, home and the hospital, Newt waits until the last second and scrapes together a less-than-impressive costume. He takes some of Chris’s hand-me-downs, track pants and an old football jersey, throws them together along with a mask cut out from one of Chris’s old shirts, and attempts to become a superhero. Not until the middle of trick-or-treating does Newt realize who he is --- Captain Nobody! Slowly, Newt begins to transform into a hero who stands up for all the quiet kids and all other children who people tend to forget about.
While Newt intended for Captain Nobody to exist only one night, circumstances beyond his control force him to dress like Captain Nobody on a daily basis. The effect is magic. Not only do kids in Newt’s class pay him a little more attention and respect, Captain Nobody manages to save the day on more than one occasion. If Newt is able to defeat common-class criminals, assist old men and stop traffic with a single glance, then surely he must be able to do something to help Chris. Time is running out, though, and this might be too big of a job --- even for someone as powerful as Captain Nobody!
Captain Nobody is a hero anyone can root for. Dean Pitchford manages to take an everyday kid facing extraordinary circumstances and turn him into a likable, realistic hero who you could find running down the street to save a lost kitten. The situations that Newt finds himself in as Captain Nobody are downright hilarious yet believable. I can still recall some of my fourth-grade days with fondness, but I didn’t have nearly as much fun as Newt. Like any good superhero, Captain Nobody inspires kids of all ages not to be afraid to stand up for what is right and to kick some butt at the same time!
Reviewed by Benjamin Boche on May 13, 2010

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