Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Book Review: Thug Notes

Title: Thug Notes: A Street Smart Guide to Classic Literature
Author: Sparky Sweets, PH. D.
Publisher: Vintage
Publication Date: August 18, 2015
Source: Goodreads First Reads Program
Sparky Sweets, PhD, and Wisecrack proudly present this outrageously funny, ultra-sharp guide to literature based on the hit online series, Thug Notes. Inside, you'll find hilarious plot breakdowns and masterful analyses of sixteen of literature's most beloved classics, including: Things Fall Apart, To Kill a Mockingbird, HamletThe Catcher in the Rye, Lord of the Flies, Pride and Prejudice, and more!

The series Thug Notes has been featured on BET, PBS, and NPR and has been used in hundreds of classrooms around the world. Whether you’re a student, teacher, or straight-up literary gangster like Dr. Sweets, Thug Notes has got you covered. You'll certainly never look at literature the same way again.

My Review

As an English teacher, I've always thought about ways to reach students, especially those who struggle with understanding the content of pieces of classic literature. Yes, they can go on Spark Notes, but let's be honest, the content is dry and makes even looking up something even more boring to some students. Then Thug Notes showed up on my doorstep, and I started thinking about how this book, and its notes on some of the many pieces of assigned literature, could help struggling students in an entertaining way.

As soon as I opened Thug Notes by Sparky Sweets, I was a little shocked, but I was definitely in a good way. The book is written in a way that teaches and entertains students or maybe just someone curious about classics. What I really liked about the writing style was that it's written kind of like a rap, but it's also written in a way that most everyone will be able to understand. (Seriously... if I, an English teacher, obsessed with proper grammar, can understand it, everyone can.) It's full of words that you'd normally hear on the streets, and it's just written in a way that will reach a different group of students.

So... let's get down to the good stuff... As a teacher, I really liked how the book was set up. I probably wouldn't keep a copy in my classroom just because it's really explicit, and I don't think school boards or parents would approve of it being in a school environment. However, I can really see this helping students understand a book. Each section of notes is broken down into different sections, all of which students will be tested on:
  • So What's the Deal? - A synopsis of the book or play
  • Homies - Notes on the main and supporting characters
  • What Went Down? - A detailed summary of events
  • Themes 'n' Shit - The themes in the book or play
  • Images 'n' Symbols - Images and symbols that appear in the piece of literature
  • Say What? - Important quotes from the book or play. Sweets provides the original quote and then a remixed version of it for readers (This is mostly just in the notes on Shakespeare)
  • Shout Outs - References to similar books or books with similar themes
I really enjoyed Thug Notes, and I wouldn't mind sharing it with a few colleagues. I can really see this book helping teachers reach some of their struggling students, especially those in inner city schools. But I can also see this helping students study if they just so happened to stumble upon it. If you're looking for a book to refresh your memory on some of those high school reads, this book is for you. I'd recommend it to anyone with a sense of humor, fans of Sparky's web series, or anyone who just wants to learn about literature in a stress-free way.

Sparky Sweets PhD is the performance name of comedian - actor - writer Greg Edwards. He is the co-creator and host of the critically-acclaimed web series 'Thug Notes'.

'Thug Note's is an American educational web series that summarizes and analyzes various literary works in a comedic manner. 'Thug Notes' first aired on June 3, 2013, on YouTube, with the pilot episode centered on Crime and Punishment.

Explaining the usage of low-brow vocabulary and speech used by Sweets on the series, Edwards stated, "but the truth is, the gift of literature is universal in meaning and should be made accessible to everyone on every plane. So, 'Thug Notes' is my way of trivializing academia's attempt at making literature exclusionary by showing that even high-brow academic concepts can be communicated in a clear and open fashion."] The style used by Edwards' character was a result of "frustration with the world of academia".

Greg currently resides in Los Angeles and hosts the weekly free comedy show "The Workout Room" in L.A.'s Koreatown.

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