Thursday, April 30, 2015

Mental Health Awareness Featured in HHS Play

I was treated to a sneak preview of the HHS Forensics production of The Boys Next Door yesterday. To say I was blown away is an understatement. The play focuses on the lives of four men living with mental disabilities in an assisted living facility and their caretaker.
May is Mental Health Awareness Month with activities centered around helping remove the stigma that is often attached to mental illness and disability. By portraying these characters with such care and respect the students' performances give the audience a glimpse of what millions of Americans live with every day.
Often the play is emotional and tugs at your heart strings, while it is also lighthearted and funny. One of the things I appreciated most was that the humor was never at the expense of the characters' disabilities. It was simply characters in humorous situations or the simple comedy of misunderstanding.
Maybe one of the most magical scenes was at a dance. Two characters, both with a pronounced disability, are dancing together. At first they dance in an awkward, somewhat stilted gate, as the dance would seem to anyone else looking at them. But then it shifts and we see the dance as these two characters are feeling it. They transform into graceful, synchronized figures performing an elegant routine. It was simply beautiful.
I've seen dozens of high school plays and productions, many with bigger sets or more extravagant costumes but none with the powerful level of care and emotion I witnessed in the Black Box Theater Wednesday afternoon. "Moving" doesn't even come close to expressing the impact.
I commend the students and their teachers and the director for reaching for something truly special and important with this play. It is entertaining for sure, but it also broaches a topic that really matters.
They will be bringing in some other students from Hattiesburg High School's Community Based class as extras in one scene, and Mrs. Nan Davis was there to help give the students feedback on their portrayal. To see that sweet, devoted educator brought to tears by the loving portrayal of people so like the students she has served over her entire career was a beautiful thing. Her praise for the actors and the story seemed like the best endorsement you could ever hope for with a story like this. The people who know, like Mrs. Davis, they got it! They felt it. And you should, too.
The showtimes for The Boys Next Door are May 15 & 16 at 7pm and May 17 at 2pm. The show is only $5 and seating is limited, so book your tickets in advance! Tickets can be reserved by emailing:

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Birthday Book Bonanza Wrapping Up (but YOU still have time to donate!)

So the Birthday Book Bonanza is finishing up next week. I plan to close the list on Friday (Feb 6), but there are still a few days to get your books in! We will collect all the books, then sort them by age/reading level and go through the librarians' requests and see how many we can fill! I'm pretty dang excited about it! I love reading and love getting to share these books with all of our students. Thank you a million times over for giving books and sharing this with me. You can still click below to buy a book and donate it to the school libraries. 

Jas N's Birthday Book Bonanza List

If you prefer to just buy books at a "brick & mortar" book store (which I think is a lovely idea), then I've provided a list of topics & titles to assist you. Main Street Books and T-Bones are both great, btw, and have a bunch of books that would be perfect...just sayin'. Also Bombshell Comics and Southern Fried Comics both have plenty of graphic novels that have literary merit and would be welcome additions to the library.

Science Books
National Geographic
The Max Axiom Series
The Fly Guy Series

Caldecott or Newberry Award Winners
R.L. Stine's Goosebumps series
Judy Moody series
Diary of a Wimpy Kid
Big Nate series
Hot Rod Hamster
Magic Treehouse books
Roald Dahl books
Junie B. Jones series
Dr. Seuss
Graphic Novels

...or things closely related. 

Wednesday, January 7, 2015


(TL;DR at bottom)
So, my birthday’s coming up…and it’s my 40th (I know, I know…I look so good for my age). I would like to use this occasion to ask for your help. In forty years there have been few things I've loved as much as reading! From Choose Your Own Adventures and Encyclopedia Brown to Stephen King's Dark Tower to Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler. As most of you know I love to read and as a gift to me, I would love for you to help me spread the love for reading to some places that need it. I work for a large school district with lots of great kids who don’t always have the greatest resources and I would like to put more books in their world.
I am declaring this year “Jas N’s Birthday Book Bonanza!” What is that? Well, it’s my campaign to collect books for the libraries in my school district instead of birthday presents. I have created an Amazon list (linked below) with input from my school librarians about which books they need and are in demand. There are a wide range of topics and I tried to make sure none were too expensive. I would love it if you would consider buying one (or more if you are feeling plucky) to help me give them to the libraries.
Maybe you can pick a favorite book from your childhood (Goosebumps, Roald Dahl, Wizard of Oz…) or one about a favorite topic or person (space, Hitchcock, penguins…). Don’t worry about duplicating books because these will be going to multiple libraries.
If you are not an Amazon user but you still want to help you can donate and I will use any and all donations toward the purchase of more books. Anything you can chip in would be awesome. Or you can just be a Grinch and not help…up to you.
My life is filled with wonderful friends and family and more great toys than any one guy has a right to have. I’d like very much to help make the world a little more interesting for a ton of kids through the gift of books. Thanks for being a part of these awesome forty years and I look forward to what the next forty will bring! I love you all very much and hope that 2015 is your best year yet!

TL;DR: I’m turning 40 and am asking for books to give to school libraries. Much love!