Monday, December 30, 2013

Because, really, She'd just been winging it.

I have found the best book for the new year: 
God Got a Dog by Cynthia Rylant.

I love this book. 

I love that God is a man or a woman or a child. I love that God is black or white, fat or thin or bald, or a country music fan.

I love that God has conversations with Buddha… 

"The birds were singing and He was at peace. Buddha told Him it could be this way, but he never really believed it until now."
and calls Mother Theresa when He gets a cold
"He asked could she bring some comic books. And of course she did. Mother Teresa loves all who suffer. Even God. Maybe Him a little more."

God dropped a coin in the Building Fund box; She wrote a book and made spaghetti. He got arrested and got in a boat.
"All the little houses and all the green trees and all the tidy cities and all the sky and all the land, it all made sense. She was surprised. Because, really, She'd just been winging it."

And, of course, God got a dog… and now God has somebody keeping Her feet warm at night. 

Thursday, December 26, 2013

fearless scientists

This book is awesome!

Primates: The Fearless Science of Jane Goodall, Dian Fossey and Birute Galdikas by Jim Ottaviani and Maris Wicks.

This is a wonderfully inspiring non-fiction graphic novel. There are great end notes and author notes and a bibliography. You will definitely know where to go if you want to learn more. 

This book will surely resonate with both boys and girls. But, as is often the case, great stories about women scientists create more women scientists. 

Jane Goodall observing chimpanzees in Tanzania…

Birute Galdikas studying orangutans in Indonesian Borneo... 

Dian Fossey went to Zaire (now the Democratic Republic of the Congo) and Rwanda to research mountain gorillas...

Be sure to get this book for all the young readers you know. Primates is the kind of book that will inspire new scientists and draw attention to the alarming fact that primates are facing a high risk of extinction.

The book I have is a jacketed hardcover. If you get the same, be sure to look behind the book jacket for an adorable surprise.

Monday, December 16, 2013

recommending a person

Seeing someone reading a book you love
is like seeing a book
recommending a person.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

But there are some who do not love it, not even a little bit, not even at all.

Read Eleanore and Park by Rainbow Rowell.

Read books that interest you. Never let anyone censor your right to read. 

“Holding Eleanor's hand was like holding a butterfly. Or a heartbeat. Like holding something complete, and completely alive.”

Read Rainbow Rowell's take on love and censorship.

Friday, December 6, 2013

so constant

This week I read The 14 Fibs of Gregory K. by Greg Pincus. It's a great middle grade read.

From GoodReads:
Failing math but great at writing, Gregory finds the poetry (and humor) in what's hard.

Gregory K is the middle child in a family of mathematical geniuses. But if he claimed to love math? Well, he'd be fibbing. What he really wants most is to go to Author Camp. But to get his parents' permission he's going to have to pass his math class, which has a probability of 0. THAT much he can understand! To make matters worse, he's been playing fast and loose with the truth: "I LOVE math" he tells his parents. "I've entered a citywide math contest!" he tells his teacher. "We're going to author camp!" he tells his best friend, Kelly. And now, somehow, he's going to have to make good on his promises.

Hilariously it's the "Fibonacci Sequence" -- a famous mathematical formula! -- that comes to the rescue, inspiring Gregory to create a whole new form of poem: the Fib! Maybe Fibs will save the day, and help Gregory find his way back to the truth.

For every kid who equates math with torture but wants his own way to shine, here's a novel that is way more than the sum of its parts.

Will his sixth grade math teacher be able to use Gregory's love of writing and poetry to help him overcome his disinterest in math? Will Gregory's math-loving father ever understand poems? Will Gregory K make it to Author Camp?

So constant.
Just like my life,
there are no surprising results.

Just in case this book has you wanting more of Leonardo Fibonacci of Pisa, check out this TED talk:

Or, watch the amazing Vi Hart on Khan Academy. Once you watch her three videos, be sure to check out her Notes and References video for further information:

Thursday, November 28, 2013

My gratitude for good writing is unbounded

…for some of us, books are as important as anything else on earth. What a miracle it is that out of these small, flat, rigid pieces of paper unfolds world after world, worlds that sing to you, comfort and quiet you or excite you. Books help us understand who we are and how we are to behave. They show us what community and friendship mean; they show us how to live and die. They are full of the things that you don’t get in life…wonderful, lyrical language, for instance. And quality of attention: we may notice amazing details during the course of a day but we rarely let ourselves stop and really pay attention. An author makes you notice, makes you pay attention and this is a great gift. My gratitude for good writing is unbounded; I’m grateful for it the way I’m grateful for the ocean. 
–Anne Lamott

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Why Children's Books Matter

This weekend, while in New York, I went to the New York Public Library exhibit The ABC Of It: Why Children's Books Matter.

The exhibit is free of charge and runs from June 21st, 2013 thru March 23rd, 2014.

If you love children's books, you'll love this exhibit of over 250 literary artifacts.

From Harry Potter to Charlotte's Web, from Good Night Moon to The Phantom Tollbooth, children's books are an amazing romp between fantasy and reality.

Once you've experienced the exhibit, you will leave with your own answer to Why Children's Books Matter. 

Spoiler Alert… it has everything to do with a shared understanding of what growing up is all about.

Raising a Ruckus
Children's books have often served as lightning rods for controversy, with topics considered taboo - death, race, and sex chief among them - and notions of child-appropriateness triggering sharp debate and vigorous efforts to limit or bar access to certain books. While acts of censorship are often driven by overt political or cultural agendas, other, more ambiguous cases blur the line between blatant suppression and well-intentioned editorial - or parental - judgement.
In the United States, censorship has typically been instigated by self-appointed gatekeepers, not centralized governmental authorities. Cold War-era authors Garth Williams, Madeline L'Engle, Maurice Sendak, and Judy Bloom saw their popular books routinely challenged, primarily by fundamentalist religious groups. Nearly a century before, Mark Twain had divined an upside to such pious literary witch-hunts. When informed that the Concord, Massachusetts, public library had "expelled" Huckleberry Finn from its shelves, deeming it "trash", Twain crowed to his publisher, "That will sell 25,000 copies for us sure."

Wednesday, November 13, 2013


The movie trailer is out… and, yes, it's awesome.

Release date: March 21, 2014

There's still time to read the book!

Monday, November 11, 2013


In the UK there's a department store chain called John Lewis. They make wonderful holiday advertisements. This year's production is a story told through a combination of stop motion animation and standard animation.

Take a look...

John Lewis - The Bear & The Hare from Blink on Vimeo.

Even more amazing is a look into the making of The Bear and The Hare

John Lewis 'The Bear & The Hare' - The Making Of from Blink on Vimeo.

In addition, check out the BBC's attempt to interpret the meaning of this story. My personal favorite is interpretation number three… it's all about emotional connection.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Auggie's favorite holiday...

Happy Halloween

"I wish every day could be Halloween. We could all wear masks all the time. Then we could walk around and get to know each other before we got to see what we looked like under the masks." - August Pullman, Wonder

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

find our place

About two or three years ago I read Katherine Applegate's book, Home Of The Brave, and loved it. The other day, I saw that it had come out in paperback. I loved the new cover, so I picked up a copy to read again.

Upon reading this book a second time, I may have loved it even more.  The story is written in verse, which I love, and it works beautifully.

 We begin our slow, strange herding down the
edge of the highway,
followed by a police car.
The red, white and blue lights
remind me of the American flag.
I feel like the President.
Kek is a Sudanese boy who saw his father and brother killed in Africa. He finds himself as a refugee in Minnesota where he is sent to live with his aunt and wait for word on the fate of his mother.

This story would be a wonderful read-aloud and provides a great opportunity for discussion.

Be sure not to miss the Author's Note at the end of the book.
Somewhere, sometime, as your glorious and complicated life unfolds, you are going to find yourself putting dishes in a washing machine.
I'm speaking metaphorically, of course. You won't make the same mistakes Kek makes in Home of the Brave, because your mistakes will be uniquely and wonderfully your own.
But you will make them, I promise you. Lots of them. Someday, you will find yourself adrift in a place where you feel you don't belong, with people who don't understand who you are. You'll feel alone and lost. And you'll be absolutely certain that you will never, ever belong to the world again.
You don't have to be a refugee to feel lost. It happens because we are human, and because life has a way of changing the rules when we're not looking. But if you're lucky, someone will reach out a hand when you're most alone and say, "I've been lost, too. Let me help you find your way home."

Fiction, it's been said, makes immigrants of us all. But it's just as true that fiction helps us find our place in the world. 

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

whenever you learn something new, the whole world becomes that much richer

The Phantom Tollbooth: Beyond Expectations - Official Documentary Trailer from freckless productions on Vimeo.

"The Phantom Tollbooth at 50: Beyond Expectations” is a documentary that playfully explores the creation, creators, lasting impact and enduring relevance of one of the most universally beloved children’s books of our time. Through interviews, animation and archival materials, the documentary traces the friendship between author Norton Juster and Pulitzer Prize-winning artist Jules Feiffer, and the wit and wisdom of the novel over half a century. (Tollbooth celebrated it's 50th anniversary in 2011)

My favorite quote from Tollbooth:

“You may not see it now," said the Princess of Pure Reason, looking knowingly at Milo's puzzled face, "but whatever we learn has a purpose and whatever we do affects everything and everyone else, if even in the tiniest way. Why, when a housefly flaps his wings, a breeze goes round the world; when a speck of dust falls to the ground, the entire planet weighs a little more; and when you stamp your foot, the earth moves slightly off its course. Whenever you laugh, gladness spreads like the ripples in the pond; and whenever you're sad, no one anywhere can be really happy. And it's much the same thing with knowledge, for whenever you learn something new, the whole world becomes that much richer.” 

Monday, October 7, 2013

fortunately for readers...

I love to read. Yet, I know when some kids talk about reading, 'love' is not the word they use when describing books. Some kids have trouble connecting with books independently. 

But... I have found two books that will spark the enthusiasm of even the most reluctant of readers: Fortunately The Milk by Neil Gaiman and Flora & Ulysses by Kate DiCamillo.

First, Fortunately The Milk...

Neil Gaiman could write about anything and make it amazing. So, a trip to the corner market for milk becomes an incredible adventure where anything, absolutely anything, can happen.

Fortunately The Milk is hilarious and wacky and wonderful, and elementary students will love it. It would be an awesome read-aloud. The predictions of "what will happen next" would be pure fun.

How do you suppose piranhas are involved? Well, you'll have to read Fortunately The Milk to find out. Enjoy the laughs!

Next, Flora & Ulysses...

Kate DiCamillo is a super story teller. By combining elements of comics, graphic novels, and chapter books in Flora and Ulysses, she is original and inventive. The fun style of the book will grab upper elementary readers, and the wonderful vocabulary makes this book as smart as it is fun.

Flora is a self-proclaimed cynic and Ulysses is a superhero squirrel. How does a squirrel become a superhero? Well, you'll find out in the first few pages.

This book would be a wonderful read-aloud. It is full of quirky characters and delightful vocabulary.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

the thing undone

Awesome opening paragraph:
"What follows is the strange and fateful tale of a boy, a girl, and a ghost. The boy possesses uncommon qualities, the girl was winsome and daring, and the ancient ghost ... well, let it only be said that his intentions were good."

I just read far far away by Tom McNeal. It's a macabre, dark, suspenseful fairy tale.  I loved it. 

Jacob Grimm, from the Brothers Grimm fairy tales, died but never moved on. He's stuck in the Zwischenraum... the space between life and what comes after.

Jeremy Johnson Johnson is a teenage boy in the village of Never Better. He can hear voices.

Ginger Boultinghouse is a beautiful, witty, popular, daredevil of a girl. She's attracted to the quirky and unusual qualities of Jeremy... or is it the Prince Cake enchantment? Only time will tell.

If you like fairy tales... Read this book.
If you like adventure... Read this book.
If you like to be scared... Read this book.
If you like a good romance... Read this book.

I have so many favorite parts of this book. It is so well written and I underlined so much...  here's my favorite bits just in the first 50 pages...

"In the old tales, kindness is the purest form of heroism. Find the character who meets the world with a big heart and an open hand and you have found your hero or heroine."

"Ginger said, 'My grandfather says there's no point in traveling. He says all that happens when you go far, far away is that you discover you've brought yourself along.'"

"Every day a child steps away from the parent by the littlest distance, perhaps just the width of a mouse-whisker, but every day it happens, and the days go by, one after another after another." 

Saturday, September 28, 2013

the shining people

I read Colby Sharp's review of The Real Boy by Anne Ursu and knew I had to read it. When Mr. Sharp says that a book has "it", you know that book is special.

Anne Ursu, who also wrote Breadcrumbs, gives us another beautiful fairy tale filled with magic and wizards, spells and charms, amulets, and packets of herbs.

The first paragraph:
The residents of the gleaming hilltop town of Asteri called their home, simply, the City.  The residents of the Barrow – the tangle of forest and darkness that encircled the bottom of Asteri’s hill like a shadowy moat – called the Asteri  the Shining City, and those who lived there the shining people.   The Asterians didn’t call themselves anything special, because when everyone else refers to you as the shining people, you really don’t have to do it yourself.
Immediately you are pulled into the Shining City of Asteri and the Barrow and all the shining people who live there. You will love Oscar, an odd and wonderful boy.

You must read this book. Like Mr. Sharp says... this book has "it".

Saturday, September 14, 2013

The Hobbit

“Saruman believes it is only great power that can hold evil in check, but that is not what I have found. I found it is the small everyday deeds of ordinary folk that keep the darkness at bay. Small acts of kindness and love." -Gandalf 

 J.R.R. TolkienThe Hobbit

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

for America Singer, being Selected is a nightmare

This weekend V and I read The Selection and The Elite by Kiera Cass. V was finishing The Selection on Friday night and kept saying, "You have to read this!" She wouldn't finish until Saturday after we headed to our local bookstore to get The Elite. "I can't finish until I know I have the next book to jump into.", she said.

The books, described as The Hunger Games meet The Bachelor, are the perfect tween books. Where middle school is full of relationship drama, this book brings up great 'talking points' about relationships, caste systems, friendships, and civil unrest. We had some great conversations about caste systems in India, South Asia, and parts of Africa (V had no idea that there really were caste systems) and we compared them to the social positioning in middle school and elsewhere.

Also... these were fun books to read for pure entertainment. We are both looking forward to book three, The One... due out May 6, 2014.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

I'm thinking... Caldecott

I just got the best picture book: Journey by Aaron Becker.


Get it for the children you know.

Get it for anyone who knows or needs to be reminded that freedom is a tremendous act of courage and kindness.

I loved this beautiful picture book.

But, be sure not to miss the back flap for Aaron Becker's biography...
"Aaron Becker has made several memorable journeys in his lifetime. He's lived in rural Japan and East Africa, backpacked through Sweden and the South Pacific, and, most recently, ventured from San Fancisco Bay to Amherst, Massachusetts, the town he and his wife, daughter, and lazy cat now call home. To this day, his favorite destination remains his imagination, where he can often be found drawing secret doorways and magic lanterns."

Like I say about so many authors, I think Aaron and I should be friends.


Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Why do I read?

Today I was asked, "Why do you read?"

And, I guess I haven't given it much thought. I just read; it's what I love to do.

So, after some contemplation, here's my answer...

Some people read for entertainment. Some people read to acquire knowledge. I read for both.

To me, reading is more than raw input. I read to increase knowledge. I read to find meaning. I read for better understanding of others and myself. I read to discover. I read to make my life better. I read to make fewer mistakes.

Why do you read? 

Monday, September 2, 2013

if you're lost you might need to swim against the tide

I started reading Counting By 7s  by Holly Goldberg Sloan and couldn't put it down. I finished it in one day. I knew from the very first chapters that this book would become 'one of my favorites'.  It made me smile and cry in the way that One For The Murphys and See You at Harrys did. I loved it.

Willow Chance is a very special 12 year-old girl. She is a 'genius' who finds herself all alone in the world.

The ending might not add up to an adult reader, but it will be magic for young adults.

Some of my favorite quotes:

A genius shoots at something no one else can see, and hits it.

I felt human. That was the only way I could describe it.

Everyone, I now realize, lives in a world of pain. But I'm certain that mine is greater than hers.

I would live here at Beale Memorial Library, if it were any kind of viable option. I walk through the double doors of this place I do wish that it were possible. Because books=comfort. To me anyway.

For someone grieving, moving forward is the challenge. Because after extreme loss, you want to go back. 

The world where we live so much in our head.

When you care about other people, it takes the spotlight off your own drama. 

The story of Willow Chance will grab you right from the start. It is a beautifully written story of triumph over tragedy.

Saturday, August 31, 2013

may the force be with us...

I loved The Surprise Attack of Jabba the Puppet by Tom Angleberger. It may be my favorite book in the series so far.

The Origami Yoda series has always been a favorite in our house. We love how Tom Angleberger addresses life in middle school.  Jabba the Puppet, however, reaches for issues a little bigger... federal mandates for testing in education.

I love how in this book Origami Yoda explains, "Gather a tribe you must." It's ironic that we read this book during the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington. Like Yoda implies in the book, many small acts, peacefully done together, can create big change.

Now, back to federal mandates for testing...
I've always wondered what the tipping point would be for students to unite against 'the testing machine'. 

More specifically,  what would happen if students decided that they no longer agreed to being falsely measured by SAT testing. If students 'gathered a tribe' -  and as Origami Yoda says "Nothing you should do." -   refused to take the tests, what would colleges do? Would they have to measure students based on the portfolio of work they have done... on their creativity, innovation and curiosity?

Perhaps... lead the rebellion we must.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Gone Fishing

Are you learning about poetry this year? Haikus and Hyperbole... Alliteration and Acrostic poems? What about Double Dactyl, Free Verse, Ballads or Odes?

If you want to know more about poetic forms, grab a copy of Gone Fishing, a novel in verse, by Tamera Wissinger.

Gone Fishing is the story of nine-year-old Sam and a fishing trip with his father... the trip is "ruined" when his little sister, Lucy, comes along. The story is told in three voices: Sam, Lucy, and the father, using many different styles of poetry (labeled under each title). It is a clever, fun, beautiful way to experience poetry.

My favorites, if I had to pick, were GULP a free verse poem and AMENDS a Cinquain poem.

Be sure to read "The Poet's Tackle Box" at the end of the book. It is a wealth of information. I loved Tamera's note at the end: "In fishing and in writing, I wish you the best." I think she and I should be friends.


Friday, August 16, 2013

that was summer in Bluffton

I just read the beautifully illustrated graphic novel BLUFFTON by Matt Phelan.

Matt Phelan's watercolor illustrations are a work of art and perfectly depict the magic and imagination of summers in the early 1900s.

It's the summer of 1908 and Bluffton was the name of a small neighborhood on the western bank of Muskegon Lake in Michigan. Bluffton is also a wonderful story of friendship and big dreams. The story is a fictionalized look at summers in an actors' colony and the early life of Buster Keaton ... with just the right amount of history sprinkled throughout.

It's a fast paced book with creative segues between summers.

Be sure to read the author's note at the end of the book. It may inspire you to read a bit more about Buster Keaton or The Actors' Colony at Bluffton, which existed in Muskegon Michigan from 1908 - 1938.

Also check out...
Buster Keaton's film The General on YouTube

For me, this book lead me to look into the Gerry Society or as it's known in our house... the New York Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children. It was interesting to me how the Society was seen in such a negative light for the Keatons. It just goes to show that even the best intentions can have flaws.

I hope you enjoy this book as much as I did.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

to the past and future children of the movement

When I read that Congressman John Lewis was at Comic-Con, I thought... "What the heck?" Then I read further...  Congressman Lewis collaborated with his staffer (and comics aficionado) Andrew Aydin as well as NewYork Times best-selling comic-book artist Nate Powell to create the graphic novel MARCH book one.

The book is dedicated to the past and future children of the movement.

Well, this was a book I knew I had to read. And I loved it.

MARCH is the first graphic novel in a three book series. Book One follows Congressman Lewis' life from boyhood in rural Alabama to meeting Dr. Martin Luther King to the rise of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), and their battle to tear down segregation through nonviolent lunch counter sit-ins.

If you've heard Congressman Lewis speak, you can hear his voice in these pages. It's a book everyone should read and read again, and then pass along for someone else to read.

The language and images are powerful, disturbing, joyful, and unforgettable. The idea that this trilogy is in the form of a graphic novel is brilliant.

If you aren't familiar with Congressman John Lewis, be sure to watch this piece by Bill Moyers:

Friday, August 9, 2013

Little Rock Girl 1957

Our fiction/non-fiction pairing finishes with...

Little Rock Girl 1957: 
How a Photograph Changed the Fight for Integration.

When 15-year-old Elizabeth Eckford headed to her first day at Central High School, her path was blocked by the Arkansas National Guard. An angry crowd yelled, "Go home!" and chanted, "Two, four, six, eight - we don't want to integrate!"

Photographer Will Counts snapped this photo as Elizabeth tried to leave the mob:

Little Rock Girl 1957 is, not only, an amazing walk through one moment in history captured in a photograph, but also a detailed timeline of the before and after

We find that in 1896 the US Supreme Court's decision in Plessy v. Ferguson upholds "separate but equal" accommodations under Jim Crow laws. But in May 1954, in Brown v. Board of Education, the Supreme Court rules that separate is not equal and segregation in public schools is unconstitutional. Thurgood Marshall, the African-American attorney who argued Brown v. Board of Education before the Supreme Court, explained why separate was not equal:
"Equal means getting the same thing, at the same time, and in the same place."

But, in 1957, when Elizabeth Eckford showed up for school at Central High in Little Rock, the governor of Arkansas ordered the National Guard to prevent the Little Rock Nine from entering the school. 

President Dwight D. Eisenhower went on television and announced his plan: he sent in the 101st Airborne Division to enforce the federal court's order to integrate the school. He also federalized the National Guard, which meant the the president, not the Arkansas governor was in charge.

One day the National Guard was told to prevent the Little Rock Nine from entering the school, and the next day they were told to protect the Little Rock Nine from the mobs as they entered the school.

And, May 27th 1958, Ernest Green becomes the first black student to graduate from Central High School.

However, Arkansas governor Orval Faubus was determined to defy the federal government. By September of 1958, Governor Faubus closed Central High School in Little Rock rather than let black students attend.  

Civil Rights leaders eventually won the conflict at Central High School. By 1972, fifteen years after the Elizabeth Eckford tried to enter Central High School, Little Rock's public school were fully integrated.

But... what about that photograph? What was learned from the power of a single photo?

A single photo can change history. News coverage can change and/or inspire a movement.

Watch Jonathan Klein's TED talk on 'Photos That Changed The World'...

Has an image ever provoked you to act?

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

an American struggle

I picked up the book A Hope in the Unseen: An American Odyssey from the Inner City to the Ivy League by Ron Suskind because it was on the 10th grade summer reading list of a high school I admire. It was first published in 1997 and updated in 2005. It's the memoir of Cedric Jennings, a bright, determined honor student at Ballou High School - a high school in one of Washington D.C.'s most dangerous neighborhoods.

It is beautifully written by Mr. Suskind. In the Epilogue he writes:
"Nonetheless, the fact remains; he had hope in a better world he could not yet see that overwhelmed the cries of "you can't" or "you won't" or "why bother." More than anything else, mustering that faith, on cue, is what separated him from his peers, and distinguishes him from so many people in these literal, sophisticated times. It has made all the difference."

And in the Author's Note Mr. Suskind writes:
"It is that privilege - to be the trustee of someone's very self - that I've sought to measure up to with each page of this book."

While the book is written beautifully by Ron Suskind, the real hero is Cedric Jennings.

From GoodReads:
It is 1993, and Cedric Jennings is a bright and ferociously determined honor student at Ballou, a high school in one of Washington D.C.’s most dangerous neighborhoods, where the dropout rate is well into double digits and just 80 students out of more than 1,350 boast an average of B or better. At Ballou, Cedric has almost no friends. He eats lunch in a classroom most days, plowing through the extra work he has asked for, knowing that he’s really competing with kids from other, harder schools. Cedric Jennings’s driving ambition–which is fully supported by his forceful mother–is to attend a top-flight college.

In September 1995, after years of near superhuman dedication, he realizes that ambition when he begins as a freshman at Brown University. In this updated edition, A Hope in the Unseen chronicles Cedric’s odyssey during his last two years of high school, follows him through his difficult first year at Brown, and now tells the story of his subsequent successes in college and the world of work.

As I was reading this book, I was thinking what a perfect pick it is for a high school reading list. Every high schooler today should read it.

It is a true success story among too many unsuccessful ones. Rarely can someone face so many challenges and still persevere. It is a story of race and difference and opportunities and difficulties ... and accepting others while still keeping your own sense of self.

after finishing A Hope in the Unseen, I saw this clip on The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell.

It lead me to read the following articles:

Justin Porter's New York Times article Reflections on the Road to Harvard and Travis Reginal's NYT article Reflections on the Road to Yale.

If you know a high school student, have them read this book.

Whether you are a student who has been given every opportunity and encouragement or one who has not, you are sure to be moved by the story of Cedric Jennings... and all 'Cedric Jennings' past and present.

If you need more enticing, check out... 
This NPR piece by Susan Gilman on A Hope in the Unseen

Saturday, August 3, 2013

reshaping the world

If you are looking for another good non-fiction read, try Sugar Changed the World : A Story of Magic, Spice, Slavery, Freedom, and Science by Marc Aronson and Marina Budhos. It was on the summer reading list of a middle school I admire and I can imagine the wonderful reflection and questioning that this book is prompting as students get ready to head back to school.

The book explores the impact sugar has had upon colonialism, global trade, migration, slavery, revolutions, culinary arts, production and refinement, religious practice, and more.
"It is the story of the movement of millions of people, of fortunes made and lost, of brutality and delight - all because of tiny crystals stirred into our coffee, twirled on top of cake. Sugar, we began to see, changed the world."

Ironically, while sugar was the direct cause of the expansion of slavery, the global connections that sugar brought about also fostered the most powerful ideas of human freedom.

Sugar plantations were farms, but they were run like factories - with human beings as the tireless machines. Cruelty and misery abounded as endless labor or was demanded from the slaves of the plantations.

In reference to the masters and overseers of the plantations, the English historian Lord Acton famously said, "Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely."

In 1785 at Cambridge University, an essay contest asked the question "Is it lawful to make slaves of others against their will?" Thomas Clarkson won the essay prize, but in doing so convinced himself and many of the English public to abolish the terrible practice of slavery. When the English looked at the sugar they used everyday in their tea, they could see the blood of the slaves who had created it. (Imagine the power of a single essay the next time you sit down to write.)

Have you ever stopped using a product once you were forced to look at how it was made?

Have you ever considered the debate between human rights and property rights? Is cheaper worth the cost to workers and the environment?

Have you ever given any thought to indentured labor? Gandhi thought it was a form of slavery. Does indentured labor relate in any way to modern day undocumented laborers in the United States?

What do you think of Satyagraha as a revolutionary tool? How have you seen it play out in our modern day news?

Be sure to read the authors note on page 126 at the end of the book. I particularly like the part:
"... young people are smart, and therefore the more opportunity we give them to think about big questions in creative ways, the better."

Two cool aside videos you might want to check out after reading this book are on Crash Course U.S. History with John Green: Taxes and Smuggling AND Slavery.

Also, the author Marc Aronson has an awesome blog over on SLJ. Be sure to check out his answer to "Why should we care about history anyway?"