Tuesday, December 15, 2015

do something beautiful

Watch George Saunders on how to tell a good story... from this article in The Atlantic. I just bought The Very Persistent Gappers of Frip by George Saunders as a holiday gift for my kids, and I can't wait to read it!

George Saunders: On Story from Redglass Pictures on Vimeo.

Bonus Extras...

George Saunders - Extras (Reader/Writer) from Redglass Pictures on Vimeo.

George Saunders- Extras (Writing Tricks) from Redglass Pictures on Vimeo.

George Saunders-Extras-(Darkness) from Redglass Pictures on Vimeo.

Monday, December 14, 2015

finding the explanations that no one else can give you

On a recent trip, I read The Thing About Jellyfish by Ali Benjamin. It is wonderful! Every teacher, every parent, and every library should consider this book for a read aloud. It's the type of book that can change lives and reads beautifully.

From Goodreads:
This stunning debut novel about grief and wonder was an instant New York Times bestseller and captured widespread critical acclaim, including selection as a 2015 National Book Award finalist!

Suzy Swanson is in seventh grade and dealing with tragedy.

During the first three weeks of seventh grade, I'd learned one thing above all else: A person can become invisible simply by staying quiet.

The book moves back and forth through time from the present to the previous school year. It reflects a lot on the importance of the choices we make, the consequences of those choices, and the power and redemption of empathy.

Sometimes you want things to change so badly, you can't even stand to be in the same room with the way things actually are.

This is also a wonderful book about science, and women in science, and the beauty of science. I loved Mrs. Turton, and I wish there were more Mrs. Turtons in the world.

Mrs. Turton says when something happens that no one can explain, it means you have bumped up against the edge of human knowledge. And that is when you need science. Science is the process for finding the explanations that no one else can give you.

The point, she said, was to learn how to research, how to find out more about anything we wondered about. "That's what science is," she explained. "It's learning what others have discovered about the world, and then - when you bump up against a question that no one has ever answered before - figuring out how to get the answer you need." 

 As readers of The Thing About Jellyfish, we learn many fascinating facts... about jellyfish, about the scientific method, cosmology and the expanding universe, about the accomplishments of long-distance swimmer Diana Nyad, the pathogenesis of zombie ants, the sixth mass extinction, and many other scientific topics.

Back in 1968, people saw Earth rising over the moon and believed they mattered. They believed they could accomplish anything. What if we could feel that way again? There are so many things to be scared of in this world: blooms of jellies. A sixth extinction. A middle school dance. But maybe we can stop feeling so afraid. Maybe instead of feeling like a mote of dust, we can remember that all the creatures on this Earth are made from stardust.

I highly recommend this book! It would make a wonderful gift for all the middle grade and young adult readers you know. 

If you're still not convinced, read the beginning for free HERE.

Be sure to read the author's note at the end, because as Mrs. Turton says...

"What did you learn from your research? Take a step beyond your own investigation to consider the implications for future questions. What else is there to learn? Where might your inquiry take you next?"

Thursday, December 10, 2015

the heart of Auschwitz

It sits like a jewel in a museum showcase.

On December 12, 1944, Polish teenager Fania Landau turned 20 while imprisoned in Auschwitz. Fania had spent the past year in the concentration camp and didn't expect her birthday to be remembered. However, her friends risked everything to make her a gift.

This weekend I read the historical fiction novel, Paper Hearts by Meg Wiviott. Written in verse, this beautiful novel  is based on the lives of Fania Landau and Zlatka Sznaiderhauz, and their story of survival.

In the midst of incredible horror, love and friendship become a weapon against oppression and hatred.

Here is one of my favorite parts:

The Birds

Spring brought the rains
And the mud.

But no birds.

They avoided the belching black smoke,
Billowing stench,
Impenetrable gray,
Incessant trains.

Much later,
People claimed,
We did not know.
I had no idea.
I didn't do it.

How could they not have known,
When the birds did?

This is an incredible book and should be put in the hands of all readers. This story will open the door to many conversations on current events regarding discrimination and labeling any group as other. Readers can ponder the power of humanity and the role of empathy in overcoming racism, hate, and indifference.

I highly recommend this beautiful book for everyone you know.

figuring out where your interests are

At our junior high school, students learn about World War Two in eighth grade. My daughter was in eighth grade last year, so we read a lot of great books to dig deeper into the subject. This year, my son is in eighth grade and we are finding even more incredible stories.

If you know a reader who is curious about World War Two, here is an awesome list of books that will help foster sustained and substantial learning through stories.

World War Two Book List:

The War That Saved My Life by Kimberly Brusker Bradley

Paper Hearts by Meg Wiviott

A Night Divided byJennifer A. Nielsen

Bomb by Steve Sheinkin

The Book Theif by Mark Zusak

The Diary of Anne Frank by Anne Frank

Counting the Stars by Lois Lowry

The Boys Who Challenged Hitler by Phillip Hoose

Code Talker by Joseph Bruchac

Hidden by Loic Dauvillier

Whispering Town by Jennifer Elvgren

Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys
(also don't miss Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys - to be released in February)

The Tin Snail by Cameron McAllister

Unbroken (young adult adaptation) by Laura Hillenbrand

The Boys in the Boat (young readers adaptation) by Daniel James Brown

All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

“You know the greatest lesson of history? It’s that history is whatever the victors say it is. That’s the lesson. Whoever wins, that’s who decides the history. We act in our own self-interest. Of course we do. Name me a person or a nation who does not. The trick is figuring out where your interests are.” 
― Anthony DoerrAll the Light We Cannot See