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Gavrilo Princip: A Graphic Assassination

1 Oct

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We have a tendency t think that young people who go off and become radicalized are a new phenomenon. It isn’t really so, and Henrik Rehr’s Terrorist: Gavrilo Princip, the Assassin who Ignited World War 1 gives us some insight into how it can happen.

Let me start off by saying that the realistic illustrations are top notch. In black and white, the emulate the newsreels and photographs of the era that would have informed people about the assassination. In fact, when I first opened the book, I almost gasped, astonished at the research Rehr must have done to so faithfully portray the events of the assassination.

Here is an illustration

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Here is a photo taken that day

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The publisher categorizes the book as fiction, and I think rightly so. Although it is filled with excellent research and historical fact, the nature of a graphic retelling of history, full of speech bubbles, almost demands fiction status. The conversations Princip had with colleagues and coconspirators probably rings true, but we will never know exactly what was said.  This is an issue in narrative nonfiction generally, where we see quotes in books, which, when endnotes are checked, revealed that they come from interviews or memoirs. they are what someone remembered themselves or someone else saying. As we work on our personal narratives in writer’s workshop, I tell student to write the gist of what was said as we practice adding dialogue and I suppose that is what Rehr has done here. It works for this book because it is really historical fiction.

All that aside, I found this to be an excellent book and a good introduction to issues of World War 1.

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On my radar

30 Sep

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My “to be read” pile is an every changing collection.

These days, my Morris pile of “to be reads” is very small. The Morris “to discuss” piles is shrinking and the “nominations” pile has become two piles.

The other shelves in my house also shift continually, but there are a couple I am currently keeping near the top. I hope to get to them soon. Here are my top three at the moment.

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Publisher’s Summary:Firefly. Cricket. Vole. Peter. Can four creatures from four very different Nations help one another find their ways in the world that can feel oh-so-big? Delve into this lush, unforgettable tale in the tradition of Charlotte’s Web and The Rats of NIMH, from the author of the New York Times bestselling Someday.

Firefly doesn’t merely want to fly, she wants to touch the moon. Cricket doesn’t merely want to sing about baseball, he wants to catch. When these two little creatures with big dreams wander out of Firefly Hollow, refusing to listen to their elders, they find themselves face-to-face with the one creature they were always told to stay away from…a giant.

But Peter is a Miniature Giant. They’ve always been told that a Miniature Giant is nothing but a Future Giant, but this one just isn’t quite as big or as scary as the other Giants. Peter has a dream of his own, as well as memories to escape. He is overwhelmed with sadness, and a summer with his new unlikely friends Firefly and Cricket might be just what he needs. Can these friends’ dreams help them overcome the past?

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Publisher’s Summary: The author of OPENLY STRAIGHT returns with an epic road trip involving family history, gay history, the girlfriend our hero can’t have, the grandfather he never knew, and the Porcupine of Truth.

Carson Smith is resigned to spending his summer in Billings, Montana, helping his mom take care of his father, a dying alcoholic he doesn’t really know. Then he meets Aisha Stinson, a beautiful girl who has run away from her difficult family, and Pastor John Logan, who’s long held a secret regarding Carson’s grandfather, who disappeared without warning or explanation thirty years before. Together, Carson and Aisha embark on an epic road trip to find the answers that might save Carson’s dad, restore his fragmented family, and discover the “Porcupine of Truth” in all of their lives.

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Publisher’s Summary:In September 1941, Adolf Hitler’s Wehrmacht surrounded Leningrad in what was to become one of the longest and most destructive sieges in Western history—almost three years of bombardment and starvation that culminated in the harsh winter of 1943–1944. More than a million citizens perished. Survivors recall corpses littering the frozen streets, their relatives having neither the means nor the strength to bury them. Residents burned books, furniture, and floorboards to keep warm; they ate family pets and—eventually—one another to stay alive. Trapped between the Nazi invading force and the Soviet government itself was composer Dmitri Shostakovich, who would write a symphony that roused, rallied, eulogized, and commemorated his fellow citizens—the LeningradSymphony, which came to occupy a surprising place of prominence in the eventual Allied victory.

This is the true story of a city under siege: the triumph of bravery and defiance in the face of terrifying odds. It is also a look at the power—and layered meaning—of music in beleaguered lives. Symphony for the City of the Dead is a masterwork thrillingly told and impeccably researched by National Book Award–winning author M. T. Anderson.

What do you call it?: A Slice of Life Story

22 Sep

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Two weeks before teachers had to go back to school, the middle school humanities teachers had a 4 day writing workshop put on my TCRWP. I can honestly say that it was one of the best professional development events I have ever participated in. The middle schools have adopted the writing Units of Study and my 6th grade PLC (professional learning community) is currently implementing the first 6th grade unit. But we are left with a burning question:

WRITER’S WORKSHOP OR WRITERS’ WORKSHOP?

I was wrestling with this dilemma on day when a teacher came in and asked me that very question. It felt good to know I wasn’t alone.

What do you call it? When I say it, it makes no difference. I can see WRITER’S WORKSHOP because each kid is working on their own stories, techniques and pace. I can also see a case for WRITERS’ WORKSHOP because it is a group of writers simultaneously working on their own stories, techniques and pace. I get around it by writing WRITING WORKSHOP on the board, but saying WRITERS WORKSHOP aloud and letting kids insert the apostrophe wherever their minds want to.

So, I would love to know: what do you call it?

Germ warfare

13 Sep

September means exposure to back-to-school contagions. That’s why most schools now include had sanitizer on their supply lists. That’s why new teachers get sick so often. I taught at my last school for 12 years and for the last few, I didn’t even get a cold. I knew those germs intimately and had developed a good system of defense. Now that I’m at a new school, I’m being extra cautious, taking more precautions that usual to keep myself healthy, although I think the problem is less severe at a middle school that it is in an elementary school. I hope I’m not carrying new germs into my new school community, either. I;d hate to be a Typhoid Mary.

Yes, poor Mary Mallon, who has gone down in history as Typhoid Mary, or Terrible Typhoid Mary: A True Story of the Deadliest Cook in America  which is how Susan Campbell Bartoletti refers to Mary in her recently published book.

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Publisher’s Summary:This is the story of a cook – a quiet, diligent cook who kept to herself. Her speciality was homemade ice cream topped with fresh peaches, which she served on hot summer days. She worked for some of the wealthiest families in New York, who spoke highly of her skills.

In August 1906, when six members of one household nearly died, the cook mysteriously disappeared – and the hunt for Typhoid Mary began. The resulting story became a tabloid scandal. But the true story of Mary Mallon is far greater than the sensationalized and fear-mongering stories. It’s also a lesser known story of human and civil rights violations. How did this private and obscure domestic cook become one of the most notorious women in American history? What happens to a person whose name and reputation are forever damaged? And who is responsible for the lasting legacy of the woman who became known as Typhoid Mary?

There is not a lot of documentary evidence of Mary Mallon’s life, so the book is as much a narrative of hygiene and social customs at the time Mary lived. Because of this, Bartoletti has to create an idea of what could have happened by using words such as “probably”, “perhaps”, “may have”, etc. In spite of this, I found this a very interesting read, and would be great nonfiction companion to Deborah Hopkinson’s The Great Trouble (about  a cholera plague in London) and  Laurie Halse Anderson’s Fever, 1783 ( a Yellow Fever outbreak in Philadelphia).

The beginning of the end

6 Aug

I have a meeting at my new school today. I am excited, but also a  little sad to know that summer holidays are almost over. Today’s  half day meeting is for teachers who will be new to the school. It will give me a chance to start really thinking about what the coming school year will look like because, I really haven’t been able to do much yet to get ready. Tomorrow I have a full day presentation by Kelly Gallagher. I am super excited about this because he is the author of Readicide: How Schools are Killing reading and What You Can Do About It.

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Publisher’s Summary:Read-i-cide n: The systematic killing of the love of reading, often exacerbated by the inane, mind-numbing practices found in schools.

Reading is dying in our schools. Educators are familiar with many of the factors that have contributed to the decline — poverty, second-language issues, and the ever-expanding choices of electronic entertainment. In this provocative new book, Kelly Gallagher suggests, however, that it is time to recognize a new and significant contributor to the death of reading: our schools. In Readicide, Kelly argues that American schools are actively (though unwittingly) furthering the decline of reading. Specifically, he contends that the standard instructional practices used in most schools are killing reading by:

  • valuing the development of test-takers over the development of lifelong readers;
  • mandating breadth over depth in instruction;
  • requiring students to read difficult texts without proper instructional support;
  • insisting that students focus solely on academic texts;
  • drowning great books with sticky notes, double-entry journals, and marginalia;
  • ignoring the importance of developing recreational reading;
  • and losing sight of authentic instruction in the shadow of political pressures.

Kelly doesn’t settle for only identifying the problems. Readicide provides teachers, literacy coaches, and administrators with specific steps to reverse the downward spiral in reading—steps that will help prevent the loss of another generation of readers.

He is the author of several other books on Reading and writing instruction.

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Taking a stand

30 Jul

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In She Takes a Stand: 16 Fearless Activists who have Changed the World author Michael Elsohn Ross has written an inspiring collection of short biographies  featuring 16 contemporary and historical women from around the world who have advocated for change around issues of injustice in its many guises.

Each chapter tells the story of one activist who passionately fought for equal rights at great personal cost. Causes included the rights of girls and women for equal access to the same liberties as men (to vote, for birth control, for education, for safety), to stop global crony capitalism, to support worker’s rights and many others.

This book is designed for slightly older readers. The text is set up fairly traditionally and each chapter has one black and white photo of its subject. This might be off-putting to someone who stumble sup on this book on the shelves but budding activists and lovers of non-fiction will enjoy the book if they take it off the shelf. Ross explains things clearly, with an emphasis on childhood details, motivations, and life turning points.

The book includes related sidebars, a bibliography, source notes, and a list of activist organizations.

Great weather….if you are a tomato

2 Jul

A few months ago, I bought two tomato plants from a friend’s fundraiser. I knew that they’d be Ok while I was away at ALA because everyone knows it rains in Oregon until the 4th of July. Except this year. We are experiencing something of a long-term heat wave and drought. Kind neighbors agreed to water my plants while I was away and they are thriving. I even have my first fruit.

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I am not a fan of the 90+ degree weather we are having and I am thankful for my window air conditioner that makes sleeping comfortable. The forecast seems to indicate that we will be in the 90’s through Tuesday.

While I was at ALA, I got a ridiculous number of advance reader copies of novels. I got a few non-fiction arcs too. One of them was The Rain Wizard: The Amazing Mysterious True Life of Charles Mallory Hatfield by Larry Dane Brimner.

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Publisher’s summary:In December 1915, San Diego’s leaders claimed the town’s reservoirs were nearly dry. Knowing the city would not survive and grow unless it had water, they hired Charles Mallory Hatfield, whose skills at making rain were legendary. But when torrents and torrents of rain came, disaster struck. Roads were closed, people drowned, and dams burst. The town elders blamed Hatfield and refused to pay him. Was Hatfield really a rain wizard, or simply a fraud? Renowned author Larry Dane Brimner examines the man and the myth by relying on personal recollections from growing up in California, as well as extensive research. Readers will be captivated by Hatfield—a man once known as the Frankenstein of the air—and his secret rainmaking formulas. Includes author’s note, source notes, and bibliography.

Jone Rush MacCulloch

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