Elie Wiesel: Bearing Witness

This biography of Elie Wiesel, written by Michael Pariser, is -to be blunt- quite depressing. Among the stack of books I brought home from my school library for the holidays, it is written on a 5th grade reading level. A few years ago Elie's book Night (though originally published in 1960) received a renewal in interest from its addition to Oprah's book club. I've seen it circulating among the middle school crowd and have heard positive comments from readers of that age, but simply haven't come across the actual book to read myself. The plan was to begin with Elie's biography, and therefore have a basis of knowledge when reading his book.

The trouble is, after reading just a broad overview of the horrors that Elie experienced in a concentration camp during the Holocaust, it's going to be difficult to read his firsthand account. Infants being tossed in the air and used as target practice by Nazi soldiers, the dumping of young children-alive- into burning pits, starvation, medical experiments, the loss of family and friends are all such horrible atrocities; yet, they were a reality for the Jewish people during the Holocaust. Usually I devour books, but this one was tough to swallow. But then again, the sad part is that this wasn't a work of fiction. Horrible as it was, these terrible things happened to real people. And in the words of Elie Wiesel, "For the dead and the living, we must bear witness."



Reading back over all of my previous entries, and preparing for this one, I am reminded just how much becoming a mother changes a person. Even my book selections are different now! Currently one of the best books I have encountered is On Becoming Babywise, by Gary Ezzo.

Babywise is a pretty controversial book because it advocates the benefits of parent-directed feeding and sleeptime schedules. Dr. Ezzo instructs parents to, above all, listen to their child and learn to read their sleepy and hungry cues, but to also use the clock as a guide for feeding and sleeping at regular intervals. It is considered controversial because most parenting books today favor feeding on demand. In this book, Ezzo explains why it is important to establish parental authority even from infancy, but also lists the many benefits from parent-directed feedings. They include:
-feeding at regular intervals of time helps maintain healthy blood sugar levels
-a baby who can soothe himself or herself to sleep
-a baby who sleeps through the night!
-ensuring the baby gets proper nutrients throughout the day
-regulated sleep, play, and feeding times make for a peaceful and happy baby.

People who choose to feed on demand usually do so because they feel as though meeting their baby's needs when he or she is hungry or sleepy is how to make a baby feel secure. Making a baby feel secure, happy, and peaceful is one of the ultimate goals of BabyWise; the only difference is being a proactive parent rather than a reactive one.

I wholeheartedly believe "to each her own." But I have learned in the past 5 months that there is nothing as important as having a game plan when it comes to being a new parent. The best review I can give this book is simply that it worked for me, and it works well.



Truman Capote

After reading Mockingbird, I was compelled to learn more about the mysterious Truman Capote. To fulfill part of that goal, I added Capote (the movie, starring Philip Seymour Hoffman) to our Netflix queu. We watched it, and were distinctly surprised by how interesting a movie it was. The movie follows Capote's experiences while he was writing the book In Cold Blood. In 1963 a Kansas family of 4 by the name of Clutter was murdered in their beds. The book follows the fascinating story of how the murders came to pass, and gave background information on the murderers and their victims. I knew from reading Mockingbird that Harper Lee had been slighted by Capote, because she did most of the legwork and research for his wonderful book, and the only credit he gave her was a one line thanks on the dedication page, which she shared with another name. The movie justifies this by showing what an integral part Harper Lee played in the crafting of In Cold Blood. After watching the movie, I had so many unanswered questions about the Clutter murders that I had to get the book next.

The book and the movie corroborate on many of the major events, but contradict each other in several of the details. Capote showed that Truman connived and manipulated the justice system, the people of Holcome, Kansas, and the murderers themselves (Perry Smith and Dick Hickock) to get the goods that made up his book. He paints himself in a much more flattering light in his book, however. Yet another indication of the man's self-centered and inconsiderate nature. Having said that, In Cold Blood is one of the best works on non-fiction I have ever read. Somehow Capote took this horrible story and-using factual information- created a compelling story. I understand what a masterful writer the man was.



EduBlogs, revisited

I'd like to refer you to my previous post on blogging in education.

The Beauty of EduBlogs-April 7, 2006

Now I'd like to ironically share that last week I attended a training (sponsored by my district) on how to use blogs, wikis, and podcasts in education. Nearly one year after my post, all of my predictions about this new technology tool have come to fruition. I'm not saying I've earned a prophet star or anything. It is just frustrating that even I in my feeble mind could see this coming a mile away and still we were afraid to use it. My point here is that we have wasted precious time with perfecting the use of blogs in education, and we'll waste even more the next time some hot new thing comes along. Will we ever learn?

The Higher Power of Lucky by Susan Patron

The 2007 Newbery Winner came out swinging when it was immediately blacklisted in some school libraries for its casual use of the word "scrotum" on the first page. I read a little about it, saw the sample in which the word was used in context, and wanted to see what all the fuss was about. I read it, and here's what I think.

As far as the controversy, here's the deal...
On page 1, Lucky (a 10-year-old girl) is eavesdropping on an AA group meeting and hears a guy known as Short Sammy talking about the day he hit rock bottom and decided to clean up his life. On that fateful day, Sammy was sitting in his truck getting all liquored up when a rattlesnake crawled into his passenger seat and tried to attack. Sammy was saved by his dog, but during the ensuing battle, the dog was bitten on the scrotum. When she hears it, Lucky doesn't even know what it means. It doesn't come up again until page 6, when she wonders to herself what a scrotum is and decides that "it sounded like something green that comes up when you have the flu and cough too much. It sounded medical and secret, but also important, and Lucky was glad she was a girl and would never have such an aspect as a scrotum on her own body."
I don't care who you are, that's funny!

Only once does the word come up again, and only when Lucky is asking her guardian to explain it, who does so in a matter of fact and technical way that satisfies Lucky's curiousity and puts an end to her wonderings....

So honestly, what's the big deal?

First of all, from what I have read, the only fuss (and there is quite a bit of it) about this libro is that it contains the word scrotum. It seems sad to ignore the remainder of the content just because of one word! Second of all, keep in mind, people, that the John Newbery Medal is presented to the most distinguished piece of literature for children published the previous year. Books are evaluated on interpretation of the theme or concept, presentation of information including accuracy, clarity and organization, development of plot, delineation of characters, delineation of setting, and appropriateness of style.
Books that receive this award are intended for older children. (Previous books receiving this prestigious award include: The Giver, Holes, A Year Down Yonder, Number the Stars, The Whipping Boy, Bridge to Terabithia, and Sounder....anybody who knows anything about any of these books will know they aren't sweet stories to share with little ones.) I could see cause for concern if 6-year-olds were reading this book, but since it is written on nearly a 6th grade level, I think those kids can handle the author's use of the word here. Also, when you evaluate the work as a whole, it is not about one tiny little word! The book is about Lucky's path in dealing with some major events in her life, including her mother's death and her father's abandonment of her. The recurring theme is change and learing what makes you, you. I like it, a lot! I think this book would be a great choice for student book clubs and discussion groups. Know that there will obviously be a slight distraction as the kids giggle over "the word," but they'll get over it just as quickly as Lucky does.



I'm Back, Baby!

I am ecstatic that I now actually have access to my blogspot site once again!

More to come...