My hope for 2015 is to read popular books. Best-sellers. Things I wouldn’t usually pick up. I think I’m off to an okay start with some of these titles since I’d usually not consider them for not being strictly New Adult or Young Adult novels.
“You belong to me and all Paris belongs to me and I belong to this notebook and this pencil.”
Ernest Hemingway wrote of his time in Paris in the 1920s. This was a time of painters, writers and the Lost Generation between World War I and World War II. While Hemingway and his wife Hadley are poor at the time (as he claims in the memoir) they enjoy good food and the kindness of others to get good books. Many of these creative minds are wonderful people personally, as Hemingway tells us of Ezra Pound, tiresome and unnerving as well. We get a look inside what these friends of his were really like in the way only Hemingway can do.
I wanted to re-read this after going through passages here and there over the years. The best part of Hemingway, to me, is his life. His style of writing is so interesting when he’s talking about himself and people he comes into contact with. His descriptions of physical features, conversations and the way he feels about these people is extraordinary. You don’t even have to know all of their works to get the idea of them as people who are intermingling in a play, of sorts, during this time in Paris.
For anyone who wants to read Hemingway in a quick and dirty way, I highly recommend this. I know some have been scarred by their high school assignment to read Old Man and the Sea but getting to know Hemingway is really rewarding. It’s all in his style that makes the reading so good. He doesn’t mess around with his readers – he tells you the story as straight as he can and it’s totally worth taking the time to read his short memoirs of Paris.
Best line of the whole book, when describing an Wyndham Lewis, “I do not think I had ever seen a nastier-looking man…. Under the black hat, when I had first seen them, the eyes had been those of an unsuccessful rapist.” Only Hemingway can explain things like this, bless him.
Kerley, Barbara and Brian Selznick. Walt Whitman: Words for America. Scholastic Press. 2004. ISBN: 0439357918
America’s poet, Walt Whitman, began working as a printer’s apprentice. Soon after surrounding himself with words through books at the library, plays and listening to famous speakers, he was writing and printing his own newspaper. His assistant was his eight-year-old brother, George. Walt went to Brooklyn and began writing poetry about “the common people” of the United States. Walt travelled more to the South where he wondered what he could do to help his country during the time of slavery and the brink of a Civil War. Walt read letters from his brother, George, who served in the Civil War. Walt continued to write and spent his time caring for wounded soldiers – one of them being his own brother. Walt often saw President Abraham Lincoln ride by. His intense admiration for Lincoln was apparent when he wrote “O Captain, My Captain” for the fallen President. Today Walt is still remembered as being a voice of the American people.
Vardell writes that, “Enticing children to read biographies got a little bit easier with the arrival of picture book biographies. Here the presence of extensive illustrations adds visual interest along with details that enhance the authenticity of the time and place of the setting. In addition, the art helps personalize the subject” (245). This picture biography of Walt Whitman is full of beautiful illustrations that capture the facts about the poet. While this is a book for children, the in depth poetic analysis would be too much for such an audience, so this book does a great job of sticking to important facts. The big illustrations of Walt with his brother and seeing Lincoln on his horse, for example, give a connection to the information. This being a book for grades 4 and up, I would use for middle school and even older students. Poetry is something hard to grasp for many students so having a simple biography with visual queues can help them comprehend what the poetry is about when we get to that heavier material.
Booklist (November 15, 2004) reviews this book by saying, “The vicissitudes of a poet’s life are of less inherent interest to young readers than dinosaur bones, and what whisper of excitement there is in Whitman’s biography, Kerley downplays by focusing on his war-scarred twilight years rather than his reverberating “barbaric yawp” against starchy literary tradition. Like his collaborator’s narrative, though, Selznick’s contributions reflect a keen passion for research, right down to the subtle references to early editions of Leaves of Grass 0 in the book’s typeface and design. Try this sophisticated offering on readers who won’t quail at the lengthy text and who will be less likely to skip the dense, illuminating endnotes. Younger readers may profit more from the more straightforward presentation of Whitman’s words in Loren Long’s excellent When I Heard the Learn’d Astronomer.” Again, since Whitman’s poetry is a big hefty for young readers I would use a book like Long’s to couple with the lesson on Whitman. I can see using this in an effort to tie a middle school class’s History lesson into their English curriculum (something public schools are really encouraged to do with the help of their school librarians.)
Jenkins, Steve. Actual Size. Houghton Mifflin Company. 2004. ISBN: 0618375945
Actual Size is a book with large pages that show pictures of various animals and how they would look in real life on that page. The images are in a cut out and torn paper art form so there is a lot of detailed color for the atlas moth, the eye of a giant quid and the Goliath birdeater tarantula, for example. Each animal is not really shown in it’s full size on the page, but the idea is given to young readers as if they were up close to the large, small, cute and creepy animals. Information given on the animals such as “The Goliath frog lives in Africa. It’s big enough to catch and eat birds and rate” along with its measurements “length: 12 inches, 36 inches with legs extended…weight: 7 pounds.” Each animal is shown in full color with interesting facts about their size.
“Concept books ‘explore the characteristics of a class of objects or of an abstract idea…typically size, color, shape, or spatial relationships…patterns in a class (for young children)…and cross-cultural concept books for older children’ (Hepler, 1998, p. 7)” (Vardell 239). This book is really interesting and something that is distinctly a children’s book but with informative captions. The colorful artwork makes a child’s eyes take in the whole page and see the animal that they are reading about. Importantly the information is limited and the picture is the primary teaching tool in this book.
School Library Journal (June 01, 2004) reviews this book by saying, “The end matter offers full pictures of the creatures and more details about their habitats and habits. Mixing deceptive simplicity with absolute clarity, this beautiful book is an enticing way to introduce children to the glorious diversity of our natural world, or to illustrate to budding scientists the importance of comparison, measurement, observation, and record keeping. A thoroughly engaging read-aloud and a must-have for any collection.” I agree that this would work well for a story-time or read aloud for young children. This book also won the Blue Ribbon Non-Fiction award and many of Jenkins other books such as Prehistoric Actual Size would work for young students to teach them basics about animals for a science class.
Deem, James M. Bodies from the Ice: Melting Glaciers and the Recovery of the Past. Houghton Mifflin Company. 2008. ISBN: 9780618800452
Beginning with the Iceman of the Alps, this books covers the many bodies found in artic conditions. There are pictures and descriptions of how each body died and was recovered. Along with the Iceman, the book also includes people found in glaciers in Switzerland. Here there were soldiers and travelers who died and were preserved in the ice. There is also information about the frozen children of the Andes where the children were sacrificed to appease their gods. These bodies as well were preserved in the ice and the book provides photographs of these corpses. Everest hikers and tools are also shown being discovered in frozen climates that have been preserved over time.
Vardell states that, “The photo essay book ‘particularizes and personalizes information making it more emotionally involving for the reader or documents and validates the truth of the text with photographs’ (Hepler, 1998, p. 8)” (239). I look at this book as if I were a middle school student who would be disturbed yet fascinated with the morbid science of this book. The pictures are absolutely necessary to show the reader what archeologists have found. The vivid details of the Iceman and the Andes sacrificed children really provides powerful understanding just by seeing these photographs. It is the photographs that draw the reader in to know all about who they, how they died, how they were discovered and how they managed to be preserved all this time.
Booklist (Dec 01, 2008) reviews this book by saying, “Perhaps most fascinating to kids will be the chapter on recently discovered Incan children sacrificed to the gods. The pictures of these children, looking as though they might be sleeping, are arresting. Heavily illustrated with historical memorabilia as well as photos of bodies, scenery, artifacts, and rather simplistic maps, this offers a lot to look at and learn about.” I think this book would work well from the projected grades of 5-8 who were doing a section in environmental science. I would pair this with the other book by Deem called Bodies from the Bog. Having the photographs and spawned interest in the morbid would give students a springboard for class projects and presentations on subjects found in these books.