Just in time for Earth Day (today, April 22nd.!), I discovered this marvelous book- Heroes of the Environment:True Stories of People Who Are Helping to Protect Our Planet, written by Harriet Rohmer and illustrated by Julie McLaughlin:
The twelve people profiled in this book span many age groups, range across the country, and focus a variety of conservation efforts – from protecting wetlands to saving wildlife to bringing solar power to rural and impoverished communities. These are inspiring stories, and I know that my students will enjoy reading about how ordinary people can be moved to doing extraordinary things – and make a lasting contribution. There is a wonderful website to go along with Heroes of the Environment, which is filled with teaching ideas and other resources. This will definitely be a book I will use in our upcoming biography unit.
I also just discovered that today was the last day of National Library Week (April 14 – 20). Our local library had an entire display of picture books devoted to libraries, and among the treasures there was this one :
Based on the life of the writer Richard Wright, this is a fictionalized account of his life changing experience in Memphis, Tennessee. At seventeen, Wright was hoping to earn enough money to make his way north to Chicago and a better life. Long ago, Richard’s mother had taught him how to read, and he yearned to be able to visit the public library in Memphis satisfy his hunger for the power of the written word. But the library is reserved for the white citizens of Memphis, a city in which it was wise for black men to “know their place.” Wright is able to befriend a kind, white man in his office who recognizes his passion for reading…and lends him his library card. Under the pretext of taking out books for this gentleman, Wright is able to spend his time in Memphis reading voraciously, preparing himself for what would soon become a life as a wordsmith. I loved the story and the beautiful paintings.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art in Manhattan has an amazing new exhibition on Civil War Photography , which I was able to visit recently. Prominently displayed in the gift shop, and utterly impossible to resist, was this book – Abe’s Honest Words: The Life of Abraham Lincoln, written by Doreen Rappaport and illustrated by Kadir Nelson:
Rappaport tells the story of Lincoln’s life, but the familiar arc of Lincoln’s rise from poverty and loneliness to the highest office in the land is interspersed with his inimitable quotes. That, combined with Nelson’s stunning illustrations makes for a powerful reading experience. This is a book to savor with students – definitely one that will sit proudly on our classroom bookshelf.
And, finally, I read the books that everyone else (including most of my students) has already read, Veronica Roth’s Divergent, and its sequel, Insurgent. I loved the first and was really disappointed in the second. Divergent follows the Hunger Games formula – an apocalyptic event has transformed America, and the city of Chicago is now divided into factions, with each faction representing a particular human quality: Candor (the honest), Abnegation (the selfless), Dauntless (the brave), Amity (the peaceful), and Erudite (the intelligent). Beatrice Prior has reached the age where she must choose her faction – should she stay in Abnegation with her family, or follow her instinct and choose Dauntless? Of course, she chooses Dauntless – and almost loses her life during the initiation rites, where she also discovers a sinister plot afoot.
Beatrice, like Katniss Evergreen, is a wonderful main character – strong willed, brave, clever and quick witted. And, as long as the story focused on her and the adventure aspect of figuring out how to survive and then how to out wit the villains who have taken over Dauntless, it is a gripping, fantastic read.
But, there is a romantic angle in the story, and I thought this took over the sequel entirely – it became a bit
Twilight-y for me: will they kiss? will they confess their love? etc. My students had been much less enthused about Insurgent…and I can see why. There is, of course, a third book in the cycle, and I hope that Roth brings me back to the type of story telling that first captivated my attention in Divergent.