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Results 26 - 50 of 135,450
26. Celebrating 25 Books Over 25 Years: Babu’s Song

LEE & LOW BOOKS celebrates its 25th anniversary this year and to recognize how far the company has come, we are featuring one title a week to see how it is being used in classrooms today as well, as hear from the authors and illustrators.

Featured title: Babu’s Song

Author: Stephanie Stuve-Bodeen

Illustrator: Aaron Boyd

Synopsis: Babu’s Song is the story of a young Tanzanian boy who learns a lesson about family love after selling the special music box his grandfather made for him. Set in contemporary Tanzania, this story is a tender testament to the love between grandchild and grandparent.

Awards and honors:

  • Children’s Books of the Year, Bank Street College of Education
  • “Choices,” Cooperative Children’s Book Center (CCBC)
  • 40 Books About Sports, Cooperative Children’s Book Center (CCBC)
  • Parents’ Choice Recommended, Parents’ Choice Foundation
  • South Carolina Children’s Book Award Nominee, South Carolina Association of School Librarians
  • Storytelling World Resource Award, Storytelling World magazine
  • Children’s Africana Book Award, African Studies Association
  • Pennsylvania Young Reader’s Choice Award Master List, Pennsylvania School Librarians Association
  • West Virginia Children’s Book Award Master List, West Virginia Children’s Book Award Program

The story behind the story: 

“To this day Babu’s Song is still one of my favorite books and though I’ll illustrated over 20 books since then, I still go back to it when I’m speaking with kids and other artists. Babu’s Song is such a beautiful story and it is still one of my most requested books when I talk to people.

Working on Babu’s Song continues to touch my life as an artist as much today as it did when I began illustrating it. Not only because it’s one of my most recognized and colorful books I’ve illustrated, but also because it helped set the trajectory of my artistic and social conscious. Growing up where books (and movies) too often didn’t contain subjects or people that I saw in my own life I knew that when I began illustrating books my priority would be to capture people and places that we don’t often see or know on a map.

In Babu’s Song I got to show a boy and his father in Tanzania dealing with poverty and loss that while not uncommon in the world are often unseen by most of us, even when next door. And while this story does deal very honestly with the boy’s struggles, it always keeps its heart and shows us that there is a way to persevere. So a story about a little boy and his grandfather on the other side of the globe becomes someone we can begin to see (empathize with) thus bringing us all a little closer. “

Aaron Boyd, illustrator of Babu’s Song and new title Calling the Water Drum

Resources for teaching with Babu’s Song:

babu's songBook activity: Ask students to write a letter to their grandparent or grandparent-figure in their life. Review the structure and tone of a friendly letter. Students should describe what they admire about this person and include questions to learn more about them.

How have you used Babu’s Song? Let us know!

Celebrate with us! Check out our 25 Years Anniversary Collection.

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27. Can we encourage healthier choices by the way we display food options?

The results of our recent experiments show that displaying healthy food to the left of an unhealthy option can influence the selection and consumption volume of the healthier choice. Since managers typically have considerable flexibility in terms of how they display food items in retail outlets and restaurant menus, they can use the findings of our research to design optimal menu formats to suit their sales objectives.

The post Can we encourage healthier choices by the way we display food options? appeared first on OUPblog.

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28. Flashback Monday! (AKA I Didn't Have Time to Write a New Review)

Can I blame these Cybermen for my time famine? Photo: (C) BBC.co.ukIt's been A Summer. I know many of you would agree with me on that. The year has flown by too quickly, and the time has been eaten up by, apparently, some sort of Doctor-Who-esque... Read the rest of this post

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29. Monster Mash: Aaron Zenz Goes On Tour

Blog tours.  Generally speaking I don’t really do them.  Nothing against them personally, they just don’t always speak to the tenor and distinctive tone of individual blogs.  It takes a particularly keen one to get me out of my hidey-hole so that I’ll participate.  It takes, in short, Aaron Zenz.

But first . . . BACKSTORY!!!!

It was at least 10 years ago.  I was a young struggling blogger (“struggling” in this case meaning doing just fine with a nice steady job).  A fellow by the name of Aaron Zenz contacted me not long after I’d started and asked if I’d take a gander at his book, The Hiccupotamus.  It was coming out with a very small publisher, but there was something to it.  It was nice looking. Nicer than the average fare, so I took a gamble and said I’d give it a gander.  Not only was it nice, but it held together beautifully.   It also seems to be one of the longest lived books I’ve ever encountered, traveling as it has from Dogs in Hats Children’s Publishing to Marshall Cavendish to Two Lions.  If you look on Amazon you’ll see my May 16, 2006 review of the book there.

And I remembered that Zenz guy.  How could I not?  First off, his name was “Zenz”.  That’s just cool.  Second, he had this crazy cool blog he did with his kids called Bookie Woogie (not to be confused with the also amazing but different kid art site Chicken Nugget Lemon Tooty).  For years I’d recommend it as what may be the most successful kids book review site written in large part by kids.  He’d also come up with these crazy amazing blog posts .  And in the interest of complete and utter honesty, they even reviewed Giant Dance Party and made fan art.  Like so:

IsaacGiant

But wait.  That’s not all.  Because on top of his art, his blog with his kids, and his kids’ kinda of freakishly good art (seriously, they should Pinterest this stuff) they also are responsible for a slew of some of the best 90-Second Newbery videos you’ve ever seen in your life.  I think if you keep watching this, the first four are by the Zenzes (Zenzi?).

None of this even touches on all the other stuff Aaron’s done over the years.  Nor, you will note, have I even gotten to his books.  As you can see, I save the best for last.

Starting with Hiccupotamus, I just kept on enjoying Aaron’s books for years.  From his art for Five Little Puppies Jumping on the Bed to Chuckling Ducklings to Hug a Bull, the man makes good literature for the small fry.  And now, the best one of all.

MonstersGoNightNow as I mentioned before, I don’t tend to do blog tours, and part of the reason why is because more than half the time I’m completely impartial (or worse) to the book that author is promoting.  Monsters Go Night-Night is different.  In one book you get the following:

  • A good bedtime book.
  • A story that is great for a range of ages (my 2-year-old and my 5-year-old get different things out of the book but both think it’s hilarious)
  • Writing that is actually funny for adults too (it may have one of the greatest potty gags I’ve seen in a long time)
  • Art that pops
  • The ability to be read to a large group (hard for any book to do, let alone well)

The whole premise is based on setting up expectations and then knocking them to the floor in a way that’s completely appropriate for very young ages.  Example:

MonstersNight

MonstersNight1

Perfect for pajama storytimes everywhere.

But where did Aaron get the idea for this book?  Well, if you’re still up for some video viewing today, this completely adorable video (could someone PLEASE publish a book of Aaron’s literary monsters since I want to see his Gurgi?) explains all:

So here’s where it gets crazy good.  Did you see how Aaron turned his son’s art into monsters?  Well, he’s been doing the same for other people as well.  Aaron asked if my daughter (who is the five-year-old I mentioned earlier) would like to make a monster.  He, in turn, would turn it into a piece of art.  And the results?  Behold:

LilyMonster1

This was my daughter’s . . . .

LilyMonster2

. . . and this was Aaron’s.

Side by side . . .

LilyMonster1LilyMonster2

Absolutely love that.

Long story short, this book good.  Get book.  Read book.

Still don’t believe me?  Then check out everyone else on this blog tour.  Lotta heavy hitters there.  Maybe if you don’t believe me you’ll believe them:

Mon Aug 15  :  Watch. Connect. Read.
Tues Aug 16  :  100 Scope Notes
Wed Aug 17  :  Nerdy Book Club
Thu Aug 18  :  Sharpread
Fri Aug 19  :  All the Wonders
Sat Aug 20  :  Playing by the Book
Sun Aug 21  :  Writing for Kids (While Raising Them)
Mon Aug 22  :  A Fuse #8 Production

And if you’d like to see the children’s art his did for these other bloggers’ kids collected for you in one place, just go to the Blog Tour Hub right here.

Thanks to Aaron for looping me into this tour.

 

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30. Top ten essential books for aspiring lawyers

Legal knowledge doesn’t just come from textbooks and lectures. Last year, we asked Martin Partington, author of Introduction to the English Legal System, for his top ten film recommendations for law students and aspiring lawyers. This year he turns his attention to inspiring books that will get you thinking about our legal system, our society, and the role of lawyers – what would you add to his list?

The post Top ten essential books for aspiring lawyers appeared first on OUPblog.

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31. Obstacles in transgender healthcare

The last several years have seen increased visibility of transgender individuals in the media in United States. While this has served to increase attention on some issues related to the transgender population, what often gets overlooked is that the transgender population remains one of the most underserved groups in the country.

The post Obstacles in transgender healthcare appeared first on OUPblog.

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32. When Celebrity Picture Books Go Kuh-kuh-kuh-KRAZY!

Celebrity picture books.  The gift that just keeps on giving.

Now in the past I’ve had my say about CPB ah-plenty.  Heck, there was an entire chapter devoted to them in Wild Things: Acts of Mischief in Children’s Literature. Today, we’ll switch tactics and tackle a topic that no one ever discusses.

Weeeeeeeeeeird celebrity picture books.

Specifically, the ones based on pop songs.

Here is how I imagine how the process usually goes.

Big publisher with lots of money sits down with the people of big famous celebrity singer.  Big publishers offers to get a top notch illustrator (who really needs the cash) to illustrate it.  Celebrity singer is keen on the idea, a deal is struck, and the book is made.  This happens time and again and usually the results are very normal.

But then . . . once in a very great while . . . the impossible happens.  The artist is allowed to be  . . . artistic.

What do I mean like that?  Okay.  Let’s start with the pop novelty song turned picture book.  And in keeping with the sheer number of foxes in picture books these days (Travis! You need to add the new version of The Dead Bird by Zolotow & Robinson to your list!) I am showing you this:

WhatFoxSay

Remember that little post-Gangnam Style hit on the interwebs?  Currently cresting at 616 million views on YouTube (nope, I’m not kidding) someone at Simon & Schuster decided it could be worth it to give the lyrics book form.  After all, it sounds like a children’s song in a lot of ways (right down to the elephant going “toot”).  And usually when a YouTube sensation gets turned into a picture book you get something like a Golden Book Grumpy Cat or a Tiny Hamster or a talking shell, and that’s fine.

Then there’s this:

FoxSay1

FoxSay2

FoxSay3I had to wonder how this happened.  Did Ylvis insist on having his own illustrator?  How did they get Norwegian artist Svein Nyhus in the first place?  How could something this . . this . . this cool be based on a YouTube video?  It was Debbie Ohi’s blog post My WHAT DOES THE FOX SAY? obsession, solving a mystery AND the new picture book from Simon & Schuster BFYR that answered all my questions.  Turns out, Art Director Laurent Linn may have had a hand in the works.  Makes sense.  The man has fine taste.

And if you’re saying to yourself, “Fine and all, but clearly this is an aberration” you’d be half right.  Certainly it would take an act of God for another Svein Nyhus picture book to appear on our shores (our Norwegian picture book illustrators available here in the States are a bit, uh, lacking, shall we say).  But odd adaptations of songs into picture book formats don’t stop there.  Consider this:

LittleBlackSpot

Yep.  That’s a Sting song.  Now note the name of the illustrator: Sven Völker.  We’re with a German this time around.  Of course, the interiors might have given that away . . .

LittleBlackSpot1

LittleBlackSpot2

LittleBlackSpot3

I’m sorry but I kind of love this.  Obviously the song isn’t really meant to be for kids, but at least they didn’t cutesy it up.  It would have been easy to go the Shel Silverstein route and follow the adventures of a chipper little spot as he traverses the world.  Instead we get . . . actually, I’m not sure what we get.  Something weird, that’s for sure.

These first two books I’ve mentioned work because the publishers decided to get European artists to do the interiors.  So how often do you find a song adaptation that’s a bit on the peculiar side and that’s illustrated by an American?  Hardly ever.  Of course there are some exceptions:

IfDogsRun

Dylan gets adapted into picture books on a frequent basis.  And he usually gets some perfectly good artists like Paul Rogers or David Walker or Jim Arnosky (that one was a surprise).  One time he got Jon J. Muth and I got really excited.  But the art was pretty standard stuff.  There was a paper airplane motif.  Ho hum.

But Scott Campbell?  He’s different.  This guy has a whole life dedicated to his adult cartoons, which are delightful.  Ever see this book?

GreatShowdowns

If not, I think I’m helping you out with your holiday gift giving already.  That book is a hoot.

In the case of the Dylan book, Campbell appears at first glance to be doing everything straight.  Dogs are running free.  That’s really all there is to it.  But there’s this undercurrent that’s hard to ignore.  See if you feel it too:

IfDogsRun1

IfDogsRun2

It just doesn’t feel like other celebrity song books.  There’s a wildness reigned in here.  The song isn’t one of Dylan’s better ones, so there’s that as well, but at least the pictures are interesting to look at.  The downside is that I haven’t seen Mr. Campbell do any picture books since this and Hug Machine.  Boo-urns, sez I.  More Campbell, please.

I welcome any other suggestions of odd song-adaptation picture books, though I know they’re not easy to come up with.  A goodly chunk of them are dull as dishwater.  Very straightforward.  Artists doing something rote for a nice sized check.  But if you do hear of a case where the artist was allowed to be, y’know, artistic, you just let me know.  This is the kind of stuff I really dig.  And if you can’t think of anything then just sit back and enjoy this fake picture book adaptation of David Bowie’s Major Tom.

SpaceOddity

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33. Certain Songs #627: Hoodoo Gurus – “Down On Me”

hoodoo gurus in blue cave Album: In Blue Cave
Year: 1996

The year is 1996. I’ve moved to Oakland, and I’m doing what I did at least twice a month on Saturday mornings: digging through the recent additions in Amoeba Music’s used CD section.

It was one of my rituals: driving into Berkeley first thing on Saturday morning, standing in trade-in line with CDs that had run the gamut of usefulness in order to get some store credit to offset the a bit too much I was going to spend on music that day.

And I come across a promo CD with no cover, but stamped on the light blue label is “Hoodoo Gurus In Blue Cave.” I don’t think I knew they had a new album coming out, but since that was 20 years ago, who remembers? And despite the fact that I hadn’t like either of their previous two records, I figured it was worth the five or six bucks to check it out.

And I’m eternally glad I did.

Because In Blue Cave was a pretty fucking great comeback, an eternal reminder of just how well-schooled the Hoodoo Gurus were in the basic rock ‘n’ roll that I’ll always love, and coupled with a bunch of great Dave Faulkner songs, it was irresistible.

My favorite song on the album was “Down on Me,” which featured everything you could want in a Hoodoo Gurus song: a tough-as-nails central riff, call-and-response chorus, and more than one killer Brad Shepherd guitar solo.

And the darkly sardonic lyrics were just a bonus.

Ain’t it always the way
How people treat you today
Fuck you over and say,
“Now go and have a real nice day!”

They must be
(Down on me!)
Can’t you see
(Down on me!)
I don’t need them
(Down on me!)
Let me breathe, stop drowning me

It goes without saying that yelling “down on me!” along with the Gurus is the point of the song, and it’s an extra nice that in the verse about turning to drugs has a tongue-in-cheek phase shift effect even as Faulkner is listing all of the drugs that aren’t helping.

Also fun, and pretty much apropos of nothing given that it was 1996: when Faulkner ends the song by yelling “MTV, go down on me!!!”

“Down on Me”

“Down on Me” performed live

Every Certain Song Ever
A filterable, searchable & sortable database with links to every “Certain Song” post I’ve ever written.

Check it out!

Certain Songs Spotify playlist
(It’s recommended that you listen to this on Spotify as their embed only has 200 songs.)

Support “Certain Songs” with a donation on Patreon
Go to my Patreon page

The post Certain Songs #627: Hoodoo Gurus – “Down On Me” appeared first on Booksquare.

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34. Turning Pages Reads: ONCE, IN A TOWN CALLED MOTH, by TRILBY KENT

Welcome to another session of Turning Pages!According to the PEW Research peeps, about 70% of people consider themselves religious in some fashion, whether through traditional Jewish, Muslim or Christian denominations or other neopagan practices... Read the rest of this post

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35. Turning Pages Reads: LABYRINTH LOST by ZORAIDA CORDOVA

Welcome to another session of Turning Pages! Last November, I went to the grocery store and saw a display of Día de los Muertos - Day of the Dead - stuff on display - imported from a non-Latin American country overseas, in plastic. I was... Read the rest of this post

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36. Back through the Prickle Hedge

As an ex-bookseller, one of the things I miss is helping to reconnect people with “long lost” books. I still get the occasional request for help, and always enjoy the buzz of pointing someone in the direction of a book that has eluded them for years. This request from a couple of years ago was a little different;

When I was little my Mother used to read me a poem called "Through the Prickle Hedge" I found out after much searching that it was written by a lady called, Marion St. John Webb and that you are listed as someone who stocks her books so my question is this "How can I find the words to this poem" as I have forgotten all but the first line.


The Littlest One Marion St John Adcock Webb
Luckily, I recognised the poem and had the very book in stock. It’s from The Littlest-One by Marion St. John Adcock (Webb). It took but a minute to photocopy the words and send them by return mail. I wrote a blog post about it (here) and quickly received more requests for copies of the words. I was happy to oblige and continued copying and sharing until…disaster struck…the book sold. 



In hindsight, I should have shared the entire poem on my blog while I had the chance, but hindsight is a wonderful thing. Having found the book again, I can now do what I should have done then. I don’t sell books any more, but that doesn't mean I can’t share some of those in my collection. I hope you enjoy these words as much as I do. Some of the spelling might seem a little odd, but it is exactly as it appears in the book. 


Through the prickle hedge by Marion St. John Adcock (Webb)

While all the grown-up people sat an’ talked upon the lawn, we scrambled through the prickle hedge – and one of us got torn. 

And out into the lane we went, an’ passed the willow tree, Aunt Matilda’s child’en, Mr Peter Dog, an’ me.

Sue, Barbara and Tony Flitney with Peggy the dog
Me (the Littlest One), my sister Sue, brother Tony and Peggy our dog. 

We’d played about the garden all the kind of games we could, and so we went along the lane an’ down into the wood. But jus’ as we had got inside an’ one of us looked round – a little girl we didn't know had followed us, we found. 

Her hair was black an’ straggly, an’ her dress was old and worn, and she on’y had one stocking on, and that was very torn. 
And who she was, and where she came from, none of us could tell; and when we stopped and stared at her, she stopped and stared as well.

And one of Aunt Matilda's child'en shouted "Hullo, Kid" but she never answered anything, but stood and stared, she did. 
And Aunt Matilda's child'en said "perhaps she is a witch. Let's make a fire and burn her, like they used to, in this ditch!"

And they laughed and started picking sticks, an' threw them in a pile, and kept on singing, "Burn old Witch!" an' shouting all the while. I whispered, "Not a really fire? Of course it's on'y play?" But they shouted, "Yes, a really fire! Don't let her run away".

Sue and Barbara Flitney
My sister is the tall girl in the centre. I'm on her left-hand side (right of the photo as you look at it). Sadly, I can’t recall the names of our two playmates. 

Then she pulled a nugly face at us, and said "You'd better 'ad. My mother is a Gypsy, and she'd be most awful mad. And if I call, she'll her me - she lives inside this wood."  

Aunt Matilda's child'en whispered "let us run away. We mustn't talk to Gipsies they'll steal you if you stay." But the little girl was watchin', and she said "Oh no, you won't or else I'll call, now what you going to give me if I don't?"

And all of us were quiet again. Then some thing made a squeak so we gave her someone's brooch. An' then we heard the bushes creak and so she took a coat, a hat, an' Mr Peter's collar. "And now," she said, "You mustn't tell you promise - or I'll ollar." Then Aunt Matilda's child'en cried "It isn't fair a bit!" And snatched their things away an' said "Come on, let's run for it."

An' all of us began to run as quickly as we could. And as we ran she started shouting, shouting through the wood. And some of us fell over - scrambled up, and on again. And the wood was full of creaking's - but at last we found the lane. On'y some of us were crying', and we kept on looking round; But the Gypsies didn't follow, and we couldn't hear a sound.

Back through the prickle hedge
Me with my Grandad and Aunt Gladys. Could that be the Prickle Hedge?

Till nearly home - we heard the grown-ups talking on the lawn, so we scrambled through the prickle hedge - and two of us got torn. And out into the garden jus' as quickly as could be, Aunt Matilda's child'en, Mr. Peter Dog, an' me. 

Disclaimer!  The photographs in this post are from my own childhood. I have no connection to Marion St John Adcock (Webb). The photographs are simply for decoration. I’m happy to say my sister, brother and I were not involved in any of the incidents in the poem, although we often got ‘torn’ while climbing through hedges. Furthermore, burning of witches is not something we recommend!  Have a fun week...


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37. How much do you know about the origins of the Olympics? [quiz]

Since the very beginning of the games at Olympia, the event has served to strengthen unity, bring peace, and celebrate individuals for achieving greatness after endless hours of hard work. The Olympics have always been a source of inspiration and a connection to our own humanity.

The post How much do you know about the origins of the Olympics? [quiz] appeared first on OUPblog.

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38. 15 surprising facts about Guglielmo Marconi, the man behind radio communication

Guglielmo Marconi is popularly known as “the inventor of radio,” a mischaracterization that critics and supporters of his many rivals are quick to seize upon. Marconi was actually the first person to use radio waves to communicate. His first patent was for “Improvements in Transmitting Electrical Impulses and Signals and in Apparatus Therefor,” and he considered what he was doing to be a form of wireless telegraphy.

The post 15 surprising facts about Guglielmo Marconi, the man behind radio communication appeared first on OUPblog.

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39. The rapidly growing senior population [infographic]

Today is National Senior Citizen’s Day. It’s a time to celebrate the older, wiser individuals of our society who have achieved so much over the last several decades of their lives, and still have more of an impact to make.

The post The rapidly growing senior population [infographic] appeared first on OUPblog.

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40. Jim Crow redux: Donald Trump and the racial fear factor

Donald Trump’s mantra, to “make America great again,” plays on the word “again,” and is presumably meant to evoke among his supporters a return to an earlier, more bountiful, time. To paraphrase Bill Clinton, it all depends on what the word “again” means. According

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41. Measuring athletic greatness

As Michael Phelps pulled away from the field in the 200 IM to win his thirteenth individual Olympic Gold Medal, he set the standard by which athletic greatness will be measured. The greatest athletes are not just good at one thing—the measurement of true greatness, established from antiquity to the present, is the ability to dominate different events, and the ability to do so more than once.

The post Measuring athletic greatness appeared first on OUPblog.

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42. The importance of smell

The captivating scent of cakes and the compelling aroma of freshly brewed coffee attract you to a bakery in the morning. A male moth is flittering around, frenetically following the scent plume released by her female. What do these two phenomena have in common? Much more than we suspect, when we look at the molecular level. Imagine if we had a very powerful microscope enabling us to detect details

The post The importance of smell appeared first on OUPblog.

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43. Around the world in 15 travel health tips

It's time for holidays! Your suitcase is packed, you're ready to leave, and cannot wait to get a proper tan to show on social media. Mark Twain used to say that “travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness”, but unfortunately the health problems we may come across while travelling are far less poetic. Danger is always lurking, especially in far-flung and unexplored destinations.

The post Around the world in 15 travel health tips appeared first on OUPblog.

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44. 10 Reasons to Celebrate Bilingual Books

Last year, we gave our 10 favorite reasons to read diversely. One reason being that we live in a diverse world, so why not the books that we read? Books help us see the world through someone else’s eyes, and in the case of bilingual books, through another language.

Here are our ten favorite reasons to read bilingual books!

Bilingual books…

  1. Teach us how to read in two languages.
  2. Celebrate the 22% of students who speak a language other than English at home.
  3. Develop strong critical thinking skills
  4. Keep our brains young, healthy, and sharp.
  5. Expose us to new ways of communicating.
  6. Make reading an inclusive activity for all students.
  7. Highlight the achievement of knowing more than one language.
  8. Encourage interest in other cultures and languages.
  9. Expand our vocabulary and lexicon.
  10. Bring readers together.

Lee and Low Bilingual Books Poster

Tell us why you read bilingual books!

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45. Certain Songs #628: Hoodoo Gurus – “Gene Hackman”

Hoodoo Gurus Electric Chair Album: Electric Chair
Year: 1998

This is my favorite song in what is perhaps the all-time smallest category: “Late-90s Songs About Gene Hackman as Sung By 1980’s Alt-Rock Icons.”

How small? There are only two songs in this category: The Hoodoo Gurus’ “Gene Hackman” and Robyn Hitchcock’s “Don’t Talk To Me About Gene Hackman,” which may or may not be an answer song. Probably not, as Hitchcock’s is a live acoustic take that was a hidden track on Jewels For Sophia.

Not that the Gurus’ “Gene Hackman” is any less obscure: it turned up on a compilation that I’m not even sure got released here. A straight out punk rock song, it’s a clear throwaway, but who cares when it’s got lyrics like this.

Well, is there anything he can’t do?
Well, is there anything he can’t do?
Gene Hackman, versatile
The leading actor by a country mile
Gene Hackman
Gene Hackman

With Brad Shepherd making rude guitar noises throughout, you almost might miss the chorus, except for the fact that it’s so damn great:

Gene must have made a thousand films
He’s kissed a thousand girls
And made a thousand kills
And let’s not forget he took on Superman!

Like all of the greatest Hoodoo Gurus songs, “Gene Hackman” is great good fun, and a fantastic way for me to end writing about them.

That said, guessing that most folks lost track of them even before In Blue Cave, so I’d like to report that — after taking 8 years off — they’ve continued to release records into the 21st century. 2004’s Mach Shau was pretty good, but 2010’s Purity of Essence was nearly as good as In Blue Cave, and if they make another record, I’d be excited to buy it.

But if they don’t, I think their legacy as maybe the greatest rock ‘n’ roll band to ever come from Australia is secure.

Fan-made video for “Gene Hackman”

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46. The Pleasure of the (Queer) Text



I returned to the WROTE Podcast recently for a 2-part discussion of reading and writing queerly with Dena Hankins, SA "Baz" Collins, and moderator Vance Bastian. (Previously, I did a solo conversation there.)

The strength of the discussion is also what makes it sometimes awkward and even contentious: we all have utterly different tastes, touchstones, and experiences. I'm not a natural fit for such a conversation, as I don't think of myself as a "consumer of queer content", but rather as a reader/writer who sometimes reads/writes queer stuff. I hardly ever seek out a book only because it's about a queer topic or has queer characters, and I only ever set out to write such a thing if I'm writing for a specifically queer market, which rarely happens.

As I say in the program, if a book's not trying to do something new and different, and if it's not aesthetically interesting to me, I'm unlikely to read it. Why bother? I've got more books than I have time to read already, and I'd rather read an innovative and thought-provoking hetero book than a familiar, conventional queer book.

Barthes gets at this in The Pleasure of the Text, presenting a fairly familiar Modernist case, one that describes well my own textual pleasures and (very occasional) moments of bliss:
The New is not a fashion, it is a value, the basis of all criticism.... There is only one way left to escape the alienation of present-day society: to retreat ahead of it: every old language becomes old once it is repeated. Now, encratic language (the language produced and spread under the protection of power) is statutorily a language of repetition; all official institutions of language are repeating machines: school, sports, advertising, popular songs, news, all continually repeat the same structure, the same meaning, often the same words: the stereotype is a political fact, the major figure of ideology. Confronting it, the New is bliss (Freud: "In the adult, novelty always constitutes the condition for orgasm").

...The bastard form of mass culture is humiliated repetition: content, ideological schema, the blurring of contradictions — these are repeated, but the superficial forms are varied: always new books, new programs, new films, news items, but always the same meaning. [trans. by Richard Miller]
This is not, of course, what most readers want, and what is New to one is not New to another. My pleasure is your boredom, my bliss your pain. Nonetheless, I wish more queer writers today were more interested in finding new forms and shapes and styles. I mention in one of the episodes Dale Peck's new anthology, The Soho Press Book of '80s Short Fiction, which is queer in that it is not heteronormative in its selections, putting Dorothy Allison, Robert Glück, and Essex Hemphill alongside Raymond Carver in a way no other anthology I'm aware of has done. What the anthology also does is show that many American queer writers were, once upon a time, interested in a truly wide range of aesthetics. Peck's anthology can only gesture toward those aesthetics, since it has to fit many different purposes between two covers, but it made me think about the ways that queer artists have for so long been the ones to embrace vanguards. (Queer Modernism is often the most interesting Modernism, for instance.) To be queer is to be outside the norm, and thus to be outside the norm's language and forms.

I ended the first episode with a point that right now seems to me the most important one: If we want to identify as a queer community (I'm not sure I do), and we really want to do something for the queer world generally, we should be advocating for queer writers from outside the U.S. and other relatively safe, progressive places. The two books I mentioned in the last moments as ones I'd be reading if I had time to read stuff other than things for my PhD are Under the Udala Trees by Chinelo Okparanta and Guapa by Saleem Haddad. There are likely many others I don't know about.

If there is a value in queer reading communities, then those communities must not replicate the insularity of most American readers. If you want to be a politically and socially intentional reader, as describing yourself as a queer reader (or consumer of queer content) suggests you do, then your political and social intentions as a reader can't begin and end with you staring at a mirror.

Finally, I got into a bit of a disagreement with Baz Collins about Hanya Yanagihara's A Little Life, and for my perspective on that book, my initial post about it remains my most substantial declaration of love.

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47. Dodgy dossiers in the Middle Ages

Government advisers don’t regularly admit to handling doctored evidence. The extent to which the actions of recent governments may have depended on documents which had been ‘sexed up’ have—quite rightly—become matters for close scrutiny in recent decades. But the modern world has no monopoly over the spurious, the doubtful, and the falsified.

The post Dodgy dossiers in the Middle Ages appeared first on OUPblog.

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48. An egalitarian and organic history of the periodic table

Our story has to begin somewhere and why not with the Manchester schoolteacher John Dalton who revived the atomic theory of the ancient Greek philosophers? In addition to supposing that the ultimate components of all matter were atoms, Dalton set about putting this idea on a quantitative foundation. He published the first list in which he compared the weights of the atoms of all the elements that were known at the time.

The post An egalitarian and organic history of the periodic table appeared first on OUPblog.

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49. Five crimes being committed by Pokémon Go players

Record-breaking mobile app Pokémon Go has been downloaded over 75 million times worldwide, a number set only to increase as the game is released in more territories. What five common crimes have police officers had to attend to as a result of this craze taking off?

The post Five crimes being committed by Pokémon Go players appeared first on OUPblog.

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50. Certain Songs #627: Hoodoo Gurus – “Down On Me”

hoodoo gurus in blue cave Album: In Blue Cave
Year: 1996

The year is 1996. I’ve moved to Oakland, and I’m doing what I did at least twice a month on Saturday mornings: digging through the recent additions in Amoeba Music’s used CD section.

It was one of my rituals: driving into Berkeley first thing on Saturday morning, standing in trade-in line with CDs that had run the gamut of usefulness in order to get some store credit to offset the a bit too much I was going to spend on music that day.

And I come across a promo CD with no cover, but stamped on the light blue label is “Hoodoo Gurus In Blue Cave.” I don’t think I knew they had a new album coming out, but since that was 20 years ago, who remembers? And despite the fact that I hadn’t like either of their previous two records, I figured it was worth the five or six bucks to check it out.

And I’m eternally glad I did.

Because In Blue Cave was a pretty fucking great comeback, an eternal reminder of just how well-schooled the Hoodoo Gurus were in the basic rock ‘n’ roll that I’ll always love, and coupled with a bunch of great Dave Faulkner songs, it was irresistible.

My favorite song on the album was “Down on Me,” which featured everything you could want in a Hoodoo Gurus song: a tough-as-nails central riff, call-and-response chorus, and more than one killer Brad Shepherd guitar solo.

And the darkly sardonic lyrics were just a bonus.

Ain’t it always the way
How people treat you today
Fuck you over and say,
“Now go and have a real nice day!”

They must be
(Down on me!)
Can’t you see
(Down on me!)
I don’t need them
(Down on me!)
Let me breathe, stop drowning me

It goes without saying that yelling “down on me!” along with the Gurus is the point of the song, and it’s an extra nice that in the verse about turning to drugs has a tongue-in-cheek phase shift effect even as Faulkner is listing all of the drugs that aren’t helping.

Also fun, and pretty much apropos of nothing given that it was 1996: when Faulkner ends the song by yelling “MTV, go down on me!!!”

“Down on Me”

“Down on Me” performed live

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