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1. The Science of Reading

In a recent neuroscience study, researchers focused on the visual side of the brain and concluded that volunteers saw words and pictures and not individual letters. This research could prove very helpful in understanding how struggling readers process words, and improve tactics for teaching.

Arbordale truly believes that reading, and being read to, is a very important part of growing up. So, we are closing out the work with a Friday Reads Giveaway! Comment on this post to be entered to win these three Arbordale books!

Daisylocks_128 ShapeFamily_128 AnimalPartners_187

Learn more about the Journal of Neuroscience article on Science News.


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2. Whatever After #7: Beauty Queen

whatever after Book #7Special STACKS Cover Reveal

We are so excited to introduce the enchanting new book in The New York Times bestselling Whatever After series by Sarah Mlynowski. Are you ready to see the cover of Beauty Queen? Royal drum roll, please . . . Whatever After: Beauty Queen

What do you think? Rather beautiful, right?! Tell us in the Comments below, and for more Whatever After fun, help Abby play dress up as she falls into a fairy tale.

Whatever After follows the adventures of siblings Abby and Jonah, whose magic mirror leads them into different fairy tales, where hijinks and hilarity ensue! This time, the magic mirror sucks Abby and Jonah into the story of Beauty and the Beast. When Jonah picks a rose from the Beast’s garden, he messes up the story. Abby and Jonah better get creative and save this fairy tale, before things get pretty ugly.

Read a sample excerpt here!

Beauty Queen is available wherever books are sold April 28, 2015.

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3. Dog Butts and Love: Review Haiku

Happy Bunny guy
is a worthy successor
to John Callahan.

Dog Butts and Love. And Stuff Like That. And Cats. by Jim Benton. NBM Publishing, 2014, 96 pages.

0 Comments on Dog Butts and Love: Review Haiku as of 1/1/1900
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4. Excerpt: The Territories of Science and Religion

9780226184487

Introduction

An excerpt from The Territories of Science and Religion by Peter Harrison

***

The History of “Religion”

In the section of his monumental Summa theologiae that is devoted to a discussion of the virtues of justice and prudence, the thirteenth-century Dominican priest Thomas Aquinas (122–74) investigates, in his characteristically methodical and insightful way, the nature of religion. Along with North African Church Father Augustine of Hippo (354–430), Aquinas is probably the most influential Christian writer outside of the biblical authors. From the outset it is clear that for Aquinas religion (religio) is a virtue—not, incidentally, one of the preeminent theological virtues, but nonetheless an important moral virtue related to justice. He explains that in its primary sense religiorefers to interior acts of devotion and prayer, and that this interior dimension is more important than any outward expressions of this virtue. Aquinas acknowledges that a range of outward behaviors are associated with religio—vows, tithes, offerings, and so on—but he regards these as secondary. As I think is immediately obvious, this notion of religion is rather different from the one with which we are now familiar. There is no sense in which religio refers to systems of propositional beliefs, and no sense of different religions (plural). Between Thomas’s time and our own, religion has been transformed from a human virtue into a generic something, typically constituted by sets of beliefs and practices. It has also become the most common way of characterizing attitudes, beliefs, and practices concerned with the sacred or supernatural.

Aquina’s understanding of religio was by no means peculiar to him. Before the seventeenth century, the word “religion” and its cognates were used relatively infrequently. Equivalents of the term are virtually nonexistent in the canonical documents of the Western religions—the Hebrew Bible, the New Testament, and the Qur’an. When the term was used in the premodern West, it did not refer to discrete sets of beliefs and practices, but rather to something more like “inner piety,” as we have seen in the case of Aquinas, or “worship.” As a virtue associated with justice, moreover,religio was understood on the Aristotelian model of the virtues as the ideal middle point between two extremes—in this case, irreligion and superstition.

The vocabulary of “true religion” that we encounter in the writings of some of the Church Fathers offers an instructive example. “The true religion” is suggestive of a system of beliefs that is distinguished from other such systems that are false. But careful examination of the content of these expressions reveals that early discussions about true and false religion were typically concerned not with belief, but rather worship and whether or not worship is properly directed. Tertullian (ca. 160–ca. 220) was the first Christian thinker to produce substantial writings in Latin and was also probably the first to use the expression “true religion.” But in describing Christianity as “true religion of the true god,” he is referring to genuine worship directed toward a real (rather than fictitious) God. Another erudite North African Christian writer, Lactantius (ca. 240–ca. 320), gives the first book of his Divine Institutes the title “De Falsa religione.” Again, however, his purpose is not to demonstrate the falsity of pagan beliefs, but to show that “the religionus ceremonies of the [pagan] gods are false,” which is just to say that the objects of pagan worship are false gods. His positive project, an account of true religion, was “to teach in what manner or by what sacrifice God must be worshipped.” Such rightly directed worship was for Lactantius “the duty of man, and in that one object the sum of all things and the whole course of a happy life consists.”

Jerome’s choice of religio for his translation of the relatively uncommon Greekthreskeia in James 1:27 similarly associates the word with cult and worship. In the English of the King James version the verse is rendered: “Pure and undefiled religion [threskeia] before God the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world.” The import of this passage is that the “religion” of the Christians is a form of worship that consists in charitable acts rather than rituals. Here the contrast is between religion that is “vain” (vana) and that which is “pure and undefiled” (religion munda et inmaculata). In the Middle Ages this came to be regarded as equivalent to a distinction between true and false religion. The twelfth-century Distinctiones Abel of Peter the Chanter (d. 1197), one of the most prominent of the twelfth-century theologians at the University of Paris, makes direct reference to the passage from James, distinguishing religion that is pure and true (munda et vera) from that which is vain and false (vana et falsa). His pupil, the scholastic Radulfus Ardens, also spoke of “true religion” in this context, concluding that it consists in “the fear and love of God, and the keeping of his commandments.” Here again there is no sense of true and false doctrinal content.

Perhaps the most conspicuous use of the expression “true religion” among the Church Fathers came in the title of De vera religion (On True religion), written by the great doctor of the Latin Church, Augustine of Hippo. In this early work Augustine follows Tertullian and Lactantius in describing true religion as rightly directed worship. As he was to relate in the Retractions: “I argued at great length and in many ways that true religion means the worship of the one true God.” It will come as no surprise that Augustine here suggests that “true religion is found only in the Catholic Church.” But intriguingly when writing the Retractions he was to state that while Christian religion is a form of true religion, it is not to be identified as the true religion. This, he reasoned, was because true religion had existed since the beginning of history and hence before the inception of Christianity. Augustine addressed the issue of true and false religion again in a short work, Six Questions in Answer to the Pagans, written between 406 and 412 and appended to a letter sent to Deogratius, a priest at Carthage. Here he rehearses the familiar stance that true and false religion relates to the object of worship: “What the true religion reprehends in the superstitious practices of the pagans is that sacrifice is offered to false gods and wicked demons.” But again he goes on to explain that diverse cultic forms might all be legitimate expressions of true religion, and that the outward forms of true religion might vary in different times and places: “it makes no difference that people worship with different ceremonies in accord with the different requirements of times and places, if what is worshipped is holy.” A variety of different cultural forms of worship might thus be motivated by a common underlying “religion”: “different rites are celebrated in different peoples bound together by one and the same religion.” If true religion could exist outside the established forms of Catholic worship, conversely, some of those who exhibited the outward forms of Catholic religion might lack “the invisible and spiritual virtue of religion.”

This general understanding of religion as an inner disposition persisted into the Renaissance. The humanist philosopher and Platonist Marsilio Ficino (143–99) thus writes of “christian religion,” which is evidenced in lives oriented toward truth and goodness. “All religion,” he wrote, in tones reminiscent of Augustine, “has something good in it; as long as it is directed towards God, the creator of all things, it is true Christian religion.” What Ficino seems to have in mind here is the idea that Christian religion is a Christlike piety, with “Christian” referring to the person of Christ, rather than to a system of religion—“the Christian religion.” Augustine’s suggestion that true and false religion might be displayed by Christians was also reprised by the Protestant Reformer Ulrich Zwingli, who wrote in 1525 of “true and false religion as displayed by Christians.”

It is worth mentioning at this point that, unlike English, Latin has no article—no “a” or “the.” Accordingly, when rendering expressions such as “vera religion” or “christiana religio” into English, translators had to decide on the basis of context whether to add an article or not. As we have seen, such decisions can make a crucial difference, for the connotations of “true religion” and “christian religion” are rather different from those of “the true religion” and “the Christian religion.” The former can mean something like “genuine piety” and “Christlike piety” and are thus consistent with the idea of religion as an interior quality. Addition of the definite article, however, is suggestive of a system of belief. The translation history of Protestant Reformer John Calvin’s classic Institutio Christianae Religionis (1536) gives a good indication both of the importance of the definite article and of changing understandings of religion in the seventeenth century. Calvin’s work was intended as a manual for the inculcation of Christian piety, although this fact is disguised by the modern practice of rendering the title in English as The Institutes of the Christian Religion. The title page of the first English edition by Thomas Norton bears the more faithful “The Institution of Christian religion” (1561). The definite article is placed before “Christian” in the 1762 Glasgow edition: “The Institution of the Christian religion.” And the now familiar “Institutes” appears for the first time in John Allen’s 1813 edition: “The Institutes of the Christian religion.” The modern rendering is suggestive of an entity “the Christian religion” that is constituted by its propositional contents—“the institutes.” These connotations were completely absent from the original title. Calvin himself confirms this by declaring in the preface his intention “to furnish a kind of rudiments, by which those who feel some interest in religion might be trained to true godliness.”

With the increasing frequency of the expressions“religion” and “the religions” from the sixteenth century onward we witness the beginning of the objectification of what was once an interior disposition. Whereas for Aquinas it was the “interior” acts of religion that held primacy, the balance now shifted decisively in favor of the exterior. This was a significant new development, the making of religion into a systematic and generic entity. The appearance of this new conception of religion was a precondition for a relationship between science and religion. While the causes of this objectification are various, the Protestant Reformation and the rise of experimental natural philosophy were key factors, as we shall see in chapter 4.

The History of “Science”

It is instructive at this point to return to Thomas Aquinas, because when we consider what he has to say on the notion of science (scientia) we find an intriguing parallel to his remarks on religion. In an extended treatment of the virtues in the Summa theologiae, Aquinas observes that science (scientia) is a habit of mind or an“intellectual virtue.” The parallel with religio, then, lies in the fact that we are now used to thinking of both religion and science as systems of beliefs and practices, rather than conceiving of them primarily as personal qualities. And for us today the question of their relationship is largely determined by their respective doctrinal content and the methods through which that content is arrived at. For Aquinas, however, both religioand scientia were, in the first place, personal attributes.

We are also accustomed to think of virtues as belonging entirely within the sphere of morality. But again, for Aquinas, a virtue is understood more generally as a“habit” that perfects the powers that individuals possess. This conviction—that human beings have natural powers that move them toward particular ends—was related to a general approach associated with the Greek philosopher Aristotle (384–322 BC), who had taught that all natural things are moved by intrinsic tendencies toward certain goals (tele). For Aristotle, this teleological movement was directed to the perfection of the entity, or to the perfection of the species to which it belonged. As it turns out, one of the natural tendencies of human beings was a movement toward knowledge. As Aristotle famously wrote in the opening lines of the Metaphysics, “all men by nature desire to know.” In this scheme of things, our intellectual powers are naturally directed toward the end of knowledge, and they are assisted in their movement toward knowledge by acquired intellectual virtues.

One of the great revolutions of Western thought took place in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, when much Greek learning, including the work of Aristotle, was rediscovered. Aquinas played a pivotal role in this recovery of ancient wisdom, making Aristotle one of his chief conversation partners. He was by no means a slavish adherent of Aristotelian doctrines, but nonetheless accepted the Greek philosophe’s premise that the intellectual virtues perfect our intellectual powers. Aquinas identified three such virtues—understanding (intellectus), science (scientia), and wisdom (sapientia). Briefly, understanding was to do with grasping first principles, science with the derivation of truths from those first principles, and wisdom with the grasp of the highest causes, including the first cause, God. To make progress in science, then, was not to add to a body of systematic knowledge about the world, but was to become more adept at drawing “scientific” conclusions from general premises. “Science” thus understood was a mental habit that was gradually acquired through the rehearsal of logical demonstrations. In Thomas’s words: “science can increase in itself by addition; thus when anyone learns several conclusions of geometry, the same specific habit of science increases in that man.”

These connotations of scientia were well known in the Renaissance and persisted until at least the end of the seventeenth century. The English physician John Securis wrote in 1566 that“science is a habit” and “a disposition to do any thing confirmed and had by long study, exercise, and use.” Scientia is subsequently defined in Thomas Holyoake’sDictionary (1676) as, properly speaking, the act of the knower, and, secondarily, the thing known. This entry also stresses the classical and scholastic idea of science as “a habit of knowledge got by demonstration.” French philosopher René Descartes (1596–1650) retained some of these generic, cognitive connotations when he defined scientiaas “the skill to solve every problem.”

Yet, according to Aquinas, scientia, like the other intellectual virtues, was not solely concerned with rational and speculative considerations. In a significant departure from Aristotle, who had set out the basic rationale for an ethics based on virtue, Aquinas sought to integrate the intellectual virtues into a framework that included the supernatural virtues (faith, hope, and charity),“the seven gifts of the spirit,” and the nine “fruits of the spirit.” While the various relations are complicated, particularly when beatitudes and vices are added to the equation, the upshot of it all is a considerable overlap of the intellectual and moral spheres. As philosopher Eleonore Stump has written, for Aquinas “all true excellence of intellect—wisdom, understanding andscientia—is possible only in connection with moral excellence as well.” By the same token, on Aquinas’s understanding, moral transgressions will have negative consequences for the capacity of the intellect to render correct judgments: “Carnal vices result in a certain culpable ignorance and mental dullness; and these in turn get in the way of understanding and scientia.” Scientia, then, was not only a personal quality, but also one that had a significant moral component.

The parallels between the virtues of religio and scientia, it must be conceded, are by no means exact. While in the Middle Ages there were no plural religions (or at least no plural religions understood as discrete sets of doctrines), there were undeniably sciences (scientiae), thought of as distinct and systematic bodies of knowledge. The intellectual virtue scientia thus bore a particular relation to formal knowledge. On a strict definition, and following a standard reading of Aristotle’s Posterior Analytics, a body of knowledge was regarded as scientific in the event that it had been arrived at through a process of logical demonstration. But in practice the label “science” was extended to many forms of knowledge. The canonical divisions of knowledge in the Middle Ages—what we now know as the seven “liberal arts” (grammar, logic, rhetoric, arithmetic, astronomy, music, geometry)—were then known as the liberal sciences. The other common way of dividing intellectual territory derived from Aristotle’s classification of theoretical or speculative philosophy. In his discussion of the division and methods of the sciences, Aquinas noted that the standard classification of the seven liberal sciences did not include the Aristotelian disciplines of natural philosophy, mathematics, and theology. Accordingly, he argued that the label “science” should be given to these activities, too. Robert Kilwardby (ca. 1215–79), successively regent at the University of Oxford and archbishop of Canterbury, extended the label even further in his work on the origin of the sciences, identifying forty distinct scientiae.

The English word “science” had similar connotations. As was the case with the Latinscientia, the English term commonly referred to the subjects making up the seven liberal arts. In catalogs of English books published between 1475 and 1700 we encounter the natural and moral sciences, the sciences of physick (medicine), of surgery, of logic and mathematics. Broader applications of the term include accounting, architecture, geography, sailing, surveying, defense, music, and pleading in court. Less familiarly, we also encounter works on the science of angels, the science of flattery, and in one notable instance, the science of drinking, drolly designated by the author the “eighth liberal science.” At nineteenth-century Oxford “science” still referred to elements of the philosophy curriculum. The idiosyncrasies of English usage at the University of Oxford notwithstanding, the now familiar meaning of the English expression dates from the nineteenth century, when “science” began to refer almost exclusively to the natural and physical sciences.

Returning to the comparison with medieval religio, what we can say is that in the Middle Ages both notions have a significant interior dimension, and that what happens in the early modern period is that the balance between the interior and exterior begins to tip in favor of the latter. Over the course of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries we will witness the beginning of a process in which the idea of religion and science as virtues or habits of mind begins to be overshadowed by the modern, systematic entities“science” and “religion.” In the case of scientia, then, the interior qualities that characterized the intellectual virtue of scientia are transferred to methods and doctrines. The entry for “science” in the 1771 Encyclopaedia Britannica thus reads, in its entirety: “SCIENCE, in philosophy, denotes any doctrine, deduced from self-evident and certain principles, by a regular demonstration.” The logical rigor that had once been primarily a personal characteristic now resides primarily in the corresponding body of knowledge.

The other significant difference between the virtues of religio and scientia lies in the relation of the interior and exterior elements. In the case of religio, the acts of worship are secondary in the sense that they are motivated by an inner piety. In the case ofscientia, it is the rehearsal of the processes of demonstration that strengthens the relevant mental habit. Crucially, because the primary goal is the augmentation of mental habits, gained through familiarity with systematic bodies of knowledge (“the sciences”), the emphasis was less on the production of scientific knowledge than on the rehearsal of the scientific knowledge that already existed. Again, as noted earlier, this was because the “growth” of science was understood as taking place within the mind of the individual. In the present, of course, whatever vestiges of the scientific habitusremain in the mind of the modern scientist are directed toward the production of new scientific knowledge. In so far as they exist at all—and for the most part they have been projected outward onto experimental protocols—they are a means and not the end. Overstating the matter somewhat, in the Middle Ages scientific knowledge was an instrument for the inculcation of scientific habits of mind; now scientific habits of mind are cultivated primarily as an instrument for the production of scientific knowledge.

The atrophy of the virtues of scientia and religio, and the increasing emphasis on their exterior manifestations in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, will be discussed in more detail in chapter 4. But looking ahead we can say that in the physical realm virtues and powers were removed from natural objects and replaced by a notion of external law. The order of things will now be understood in terms of laws of nature—a conception that makes its first appearance in the seventeenth century—and these laws will take the place of those inherent tendencies within things that strive for their perfection. In the moral sphere, a similar development takes place, and human virtues will be subordinated to an idea of divinely imposed laws—in this instance, moral laws. The virtues—moral and intellectual—will be understood in terms of their capacity to produce the relevant behaviors or bodies of knowledge. What drives both of these shifts is the rejection of an Aristotelian and scholastic teleology, and the subsequent demise of the classical understanding of virtue will underpin the early modern transformation of the ideas of scientia and religio.

Science and Religion?

It should by now be clear that the question of the relationship between science (scientia) and religion (religio) in the Middle Ages was very different from the modern question of the relationship between science and religion. Were the question put to Thomas Aquinas, he may have said something like this: Science is an intellectual habit; religion, like the other virtues, is a moral habit. There would then have been no question of conflict or agreement between science and religion because they were not the kinds of things that admitted those sorts of relations. When the question is posed in our own era, very different answers are forthcoming, for the issue of science and religion is now generally assumed to be about specific knowledge claims or, less often, about the respective processes by which knowledge is generated in these two enterprises. Between Thomas’s time and our own, religio has been transformed from a human virtue into a generic something typically constituted by sets of beliefs and practices. Scientia has followed a similar course, for although it had always referred both to a form of knowledge and a habit of mind, the interior dimension has now almost entirely disappeared. During the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, both religion and science were literally turned inside out.

Admittedly, there would have been another way of posing this question in the Middle Ages. In focusing on religio and scientia I have considered the two concepts that are the closest linguistically to our modern “religion” and “science.” But there may be other ancient and medieval precedents of our modern notions “religion” and “science,” that have less obvious linguistic connections. It might be argued, for example, that two other systematic activities lie more squarely in the genealogical ancestry of our two objects of interest, and they are theology and natural philosophy. A better way to frame the central question, it could then be suggested, would be to inquire about theology (which looks very much like a body of religionus knowledge expressed propositionally) and natural philosophy (which was the name given to the systematic study of nature up until the modern period), and their relationship.

There is no doubt that these two notions are directly relevant to our discussion, but I have avoided mention of them up until now, first, because I have not wished to pull apart too many concepts at once and, second, because we will be encountering these two ideas and the question of how they fit into the trajectory of our modern notions of science and religion in subsequent chapters. For now, however, it is worth briefly noting that the term “theology” was not much used by Christian thinkers before the thirteenth century. The word theologia appears for the first time in Plato (ca. 428–348 BC), and it is Aristotle who uses it in a formal sense to refer to the most elevated of the speculative sciences. Partly because of this, for the Church Fathers “theology” was often understood as referring to pagan discourse about the gods. Christian writers were more concerned with the interpretation of scripture than with “theology,” and the expression “sacred doctrine” (sacra doctrina) reflects their understanding of the content of scripture. When the term does come into use in the later Middle Ages, there were two different senses of “theology”—one a speculative science as described by Aristotle, the other the teaching of the Christian scriptures.

Famously, the scholastic philosophers inquired as to whether theology (in the sense ofsacra doctrina) was a science. This is not the place for an extended discussion of that commonplace, but the question does suggest one possible relation between science and theology—that theology is a species of the genus “science.” Needless to say, this is almost completely disanalogous to any modern relationship between science and religion as we now understand them. Even so, this question affords us the opportunity to revisit the relationship between virtues and the bodies of knowledge that they were associated with. In so far as theology was regarded as a science, it was understood in light of the virtue of scientia outlined above. In other words, theology was also understood to be, in part, a mental habit. When Aquinas asks whether sacred doctrine is one science, his affirmative answer refers to the fact that there is a single faculty or habit involved. His contemporary, the Franciscan theologian Bonaventure (1221–74), was to say that theological science was a habit that had as its chief end “that we become good.” The “subtle doctor,” John Duns Scotus (ca. 1265–1308), later wrote that the “science” of theology perfects the intellect and promotes the love of God: “The intellect perfected by the habit of theology apprehends God as one who should be loved.” While these three thinkers differed from each other significantly in how they conceptualized the goals of theology, what they shared was a common conviction that theology was, to use a current expression somewhat out of context, habit forming.

As for “natural philosophy” (physica, physiologia), historians of science have argued for some years now that this is the closest ancient and medieval analogue to modern science, although they have become increasingly sensitive to the differences between the two activities. Typically, these differences have been thought to lie in the subject matter of natural philosophy, which traditionally included such topics as God and the soul, but excluded mathematics and natural history. On both counts natural philosophy looks different from modern science. What has been less well understood, however, are the implications of the fact that natural philosophy was an integral part of philosophy. These implications are related to the fact that philosophy, as practiced in the past, was less about affirming certain doctrines or propositions than it was about pursuing a particular kind of life. Thus natural philosophy was thought to serve general philosophical goals that were themselves oriented toward securing the good life. These features of natural philosophy will be discussed in more detail in the chapter that follows. For now, however, my suggestion is that moving our attention to the alternative categories of theology and natural philosophy will not yield a substantially different view of the kinds of historical transitions that I am seeking to elucidate.

To read more about The Territories of Science and Religion, click here.

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5. One Direction Goes In Two Directions

Zayn MalikZayn Is Leaving One Direction!

It’s true. THIS IS NOT A JOKE! After five years Zayn Malik has decided to leave One Direction. Niall, Harry, Liam and Louis will continue as a four-piece group in the forthcoming concerts of their world tour, and will record their fifth album, due to be released later this year, without Zayn.

On the official One Direction Family website, Zayn says:

“My life with One Direction has been more than I could ever have imagined. But, after five years, I feel like it is now the right time for me to leave the band. I’d like to apologise to the fans if I’ve let anyone down, but I have to do what feels right in my heart. I am leaving because I want to be a normal 22-year-old who is able to relax and have some private time out of the spotlight. I know I have four friends for life in Louis, Liam, Harry and Niall. I know they will continue to be the best band in the world.”

One Direction say:Jennette McCurdy Zayn Malik

“We’re really sad to see Zayn go, but we totally respect his decision and send him all our love for the future. The past five years have been beyond amazing, we’ve gone through so much together, so we will always be friends. The four of us will now continue. We’re looking forward to recording the new album and seeing all the fans on the next stage of the world tour.”

You know you’re a Directioner when . . . you wish this was just a bad dream. I remember when I was first introduced to Zayn (not in real life, but you know what I mean!) when I read this crazy, hilarious interview. And remember this One Direction trivia quiz? And who could forget when Sam abducted him on iCarly? Oh, the memories!

What are your best Zayn memories? Leave your tributes in the Comments. We will miss you, Zayn! *sniff*

Sonja, STACKS Staffer

Zayn Malik photo courtesy of Sony Pictures, iCarly photo courtesy of Nickelodeon

 

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6. Why Do We Need Diverse Books in Non-Diverse Schools?

In this guest post, Taun M. Wright, CGuest BloggerEO of Equal Read, lays out some of the arguments for using diverse books in all schools, regardless of student demographics.

DeAvian was a disengaged student, more interested in socializing than academics. Her school had well-known books like Ramona but it wasn’t until her Big Sister gave her a book with an African-American girl on the cover that suddenly, “DeAvian’s eyes opened wide with excitement and a smile filled her face. She held the book tightly, looking up as if to say: ‘Here I am, at last!’” Now, DeAvian continues to read, and her academic performance has improved dramatically. The impact of representative literature can be profound.

In a year with so much important attention to discrimination, the call for diverse children’s books is clear. However, diverse books aren’t just essential to students from minority or marginalized backgrounds. We need diverse books in schools with students representing fewer racial groups just as much as we need them in more diverse schools.

Research shows that the less contact students have with people from other racial groups, the more likely they are to retain higher Why Use Diverse Books in Non-Diverse Classrooms?levels of prejudice. While equity and inclusion are necessary, especially for those of us too long without them, social change is more likely to happen when everyone understands how they will benefit directly from increased diversity and, what’s more, why their ability to embrace the benefits of diversity will be a key determinant of their future success. Here are a few key benefits to adding diverse books to a collection, regardless of the demographics of students:

  1. INCREASED ACADEMIC PERFORMANCE: In their book Identity-Safe Classrooms, Drs. Dorothy Steele and Becki Cohn-Vargas show that “Identity-Safe Classrooms” result in increased achievement for all students, not just those from marginalized groups. Stereotype threat – anticipating being negatively stereotyped based on negative attributes associated with an identity group you represent – has a direct impact on achievement for students from all identity groups. Having many diverse books can offer a “density of cues” to counter stereotypes and reduce stereotype threat, increasing identity-safety for all students.
  1. ENGAGEMENT IN READING: Everyone agrees reading ability is a key predictor of future success. The key route to engaging kids in reading is to offer them books they find interesting and kids want to read about what they don’t know, not merely what they know. As part of its Classrooms program, Equal Read assesses students’ interest in diverse books, as well as their feelings of identity-safety and other measures. Students overwhelmingly answer, “I like reading about people that are different than me” and say that “books about kids that are different than the kids in my class are interesting.”*
  1. BETTER PROSOCIAL DEVELOPMENT: In 2012, Loris Vezalli and his colleagues demonstrated that adolescents who read a book concerning intercultural topics showed not only a reduction in stereotyping and more positive feelings about students representing identities other than their own, but also an increased desire to engage in future contact. Clearly, diverse books are a powerful tool for improved prosocial development.
  1. COLLEGE AND CAREER READINESS: Educators at all levels recognize the need for students to develop key “21st Century Skills.” While their lists may differ around the edges, all include collaboration and communication as essential 21st Century Skills. As the total number of Latino, African-American, and Asian students will be over 50% this fall, all students will need to be able to collaborate and communicate with people from multiple identity groups, if they are to succeed. Businesses are well aware of research that shows diverse teams are more creative, innovative, and productive than homogenous teams. Silicon Valley companies, for instance, are now investing significantly in recruitment efforts geared to diverse employees. A recent study by professors from Cornell, UC Berkeley, Washington and Vanderbilt Universities even demonstrated that “political correctness” has a positive influence on creativity. Students accustomed to respectfully collaborating and communicating with people from many different identity groups will be better prepared for college and career success.

Just because a school’s population is not very diverse, does not mean it should be similarly restricted in the books available to its students. Kids like great stories. All kids deserve to read the most engaging books available, books that expand their imagination of what’s possible by telling a wide variety of stories, featuring characters with differences beyond phenotype (observable differences) to include different ethnicities, nationalities, languages, gender expression, family structures, abilities, sexual orientations, socioeconomic backgrounds, education levels, religions and beliefs, ages, body types, learning styles, and experiences.

Through its Classrooms program, Equal Read creates broadly diverse book collections that are balanced for gender and representative of all of a classroom’s learners, offering teacher professional development and parent education about the role diverse books can play in increasing cultural competency.

Because every child deserves an equal read.

*Note: Equal Read also surveys parents and teachers, and overwhelmingly, both groups say they want to know more about diverse children’s books. Clearly, they already recognize the benefits of diverse books to the students they serve, yet it is difficult for them to find these books – this is no surprise considering how few children’s books feature diverse characters. We’re also working on ways to help parents and teachers more readily find the most outstanding books featuring diverse characters through Equal Read’s Books program.

EqualReadTaun Wright founded Equal Read in 2013 as a nonprofit organization to increase diversity in children’s literature, so all kids can “see themselves and a world of possibility in the books they read.” A former teacher, nonprofit consultant and administrator, and a parent and grandparent of a multi-racial family with multiple and varied abilities, nationalities, ethnicities, family structures, socio-economic backgrounds, languages, sexual orientations, ages, body types, education levels, learning styles, and experiences, she has first-hand appreciation for the wonders of different identities and the value of diverse children’s books in sharing them.

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7. Cleopatra in Space: Review Haiku

Approved by fifth-grade
daughter, second-grade son, and Mom.
Rip-roaring fun!

Cleopatra in Space #1: Target Practice by Mike Maihack. Graphix, 2014, 176 pages.

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8. March Books of the Month

Recommend me!The Most Popular Books of the Month

This long and dreadful winter is finally, finally coming to a close. At least we had PLENTY of time to power through our to-read lists with all of those snow days and freezing weekends. Unless, of course, you’re from some sunny spot that has never felt the icy grip of below-freezing temperatures . . . in which case, I’m super jealous. But anyway, I asked you last month what books you were reading and loving, and the response was crazy amazing! Thank you everyone who shared their gotta-read-it-right-now picks. Here they are:

march books of the month

Percy Jackson is the runaway favorite this round, but Dork Diaries is getting some serious representation. Go, Dork Diaries fans! Way to show your support! Harry Potter and Heroes of Olympus are neck and neck this time. It’s a very close call. Between the two, which is your favorite?

There were a lot of new contenders this time around, too. I see you, Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library! I’m definitely reading that next.

Let’s keep this going. What other books are you super-excited about? What book must everyone in the world read at least ONCE? Share your picks in the Comments below!

See ya next month!

En-Szu, STACKS Writer

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9. Spring vs. Fall Would You Rather

Would you rather . . .Spring vs. Fall Would You Rather

With the snow finally melting, the sound of birds chirping in the air, it can only mean one thing. Spring is here. Finally! It’s been a tough winter, and I’m totally ready. What about you guys?

But some people, as much as they like spring, like fall even better. They’re both such awesome seasons, it’s hard to decide. Which is your favorite?

Would You Rather . . . 

1. Pick flowers in spring OR rake leaves in fall?

2. Have a spring picnic OR a fall campfire marshmallow roast?

3. Eat jellybeans OR candy corns?

4. Be forced to dress up as the Easter Bunny OR a Thanksgiving turkey?

5. Plant a garden OR pick a pumpkin?

6. Drink pink lemonade OR apple cider?

7. Go to an NFL football game in the fall or MLB Opening Day baseball game in the spring?

8. Shop for back-to-school clothes in the fall OR shorts & t-shirts for the spring?

Let us know which season you “spring” for in the Comments below!

-Ratha, STACKS Writer

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10. Facebook’s A Year in Books drafts The Structure of Scientific Revolutions

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In his sixth pick for the social network’s online book club (“A Year of Books”), Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg recently drafted Thomas Kuhn’s The Structure of Scientific Revolutionsa 52-year-old book still one of the most often cited academic resources of all time, and one of UCP’s crowning gems of twentieth century scholarly publishing. Following in the footsteps of Pixar founder Ed Catmull’s Creativity, Inc., Zuckerberg’s most recent pick, Structure will be the subject of a Facebook thread with open commenting, for the next two weeks, in line with the methodology of “A Year of Books.” If you’re thinking about reading along, the 50th Anniversary edition includes a compelling Introduction by Ian Hacking that situates the book’s legacy, both in terms of its contribution to a scientific vernacular (“paradigm shifting”) and its value as a scholarly publication of mass appeal (“paradigm shifting”).

Or, in Zuckerberg’s own words:

It’s a history of science book that explores the question of whether science and technology make consistent forward progress or whether progress comes in bursts related to other social forces. I tend to think that science is a consistent force for good in the world. I think we’d all be better off if we invested more in science and acted on the results of research. I’m excited to explore this theme further.

And from the Guardian:

“Before Kuhn, the normal view was that science simply needed men of genius (they were always men) to clear away the clouds of superstition, and the truth of nature would be revealed,” [David Papineau, professor of philosophy at King’s College London] said. “Kuhn showed it is much more interesting than that. Scientific research requires a rich network of prior assumptions (Kuhn reshaped the term ‘paradigm’ to stand for these), and changing such assumptions can be traumatic, and is always resisted by established interests (thus the need for scientific ‘revolutions’).”

Kuhn showed, said Papineau, that “scientists are normal humans, with prejudices and personal agendas in their research, and that the path to scientific advances runs through a complex social terrain”.

“We look at science quite differently post-Kuhn,” he added.

To read more about Structure, click here.

To read an excerpt from Ian Hacking’s Introduction to the 50th Anniversary edition, click here.

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11. Where to Find Culturally Diverse Literature to Pair with Your Required Curriculum

We hear over and over again from teachers across the country how they want to infuse more culturally responsive and relevant texts into their district or school-mandated curriculum.

It’s challenging to do, but what if we had some resources to share to help you out?

First, read: If you haven’t read this article from Reading Teacher, here’s your chance. Authors Fenice Boyd, Lauren Causey, and Lee Glada offer teachers great suggestions for culturally diverse literature that addresses Common Core standards in this Reading Teacher article (PDF).

What is “culturally relevant teaching?” Heather Coffey at LEARN NC, a program of the UNC School of Education, shares the history and theory.

Culturally Diverse Lit

Here are some places teachers are finding culturally relevant / responsive texts and (just as vital) ready-to-go lesson plans. Check out:

  • The Teachers College Inclusive Classrooms Project (TCICP) offers concrete examples for teachers to make their classrooms more inclusive, such as the Culturally Relevant Curriculum practice and inquiry. These were created by (NYC) teachers for teachers
  • Utah public school teachers created these multicultural lesson plans during their Center for Documentary Expression and Art course, “Multiculturalism and Storytelling,” available through the Utah Education Network (UEN) lesson library
  • The Lewis Library at the Loyola University Chicago Libraries has created this amazing visual resource for teachers at its School of Education to find multicultural books right for their students and instructional strategies
  • POV at PBS provides lessons exploring multiculturalism to pair with its films for grades 6 and up
  • TeachPeaceNow has literature-based lesson plans covering social justice topics to include in your curriculum
  • ArtsEdge, an education program of The Kennedy Center, has written detailed ready-to-implement lessons on American culture and comparing cultural holidays (just to highlight a few)
  • TeachableMoment from Morningside Center for Teaching Social Responsibility offers inquiry-oriented lessons on current issues and social and emotional learning

For even more ideas for discovering diverse literature that’s will pair with your curriculum, check out A More Diverse Reading List: Resources to Expand CCSS-aligned Texts compiled by Lee & Low Books.

Where do you recommend teachers find lessons plans that align with their curriculum and incorporate diverse literature? Share with us!

Jill Eisenberg, our Senior Literacy Expert, began her career teaching English as a Foreign Language to second through sixth graders in Yilan, Taiwan as a Fulbright Fellow. She went on to become a literacy teacher for third grade in San Jose, CA as a Teach for America corps member. She is certified in Project Glad instruction to promote English language acquisition and academic achievement. In her weekly column at The Open Book, she offers teaching and literacy tips for educators. 

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12. The Case of the Missing Moonstone: Review Haiku

Super-charming
revisionist history
featuring kickass girls.

The Case of the Missing Moonstone (Wollstonecraft Detective Agency #1) by Jordan Stratford, illustrated by Kelly Murphy. Knopf, 2015, 240 pages.

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13. Spring Poetry Generator

Peep says Hi.Spring Poetry Generator

Spring is here… or so I’m told! It’s hard to imagine wearing t-shirts and sandals, when only last week, I was digging out the 5 feet of snow surrounding my driveway. But I’m optimistic, so I like to think it will be here sooner rather than later!

To get into the spirit, your job for today’s Writing Prompt is to take the 25 words below, and generate your own spring-themed poem. (The Martin Luther King, Jr. Day “I Have a Dream” poems you guys wrote were A-mazing.)

You can add articles (little words like “a” and “the”), verbs, or anything that will help it flow, but try to include as many of these 25 words as you can in your poem. Any style of poem works – rhyming, non-rhyming, couplet, haiku, free-form, or even random. It’s up to you!

  • springspring poem generator
  • sing
  • warm
  • sun
  • bathes
  • grass
  • toasting
  • birds
  • reflection
  • freezing
  • glow
  • butterfly
  • laying
  • running
  • flowers
  • kiss
  • garden
  • outside
  • trees
  • beauty
  • never
  • alive
  • falling
  • calling
  • school

Leave your poem in the Comments. We can’t wait to be infected . . . with Spring Fever!!

-Ratha, STACKS Writer

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14. The Importance of Great Teachers: Gordon Sato at Manzanar

Sometimes our books bring people together in wonderful and surprising ways. Here’s an example from just a few weeks ago that we wanted to share:

A few years back, we published a book called The Mangrove Tree: Planting Trees to Feed Familiesby Susan L. Roth and Cindy Trumbore:

The Mangrove Tree

The book is a nonfiction picture book about Dr. Gordon Sato, whose mangrove tree-planting project transformed an impoverished village in Eritrea into a self-sufficient community. Dr. Sato named his project the Manzanar Project, partly inspired by the time he spent as a child in Manzanar, a Japanese Internment Camp in California.

A few weeks ago, Susan Roth, co-author and illustrator of the book, received this message from someone who had known Dr. Sato a very long time ago (reposted with permission):

A few years ago, Dr. Gordon Sato sent me a copy of your book, “Mangrove Tree” and I would like to share with you the Gordon Sato that I know. I too was imprisoned at Manzanar because I looked like the enemy.  I took 24 units of UC educational  courses to qualify as Provisional  High School teacher at Manzanar. I was selected to teach high school Physics. Gordon Sato was a student in my Physics class. It was some forty years after Manzanar closed that Gordon Sato phoned me and said he wanted to come and see me. He told me that he had received as BS degree from USC 1951 and his Doctorate degree from Caltech in 1955. He said he was ready to go to Eritrea, Africa on scientific project to help Eritrea out of poverty. He said he called The Manzanar Project and handed me a copy of that project. I did not know of all of the scientific research he had done nor the scientific accomplishment he had achieved. While this Nisei who has dedicated his life for humanity, I want you to know the other Gordon Sato.

For a student to seek his former teacher is in itself a wonderful tribute to me. But then, at our meeting, Gordon Sato said he wanted to thank me for inspiring him to get a college education. Two little words, “Thank You” showed me a man who stands tall among all of us with courage and humility.  I too had hoped that something good would come out of that place of injustice. Little did I know that I had planted a seed that would blossom into something beautiful for the world to see. That is the Gordon Sato that I know.
Tadashi Kishi
Gordon Sato in Eritrea
Gordon Sato in Eritrea
We love this reminder that behind every leader, innovator, scientist, and world changer, there’s a great teacher! Thank you, Gordon Sato, and thank you Tadashi Kishi!

Purchase a copy
of The Mangrove Tree: Planting Trees to Feed Families.

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15. The Penderwicks in Spring: Review Haiku

It's Spring! With Batty!
And you will cry and cry and cry.
And then rejoice,

The Penderwicks in Spring by Jeanne Birdsall. Knopf, 2015, 352 pages.

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16. Excerpt: Who Freed the Slaves?

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An excerpt from Who Freed the Slaves?: The Fight over the Thirteenth Amendment 

by Leonard L. Richards

***

Prologue

WEDNESDAY, JUNE 15, 1864

James Ashley never forgot the moment. After hours of debate, Schuyler Colfax, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, had finally gaveled the 159 House members to take their seats and get ready to vote.

Most of the members were waving a fan of some sort, but none of the fans did much good. Heat and humidity had turned the nation’s capitol into a sauna. Equally bad was the stench that emanated from Washington’s back alleys, nearby swamps, and the twenty-one hospitals in and about the city, which now housed over twenty thousand wounded and dying soldiers. Worse yet was the news from the front lines. According to some reports, the Union army had lost seven thousand men in less than thirty minutes at Cold Harbor. The commanding general, Ulysses S. Grant, had been deemed a “fumbling butcher.”

Nearly everyone around Ashley was impatient, cranky, and miserable. But Ashley was especially downcast. It was his job to get Senate Joint Resolution Number 16, a constitutional amendment to outlaw slavery in the United States, through the House of Representatives, and he didn’t have the votes.

The need for the amendment was obvious. Of the nation’s four million slaves at the outset of the war, no more than five hundred thousand were now free, and, to his disgust, many white Americans intended to have them reenslaved once the war was over. The Supreme Court, moreover, was still in the hands of Chief Justice Roger B. Taney and other staunch proponents of property rights in slaves and state’s rights. If they ever got the chance, they seemed certain not only to strike down much of Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation but also to hold that under the Constitution only the states where slavery existed had the legal power to outlaw it.

Six months earlier, in December 1863, when Ashley and his fellow Republicans had proposed the amendment, he had been more upbeat. He knew that getting the House to abolish slavery, which in his mind was the root cause of the war, was not going to be easy. It required a two-thirds vote. But he had thought that Republicans in both the Senate and the House might somehow muster the necessary two-thirds majority. No longer did they have to worry about the united opposition of fifteen slave states. Eleven of the fifteen were out of the Union, including South Carolina and Mississippi, the two with the highest percentage of slaves, and Virginia, the one with the largest House delegation. In addition, the war was in its thirty-third month. Hundreds of thousands of Northern men had been killed on the battlefield. The one-day bloodbath at Antietam was now etched into the memory of every one of his Toledo constituents as well as every member of Congress. So, too, was the three-day battle at Gettysburg.

If Republicans held firm, all they needed to push the amendment through the House was a handful of votes from their opponents, either from the border slave state representatives who had remained in the Union or from free state Democrats. It was his job to get those votes. He was the bill’s floor manager.

Back in December, Ashley had been the first House member to propose such an amendment. Although few of his colleagues realized it, he had been toying with the idea for nearly a decade. He had made a similar proposal in September 1856, when it didn’t have a chance of passing.

He was a political novice at the time, just twenty-nine years old, and known mainly for being big and burly, six feet tall and starting to spread around the middle, with a wild mane of curly hair and a loud, resonating voice. He had just gotten established in Toledo politics. He had moved there three years earlier from the town of Portsmouth, in southern Ohio, largely because he had just gotten married and was in deep trouble for helping slaves flee across the Ohio River. He was not yet a Congressman. Nor was he running for office. He was just campaigning for the Republican Party’s first presidential candidate, John C. Frémont, and Richard Mott, a House member who was up for reelection. In doing so, he gave a stump speech at a grove near Montpelier, Ohio.

 

James M. Ashley, congressman from Ohio. Brady-Handy Photograph Collection, Library of Congress (lC-Bh824-5303).

The speech lasted two hours. In most respects, it was a typical Republican stump speech. It was mainly a collection of stories, many from his youth, living and working along the Ohio River. Running through it were several themes that tied the stories together and foreshadowed the rest of his career. In touting the two candidates, he blamed the nation’s troubles on a conspiracy of slaveholders and Northern men with Southern principles, or as he called them “slave barons” and “doughfaces.” These men, he claimed, had deliberately misconstrued the Bible, misinterpreted the Constitution, and gained complete control of the federal government. “For nearly half a century,” he told his listeners, some two hundred thousand slave barons had “ruled the nation, morally and politically, including a majority of the Northern States, with a rod of iron.” And before “the advancing march of these slave barons,” the “great body of Northern public men” had “bowed down . . . with their hands on their mouths and mouths in the dust, with an abasement as servile as that of a vanquished, spiritless people, before their conquerors.”

Across the North, many Republican spokesmen were saying much the same thing. What made Ashley’s speech unusual was that he made no attempt to hide his radicalism. He made it clear to the crowd at Montpelier that he would do almost anything to destroy slavery and the men who profited from it. He had learned to hate slavery and the slave barons during his boyhood, traveling with his father, a Campbellite preacher, through Kentucky and western Virginia, and later working as a cabin boy on the Ohio River. Never would he forget how traumatized he had been as a nine-year-old seeing for the first time slaves in chains being driven down a road to the Deep South, whipping posts on which black men had been beaten, and boys his own age being sold away from their mothers. Nor would he ever forget the white man who wouldn’t let his cattle drink from a stream in which his father was baptizing slaves. How, he had wondered, could his father still justify slavery? Certainly, it didn’t square with the teachings of Christ or what his mother was teaching him back home.

Ashley also made it clear to the crowd at Montpelier that he had violated the Fugitive Slave Law more times than he could count. He had actually begun helping slaves flee bondage in 1839, when he was just fifteen years old, and he had continued doing so after the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 made the penalties much stiffer. To avoid prosecution, he and his wife had fled southern Ohio in 1851. Would he now mend his ways? “Never!” he told his audience. The law was a gross violation of the teachings of Christ, and for that reason he had never obeyed it and with “God’s help . . . never shall.”

What, then, should his listeners do? The first step was to join him in supporting John C. Frémont for president and Richard Mott for another term in Congress. Another was to join him in never obeying the “infamous fugitive-slave law”—the most “unholy” of the laws that these slave barons and their Northern sycophants had passed. And perhaps still another, he suggested, was to join him in pushing for a constitutional amendment outlawing “the crime of American slavery” if that should become “necessary.”

The last suggestion, in 1856, was clearly fanciful. Nearly half the states were slave states. Thus getting two-thirds of the House, much less two-thirds of the Senate, to support an amendment outlawing slavery was next to impossible. Ashley knew that. Perhaps some in his audience, especially those who cheered the loudest, thought otherwise. But not Ashley. Although still a political neophyte, he knew the rules of the game. He was also good with numbers, always had been, and always would be. Nonetheless, he told his audience to put it on their “to do” list.

Five years later, in December 1861, Ashley added to the list. By then he was no longer a political neophyte. He had been twice elected to Congress. Eleven states had seceded from the Union, and the Civil War was in its eighth month. As chairman of the House Committee on Territories, he proposed that the eleven states no longer be treated as states. Instead they should be treated as “territories” under the control of Congress, and Congress should impose on them certain conditions before they were allowed to regain statehood. More specifically, Congress should abolish slavery in these territories, confiscate all rebel lands, distribute the confiscated lands in plots of 160 acres or fewer to loyal citizens of any color, disfranchise the rebel leaders, and establish new governments with universal adult male suffrage. Did that mean, asked one skeptic, that black men were to receive land? And the right to vote? Yes, it did. And if such measures were enacted, said Ashley, he felt certain that the slave barons would be forever stripped of their power.

Ashley’s goal was clear. The 1850 census, from which Ashley and most Republicans drew their numbers, had indicated that just a few Southern families had the lion’s share of the South’s wealth. Especially potent were the truly big slaveholders—families with over one hundred slaves. There were 105 such family heads in Virginia, 181 in Georgia, 279 in Mississippi, 312 in Alabama, 363 in South Carolina, and 460 in Louisiana. With respect to landholdings, there were 371 family heads in Louisiana with more than one thousand acres, 481 in Mississippi, 482 in South Carolina, 641 in Virginia, 696 in Alabama, and 902 in Georgia.

In Ashley’s view, virtually all these wealth holders were rebels, and the Congress should go after all their assets. Strip them of their slaves. Strip them of their land. Strip them of their right to hold office. Halfhearted measures, he contended, would lead only to half-hearted results. Taking away a slave baron’s slaves undoubtedly would hobble him, but it wouldn’t destroy him. With his vast landholdings, he would soon be back in power. And with the right to hold office, he would not only have economic power but also political power. And with the end of the three-fifths clause, the clause in the Constitution that counted slaves as only three-fifths of a free person when it came to tabulating seats in Congress and electoral votes, the South would have more power than ever before.

When Ashley made this proposal in December 1861, everyone on his committee told him it was much too radical ever to get through Congress. He knew that. But he also knew that there were men in Congress who agreed with him, including four of the seven men on his committee, several dozen in the House, maybe a half-dozen in the Senate, and even some notables such as Representative Thaddeus Stevens of Pennsylvania and Senator Ben Wade of Ohio.

The trouble was the opposition. It was formidable. Not only did it include the “Peace” Democrats, men who seemingly wanted peace at any price, men whom Ashley regarded as traitors, but also “War” Democrats, men such as General George McClellan, General Don Carlos Buell, and General Henry Halleck, men who were leading the nation’s troops. Also certain to oppose him were the border state Unionists, especially the Kentuckians, and most important of all, Abraham Lincoln. Against such opposition, all Ashley and the other radicals could do was push, prod, and hope to get maybe a piece or two of the total package enacted.

Two years later, in December 1863, Ashley thought it was indeed “necessary” to strike a deathblow against slavery. He also thought it was possible to get a few pieces of his 1861 package into law. So, just after the House opened for its winter session, he introduced two measures. One was a reconstruction bill that followed, at least at first glance, what Lincoln had called for in his annual message. Like Lincoln, Ashley proposed that a seceded state be let back into the Union when only 10 percent of its 1860 voters took an oath of loyalty.

Had he suddenly become a moderate? A conservative? Not quite. To Lincoln’s famous 10 percent plan, Ashley added two provisions. One would take away the right to vote and to hold office from all those who had fought against the Union or held an office in a rebel state. That was a significant chunk of the population. The other would give the right to vote to all adult black males. That was even a bigger chunk of the population, especially in South Carolina and Mississippi.

The other measure that Ashley proposed that December was the constitutional amendment that outlawed slavery. A few days later, Representative James F. Wilson of Iowa made a similar proposal. The wording differed, but the intent was the same. The Constitution had to be amended, contended Wilson, not only to eradicate slavery but also to stop slaveholders and their supporters from launching a program of reenslavement once the war was over. Then, several weeks later, Senator John Henderson of Missouri and Senator Charles Sumner of Massachusetts introduced similar amendments. Sumner’s was the more radical. The Massachusetts senator not only wanted to end slavery. He also wanted to end racial inequality.

The Senate Judiciary Committee then took charge. They ignored Sumner’s cry for racial justice and worked out the bill’s final language. The wording was clear and simple: “Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime, whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.”

On April 8, 1864, the committee’s wording came before the Senate for a final vote. Although a few empty seats could be found in the men’s gallery, the women’s gallery was packed, mainly by church women who had organized a massive petition drive calling on Congress to abolish slavery. Congress for the most part had ignored their hard work. But to the women’s delight, thirty-eight senators now voted for the amendment, six against, giving the proposed amendment eight votes more than what was needed to meet the two-thirds requirement.

All thirty Republicans in attendance voted aye. The no votes came from two free state Democrats, Thomas A. Hendricks of Indiana and James McDougall of California, and four slave state senators: Garrett Davis and Lazarus W. Powell of Kentucky and George R. Riddle and Willard Saulsbury of Delaware. Especially irate was Saulsbury. A strong proponent of reenslavement, he made sure that the women knew that he regarded them with contempt. In a booming voice, he told them on leaving the Senate floor that all was lost and that there was no longer any chance of ever restoring the eleven Confederate states to the Union.

Now, nine weeks later, the measure was before the House. And its floor manager, James Ashley, expected the worst. He kept a close count. And, as the members voted, he realized that he was well short of the required two-thirds. Of the eighty Republicans who were in attendance, seventy-nine eventually cast aye votes and one abstained. Of the seventeen slave state representatives in attendance, eleven voted aye and six nay. But of the sixty-two free state Democrats, only four voted for the amendment while fifty-eight voted nay. As a result, the final vote was going to be ninety-four to sixty-four. That was eleven shy of the necessary two-thirds majority.

The outcome was even worse than Ashley had anticipated. “Educated in the political school of Jefferson,” he later recalled, “I was absolutely amazed at the solid Democratic vote against the amendment on the 15th of June. To me it looked as if the golden hour had come, when the Democratic party could, without apology, and without regret, emancipate itself from the fatal dogmas of Calhoun, and reaffirm the doctrines of Jefferson. It had always seemed to me that the great men in the Democratic party had shown a broader spirit in favor of human liberty than their political opponents, and until the domination of Mr. Calhoun and his States-rights disciples, this was undoubtedly true.”

Despite the solid Democratic vote against the resolution, there was still one way that Ashley could save the amendment from certain congressional death. And that was to take advantage of a House rule that allowed a member to bring a defeated measure up for reconsideration if he intended to change his vote. To make use of this rule, however, Ashley had to change his vote before the clerk announced the final tally. He had voted aye along with his fellow Republicans. He now had to get into the “no” column. That he did. The final vote thus became ninety-three to sixty-five.

Two weeks later, Representative William Steele Holman, Democrat of Indiana, asked Ashley when he planned to call for reconsideration. Ashley told him not now but maybe after the next election. The trick, he said, was to find enough men in Holman’s party who were “naturally inclined to favor the amendment, and strong enough to meet and repel the fierce partisan attack which were certain to be made upon them.”

Holman, Ashley knew, would not be one of them. Although the Indiana Democrat had once been a staunch supporter of the war effort, he opposed the destruction of slavery. Not only had he just voted against the amendment—he had vehemently denounced it. Holman, as Ashley viewed him, was thus one of the “devil’s disciples.” He was beyond redemption. And with this in mind, Ashley set about to find at least eleven additional House members who would stand their ground against men like Holman.

To read more about Who Freed the Slaves?, click here.

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17. Women’s History Month: A Book List

March is Women’s History Month! It’s never a bad time to learn about the contributions that women have made and continue to make. In honor of Women’s History Month, we’ve put together a list that features some of our favorite historical ladies and great fiction for children and older readers!

History:

  1. Women'sLittle Melba and Her Big Trombone – this award-winning book follows the life of Melba Liston, a trailblazing trombonist, composer and arranger and one of the unsung heroes of the Jazz age.
  2. Shining Star: The Anna May Wong Story – Anna May Wong was the first Asian American film star.
  3. Seeds of Change – Wangari Maathai was the first African to win a Nobel prize for her
    environmental work in Kenya.
  4. The Storyteller’s Candle – Pura Belpre, was the New York Public Library’s first Latina librarian.
  5. Catching the Moon – Marcenia Lyle, was always interested in baseball. She grew up to play professional baseball for the Negro Leagues.
  6. In Her Hands – Augusta Savage was a renown sculptor of the Harlem Renaissance.
  7. Zora Hurston and the Chinaberry Tree – A story of the childhood of Zora Neale Hurston inspired by her autobiographical writings.
  8. Irena’s Jars of Secrets – Irena Sandler, a Polish social worker helps to smuggle children out of the Warsaw ghetto during WWII.
  9. Hiromi’s Hands – Young Hiromi Suzuki is determined to become a chef in the male-dominated sushi world
  10. Dear Mrs. Parks – Rosa Parks, the “Mother of the Modern Day Civil Rights Movement,” answers letters from students.

Fiction

Younger Readers

  1. The Hula-Hoopin’ Queen – Kameeka wants to beat her rival Jamara in a hula-hoopin’ contest, but she has to help her mother prepare for their neighbor, Miz Adeline’s birthday.
  2. Juna’s Jar – When Juna’s best friend Hector moves away without saying good bye, Juna uses her special kimchi jar to search for him until she finally is able to say bye.
  3. Shanghai Messenger – Xiao Mei visits china to meet her extended family. Her grandmother Nai Nai wants her to remember everything she sees.
  4. Abuela’s Weave – Esperanza goes with her abuela to the market to help Abuela sell her traditional Mayan tapestries.
  5. Drum, Chavi, Drum! – Chavi was born to drum. Even though everyone tells her drumming is for boys, she is determined to play her favorite drums, the tumbadoras, at the festival.
  6. Kiki’s Journey – Kiki returns to the Taos Pueblo reservation she left when she was a baby.
  7. Juneteenth Jamboree – Cassie who has just moved to Texas, learns about the importance of June 19th, or Juneteenth, through a family celebration.
  8. Tashi and the Tibetan Flower Cure – Tashi’s grandfather, Popola, is sick, so she gathers family and friends to try a traditional flower cure from his village.
  9. The Legend of Freedom Hill – Rosabel, who is African American, and Sophie, who is Jewish, become friends. When Rosabel’s mother, a runaway slave gets captured by a slave catcher, Rosabel and Sophie put their heads together to free her.
  10. My Diary From Here to There – Amada moves with her family in Mexico to Los Angeles, California.

Older Readers

  1. Under the Mesquite – Lupita, the oldest of 8 siblings, struggles to keep her family together in the wake of her mother’s cancer.
  2. INK AND ASHES cover smallSummer of the Mariposas – A retelling of The Odyssey set in Mexico.
  3. The Tankborn Trilogy – A trilogy about genetic engineering and forbidden love.
  4. Cat Girl’s Day Off – Natalie must use her Talent talking to cats to stop a high profile celebrity kidnapping.
  5. Rattlesnake Mesa – After EdNah’s beloved grandmother dies, she is sent to live with her father on a Navajo reservation, and then to an Indian boarding school.
  6. Ink and Ashes – Claire opens the door to her deceased father’s path and finds a family secret that could kill her.
  7. Killer of Enemies – In a future where technology has failed, Lozen has been gifted with a unique set of abilities, magic and survival skills that she uses to hunt monsters for the people who kidnapped her family.
  8. Rose Eagle – In this prequel to Killer of Enemies, we join Rose Eagle as she goes on a quest to find healing for her people.
  9. Tofu Quilt – Yeung Ying, a young girl who grows up in 1960s Hong Kong, aspires to become a writer, against the conventions of society and family members.

0 Comments on Women’s History Month: A Book List as of 1/1/1900
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18. CBC Children’s Choice, Vote Polar Bear

KaliChildrensChoiceIt is such an honor to have Kali’s Story: An Orphaned Polar Bear Rescue selected as a finalist for the CBC Children’s Choice Awards! But kids, now we need your help!

Vote for Kali!!

//www.dogobooks.com/polls/3-4th-gr-book-of-the-year-2015/iframe


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19. How It Went Down: Review Haiku

Raises tons of questions,
answers almost none -- and
does so beautifully.

How It Went Down by Kekla Magoon. Holt, 2014, 352 pages.

0 Comments on How It Went Down: Review Haiku as of 3/16/2015 7:20:00 AM
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20. Why I Love to Read Sad and Dark Books to Children (and You Should Too)

  • Gleam and Glow written by Eve Bunting, illustrated by Peter Sylvada
  • Terrible Things: An Allegory of the Holocaust written by Eve Bunting, illustrated by Stephen Gammell
  • Hiroshima No Pika written and illustrated by Toshi Maruki
  • Fox written by Margaret Wild, illustrated by Ron Brooks
  • The Harmonica written by Tony Johnston, illustrated by Ron Mazellan
  • Peppe the Lamplighter written by Eliza Bartone, illustrated by Ted Lewin
  • The Shark God written by Rafe Martin, illustrated by David Shannon

What do they all have in common?

  1. They have very sad and dark themes
  2. I love to read them to third graders

According to the What Kids Are Reading report from Renaissance Learning and Kids & Family Reading Report from Scholastic, it seems pretty clear that funny books are the most popular when choosing books for unassigned reading. In the Kids & Family Reading Report, 70% of 2,558 parents and children look for a book that “makes me laugh.” As you scroll across the top fiction titles per grade of the 9.8 million students from 31,633 schools nationwide who read more than 330 million books during the 2013-2014 school year tracked in the What Kids are Reading, you see the same lighthearted, amusing titles appear over and over again.

Although these reports do not encompass all the books students read or measure all the students in the United States, these do provide useful snapshots into the homes and schools of today’s young readers.

I get it: Light humorous fiction provides much-needed escape and reminds readers not to take the world or ourselves too seriously. These books offer an escape from harsh realities and a place to dream and imagine another, better, or different world.

Sad and Dark Books for ChildrenWhile I encourage all readers to choose their own books based on their interests, needs, and experiences, our unique roles as educators make us critical influencers on exposing students to a wide variety of texts they might not have considered for themselves.

Some of my most meaningful teaching moments and conversations came when the 27 of us would be clustered together on the carpet reading one of those texts. When we read Fox, my students were disturbed at the Fox-Magpie-Dog relationship and were dismayed by Magpie’s actions. This led us to a discussion (and away from the day’s read aloud lesson plan…) about betrayal they had experienced in friendships and families.

The world is messy, sad, and dark. Kids face racism, poverty, homelessness, neglect, violence, hunger, sexism, divorce, disempowerment, and more. Sharing sad or dark books with students starting in elementary school, like A Shelter in Our Car and When the Horses Ride By, challenges students emotionally and recognizes their realities and capacity to empathize.

Using books with dark themes or settings in the classroom can give students the language to express their emotions, models for how to discuss and engage on these topics with adults and peers, and a safe space to explore difficult topics. When students read about characters struggling with abuse, bullying, or poverty, they also see how the characters found strength and resources to cope and thrive.

Think of your most memorable texts from middle school, high school, or college. The further students advance into social studies and literature they engage with darker subjects and content. Incorporating such texts early on stretches the types of books young readers can see themselves reading and liking, as well as prepares students for analyzing complex themes and characters.

Next read aloud, choose a sad, dark book because it can:

  • provide an opener into difficult conversations and topics
  • offer complex themes, characters, and motivations worthy of multiple readings
  • give young readers words to express what they are feeling or experiencing
  • model how we act and talk about tough situations, including the grieving process, processing anger, witnessing trauma or violence
  • reinforce the development of the whole child: we want children to explore the whole human condition and develop empathy
  • prepare young readers for the world they belong in and will someday lead
  • prepare them for profound, challenging books to come in middle school and high school  (hello, To Kill a Mockingbird, The Metamorphosis, Their Eyes Were Watching God among so many others)

When I look for a meaningful text, I am on the hunt for authors and illustrators who have tackled difficult topics with not only respect, but also with honesty and with the perception that even the hardest topics like racism, sexism, poverty, and war can be understood by children.

Things to think about when selecting a sad or dark book:

  1. What is the purpose of introducing a sad, dark book?
  2. Is this the best book for the unit’s content or skill?
  3. Where do parents fit in this?
  4. What background information do students need beforehand to handle, appreciate, and comprehend this book and its message(s)?
  5. What follow-up discussion or activities should I organize to help students process and appreciate this book?

There are many authors and illustrators who are finding powerful stories, communicating difficult subjects to children, and treating young people with respect and dignity. Looking for your next thought-provoking book to explore with students? Try…

What are the saddest, darkest books your students love? Share with us!

Jill Eisenberg, our Senior Literacy Expert, began her career teaching English as a Foreign Language to second through sixth graders in Yilan, Taiwan as a Fulbright Fellow. She went on to become a literacy teacher for third grade in San Jose, CA as a Teach for America corps member. She is certified in Project Glad instruction to promote English language acquisition and academic achievement. In her column she offers teaching and literacy tips for educators. 

6 Comments on Why I Love to Read Sad and Dark Books to Children (and You Should Too), last added: 3/18/2015
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21. Excerpt: Invisible by Philip Ball

9780226238890
Recipes for Invisibility, an excerpt
by Philip Ball
***

 “Occult Forces”

Around 1680 the English writer John Aubrey recorded a spell of invisibility that seems plucked from a (particularly grim) fairy tale. On a Wednesday morning before sunrise, one must bury the severed head of a man who has committed suicide, along with seven black beans. Water the beans for seven days with good brandy, after which a spirit will appear to tend the beans and the buried head. The next day the beans will sprout, and you must persuade a small g irl to pick and shell them. One of these beans, placed in the mouth, will make you invisible.

This was tried, Aubrey says, by two Jewish merchants in London, who could’t acquire the head of a suicide victim and so used instead that of a poor cat killed ritualistically. They planted it with the beans in the garden of a gentleman named Wyld Clark, with his permission. Aubrey’s deadpan relish at the bathetic outcome suggests he was sceptical all along– for he explains that Clark’s rooster dug up the beans and ate them without consequence.

Despite the risk of such prosaic setbacks, the magical texts of the Middle Ages and the early Enlightenment exude confidence in their prescriptions, however bizarre they might be. Of course the magic will work, if you are bold enough to take the chance. This was not merely a sales pitch. The efficacy of magic was universally believed in those days. The common folk feared it and yearned for it, the clergy condemned it, and the intellectuals and philosophers, and a good many charlatans and tricksters, hinted that they knew how to do it.

It is among these fanciful recipes that the quest begins for the origins of invisibility as both a theoretical possibility and a practical technology in the real world. Making things invisible was a kind of magic–but what exactly did that mean?

Historians are confronted with the puzzle of why the tradition of magic lasted so long and laid roots so deep, when it is manifestly impotent. Some of that tenacity is understandable enough. The persistence of magical medicines, for example, isn’t so much of a mystery given that in earlier ages there were no more effective alternatives and that medical cause and effect has always been difficult to establish – people do sometimes get better, and who is to say why? Alchemy, meanwhile, could be sustained by trickery, although that does not solely or even primarily account for its longevity as a practical art: alchemists made much else besides gold and even their gold-making recipes could sometimes change the appearance of metals in ways that might have suggested they were on the right track. As for astrology, it’s persistence even today testifies in part to how readily it can be placed beyond the reach of any attempts at falsification.

But how do you fake invisibility? Either you can see something or someone, or you can’t.

Well, one might think so. But that isn’t the case at all. Magicians have always possessed the power of invisibility. What has changed is the story they tell about how it is done. What has changed far less, however, is our reasons for wishing it to be done and our willingness to believe that it can be. In this respect, invisibility supplies one of the most eloquent testimonies to our changing view of magic – not, as some rationalists might insist, a change from credulous acceptance to hard-headed dismissal, but something far more interesting.

Let’s begin with some recipes. Here is a small selection from what was doubtless once a much more diverse set of options, many of which are now lost. It should give you some intimation of what was required.

John Aubrey provides another prescription, somewhat tamer than the previous one and allegedly from a Rosicrucian source (we’ll see why later):

Take on Midsummer night, at xii [midnight], Astrologically, when all the Planets are above the earth, a Serpent, and kill him, and skinne him: and dry it in the shade, and bring it to a powder. Hold it in your hand and you will be invisible.

If it is black cats you want, look to the notorious Grand Grimoire. Like many magical books, this is a fabrication of the eighteenth century (or perhaps even later), validated by an ostentatious pseudo-history. The author is said to be one‘Alibeck the Egyptian’, who allegedly wrote the following recipe in 1522:

Take a black cat, and a new pot, a mirror, a lighter, coal and tinder. Gather water from a fountain at the strike of midnight. Then you light your fire, and put the cat in the pot. Hold the cover with your left hand without moving or looking behind you, no matter what noises you may hear. After having made it boil 24 hours, put the boiled cat on a new dish. Take the meat and throw it over your left shoulder, saying these words:“accipe quod tibi do, et nihil ampliùs.” [Accept my offering, and don’t delay.] Then put the bones one by one under the teeth on the left side, while looking at yourself in the mirror; and if they do not work, throw them away, repeating the same words each time until you find the right bone; and as soon you cannot see yourself any more in the mirror, withdraw, moving backwards, while saying: “Pater, in manus tuas commendo spiritum meum.” [Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.] This bone you must keep.

Sometimes it was necessary to summon the help of demons, which was always a matter fraught with danger. A medieval manual of demonic magic tells the magician to go to a field and inscribe a circle on the ground, fumigate it and sprink le it, and himself, with holy water while reciting Psalm 51:7 (‘Cleanse me with hyssop, and I shall be clean . . .’). He then conjures several demons and commands them in God’s name to do his bidding by bringing him a cap of invisibility. One of them will fetch this item and exchange it for a white robe. If the magician does not return to the same place in three days, retrieve his robe and burn it, he will drop dead within a week. In other words, this sort of invisibility was both heretical and hazardous. That is perhaps why instructions for invisibility in an otherwise somewhat quotidian fifteenth-century book of household management from Wolfsthurn Castle in the Tyrol have been mutilated by a censorious reader.

Demons are, after all, what you might expect to find in a magical grimoire. TheGrimorium Verum (True Grimoire) is another eighteenth-century fake attributed to Alibeck the Eg yptian; it was alternatively called the Secret of Secrets, an all-purpose title alluding to an encyclopaedic Arabic treatise popular in the Middle Ages. ‘Secrets’ of course hints alluringly at forbidden lore, although in fact the word was often also used simply to refer to any specialized knowledge or skill, not necessarily something intended to be kept hidden. This grimoire says that invisibility can be achieved simply by reciting a Latin prayer – largely just a list of the names of demons whose help is being invoked, and a good indication as to why magic spells came to be regarded as a string of nonsense words:

Athal, Bathel, Nothe, Jhoram, Asey, Cleyungit, Gabellin, Semeney, Mencheno, Bal, Labenenten, Nero, Meclap, Helateroy, Palcin, Timgimiel, Plegas, Peneme, Fruora, Hean, Ha, Ararna, Avira, Ayla, Seye, Peremies, Seney, Levesso, Huay, Baruchalù, Acuth, Tural, Buchard, Caratim, per misericordiam abibit ergo mortale perficiat qua hoc opus ut invisibiliter ire possim . . .

. . . and so on. The prescription continues in a rather freewheeling?tion using characters written in bat’s blood, before calling on yet more demonic ‘masters of invisibility’ to ‘perform this work as you all know how, that this experiment may make me invisible in such wise that no one may see me’.

A magic book was scarcely complete without a spell of invisibility. One of the most notorious grimoires of the Middle Ages, called the Picatrix and based on a tenth-century Arabic work, gives the following recipe.* You take a rabbit on the ‘24th night of the Arabian month’, behead it facing the moon, call upon the ‘angelic spirit’ Salmaquil, and then mix the blood of the rabbit with its bile. (Bury the body well – if it is exposed to sunlight, the spirit of the Moon will kill you.) To make yourself invisible, anoint your face with this blood and bile at nighttime, and ‘you will make yourself totally hidden from the sight of others, and in this way you will be able to achieve whatever you desire’.

‘Whatever you desire’ was probably something bad, because that was usually the way with invisibility. A popular trick in the eighteenth century, known as the Hand of Glory, involved obtaining (don’t ask how) the hand of an executed criminal and preserving it chemically, then setting light to a finger or inserting a burning candle between the fingers. With this talisman you could enter a building unseen and take what you liked, either because you are invisible or because everyone inside is put to sleep.

These recipes seem to demand a tiresome attention to materials and details. But really, as attested in The Book of Abramelin (said to be a system of magic that the Eg yptian mage Abramelin taught to a German Jew in the fifteenth century), it was quite simple to make yourself invisible. You need only write down a‘magic square’ – a small grid in which numbers (or in Abramelin’s case, twelve symbols representing demons) form particular patterns – and place it under your cap. Other grimoires made the trick sound equally straightforward, albeit messy: one should carry the heart of a bat, a black hen, or a frog under the right arm.

Perhaps most evocative of all were accounts of how to make a ring of invisibility, popularly called a Ring of Gyges. The twentieth-century French historian Emile Grillot de Givry explained in his anthology of occult lore how this might be accomplished:

The ring must be made of fixed mercury; it must be set with a little stone to be found in a lapwing’s nest, and round the stone must be engraved the words,“Jésus passant ✠ par le milieu d’eux ✠ s’en allait.” You must put the ring on your finger, and if you look at yourself in a mirror and cannot see the ring it is a sure sign that it has been successfully manufactured.

Fixed mercury is an ill-defined alchemical material in which the liquid metal is rendered solid by mixing it with other substances. It might refer to the chemical reaction of mercury with sulphur to make the blackish-red sulphide, for example, or the formation of an amalgam of mercury with gold. The biblical reference is to the alleged invisibility of Christ mentioned in Luke 4:30 (‘Jesus passed through the midst of them’) and John 8:59 (see page 155). And the lapwing’s stone is a kind of mineral – of which, more below. Invisibility is switched on or off at will by rotating the ring so that this stone sits facing outward or inward (towards the palm), just as Gyges rotated the collet.

Several other recipes in magical texts repeat the advice to check in a mirror that the magic has worked. That way, one could avoid embarrassment of the k ind suffered by a Spaniard who, in 1582, decided to use invisibility magic in his attempt to assassinate the Prince of Orange. Since his spells could not make clothes invisible, he had to strip naked, in which state he arrived at the palace and strolled casually through the gates, unaware that he was perfectly visible to the guards. They followed the outlandish intruder until the purpose of his mission became plain, whereupon they seized him and flogged him.

Some prescriptions combined the alchemical preparation of rings with a necromantic invocation of spirits. One, appearing in an eighteenth-century French manuscript, explains how, if the name of the demon Tonucho is written on parchment and placed beneath a yellow stone set into a gold band while reciting an appropriate incantation, the demon is trapped in the ring and can be impelled to do one’s bidding.

Other recipes seem to refer to different qualities of invisibility. One might be unable to see an object not because it has vanished as though perfectly transparent, but because it lies hidden by darkness or mist, so that the‘cloaking’ is apparent but what it cloaks is obscured. Or one might be dazzled by a play of light (see page 25), or experience some other confusion of the senses. There is no single view of what invisibility consists of, or where it resides. These ambiguities recur throughout the history of the invisible.

Partly for this reason, it might seem hard to discern any pattern in these prescriptions– any common themes or ingredients that might provide a clue to their real meaning. Some of them sound like the cartoon sorcery of wizards stirring bubbling cauldrons. Others are satanic, or else high-minded and allegorical, or merely deluded or fraudulent. They mix pious dedications to God with blasphemous entreaties to uncouthly named demons. That diversity is precisely what makes the tradition of magic so difficult to grasp: one is constantly wondering if it is a serious intellectual enterprise, a smokescreen for charlatans, or the credulous superstition of folk belief. The truth is that magic in the Western world was all of these things and for that very reason has been able to permeate culture at so many different levels and to leave traces in the most unlikely of places: in theoretical physics and pulp novels, the cults of modern mystics and the glamorous veils of cinema. The ever-present theme of invisibility allows us to follow these currents from their source.

*Appearing hard on the heels of an unrelated discussion of the Chaldean city of Adocentyn, it betrays the cut-and-paste nature of many such compendia.

“Making Magic”

Many of the recipes for invisibility from the early Renaissance onward therefore betray an ambiguous credo. They are often odd, sometimes ridiculous, and yet there are indications that they are not mere mumbo-jumbo dreamed up by lunatics or charlatans, but hint at a possible rationale within the system of natural magic.

It’s no surprise, for example, that eyes feature prominently among the ingredients. From a modern perspective the association might seem facile: you grind up an eyeball and therefore people can’t see you. But to an adept of natural magic there would have been a sound causative principle at work, operating through the occult network of correspondences: an eye for an eye, you might say. A medieval collec?tion of Greek magical works from the fourth century AD known as the Cyranides contains some particularly grotesque recipes of this sort for ointments of invisibility. One involves grinding together the fat or eye of an owl, a ball of beetle dung and perfumed olive oil, and then anointing the entire body while reciting a selection of unlikely names. Another uses instead ‘the eye of an ape or of a man who had a violent death’, along with roses and sesame oil. An eighteenth-century text spuriously associated with Albertus Magnus (he was a favourite source of magical lore even in his own times) instructs the magician to‘pierce the right eye of a bat, and carry it with you and you will be invisible’. One of the cruellest prescriptions instructs the magician to cut out the eyes of a live owl and bury them in a secret place.

A fifteenth-century Greek manuscript offers a more explicitly optical theme than Aubrey’s head-grown beans, stipulating that fava beans are imbued with invisibility magic when placed in the eye sockets of a human skull. Even though one must again call upon a pantheon of fantastically named demons, the principle attested here has a more naturalistic flavour: ‘As the eyes of the dead do not see the living, so these beans may also have the power of invisibility.’

Within the magic tradition of correspondences, certain plants and minerals were associated with invisibility. For example, the dust on brown patches of mature fern leaves was said to be a charm of invisibility: unlike other plants, they appeared to possess neither flowers nor seeds, but could nevertheless be found surrounded by their progeny.

The classical stone of invisibility was the heliotrope (sun-turner), also called bloodstone: a form of green or yellow quartz (chalcedony) flecked with streaks of a red mineral that is either iron oxide or red jasper. The name alludes to the ston’s tendency to reflect and disperse light, itself a sign of special optical powers. In his Natural History, Pliny says that magicians assert that the heliotrope can make a person invisible, although he scoffs at the suggestion:

In the use of this stone, also, we have a most glaring illustration of the impudent effrontery of the adepts in magic, for they say that, if it is combined with the plant heliotropium, and certain incantations are then repeated over it, it will render the person invisible who carries it about him.

The plant mentioned here, bearing the same name as the mineral, is a genus of the borage family, the flowers of which were thought to turn to face the sun. How a mineral is‘combined’ with a plant isn’t clear, but the real point is that the two substances are again bound by a system of occult correspondence.

Agrippa repeated Pliny’s claim in the sixteenth century, minus the scepticism:

There is also another vertue of it [the bloodstone] more wonderfull, and that is upon the eyes of men, whose sight it doth so dim, and dazel, that it doth not suffer him that carries it to see it, & this it doth not do without the help of the Hearb of the same name, which also is called Heliotropium.

It is more explicit here that the magic works by dazzlement: the person wearing a heliotrope is ‘invisible’ because the light it reflects befuddles the senses. That is why kings wear bright jewels, explained Anselm Boetius, physician to the Holy Roman Emperor Rudolf II in 1609: they wish to mask their features in brilliance. This use of gems that spark le, reflect and disperse light to confuse and blind the onlooker is attributed by Ben Jonson to the Rosicrucians, who were often popu?larly associated with magical powers of invisibility (see pages 32–3). In his poem The Underwood, Jonson writes of

The Chimera of the Rosie-Crosse,
Their signs, their seales, their hermetique rings;
Their jemme of riches, and bright stone that brings
Invisibilitie, and strength, and tongues.

The bishop Francis Godwin indicates in his fantastical fiction The Man in the Moone(1634), an early vision of space travel, that invisibility jewels were commonly deemed to exist, while implying that their corrupting temptations made them subject to divine prohibition. Godwin’s space-voyaging hero Domingo Gonsales asks the inhabitants of the Moon

whether they had not any kind of Jewell or other means to make a man invisible, which mee thought had beene a thing of great and extraordinary use . . . They answered that if it were a thing faisible, yet they assured themselves that God would not suffer it to be revealed to us creatures subject to so many imperfections, being a thing so apt to be abused to ill purposes.

Other dazzling gemstones were awarded the same‘virtue’, chief among them the opal. This is a form of silica that refracts and reflects light to produce rainbow iridescence, indeed called opalescence.

Whether opal derives from the Greek opollos,‘seeing’ – the root of ‘optical’ – is disputed, but opal’s streaked appearance certainly resem?bles the iris of the eye, and it has long been associated with the evil eye. In the thirteenth-century Book of Secrets, yet again falsely attributed to Albertus Magnus, the mineral is g iven the Greek name for eye (ophthalmos) and is said to cause invisibility by bedazzlement:

Take the stone Ophthalmus, and wrap it in the leaf of the Laurel, or Bay tree; and it is called Lapis Obtalmicus, whose colour is not named, for it is of many colours. And it is of such virtue, that it blindeth the sights of them that stand about. Constantius [probably Constantine the Great] carrying this in his hand, was made invisible by it.

It is’t hard to recognize this as a variant of Pliny’s recipe, complete with cognate herb. In fact it isn’t entirely clear that this Ophthalmus really is opal, since elsewhere in theBook of Secrets that mineral is called Quiritia and isn’t associated with invisibility. This reflects the way that the book was, like so many medieval handbooks and encyoclopedias, patched together from a variety of sources.

Remember the‘stone from the lapwing’s nest’ mentioned by Grillot de Givry? His source was probably an eighteenth-century text called the Petit Albert – a fabrication, with the grand full title of Marvelous Secrets of Natural and Qabalistic Magic, attributed to a ‘Little Albert’ and obviously trading once more on the authority of the ‘Great Albert’ (Magnus). The occult revivalist Arthur Waite gave the full account of this recipe from the Petit Albert in his Book of Ceremonial Magic (1913), which asserts that the bird plays a further role in the affair:

Having placed the ring on a palette-shaped plate of fixed mercury, compose the perfume of mercury, and thrice expose the ring to the odour thereof; wrap it in a small piece of taffeta corresponding to the colour of the planet, carry it to the peewit’s [lapwing’s] nest from which the stone was obtained, let it remain there for nine days, and when removed, fumigate it precisely as before. Then preserve it most carefully in a small box, made also of fixed mercury, and use it when required.

Now we can get some notion of what natural magic had become by the time the Petit Albert was cobbled together. It sounds straightforward enough, but who is going to do all this? Where will you find the lapwin’s nest with a stone in it in the first place? What is this mysterious ‘perfume of mercury’? Will you take the ring back and put it in the nest for nine days and will it still be there later if you do? The spell has become so intricate, so obscure and vexing, that no one will try it. The same character is evident in a nineteenth-century Greek manuscript called the Bernardakean Magical Codex, in which Aubrey’s instructions for growing beans with a severed head are elaborated beyond all hope of success: you need to bury a black cat’s head under an ant hill, water it with human blood brought every day for forty days from a barber (those were the days when barbers still doubled as blood-letters), and check to see if one of the beans has the power of invisibility by looking into a new mirror in which no one has previously looked. If the spell doesn’t work (and the need to check each bean shows that this is always a possibility), it isn’t because the magic is ineffectual but because you must have done something wrong somewhere along the way. In which case, will you find another black cat and begin over? Unlikely; instead, aspiring magicians would buy these books of ‘secrets’, study their prescriptions and incantations and thereby become an adept in a magical circle: someone who possesses powerful secrets, but does not, perhaps, place much store in actually putting them to use. Magical books thus acquired the same talismanic function as a great deal of the academic literature today: to be read, learnt, cited, but never used.

To read more about Invisible, click here.

 

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22. Choose Your Own Adventure Part 3

shamrocksChoose Your Own Adventure: A St. Patrick’s Day Story Part 3

We posted Part 1 and Part 2 of this epic St. Patrick’s Day story. Get ready for the conclusion!

You follow Niamh through a wooded glen. You are greeted at every step by all sorts of bizarre and unusual creatures and people. Fairies! Warriors in fur pelts! Talking animals! This is getting way crazy. Enbarr trots behind you, neighing and occasionally butting you with his nose.

“Tír na nÓg is what you mortals call the Otherworld,” says Niamh.

“Otherworld?” you ask. “What’s that?”

Niamh looks very disappointed, and sighs loudly. “What are they teaching you on Earth nowadays? The Otherworld. It’s where the immortals and spirits live.”

You approach a massive gate, grown over entirely with ivy. Niamh waves her hand and the gate swings open, and you enter a giant garden with a golden path leading to a massive castle.

“This is my home,” says Niamh. “I have something of utmost importance that I must entrust you with.” Enbarr stays at the foot of the stairs as you walk up to the massive entrance. You can’t help but gawk at the interior of the castle; everything seems to be gilded and encrusted with jewels.

“This is all yours?” you ask, amazed.

“Yes,” she says. “But what I need to give to you is this.” She opens a giant, wooden chest and pulls out a tattered, leather-bound book. It isn’t nearly as glamorous as the chalices and swords you see everywhere, but you are drawn to the book. On the cover is the same three-leaf clover that’s on the bottle the woman at the market gave you.

“This is the Great Book of Legends,” says Niamh. “People on Earth are forgetting about us. When our memories die, we begin to die, too,” she said, looking out the window at her garden. “Tír na nÓg used to be much larger. Each year, it shrinks and more and more of us disappear.” She turns back to you. “You must let people know that we still live here. Read the Great Book of Legends and tell everyone about what you read. You’re our only hope.”

“Whoah,” you say. “That’s a lot of responsibility.”

“It is,” she says, “but you were chosen for a reason. Did you get the potion?”

“You mean this?” You pull out the small glass vial.

“Yes!” she says. “I would send you back on Enbarr, but the last time we sent someone back on Enbarr . . . well, it didn’t go so well.”

“What happened?”

“You’ll read all about it in the book. For now, you must get home. Hurry, drink the potion! We haven’t much time!”

You . . .

  1. ask for the horse. You’re not about to drink potions willy-nilly! Whatever happened last time with Enbarr, you’re willing to risk it.
  2. say you’ll do it, but only if you get a sword and some other stuff to take home with you. Souvenirs!
  3. drink the potion asap!
  4. ask for a list of ingredients in the potion. You’re not going to drink something full of weird chemicals unless you know exactly what those weird chemicals are!
  5. say you’ll do it, but only after you get to explore the island more–this place is so awesome, and who knows if you’ll ever see it again? The book can wait!

You wake up and you’re back in your bedroom. The sun is just beginning to rise. What a weird dream! Your mouth feels dry, so you reach for a glass of water from your nightstand. Your hand bumps into something that falls to the floor. You peek over the edge of your bed. It’s a small green bottle with a faded three-leaf clover painted on the label. There’s a giant leather-bound book also on your floor.

Well, it looks like your St. Patrick’s Day project isn’t going to be such a drag after all!

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

En-Szu, STACKS Writer

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23. Kelsey Green, Reading Queen

Recommend me!Kelsey Green, Reading Queen (for ages 6-9) by Claudia Mills

Todays book review comes from MidsummerBook13 on the Reading Buzz Board.

Do you like to read? Then this book is perfect for you! Kelsey Green, Reading Queen has many outstanding characters and a cool plot. I also think it has awesome illustrations. Kelsey loves reading the way her friend Izzy Barr loves running and her friend Annika Riz loves math. She is the best reader in her class, tied with Simon Ellis. Plus, she has a really, really mean teacher, Mrs. Molina. She has the best principal ever, Mr. Boone. She also has a bad reader in her class, Cody Harmon.kelsey green, reading queen

When Mr. Boone announces a school-wide reading contest, Kelsey Green is totally in. She thinks Simon is cheating, so she and her 2 best friends Annika and Izzy try to spy on him to figure out if he really is reading all those books he says he is. Kelsey is also kind of sneaky because she reads at her brother Dylan’s band concert, and in math.

Finally, Rob Shepperson is the best illustrator I’ve seen since Judy Blume’s The Pain and the Great One‘s illustrator. He draws with great detail and awesome shadow techniques. On the cover, I highly adore the technique he used of drawing a line underneath Kelsey to make it seem as if Kelsey is standing on a solid surface, even though she is really just floating in the pale green and white striped background.

In conclusion, I’ve read a lot of books, so trust me when I say Kelsey Green, Reading Queen is the best one I’ve read in years. It’s great for bookworms ages 6-9, and I would totally give this book 5 out of 5 stars!

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24. Completely Clementine: Review Haiku

A satisfying
goodbye to one of my
favorite knuckleheads.

Completely Clementine by Sara Pennypacker, illustrated by Marla Frazee. Hyperion, 2015, 192 pages.

0 Comments on Completely Clementine: Review Haiku as of 1/1/1900
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25. End Terrorism

Make a difference!A Plea to End Terrorism 

Every day when you wake up there is another frightening story on the news about an atrocious terrorist attack on the lives of many innocent men, women, and children. I think the most important issue in the world is stopping terrorism. I want the world to find a way to beat terrorists, so their threats and actions don’t make us question our freedom, but how?

First of all, the government needs to make stopping terrorism its top priority. It needs to focus less on Common Core, immigration, and school lunches, and more on the real problem of terrorism. We should NOT release convicted terrorists from prison. Letting them go only hurts us. We don’t know what they’ll do next and who they could be working with.

Also, the government needs to give more money to the military instead of constantly taking it away. I feel that our military is the best way to stop terrorists. Everyone can help by supporting the military in their efforts to stop terrorism. We can make a difference. Watch my video about how to support our troops overseas, and send your own care packages to this address:

Operation Gratitude/California Army National Guard
17330 Victory Boulevard Van Nuys, CA 91406
Attn: Angel Cuevas/Receiving 

The world would be such a better place without terrorists. We could all go to sleep feeling safer knowing terrorism has ended. It would be so awesome if there were no terrorists. Terrorism is a major world issue that must be stopped. This could be the change that could make the world a better place.

If you agree, please leave a post on the Save the Planet Message Board! Let’s keep this conversation going!

Emma Rose, Scholastic Kids Council

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