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1. Are schools teaching British values?

By Stephanie Olsen


In June, (now former) Education Secretary Michael Gove announced that all primary and secondary schools should promote “British values”. David Cameron said that the plans for values education are likely to have the “overwhelming support” of citizens throughout the UK. Cameron defined these values as “freedom, tolerance, respect for the rule of law, belief in personal and social responsibility and respect for British institutions”. ‪At root, such a policy gets at the emotional conditioning of children. To adhere to a certain ideological conceptualization of “freedom,” to feel “tolerant,” or to be “respectful” (whether of parents, teachers, authorities or institutions), is to act according to implicit feelings of rightness.

Values are never just abstract ideas, but are expressed and experienced through emotions. And they are not ideologically neutral. To stress the education of British values is to put a form of emotional education on the agenda. Though many commentators have pointed out that the broad outlines of such an education already exist in schools, the fear of “extremism”, of the promotion of the “wrong” sort of values, has triggered a vigorous debate. What has largely gone unrecognized in this debate, however, is that it is emphatically not new.

In the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, politicians and educationalists promoted a new education based on character training and the emotions, precisely to build British citizens who would respect and uphold British institutions. This brand of education was to be accomplished at school, but also at home, and in religious and youth organizations.

Herbert Fisher, the President of the Board of Education who spearheaded the Education Act of 1918, argued that the masses should be educated “to stimulate civic spirit, to promote general culture … and to diffuse a steadier judgement and a better informed opinion through the whole body of the community.” Other educational commentators broadly agreed with this mission. Frederick Gould, a former Board School teacher and author of many books on education argued that “The community cannot afford to let the young people pass out with a merely vague notion that they ought to be good; it must frame its teaching with a decisive and clear vision for family responsibilities, civic and political duties”.

Michael Gove, by Paul Clarke, CC-BY-3.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

Michael Gove, by Paul Clarke, CC-BY-3.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

Civic duties – the civic spirit – were to be taught to the extent that they would become ingrained, implicit, felt. This was to be primarily a moral education. Educators stressed character training, linking moral education to British imperialism or nationalism in an unashamedly patriotic spirit. Education reform was to improve future citizens’ productivity and develop national character traits.

Like Gould, educator John Haden Badley stressed the need to teach active citizenship and service. Education on these lines would provide “a deeper understanding of the human values that give to life its real worth”, cultivating and maximizing the potential of a “superior” Britishness. Meanwhile, in a speech in Manchester in 1917, Fisher argued that “the whole future of our race and of our position in the world depends upon the wisdom of the arrangements which we make for education.” He observed, in language strikingly familiar to contemporary political rhetoric, that “we are apt to find that the wrong things are being taught by the wrong people in the wrong way.”

But even in 1917 the rhetoric was clichéd. A generation of commentators before Fisher argued that the civic shortfalls in mass formal education could be fixed by informal education in youth groups and religious organizations and through improved reading matter. Much juvenile and family literature, whether motivated politically or religiously, stressed emotional socialization, especially in the building of morality and character, as critical for national cohesion.

The trouble with visions of national cohesion, as the last century and a half of educational debate bears out, is the difficulty in getting any two parties to agree what that vision looks like. At the turn of the twentieth century all agreed that children mattered. How they were to be educated was important not just to individual children and their families, but equally importantly, to the community and the nation.

Yet some reformers had patriotic aims, others religious; some civic, some imperial; some conservative, others socialist. Many combined some or all of these aims. All, whether explicitly stated or not, wanted to train, instrumentalize and harness children’s emotions. Children’s reading matter, the stories they were told, and the lessons they heard were known to be powerful forces in cultivating the emotions. Hence the high stakes, then and now, on the narratives supplied to children.

Michael Gove, in common with his Victorian forebears, turns to the “great heroes of history” to serve as models of emulation. Back in the early 1900s, Gould thought history “the most vital of all studies for inspiration to conduct.” The study of history is certainly no stranger to being manipulated for didactic ends in order to impart “British values.”

While Gove is only the latest in a long line to link British history, British values and education, there are surely lessons to be learnt from past attempts and past failures to implement this strategy. A generation of boys and young men at the turn of the twentieth century had grown up learning the positive value of patriotic service. In this memorial year, marking a century since the outbreak of the First World War, it seems appropriate to reflect on what values we might want to instil in the young. What feelings do we want them to learn?

Stephanie Olsen is based at the history department, McGill University (Montreal) and the Max Planck Institute for Human Development, Center for the History of Emotions (Berlin). She was previously postdoctoral fellow at the Minda de Gunzburg Center for European Studies at Harvard University. The co-author of Learning How to Feel: Children’s Literature and the History of Emotional Socialization, c. 1870-1970 she is currently working on children’s education and the cultivation of hope in the First World War.

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The post Are schools teaching British values? appeared first on OUPblog.

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2. #595 – Mumbet’s Declaration of Independence by Gretchen Woelfle & Alix Delinois

cover.

Mumbet’s Declaration of Independence

by Gretchen Woelfle & Alix Delinois, illustrator

Carolrhoda Books           2/01/2014

978-0-7613-6589-1

Age 7 to 9            32 pages

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“All men are born free and equal.” Everybody knows about the Founding Fathers and the Declaration of Independence in 1776. But the founders weren’t the only ones who believed that everyone had a right to freedom. Mumbet, a Massachusetts slave believed it too. She longed o be free, but how? Would anyone help her in her fight for freedom? Could she win against her owner, the richest man in town? Mumbet was determined to try. Mumbet’s Declaration of Independence tells her story for the first time in a picture book biography, and her brave actions set a milestone on the road toward ending slavery in the United States.”

Opening

“Mumbet didn’t have a last name because she was a slave. She didn’t even have an official first name. Folks called her Bett or Betty. Children called her Mom Bett or Mumbet. Others weren’t so kind.”

The Story

The year is 1776 and the United States begins its fight for freedom from the rule of the British by declaring on paper their Declaration of Independence. Mumbet is a slave owned by the richest man in town—the one who is usually the most powerful in town. Colonel John Ashley lived in Massachusetts and owed many businesses. He might have been kind, but his wife was definitely a cruel woman when it came to her husband’s slaves. Mumbet worked for Mrs. Ashley, usually in her kitchen. Mumbet hated that another human owned her, as wouldn’t you or I. She knew servants and hired hands could leave a cruel employer, but Mumbet had no recourse—she’s is property.

As the founding fathers gathered to write the Declaration of Independence, which started the seven-year war against the British, Mumbet served refreshments and tried to listen. The men were against British taxes and feared losing all their rights under British rule. As Mumbet listened, she heard one man say,

“He [the King of England] would make us slaves.”

And,

“Mankind in a state of Nature are equal, free, and independent . . .

God and Nature have made us free.”

After seven years of war against England, and freedom won, the town held a meeting to introduce The Massachusetts Constitution in 1780. It declared,

“All men are born free and equal.”

Mumbet wondered if that meant her. She approached Theodore Sedgwick, a young lawyer who helped draft the Declaration of Independence, and asked him to represent her in a fight for her personal freedom under the new Massachusetts law. He accepted. Mr. Sedgwick reminded the judge and jury that no law existed in Massachusetts making slaves legal and the new constitution now made them illegal. Would the judge and jury agree with Mr. Sedgwick and grant Mumbet her freedom—and the freedom of all slaves in Massachusetts in the process?

Review

Mumbet’s story, a true story, is an unusual biography in that I don’t recall hearing about this woman in any history class, not even American History. Mumbet had strength unseen except on rare occasions. To take your master to court to demand your freedom was a crazy idea. Even white women were still considered their husband’s chattel, why would a slave be above that. How was Mumbet going to convince a jury—not of her peers—and a judge—most likely friends with the richest man in town—that she deserved her freedoms for the same reason as the men deserved theirs from Britain? The new Massachusetts Constitution was not that old and here is this slave trying to gain her freedom, yet she is property. This must have caused some laughter, smirking, and hate. I find this story truly moving. Her new name became Elizabeth Freeman, a most deserved last name.

Mumbet’s clear and succinctly written story tells of an amazing, intelligent, and courageous woman who dared stand up for her rights when no one ever considered her to have rights. She entered a paternal courtroom, a jury not of her peers, and a town overflowing with curious citizens not all of which could have been happy Mumbet wanted freedom. It was probably more hostile, considering ever man probably stood to lose his slaves if Mumbet were successful. That makes Mumbet one of the strongest woman to have ever lived in the United States.

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The illustrations are profoundly beautiful with deep rich colors. Even the end pages have an elegance to them. Alix Delinois represented that time in America accurately, with facial expressions that must have matched the frustration felt by most citizens, as the founding fathers wrote the Declaration of Independence. Mrs. Ashley’s cruelty is shockingly visible, immediately making you feel empathy for Mumbet and her daughter. For people sincerely wanting freedom and respect from the British, some were capable of much harm to others.

Thankfully, someone thought to write down Mumbet’s story giving the author great accounts of Mumbet’s life and challenges before, during, and after that day in court. After the story are two pages of author notes. They tell of the help the author received from Catharine Maria Sedgwick, Theodore Sedgwick’s daughter. Catharine wrote Mumbet’s story as it happened, leaving accurate historical documents from which this story was written. These notes are fascinating.Teachers would do well to keep Mumbet’s Declaration of Independence as an adjunct history lesson. It is a story not told in most history classes. Gretchen Woelfle’s impeccable research and storytelling skills gives us a story of slavery not well known in the very country in which it happened—until now. Mumbet’s Declaration of Independence should fascinate kids and adults alike.

MUMBET’S DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE. Text copyright © 2014 by Gretchen Woelfle. Illustrations copyright © 2014 by Alix Delinois. Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Carolrhoda Books, Minneapolis, MN.

Buy a copy of Mumbet’s Declaration of Independence at AmazonB&NiTunesBook DepositoryCarolrhoda Books—at your local bookstore.

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Learn more about Mumbet’s Declaration of Independence HERE.

Meet the author, Gretchen Woelfle, at her website:  http://www.gretchenwoelfle.com/

Meet the illustrator, Alix Delinois, at his website:   http://alixdelinois.com/home.html

Find more books a the Carolrhoda Books blog:   http://carolrhoda.blogspot.com/

Carolrhoda Books is a division of Lerner Publishing Group, Inc.     https://www.lernerbooks.com/

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Also by Gretchen Woelfle

Write On, Mercy!: The Secret Life of Mercy Otis Warren  

Write On, Mercy!: The Secret Life of Mercy Otis Warren

All the World's a Stage: A Novel in Five Acts

All the World’s a Stage: A Novel in Five Acts

The Wind at Work: An Activity Guide to Windmills

The Wind at Work: An Activity Guide to Windmills

 

 

 

 

 

Also by Alix Delinois

Eight Days: A Story of Haiti

Eight Days: A Story of Haiti

Muhammad Ali: The People's Champion 

Muhammad Ali: The People’s Champion

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mumbet


Filed under: 6 Stars TOP BOOK, Children's Books, Favorites, Historical Fiction, Library Donated Books, NonFiction, Picture Book, Top 10 of 2014 Tagged: 1776, Alix Delinois, American Revolutionary War, Carolrhoda Books, children's book reviews, Declaration of Independence, freedom, Gretchen Woelfle, Lerner Publishing Group, Massachusetts Constitution of 1780, slavery

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3. Wishing Chairs and Flying Bedrooms - Heather Dyer

 © John Atkinson Grimshaw
 
I suspect there’s a reason why fairies are found at the bottom of the garden: the bottom of the garden represents the limits of a child’s freedom. It is the furthest they can go from home without entering the big wide world – and it’s in this space between security and freedom that magic occurs.

Children have so little freedom. Freedom beckons, but is also frightening. Perhaps this is why I loved reading so much when I was a child. From the safety of an armchair in the front room or beneath the covers of my bed, I could escape safely.

When I was seven I loved books in which magical items transported children directly from the security of home into another world - stories like Enid Blyton’s The Wishing Chair, in which an old chair intermittently grew wings and carried the children off on fantastical adventures. There was also Nesbit’s Phoenix and the Carpet, in which an old rug turns out to be a magic carpet - and let’s not forget  that wonderful flying bed in Bedknobs and Broomsticks - or The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe, in which an old wardrobe provides the portal to freedom.

Part of the excitement lay in the fact that the children never quite knew when their adventure might take place. Nesbitt’s children always had to wait until their parents were out – and Blyton’s children had to keep going down to the playroom to see if the chair had grown wings. The appeal also lay in the fact that there was always the risk of mishap - along with the assumption that the children would return home safely.

When my friend’s daughter Elinor told me about a dream in which her bedroom flew, I was delighted. What a wonderful symbol her unconscious had conjured up to grant her both security and freedom! She could go wherever she wanted without leaving the safety of her bedroom – and what’s more, she would have everything she needed with her: a raincoat, a book to read, a sunhat or a swimsuit …


So, inspired by Elinor’s dream, I wrote The Flying Bedroom, a series of short adventures in which Elinor’s bedroom takes her to faraway places including a tropical island (from which her bedroom nearly floats away), the theatre (where Elinor reluctantly takes centre stage), and even to the moon (where Elinor helps a man called Niall fix his rocket). I’m hoping that The Flying Bedroom will satisfy children’s longing for both security and freedom – the tension that never really goes away, no matter how old we are.

http://www.fireflypress.co.uk/node/44

 The Flying Bedroom is released on May 15th by Firefly Press
 

You can find more information about Heather Dyer and her books at www.heatherdyer.co.uk

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4. Fly, Eagle, Fly! An African Tale – Perfect Picture Book Friday

Title: Fly, Eagle, Fly! An African Tale Retold by by Christopher Gregorowski Pictures by Niki Daly Foreword by Desmond Tutu Published by Margaret McLederry Books, 2000 Ages: 5-8 Themes: parables, eagles, freedom Quote, page 10:  He climbed up a gully in case the calf had … Continue reading

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5. naive illustrative rant at global injustice

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Filed under: flying

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6. First World Problems

I have to say, these last three months have not been easy. I had to drink water, milk and other stuff besides my beloved soft drinks. What a serious “first world” problem. Right? And until I started writing this post, I was really proud of myself for giving up the soft drinks for three whole […]

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7. Undocumented immigrants in 17th century America

By Richard A. Bailey

“In the name of God, Amen. We whose names are under-written, the loyal subjects of our dread sovereign Lord, King James, by the grace of God, of Great Britain, France, and Ireland King, Defender of the Faith, etc.

Having undertaken, for the glory of God, and advancement of the Christian faith, and honor of our King and Country, a voyage to plant the first colony in the northern parts of Virginia, do by these presents solemnly and mutually, in the presence of God, and one of another, covenant and combine our selves together into a civil body politic, for our better ordering and preservation and furtherance of the ends aforesaid; and by virtue hereof to enact, constitute, and frame such just and equal laws, ordinances, acts, constitutions and offices, from time to time, as shall be thought most meet and convenient for the general good of the Colony, unto which we promise all due submission and obedience. In witness whereof we have hereunder subscribed our names at Cape Cod, the eleventh of November in the year of the reign of our sovereign lord, King James, of England, France, and Ireland, the eighteenth, and of Scotland the fifty-fourth. Anno Dom. 1620.”

When the Mayflower—packed with 102 English men, women, and children—set out from Plymouth, England, on 6 September 1610, little did these Pilgrims know that sixty-five days later they would find themselves not only some 3,000 miles from their planned point of disembarkation but also pressed to pen the above words as the governing document for their fledgling settlement, Plimouth Plantation. Signed by 41 of the 50 adult males, the “Mayflower Compact” represented the type of covenant this particular strain of puritans believed could change the world.

The signing of The Mayflower Compact

While they hoped to achieve success in the future, these signers were especially concerned with survival in the present. The lives of these Pilgrims for the two decades or so prior to the launching of the Mayflower had been characterized by Separatism. Their decision to separate from the Church of England as a way to protest and to purify what they saw as its shortcomings had led to the necessity of illegally emigrating from the country of England and seeking refuge in the Netherlands. A further separation was needed as these English families realized that the Netherlands offered neither the cultural nor economic opportunities they really desired. But returning to England was out of the question. Thus, in order to discover the religious freedom they desired, these Pilgrims needed to remove yet again, which became possible because of an agreement made with an English joint-stock company willing to pair “saints” and “strangers” in a colony in the American hemisphere.

Despite the fact that they were the ones who had recently arrived in North America, the Pilgrims taxed the abilities of both the land and its native peoples to sustain the newly arrived English. Such taxation became most visible at moments of violent conflict between colonists and Native Americans, as in 1623 when Pilgrims massacred a group of Indians living at Wessagussett. Following the attack, John Robinson, a Pilgrim pastor still in the Netherlands, wrote a letter to William Bradford, Plimouth’s governor, expressing his fears with the following words: “It is also a thing more glorious, in men’s eyes, than pleasing in God’s or convenient to Christians, to be a terrour to poor barbarous people. And indeed I am afraid lest, by these occasions, others should be drawn to affect a kind of ruffling course in the world.” As his letter makes clear, Robinson clearly hoped the colonists would offer the indigenous peoples of New England the prospect of redemption–spiritually and culturally–rather than the edge of a sword. The Wessagussett affair, however, illustrated such redemption had not been realized. From at least that moment on, relationships between English colonists and the indigenous peoples of North America more often than not followed ruffling courses.

While an established state church isn’t a main threat nearly 400 years later, some of the Pilgrims’ concerns still haunt many Americans. Like those English colonists preparing to set foot on North American soil, we remain afraid of those we perceive as different than us–culturally, racially, ethnically, and the like. But the tables are turned. We are now the ones striving to protect ourselves from a stream of illegal and “undocumented” immigrants attempting to pursue their dreams in a new land. Our primary method of protection? Separatism. Like the Pilgrims we often remain unwilling to welcome those we define as different. We’ll look to them for assistance when necessary, rely on their labor when convenient, take advantage of their needs when possible, but we won’t welcome them as neighbors and equals in any real sense nor do we seek to provide reconciliation and redemption to people eager to embrace the potential future they see among us.

Ruffled courses persist as the United States wrestles with how it ought to treat those men, women, and children who, like the Pilgrims of the seventeenth century, are looking for newfound opportunities. As we remember the voyage of the seventeenth-century immigrants who departed England on 6 September 1610 and recall their many successful efforts to establish a lasting settlement in a distant land, we do well to celebrate not only their need to separate but also their dedication to “covenant and combine [them]selves together into a civil body politic.” The world has enough ruffling courses and perhaps needs the purifying reform modeled by the Pilgrims and the potential redemption those like John Robinson hoped for as they agreed to work together for the common good. In short, one would hope that a people whose history was migration from another land would be more welcoming than we often are, especially in our dealings with the immigrants and the impending immigration reform of our own day.

Richard A. Bailey is Associate Professor of History at Canisius College. He is the author of Race and Redemption in Puritan New England. His current research focuses on western Massachusetts as an intersection of empires in the eighteenth-century Atlantic world, fly fishing in colonial America, and the concept of friendship in the life and writings of Wendell Berry. You can find Richard on Twitter @richardabailey

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Image credit: The Mayflower Compact, 1620. Artist unknown, from Library of Congress. Public domain via Wikimedia Commons.

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8. What does Passover celebrate?

Tonight marks the first night of Passover, so I thought I’d share a bit about what the holiday celebrates and what it means to me. Passover is one of the most important Jewish holidays of the year, and is probably the most observed Jewish holiday after Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur (despite what people think about Hanukah!). Etched in Clay

Passover commemorates the story of the Israelites’ exodus from Egypt, as told in the old testament (or, if you’re the kind of person who waits for the movie to come out, as told in The Ten Commandments). According to the story, the Israelites were enslaved in Egypt for 400 years, until God, with the help of Moses, led them out of Egypt and into freedom.
Whether or not you believe in God or the Old Testament, the Passover story resonates. For me, one of the most meaningful parts of it is the acknowledgement of how truly terrible and traumatic slavery is: terrible enough that, although Jews were slaves many thousands of years ago, we still recall the experience in great detail every year. We even eat bitter herbs during the seder, the traditional Passover meal, so that the bitter taste of slavery is fresh on our tongues.

Unfortunately, slavery is not ancient history; in fact, it’s alive and well in many parts of the world. Whether enslaved by law, by force, or by poverty, many human beings living on earth today are not free. Passover is a time to really meditate on what that means – and, perhaps, on our part in it. What have I done to support or abolish slavery? Am I buying from companies with good labor practices? Am I aware of what’s happening in my own community? Are there sustainable ways of dismantling slavery that I can support?

A Song for Cambodia

Although slavery is a heavy subject, I actually think it’s one that young people can really understand deeply, and Passover is a great time to explore it together. Over at Pinterest, we’ve rounded up some books for children about Passover and/or freedom. These books are great ways to start a discussion with young readers about slavery, both ancient and modern.

Another resource I’ll be thinking about a lot this year is a documentary I saw last week called Girl Rising, by the organization 10 x 10. The documentary focuses on the stories of ten girls from around the world and shows that for many young women, the passage from slavery to freedom is an education. Definitely worth watching, and suitable for children 12 and up. Taking kids to a screening near you would be a great way to celebrate the holiday.

Yasmin's Hammer

If you have other slavery/freedom related resources for young people, feel free to leave them in the comments. And to all those who are celebrating tonight, I wish you all a very happy (and meaningful) Passover!

Further Reading:

What does Ramadan celebrate?

What does Chinese New Year celebrate?


Filed under: Holidays Tagged: Cambodia, freedom, Girl Rising, holidays, Jewish, passover, slavery

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9. I am who I am

I am who I am your approval is not needed

Do you feel this way? Feel free to share this image if you do.

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10. The Midnight Zoo - a review

My review of The Midnight Zoo  (as it appeared in the March 2012 edition of SLJ)

The Midnight Zoo (unabr.). 4 CDs. 4.33 hrs. Prod. by Bolinda Audio. Dist. by Brilliance Audio. 2011. ISBN 978-1-7428-5126-6. $49.97.

Gr 7–10-- Like a 20th-century version of Avi's Crispin, who fled across 14th-century England, 12-year-old Andrej is without parents and adrift in Europe during World War II with his younger brother, Tomas, and infant sister in tow. Without destination or an understanding of the war that has divided them from their nomadic Roma clan, the siblings travel by night and sleep by day, sensing danger at every juncture. Andrej scavenges for their food and necessities for the baby. One moon-drenched evening, the trio arrives at a zoo in the ruins of a bombed village. They encounter a menagerie of talking animals, trapped in zoo cages with neither keeper nor keys. Throughout a surreal evening, the boys and animals share life stories. Through the animals, Andrej and Tomas begin to understand the nature of man and war. This understanding, however, offers more questions than answers. Richard Aspel's, rich and sonorous voice creates memorable characterizations for the many humans and animals in Sonya Harnett's novel (Candlewick, 2011), including German-speaking soldiers; his Aussie pronunciation requires a keen ear. Listeners who persevere will be rewarded with a stellar performance. With some aspects of fable, minimal dialogue, and heavy use of allegory, this artfully crafted look at the character of man and the concept of freedom may have limited popular appeal.

Copyright © 2012 Library Journals, LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. Reprinted with permission.


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11. Never forget – A Letter to My Son Written on September 11, 2001

"That's what it takes to be a hero, a little gem of innocence inside you that makes you want to believe that there still exists a right and wrong. That decency will somehow triumph in the end."  -Lisa Hand Those who know me well know since my son was a baby I have kept journals [...]

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12. Jennifer Egan Wins 2011 Tournament of Books

Today A Visit From the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan has won the 2011 Tournament of Books at The Morning News–a round robin competition that pits books against books every March.

A team of literary judges decided each round of the competition, and all the judges voted on the final two books: Jonathan Franzen‘s Freedom and Egan’s novel. Egan earned nine votes; Franzen earned eight.

Andrew Womack concluded the contest with this vote: “How fortunate to find two books in the championship so comparable—both spanning decades (or beyond) and heavily centered on music. For me, this decision comes down to pacing, and Franzen is the Pink Floyd to Egan’s Sex Pistols; by the end of Freedom I couldn’t take another meandering guitar solo, while I was dazzled by how much Goon Squad packed into such a compact space.”

continued…

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13. Jennifer Egan Wins 2011 Tournament of Books

Today A Visit From the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan has won the 2011 Tournament of Books at The Morning News–a round robin competition that pits books against books every March.

A team of literary judges decided each round of the competition, and all the judges voted on the final two books: Jonathan Franzen‘s Freedom and Egan’s novel. Egan earned nine votes; Franzen earned eight.

Andrew Womack concluded the contest with this vote: “How fortunate to find two books in the championship so comparable—both spanning decades (or beyond) and heavily centered on music. For me, this decision comes down to pacing, and Franzen is the Pink Floyd to Egan’s Sex Pistols; by the end of Freedom I couldn’t take another meandering guitar solo, while I was dazzled by how much Goon Squad packed into such a compact space.”

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14.


The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins caught my attention quickly and held it fast throughout the rest of the book. The cliffhanger ending prompted me to buy the next two books without thinking twice.

A book like this makes you think about your situation as it is today and the direction everything is going. It is clearly set in a futuristic United States, but it's no future any of us (hopefully) would ever want. It has a corrupt government in every sense of the word. People nowadays may not be happy with the way things are going, but at least we aren't publicly whipped or shot if we want to speak out against things that are happening. We still have so many freedoms that The Hunger Games shows us we should be thankful for.

Who could live in a world where "games" are held every year pitting people–teenagers–against each other in a battle for their lives? Aside from that there is a constant fear of starvation or a fear of things getting worse than they already are, though that is hard to imagine. This government has torturous ways of dealing with difficulties that keeps everyone terrified.

One girl, a hunter who just wants to keep her family alive, especially her little sister, is faced with what she considers no choice. She enters the hunger games to save her sister from having to go. This sacrifice leads her down a road she can't turn away from. Her hunting skills and ability to out-think her opponents–and the government–are the only things keeping her alive. For now. But will the government let her truly win the games?

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15. The Friday Five: Inspiration

These are five things that inspire me today:

You can rent your own private island

My friend told me now is the time to write a blank check from The Law of Abundance

I wrote what I thought was some garbage at a new writer's group that I joined [because I've recently moved to a new city] and instead of focusing on my poor writing the group focused on the pure emotion of the piece and urged me to include it in one of my stories, so I did.

It's my brother's birthday today and I remember when my other brother--who's afraid of travel--took the train from Chicago to Texas to be with us to celebrate my older brother's 50th not so long ago.

The people of Egypt and the journalists who continue to report despite the risk.

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16. Talking about freedom

Having a blog can be a roller coaster ride. Some days you are going up that huge ramp and your stomach goes all queasy because you aren't sure. And then some days are the rush of the downhill and the thrill of what's next. I'm on the downhill today. I asked a simple question about daydreaming and am having a beautiful dialogue about freedom. Here's the first comment:

I’m daydreaming about freedom and wondering, simultaneously, if I can even define freedom.

Click here if you'd like to join the discussion. What does freedom mean to you?

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17. What is Freedom? By Shane Evans

I will start this piece by asking the questions… “What is FREEDOM?...”

Now as you have likely pondered that and come up with an answer, I will share with you some thoughts on why I came to address this topic “underground”. The idea of the “underground railroad” (and I think of this as an idea) was something that has been with me since I was a child. I recall hearing the idea for the first time thinking of it as a real thing or place, an intricate tunnel that had small trains taking people from the south to the north and essentially to FREEDOM. I recall as I grew older and found out more about what it really was and filling in the space of imagination with facts that it was truly about a rebellion against an institution… the institution of slavery.

Now as an author and illustrator I am typically conscious of the words that I use… This is important in the communication of ideas. It is important because in many ways we look to ignite the imagination of our readers to go deeper into the feelings of a situation. There are certainly books that inundate us with words where you have to refer to a dictionary to understand and there are books where the words are so sparse that your “minds eye” has to capture the rest. The beauty of a picture book is that you have the luxury of visuals to accompany your words and the power of that relationship can bring so much to life in ones imagination on the subject.

That is where Underground was born... in the imagination… I began this work asking myself… “what would it feel like to be on this journey?”… and essentially I began. In many ways this is likely how those who were in this situation thought. I have always had a problem with the impression that the word “slave” provoked in the mind. As a child we learn that slaves in this country were African people… but when you read the definition of what a “slave” is there is a much broader and deeper meaning. I believe that it is dangerous to define a people or their mindset simply by words The institution of slavery is and was about the MIND, BODY and SPIRIT of ALL people involved. It is about captors and those captured and the effects that this idea has on all living amongst it. There were people during this time in our history that did not BELIEVE in this idea of slavery. People looked at the idea and felt many things about it I am sure… “this is NOT right…!”, “this is NOT who I am…!”, “this is NOT how people should treat others…!”, “this is NOT what I want to be for the rest of my life…!” and countless thoughts can be added to this list. So when I asked myself “what it would feel like to be on the underground railroad…?” I realized that I did not have to look far for those feelings. We have all felt trapped at some point in our lives and wanted to “break free” and I am no exception. As I learned more about the underground railroad I realized that it was a SPIRIT… the spirit of a living idea. It lived amongst those “stealing away” during this time in our American history and it lives today in the spirit of those trapped and bound where they do NOT feel free and look to “BREAK THE CHAINS THAT HOLD THEM”… we are all victums and we are all looking to escape

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18. Nini Lost and Found: A Charmer That Feels Like Home

9780375858802

Nini Lost and Found by Anita Lobel

This second book about Nini the cat follows the award-winning Nini Here and There that won a Caldecott Honor in 2007.   In this book, Nini discovered that the door to the house has been left open and escaped out into the garden.  While the house was cozy, the outdoors was also fun.  There were grasses, flowers, and an entire woods to explore.  But when night falls, the woods became more frightening, darker and filled with noises that could be large animals coming after her.  Nini hid under a tree, but realized that she could not just stay there.  That’s when she heard voices calling her from the house.  With a burst of courage, Nini ran home, through the open door that closed behind her.  Back to the familiar things and smells and food.  She was very happy to be home and safe, for now.

Lobel’s deep colored illustrations show both the comforts of home and the enticements of the outdoors as equally welcoming.  The richness of the autumnal landscape brings a warmth to the outdoors, inviting both Nini and readers to explore.  Children will understand Nini’s wish to escape, wander and explore.  They will also understand her conflicting desire for safety and warmth.  It is a gentle take on the theme of running away from home.  When the book turns darker with nightfall, Lobel’s color palette turns to deep blues, blacks and browns.  The contrast is distinct and makes for a more chilling moment when Nini is hiding and scared.  The contrast is clear and effective.

This simple picture book will be enjoyed by children for many different reasons.  Some for the story of a cat, others will see the parallel with children running away, and others will enjoy the adventure at night in the dark.  I look for books that can be enjoyed by many types of children for different reasons.  This is most certainly one of them.  Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from copy received from Knopf.

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19. 4th of July, cats, CPSA

The fourth of July. THANK YOU everyone who's fought to make us free here in the USA.

Why so many choose to celebrate this by shooting stuff into the air that makes really loud noise though is beyond me. Don't tell me I'm getting old because I hated it even when I was a kid. I think I came out of the womb saying "stop making that noise!". But anyway, fireworks, I don't know, I'll just be glad when its all over.

Saachi here on the right goes under the bed when it starts. Bless him - he's the biggest of the kitties, and also the most afraid one.
Phyllo on the other hand - not much ruffles him. Every night he's on the chair on the back porch, oblivious to it all. I still gather him up and bring him inside though, just to be safe.



He does have a thing for bags or anything lumpy he can lounge on. In the pic above he's on my mom's purse - which she obligingly left here for him (which meant she had to change to another one for summer, just so he could have this one, which he LOVES.)

Below, he's making my dinner nice and flat. That's what I get for eating fast food. But you haven't lived until you've had flat fries, I'm telling you.




In more artsy news, CPSA has posted a preview of the art for the Silent Auction for the upcoming show. Lots of pretty pictures.



Off to eat a hot dog and potato salad and feel patriotic - Happy 4th!

2 Comments on 4th of July, cats, CPSA, last added: 7/6/2010
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20. Some Thoughts on Freedom and Education. . .

photo by Beverly & Pack www.flickr.com

July 4th is always a good day for me. I love summer, I love festivals, and I love BBQ. I also love my husband, and it’s our anniversary–so even more reason to celebrate. I don’t always take the time to really think about what we are celebrating on July 4th; but this year, I thought about it more than usual. Probably because of this blog and the information I’ve been sharing about helping girls and women around the world, probably because of reading Half the Sky, and probably because of my two experiences building houses in Juarez, Mexico. Well, whatever the reason, here are some thoughts I had on freedom and education.

There’s no point in telling an American child or teen how lucky they are to go to school, to get a free and usually good public education, and to most of the time have a safe way to get to school. I know there are places in the United States where this isn’t necessarily true, and this is a disgrace. But for the most part, our kids are lucky to go to school and get an education. Some kids and teens are even starting to miss it about now if they go to a traditional school with a nine-month calendar. They’re ready for structure, friends, and some brain challenges.

When I was in Juarez, Mexico in a poor, desert community, kids didn’t get to go to school every day. If they did go every day, they went for a couple hours, and that was it. The reason was there was not enough room, supplies, teachers for all the kids in the area to go to school at the same time. So they had to stagger their schedules. As we all know, education is one of the best ways to fight poverty. Without an education, a person has a harder time getting a job and unfortunately, having a child at a too-young age. Kids in Juarez liked the days they went to school and wanted to go more–at least the ones I talked to with my limited (very limited!) Spanish. It’s a freedom they don’t have readily provided for them.

In Half the Sky, there are chapters and stories that discuss how dangerous it is for children to make it to school in some areas. The walk is far and hard, and they have to worry about being attacked by gangs or other tribes or criminals. They have to worry about being kidnapped and sold into the human trafficking system. And so their parent’s don’t let them go. Their parents would rather keep them safe. Many parents have no money to send their children to school, and education is not free or a freedom in these places.

I’m not saying we need to change our kids’ opinions of school, but we can help them see the good points and maybe their opinion will change on their own. We can talk about how happy we were to go to school and get an education, to pursue a career that makes us happy and pays for the things in our houses. If we have older children who can handle some of the heartbreaking stories in Half the Sky, we can share them. And we can do this at any time. We can be thankful for our freedoms at any time–not just at the beginning of July.

I’m reading more and more about modern-day abolitionists. I love this term! Many of them help people out of slavery and poverty and do this by providing an education. I’ll feature one tomorrow. Here are a few children’s books about freedom–most dealing with the past, but you can always apply these concepts to the world today:

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21. What Does Freedom Mean? Picture Book–This is the Dream

Sometimes when we talk to kids about issues going on in the world, like I wrote about on Monday with my stepson and the visiting priest from Africa who needs money for his church, it is hard for them to understand what we mean by freedom–especially if they live in a free country like the United States. It’s hard for them to imagine that there are places where children don’t have the freedom to go to school or church or the doctor when they are sick. Young children, especially, need concrete examples of what freedom means, especially if they are taking part in any type of donation activity (like collecting pennies for an organization like Loose Change to Loosen Chains).

This book, This is the Dream written by Diane Z. Shore and Jessica Alexander and illustrated by James Ransome, is a great picture book that can illustrate the concept of freedom. What I especially like about this bright and colorful book is the way it shows the United States before the Civil Rights movement, then some of the Civil Rights leaders, and then the way the country is now–with freedom for everyone. In the year 2010, the fact that black people used to drink from a separate fountain or ride at the back of the bus might be particularly shocking for our children since less than 50 years later, our president is black.

Here are a few verses from this great book:

“These are the fountains that stand in the square, and the black-and-white signs say who will drink there.”

“These are the leaders whose powerful voices lift up marchers demanding new choices.”

“This is the fountain that stands in the square and the unwritten rule is to take turns and share.”

Love it!!

In order for children to understand what it looks like when there’s not freedom and what it looks like when there is, you can use a picture book like This is the Dream by Diane Z. Shore and Jessica Alexander. Then you can explain to them how around the world in the 21st century, there are still people living without freedom, and we are collecting pennies to try and help them. The Civil Rights leaders helped in the United States, and now it’s our turn!

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22. Obama’s Summer Reading

ObamaPresident Obama is taking a ten day vacation in Martha’s Vineyard with his wife Michelle and their two daughters. The President stopped in to the Bunch of Grapes bookstore in Vineyard Haven for some summer reading. He bought “To Kill a Mockingbird” and “The Red Pony” by John Steinbeck for the girls, as well as Suzanne Collins’ The Hunger Games.

For himself, he picked up the eagerly anticipated, highly praised and aptly titled “Freedom” by Jonathan Franzen. (This book does not go on sale for another two weeks but the store owner gave Obama an early review copy)

He even signed a copy of his book, “Dreams from my Father,” for a fourteen year old boy.

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23. Rocking Writing Tools

Winner of The Familiars Arc is....

TAFFY

Congrads and email your address to me at sjohannes@bilaninc.com.

NOTE: All packages to date will be mailed by Friday. If you have not gotten yours, it should be there next week.

NEWSFLASH
Mary Kole, agent at Andrea Brown is doing a webinar at Writers Digest. IT looks awesome so you should check it out! "Publish your children's, tween, and teen fiction in today's market". for only 79$. Looks like it covers:

  • The essential elements of books written for younger children, tweens, and teens
  • How your kid reader thinks about fiction and what they want
  • What agents and editors look for in terms of pitch, writing, and book premise
  • How to make your hook absolutely irresistible
  • What separates an aspiring writer from a contracted author in this field
PLUS YOU can submit 1-2 pages of your work and all submissions are GUARANTEED a critique by instructor/agent Mary Kole!!! This is worth it alone...

==============

My Favorite Writing Tools

Today I wanted to give you guys some writing tools I use. I could not write without them. Some you have heard of, some you may not have. BTW - I get no kickbacks or anything from these. It is just what I use as a writer.

1) MAC set up -
  • MAC AIR - I have had a couple Macs over the years - Old MacBooks, the new Macbook. I must say my MAC air is awesome. It's so light. You'd be surprised how much of a different 2 obs is when you take your laptop everywhere. It also has back lit keys. Now I never thought I'd have backlit keys but i must say it comes in very handy on airplanes (especially at night) and if I write in bed when hubby is sleeping. Now as a side note, I used to be a PC user. Anti MAC but I have converted. It takes a couple weeks to get used to it but you can get Microsoft word so it did not hinder my writing at all.
  • Wireless keyboard and docking station. Since I wrote so much, the lap top was forcing me to look down alot. This is not good for someone who has bouts of vertigo. So my hubby got me a docking station. When I am at my desk, i dock my laptop so the screen is at eye level and use the wireless keyboard. That way I don't have to look down as much.
  • Mighty Mouse - If you have a MAC (especially the AIR b/c it only has one
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24. Australia, Freedom and the Power of Paperback

australia

It has been a very busy few weeks over here at BookFinds. To start, I was in the audience for Oprah’s Season Premiere and was part of the monumental show in which Oprah announced she was taking her entire audience to Austraaaaaaliaa! Yes, you heard that right. I am going to Australia for ten days with Ms. O and her audience of Ultimate Viewers. I make no secret of my love for The Oprah Winfrey Show and the Oprah Book Club in particular. I have read every single title and they have each had such a tremendous impact on my life at the time I was reading them. Well, sticking to that devotion, I am now reading Jonathan Franzen’s FREEDOM and have to say it might be one of the best books I have read all year! It questions how we look at our own freedom and challenges the belief that freedom is the path to happiness. I highly recommend you pick up this book because it will change the way you look at your world and make you see things in a completely different light. It is also a beautiful exploration into the way an ordinary life is actually extraordinary.

freedom

And finally, there was an interesting article in today’s Wall Street Journal about the perceived stigma of paperback originals. The writer points out that one book, in particular, that could change the way we look at paperback originals is David Nicholls critically acclaimed ONE DAY which was released in the US as a paperback original and has gone on to sell incredibly well.

oneday

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25. Should Tyra Banks Review Books in a Post-Oprah World?

Plenty of celebrities–from Kristen Bell to Elizabeth Banks–have tweeted about Suzanne CollinsHunger Games trilogy. But, not all of them have their very own talk show. That’s what sets Tyra Banks apart from all the rest. You can read Banks’ Twitter book review in the image embedded above: “Soooooo good!!!”

Shelf Life poked fun at the review: “That is especially impressive, since six o’s and three exclamation points is the highest possible score in Tyra’s rating system. (By comparison, she thought Twilight was ‘Soooo good!!’ and she broke with critical consensus by only giving the new Franzen a tepid ‘Soo good!’)”

Oprah Winfrey chose Jonathan Franzen‘s Freedom as this year’s book club pick. Could Banks review books in a post-Oprah world?  Some feel that with or without Oprah, publishing will go on.

New Career Opportunities Daily: The best jobs in media.

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