Coffeechug Book Consumption Week #4: Theme – SURVIVAL

Survival. The theme of my reading this week was a strong one and not one that was intentional. As I continue to scour through non fiction YA books, I read a bundle of books that all held the concept of survival.

Survival

sur·viv·al
sərˈvīvəl/
noun
  1. the state or fact of continuing to live or exist, typically in spite of an accident, ordeal, or difficult circumstances.
    “the animal’s chances of survival were pretty low”
    • an object or practice that has continued to exist from an earlier time.
      plural noun: survivals
      “his shorts were a survival from his army days”

As I ponder this definition I realize that the word moves beyond being isolated in the wilderness. Survival is what we as human beings strive to do on a daily basis based on the environment we are living in.

Screen Shot 2014-12-08 at 7.59.29 AMI started off reading a book that defines survival perfectly. D-Day: The Invasion of Normandy, 1944 by Rick Atkinson is a YA book that brings the larger volume of The Guns At Last Light into context for a younger group of readers. I have read and studied about WW2 more times that I can count, but this book did a great job of sharing the story in a new light. It intertwined the many layers of battle with stories and facts that would hold the interest of a reader wanting to know more. What stood out to me was that the lives of so many were impacted in ways that we simply cannot fathom. The lives of the students I teach compared to kids their age back then are different in terms of what it means to survive. Survival was not only on the beaches of Omaha where many did not, but for a country, and for people who were innocent and just trying to protect those they loved. Survival resonated strongly because many sacrificed their own lives so others could survive. To read about the pay, the gear, and facts of the time period really resonated with me and reminded me about how grateful we should be for the sacrifices made.

Screen Shot 2014-12-08 at 8.02.44 AMSacrifice and survival often times go hand in hand. Jumping ahead 45 years to the other side of the world there was another major movement of survival taking shape. Tank Man: How a Photograph Defined China’s Protest Movement is short but powerful read about students gathering and protesting the Communist government in China. These students used a non violent means to stand up for survival against a harsh government. One man stood in front of a line of tanks to protest the aggressive nature of the government. One man was able to freeze military vehicles.

Sometimes survival means standing up for what you believe. Reading this book made me thankful for the country I live in. Even more importantly it fired me up with student voice. Here were thousands of students(many others as well) who stood up and had their voices heard. I am not suggesting a protest in my school or country, but the notion that we have to sometimes not just talk, but move to action when things are not right. We cannot be the innocent bystander and complain about things we cannot control. The people here sacrificed to promote the survival of their people.

Screen Shot 2014-12-08 at 8.04.28 AMBoth of these stories have required major changes in the world, government, and countries. Survival does not have to be this large of a scale. If I can jump back in time again to 1952 for The Finest Hours: The True Story of a Heroic Sea Rescue when two oil tankers were split in half during a terrible storm you can read about a classic survival story. This book is once again an adaption from the larger volume of this same story. This book tells the story about how two oil tankers were out at sea, split in half, and while the freezing waters, major snowstorm, and other elements were making life a near death experience, there were brave people willing to sacrifice their lives to save these people lost at sea. I found the stories a bit difficult to follow at first because basically there were four sections that needed rescuing, but once I was able to track names and boats I was hooked.

Remember this is a time where technology is not amazing and material and clothing for freezing temperatures was nothing more than blankets, sweatshirts, and rubber boots and gloves. The part that showcases how cold it was a was when one person stated,

“At one point, my head felt so numb I rubbed my hand over it and felt something. It was a big clump of ice, and when I pulled on it, a big patch of my hair came with it. But it was so cold I didn’t even feel it.”

Survival and sacrifice were demonstrated on almost every page. The heroic rescue and the terrible visuals of saving some, but not all. I am not sure what would be worse – jumping to your death in the 70 foot waves or watching it happen knowing you were so close to saving them.

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As much I hated reading about some of these people not surviving I could not think of how awkward and difficult it must have been for Alice and Freda. These two women lived in 1892 and the turn of the century in Memphis. As I read Alice and Freda  Forever I was reminded how far we have come with women rights, gay rights, and the cultural shift of how we view people. Alice and Freda were lovers in a time a period that had no comprehension for same sex love. It was not imaginable. There were no words for it. It could not be described and was not something brains could comprehend. We are talking only 120 years ago. To live in a time period where who you are cannot be explained to yourself or others must have been a brain warp. Which is probably why Alice was a bit off her rocker and ended up killing Freda out of a passion of love. What this story brings to light is a shift in society. A challenge to “whiteness”, being a white male and power that comes with it. As the author notes it was bigger than murder as it was a challenge to American Modernity.

As much as I love a good murder story, this story brings to light much larger issues and does so without bogging down the reader. I found this book to be really interesting despite knowing the outcome.

As I continue to push forward with books geared for the YA audience in the non-fiction category I see the theme of survival time and time again. What is it about these stories and captivate us no matter who we are?

Until next week………. I hope you take time to check these books out. If you have read something worthwhile be sure to let me know.

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Coffeechug Book Consumption Week #3

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Blue Gold by Elizabeth Stewart

A book that deals with some very heavy global issues of: child labor, cultural conflict, human trafficking, the price of technology, sweat shops, and digital responsibility. This book weaves the stories of three girls from three different continents and their lives which are all dependent on cell phones or more importantly a substance(coltan) used to make cell phones. What humans have done to either exploit or deny the real issues at hand are exposed in this book. I became quite intrigued to know more about all three situations and to educate myself on what is really going on in the world. The way in which the author addresses these heavy topics in a storyline that keeps a reader engaged is quite a feat. This book is one that would lead to some really fantastic book club discussions. I could not help but a project based learning unit around this book with a driving question of “Is the human price of technology worth the perks?”

 

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Girls Standing on Lawns

Simple, yet powerful book. A collection of art and photographs from the Museum of Modern Art. Pages are minimal with one image/artwork and few words. These images represent an arrange of emotions and time periods. I read through this twice thinking about the images of my own life. The images where I was mad for my parents taking pictures of us. The times I refused to smile. The times I was full of smiles. Time evolves. The world moves on. We change as the world changes. More importantly, do we recognize small glimpses of our life that shed light on more stories from own personal journey? This is what the book inspired me to think about as I studied the images of these women.

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The Art of Start

Who doesn’t love Guy Kawasaki? I read this book with the idea of taking the business ideas and applying to the education world. This was not as easy as I had hoped. A lot of great content with many exercises and questions to process. I took away some key ideas that apply to anyone, anywhere. Mostly, have a plan, but don’t wait for a perfect plan to get started. You don’t have to wait until you are big and massive to get organized. Do this right away. Find the right people. Get Started. Most importantly, be clear and concise and eliminate all fluff and things not needed. Stay on track, chart your progress and make changes as you see fit to reach your goals.

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I love reading ancient texts of martial arts, warriors, and the like because I find in their articulately crafted words such great wisdom about life in general. When it all comes down to it life is about that balance and realizing that everything comes full circle. Reading this book I was reminded that we must not focus all efforts into only one thing and to clear the mind of anything that could cause confusion. The illustrations were excellent to help shape the story. Perhaps things can be said best by text from the latter part of the book.

In emptiness exists Good but no evil
Wisdom is existence
Principle is existence
The Way is existence
The mind is emptiness
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Perhaps the time of year where I focused on giving Thanks was not an ideal time to read the book. Michael Davison takes a look at all the things wrong with America and how we are ruining ourselves. Many of the ideas are nothing new if you watch the news or follow politics of any nature. As I read the book I could not help but either nod my head in agreement or disagree which is the goal of any book. I could not help but think that this is probably true no matter the time period as I don’t think we are ever really happy with government and politics.
The author does provide solutions. A key component for me when reading or discussion is that if one complains, then one must come up with solutions. I understand his solutions, but at the end of the read I think he realized along with any reader that solutions are next to impossible. There are just too many things at stake, too many fingers in the pot, and to really shift things just does not seem plausible. I found the reading engaging considering it is a book on politics which is not my cup of tea. More importantly, this book is one that would lead to high octane discussions if you wanted to risk friendships to discuss politics. As an educator it would be interesting to read this book and break down ideas and solutions with a classroom.
In the end I am thankful to live in a country where we can openly talk about these topics and that is what makes America great even if we don’t agree with every policy.
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Coffeechug Book Consumption for #2

I had another big week of reading and media consumption. Here is what I digested and thought about them.

 

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Dear Nobody: The True Diary of Mary Rose

Have you ever read a book that you swear just cannot be true? This book is a release of the diary of a girl named Mary Rose. I give the mother much credit for making this happen because it really exposes some serious family flaws. In sharing this story I really hope that it saves a child in need, lacking love, addition flawed, and needing to feel loved. I kept reading this book thinking it was fiction. This story broke my heart, made me feel angry and at times not sorry for what happened to her, sorry for her the next page, and then just grateful for my life. Not sure how else to share thoughts without ruining the story. Give it a read, but know it is open and honest so this is not for anyone under 14 years of age.

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Be A Changemaker

Such a great read. This is the book I have trying to write. She beat me to it and did a much better job than I would have done. What is so great about this book is not the message. Follow your passion is nothing new and often when reading this book I felt like she took a lot of stuff from Angela Maiers. However, what makes this book different is that it provides context in terms of how to actually act on your passion. It provides ideas, tips, reminders, and starting points to get going.

As an adult I took many useful tips to apply to things that I am trying to do as an educator to make change. So even though the book is designed for YA, anyone can benefit. I have many highlights and pages marked to go back to and process, use, and share with students. A really helpful book to read to learn how to get started.

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Beyond Magenta: Transgender Teens Speak

This is a topic that I am not familiar with. This book provoked many questions for me. I had to process and really learn to understand what I was reading. However, it did not take me long to realize that no matter who you are or what you are going through, the problems of growing up is same. We all just want to feel like we belong, that we are accepted for who we are, and loved by our close friends and families. At the end, this book reminded me that we must embrace who we are no matter who we are. When we try to be something we are not to fit in, then this path leads to nothing but a path away from our goals of feeling loved. When we realize to embrace who we are, then things open up and we find out the truth of others. I cannot imagine the confusion of being a transgender, but I found the stories fascinating and reminded me to really be accepting of everyone no matter who they are or what they do.

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Fad Mania: A History of America Crazes

This was a fun read. It is short coming in under 70 pages, but I found the journey down memory lane to be quite enjoyable. This would be a nice addition to any library. The thing I liked most about this book was that it brought into the context the time period of when things developed. It was short and not dense which is a must for students. It also allowed the reader to understand why things occurred. In the end it was a great reminder that all things come to pass no matter how great, bad, stupid, or otherwise. Anytime you bring in nostalgia it makes you want to go back and live in the glory days, but after reading this I also know that what goes around, comes around and if I wait patiently these items will come back.

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Coffeechug Reading and Media Consumption of the Week

Here is a rundown of the books I read this week.

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Eyes Wide Open by Paul Fleischman – This is a book focused on climate change and the environmental headlines facing the world. What I took away from this book is an even more important piece – what it means to be human and care for your surroundings. Reading the book I felt the need to readjust my thinking of what it means to be human. The visuals, the links, and extra resources make this book work for any person including kids. I could not help but see this book as a framework for a classroom exploring projects, the environment, our costs of our decisions, and how to make our voices heard. There is a much bigger issue that must be addressed and the author captures it perfectly through the stories and awareness of the environment.

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Is Nothing Something? by Thich Nhat Hanh – I love books that are so simple and yet so powerful. Thich Nhat Hanh has collected questions posed to him by kids and provides elegant answers to them. You do not have to be Zen or Buddhist to apply these ideas. The heart of these questions are all things we deal with whether a kid or adult. The book comes across like a picture book. My first thought of reading this book was to get it in the hands of my kids. I would love to hold family discussions around these questions. The essence of this book is that it is okay to think what we think, feel how we feel, and know that must embrace who we are.

I am trying to get back to being in shape. Although my eating needs some serious work I have been getting in some good workouts running out in the cold and bike workouts.

This week I finished watching Sound City

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I love music. I love documentaries. This is one of the better things I have watched this year. Even if you don’t like music, you will find some value in watching this documentary. I wrote two blogs posts based on ideas shared in the video which you can read here and here.

I decided to watch this for something different and was not expecting my mind to be blown. Great story about a music studio, but on a grander scale so many things that the people spoke about could be applied to life in general. Tom Petty and Trent Reznor bring some key ideas to light. Very well done!

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Happy

I just needed to watch something different from the norm. I needed something to remind me that the life I have is quite blessed. This documentary reminded me of what is essential in life. When I get stressed or angry about some things I need to step and realize that I need to get off my high horse and get over myself. Life is good. Appreciate your family and friends and don’t lose sight of what is important to being really and truly happy.

 

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Coffeechug Reads: I Am Malala

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I finally got my hands on a copy of this book after waiting patiently for months. I was captivated from the start by reading about her life, journey, and outlook on life. The book offers great insight into world events from the perspective of someone outside of the United States which I found interesting and refreshing.

As I read the book I could not help but continue to think about how in the world we can help students here in America appreciate the wonderful opportunities they have for learning. You could just feel her thirst for knowledge and desire to be educated. Her world shows the power of being literate and knowing how to think for yourself no matter who you are. As an educator I think that so many take school and education for granted. I would go so far to say that this would include parents, communities, and even teachers. Deep down I think everyone agrees about the importance of an education, but we don’t always follow through and deliver on those sentiments. Our society does not hold education in high regard like we do sports, fashion, and being a celebrity.

I will be buying two copies of this book. One for each of my daughters. Every year I buy a book for each of my kids and write a year reflection inside the jacket. I will buy these copies but will have to wait until they are older to give them to them as they are only 3 and 7. They need to hear and read her message. They need to understand the power they have as both kids and girls in this world. They need to learn from her story and fight for what they believe and do not let anyone stop them.

In closing, Malala continues to be one of my favorite people to follow and study. Her life and her message are top notch and more students need to hear her message and words. She should be gaining more press in the end of year celebrations instead of KimYe and Miley Cyrus.

This is a great read to understand life in the Middle East during the last few decades and how despite all obstacles if we are determined we can make things happen just as Malala has done.

My Evernote file of notes on this book will be used over and over again as there is so much to be shared in the future.

Buy the book here.

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Coffeechug Reads: Babe Conquers the World: The Legendary Life of Babe Didrikson Zaharias by Rich Wallace and Sandra Neil Wallace

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Book Description(from Amazon)

Babe Didrikson Zaharias had one driving goal: to become the greatest athlete who ever lived. And she made good on that promise with a meteoric rise to famed basketball player, Olympic medalist, and top female golfer. But there was more to Babe than just sports. Noted novelists and sportswriters Rich and Sandra Wallace expose the many controversies surrounding this famous female athlete—her upbringing, personality, marriage, and even her early death. This action-packed story of a woman, ESPN ranks as #10 of the top North American athletes of the twentieth century also includes personal and professional photographs, quotes, a bibliography, and an index.

Coffeechug Thoughts

I have not read YA in a long time. I have been nominated to be a Cybils judge for the YA Non-Fiction category this year. I will be posting many book reviews in this category and I work though what books I think are the best in this category. I will not share which ones I think are best, but will be offering honest reviews of what I am reading.

Babe is a good read. Right away I could not believe that I was never exposed to her and her story. Having two daughters of my own I think she is one that my daughters need to read about when they get older.

The book reads very easy. I really enjoyed the visuals and pictures along the way. In addition, there are little snippets of historical events and other little gems to help bring the story into context. It is hard to believe how limited women had it not even a hundred years ago. It is amazing how much change has happened since then.

Her journey is a fast paced, hard driven lifestyle that ended way too short. Anyone who has been asked to fly with Amelia Earhart, play golf with Babe Ruth, and break the barriers and records she accomplished should be known. This is a story for both kids and adults. As an educator her story would be an easy way to teach history with students who don’t like history.

You can read more and purchase the book here. If you do buy the book and use my Amazon Affiliate link the money will go towards building a school in Africa.

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Coffeechug Reads: How I Discovered Poetry by Marilyn Nelson

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Book Description From Booklist

In this fictionalized memoir in verse, renowned poet Nelson lyrically recounts her passage from ages 4 to 14, from numerous military base homes; through friends, schools, and dogs; and from developmental stages of initiative through industry to identity. Chronicling the decade of 1950s America, a young self-aware speaker connects national events to daily life experiences. In the author’s note of her self-ascribed “portrait of an artist as a young American Negro girl,” Nelson disclaims that the “I” in the title is she. Rather, her autobiographically inspired collection of 50 nonrhyming sonnets is enhanced by research and imagination. The title poem comes near the end and is breathtaking in the perverse cruelty the young speaker experiences from an educator. Hooper’s line-and-shade illustrations, along with Nelson’s family photos, set a quiet and respectful tone and offer readers the feeling of taking an unsolicited peek behind a heavy curtain. For fans of Nelson’s impressive body of children’s and adult poetry, including the brilliant A Wreath for Emmett Till (2005), this insight into her modulated memories gratifies that heartfelt belief that here writes a woman of great substance. Grades 7-12. –Gail Bush

 

Coffeechug Thoughts

I have not read YA in a long time. I have been nominated to be a Cybils judge for the YA Non-Fiction category this year. I will be posting many book reviews in this category and I work though what books I think are the best in this category. I will not share which ones I think are best, but will be offering honest reviews of what I am reading.

This is a short book of poetry, however loaded with so many powerful verses. What I value in quality poetry is that it is not the words that are written but the empty spaces that fill your brain with thought, ideas, and questions. Marilyn Nelson writes through the voice of a kid growing up during Civil Rights. I am amazed by how adults can speak a genuine voice of adolescence.

These are poems that need to be read slowly so that the reader can process the time period, the emotions, and how kids see the world. Through their eyes that are naive the world of serious conflict does not seem so massive, but still influential.

Reading this book has reignited by passion for reading other poetry. This would also be a great addition to a classroom that studies this time period.

You can read more and purchase the book here. If you do buy the book and use my Amazon Affiliate link the money will go towards building a school in Africa.

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