Category Archives: In The News

Book Review: The One and Only Ivan

One of my favorite books of 2012, The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate, is freshly relevant, after the death of the real Ivan in August.  After reading Applegate’s verse novel, you may also enjoy following the adventures of a toy Ivan with Mr. Schu, author of the excellent book blog Mr. Schu Reads.  (Grade level 4+)

The One and Only Ivan

The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

In addition to being an overall wonderful book, there are several specific elements which will make it useful in the classroom. First, it is fiction inspired by a true story, and that combination of research and invention is a valuable skill that is rarely emphasized in traditional curricula. Second, the author has found a form that is halfway between prose and poetry which perfectly suits the narrating character’s personality, and she occasionally varies that form to great dramatic effect. Third, although the bad guy is clearly doing the wrong thing, the book also shows that there may be complicated reasons leading to such mistakes. Finally, like Charlotte’s Web, this is a story that deploys animals to teach humans how to care for others; in Ivan, however, the human characters participate in the animals’ big plan a little more actively (including facing a situation just as complex and difficult as the bad guy’s, but this time making a sacrifice and doing the right thing), suggesting that it is essential for people to take responsibility to translate the lesson of a book into real-life change. Definitely a Newbery 2013 contender.

View all my reviews

Happy Labor Day!

Labor Day is a holiday created to honor the contributions of workers.  For some people, it is a time to remember the accomplishments of workers’ unions, specifically.

(Art by Ricardo Levins Morales.)

The National Education Association has compiled a series of resources for learning about Labor Day.

Personally, I am always drawn to the history of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory for three reasons: (1) I am interested in fashion history, (2) I am interested in women’s rights, and (3) I was born on March 25, the same day as the tragedy.  If the Triangle Factory story is interesting to you, too, Margaret Peterson Haddix wrote an interesting historical fiction novel about that event called Uprising.  Libraries are closed today for the holiday, but you can check the book out tomorrow!

More popularly, of course, it marks the cultural end of summer (fashion experts used to instruct us to only wear the color white during the summer, between Memorial Day and Labor Day).  Most schools begin the new school year this week.  Stores have lots of sales.  And I visit the beach for that one time a year when I am willing to get a sunburn.

Reassuring Children After A Tragedy

Following the recent violence at a midnight showing of the new Batman movie, children may have fears or anxiety about their own safety.  The National Association of School Psychologists has an excellent fact sheet about how to talk to children about such violence, and also how to protect them from those parts of the issue they are not yet mature enough to deal with.

CNN also has five tips for parentswho are struggling with how to explain the Colorado tragedy without scaring their children.

ELL Families: Here is a version of the NASP fact sheet that you can copy and paste into a translation program.

It is also helpful to remind children who have moved from a smaller country that America is a very big space.  If you are in Boston, the Colorado shootings happened almost 2,000 miles away – slightly less than the distance from Seoul to Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon), and slightly more than Rome to Baghdad.  Although this tragedy happened here in the US,  for most children it fortunately did not happen in the area they consider “here.”