“There is a whole series of events, along with some poor choices, that lead a person to Sing Sing. In some cases they never had a chance at a normal life from day one.” page 3
Refuge in Hell: Finding God in Sing Sing by Ronald D. Lemmert.
Orbis Books, Maryknoll, New York, 2018.
Nonfiction/memoir, 186 pages.
The story of a chaplain at Sing Sing, New York’s infamous prison, over the 16 years he worked there.
I debated quite a bit over whether to review this one. Our church library has been getting quite a few of these Orbis books with the little red dots. They’re Christian, but cover a lot of social justice topics, which it’s nice to see people getting interested in locally.
Lemmert himself is not diverse within his own context. But the people he works with definitely are, and can be counted among the most disenfranchised in America. So in the end that tipped the scales in favor of reviewing this book, especially since I had several other books on imprisonment to read and review. Continue reading “Review: Refuge in Hell”
Some thoughts on a slightly controversial children’s book.
Giving Thanks: The 1621 Harvest Feast by Kate Waters, photographs by Russ Kendall, in cooperation with the Plimoth Plantation.
Scholastic, New York, 2001.
Picture book, 40 pages.
Lexile: 620L .
AR Level: 3.9 (worth 0.5) .
NOTE: There is another book by the same title but subtitled “A Native American Good Morning Message.”
A 1621 harvest feast as seen through the eyes of two boys, reenacted at Plimoth Plantation.
I feel it’s important to note that this book is on the former Oyate’s List of Thanksgiving Books to Avoid. That’s part of why I checked it out from the library instead of buying. However, I couldn’t find any in-depth reviews, so I decided to look through it myself to see how suitable, if at all, this would be for teaching about the holiday.
Because this is one of the Oyate Books to Avoid, the format of this review will look rather different than most. I decided to use the 11 Myths about Thanksgiving template to consider this book. My overall thoughts will follow. Continue reading “Review: Giving Thanks 1621”
“Today it is very hard for me to sit still. Chinese New Year starts tonight. And tomorrow morning, I will dance in the street.” page 7
Lion Dancer: Ernie Wan’s Chinese New Year by Kate Waters and Madeline Slovenz-Low, photographs by Martha Cooper.
Scholastic, New York, 1990.
Nonfiction picture book, 32 pages.
Lexile: 540L .
AR Level: 2.9 (worth 0.5 points) .
The is the story of six-year-old Ernie Wan’s first Lion Dance, which he’s been preparing for since he was three. For the Chinese New Year, he will perform on the streets of New York City.
Ernie is one-fifth of a loving family. His father is, according to the dust jacket text, “a kung fu master” so studying kung fu is very important to his family. (I put that portion in quotes not because I disbelieve his qualifications but because I wasn’t sure if that’s how he would describe himself. Often the jacket text isn’t written by the author so it’s difficult to tell just how accurate this might be.)
“The Wampanoag culture is a living culture. Today there are many Wampanoag people living in Massachusetts and Rhode Island.” p. 37
Tapenum’s Day: A Wampanoag Indian Boy in Pilgrim Times by Kate Waters, Photographs by Russ Kendall.
Scholastic, New York, 1996.
Informative fiction, 40 pages.
Lexile: 680L .
AR Level: 4.6 (worth 0.5 points) .
The story of a Wampanoag boy in the 1620s. While others in this series follow an imaginary day in the life of a recorded person, this book aims to show what daily indigenous life was like at the time and place of the Plimoth settlement.
It was with great relief that I found and read this book. Diverse books about Thanksgiving are in short supply, and it is one of the holidays always in demand from both families and teachers.
Before reading it, however, I was sorely disappointed in many of the reviews. Quite a few people made basic errors despite having supposedly read the book. Some confused the time period, assuming it takes place in the present day. Others confused the location, assuming that this one story about the Wampanoag people in what is now Massachusetts/Rhode Island represents an entire continent of indigenous peoples.
The errors in reviewing made it very difficult to determine if I should buy this, so to clarify – this is very clearly a book about Wampanoag life in the 1620s. The one confusion I could see is that a specific date is not given on the title page. However there are four pages of notes outlining the historical and geographical setting so even a cursory glance should clarify when and where this book is set.
“The typical higher education board is 30 percent women, and 10 percent people of color. At Arrupe, 50 percent of our board members are women and 57 percent are people of color.” p. 65
Come to Believe: How the Jesuits are Reinventing Education (Again) – Inside the First Year of the New Arrupe College by Stephen N. Katsouros.
Orbis Books, Maryknoll, New York, 2017.
Non-fiction, 181 pages.
The first year of Arrupe college, a two-year, debt-free Associate’s Degree program aimed at providing low-income, first generation minority college students with a high quality liberal arts education.
A friend recommended this. First, I will mention that this is religious because the author is Jesuit priest. So he talks about homilies and Bible stories and there is a religious motivation behind this college (the name of it is based off of a famous Jesuit apparently). However, I did also feel that this book could be read by non-religious people too. Most of the book is focused on creating the college whether it’s the practicalities or the stories of different students.
“Just outside the city, as the sky seemed to expand and the barren mountain range came into full view, we pulled over to buy two stalks of sugarcane from a street merchant.” p. 122
On That Day, Everybody Ate: One Woman’s Story of Hope and Possibility in Haiti by Margaret Trost.
Koa Books, Kihei, Hawai’i, 2008.
Non-fiction/memoir, 143 pages. n
The story of Margaret Trost’s experiences with Haiti which led to her developing a charity to feed and aid children in partnership with a parish there.
Although I’m trying to focus on Africa this year, I went down a rabbit hole because I got interested in Haiti after seeing Rebecca’s Caribbean reading goal. I’ve seen lots of books around about the earthquake and have even read a few, but I really wanted to read books written before 2010.
Facile’s is excited about his new baby sister, Lucia, but he doesn’t have a gift for her. When he was born, Papa planted a mango tree for him, but now Papa is working in the city. Can Facile plant a tree for Lucia?
First I want to note that this book was published in 2005, so it’s that rare children’s book about Haiti that has nothing to do with the earthquake.
“How does a teenager come to hold such a view? The answer is simple: people taught him.” p. xii
Acts of Faith: The Story of an American Muslim, the Struggle for the Soul of a Generation by Eboo Patel.
Beacon Press, Boston, Massachusetts, 2007.
Adult nonfiction/autobiography, 189 pages.
Part autobiography, part nonfiction, this is the story of Eboo Patel’s life, how it could easily have been so very different, and what he feels is most important for young people today.
This was a very unique read. Patel intersperses the story of his own life with a look at the way various Western minority youth were influenced by religious extremists and carried out various acts of violence.
Kisses from Katie: A Story of Relentless Love and Redemption by Katie Davis with Beth Clark.
Howard Books, Simon & Schuster, New York, 2011.
Memoir, 264 pages.
Lexile: not leveled
AR Level: 6.6 (worth 13.0 points) .
This is a story of a young American who moved to Uganda, adopted 13 girls, and started a non-profit, motivated by her belief that Jesus was calling her there.
Kisses for Katie is very religious. I knew from the subtitle and her blog that this book was Christian, but didn’t expect it to be so heavy-handed. I was also confused about the intended audience. Given that literally every page included at least one reference to God, praying, or religion, one would assume this is a specialty book intended for a specifically Christian audience. However, there are repeated points where commonly known Bible stories are summarized as if to someone unfamiliar with Christianity.
“Their success is not exceptional or mysterious. It is grounded in a web of advantages and inheritances, some deserved, some not, some earned, some just plain lucky – but all critical to making them who they are.” page 285
Outliers: The Story of Success by Malcolm Gladwell.
Little, Brown, and Company, New York, 2008.
Adult nonfiction, 309 pages including notes and index.
Lexile: 1080L .
AR Level: 7.8 (worth 13.0 points) .
What do geniuses, rice paddies, hockey players, a Korean airline, a small town in Kentucky, and young Jamaican twins have to do with each other? These topics and more are woven together in Gladwell’s explanation of success.
This book goes beyond the ten thousand hours to achieve mastery theory to examine what else can effect our success or failure in life. Gladwell looks at how community can change health, how Germany jumpstarted the Beatles, what made one Jewish lawyer wildly successful while his father struggled, and what linguistic difference makes Chinese children understand math more easily.