User Reviews

Reviews by glanderson
If we could snap our fingers and instantly transform American schooling into Salman Khan’s vision, we would have a better educational system--not perfect but better. Khan’s credibility comes from the success of his online learning system, Khan Academy. At this point, Khan Academy has not demonstrated that it has a command of literacy pedagogy, although it is clearly a useful tool for math and some science concepts.

In THE ONE WORLD SCHOOLHOUSE, Khan correctly criticizes the forces of entropy and tradition that mark the way America does school. Why do we group students by age? Why do we separate courses from each other? Why do we impose time limits on units within those courses? Why do we spend roughly one-fourth of the school year in idle? We know these approaches run contrary to how learning works, but we do them anyway. I wish Khan’s book provided insights into how to weaken the powers that hold in place outdated practices.
What Took Me So Long?
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How have I missed this until now? It's a masterpiece.

Hemingway's The Old Man and the Sea is a book students frequently choose when they want something short with no big words. Reading it fast is probably not the best way to absorb this though.

The Old Man and the Sea works brilliantly in every way I can think of. It's a great story and great story-telling. It's an excellent fishing story and adventure story, and I'd even count it as a sports story. The language is beautiful, and the allegory rewards pondering.

Although I'm not much of a re-reader, I'll probably visit Santiago again.
Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter
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Alternating between a tiny Italian coastal village in the early 1960s and present-day Hollywood, Beautiful Ruins gives us the story of a young American starlet who didn’t quite make it big, a young Italian hotel owner with dreams of the big-time, a washed-up rock musician, and … Richard Burton.  Author Jess Walter artfully blends all of these plot threads in a bright, entertaining, and sometimes devastating drama that stands in contrast to the fabulous fiasco of the Liz-and-Dick Cleopatra movie and a misguided unmade film about the doomed Donner party. Although some of the dialogue and situations seems a little too much in places, Beautiful Ruins is a captivating novel about the kinds of choices we can make when things get messy, as they inevitably do.

Chip Kidd is the graphic designer of more than a thousand book covers, including Jurassic Park's iconic black-on-white T-rex.  Kidd’s Go:  A Kidd’s Guide to Graphic Design is an entertaining and enlightening trip through graphic design principles that will have readers closely examining the ways that images and typography mix to grab our attention.  Abundantly illustrated with examples from his own work and those of other graphic designers, Go is relevant, interesting, and useful for young designers working with both print and digital designs.

Arne Bellstorf’s graphic “novel” Baby’s in Black is the true story of Astrid who becomes involved with Stuart, a guy who plays in a band. He likes the band scene but really wants to be a painter. Astrid becomes friends with the other guys in the band too as she helps Stuart follow his true artistic calling. The girl is Astrid Kirchherr, and her boyfriend is Stuart Sutcliffe. The year is 1960, and the band is The Beatles–at that time John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, Stuart Sutcliffe, and Pete Best.

Baby’s in Black comes at the well-known Beatles story by focusing on their friends, Astrid and Klaus Voormann, two German fans and talented artists who are also interested in French art and culture. Bellstorf illuminates what it was like to be around The Beatles in those early days when they were playing nightly at The Cavern, a dingy working-class club in Hamburg, Germany. The Beatles were pure rock and roll, but many of their fans and friends lived at the nexus of the European art world and the rock world.

The convergence of these worlds provides the primary story line of Baby’s in Black–the relationship between Astrid and Stuart–but we also see the other Beatles as secondary characters at this remarkable time in their career. John Lennon is the band’s leader, stormy in outlook and uncompromising in his belief in the band. George Harrison is the 17-year old guitar wonder not legally old enough to be playing in the clubs where The Beatles were making their mark. Paul McCartney is the charismatic musician whose stage presence is a huge part of the band’s appeal. Pete Best is barely seen, foreshadowing that his time with the band will end shortly after this period. Bellstorf presents The Beatles as a tight group who kept most people at a distance: “They share their own special humor,” as Klaus says.

Baby’s in Black provides enough glimpses into Beatles lore to satisfy fans. The Astrid Kirchherr photo session that produced the early iconic images of The Beatles in leather and pompadours is chronicled here, and we see allusions to Astrid’s contributions to the Beatles’ moptop haircuts. Bellstorf also fully imagines the apocryphal moment when Klaus approaches John to show him some album cover art and John tells him, “You’re better off showing Stuart summat like that.” Several years later, of course, Klaus designed the well-known Revolver album cover, a black-and-white rendering, which this book’s design echoes.

The drawings here are simple but evocative, much like the rock music The Beatles were playing in the Cavern years. Some of the characters look quite a bit alike but maybe that’s part of the point. Klaus, John, and George are almost indistinguishable in appearance except for their noses.

Baby’s in Black will appeal to those young readers who wear Beatles shirts more than 40 years after the band’s demise, as well as those interested in the indie music scene, classic rock, or the artistic life. Teachers and librarians for middle grades should know that Baby’s in Black features a lot of smoking. That’s an understatement. Cigarette smoke appears (to great effect) in almost every panel. Other possible areas of concern include a couple of drug references and one f-bomb. But that’s rock and roll.  

 
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6.012 Patron-Generated Content

04/27/2011
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