I was just thinking that I have not shared a good read with you lately, and out of sheer coincidence something happened that reminded me of one of my favorite books.
I have to say, I am kind of disappointed in myself because I haven’t made much time for reading in the past few weeks. It is one of my most beloved activities but sometimes I get caught up in everything that’s going on around me, and I forget to take a moment to just sit, relax and do something quiet. Hopefully when work at the pool is finished (September 11 is the final day THANK GOSH!) I will have more opportunity, but for now, I have an awesome excuse to crack open a book at school.
You see, we were a thrown a little curve ball last week at in-service. The woman who was supposed to come down from the high school to teach the English lessons was dismissed from her position to seek mental help. She is allowed to return, but only when evaluated by a professional and word on the street, it’s not looking likely anytime in the near future. This meant, for the time being, there was no CLIIP English teacher for the secondary students. Not many educators are enthusiastic to volunteer to walk down to the trailer, all the way across campus, and deal with a population that doesn’t have the best reputation, so as of last Thursday the administrators were pretty much scrambling. If worse came to worse, my male counterpart is English certified, but that meant there was just me, to observe that all 14 of the students were behaving, and staying on task. This may seem like it would be hard, but its only day 2 and I have already had a student refuse to enter the middle school, even though he is supposed to spend half his day in his actual grade, 37453757 million statements of “I’m bored,” “this sucks,” “there are too many rules, and “I don’t want to do work.” These are very mild compared to some of the stuff we dealt with last year, but I can already tell this group will be a handful. They literally cannot sit still for a second.
But anyway, back to the lack of an English instructor, and a seriously awesome book. Finally, they found a woman to temporarily fill the position, who is really nice and seems to do great with a pretty difficult bunch, but the best part was in the time that it took to find her, the principal of CLIIP and my co-worker came up with a pretty amazing way to start the year. They selected two books that I would recommend for anyone to read and if you cannot get through, at least the one (the one I am about to tell you about in a few short sentences) then you probably don’t enjoy reading much of anything.
So up first on the syllabus, the book I absolutely recommend for you to pick up if you any interest in history, creativity, and the betterment of mankind, is MAUS.
MAUS (which is German for Mouse) is not your typical historical book by any means. It is considered to be a graphic novel, done by the son of a Holocaust survivor, who is also an artist for the New Yorker, and other big print journals. Through many more drawings than words, Art Spiegelman tells the story of his father alternating between past events, before and during World War II, and Vladek’s life after coming to the U.S. One of the most creative elements is the fact that Spiegelman uses animals as a metaphor for different “categories” of people. He utilizes mice to depict the Jews, mean, angry looking cats as Germans, frogs to represent the French, etc. Obviously the plot is wonderful because it preserves a piece of history that should never be forgotten, but the unique characterization and to the point writing makes for a perfect way to learn about a heavy subject in a less intimidating manner.
My husband Ryan was the first person to ever introduce me to the story, back when I was in college and struggling to find ways to explain the horrific experiences of those persecuted by the Nazis, without a. using more time than was allotted in the classroom and b. wasn’t a dry textbook or completely devastating memoir.
So one night as I was going through my senior seminar, coming up with units and lessons, Ryan brought me his copy of the book and sung its praises. Now this is saying a lot, considering it is a rarity to see this man read anything other than Golf Digest or Tweets on his phone. If he was saying he enjoyed the book, then I absolutely had to read it immediately and consider it for the class.
I couldn’t put it down. It only took me two afternoons to finish it, which really isn’t hard because it is a lot of pictures, but I knew he was right that this could totally resonate with high schoolers. Then, in my holocaust studies class not one semester later, the professor also selected this as one of our secondary texts! It was like MAUS was everywhere and even though I had studied history for the majority of my school careers, had a particular interest in this time period and event, I had never heard of it!
The book again came to life when I brought it into school to loan to another teacher, who quickly returned it agreeing with my review. So for a few months the book was sitting in my desk, waiting for me to bring it home, when detention struck. At this time the CLIIPers had an English teacher that assigned them to read a certain number of pages each week, and then write a short summary called a “bookmark.” The average English grade was actually a D- because no one did these gosh darn assignments, and toward the end of the year, to ensure not everyone would fail, we started assigning an afternoon “study hall” aka detention. Of course, many students would forget to bring any sort of reading material, so I handed out my copy of MAUS. He never read it in its entirety of course, but he was open to idea and actually seemed relatively excited to continue it this year. I am really hoping it will get through to the class. In today’s society intolerance is still very much an issue and perhaps this will open their eyes to a horrific tragedy that occurred just because someone did not like another who was different. Oh man, I don’t think I have ever been this excited to start a unit!
So if you appreciate history, unique style and a pretty captivating read, you might want to pick up MAUS. However it may not be for you if you a serious reader, who only likes lengthy traditional texts, because it most definitely it NOT that. And if you are on the fence, just keep in mind the fact that this was the only “comic” to ever win a Pulitzer…perhaps that’s saying something!
Any new books to suggest???
As it gets colder I love to curl up by the fire with a good read 🙂