In this first-person narrative, Lucy tells about her experience living in Ethiopia as a ferenji, a foreigner. Her mom is the U.S. Ambassador to EthiopIn this first-person narrative, Lucy tells about her experience living in Ethiopia as a ferenji, a foreigner. Her mom is the U.S. Ambassador to Ethiopia, so she lives a luxurious and sheltered life. But she really wants to get out and experience the country and culture. As a result, she reacts negatively to her mother's over-protectiveness, and she sometimes sneaks out with her friend to explore the city.
Unfortunately, this eventually leads to a terrible event. She is kidnapped. That's not the kind of adventure she had been dreaming of. At thirteen years old, she has to use her unique knowledge and skills to keep herself calm and adjust to her new scary reality.
Yohalem's first novel is a successful adventure that will keep readers guessing. This book is nominated for the 2012-2013 Texas Bluebonnet Award (Grades 3-6), but its tone and themes will likely be most interesting for grades 5-8 and higher....more
Because it is written to a broader audience, this book by Rorty is much easier to read than his famous Philosophy and the Mirror of Nature. In it, heBecause it is written to a broader audience, this book by Rorty is much easier to read than his famous Philosophy and the Mirror of Nature. In it, he compares "the Left" in the U.S. before and after the 1960's.
He suggests that there has not really been a politically active Left in the past several decades because there has been a shift from a focus on helping people "who were humiliated by poverty and unemployment" to helping people "who are humiliated for reasons other than economic status" (80). The latter part has been done by the "Cultural Left," often outside of the domain of politics, which has suited well the super rich who run the country (and the world). They are happy to allow people into the "overclass" (the top 25% economically -- not the elite rich), as long as the focus in society is on cultural diversity instead of economic fairness.
This book is challenging and motivating in many ways. It is an example of the kind of book Rorty discusses in his appendix, "The Inspirational Value of Great Works." It does not simply try to impart knowledge; it also seeks to inspire hope, and hopefully action. In this way it is "Leftist" because hope for a better future is the domain of the Left (in contrast to the Right, which either wishes to return to a perceived ideal past or protect a perfect present). ...more
Funny, silly, adventurous, scary. . . fun -- this book is a great chapter book for middle to upper elementary grades. Misty has a weird family (how maFunny, silly, adventurous, scary. . . fun -- this book is a great chapter book for middle to upper elementary grades. Misty has a weird family (how many readers already relate?), and her life is pretty typical, until events take a turn for the better? / worse? / strange! Her dad's job includes reading the obituaries every morning and then jumping into his converted ice cream truck (which still plays the music) to drive to the house of the deceased and see what articles he can get for his resale shop.
After a long-time resident of their small town passes away, and Misty goes with her dad on the house call, the plot of this book takes a 90 degree turn. She and her best friend end up trying to figure out the answers to some strange mysteries that keep getting stranger and more mysterious. They learn some history about their town as they delve deeper into their adventure.
There are some references to the supernatural and the occult that might concern some parents, but it is a very well-written book that would be fun as a family or class read. This book has been nominated for the 2012-2013 Texas Bluebonnet Award, and it has a good chance at winning that prize (all dependent on how students react). ...more
If you are in the choir and are interested in hearing more of what you have always heard, this is the book for you. Chan and Sprinkle’s book is not juIf you are in the choir and are interested in hearing more of what you have always heard, this is the book for you. Chan and Sprinkle’s book is not just for those who support the doctrine of hell as a literal place where nonbelievers will be tortured forever. It is that, but it is also aimed at readers who are not interested in being challenged by any new information on the subject of hell. It is a 163-page cliché with a catchy title.
That sounds a little severe, and it may be. But I have my reasons for leaning toward severity. Chan says that he wanted to “figure out if the Bible actually taught the existence of a literal hell” (14) and recommends that you should not “believe something just because you want to, and [that you should not] embrace an idea just because you’ve always believed it” (15). However, the tone of the book indicates that he has not taken his own advice. I started reading the book when it was first published because some friends were talking about how great it was. I would not have finished it except that one of them lent me his copy. I didn’t want to be accused of not listening to the opinions of opposing camps, so I finally finished the book. I have no problem reading anyone’s opinion, but I would like to spend those hours of my life listening to someone who is an honest and careful thinker.
I acknowledge that the Bible does have passages that seem to be about “a literal hell.” I also think it would be insincere to argue that the Bible does not contain passages that seem to suggest that that is a place where God will torture certain people forever. However, the Bible also contains passages whose most direct readings say that God will save everyone in the end. Chan and Sprinkle gloss over or ignore any texts from the Bible or from other writers that suggest anything contrary to their a priori thesis. This is unfortunate and, in my opinion, at least borders on dishonesty. If you would like to read a more serious treatment of the subject, I recommend Thomas Talbott’s The Inescapable Love of God. Talbott is a Christian Universalist, but he argues Chan and Sprinkle’s positions more cogently than they do. Another one that is likely to be much better as well, though I cannot recommend it since I haven’t read it, is Universal Salvation?: The Current Debate, edited by Christopher H. Partridge.
If you are an Evangelical Christian and need another book to get you excited about witnessing to the lost, Chan and Sprinkle’s book might do that for you. Chan tells his story about how, as a result of writing this book, he has been challenged to do more than just enjoy life like those he sees around him in Starbucks. He wants to make a difference. For him, that means that he needs to share with people his fear that they may suffer eternally in the hands of an angry God if they don’t get on the right path. I empathize with his yearning not to live as an automaton. However, I was unconvinced by the research, writing, or level of intellectual honesty that his book is a reflection of. I don’t think that this book will be of use to anyone in the pews or on the street. It is written for the choir. ...more
Set in New York City in the late 1970s, this beautifully planned and executed book definitely deserves its 2010 Newbery Medal. Twelve-year-old MirandaSet in New York City in the late 1970s, this beautifully planned and executed book definitely deserves its 2010 Newbery Medal. Twelve-year-old Miranda is her own person in many ways, but she still faces the same problems that others her age (and other ages) do. Do people like her? What really matters in her life? Why did she do what she did? Why did her friend say what he or she said?
So her life is "normal" (with the exception of some normal weird things -- the homeless laughing man who lives on the street in her block, the idiosyncracies of her friends and acquaintances, the way her mom dresses). But then she seems to lose her best friend. And she starts getting unusual notes. . . that are kind of scary when she thinks about what they say. Those who have read Miranda's favorite book, L'Engle's A Wrinkle in Time, will be able to see Miranda's world a little closer to the way she does. And they may, with the help of Stead and/or some of her characters, anticipate plot twists even before Miranda.
The characters in this story are well-developed, and the reader closes the cover at the end with the feeling that she or he has visited another real place, with real, interesting people. This is a sure sign of a good story. What became of Miranda, the laughing man, Sal, Jimmy, Colin, Annemarie, Marcus, Julia, and the others? Will I get to see them again in another place, or will I have to read the book again? ...more
Though Montgomery might not entirely appreciate the comparison, the reading of this book is in many ways reminiscent of reading Dan Brown's The Da VinThough Montgomery might not entirely appreciate the comparison, the reading of this book is in many ways reminiscent of reading Dan Brown's The Da Vinci Code. There are personal "everyday" stories of potential romance interfiled between heart-thumping sequences in which you're wondering if who you thought was the protagonist is going to survive. Add to that a good dose of political and religious conspiracy, and you have a fun, page-turning debut novel from Luke Montgomery.
This story is written by someone who uses a pseudonym, apparently because of religious opposition to some of the versions of history that are espoused by certain characters in the book. Montgomery, an American, spent years in "the Muslim world" and is apparently fluent in Turkish language and culture. The story itself hops around the globe, but several key parts take place in Turkey. It follows the family of a well-known history scholar who stumbles on an ancient document that quickly proves relevant to more than his small circle of colleagues.
I think that, for the most part, different views across the religious and political spectrum that includes American and western democracy and Christianity, as well as Muslim and eastern thought, are fairly represented in the story and characters. Because of the story's relevance to current politics, news, and cultural changes, it readily invites a sequel. The boundaries between fiction and reality are also tested for readers who visit web sites mentioned in the book that contain secret correspondence between spies, and even more so if readers follow Montgomery's frequent postings online....more
This is a (successful) attempt at a reconstruction of a several synchronic slices of American thought, mostly following the Civil War. Menand focusesThis is a (successful) attempt at a reconstruction of a several synchronic slices of American thought, mostly following the Civil War. Menand focuses on four thinkers he thinks most influenced modern American gestalt before the Cold War. They include the three most familiar names in American "Pragmatism," Charles Peirce, William James, and John Dewey, along with Oliver Wendell Holmes. Menand also considers briefly why their thought has arisen again as relevant in the twenty-first century.
Though it doesn't hurt to be interested in philosophy to read this book, because it is written as history, with many inter-connected stories weaving in and out of descriptions of thinkers' lectures, books, and articles, anyone who is interested in the backgrounds and causes of "culture" will likely enjoy this book. It is probably also true that since a key feature of pragmatism is contingency, it could be said that Menand's approach is pragmatic. He tells the stories of these men, as well as their families, friends, and other people in their lives. How did Holmes's experience in the Civil War lead to his part in forming modern conceptions of freedom of expression? How did Dewey's conversations with Jane Addams affect his enormous influence on American education? Menand suggests that you can't understand these philosophers' expressions of their ideas without the context of the generation of those thoughts.
Some of the chapters in this book read like a novel, with pages quickly turned in order to see how he or she responded to what she or he just did. Others require slowing down and a little re-reading. Menand holds these parts together and offers a great book that is well-worth the time to read it....more
Graff has created another winner (after The Thing About Georgie). Ten-year-old protagonist, Annie, learns to deal with loss in this fun but sensitiveGraff has created another winner (after The Thing About Georgie). Ten-year-old protagonist, Annie, learns to deal with loss in this fun but sensitive story. The reader gets to know Annie, her family, and friends from around the neighborhood as she follows Annie's journey through grief. There are plenty of funny parts in the story, but Graff addresses the serious main topic in a way that can be appreciated by readers of many ages....more
Twelve-year-old Jake doesn't seem to have adjusted to his parents' disappearance three years prior as well as his older sister, Kady, has. She is partTwelve-year-old Jake doesn't seem to have adjusted to his parents' disappearance three years prior as well as his older sister, Kady, has. She is part of the popular crowd at school, but all he can think of is how he will one day become an archaeologist like them and figure out what happened to them.
This first story in the series begins in what appears to be a normal American setting, but it quickly changes dramatically as Jake and Kady end up suddenly thrust into a very unexpected adventure. Readers learn about several ancient cultures, with this book focusing mostly on the Mayan culture. The next installment in the series revolves more around ancient Egypt.
This promises to be an interesting series for fantasy and adventure lovers....more
The words of this book are placed in the format of poetry, with short lines and lots of white space. However, the text reads more like prose.
It tellsThe words of this book are placed in the format of poetry, with short lines and lots of white space. However, the text reads more like prose.
It tells of a boy's trip from Sudan to his new home in Minnesota. He's lost people close to him but still hopes to be reunited with one. Readers are introduced to many of the challenges that immigrants face, from language to culture. Tek also must deal with some terrible experiences he lived through in his native country.
This book can be a great way for upper-elementary children to experience cultural differences that may help them see other people with new eyes. It may also help many readers reflect on their own experiences and how they can strive for better futures....more
Philosopher, Comte-Sponville offers insight into his own spiritual journey. In the process, he summarizes thoughts of other philosophers and thinkersPhilosopher, Comte-Sponville offers insight into his own spiritual journey. In the process, he summarizes thoughts of other philosophers and thinkers on the subjects of religion, God, and spirituality.
He doesn't believe that spirituality has to include God or be limited to the domain of religion. He gives examples of times in his life when he has felt so much a part of nature that he considered them spiritual experiences. The contrast between transcendence and immanence plays an important part in his thinking. The universe is all there is, and he is part of the universe. During his spiritual experiences, he wasn't thinking about God who'd created the environment around him; nor was he evaluating his own thoughts. He was just being.
This is a book that can be read again and again by anyone who is interested in hearing the thoughts of someone who clearly seeks to learn and experience life rather than just tying himself to dogmas. ...more
Chesterton knows how to turn a phrase. The book is full of creative metaphors. Unfortunately, he doesn't seem to have a clear goal for the book. Or ifChesterton knows how to turn a phrase. The book is full of creative metaphors. Unfortunately, he doesn't seem to have a clear goal for the book. Or if he does, maybe it was meant only for his own knowledge.
There are moments of illumination, where one of his ideas shines through. However, in general, his approach of trying to say something that is the opposite of what the reader expects and then prove it to be normal and true becomes a little tiresome.
His main thesis may be that Christian orthodoxy is true because it holds so many apparent contradictions. In his personal journey, he discovered truths outside of Christianity that he later found to be better explained by Christianity.
This is the sort of book that might prove to be someone's favorite after several readings. ...more
Bayard's cute title shouldn't prevent anyone who is interested in discussions about reading and the dissemination of ideas from reading this book. HeBayard's cute title shouldn't prevent anyone who is interested in discussions about reading and the dissemination of ideas from reading this book. He walks through many examples from literature to illustrate that a written text is not a sacred, static object. Once a book is written, it may become part of the "collective library" of a culture. Whether or not someone has read it, it influences her or him, directly or indirectly. If discussed directly, it becomes part of the constantly shifting shared "virtual library" of the participants in the discussion. Even if someone has not read the book, or if s/he has read and forgotten most of it, s/he can say something about its place in the collective library -- how it relates to other books and ideas.
Each person is shaped by her or his "inner library". This library is made of those books and ideas that are most important to the person and might even be said to define who s/he is. Any time someone interacts with a book, s/he is evaluating it in light of her or his inner library. The book that s/he is discussing will never be the same book that participants in the discussion are thinking about. This is because one reader remembers certain parts and has colored them according to her or his inner library. A second reader is focusing on other parts, emphasized in different ways. For this reason, someone who has not read the book at all may have points about it that are just as valid or more so than the those of the readers.
Bayard's book is creative, thought provoking, and fun to read....more
In this half-memoir/half-critique, Schaeffer argues that religious fundamentalists share some basic attitudes with some current atheist writers, the "In this half-memoir/half-critique, Schaeffer argues that religious fundamentalists share some basic attitudes with some current atheist writers, the "new atheists". Throughout the text, he presents some of his personal background, which includes having grown up in a famous "evangelical/fundamentalist" family. He knows many of the recent and current Evangelical Christian leaders, and is able to give some personal anecdotes, as well as responses to what they've written or stated publicly.
The main parallel that he draws between "evangelical/fundamentalists" (he contrasts this group with some evangelical Christians who he does not think fit into this category) and "new atheists" is their lack of humility in their approach to questions that cannot possibly be definitively answered by a human today. He believes that the only honest and healthy approach to questions about the universe and man's "spiritual" nature is to acknowledge both what is overwhelmingly demonstrable as true (e.g., the scientific support for evolution; Schaeffer doesn't really argue for or against it in this book but accepts it as a default, received truth, and a jumping point for follow-up arguments) and what is clearly wrong (e.g., the "inerrancy" of "the bible"; this he points out with a few examples of basic contradictions in the text, as well as ethically insulting stories).
Schaeffer's argument is effective because it is based on what appears to be a sincere attempt in his life to listen to others. He lists good arguments of those whose main points he disagrees with, though he shows little patience for those whose tone doesn't ask for it. He essentially argues that people would be much better off and happier if we would listen to each other and realize that we are evolving in our understanding of our place in the universe. One weakness of the book is an inconsistent voice in the text, which sometimes becomes too informal (e.g., sometimes it seems as if Schaeffer is throwing in gratuitous sexual descriptions or crude language that don't seem to fit in with the general approach of the book).
Overall, this book is a great choice for a reader who does not fit into either end of the spectrum that Schaeffer is describing because it serves as a warning against hubris and offers many thoughtful points for consideration. Fundamentalist might not have the patience to try to understand his approach....more