March 2010


The Fellowship of the Ring by J.R.R. Tolkien

Established in 2003 by the Tolkien Society, March 25 is Tolkien Reading Day, when fans of all ages come together at schools and libraries to read, discuss, and celebrate the author’s best-loved books. This year’s theme is “Tolkien’s Seafarers.” The Tolkien Society is an educational charity based in Great Britain which promotes the life and works of the late J.R.R. Tolkien. Click here to find out how Tolkien Reading Day came about, and be sure to check out the Society’s tips for teachers. For a list of Tolkien books and products published by Random House, click here.

The Last Town on Earth by Thomas Mullen

by Thomas Mullen, author of The Last Town on Earth and The Many Deaths of the Firefly Brothers

When reading works of fiction, students often think that there’s a right answer for how they’re supposed to respond to the book.  Surely (as they’re sometimes taught in high school) there’s a specific meaning F. Scott Fitzgerald had in mind with The Great Gatsby’s “green light,” and therefore there’s a right way to read the book and a wrong way.  A novel is a riddle, just a more creative version of a math problem, and students need to figure out the right answer, explain it in a paper, and then they’ll earn their A.  At which point they’re free to put the book away and never think about it again.

But English isn’t Algebra, and sometimes there are lots of right answers.  Or maybe—gasp—there’s no right answer.  Or perhaps it isn’t the answer that’s so important as the journey the reader takes to get there.  The travels with the characters, the experience of viewing the world through someone else’s eyes, the various lessons this act imparts—these will all lead different readers to different opinions, emotions, revelations.  This is true not only with our interpretations about whether a literary symbol has a certain meaning but also our determination as to whether characters did the “right” thing or not. (more…)

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Helmet for My Pillow by Robert Leckie

Did you and your students tune in this past weekend to the premiere of HBO’s new miniseries, The Pacific? We did, and we’re hooked! Reissued to coincide with the start of this series are two bestselling World II classics, Helmet for My Pillow: From Parris Island to the Pacific by Robert Leckie, and With the Old Breed: At Peleliu and Okinawa by E.B. Sledge. Leckie and Sledge (portrayed in the series by actors James Badge Dale and Joseph Mazello) were two young marines who participated some of the greatest battles in the Pacific War. Their vivid, first-person narratives of combat and survival served as the primary sources for the miniseries, along with unpublished accounts from John “Manila” Basilone (portrayed by actor John Seda). Pick up copies of their books today, and enjoy the rest of the first season of The Pacific! Also of interest: The Pacific War: From Pearl Harbor to Hiroshima edited by Daniel Marston and War in the Pacific 1941-1945 by Richard Overy; foreword by Dale Dye.