June 2010

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot

by Amy Jurskis, Tri-cities High School, East Point, Georgia

Like many teachers, I grew up reading, and to this day I attribute most of my knowledge to stories I read in books. Perhaps more than any other pedagogical tool, narratives allow students to connect to, organize, and make sense of information—which is why I was thrilled to tune into Fresh Air on NPR one afternoon and discover Rebecca Skloot’s amazing book The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks

Skloot’s book is essentially three narratives, each with unique applications to the disciplines of language arts, history, and science. First there is the story of the author’s own odyssey—sparked by a casual comment made by a biology instructor—to discover the woman behind the HeLa cells. Skloot’s story is both a riveting work of investigative journalism and a deeply moving memoir, as her search for answers ultimately results in the development of a life-changing friendship with Henrietta’s daughter Deborah. (more…)

9780804189354We are pleased to share that Andy Weir, the author of The Martian and Artemis, will be delivering a keynote address at the 2018 International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) conference, to be held June 24–27 in Chicago, IL. ISTE is a global organization focused on the intersection of technology and learning, championing innovation within the educational sphere via professional development, events to support educators, community, and several publications on the topic.

Andy Weir’s novels are both expertly-plotted and grounded in real science. The Martian, available in a special Classroom Edition designed specifically for use by educators, is set in a near-future in which manned missions to Mars have become possible and follows astronaut Mark Watney after he is stranded on the Red Planet in the aftermath of a terrible accident. Armed only with the technology left behind and his own scientific expertise, he grows food, reestablishes contact with NASA, and plots his escape.


A colony on the moon is the setting for Artemis, which similarly marries a compelling narrative with a deep understanding of the scientific principles that would be necessary to make life on the moon a reality. As a result, Weir’s science fiction novels are uniquely suited for the classroom, both accessible to students and thorough in their accuracy and breadth.

To request a complimentary examination copy of either book to review for classroom use, please contact us at K12education@edu.penguinrandomhouse.com or call us toll free at (844) 851-3955. Also available is a classroom kit for The Martian, containing a copy of the book; a Teacher’s Guide; a classroom poster; class set of twenty-five bookmarks; STEM Reads activity sheets; water recipe card; and further teacher resources.


184612_weir_andyAbout the Author

Andy Weir built a career as a software engineer until the success of his first published novel allowed him to live out his dream of writing fulltime. He is a lifelong space nerd and a devoted hobbyist of subjects such as relativistic physics, orbital mechanics, and the history of manned spaceflight. He also mixes a mean cocktail. He lives in California.


Making Music Videos by Lara M. Schwartz

One of the greatest rewards for us here at Random House is to hear that one of “our” books has had a profound influence in your classrooms. We recently received an e-mail from Jeff Kuhr, a film/media teacher at Lawrence High School in Lawrence, Kansas sharing the work his students have done over the past year. The Focus Film Festival, which began with 14 films five years ago and most recently boasted 92 student entries, combines the young talent of students from fifteen different high schools in the Northeastern Kansas region. The result was an awards ceremony attended by over 200 filmmakers, family members and community enthusiasts—a celebration of creativity, initiation, and raw talent. (more…)