Photo credit by Isabelle Dervaux

Photo credit by Isabelle Dervaux

By Jessie Hartland, author of Steve Jobs: Insanely Great (Schwartz & Wade, July 2015)

Dear Reader,

Steve Jobs. He was willful and rebellious and did NOT like to follow rules. He dropped out of college after just one semester, grooved on psychedelic drugs, and delved into meditation. Then, at age twenty-one, he started a little business in his parents’ garage that became the world’s most valuable company. Who was this guy? I had to know more. Who wouldn’t want to know more?!

The result of that curiosity is my new graphic biography. No need to get crushed by a cinder block of a book—STEVE JOBS: Insanely Great is a quick but complete read, taking you from Steve’s roots in the early days of Silicon Valley to his ouster from and triumphant return to Apple to his role in creating all the cool iProducts everyone wants. (more…)

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Approximately two (2) years ago LaSalle Academy in Providence, Rhode Island, integrated a Student Discussion Blog as their summer reading requirement.  Our English Department identified that our students were more likely to be enthusiastic and develop “ownership” to their “Summer Reading” requirement if they selected a book of interest and one that they could easily relate to.  Our current faculty also has many different and diverse interests, therefore, we all were asked to select a book of personal interest to add to the student Summer Reading selections.  Here our students were offered the opportunity to identify a common interest with their teacher.

Since I am a horse owner, an avid horseback rider, and thoroughly enjoy reading books on this topic; I decided to investigate, explore, and read several books that would be appropriate for our students to read—and at the same time—inspire them.  The book that inspired me the most was The Eighty-Dollar Champion: Snowman, The Horse that Inspired a Nation, written by Elizabeth Letts.  (more…)

Students at Evans High School in Evans, Georgia celebrate their first Henrietta Lacks Day

On October 4, 2011, the Evans High School Multicultural Club and Evans High School Biology teachers invited the entire staff and student body of Evans High School to celebrate the life of Henrietta Lacks.  Henrietta Lacks died of cervical cancer at Johns Hopkins Hospital on this day in 1951.  Henrietta Lacks may have died on this day, but her cells, called HeLa cells, are still living in laboratories all over the world.  “Henrietta’s cells were the first immortal human cells ever grown in culture.  They were essential to developing the polio vaccine.  They went up in the first space missions to see what would happen to cells in zero gravity.  Many scientific landmarks since then have used her cells, including cloning, gene mapping, and in vitro fertilization” (Zielinski, 2010).  This is an incredible story told by Rebecca Skloot in her award-winning book, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks.  This book makes a wonderful springboard for discussions concerning civil rights and medical ethics as well as the science behind these miraculous cells.  Another interesting subject covered in the book involves the Lacks family.  The family receives no monetary compensation from laboratories and drug companies using HeLa cells and they cannot afford healthcare. (more…)

Nothing to Envy by Barbara Demick

I am delighted to tell you about my book Nothing to Envy because I wrote it with students in mind. I was, at the time, on a fellowship at Princeton University where I also taught an undergraduate journalism course called “Covering Repressive Regimes.” My students were curious about North Korea, a country they knew almost nothing about.

When I started telling them the stories—about a country where televisions and radios were locked on government propaganda, where you couldn’t travel to the next town without a permit, where you were required to wear the portrait of the founder Kim Il Sung at all times on your clothing and that you celebrated the birthdays of the leadership rather than your own—the students were incredulous. It was not that they doubted my word; they were unable to grasp that a state as repressive as this one could persist into the 21st century. (more…)

Read the important book that’s topping many school lists. Her name was Henrietta Lacks, but scientists know her as HeLa. She was a poor Southern tobacco farmer who worked the same land as her slave ancestors, yet her cells—taken without her knowledge—became one of the most important tools in medicine. The first “immortal” human cells grown in culture, they are still alive today, though she has been dead for more than sixty years.

In the following video clip, author Rebecca Skloot sits down to discuss the inspiration, impact, and process that went into The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks.

The paperback edition of the book releases on March 8, 2011.

I Am Nujood, Age 10 and Divorced by Nujood Ali with Delphine Minoui

by Nicole Sprinkle, The Crown Publishing Group

I Am Nujood: Age 10 and Divorced is a very special little book—as the title certainly alludes. Forced by her father to marry a man three times her senior at an age far below the legal one, this brave young Yemeni girl fled her new “home” with just a few coins in her pocket, and headed to the courthouse in the capital. Her mission: to petition for a divorce. With the help of a trailblazing female lawyer, she won—and her extraordinary case has raised awareness throughout the Middle East about antiquated customs and even helped change the law.

Her story is perfect for high school reading on so many levels. It’s written by Nujood herself—her voice is one of youth that teens will easily relate to. It’s also a book that introduces important and timely cultural and political issues in an accessible way. (more…)

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…)