By Andy Weir, author of The Martian: A Novel 9780804189354

When I wrote “The Martian,” I didn’t mean to craft a thriller that could double as a science textbook— but to some extent, that’s what happened.

The story revolves around a lone astronaut named Mark Watney who is stranded on Mars. He faces countless trials and tribulations in his increasingly desperate attempts to survive. As a science dork, I wanted to make sure everything in the book was as accurate as it could be. I wanted to back up Mark’s solutions with hard numbers. As a result, many parts of the book are basically deadly word problems based on what Mark must do to survive. His life becomes a series of challenges in chemistry, physics, astronomy, and math. (more…)

9780345514400North Bergen (NJ) High School teacher Laurie Troiano recently taught Maya Angelou’s beloved I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings to her Junior Honors class–they finished the book on the same day that Dr. Angelou passed away.  Read the note that Ms. Troiano sent us below, which describes the impact that Dr. Angelou’s classic had on her students:

“There is nothing better than getting books in the mail. Thank you for the copy and guide of Caged Bird. I had a memorable moment this year with my North Bergen High School Junior Honors class. I decided to read this book with them and I haven’t taught it in years. My students knew nothing about her and even less about being black and poor in the South, as they are mostly from immigrant families. The day we finished the book was the day she died. The students all came running to me to tell me. We talked about her and they asked if we could have a moment of silence. The day we took the test, some students cried, and all wrote with such intensity and love.

I will always remember this moment and I wanted to share it with you and say thank you for remembering teachers.”

978-0-8129-7861-2Being a Teen, author Jane Fonda’s comprehensive guide to adolescent issues, was recently assigned to students taking the “Our Whole Lives” class at the Unitarian Universalist Congregation in Susquehanna Valley (Northumberland, PA).  Fonda’s new book, which covers topics from the body and sex to friendship, family and more, was universally praised by Unitarian Universalist’s students and teachers: “Being a Teen is a wonderful guide to yourself and to others, a pocket encyclopedia, a guide to the roller coaster of puberty. Jane Fonda answers questions that would be difficult to ask….”

Students were engaged by the book, including Henry, age 15, who wrote: “I was apprehensive at first because I thought it would be generic stuff that I already knew or have heard. After the first chapter I read, however, I found that I was learning a lot, and I ended up reading the whole book.” Another student, Emma, age 14, wrote: “The teenage years are a confusing time. Being a Teen is a clear guide with really good information.” (more…)

978-0-307-95667-5By Debbie Stier, author of The Perfect Score Project (Harmony, February 2014).

My project started as an attempt to motivate my son to care about the SATs. We needed a plan for college: how to get in and how to pay. I started researching the SAT, looking for hope, and it was during that search that I found an article about SAT scores leading to merit aid, which seemed promising.

I started with the SAT Question of the Day and immediately got hooked. They were like puzzles, and in a moment of enthusiasm, I declared I was going to try to achieve a perfect SAT score! I never expected my son to get a perfect score; he came up with his own goal, which we agreed on.

The project grew into a book idea—a “Consumer Reports” for the SAT. And so, in 2011, I took the test every time it was offered (seven times total) at five different test centers. (more…)

sticks and stonesBy Emily Bazelon, author of Sticks and Stones: Defeating the Culture of Bullying and Rediscovering the Power of Character and Empathy (Random House Trade Paperbacks, February 2014).

In the year since my book about preventing bullying and building empathy, Sticks and Stones: Defeating the Culture of Bullying and Rediscovering the Power of Character and Empathy was published, I’ve traveled around the country talking to students, parents, and educators. I hear over and over again about a hunger: For complex conversations, with and among teenagers, about their social experiences. Parents and educators know this is important, but that doesn’t make it easy to know how to start. And so I find that when I ask a roomful of kids how many of them are sick of hearing “Don’t bully,” they almost all raise their hands. But if I ask if they get the chance, in class or other organized settings, to have deep discussions about online cruelty, or slut shaming, or upstanding, few if any hands go up. (more…)

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Ward Melville High School Teacher, Dr. Elizabeth Kelso, first-place recipient of the 2013 Penguin Random House Teacher Awards for Literacy, has penned a holiday letter to Academic Marketing Director Michael Gentile to express her gratitude for Penguin Random House’s support of educational innovation:

Dear Michael,

Being recognized by Random House was amazing.  Seeing the room where I would speak had a similar effect.  Thank you for grounding me and getting me to feel my message more than the space.

I am grateful to you and your team for creating an award program that supports educational invention.  At this time it feels like education and schools are moving away from creative experiments that draw people together in the most basic and human ways.  Recognizing The Living Book Project reiterates the importance of people coming together around story, experience and dialogue.

I am excited that our paths will continue to meet through this work.

Happy holidays.

Sincerely,

Elizabeth Kelso (Liz)

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Click here to view pictures from the 2013 NCTE Conference First-Timers Breakfast, where Dr. Kelso was presented the award.

Click here to apply for the 2014 Penguin Random House Teacher Award for Literacy.