Lorenzo Walker Tech HS & Institute of Tech

Monday, June 18, 2007

Off the Shelf 0607-28

Water for Elephants
By Sara Gruen

© 2006

One might not think that a book set in the Great Depression, specifically in a circus environment, would be a best-seller - but, it was – in fact, it is still on the paperback top 10! Essentially, this is a love story with the usual twists and turns of relationships, but it is so well-written that you are drawn to each character’s idiosyncrasies. In addition, the circus animals, especially Rosie the elephant, manage to play a integral role in the plot and outcome of the story.

What I found most compelling was the author’s approach to the story. Jacob, as the focal character, reveals his life in alternating chapters as both the older man’s 80+ year old reflections and the younger man’s present situation. She captures your interest with event after event, so the action is truly engaging. It was a delightful read!

My recommendation: 4 out of 5 stars
Submitted by M. Coleman, Media Specialist

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Monday, June 11, 2007

Off the Shelf 0607-27

Our Stories, Our Songs: African Children Talk About AIDS
By Deborah Ellis
© 2005

AIDS (Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome) has orphaned 11.5 million children in Sub-Saharan Africa. That number is expected to rise to 20 million by the year 2020. (p. vii)

Thus begins the intimate and compelling tale of children touched by AIDS. Their world seems so distant and surreal – and yet, it is their reality: preteens nursing their dying parents and now caring for younger siblings; children begging on the streets to fill their distended stomachs; and teenagers fearing the cyclical life of the disease’s isolation and stigma.

Despite the obvious sadness and despair, these children manage to express hope and dignity through their anecdotes and ‘songs of victory.’ The humanitarian author, donating the book royalties to UNICEF, threads AIDS facts throughout the children’s conversations. One doesn’t leave the book unaffected – in fact, you will likely appreciate your own relatively stable circumstances, as well as, examine how you can play a positive role in increasing the resources and quality of life for those with HIV/AIDS.

On a related note, take a moment to visit the Nata Village blog which brings you the “opportunity to witness the battle to control the spread of HIV/AIDS in an African village.” Their postings are a confirmation of the daily struggle to improve the environment of those impacted with the disease.

My recommendation: 4 out of 5 stars
Submitted by M. Coleman, Media Specialist

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Off the Shelf 0607-26

Memoirs of a Geisha
By Arthur Golden
Audiobook – CD Unabridged
Read by Bernadette Dunne
© 2005

This story was originally published in 1997 and has since been converted to audio, as well as to the big screen motion picture. The rhythmic voice of Dunne in this audio version (18 hours of listening pleasure) easily transports you to pre-World War II Japan. The history, art and culture of Japan are interwoven amid the cultivation of nine-year old Chiyo, a fisherman’s daughter, to the beautiful Sayuri, one of the most celebrated geisha.

Although the ‘memoirs’ are fiction, the descriptive prose was well researched and immediately engages you to believe it as truth. I was especially enchanted with the make up (white facial base with red lipstick and heavily accented black eyebrows and eyelids) and dress of these professional entertainers. Kimonas, the traditional clothing of Japan, vary considerably in terms of cut, color, fabric, and decorations depending upon the age and status of the wearer, as well as the season of the year and occasion for which the kimono is worn. Their beauty is unsurpassed by their symbolism.

There is no doubt Memoirs of a Geisha will remind you of the differences between your world and that of Sayuri – the amazing revelation is that it will simultaneously highlight the similarities: humans striving for survival, affiliation, and self-actualization. Enjoy the nuances of the storytelling via the audio version!

My recommendation:
4 ½ out of 5 stars
Submitted by M. Coleman, Media Specialist

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Off the Shelf 0607-25

Beyond Bullet Points
By Cliff Atkinson
© 2005

PowerPoint presentations – they are everywhere! Teachers use them, students create them, and business professionals depend on them. But how effective are most of these presentations? How often has your mind dulled with the next bullet point? How different are these bullet points from the traditional tedious lecture?

Building on the foundation of research of educational psychologist, Richard E. Mayer, Ph.D., the author proposes a new and more effective way of using PowerPoint software for presentations. For example, Mayer’s cognitive theory of multimedia learning proposes the following principles (p.208-215):

  • People learn better from words and pictures, than from words alone – instead of using mostly text and a few pictures, Atkinson suggests that the only words are those in the title and the remaining part of the slide is filled with a graphic or photograph. He then suggests that the “Notes” section of the slide contain the narration that is read aloud.
  • People learn better when information is presented in bite-size segments – using a storyboarding structure and sequence, chunks of information are easily transferred to individual slides.
  • People learn better when information is presented in a conversational style rather than a formal one – write a complete sentence for your title with a subject and a verb in active tense that is simple, clear, and direct. When presenting, use a relaxed and casual voice, like you are talking over a cup of coffee at the kitchen table.

Although there’s a lot of research-based substance to this book, it is written as a step-by-step manual. The storyboarding ‘how to’ process of creating more effective PowerPoint presentations comes complete with Storyboard Formatter download! It is not easy to ignore the familiar ‘bells and whistles’ of old, but I would strongly recommend trying out these concepts for better learning, motivation, and inspiration!

My recommendation: 4 out of 5 stars

Submitted by M. Coleman, Media Specialist

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Saturday, June 02, 2007

Off the Shelf 0607-24

An Inconvenient Truth
By Al Gore
© 2006

The book replicates the movie, complete with bar graphs, photographs, and graphics from the pictorial presentation. Gore’s words remain powerful on paper, as well. In case you haven’t been following the recent attention on global warming, your eyes will be opened with this read.

Gore’s premise of the transformation and impending destruction of our planet Earth, as well as his recommendations for individual change, have been criticized; however, he makes his case with statistics, stories, and scientific suggestions. Some of tidbits include:

  • Greenhouse gases (most visibly carbon dioxide) impact climate change.
  • Increased modern consumption of oil, natural gas, and coal have increased the release gases into the atmosphere, thus increasing the temperatures of our planet.
  • Warmer temperatures impact the strength and duration of hurricanes by increasing wind velocity and storm moisture condensation.

Whether you are for or against the controversy surrounding global warning, this book offers undeniable facts and sobering pictures to help you draw conclusions. You can also get more information at the website: http://www.climatecrisis.net/

My recommendation: 5 out of 5 stars
Submitted by M. Coleman, Media Specialist

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