Thursday, December 28, 2006

Savage Inequalities: Children in America's Schools

Author: Jonathan Kozol

First line: "East of anywhere," writes a reporter for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, often evokes the other side of the tracks."

Why you should read it: More than fifteen years ago, Kozol traveled around the country visiting wealthy and impoverished school districts and exposed the two-tiered education system that keeps our poorest children in poverty and provides every advantage for the rich. Segregation still exists, and even though wealthy children have access to three times the educational resources of disadvantaged kids, proponents of the system insist that money is not a factor in education. Today, the No Child Left Behind Act continues to reinforce this divide and rob the nation of democracy in education.

Why you shouldn't read this book: You work in the public schools and you're already aware of the capitalist nature of American education.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Bunny Cakes

Author: Rosemary Wells

First line: It was Grandma's birthday. Max made her an earthworm birthday cake.

Why you should read it: Children's favorites, Max and Ruby, star in a story about communication and how difficult it is for the pre-verbal and pre-literate. Kids enjoy watching Max inadvertently destroy things and sypathize with his frustration.

Why you shouldn't read it: You question the wisdom of sending a mute, illiterate child to the market alone.

Elinor and Violet: The Story of Two Naughty Chickens

Author: Patti Beling Murphy

First Line: Elinor was just a little big naughty.

Why you should read it: An amusing story about a chicken who is just a little naughty until influenced by an extremely naughy chicken. Kids enjoy the taboo antics of the deliberately misbehaving characters as well as the delineation between a little bit bad and a lot bad.

Why you shouldn't read it: You are the highly suggestible type; you often feel compelled to emulate the misdeeds of anthropomorphic animals in picture books.

Monday, December 25, 2006

Love You Forever

Author: Robert Munsch

First line: A mother held her new baby and very slowly rocked him back and forth, back and forth, back and forth

Why you should read this book: It's tender and full of love. Creates a warm fuzzy feeling contemplating the lifelong connection between mother and son.

Why you shouldn't read this book: You cry easily.

Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus!

Author: Mo Willems

Quote: Hey, can I drive the bus?

Why you should read it: There's a pigeon. It wants to drive the bus. Pigeons can't drive buses. Kids can really identify with the bird's desperation. Caldecott Honor Book

Why you shouldn't read it: This book is perfectly delightful. You'd have to be a crank not to enjoy it.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Survival in Auschwitz

Author: Primo Levi

First line: I was captured by the Fascist Militia on 13 December 1943.

Why you should read it: Primo Levi went through hell and came out a philosopher on the other side. Through a year of terror in the notorious concentration camp, Levi documents every small moment of hope. The short, intense journey through one man's survival story reminds us that the human spirit is strong enough to rise to almost every occasion.

Why you shouldn't read it: Holocaust literature is terrifying. But you should read it anyway.

Couldn't Keep It to Myself: Testimonies from Our Imprisoned Sisters

Author: Wally Lamb & the Women of York Correctional Institution

First line: The toy department at the Durable store sold two blackboards.

Why you should read it: Wally Lamb taught memoir-writing skills to a group of incarcerated women, and the women rewarded him by opening their souls and revealing the trauma and violence that had pervaded their entire lives. A dozen short essays by eleven writers demonstrate the effects of physical, emotional, and sexual abuse on women and paint a picture of life behind bars for some of the most powerless people in the country.

Why you shouldn't read it: You are sensitive to painful recollections of rape, incest, and domestic violence.

The Autobiography of Malcom X as Told to Alex Haley

Author: Malcom X & Alex Haley

First line: When my mother was pregnant with me, she told me later, a party of hooded Ku Klux Klan riders galloped up to our home in Omaha, Nebraska one night.

Why you should read it: Malcolm X was an extraordinary man who led an extraordinary life. The book cuts through so many of the misapprehensions about his legacy; in his own words, you can learn how his environment and upbringing shaped him into the man known as Malcolm X and molded his philosophies, which evolved throughout his short life. Within the tragedy of his death, the book holds a message of hope.

Why you shouldn't read it: You are not open to other people's points of view and you are an extremely sensitive white man who doesn't want to understand how X came to the assertion, made repeatedly in chapters 10 through 16, inclusive, that the white man is the devil.

Maneater and Other True Stories of a Life in Infectious Diseases

Author: Pamela Nagami, MD

First line: I know things about the human body because I've looked at what lucky people never see.

Why you should read it: In a fast-paced, personal, and informative narrative, Dr. Nagami discusses her diagnosis and treatment of common and exotic infectious diseases. Lots of great technical details by a doctor who loves her work and pits herself against man's most deadly enemies on a day-to-day basis. Suspense and drama; not everyone makes it out of ICU alive.

Why you shouldn't read it: You're a highly suggestibly hypochondriac convinced you have every disease you hear of; you're squeamish about medical descriptions; you get easily depressed over the deaths of characters in books.