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The most remarkable aspect of this book is the bluntness with which Gore describes the lying, criminality, manipulation and skullduggery of the Bush administration. To those who have been exposed to a view of our government beneath the public relations veil there will be no revelations., but the fact that these observations are coming from a viable, perhaps the most viable presidential candidate is significant. It will surely have an affect on the perspective of many people. My favorite line in the book, serves as a good example of how “out there” Gore is. The line appears when he is talking about the Bush activities just prior to the attacks of September 11th. He describes a seeming willful disregard of information and failure of action, and then says that he doesn’t mean to imply that the administration was in any way complicit. “Of course not!”, says Gore. This description is couched in a critique of the sad state of what Gore terms the “conversation of democracy”. Our sources of information are so corrupted that the citizenry can no longer participate effectively in the sustenance of representative democracy. The ostensible point of Gore’s book is that the internet is the last hope of the survival of representative democracy in our country. It is the last medium of communication that allows for the free flow of ideas, and if we allow the communication conglomerates to put their tiered internet access scheme into place, we might as well hang it up.
Winter, J. (2009). Gertrude is Gertrude is Gertrude. New York: Atheneum Books for Young Readers. 141694088X Gertrude is Gertrude is Gertrude is a biographical picturebook written in the style of, and about, Gertrude Stein. This is a book that needs a lot of background information to get completely. Also, because of it’s prose style, a teacher will need to read this book aloud multiple times (or encourage rereading) to help students get the meaning. (Of course, there’s nothing wrong with just sharing the book for enjoyment of the words and the way they flow either. It all depends on your goal for the day) With some beautiful lines, this book would be great to accompany sharing some of Stein’s writing. The illustrations are fun and colorful and compliment the text well. They help to provide a sense of fun and play with perspective. Activities to do with the book: After sharing this book, a teacher could encourage students to write freely, whatever thoughts go through their heads. There are a number of ways a teacher could use this book with larger individual or group projects. A teacher could assign research papers or presentations based on Modernism and the artists and writers of the school (including Gertrude Stein, Alice B. Toklas, Ernest Hemingway, Henri Matisse and Pablo Picasso), their art and the historic events. While this book could be used with a number of age groups, if a teacher chooses to share it with the upper grades, at least a few students will assume the unseen narrator is on drugs and the teacher will have to challenge students to think more deeply. Also, if any teachers out there happen to be as nerdy as me, he or she may want to try having a tea party after sharing this book by taking an hour to two to have the students go to the school library or other homey school space, dress in period clothes (maybe for extra credit) talk about literature and art of the period and maybe even read Stein’s poems and others’ works aloud in small groups. Favorite Quotes: "And now it's time for tea. Teatime is teatime. And look who's here, in time for tea." "Pages and pages and pages with words all over the pages. My goodness, what fun. What fun to write whatever words occur." "You see Miss Gertrude is a genius. And a genius is a genius. So what if no one understands a word she writes. Some day they might." For more of my reviews, visit sjkessel.blogspot.com.
There are two stories being told in this book that are interwoven through alternating chapters. One is the life story of Itsik Malpesh, a Russian born Jew who fancies himself "the last Yiddish poet in America." The other is the story of a young Catholic American man who translates the written manuscript of Itsik's story from Yiddish into English. I found the translator's story and his explorations into the meaning of language to be the more interesting. Itsik, who was a victim of anti-semitism in Eastern Europe, was forced to flee his village and eventually the country. His story rings true as far as the facts of Jewish history and the conditions for Jewish immigrants to the lower east side of New York in the early part of the 20th century. But, I did not find him to be sympathetic or likable. He made a series of selfish choices during his life, each of which left him no better off and hurt others in the process. I found him hard to care about and therefore I didn't really care much about what happened to him.