Archive for the ‘Historical’ category

What Does John Locke Say?

November 22nd, 2013

If you’ve ever wanted to analyze John Locke’s philosophy on the establishment of a government’s rights, but wanted to hear it in the style of Internet Europop sensation Ylvis, look no further:

What Does John Locke Say?

Here are the lyrics:

Dark Age gone
Renaissance done
17th century
has begun
Science can
Find the laws
That all nature must obey
But can we find
the laws of man
and society at large
how should we live
Enlightened now
What does John Locke Say?
To understand political power, we must consider the natural state, of man is a state of perfect freedom
What does John Locke say?
The natural state is also equality, where no man has more power than another, and it’s evident that all humans are equal
What does John Locke say?
But if man be free why give up freedom, cause he is exposed to danger and invasion, so he joins for mutual preservation
What does John Locke say?
Reason is law that teaches mankind, that all are equal and nobody ought to harm another’s life, health, liberty or possessions
What does John Locke say?
English Kings
were out of hand
so much Locke
went to Holland
Europe was
filled with absolute monarchs
A Glorious
enabled Locke to go home
and write about
the rights of man
and how society should ru-u-u-u-n, ru-u-u-u-n, ru-u-u-u-n
and what power is based o-o-o-o-n, o-o-o-o-n, o-o-o-o-n,
What does John Locke Say?
When power is given for protection, and it’s used for other ends, there it presently becomes a tyranny
What does John Locke Say?
If the train of abuse continues, the people should rouse themselves together, and put the rule in better hands
What else does Locke say?
All ideas come from sensation, let us suppose the mind to be, white paper void of all characters
What does John Locke say?
Tabula Rasa! Tabula Rasa!
What does John Locke say?

Smithsonian X 3D Explorer

November 14th, 2013

The Smithsonian is scanning in some of their items from their exhibits and making them 3D models. That’s great because now there will be digital copies that will act as a back-up in case something were to happen to the originals.

But it gets better.

Not only can you browse the 3D models by visiting their website, on some models you can download the 3D model. Let’s say that you have a 3D printer and would like to make a copy of a dinosaur skeleton – now you can! I wonder if anyone will put Lincoln’s face in a video game mod now…

Vietnam: I Pledge Allegiance by Chris Lynch

September 20th, 2013

For our current students, soldiers from the Vietnam War are their grandparents’ ages, much like how my grandparents were in the World War II generation. Chris Lynch’s Vietnam series puts the war into perspective in an approachable manner.

The set-up is that the four books in the series follow the experiences of four friends from the same small town in New England. Each friend serves in a different branch of the military, so the reader gets to see the war from four vantage points. Morris, the protagonist of the first book, is in the Navy. What’s great is that students can see what life was like on a cruiser, see how distant the war was, and then follow Morris as he’s tranferred to a river runner on the Mekong River. He never knows where the next attack will come from and his eyes are opened to the darker parts of war.

What I appreciate about the book is that it’s not too preachy. With a tagline like “If friendship has an opposite, it has to be war”, you know that it will have some anti-war sentiments. For the most part, though, that’s Morris worrying about his friends. There is action that military or history enthusiasts will appreciate the detail down to the last C-123. The book does not glorify combat, though. This is not Call of Duty. People die unexpectedly; those left behind grieve as they spend the hours of tedium waiting for the bursts of chaos. This is war from an enlisted soldier’s eyes.

It’s a great book and a strong start to a series. It’s definitely worth having in your library.

The College, Career, and Civic Life Framework

September 19th, 2013

The new framework for Social Studies instruction includes a focus on evaluating sources and taking informed actions during a study of civics, history, geography, and economics. I’m intrigued.

Here’s a quote from the intro:


The Book of Blood by H.P. Newquist

September 12th, 2013

For the record, I am glad that I am not a doctor. When you are in the operating room, you do not want your medical professional squealing in fright at the insides of the human body. The Book of Blood is not a gross-out book, at least not intentionally.

But it’s blood! They’re talking about blood! [this is where I faint]

Until the past century, large gaps of time passed between breakthroughs in the study of blood. Part of that is because humans need blood and are usually pretty opinionated about parting with it. The Book of Blood traces the history of the study of blood, from Herophilus and Ibn al-Nafis to Karl Landsteiner and the oligosaccharide polymer. I had heard of Herophilus before but not the other two and that’s what I appreciate about the book. It branches into parts of scientific history that I was not familiar with. I also knew that there were different types of blood, but I didn’t realize what the differences between A and B and positive and negative were (it’s about the presence or absence of certain polymers).

The science is there. The history is there. It makes for a great nonfiction read.

Even a simple sentence like:

“In times when the body is sick or injured and is losing blood, the spleen can squeeze some of its stored-up reserves back into the body so that the proper amount is still flowing through the arteries and veins.”

grips the reader’s attention.

Squeeze? [this is where I scream and faint again]

Ripper by Stefan Petrucha

August 27th, 2013

Set in the 1890’s in New York, Ripper follows a young boy, a young girl, and a bully-turned-friend (yes, the three-part party has been done before, but go with it) as they try to track down Jack the Ripper. The first well-known serial killer committed his murders in London, but the book theorizes that Jack made his way to the United States to cause trouble. The book is full of historical references but they do not seem like an encyclopedia entry that jars the narrative. The short chapters in Ripper benefit the pacing; the action occurs in tiny snippets. I like that. Where the pacing struggled, though, was in the scope of the mystery. Having figured it out pretty early on, I wanted more intrigue but had to settle for Ripper being more of an adventure book instead of a mystery.

Teddy Roosevelt is becoming more and more popular in fictional works and he’s fun in this one. What I appreciated was that Petrucha gave him flaws. For a historical figure who lived such a boisterous life, flaws like impatience develop him as a supporting character.

The discussion of nature versus nurture – What is it driving Jack the Ripper to kill? – is intriguing and gives some secondary motivation to Carver, the young protagonist. While I would have liked more development for Carver’s foils, the young girl and the former bully, Ripper is still an enjoyable read and worth having a copy on the shelf.

Never Fall Down by Patricia McCormick

June 20th, 2013

A few years back I asked students to interview their families about their experiences when the family members were teenagers. One student from Cambodia started the interview with his dad only to have it interrupted quickly with a somber, “You don’t want to know.”

I found out that my student’s father had survived the Killing Fields of Pol Pot, a violent dictator that led Cambodia in the 1970’s. The Khmer Rouge came to power and murdered anyone who didn’t agree with them or fit with their racial plan for the world. This was the 1970’s, a generation after World War II and the Nazis, and yet genocide was still happening (as it is in other parts of the world even today).

Never Fall Down by Patricia McCormick tells the story of Arn, a young boy caught in the violence of a country in upheaval. McCormick does a phenomenal job with taking very, very serious topics – topics that have such a huge scope – and making them accessible to audiences that otherwise may not have known (let alone related to) the issues in her books. Protagonist Arn is someone you can connect with as he experiences the sorrow of being separated from his family, the terror as he tries to survive in the Cambodian jungle, and the remorse as he is drafted into the Khmer Rouge army.

The serious tone is not overwhelming to the point of depressing, though, because there are glimmers of hope throughout the narrative. Even in the worst circumstances, people are reaching beyond themselves to take risks for what they know is right and to help fellow strangers. Arn expresses the full range of emotions, reminding the reader of humanity in the midst of tragedy. It’s so expertly done by McCormick that it just seems natural.

One thing that really caught my attention was McCormick’s diligence with Arn’s grammar. As he’s telling the story in English and not Khmer, his word choice reflects a grammar sometimes found in non-native speakers. McCormick’s linguistic rendering is impressive in its accuracy and yet readability.

Never Fall Down, a title that has so many connotations throughout the story, is a perfect gift to the real-life Arn Chorn-Pond. The man has gone on to found the Cambodian Living Arts foundation to preserve the amazing culture that could have been lost when 2 million people died (25% of the people in a population of 8 million) during the Khmer Rouge rule. Yes, the book deals with harsh stuff, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. This is one that will stick with me. Just like Cambodian Living Arts preserves a nation’s culture, Never Fall Down will preserve Arn’s story. It’s one that I’m backing for the Grand Canyon Reader Award.

Fidel Castro advises AGAINST nuclear war

April 5th, 2013

It’s interesting that, as we’re studying the Cuban Missile Crisis in Social Studies classes, the news headlines are full of North Korea-related threats of a nuclear attack.

One person that seems to have learned from it all is Fidel Castro – the Cuban leader who once wrote a letter to convince Khruschev to launch nuclear weapons at the United States. It seems that as he’s reaching the end of his life, he’s realizing that a nuclear attack would impact a large part of the world.

Ghosts in the Fog by Samantha Seiple

February 14th, 2013

Alaska was invaded.

I had heard rumors, but Ghosts in the Fog details the facts. During World War II, Japan had decimated a sizable portion of the United States fleet by striking at Pearl Harbor in 1941. In 1942, Japan kept the momentum going by launching a series of invasions on islands throughout the Pacific Ocean and the Bering Sea.

The Aleutian Islands (the tail part of Alaska) were one destination for invasion.

Ghosts in the Fog starts with U.S. code crackers catching a message about a possible invasion in one of two locations. The diligent cryppies at Station HYPO cracked part of the code and gave what they knew to Admiral Nimitz and Naval intelligence, who then decided where to send the remnants of the fleet that were still operational. The book then details key points in the Japanese invasion leading up to the eventual retreat of the Japanese fleet and a turning point in the war in the Pacific.

Where Seiple excels is in maintaining the human element of the events. This is a war story about more than boats and bombs. She did her research and draws quotes from both sides of the conflict.

  • We witness Admiral Theobald disobey orders and pull his ships from where they’re supposed to be and instead to where he thinks the invasion will happen; he’s wrong and an island full of people pay for his mistake.
  • We follow Charlie House in his attempt to avoid capture by burying himself in the Alaskan snow with no supplies.
  • I was surprised at how cooperative the Japanese soldiers were once they were captured; when they were so used to a bushido “death before dishonor”, no one had told them how to act as prisoners of war.
  • One of the most heart-wrenching parts was reading about the native Aleutians who were caught in the middle, either to be shipped to Japan as prisoners of war or dumped onto a different island by the U.S. Navy with little resources to start a new life.

Where the sequencing struggles a bit is when events were happening simultaneously. To Seiple’s credit, one event builds into another, so the events need to be included, but it caught me off guard a couple of times to read that the starting events of a chapter happened two months before what was just mentioned. Seiple labeled the sections well, but it still broke me out of my flow of reading.

This is definitely a purchase that librarians need to make if they want engaging nonfiction. Yes, there are a bunch of books about World War II, but because this one focuses on Alaska instead of other operational theaters, it stands out as something fresh. I was glad that Seiple was able to record these heroic stories before they faded into second- and third-hand accounts. This is magnified by the fact that, until recently, a good portion of this information was still classified and hidden from the general public.

Google’s 2012 Review

December 31st, 2012

Google has been putting out some great videos at the end of each year to summarize the major news events and search trends. The 2012 one is no different. Have fun reflecting on the past year and see if you can name all of the big events.