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Presidential Poetry

I love to read biographies because I can learn so many interesting things about people. Among the biographies I love to read are those of the Presidents of the United States, and recently I’ve found some great new books that present Presidential biographies in a poetic format. While many people may not connect the genres of poetry and biography, children’s poets are masters at using their medium to convey information. These works of nonfiction poetry offer some great benefits to young readers, one of which is the fact that they are very short. 


The concise format allows the author to provide a lot of information in a small space, allowing readers to get a sense of the person without reading a lengthy biography. Another benefit to readers is that the poetry allows for humor to shine through and give readers funny facts that may not fit in a traditional biography format. For example, The Presidents Stuck in the Bathtub: Poems About the Presidents (written by Susan Katz and illustrated by Robert Newbecker) features a poem about William Taft who weighed 340 pounds and often had problems with his size. This book features different poetry styles that bring to life little known tidbits about the presidents and their family members.


 Another great book of Presidential poems is Rutherford B., Who Was He?: Poems About Our Presidents, written by Marilyn Singer and illustrated by John Hendrix. Singer does a great job of bringing the presidents to life by packing her poems with information, but she also includes some additional fun facts at the end for those who want just a little bit more. Hendrix’s humorous illustrations also add to overall playful tone of this great book. 


If you still don’t have your fill of presidential poetry, then you can also check out Presidential Misadventures: Poems That Poke Fun at the Man in Charge, written by Bob Raczka and illustrated by Dan Burr. Featuring clerihew, which is a simple poetic form specifically invented to make fun of famous people, this collection of poems and comic illustrations add great insight and humor into the presidential antics. So if you want to have a little fun but still want to learn a little bit more about our Commander and Chiefs, then why not check out a little bit of presidential poetry on this recommendation from us here at “Worlds Awaiting.”

 

By Rachel Wadham, Host, WORLDS AWAITING


The Presidents Stuck in the Bathtub: Poems About the Presidents by Susan Katz illustrated by Robert Newbecker. Clarion Books, 2012.

Rutherford B., Who Was He?: Poems About Our Presidents by Marilyn Singer and illustrated by John Hendrix. Disney-Hyperion, 2013.

Presidential Misadventures: Poems That Poke Fun at the Man in Charge by Bob Raczka and illustrated by Dan Burr. Roaring Brook Press, 2015.

 

DISCLAIMER:

At Worlds Awaiting we discuss a wide range of information aimed at supporting adults who want to build literacy skills in their children.   We understand that there is no “one size fits all” approach when it comes to children’s development, so the information we provide is intended to reach a wide audience. The books and other resources we recommend will also naturally cover a wide range of interests and subject matter that addresses a range of maturity, reading, and comprehension levels.  Since no one understands a child’s needs better than their caretakers, we encourage families to critically select the books and resources that meet their own individual needs and standards.



Movie Review: The Glass Castle / The Nut Job 2: Nutty by Nature

The Glass Castle, 08/11/17, 1HR 27 Mins, PG-13

The Glass Castle is the story of the Walls Family.  Jeanette Walls (Brie Larson) and her siblings learn about life from their eccentric and government hating parents Rex (Wood Harrelson) and Rose Mary (Naomi Watts).  The parents keep the family together despite being on the run from bill collectors and the law in a few states.  The kids always hope for more but never quite seem to get what they hope for.

You might think this film would be considered a tragic story but this slice of life is very well done.  The characters in this film are deep and learning about them throughout the film is a joy.  Woody Harrelson’s portrayal of a father who loves his family deeply but can’t always show it, is beautiful to watch. 

This film is based on a true story and it feels like it.  The scenes in which Naomi Watts and Harrelson are fighting and then making up are both crazy and touching.  This dysfunctional family hurts each other but at the same time would go to the ends of the earth to save their family.  You can see both the love and the disdain on the screen.  I have become a fan of the director Destin Daniel Cretton even though this is one of his first feature films.

The film is rated PG-13 and does depict violence in the home although the parents do not hit their children.  A daughter is taught to swim by throwing her into the water.  There is a suggestion of sexual abuse by a grandparent.  A woman is seen hanging from a window ledge.  A child’s clothes catch fire on the stove and she is burned.  There is some language and one daughter sews up a gash on her father’s shoulder.

The Glass Castle is a wonderful film and I am giving it an A-. 

The Nut Job 2: Nutty by Nature, 8/11/17, 1hr 31 mins, PG

Yes folks there is a sequel to The Nut Job that came out in 2014.  This time around though it’s not a bad film.  Surly (voice of Will Arnett) has it made with his other animal friends in the basement of the Nut Shop. There is plenty to eat and life is good until the boiler explodes and they have to go back to the park.  Even that is troublesome though since the Mayor wants to replace the regular park with a revenue generating amusement park.

This may not be a bad film but it is also not a film that will change your life.  The story is simple and easy to follow which is good for kids.  Plus there are jokes that will make adults and kids laugh at the same time.  I was surprised since I did not have high hopes for this film from the start.  There are some touching moments and the characters go through a learning process during the film that is interesting.  All in all the film is fun and can be entertaining at times.

The animal characters are relatable but the bad guy in the film, The Mayor (Bobby Moynihan), is really annoying.  That may be what the filmmakers wanted but this was too much for me.  Plus his daughter is just Darla from “Finding Nemo.” 

Since the film is rated PG there isn’t much for parents to worry about.  I do have to say though that there is a bit of violence in the film but that is all animated and so not on a level of reality.  Many pratfalls and people being attacked by animals.  One character is a mouse that uses Martial Arts.  Animals are attacking humans to get them out of the park so there is some reasoning for the violence.  There is also a scene where a dog regurgitates his food on purpose and then eats it. Eww!

The Nut Job2: Nutty by Nature is rated PG and I am giving it a B-.      

Worlds Awaiting: International Books

There is little doubt that we live in a global society. Because the world, in many practical ways has become so much smaller, it is essential for us as human beings to have a better sense of global literacy. For me, global literacy means that people have a strong understanding of the world and how we are all interconnected. While there are lots of ways to develop global literacy—making new friends, enjoying cultural experiences in our own backyards, and even travelling extensively across the world—it will come as no surprise that I find books and reading a fine way to build global literacy. There are many wonderful books that can extend our global viewpoint. However, it is also important to say that there are also some books that are not quite so wonderful. When extending ourselves into global literature it is important that we find the best books to assure that we are not inadvertently consuming incorrect information or hidden stereotypes. 


To help you find those great books, I’d like to recommend the International Board on Books for Young People, or IBBY. This non-profit organization includes members from all over the world who are committed to bringing books and children together. IBBY does amazing work advocating for books from around the world. Among its many programs, it gives out the Hans Christian Andersen Award to a living author or illustrator whose complete works have made a lasting contribution to children’s literature. Among the award recipients will be familiar names like Maurice Sendack and Scott O’Dell. But there will likely be lots of unfamiliar names like Mitsumasa Anno from Japan and Ana Maria Machado from Brazil. There are also national sections of the IBBY such as the United States Board on Books for Young People which produces an Outstanding International Books List each year to represent the best of children’s literature from other countries that are available in the United States. 


One of my favorites from a recent list was a book from the United Kingdom called I Am Henry Finch by Alexis Deacon and illustrated by Viviane Schwarz. This work is a great philosophical picture book that has lots of contrast and texture in the illustrations. So, if you are looking to add a little more global literature to your reading this year, take a tip from Rachel’s World and check out the information that the International Board on Books for Young People has to offer.

 

By Rachel Wadham, Host, WORLDS AWAITING


http://www.ibby.org/

http://www.ibby.org/awards-activities/awards/hans-christian-andersen-awards/

http://www.usbby.org/HomePage.asp

http://www.usbby.org/list_oibl.html


DISCLAIMER:

At Worlds Awaiting we discuss a wide range of information aimed at supporting adults who want to build literacy skills in their children.   We understand that there is no “one size fits all” approach when it comes to children’s development, so the information we provide is intended to reach a wide audience. The books and other resources we recommend will also naturally cover a wide range of interests and subject matter that addresses a range of maturity, reading, and comprehension levels.  Since no one understands a child’s needs better than their caretakers, we encourage families to critically select the books and resources that meet their own individual needs and standards.



 

Movie Review: Valerian

Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets, 7/21/17, PG-13

Director Luc Besson gathered funds together to make this film and was inspired by the original French comics “Valerian and Laureline.”  In this story Valerian (Dean DeHann) and Laureline (Cara Delevingne) must investigate a mysterious energy at the center of Alpha, the city of a Thousand Planets. 

The visuals of Valerian are mesmerizing, as Besson created an incredible look for the film with all the different aliens and planets that are in the story.  Artistically the film is stunning.  The story fell a little short when it came to keeping my interest.  When the story waned though I had the visuals to look at.  The range of characters is fantastic in the film, going all the way from elegant savages to scruffy intellectuals.  The love story in the film did not work for me.    

The big mystery of the film is not that hard to figure out either so my attention again went back to the visuals created by the team of artists Besson had working for him.  The look of this film does feel reminiscent of “The Fifth Element.” That is not a bad thing.

This adventure does have some violence in it, including the shooting of weapons and threats being thrown about.   Explosions decimate a planet as well as many creatures upon it.  A large shootout takes the lives of many.  A creature dances on a pole. The main Characters are seen in swimsuits for some of the film.

Science fiction fans will enjoy this film as will those who go for the artistry.  I did enjoy Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets and I am giving it a B grade. 


 

Worlds Awaiting: Fake News

There has been a lot of talk about fake news lately as recent political and social events are making us aware of those who are blatantly passing off any news as real. My librarian colleagues and I have been talking about fake news, and our discussion has centered on what we can do to help people be critical of the information they receive. By helping children to develop information literacy skills, our hope is that they can navigate this world that is constantly inundated with convoluted information. One skill we have been discussing is how to help children and teens determine authority. With information, one of the things you have to determine is whether or not the author or distributor is qualified to give that information. For example, if you were going to get information on medical treatments it would be apparent that a nurse would be more qualified to give you that information than a truck driver. This same principle holds true for all kinds of information including the news we read. However, the tricky part today is that much of what we consume is online—where it really is difficult to tell who is giving you the information, let alone if they are qualified to do so. Years ago, when our news came in discrete packages like newspapers or magazines, we had a pretty good system that allowed editors and publishers to make sure that there was at least some authority to the information being published. But the Internet allows everyone to publish anything, easily masking their qualifications (or lack thereof). Producers of fake news really try hard to make their sites and posts look just like real news sites. So what can we do to make sure we are finding the best information from the best sources? To start, check out the URL to determine what kind of site you are accessing. From there, look closely to find the exact author of the information. If you can’t find a named author, or if there are no real credentials for the website, the information is most likely suspect, and you really should look further. This is just the start. But if recent events have shown us anything, it is that being able to critically assess the source and authority of alleged information, is a necessary skill. And we here at Rachel’s World know that this critical thinking process is one that we as concerned adults can help our children to master.

 

By Rachel Wadham, Host, WORLDS AWAITING


DISCLAIMER:

At Worlds Awaiting we discuss a wide range of information aimed at supporting adults who want to build literacy skills in their children.   We understand that there is no “one size fits all” approach when it comes to children’s development, so the information we provide is intended to reach a wide audience. The books and other resources we recommend will also naturally cover a wide range of interests and subject matter that addresses a range of maturity, reading, and comprehension levels.  Since no one understands a child’s needs better than their caretakers, we encourage families to critically select the books and resources that meet their own individual needs and standards.



Thinking Aloud: Full Belly Project

Here’s one I know you’ve heard before: “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.” But have you ever thought about the huge problem with this statement? Learning to fish is all well and good, but what about the people who know how to fish but have no nets?

            Across the globe members of impoverished or rural communities work long and often grueling hours to perform tasks such as fetching water, tending crops, hunting, or finding fuel. While these resources can be scarce, often their real problem is not having the tools necessary process and efficiently use the resources they do have.

Countless humanitarian organizations work tirelessly to install water-pumping and filtration systems, communications networks, and other technological boons for farmers and rural villagers. One such group, very small in number but ambitious in its aims, calls itself “The Full Belly Project.”

This group has a unique vision that guides them to address some of the crucial gaps missed by larger organizations. The Full Belly Project devises prototypes for small-scale gizmos and contraptions to solve problems that may seem small but that take far too much time and effort without the right tools.

You can listen in to our conversation with Jock Brandis, Director of Research and Development of the Full Belly Project on our website. The project’s work is streamlining the daily workload of thousands of people across the world, giving them the tools to help themselves for years to come.

Check out the Full Belly Project’s Website here.​


Lessons from Summer Reading

Summer reading is a staple among most middle schools and high schools. I was recently revisiting some of the books I read for summer reading. One in particular is burned in my memory. I hated “Tears of a Tiger” by Sharon Draper. At the beginning, two high school boys are in a drunk driving accident and one dies. At the end, the other kills himself. In general, I personally prefer to shelter children from this kind of story. When I read, I prefer it to be for enjoyment and I hate sad things, but I had to read that book for school. While I disliked it, I will never forget it.


Often, schools require books that deal with adult themes. Sometimes we wish to shelter our children from such ideas, but these stories deal with concepts in a way that is manageable to children. Sometimes, these books can make more of a difference in a child's life. The best way to deal with summer reading that discusses adult themes is to have conversations about them with our children. In the end, they can have a large impact on children's lives.

 

By Olivia Noli, Social Media Manager, WORLDS AWAITING


DISCLAIMER:

At Worlds Awaiting we discuss a wide range of information aimed at supporting adults who want to build literacy skills in their children.   We understand that there is no “one size fits all” approach when it comes to children’s development, so the information we provide is intended to reach a wide audience. The books and other resources we recommend will also naturally cover a wide range of interests and subject matter that addresses a range of maturity, reading, and comprehension levels.  Since no one understands a child’s needs better than their caretakers, we encourage families to critically select the books and resources that meet their own individual needs and standards.



Movie Review: Dunkirk

Dunkirk is the latest film from director Christopher Nolan.  It tells the story of 400,000 soldiers who were driven into the town of Dunkirk, on the northern coast of France by German tanks in 1940.  The film is the story of their rescue.

This is a difficult film to talk about.  Not only because it is a war film, but because Nolan is telling this story in a non-linear fashion.  He uses 3 different points of view.  The stories overlap in many places and at first I was confused.  I also did not like it when Nolan increased the volume of the soundtrack so the dialogue of the actors is drowned out by the music.  Of course there is not much dialogue to drown out.

I do realize though that Nolan is using these conventions to confuse the audience on purpose.  He does it to make us feel more like we are one of the soldiers in the story and it is this fact that makes this film so incredible.  On the one hand I dislike the story telling and the audio but on the other hand I understand why it was done and it hits that mark.  You will want to pay attention during this film.

Being a war film there is much violence.  Soldiers are shot and die from enemy fire and bombs.  Ships are bombed with people on board.  People are burned by an oil fire on the water.  Planes are shot down and crash.  One civilian passes away on his way to assist the soldiers.  Torpedoes are launched and hit a boat.  Soldiers below deck in a boat are fired upon from the outside.  Bodies are seen floating in the water.

Despite not liking the storytelling I am giving Dunkirk an A- for making me feel a part of the story. 

Highway 89: Drew and Lacey Williams

“Music is an agreeable harmony for the honor of God and the permissible delights of the soul.” –Johann Sebastian Bach

Drew and Lacey Williams create real harmony together. It’s present in the twining of their voices through their original songs – the blend of bluegrass, country, folk and pop that comprises their repertoire – and also in the twining of their lives together as they’ve worked to nurture a family and a musical career. As Drew said in our interview: “The thing about music for Lacey and I is that you can never take it away from us. We use music as a way to reconnect.”

When they visited our studio, they impressed us with rich, candid talk about their journey as musicians, and also as spouses. People who know them now would be surprised to learn that they almost didn’t marry at all; they were both engaged to other people before they became interested in with each other, and even after they connected, Drew’s first proposal to Lacey (on a romantic trip to Nashville) didn’t hit the mark. Add to that the difficulty of living thousands of miles apart for a time (he in Utah and she in Hawaii) and it’s a wonder this story ever worked out the way it did. But like dissonance resolving in a lovely chord, they eventually found their way permanently into each other’s lives. Their sound is now even sweeter, having welcomed three beautiful children into the family, along with dozens of beautiful original songs. Drew and Lacey approach everything as a team, from songwriting to coaching their kids through music lessons of their own. Lacey said: “As humans we have to share in each other’s struggles, or else what are we here for?”

As our student assistant Victoria Hardy put it: “It’s the type of music that makes you feel happy and safe.” Listen to Drew and Lacey's full interview, along with terrific performances of some of their original songs, on-demand.

Movie Review: War for the Planet of the Apes

War for the Planet of the Apes, 7/14/17, PG-13

This is the third installment of the latest Planet of the Apes” series.  Andy Serkis reprises his role of Caesar, leader of the apes.  An illness is infecting humans and killing them and humans are blaming the apes for it so all the apes are in hiding. 

Woody Harrelson plays “The Colonel” and he finds where the apes are hiding and kills two of them in their sleep, thinking he has killed Caesar.  Instead he killed Caesar’s wife and son.  Caesar decides the apes must move somewhere else but he will not go with them so he can get his revenge.

This film really got my attention.  It is amazing that the motion capture of the actor’s faces can project so many emotions.  Andy Serkis can really make you feel something with this technology.  The story moves along really well and kept my interest as new characters were introduced. Woody Harrelson’s character is ruthless to everyone in this film. 

If you have not seen the other two most recent “Planet of the Apes” films there is a quick story review.  But those films are good as well.  I’m not sure if this will only be a trilogy of films, but I would go see another one. 

As the title says this is a war movie.  There are battles during this film with guns blazing and people and apes being shot and killed.  Apes are forced to do manual labor and are held in a camp.  Caesar is tortured.  The final battle scene is massive and destructive.  Some bloody wounds are visible and there are many explosions.  Not much profanity in the film.

War for the Planet of the Apes is rated PG-13 and I am giving it an A-.  


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