Monday, April 20, 2015

Teaching the Diary of Anne Frank: A Review and a Giveaway!

The first thing I noticed about Susan Moger’s book, Teaching the Diary of Anne Frank: An In-Depth Resource for Learning About the Holocaust Through the Writings of Anne Frank was her personal connection to Anne’s story. Here are the opening words to the preface:
I was born the day Anne Frank went into hiding-July 6, 1942. When I first read The Diary of a Young Girl, I was 13, the same age as Anne when she started her diary. That combination of events, and the fact that I, too, kept a diary, forged a connection between Anne and me. (p. 5)
The second thing I noticed was the book’s superb organization. Beginning with a lengthy note to teachers on how to use the book and  ending with “Resources and References” which is divided by grade level, the author has created a classroom resource which will make reading A Diary of a Young Girl not only memorable, but also a starting point for a learning unit with historical and sociological implications. 

Ms. Moger worked hard to show the historical context of Anne Frank’s life. But that broad worldview is balanced with personal snapshots showing how Anne was a “normal” teenager in an abnormal time. The book's timeline reflects this by showing what was going on in the Frank family in correspondence with world events.

Each of the five chapters incorporate resource pages amplifying the author's mission: to teach young people about the Holocaust so that Anne Frank's legacy will influence present and future generations.

You'll have to get the book to appreciate the depth of resources which Susan assembled in this curriculum resource. I can't begin to showcase her project suggestions, response journal topics, thought provoking discussion questions, and excerpts from Holocaust survivors. Here are just a few examples which spoke to me.

This map is similar to the one reproduced in the book. If you click on this website you can see a succession of maps showing the progression of German occupation.


This photograph captures Anne and her dream of one day becoming a journalist or a writer.


National-Socialist German Workers' Party
Party Secretariat
Head of the Party Secretariat  Fuehrer Headquarters,                         July 11, 1943 
Circular No. 33/43 g.

Re: Treatment of the Jewish Question

On instructions from the Fuehrer I make known the following:
Where the Jewish Question is brought up in public, there may be no discussion of a future overall solution.

It may, however, be mentioned that the Jews are taken in groups for appropriate labor purposes.

signed M. Bormann

Distribution: Reichsleiter
Group leaders
File Reference: Treatment/Jews

Source: Documents on the Holocaust, Selected Sources on the
Destruction of the Jews of Germany and Austria, Poland and the Soviet

Union, Yad Vashem, Jerusalem, 1981, Document no.160. p.342.

This is one of several documents used in the prosecution of Nazi war criminals during the Nuremberg trials. Ms. Moger also devotes several resource pages and discussion questions on the topic of doublespeak and euphemisms.


            A Dead Child Speaks
                         by Nelly Sachs

My mother held me by my hand.
Then someone raised the knife of parting:
So that it should not strike me,
My mother loosed her hand from mine.
But she lightly touched my thighs once more
And her hand was bleeding –

After that the knife of parting
Cut in two each bite I swallowed –
It rose before me with the sun at dawn
And began to sharpen itself in my eyes –
Wind and water ground in my ear
And every voice of comfort pierced my heart –

As I was led to death
I still felt in the last moment
The unsheathing of the great knife of parting.

(Translated by Ruth &Matthew Mead)
Holocaust Poetry: Compiled and Introduced by Hilda Schiff.

I read the Diary of Anne Frank over fifty years ago and I still remember some of the feelings it evoked in me. Photocopies of actual pages from the diary startled me. Of course I knew that her journal was a hand-written account and not a typed paperback. But seeing her handwriting and the photos she inserted with her comments, connected me to my younger self who kept a diary because that’s what Anne Frank did. It made me wonder: how many other young women and writers have been inspired by Anne’s example?

The Diary of a Young Girl is a classic book appreciated by readers young and old.  Hopefully this curriculum supplement will continue to facilitate Anne’s purpose: to document a piece of history that the world can’t afford to forget.  

Ms. Moger is giving away an autographed copy of this award-winning book. A perfect addition to any school or home school library, I hope my faithful blog readers will share this post with teachers and/or enter on behalf of a local school. To enter, please leave me a comment by April 23. Make sure you leave me your email address if you are new to this blog.
If your class is studying the Holocaust, here are several other books on the topic which I have reviewed on this blog:

The Boy in the Striped Pajamas
Rose Under Fire
Liesl's Ocean Rescue
Prisoner of Night and Fog 

Visit Anne Frank Foundation for more pictures of Anne and her family.

Visit for interviews about Anne's diary.

Read Annexed by Sharon Doger for a fictionalized story about Peter Van Pels.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Red Madness: How a Medical Mystery Changed What We Eat

Congratulations to Kathleen Burkinshaw who won Miriam Franklin's ARC, Extraordinary. didn't know they are both Sky Pony debut authors--but I did! Look for a review and giveaway of Kathleen's book, The Last Cherry Blossom  next fall.
How many of you have heard of pellagra? Before reading Red Madness, I was unfamiliar with the disease. But reading it resolved a personal mystery for my husband's 85-year-old uncle. He finished the book and said, "Now I know what I had as a child."

This disease which produces a horrible skin rash, leads to severe intestinal problems, causes neurological problems, and often leads to death, no longer afflicts wide portions of our population--the way it did during the first half of the twentieth century. Pellagra has been eradicated from most developed countries because of the tireless work of one physician: Joseph Goldberger. Red Madness by award winning author Gail Jarrow, describes how this medical mystery was solved.
Written with clear language accessible to readers from age ten through adult, Gail Jarrow chronicles the history, myths, and treatments associated with pellagra. Dr. Goldberger's tireless efforts to determine the primary cause of pellagra included hosting "filth parties." In gruesome detail, Gail describes how Goldberger tried infecting himself with pellagra in order to prove that it was not contagious or a result of infection.
"This Oklahoma sharecropper and his family pick cotton in 1916.
The older two children--ages six and five--together picked twenty-five pounds of cotton a day.
Goldberger tried to communicate his message about diet to farmers and mill workers,
 two groups that suffered from pellagra." (p.100)
Since the disease appeared most often in poor households where diets were limited to 3-M's: meal (cornmeal baked into bread), meat (fatback, form the fatty layer on a pigs back) and molasses (syrup), Goldberger was convinced that pellagra was probably caused by a diet deficiency. But how could he prove that? Goldberger spent eleven years, traveling frequently in the South where the disease was most common, and performed experiment after experiment. 

In 1923 his efforts finally paid off. Experimenting with dogs who were experiencing pellagra symptoms, Goldberger fed them brewer's yeast (something missing from most pellagrins' diets). Quickly, the dogs recovered. In 1926 the Mississippi River flooded. 700,000 people lost their homes and 45-50,000 developed pellagra. The Red Cross took Goldberger's recommendation to add yeast to the impoverished people's diet. Within two months people were cured. 

After Goldberger died in 1928, other scientists continued searching for the vitamin that would prevent pellagra. Eventually, Conrad Elvehjem discovered that nicotinic acid (now known as niacin) was indeed, the pellagra-preventing vitamin. Ten years later bakers began adding niacin, along with other Vitamin B complex vitamins to bread. That was the beginning of the enriched bread we enjoy today. 

According to a recent Writer's Digest article, "Straight Up Nonfiction with a Twist," one way authors enhance text is by using sidebars for supplemental material. Gail and her team at Calkins Creek did an excellent job of interweaving newspaper headlines, facts, and photos such as this one into the body of the text.
"Some doctors referred to the butterfly-shaped rash on the
girls neck as the Collar of Casal, named after
the first doctor to write about pellagra." (p. 83)
In addition, dozens of case histories of individuals whose lives were torn apart by the disease, are sprinkled throughout the book. 

In a recent SCBWI, Bulletin article, "What Teachers Want from Nonfiction Authors," Alexis O'Neill said that teachers wanted authors to share about their research and writing process. Accordingly, I asked Gail a few questions about her process.

CarolWhat was it like for you to see the images of people afflicted with pellagra and pulling them together for this book?

Gail: Part of me approached this topic in a clinical manner. I have a background in biology, and I was fascinated to learn how a vitamin deficiency could lead to such dramatic physical symptoms. But when I read the accounts of patients’ suffering written by their doctors, I felt upset knowing this disease was so easy to prevent. Even after  pellagra’s cause and cure were discovered—and publicized—people continued to fall ill and die. Many victims lacked the resources to eat properly or didn’t realize how diet affected their bodies. Tragically, other deaths occurred because some physicians refused to accept that pellagra was a diet deficiency disease.

Carol: Was any part of this writing/publishing journey more difficult than another? 

Gail: The hardest part—and this is always the case when I write a non-fiction book—is locating and obtaining the primary documents.  Those were key because  secondary sources were contradictory about the early-20th-century understanding of pellagra, Joseph Goldberger and his research, and other details included in my book. Whenever possible, I go back to the original sources and do not necessarily trust what I read elsewhere. Too many times, I’ve found errors in the secondary sources.

For more information on the nitty gritty behind writing this book, see the informative Author's Note at the end of the book and Gail's interview in the School Library Journal. Teachers, make sure you utilize the educational activities which Gail has assembled. With such a detailed analysis of the disease, what caused it, and the stigmas associated with the disease, Red Madness will be an excellent supplement to history, sociology, and science lesson plans. 
I usually give away the books which I receive to review. This time I donated Red Madness to The Christian Academy, where my daughter teaches. In an upcoming blog I plan to review another new book by Gail, Fatal Fever: Tracking Down Typhoid Mary.  You'll have a chance to win that one; both books are outstanding additions to any home or school library. 

Read this book and maybe you'll discover answers to the mystery disease which left its mark on someone you know. 

Monday, April 6, 2015

Extraordinary: A Review and an ARC Giveaway!

In some ways books are like babies: conceiving them and bringing them into the world requires a lot of effort. The mother (writer) does most of the work, but there’s usually a team that assists with the delivery.

As the critique coordinator for the SCBWI Carolinas Charlotte group for over twenty years, I had the privilege of helping several fellow writers "deliver" their books. Whenever they did, I’ve been as proud as an aunt and enjoy celebrating the arrival of their “babies.”

You heard about Linda Phillips’ book Crazy last fall and now it’s Miriam Franklin’s turn. Both authors brought their books through one laborious draft after another until their stories emerged- beautifully formed and ready for a world of readers.

Over ten years I read several drafts of Miriam’s debut novel Extraordinary (Sky Pony Press, May 2015). In each one the kernel was the same: Ten-year-old Pansy's best friend, Anna, develops meningitis after a spring break camp. Pansy decides that if she becomes extraordinary, Anna will forgive her for all the promises she didn't keep. “Extraordinary” Pansy also wants to be the first person Anna sees after her brain surgery that hopefully will reduce her seizures.

Pansy’s wishful thinking—that she and Anna will return to the days of swimming at the beach, playing LEGOs with Anna’s twin brother Andy, and being Girl Scouts together—is not uncommon for children and adults when facing tragedy.  

Pansy hasn’t forgiven herself since she backed out of her promise to Anna to attend camp over spring break. Pansy got scared, the two girls fought, and Anna slammed the door behind Pansy. The next time she saw Anna, her friend was in a hospital bed. "Anna couldn't talk, she couldn't understand what people were saying, and she didn't act like she knew me at all." (p.3) 

While going for a hike with Andy, she thinks about how his family had to stay home with Anna. "You couldn't push a wheelchair on a trail in the mountains." (p. 86)

Pansy doesn't want to admit her fears:
In the spring they'll come with us. I wanted to say. And Anna will win Poohsticks, like always, and she'll be the first one down the steps to the falls. But I kept my words inside. Maybe I was afraid to say them out loud, afraid they would just disappear as soon as they were out of my mouth--as if by telling someone else how I get, I might keep my hopes from coming true. (p. 86)
The book is full of Pansy's efforts to become extraordinary in order to be the type of friend Anna deserves. Some of her actions have funny, unexpected consequences. For example, she attempts to improve her Rollerblading skills but ends up being pulled by two huge dogs around a park. But her drive to redeem herself for her failures and be an extraordinary friend propels her forward.

Before Anna's brain surgery Pansy reflects,
No matter how worried or nervous I was, Anna always believed in me. And I knew she still did. I would never have put on skates, gone to the top of the list for Independent Reader, or joined Girl Scouts if it weren't for Anna. But now, it was my turn to be there for her. To believe that she as going to pull through this surgery, that she was going to come out of it stronger than ever before. That she was going to be Anna again and that she would be so proud of me for all I'd done. So I blocked out all those questions and concentrated on one thing: in less than two weeks, I'd be sure to have my best friend back. (p. 151)
Pansy can't wait to see Anna after her surgery. She's heard that it was successful and she goes to the hospital armed with high hopes, a balloon, and a box of Oreos--Anna's favorite. Pansy is stunned at her friend's appearance and behavior:
She just lay there, her head drooping down, her eyes poking lifeless. She didn't seem to care if I was there or not. (p.196)
When Anna drops her hand on the package of cookies, her family is ecstatic because she's finally using her right hand. But for Pansy, all is lost.
I'd imagined it all--Anna understanding my words when I told her about my goals, Anna looking at my badge and getting that I'd earned it for her. Now I knew that Anna hadn't understood that I was doing any of those things for her.
All my dreams about Anna's recovery instantly evaporated into the air. They were just dreams. That's all they were. (p.198)
Pansy wrestles with the hard facts of Anna's illness and discovers that by following Anna's brave example she can conquer some of her own fears. In that way, Pansy finds her own path to extraordinary. 
Miriam Franklin has captured a difficult topic for young readers to understand: how do you respond when your best friend suffers a serious illness. I hope you will consider pre-ordering this well-written book for yourself, or for a young reader in your life. This will be a perfect book for families who have experienced similar tragedies and will speak to adults as well as children. As Angela Ackerman said in a recent blog, this book is very relatable

Leave me a comment by 7 PM on April 8 if you would like to receive my gently used copy of this ARC. If I don't have your email address, please make sure you leave that also. If you become a new follower of my blog or post this to your social media of choice, I'll enter your name twice--just make sure you let me know what you do. 

Monday, March 30, 2015

Writing Tips #5: Nuggets of Wisdom on Editing & Revision

Congratulations to Kathy Weichman who won Beginnings Middles & Ends by Nancy Kress.  Thanks to all of you who contributed to the this series. You can find the previous posts here: Part I and II included General Advice; Part III was on Deep Point of View; and Part IV was on Story Making. 
"During my time as a facilitator of various writing groups, I saw the tendency of overusing the words ‘that’ and ‘was’.
THAT is a word THAT should not be used THAT often. 
It is reasonable to say, eighty percent of that’s are not necessary.

"WAS is another overused word that takes away from the action.  I once had a writing assignment in college where the professor wanted a two thousand word story written without the use of ‘was.'  Almost impossible to do.  Try replacing 'was' with action words or dialogue.  If you use it more than ten times in a two thousand word story, you are abusing the word.   

"Misplacing a comma can turn the meaning of a sentence into something other than intended. Always place a comma before a person’s name when used in dialogue.   

 “Let’s go out and eat Nancy.”
 “Let’s go out and eat, Nancy.”

"In the first example, it looks like Nancy is dinner. 
In the second example, with the comma before Nancy’s name, the meaning isn’t so graphic."  Tommy Styles, short story writer.

"Editing will require you to kill phrases, paragraphs, maybe even entire chapters or characters that you love. Sometimes they’ll be the bits you think are clever and beautiful and certain to be the ones your fans will be quoting and sharing on social media. You must be willing to do it anyway. You must learn to become brutally analytical about your own work. If it doesn’t help the story, it is not necessary. Period."  Shannon Wiersbitzky, author of What Flowers Remember.

"I am beginning an extensive revision and working hard to cut what needs to be cut, but it helps to remember that what is cut doesn't need to be trashed. It can be saved to be used another day. Maybe it won't, but it's easier to cut when I have that mindset." Kathy Cannon Wiechman, author of Like A River.

"When you cutting, words, sentences, paragraphs don't just throw them away. That's too emotional for many of us. Open a "shards" or "discards" file for each WIP and save those cuttings. You'll be able to use them another day in another project." Jean Hall, founder of Write2Ignite.

"Writing and publishing is a long-term pursuit, so don't rush what you are working on, and don't submit before it is polished. Revision is the key to publication." Christine Kohler, author of No Surrender Soldier.
Found on 

"Put away your work for a good while before revising." Rosi Hollenbeck, SCBWI critique group coordinator for Northern and Central California and blogger.

"There comes a time to put down the writing books, the notes from conferences and classes, the "he said she said" telling you what to do or not to do and JUST WRITE THE STORY THAT'S IN YOUR HEART. Sandra Warren, author of Arlie the Alligator.

If you need more inspiration, check out Janice Hardy's month of outstanding at-home revision blogs. Kathy Temean has an excellent list of things not to miss when editing your work. And here are some top editing and proofreading tips from the folks at Romance University.

Finally, here is advice from a fourth-grade teacher; I use this quote whenever I teach writing: 
  "The red pencil is your best friend."