Thursday, October 15, 2015

Welcome Back!

The 2014-15 school year at Passages is now well underway.  Pardon our absence over the summer and last month while we regrouped.  We are looking forward to introducing you to our new team members in the days ahead.  We will resume reviews next week-- stay tuned!--Claudio Leon and Jessica Fenster-Sparber

Friday, June 26, 2015


It is with heavy hearts that we will say farewell today to two of our co-editors, Anja Kennedy and Regan Schwartz.  Anja co-founded this blog in 2009, and she and Regan have worked very hard to provide leadership, editing, and reviews to What’s Good? these last five years.  We will miss them more than words can say and wish them all good things as they move on.

What’s Good?  will take a summer hiatus and we will return in September. --Claudio Leon and Jessica Fenster-Sparber

Thursday, June 25, 2015

ALA 2015

We are excited that our teammate, and fellow What’s Good? blogger, Claudio Leon, is traveling today to San Diego to accept the Association’s prestigious Spectrum Scholarship.  If you’re headed to ALA's Annual Conference, find him and say hello!--Anja Kennedy, Regan Schwartz, and Jessica Fenster-Sparber

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Red Madness: How a Medical Mystery Changed What We Eat by Gail Jarrow

Have you ever stopped to wonder why our cereals are all fortified with niacin and other vitamins and minerals?  The answer is rooted in a mysterious disease called pellagra.  Its symptoms included: thick, painful, scaly red skin on the hands, feet, face, and chest; foul-smelling, chronic diarrhea; progressive insanity; and, finally, death.  As it ravaged the countryside, and occasionally the parlors of the rich, in the early 1900s, doctors struggled to determine its cause and to find an effective treatment.  Is it infectious?  A parasite?  A deficiency?  In Red Madness, author Gail Jarrow has woven together a vast collection of primary documents (including photographs, newspaper articles, journals, advertisements, and maps) to tell the harrowing tale of the race to cure pellagra.  Backmatter includes frequently asked questions, a glossary, timeline, author’s note, source notes, bibliography, index, and sources for further information.  --Regan Schwartz

Educator's guide available from the publisher here.

Jarrow, Gail. Red Madness: How a Medical Mystery Changed What We Eat. Honesdale, PA: Calkins Creek, 2014. Print

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

World War Hulk by Greg Pak, illustrated by John Romita Jr.

When the Illuminati (Iron Man, Namor, Mr. Fantastic, Black Bolt, Professor X and Dr. Strange) decided to send the Hulk into deep space, they had no idea of the repercussions their action would have. It was only a matter of time before the Incredible Hulk found his way back home and he’s returned with a vengeance. Shortly following the events of Planet Hulk, this direct sequel follows Bruce Banner’s return to planet Earth seeking revenge on those who deep-sixed him. The Hulk returns under the impression that the Illuminati wanted to make sure he stayed away permanently by bombing the planet where the Hulk had made his new home. Little did the perpetrators know that the Hulk would survive both his wife and son. The Illuminati become the Hulk’s primary target as he wages war on some of Earth’s most intellectual heroes. Can they survive the full might of an angry Hulk? This all-out brawl between the smartest and the toughest will keep readers on the edge of their seats until the very end. --Claudio Leon

Pak, Greg. World War Hulk. New York: Marvel Entertainment, 2014. Print.

Monday, June 22, 2015

The New Earth From Above: 365 Days by Yann Arthus-Bertrand

This rectangular pictorial seeks to bring immediate attention to the plight of the earth and its peoples through 365 fascinating and gorgeous aerial photographs of a wide variety of ecosystems around the world.  Originally presented as an international travelling photo exhibition, this dense volume shrinks the exhibition into a compact, portable portal for readers everywhere.

The New Earth is broken into twelve chapters corresponding to the twelve months of the year, and each chapter begins with a three-page essay by a different French author.  These contributors cover topics like climate change, biodiversity, renewable energy, abolishing poverty, and fair trade.  Students will be interested in seeing a garden greening a desert, olive groves, rice fields and frozen forests.  Each full-page photograph is accompanied by one paragraph of text explaining the image  and connecting it to the environmental and/or social context and threats alluded to in the visual.  The text is supplemented by a map detail with a “you are here” marker, providing geographical context, as well as the latitude and longitude address for the location.  Social Studies teachers planning lessons on map skills or preparing students for initial phases of inquiry brainstorming may find this book to be of use.  This text will likely appeal to browsers and reluctant readers.  Backmatter contains an index of countries, acknowledgements, and an overview of  --Jessica Fenster-Sparber

Arthus-Bertrand, Yann.  The New Earth From Above 365 Days.  New York: Abrams, 2009.

Friday, June 19, 2015

Magic Card Tricks by Nicholas Einhorn

I cannot begin to tell you how many times students have asked me for books about card tricks.  Magic Card Tricks features a range of tricks at different levels of ability, each with step by step instructions and full color photographs illustrating each step.  Most tricks are managed with a deck (or two) of cards, though more advanced gimmicks require materials that may not be immediately available to students.  A thorough introduction gives an overview of magic performance and a brief history of card magic that segues smoothly into a section on basic card handling techniques.  Front and back matter includes a table of contents, glossary, index, and an international list of suppliers.  While there is no substitute for learning from a pro (or from video), Magic Card Tricks is a well-organized resource which manages to pack a great deal of information into a slim, accessible volume.  --Regan Schwartz

Einhorn, Nicholas. Magic Card tricks. Leicestershire, UK: Southwater, 2012. Print.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

The Great American Cereal Book: How Breakfast Got Its Crunch by Marty Gitlin and Topher Ellis

What is your favorite kind of cereal?  The Great American Cereal Book documents this quintessentially American invention from its very first ready-to-eat cold and boxed appearance in 1863 (Granula) through the present, with a focus on varieties produced by Kellogg’s, Post, General Mills, and their ilk.  Most cereal entries contain the name of the cereal, its producer, the start and end date of production, notable spokescharacters, and interesting facts.  The more familiar (Cheerios, Rice Krispies, Frosted Flakes) are all here along with the obscure (Freakies, Quisps, Klondike Pete’s Crunchy Nuggets, Barbie Fairytopia.)  Occasional features are sprinkled throughout on topics like Marbits (freeze-dried marshmallows found in cereals like Lucky Charms), the origins of Rice Krispie Treats, and The Trix Rabbit Story.  Whether browsing the images of the boxes or reading the features, this volume offers a rich source of advertising examples and stories for analysis and will appeal to students and their teachers immersed in introductions to media studies.  Backmatter includes acknowledgements, credits, and an index, and information about the authors and photographers. --Jessica Fenster-Sparber

Gitlin, Marty and Topher Ellis.  The Great American Cereal Book:  How Breakfast Got Its Crunch.  New York: Abrams Image, 2011.

Click here and here
for examples of a lesson plan inviting students to create their own cereals and advertisements and to analyze the nutritional value of different cereals. 

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Interview Spotlight: Principal Baxter-Sweet

Passages Academy began 2015 under the guidance of a new principal and as we begin to wrap up this academic year, she graciously carved a bit of time out of her incredibly busy schedule for an interview.  We are very excited to introduce to you our new leader, Ms. Yvette Baxter-Sweet.

RS: Can you tell us a little bit about what you were doing before taking the helm at Passages?

YBS: Prior to accepting the Principalship at Passages I was an Assistant Principal at East River Academy located on Rikers Island.  Prior to that I was an instructional/literacy coach for 5 years.  Last but not least I was a classroom teacher for 8 years in grades ranging from Kindergarten to 5th grade.

RS: What is your favorite kind of text to read?  Where is your favorite place to read?

YBS: I love reading mysteries, fantasy and realistic fiction text.  I love to read anywhere when I have the time to read for enjoyment.

RS: What was your favorite book as a teenager?

YBS: There were a few that I liked and remember: A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, Down These Mean Streets and I know Why the Caged Bird Sings.

RS: What do you like to do for fun when you're not reading?

YBS: I love to travel around the world as well as the country.

Friday, May 22, 2015

Guest Post: Why I Think This World Should End by Prince Ea

In honor of Earth Day and National Poetry Month, my students and I watched rapper/activist Prince Ea perform his spoken-word poem “Why I Think This World Should End” about the damage humans have done to the environment. Noting the mass destruction of trees to make money, pollution caused by carbon emissions, and the government’s inability to prevent any of it, Prince Ea apologizes to future generations for leaving them a dismal place to live.  Though Prince Ea’s message reveals the brutal reality of the Earth’s decaying state, it also provides hope by reminding viewers that individuals can take action.  My students were moved by the performance, and also alarmed by the new information they received.  One student, T, asked, “If they cut down all the trees, how are we going to survive?” J added, “How are we going to breathe?” Though my students were disturbed by the facts in the video, it prompted them to brainstorm ways they can help save the environment, including recycling, planting trees, car-pooling, taking public transportation, and minimizing their energy use.

I recommend this six-minute video to teachers, especially English teachers, who want to celebrate Earth day with their students. Because this video combines poetry with information about the environment, it serves well as an Earth Day/National Poetry Month text for the month of April.  --Mackenzie Magee