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

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Start It Up: The Complete Teen Business Guide to Turning Your Passions Into Pay by Kenrya Rankin

A reader interested in starting his or her own business need look no further than Start It Up. The book is a step by step guide on how to start one’s own business during one’s teenage years. This text’s ability to explain business jargon using simple terms makes this title easily accessible to high school students. Without overwhelming, Start It Up provides a good amount of information to get teens started on their business venture. Each chapter deals with a specific step of building, managing, sustaining and growing a business. The chapters conclude with a list of resources for further information and support on the topics discussed. The examples of teens who have started their own businesses can be helpful in demonstrating that a business doesn’t have to be overly complex and that anyone can do it as long as he or she is willing to invest the time and effort. Young entrepreneurs will have their hands full while they start up their own business; the resources in this book will help them plan and stay on track.--Claudio Leon

Rankin, Kenrya. Start It Up: The Complete Teen Business Guide to Turning Your Passions into Pay. San Francisco, 2011. Print.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Ms. Marvel: No Normal by G. Willow Wilson

Sixteen year old Kamala is having an identity crisis.  Born and raised in Jersey City in a Pakistani family, she’s beginning to feel like she doesn't fit in with either.  No one really understands her Avengers obsession or her love of fanfiction, and her parents say they trust her but won’t even consider letting her go to a the waterfront...with boys.  In a late-night act of defiance, she sneaks out to the party and almost immediately regrets her decision.  She doesn't feel “normal” at all and the meatheads and clique-girls are only meaner and more xenophobic once it looks like Kamala has ditched her culture.  As she storms off and heads home a weird mist envelopes the city.  Out of the mist Iron Man, Captain America and Captain Marvel appear to Kamala.  When Captain Marvel asks Kamala, “Who do you want to be?” she answers, “I want to be you.”  But being Captain Marvel is not the cure-all Kamala had hoped for.  She has powers she can barely control, parents who are outraged at her disobedience, friends (and frenemies) in trouble, and a city that needs a superhero.  Ms. Marvel is here and Jersey will never be the same. --Regan Schwartz

Wilson, G. Willow, and Adrian Alphona. Ms. Marvel Volume 1: No Normal. New York: Marvel Entertainment, 2014. Print.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Pluto by Naoki Urasawa

In the future, robots and humans have fought many wars together and now live, relatively peaceably, side-by-side.  International robot laws are in place and these legal restrictions prohibit robots from killing humans.  In spite of a recent civil rights movement for robots, they are still discriminated against by humans, and the protagonist of this murder mystery is a robot member of an international police agency who passes for human named Gesicht.  As the series begins, Gesicht is investigating the recent chilling destruction of a beloved robot and global hero and a string of murders, trying to determine a motive.

This eight volume manga series brings Astro Boy and the grandfather of manga to a fresh audience with fresh perspective.  It begins with a re-imagining of the premise of the recent war in Afghanistan.  In doing so, it raises questions for readers of the nature of sentient life, the implications of artificial intelligence, the features of a post-conflict diverse society, and explores notions of human rights and civil rights in the future.  Fans of manga who loved Death Note and are looking for a new series will devour this one. ---Jessica Fenster-Sparber

Urasawa, Naoki and Osamu Tezuka.  Pluto.  San Francisco: Viz Media, 2008.  Print.

Friday, May 15, 2015

Fullmetal Alchemist by Hiromu Arakawa

After losing their bodies in an alchemy experiment gone wrong, Edward and Alphonse Elric set out on a journey for the only item that can bring their bodies back: the Philosopher’s Stone. The two brothers must overcome many challenges and are forced to choose between what they want most or save those they love. The Elrics will meet many memorable characters along their way in this typically stylized manga series which spans across twenty-seven volumes. As with many popular shonen, themes such as friendship, perseverance, grit and self-sacrifice are woven into this series. The black and white drawings are sharp and full of details which bring to life the multitude of action scenes found in nearly every chapter. Readers of Naruto, Bleach and One Piece are sure to enjoy following Edward and Alphonse along their epic journey.--Claudio Leon

Arakawa, Hiromu. Fullmetal Alchemist. San Francisco: Viz, 2005. Print.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

How to Fake A Moon Landing by Darryl Cunningham

So how does homeopathy work? Wait, does homeopathy work? What is the difference between straight and reform chiropractic?  Is fracking ingenious or dangerous or both?  Inquiring minds want to know.
In this age of sweeping conspiracy theories, climate change denial, and anti-vaccination hysteria we are awash is mis-and-disinformation.  It can be difficult to separate fact from convincing fiction and teaching students to do just that is a key component of developing information literacy.  This is where How to Fake a Moon Landing shines.  In accessible, comic book format, Darryl Cunningham presents seven prevalent controversies as well as an overview of science denial.  Beyond simply offering examples and information to counter the claims of conspiracy theorists and deniers, Cunningham consistently models asking good questions and synthesizing information from multiple sources.  With an extensive list of sources and a cartoon format that belies the density of the information found within, How to Fake a Moon Landing is perhaps best suited to instructional use.  Though avid readers of graphic nonfiction and science buffs will find plenty to ponder.--Regan Schwartz

A teacher’s guide is available from the publisher here.

Cunningham, Darryl, and Andrew Revkin. How To Fake A Moon Landing. New York: Abrams ComicArts, 2013. Print.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Interivew Spotlight: Daniel Vargas

Hi there.  We've been busier than usual with poetry programming and free comic book day-- pictures coming soon!  We've been meaning to introduce you to Daniel Vargas who is kindly filling in for our teammate Anja Kennedy at our Bronx Hope site.  Daniel gamely answered a few questions for us so we could introduce you.  Without further ado: Daniel Vargas in his own words.

JFS:  Can you tell us a little bit about what you were doing before arriving at Passages?

DV:  Prior to arriving at passages, I was enjoying being free from a fixed work schedule for the first time in my life. I was reading a lot of fiction, spending time outdoors and exploring the real estate field.

JFS:  What is your favorite kind of text to read?

DV:  From a very early age, I have been partial to fiction. Fiction delves into virtually all aspects of the human experience which enables fiction readers to be proficient in non-fiction as well. Besides the pleasure derived from an intriguing, well-written story, the reader is witness to the age-old struggle between good and evil from the safety of his favorite reading space.

JFS:  Where is your favorite place to read?

DV:  It depends. I favor the dining room table --with my back the wall, to read the newspaper, correspondence and non-fiction in general. But when it comes to fiction, I’m partial to the couch in the family room. I have, on occasion, read a paperback 18 feet above ground, on a tree stand, waiting for deer to go by.

JFS:  What was your favorite book as a teenager?

DV:  It’s difficult for me to identify a favorite book. Normally, several titles come to mind that define a genre or a time. Suffice it to say that I read a lot of comics and Greek mythology as a teenager. Also, I remember nights when my whole family listened to readalouds of Mark Twain’s Tom Sawyer. I was impacted by El coronel no tiene quien le escriba, by Gabriel GarcĂ­a Marquez, for I was exposed to a course word for the first time, in a superbly written story. Later on, I was deeply touched by Jorge Icaza’s Huasipungo because of its raw images and strong stand against injustice.

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

DV:  I love the outdoors. I enjoy camping, fishing and hunting. In the summer, my wife and I fight for space in our small backyard vegetable patch.