Category Archives: books

Snowflake Book Series Website Moved

Rachel: The old domain we’d bought for your first Snowflake eBook (MeetSnowFlake.com) expires tomorrow. Since we decided not to keep that domain, I moved the entire website and made a few small updates/changes to it. The new address is a “sub-domain” of your main website. You can find it on snowflake.rachelfryer.com. If you publish another Snowflake book, like you were talking about over Christmas break, you can publish/link it there also if you want.

I also remembered I setup a Twitter account for your Snowflake book series, it’s @MeetSnowflake. I posted about the new site address and made some changes in the Twitter profile. If you want logins to both the site and this Twitter account I can make/give you those. :-)

I think you should write and illustrate a new Snowflake book by yourself, and we should publish it to iTunes together. :-)

Howard Zinn Book Review

Here is a book review I did for my AP US History class on Howards Zinn’s A Peoples History of the United States.

 

Zinn Book Review

Howard Zinn’s book, A People’s History of the United States, tells a story of United States history not often heard in textbooks. While a very interesting read, you must read it objectively as many of Zinn’s views are extremely liberal. The book provides many troubling topics that make you think and consider the truth about what we have always heard in school.

From my reading, it seemed Zinn mainly wanted to focus on the struggles between capitalism, the United States people and the world. He states his purpose is to inform people of the untold, and often unwanted, history of oppression, racism and class struggles. This being said, the book is less a history of the United States and more about “A People’s Struggle Against the United States.” I think the book does not include a full history, but it includes the history that Zinn wanted told. He wanted this history told because it was not the history he learned while in school and is still not in many textbooks today (Zinn 687).

I do not believe Zinn states an explicit thesis, but he does state that the purpose of the book and what he wants to accomplish with it. That is, as I previously stated, to provide a full story of the United States told by the people who were oppressed by capitalism and the government. He says he wanted to do this because it is the history he never know about but may be more than that. Zinn grew up in an Irish-American, working-class family in New York. Later he worked in a shipyard for three years. Growing up in the northeast part of the United States, as well as being an immigrant, gave him a predisposition to tell of the oppression there more than in other places. Zinn states this and how he ignored struggles of the large number of Latinos in California for justice and the fight for gay and lesbian rights in the United States (Zinn 687).

This book presents a more extreme view of history than what I have grown up hearing. My father graduated from the Air Force Academy and enjoys discussing the history of the US and the world. From him I have acquired a distaste of oil companies and imperialist wars as in Iraq and Afghanistan. This book supported much of what I have heard before, but looking at it critically I believe the book has portrays things out of balance. Zinn criticizes how Samuel Morison, who wrote a biography of Columbus, focuses briefly on the bad aspects like genocide but then goes on to talk a lot more about the good side of Columbus’s endeavors (Zinn 8). Ironically, Zinn points out this fault in Morison’s text, but writes in the same style about capitalism in his own book. Overall, this book has helped me in understanding better the history of the United States but at times it seemed too subjective and out of balance.

The book, for the most part, includes secondary sources that are other historians’ collections of facts. However, it does include an occasional primary source (Wineburg 2). In addition, Zinn includes many statistics of people who were involved in strikes, riots or other protests. It is hard to accept some of what Zinn writes because in some cases he does not always use multiple sources. For example, when supporting chapter 16, about views of distaste among African Americans for WWII, he only cites three pieces of evidence that all came from a single secondary source (Wineburg 3). That being said, there are a lot of other examples of good documents being used. Zinn not only shares the facts but his interpretation of them and makes you question them. This is good although Zinn tries to instill in you a viewpoint that is anti-capitalist by doing this and seems to cherry pick the facts.

This way of asking questions first then giving you the facts later is used often by Zinn. In this way it is almost more of a narrative of the story with facts thrown in to make it seem more like a history. While working well to make his points, this practice of using either-or questions deviates from standard “professional historical writing” (Wineburg 3). When Zinn was writing on how Roosevelt lied during WWII, he accused him but did not explain specifically what Roosevelt said (Zinn 411). Zinn’s tone throughout this chapter more ambiguous and less definitive. This is different from when a history book will interpret the facts clearly and tell them to you. Zinn tries to lead you to a conclusion but its like he doesn’t want to commit himself to that conclusion in the book. Overall, Zinn writes in a way that advocates his points well but you have to be careful to still read it objectively because Zinn is very subjective.

I enjoyed reading this book even though it could be a bit dry and did not have the same kind of “hook” as a fiction book might. From previously being in debate it was fun to read because in most debates we would be arguing something that encompassed capitalism or over militarization of our government. It was funny because I even recognized some of the authors Zinn referenced from reading their evidence in debate rounds. The main difference was that in a debate round everyone knows you can find an author that says exactly what you want, hence many arguments ends in global nuclear war even though most debaters really do not believe that would ever happen. When reading some of these same authors in Zinn’s history book, it makes me realize that Zinn can do this same thing that we did in debate and that he is presenting the best sources that support his positions. Even though he presents this information as if it is the only true explanation of what happened, that is not the case. His desire to persuade you gets in the way of objectively portraying the facts. Throughout the book he gives the view that the United States has no redeeming qualities. I know that while we certainly have some big problems that we have a lot of good things happening in our country.

Starting from Columbus to the 21st century, A People’s History of the United States gives an account of the struggles many people faced at the hands of the government and capitalists. It does not tell, however, of the hardships people faced going west. It instead focuses on their troubles with income and rights. In chapter 11, Zinn goes more into the strikes of the Industrial Age and even implies that we were close to another revolution with as many protests among the low-income population. Zinn goes on to tell about how the US entering the World Wars had more to do with large corporations and politicians figuring out that getting behind a war effort was a good way to increase imperialism and to avoid economic trouble and class struggles at home. So as the US came into WWI we came out of the Great Depression. After the war however more strikes were continuing to take place. Large unions as well as the communist political party were causing trouble for the US government to deal with. Even though the large corporations and politicians knew how war could help the country, it could not last forever as seen in Vietnam when due to anti-war efforts they had to end the war. Overall the book gives a good picture of what is not often included in most history books.

I am glad to have read A People’s History of the United States by Howard Zinn. It has led me to become more enlightened about many more things, like the darker side of Columbus and the amount of strikes that took place before WWII. While some parts may have been stretched, in most cases I believe it proved to be true to its point: To tell of the suffering and hard times people have had at the hands of capitalists and the government. This book provides many questions but also a different outlook upon our history worth reading.

 

Works Cited

1. Zinn, Howard A People’s History of the United States. New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 2003. Print.

2. Wineburg, Sam “Undue Certainty: Where Howard Zinn’s A People’s History Falls Short.” Rev. of A People’s History of the United States, by Howard Zinn. American Educator Summer 2013. Online.

Marie Curie

This is a book report Rachel wrote for Ms Moore’s 3rd grade class this year.

Marie Curie changed the world through science. Marie and her husband discovered two new elements, polonium and radium. Marie and two other scientists won the Nobel Prize in physics. In 1910, she isolated radium in the form of a metal. Marie won a second Nobel Prize, this time in chemistry.

Some of her main struggles were that her husband was killed in an accident right after they won the prize. Marie’s main struggle was that people treated her differently because she was a woman.

Her accomplishments inspire me to work harder in science. She proves that women can be as good as men in science. One of my favorite quotes of hers is:

“You cannot hope to build a better world without improving and, at the same time, share a general responsibility for all humanity, our particular duty being to aid those to whom we think can be most useful.” -Marie Curie

Her research into radiation helped others discover the structure of the atom. Even though radiation is very dangerous, it helps save lives even today through X rays, cancer treatments, and creating electricity.

Christmas In Camelot Book Report

Rachel used the VoiceThread app on our iPad tonight to create this book report about “Christmas In Camelot” by Mary Pope Osborne.

Christmas In Camelot (4 pages)

Click the link above to view and participate in the VoiceThread. Making comments is really simple and you can delete and re-record as many times as you like.

If you are viewing this on iPhone, iPad, or iPod Touch and you have the VoiceThread app installed, tap here to view this VoiceThread on your device.

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Sent from my iPad (embed code added in a laptop browser)

Alexander discusses his Living in Oak Ridge Project and Glogster EDU

This is a ten minute interview with Alexander this evening about his “Living in Oak Ridge” project for 8th grade English.

Discussing Oak Ridge Glogster Project at Oklahoma City, OK by wfryer

For more background see my post, “Share “timed” comments on Audio Recordings with SoundCloud.”

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Treasure Island: Free Audio Book Version

“Treasure Island” is available as a free, public domain audiobook via LibriVox in the United States. Use the links below to directly load mp3 versions of each chapter on your mobile phone.

  1. Chapters 1-2
  2. Chapters 3-4
  3. Chapters 5-6
  4. Chapters 7-8
  5. Chapters 9-10
  6. Chapters 11-12
  7. Chapter 13
  8. Chapter 14
  9. Chapter 15
  10. Chapter 16
  11. Chapter 17
  12. Chapter 18
  13. Chapter 19
  14. Chapter 20
  15. Chapter 21
  16. Chapter 22
  17. Chapters 23-24
  18. Chapters 25-26
  19. Chapter 27
  20. Chapter 28
  21. Chapter 29
  22. Chapter 30
  23. Chapter 31
  24. Chapter 32
  25. Chapter 33
  26. Chapter 34

I created this list for my wife and daughter, who are driving from Lubbock, Texas, to Oklahoma City today and forgot to load up an iPhone or iPod with audiobooks or podcasts! This list is (hopefully) a little easier to link to from an iPhone, compared to the original webpage on LibrVox.

Lighthouse Keeping in New Zealand in the 1960s

This evening Rachel and I read “A birthday at the lighthouse” by Robin Robilliard on my iPad. It’s a free book in the International Children’s Digital Library.

A birthday at the lighthouse

Rachel was pretty surprised to learn the family had to make their own clothes, give themselves haircuts, and didn’t appear to have any television or computer access. We do live in a different world!

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Favorite Picture Books About Maine

This evening Rachel picked out one of the picture books I purchased this past December when her sister and I had a chance to visit Farmington, Maine. We found this particular book (Moose Power: Muskeg Saves the Day) at Mooseville, which is a great website and store in Farmington started by a young web entrepreneur.

Mooseville.com Outlet Store Farmington, Maine

You made it to Mooseville in Farmington, Maine

After reading tonight, Rachel and I recorded a short, five minute audio podcast about why we love these three picture books from Maine. Enjoy!

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Moose Power: Muskeg Saves the Day” by Amy Huntington

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Antlers Forever!” by Frances Bloxam

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“Going Lobstering” by Jerry Pallotta

Another Maine picture book which Rachel and I really like, but we remembered after we finished our audio recording this evening, is “Pigs in the Mud in the Middle of the Rud” by Lynn Plourde.

Buying picture books that feature stories and themes from places I visit is one of my favorite things to do when traveling. This allows us to learn more about new places together long after the trip is over. If you’re looking for some good books to add to an elementary classroom library, you might consider one or more of these Maine picture books!

Unviersity of Maine at Farmington, Maine

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Rachel buys her first iTunes Audiobooks

Rachel has seen her siblings listen to audiobooks on their iPods, so this week she decided she’d like to have some of her own – particularly in light of our upcoming road trip to Kansas in a few weeks. Last night we searched the iTunes Store together to explore what was available that might be of interest, and she found a Dr Seuss compilation of nine books along with Maurice Sendak’s “Where the Wild Things Are” which she thought would be great.

Dr Seuss Audiobooks on iTunes

Where The Wild Things Are

Since she just had $9, I agreed to split the cost of the books which totaled $13. This provided a good opportunity for her to learn how to divide by two, in a practical context. This evening at dinner she took 13 sugar packets at our restaurant and separated them into two groups, eventually figuring out she had to tear one in half. In this way she figured out we both needed to contribute $6.50 toward the purchase. This evening before bed she made her purchases with my help, and then recorded a five and a half minute podcast discussing her experiences with Audiobook purchases on iTunes. Lots of great learning together tonight!

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