Notebooks, papers, pens — oh my! No matter how long it has been since we were in school, come August, the back-to-the-books thoughts creep into our minds. But we have a bevvy of bold and brainy e-books for this month’s Lucky 7 list. Each e-book is just $1.99 throughout August. Don’t play hooky from these deals…
Educating Esme by Esme Raji Codell: A must-read for parents, new teachers, and classroom veterans, Educating Esmé is the exuberant diary of Esmé Raji Codell’s first year teaching in a Chicago public school. Fresh-mouthed and free-spirited, the irrepressible Madame Esmé—as she prefers to be called—does the cha-cha during multiplication tables, roller-skates down the hallways, and puts on rousing performances with at-risk students in the library. Her diary opens a window into a real-life classroom from a teacher’s perspective. While battling bureaucrats, gang members, abusive parents, and her own insecurities, this gifted young woman reveals what it takes to be an exceptional teacher.
Heroine to thousands of parents and educators, Esmé now shares more of her ingenious and yet down-to-earth approaches to the classroom in a supplementary guide to help new teachers hit the ground running. As relevant and iconoclastic as when it was first published, Educating Esmé is a classic, as is Madame Esmé herself.
Work Hard. Be Nice. by Jay Mathews: When Mike Feinberg and Dave Levin signed up for Teach for America right after college and found themselves utter failures in the classroom, they vowed to remake themselves into superior educators. They did that—and more. In their early twenties, by sheer force of talent and determination never to take no for an answer, they created a wildly successful fifth-grade experience that would grow into the Knowledge Is Power Program (KIPP), which today includes sixty-six schools in nineteen states and the District of Columbia.
KIPP schools incorporate what Feinberg and Levin learned from America’s best, most charismatic teachers: lessons need to be lively; school days need to be longer (the KIPP day is nine and a half hours); the completion of homework has to be sacrosanct (KIPP teachers are available by telephone day and night). Chants, songs, and slogans such as “Work hard, be nice” energize the program. Illuminating the ups and downs of the KIPP founders and their students, Mathews gives us something quite rare: a hopeful book about education.
The Soul of a Doctor by Gordon Harper, Sachin H. Jain, and Susan Pories: By the time most of us meet our doctors, they’ve been in practice for a number of years. Often they seem aloof, uncaring, and hurried. Of course, they’re not all like that, and most didn’t start out that way.
Here are voices of third-year students just as they begin to take on clinical responsibilities. Their words focus on the odd transition students face when they must deal with real people in real time and in real crises and when they must learn to put aside their emotions to make quick, accurate, and sensitive decisions. Their decisions aren’t always right, and the consequences can be life-altering—for all involved. Moving, disturbing, and candid, their true stories show us a side of the profession that few ever see, or could even imagine. They show, often painfully, how medical students grow up, right at the bedside.
On the Road to Freedom by Charles E. Cobb Jr.: This in-depth look at the civil rights movement goes to the places where pioneers of the movement marched, sat-in at lunch counters, gathered in churches; where they spoke, taught, and organized; where they were arrested, where they lost their lives, and where they triumphed.
Award-winning journalist Charles E. Cobb Jr., a former organizer and field secretary for SNCC (Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee), knows the journey intimately. He guides us through Washington, D.C., Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, and Tennessee, back to the real grassroots of the movement. He pays tribute not only to the men and women etched into our national memory but to local people whose seemingly small contributions made an impact. We go inside the organizations that framed the movement, travel on the “Freedom Rides” of 1961, and hear first-person accounts about the events that inspired Brown vs. Board of Education.
An essential piece of American history, this is also a useful travel guide with maps, photographs, and sidebars of background history, newspaper coverage, and firsthand interviews.
A Boy I Once Knew by Elizabeth Stone: What followed was a remarkable year in Elizabeth’s life as she read Vincent’s diaries and began to learn about the high school student she had taught twenty-five years before. A Boy I Once Knew is the story of the man that Vincent had become-and the efforts of his teacher to make some sense of his life.
With his diaries, Vincent becomes a constant presence in her household. She follows his daily life in San Francisco and his travels abroad. She watches him deal with the deaths of friends in the gay community. She judges him. She gets angry with him. She develops affection and compassion for him. In some ways she brings him back to life. And in doing so, she becomes the student, and Vincent the teacher. He forces her to examine her life as well as his. He challenges her feelings and fears about death. He proves to her that relationships between two people can deepen even after one of them is gone.
A Boy I Once Knew is a powerful book about loss, memory, and the ways in which we belong to each other. This is a revealing, moving, and wholly unexpected book.
The Music Teacher by Barbara Hall: In The Music Teacher, a penetrating and richly entertaining look into the heart and mind of a woman who has failed both as an artist and as a wife, Barbara Hall, award-winning creator and writer of such hit television series as Judging Amy and Joan of Arcadia, tells the story of a violinist who has accepted the limitations of her talent and looks for the casual satisfaction of trying to instill her passion for music in others. She gets more than she bargains for, however, when a young girl named Hallie enters her life. For here at last is the real thing: someone with the talent and potential to be truly great. In her drive to shape this young girl into the artist the teacher could never be, she makes one terrible mistake. As a result she is forced to reevaluate her whole life and come to terms with her future.
Hall has crafted a thoroughly engrossing novel that examines the pitfalls of failure and holds up a mirror to the face of a culture that places success and achievement above all else.
What the Dormouse Said by Amy Gash: This one-of-a-kind collection reminds weary adults not to lose sight of the values and virtues they learned as kids. Here are over three hundred quotations from over two hundred well-loved children’s books, such as Charlotte’s Web, Peter Pan, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone,Eloise, Sounder, Number the Stars, and Goodnight Moon, organized by topic, among them Acceptance, Goodness, Family Woes, and Growing Old. On Silence: “I assure you that you can pick up more information when you are listening than when you are talking.”–E. B.White, The Trumpet of the Swan. On Reverence: “Dying’s part of the wheel, right there next to being born. . . . Being part of the whole thing, that’s the blessing.”–Natalie Babbitt, Tuck Everlasting.
With clever illustrations from Pierre Le-Tan, here is a book to share with a friend or keep by your own bedside. It’s the perfect gift for your sister, your mother, your brother, your nephew, your kid’s teacher, your daughter away at college, your son in the Navy, your mailman, your priest, for the old lady next door, or for the baby just born. Most importantly, give it to yourself. It will help you remember why you loved reading in the first place.