Assignment # 2 sparked an idea.

One of my most thought provoking and interesting graduate courses was titled “Children’s Literature.”  In this class we read and analyzed children’s books.  Here’s a brief write up for one of my favorites:

Faithful Elephants:  A True Story of Animals, People and War by Yukio Tsuchiya. For the past 2 years I’ve read this book on this first day of class, regardless of the grade.  If you ask any of your peers about Mr. Dolce’s elephant book, I can almost guarantee a frown, and a comment along the lines of, “that was the saddest book.”  Tsuchiya uses the story of three faithful elephants at the Ueno Zoo during the 1940’s to convey the brutality of war.  World War II was still raging in the Pacific Ocean during this time, and the Japanese were fearful they would be bombed.   The Ueno zoo in Tokyo felt they had no choice but to euthanize their animals, so there was no threat of escape.  Unfortunately, the elephants in the story have to die, but not without leaving a lasting impression on the zookeepers.  This book will tug at your heart strings and you’ll admire the courage and determination of these elephants.  Also of worth, the recent edition of the book was beautifully illustrated by Ted Lewin.  He uses “Asian Brush Painting” as his medium.  Overall, this book makes a great collector’s item.

Here is an excerpt from Chieko Akiyama, a famous Japanese television critic on discussing the book:

“The biggest gift adults can give to children is to make public the complete history and the different viewpoints about war, and to help them consider how we can realize the human ideal.  I hope this book will be read throughout the world and war prevention will be sown.  I hope that these seeds will soon bud, bloom, and bear fine fruit”  (1988).

Books! By Mr. Dolce!

Hello 9th graders!

First of all, I want to say I am proud of each and everyone of you.   It’s been great watching you guys grow up, and I look forward to hearing all the amazing things you will accomplish.

Now..on to books.

Let me start with a piece of advice.  Don’t forget the ones you love!  It’s important to revist your favorites; you’ll  take something new from it every time.  Trust me!

Over the past few weeks I have done so twice.  I’ve reread The Stranger by Albert Camus and Candide by Voltaire.  Both are relatively short works and make great conversation starters.

There’s a good chance you will encounter Camus’ work in high school and Voltiaire, without a doubt, will be waiting for you when you get to college.  Both writers were philosophers: Camus was an existenstialist, focusing on the thoughts and actions of an individual, and less on a world ruled by God.  Voltaire challenged a common philosophy during the enlightenment period that saw this world as the best possible world.  Voltaire believed in God, but looked at the world as a top, freely spinning.  This brand of religion spawned into Deism, which a large percentage of the founding fathers of this country believed.

The Stranger, to offer a brief synopsis, is a narrative told by a French man, Meursault, told in two parts, about the events leading up to and after a murder he committed.   The book revolves around the dangers of becoming emotionally detached and only believing or perceiving in what you feel.  Meursault has a hard time finding his place in society, and worst yet, has an even harder time understanding himself.  He fails to feel pain when his mother dies, and he fails to give his girlfriend the love she hopelessly offers him. 

The second part of the novel is told from jail, after he shoots an arab man on the beach.  We see Meursault still wrestling with apathy, but this section shows the arbitrariness of the legal system.  Camus writes in great detail about Mersault’s experiences in court and prison.  This book, even though a short novel, is loaded with themes and insights that will make you HMMMM and stop and think about your emotions, feelings, and how these things fit into the larger picture:  SOCIETY. 

The second book is Voltaire’s Candide.  This book, along with Flaubert’s Madame Bovary, followed me through college.  In all honesty, I have read both of these works about 8 times each.  It’s another short work, and as you can see, I am a huge fan of the novella!  My local train of thought tends to make frequent stops, so if I can finish the book within a week, ah, all the better!  Candide is a journey in which the characters  are faced with some of the most gruesome and torturous trails and tribulations – all with the hopes to see if this world is the “best of all possible worlds.”  Again, this was a common philosophical belief during that time.  Voltaire sought out to challenge this false sense of optimism and give meaning to pain and disasters.  In short, why do bad things happen?  There are moments in this book that will have  you laughing, but there are others that are gut wrenching.  I am warning you, some material in this book is quite gruesome! 

Both of these books were huge inspirations in my life, and great thinkers like Voltaire and Camus remind me to challenge the norms and question everything. 

One last piece of advice:  Question everything and never get too complacent.  If it’s stale, don’t throw it away, put it on a shelf, but move on.  Be an outlier! 

All my best!

Mr. Dolce

Important Reading About Book Trailers

For the rest of the block, you’ll be creating your book trailers in Animoto. Please make sure you have read and understood all of the following:

My Favorite Book

My favorite book that I have ever read is Hatchet by Gary Paulsen. It is about a boy on a private plane going to see his dad. But when the pilot has a heart attack, the plane goes crashing down. The pilot dies, and the boy is forced to survive in the wilderness. I really enjoyed this book because it was very suspenseful .

The Best Book That I’ve Recently Read

Blink by Malcolm Gladwell is a book that travels deep into the minds of humans and explores how we think at first glance.  It explains the sensation that you get when you “just know” certain things and how your unconscious mind works.  Blink informed me about things that I didn’t even know about myself and has allowed me to improve the way I think and express myself.

Favorite Book I have read recently

I recently read Think Big by Benjamin Carson. Ben Carson, a famous African-American neurosurgeon, wrote an auto-biography about his life struggle.  It explains how he had been through many obstacles, however he still managed to persevere. Mr. Carson’s mother, Sonya, had dropped out of school in third grade, and married at age 13.  When Ben Carson was 8 years old, his parents divorced, leaving Sonya alone with two boys and three jobs to try and make ends meet. With all of this happening, Ben began to fail school and was constantly being teased at school… “DUMMY! DUMMY!” the kids would continuously say to him. Sonya decided to limit the boys’ time of watching television and doing recreational activities. This would allow them to finish their homework and study. Since Sonya did not have a good education herself, it was hard for her to read their work. As you can tell, Benjamin Carson’s life had been extremely tough, however he managed to go to Yale and receive a degree in psychology. He then went to the University of Michigan where he shifted his interest from psychology to neurosurgery. When reading this book, I became more and more inspired as I read each page. I thought to myself “if Benjamin Carson can do it, so can I.”  This book inspires me to follow my dreams, no matter what obstacles fall into play.

My Favorite Book

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë is probably one of the best books that I have read so far. It is about an orphan who goes through a lot of tragedies at an early age that impact her persona to be a strong woman. Even though many events and people hinder Jane from her education, eventually through perseverance, she becomes a fine teacher. After teaching for two years, Jane yearns for a different experience. She goes to Thornfield where she becomes a governess for a daughter of a wealthy man, Rochester. Jane falls in love with Rochester and decides to marry him, but she does not follow through with it when she finds out that Rochester has a mad wife locked up in a chamber. Knowing that it is impossible to be with Rochester, Jane flees Thornfield. Homeless and hungry, Jane asks for help and finds her long lost cousin. He proposes to Jane, but she rejects him. She then goes on to find Rochester, her true love. But when she finds him, he is blind and living a miserable life. They happily rebuild their relationship and lives. It was a great book to read during the summer. It was very detailed, and I was able to picture the scenes in my mind while reading it. Sometimes after reading some pages, I thought about what would happen next. It is definitely the classic that everyone should read at least once in a lifetime.

Favorite Book I Read Recently

My favorite book that I read recently was The Trials Of Kate Hope by Wick Downing. Kate Hope is a fourteen-year-old girl growing up in Colorado in 1973. Thanks to a loophole in the Colorado law, Kate is also a fully practicing lawyer alongside her respected grandfather, who strongly believes in justice for both rich and poor. Kate soon takes on the hardest case of her life when she fights for an elderly woman named Miss Willow whose loving German Shepherd has been accused of being a  “dangerous animal.”  Herman is Miss Willow’s only companion, and Kate knows she will have to act fast to prevent the county from destroying him for something he didn’t actually do. I really enjoyed this book because of it’s interesting topic and connection to animals, and I thought that Kate’s incredible handling of the case was intelligent and resourceful. The fact that she was able to argue for Miss Willow before a judge and jury without her mentor grandfather by her side showed outstanding determination and dedication and proved to the other older lawyers who had previously mocked her that they were wrong to underestimate her ability. I think that Kate’s character is a great inspiration to teenage girls, and Wick Downing’s writing was captivating. I would definitely recommend this book to anyone, and it was a great addition to my reading list.