An upbeat portrait of fine teachers and the students they inspire.




Teenagers encounter great books and dedicated teachers.

New Yorker staffer Denby (Do the Movies Have a Future?, 2012, etc.) believes ardently that reading affords pleasure, “an opening to a wider life,” and enhanced “understanding of other people and oneself.” He wondered, though, whether reading will survive for children inundated with increasing technology. Will they stop texting and read a book? How, he asks, “does the appetite for serious reading get created?” The author decided to investigate by sitting in on a 10th-grade English class at Beacon, a magnet school in Manhattan. After a year of attending classes and reading all the assigned material, he expanded his project by visiting two other public high schools: the inner-city James Hillhouse High School in New Haven and the suburban Mamaroneck High School in Westchester. Beacon, though, and in particular the class taught by energetic, 30-year-old Sean Leon, is Denby’s central focus. Admission to Beacon is competitive, based on grades, a portfolio of schoolwork, and an interview. With students motivated to excel and teachers free to shape their own curriculum, it’s hardly surprising that Denby came away impressed—and he ably conveys his enthusiasm to readers. In the two other schools as well, though, the author found that by teaching “aggressively and flexibly, with humor and dramatic power,” teachers can generate students’ passion for reading. He sees students taught to read actively: responding to readings through journals, annotations, marked-up copies of texts—all of which the teacher reads, comments on, and sometimes grades. At Mamaroneck, a “get-them-reading strategy” requires students to keep a yearlong journal of independent reading, including romance fiction and graphic novels. At Hillhouse, where many students struggle, Denby witnessed a fiery conversation about To Kill a Mockingbird deftly handled by an encouraging, but tough, teacher.

An upbeat portrait of fine teachers and the students they inspire.

Pub Date: Feb. 2, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-8050-9585-2

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2015

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This early reader is an excellent introduction to the March on Washington in 1963 and the important role in the march played by Martin Luther King Jr. Ruffin gives the book a good, dramatic start: “August 28, 1963. It is a hot summer day in Washington, D.C. More than 250,00 people are pouring into the city.” They have come to protest the treatment of African-Americans here in the US. With stirring original artwork mixed with photographs of the events (and the segregationist policies in the South, such as separate drinking fountains and entrances to public buildings), Ruffin writes of how an end to slavery didn’t mark true equality and that these rights had to be fought for—through marches and sit-ins and words, particularly those of Dr. King, and particularly on that fateful day in Washington. Within a year the Civil Rights Act of 1964 had been passed: “It does not change everything. But it is a beginning.” Lots of visual cues will help new readers through the fairly simple text, but it is the power of the story that will keep them turning the pages. (Easy reader. 6-8)

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-448-42421-5

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Grosset & Dunlap

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2000

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Noted jazz and pop record producer Thiele offers a chatty autobiography. Aided by record-business colleague Golden, Thiele traces his career from his start as a ``pubescent, novice jazz record producer'' in the 1940s through the '50s, when he headed Coral, Dot, and Roulette Records, and the '60s, when he worked for ABC and ran the famous Impulse! jazz label. At Coral, Thiele championed the work of ``hillbilly'' singer Buddy Holly, although the only sessions he produced with Holly were marred by saccharine strings. The producer specialized in more mainstream popsters like the irrepressibly perky Teresa Brewer (who later became his fourth wife) and the bubble-machine muzak-meister Lawrence Welk. At Dot, Thiele was instrumental in recording Jack Kerouac's famous beat- generation ramblings to jazz accompaniment (recordings that Dot's president found ``pornographic''), while also overseeing a steady stream of pop hits. He then moved to the Mafia-controlled Roulette label, where he observed the ``silk-suited, pinky-ringed'' entourage who frequented the label's offices. Incredibly, however, Thiele remembers the famously hard-nosed Morris Levy, who ran the label and was eventually convicted of extortion, as ``one of the kindest, most warm-hearted, and classiest music men I have ever known.'' At ABC/Impulse!, Thiele oversaw the classic recordings of John Coltrane, although he is the first to admit that Coltrane essentially produced his own sessions. Like many producers of the day, Thiele participated in the ownership of publishing rights to some of the songs he recorded; he makes no apology for this practice, which he calls ``entirely appropriate and without any ethical conflicts.'' A pleasant, if not exactly riveting, memoir that will be of most interest to those with a thirst for cocktail-hour stories of the record biz. (25 halftones, not seen)

Pub Date: May 1, 1995

ISBN: 0-19-508629-4

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Oxford Univ.

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 1995

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