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Posts Tagged «memoir»

The Boy Who Harnessed The Wind

Monday, August 30th, 2010

the boy who harnessedBy William Kamkwamba,   p. 273 – adult autobiography

When William was a kid he loved to take thing apart.  He dissembled his parents radios and spent hours investigating a neighbor’s bike light, spinning the wheel to turn it on and stopping the wheel to turn it off.  Sometimes this experimenting drove his parents crazy, but it was this kind of thinking that would save his village.  When he was 13 Malawi experienced a two year famine; his family survived, but were left nearly penniless.  It was this struggle that was the spark igniting William’s creative thinking; he just knew that power was the answer to his village’s troubles.  If they could somehow control energy, they could work later into the night, pump water to their crops, farm more efficiently, and farm enough crops to save some for hard times.  He used his local library, a one-room building about a quarter of  our library reference room) and the town junk yard to build a working windmill.  The people of the village thought he was crazy until his house was filled with light.  He was finally recognized by the wider world and was honored at TED (Technology, Entertainment, and Design): Ideas Worth Sharing. Check out – William Kamkwamba:  How I Harnessed the Wind. This incredible teenage journey is a compelling read for middle school students and adults as well.

Connection:  For other true stories about overcoming astonishing odds try Three Cups of Tea, by Greg Mortenson, Of Beetles and Angels, by Mawi Asgedom, or 5,000 Miles to Freedom, by Judith Bloom Fradin and Dennis Brindell Fradin.

Lang Lang: Playing with Flying Fingers

Sunday, August 23rd, 2009

lang langby Lang Lang with Michael French.  p. 215  Grades 5-8

Would you think that watching Tom and Jerry cartoons could inspire you to become one of the world’s greatest pianists?  Well, that’s what happened to famous pianist Lang Lang.  When he was three years old, he loved watching cartoons, especially Tom and Jerry.  In one cartoon episode, Tom, the cat, is dressed up in a tuxedo and playing a concert piano.  He awakens little Jerry, the mouse, who has been sleeping on the strings, and then the mischief begins with Jerry jumping out of the piano and onto the keys.   The cartoon made young Lang Lang realize how much fun playing the piano could be, and in his imagination, he was Tom one minute and Jerry the next.  By the time he was five years old, he was winning major competitions.   His memoir not only tells of his passion for music, but also of the very long hours of practice and work.  He was born in Shenyang, China to poor parents.  His father was determined that Lang Lang would be a famous pianist and put tremendous pressure on his son to excel.  At times heartbreaking, this memoir is a must read for any aspiring musician.

Connections:  You might also enjoy these music biographies:  John Lennon:  All I Want Is the Truth; The Voice that Changed a Nation: Marian Anderson and the Struggle for Equal Rights; Lives of the Musicians:  Good Times, Bad Times (And What the Neighbors Thought); and Johann Sebastian Bach:  And the Art of Baroque Music.   To see a video of Lang Lang performing, check out this link.  We apologize for the brief commercial.

Knucklehead

Wednesday, July 1st, 2009

KnuckleheadBy Jon Scieszka.  p. 106 – Grades 4-7

Have you ever wondered where the author of the Stinky Cheese Man gets his wildly hilarious ideas?  Well, this very funny autobiography of Jon Scieszka will answer that question.  Scieszka grew up in a family of six boys, and the stories he tells about his childhood include listing all the swear words he knows for his parochial school nun, charging the neighbor kids money to watch his little brother eat cigarette butts, and playing a game called Slaughterball.  Caution:  includes some bathroom humor.

Connections:  Other humorous memoirs include How Angel Peterson Got His Name by Gary Paulsen, Chicago Days and Hoboken Nights by Daniel Pinkwater, Living Up the Street by Gary Soto, Oddballs by William Sleator, The Prize Winner of Defiance Ohio: How My Mother Raised 10 Kids on 25 Words or Less by Terry Ryan, and the country vet books by James Herriot.  Check out this video of Jon Scieszka.