Book Review: Entertaining an Elephant

Thank you and congratulations to Larry Otter, the 30th “LIKE” on my new Facebook page, GOLD STAR!  Thanks to the many others that also pressed “LIKE”

Many of you are teachers, and many more of you have children, grandchildren, or at some point in time are expecting to have them.  A few months ago I went to a Common Core Conference, at which Dr. Bill McBride presented strategies to help teachers implement Common Core Standards.  His presentation style was just as interactive and fun as any I have attended.  I also purchased the book , If They Can Argue Well, They Can Write Well, a step-by step instruction manual on teaching students how to develop an argument. 

Entertaining an Elephant, on the other hand is a fictitious book about education, and I warn the reader to have a Kleenex or two nearby.  (That was clever, I wasn’t sure about how to pluralize Kleenex.  Putting es on the end, just didn’t look right, and ‘s did, but ‘s indicates belonging, so just a simple rewording solved my problem.  YEAH!)

by William McBride
by William McBride

Written by William McBride, Entertaining an Elephant documents the metamorphosis of a seasoned, but jaded teacher who encounters a new janitor that changes his life.

“Reaf wasn’t allowed to leave for a half hour, and he decided not to let the janitor run him out.” p. 7

His tired attitude helps you dislike this teacher right from the start.  He thought he knew what the kids needed, and I can just hear his gruff voice speaking to the peon janitor.

“You see, I’ve been in the business for a long time, and even though these kids have had a lot of schooling, they still don’t have the basics.  I don’t know what those teachers are doing at the lower levels, but these kids can’t tell a participle from a noun.  So I take it upon myself to make sure they understand grammar.  None of the other English teachers spend that much time with it, so it’s up to me to hammer it in.”

If that wouldn’t make a student want to take his class, I don’t know what would!  I’m sure the other teachers loved him just about as much as the kids did.  Every teacher loves to think their teaching taught the kids all they were expected to learn that year plus a little more.  They NEVER like to hear that the kids FORGOT any some of it – or worse, they never had time to teach it, or worse still, they taught it, but NOBODY got it.

The janitor was a wise, wily fellow, though, with some tricks up his sleeve.

“Unfortunately, most of them don’t use the grammar.  That’s why they’re going to be failures, which proves my point.  But that’s between you and I.”

“Me,” the janitor said.

“Yes, you.”

Who else would I be talking to, thought Reaf.  …then suddenly (he) realized the janitor had corrected him.  It is between you and me. … the teacher threw the grammar book he had been holding …

I have to admit that, as a teacher, I want to make sure my kids learn grammar, but I’ve also made MY share of grammar errors as an adult with lots of education.   In fact I’ve made the very SAME mistake that Reaf made.  It was embarrassing the first time I made it, sitting at a dinner table with a movie star, no less – and corrected by HIM.  It was worse the third time I said it.  And I was the EDUCATOR, but the star seemed like a Reaf to me, and he didn’t earn a fan that night.

So where did Reaf throw the grammar book?  What did the janitor do to cause the teacher to change?  What made the teacher so irritatingly uninteresting in the first place?  Why would you want to find out?

I’ll answer the last question for you.  Reaf learns and practices some new teaching and relationship strategies as the book progresses which change his life, but most of all HE changes, and the story is heartwarming.  Common sense strategies are easily employed by anyone, teachers or non-teachers, who want to see improved relationships and motivate others to learn.

The real question is, will YOU cry at the end?

Featured Blog

You must read and enjoy Sierra Foothill Garden if you want to learn more about the plant life in my neck of the woods.  This blog is more focused than my streaming thoughts site.  We really do get snow in the mountains and higher in the foothills than I am.  Sue has a handy list of California bloggers in her sidebar, which I am going to find helpful.  If you want to get more familiar with California, this is one place to start.

If you have already read the book Entertaining an Elephant, how did your react?

  • I threw the book across the room.
  • I cried.
  • I planted the book to see if I could get it to grow.
  • I gave it away at a White Elephant Christmas party.
  • Other responses

The End of Fall

Tulare County, approximately the size of Connecticut,  has two climates.  One is mountainous – the Sierra Nevada, home of the Sequoia National Park.  The other, home of over 400,000 cows, is a temperate, farming-friendly valley.  Four days ago as I drove towards the largest town, Visalia, I passed two grape vineyards, one with yellow leaves, and one with bright red.  The sun was just breaking through the clouds.  It had rained the day before, and everything sparkled like animated ornaments on a Christmas tree.  No camera!  The cardinal sin of an amateur photographer.

Two days ago, after a minor rain shower, I took my camera and drove that road again, at the same time, hoping to recapture what I had missed.  You can be the judge of that.  Actually I’m just being polite – you can’t because you didn’t see the first sun-sprayed scene.  I’m going to pawn these photos off on you hoping that you will PRESUME that they are as lovely as the first ones would have been if I hadn’t sinned.

SFW TC Fall Grapes & Walnuts049
My favorite – a stand-alone beauty.

This is my heart to y’all.  If you see it from a distance, it sort of has that hearty look.  The rest of these may all be too similar for you, but i just couldn’t leave any of them out.  You know how they talk to you, and say, “Please don’t delete me.  Pllllleeeeaaassseeeeee!”

SFW TC Fall Grapes & Walnuts085 SFW TC Fall Grapes & Walnuts086 SFW TC Fall Grapes & Walnuts087 SFW TC Fall Grapes & Walnuts090 SFW TC Fall Grapes & Walnuts091 SFW TC Fall Grapes & Walnuts093 SFW TC Fall Grapes & Walnuts094 SFW TC Fall Grapes & Walnuts088 SFW TC Fall Grapes & Walnuts096 SFW TC Fall Grapes & Walnuts098 SFW TC Fall Grapes & Walnuts099I loved their colors, and the shadows, but I was convinced not to take any home to use for the fancy grape leaf dishes.

By the way, I started a public Facebook page yesterday.  I need 30 likes to make it go.  I have 27 likes so far.  Just 3 more.  What could I give as a prize for number 30?  hmmmmm

Ah ha – a gold star and a home cooked meal, without grape leaves, next time you come to CA!

Book Review: The Everything Theory

Dianne Gray became my blogger friend four months and three weeks ago now, and we have rallied blogger chit-chat back and forth between our blogs.  As I read her blog the other day, I learned about her book, The Everything Theory,  Browsing the comments on the post, I decided that I definitely wanted to buy the book.  So I headed over to Amazon, made a few clicks, and started reading, and finally put it down because I had to sleep at about one in the morning.

by Diane Gray
by Diane Gray

I am excited to review Dianne Gray’s new book, The Everything Theory, which I just finished in less than a day, but certainly not because it was flat, or simplistic.  Though not to be confused with the Theory of Everything (ToE), which Wikipedia defines as “The “system building” style of metaphysics attempts to answer all the important questions in a coherent way, providing a complete picture of the world. Plato and Aristotle could be said to have created early examples of comprehensive systems,” the reader does get a flavor of those intertwining systems in this book.  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Theory_of_everything

Gray, in her own logical way, unfolded ancient theories, and outlined plausible outcomes to those ancient predictions.  She postulated a plausible answer to the question of the age:  How did the ancients get the knowledge to build the pyramids?  Readers will learn about the way scientists use numbers, referring often to the mathematics of the pyramids, and the books of the Nine Unknown Men.  Recorded on the History of India website, the Nine Unknown Men, according to occult lore, “were a two millennia-old secret society founded by the Indian Emperor Asoka 273 BC. …  Each of the Nine is supposedly responsible for guarding and improving a single book. These books each deal with a different branch of potentially hazardous knowledge.”  http://www.indohistory.com/nine_unknown_men.html From another civilization at another time the ancient Mayans predicted that the end of the our world nears daily.  Were they right?  Is this even a possibility?

Scientific facts dotted the story, and at the time I assumed that these stated facts might be purely fictitious, but they seemed plausible.  Last night I checked with Diane, and she said that she spent a lot of time researching and that her facts were all cross checked.  Even though I haven’t researched the many details in the novel, the fact that she didn’t fabricate the scientific references made this book an even better read than if it was science fiction.

The prologue and epilogue book-ended The Everything Theory with men, dressed in animal skins, looking at pictures in a cave.  Curiously, the main characters in the prologue and epilogue had very similar names to the protagonist in the body of the tale, yet clearly the Lukes were not from the same time.  Thus, the Everything Theory mystery began and ended.

Besides the ordinary human bad guys, the primary culprit in this story was a wayward planet named Eris.  As it turned out, Eris is a real planet larger and farther out than Pluto, and Google has hundreds of pictures of it.  Here is one of them.

eris_and_dysnomia_485

The mystery intertwined the lives of archaeologists studying past ancient writings, with amateur astronomers who discovered the rogue planet, Eris.  A couple of murders launched the story, and alerted the reader to the extreme urgency and seriousness of the obstacles facing the heroes.  The lives of these two groups of scientists collided early in the book as they attempted to evade the inevitable outcome of their actions thus becoming the next murder victims.  In the process of survival, the group began to cohere and collaborate to try to deal with the havoc that Eris would bring into Earth’s universe.

Connecting to the Common Core English Language Arts Standards

Most of my book reviews bring up the Common Core English Language Arts Standards.   For the California sixth grade teacher teaching  ancient world history, the Nine Unknown Men would be the perfect place to insert a research project.  Student-generated questions about the end of the world, dangerous knowledge, and an ancient secret society would capture their interest and motivate research.

Without question this book contains academic language making it an effective novel for the language arts teacher to use to support the teaching of science as well.  It corresponds directly with eighth grade Earth in the Solar System (Earth Sciences) .

4. e states “Students know the appearance, general composition, relative position and size, and motion of objects in the solar system, including planets, planetary satellites, comets, and asteroids.”

Are you thinking of a Christmas gift for the reader in your family?  Do they believe that aliens influenced the ancients?  Do they look for answers in astrology?  Do they watch the History Channel or the Discovery Channel?  Do they like Bones, Lie to Me or Fringe?  The Everything Theory appeals to anyone who loves a mystery.

By the way, Dianne did not ask me to buy the book or write a review.  I don’t make money writing reviews either – maybe now you know why!  I just learned yesterday that my website is a “vanity” site because I am not using it for making a profit.  That being said, this review strictly reflects my opinions.

Blog Tip of the Week

When I make a comment, and it doesn’t post and displays a 403 error, I have found that if I close my browser, then open it again, then I can send to that person.  I do lose the reply, though unless I save it somewhere else.

Featured Blog

It only makes sense to feature Dianne’s website.  In it she offers sound advice.

run-from-stag

She shares her philosophy of life, how she writes, and thinks.  She tells you what’s happening in her real life.  Best of all she reads her friends’ blogs and makes comments.  If you don’t already know Dianne Gray, this is your chance.

Sunday Post: Peaceful

water-dragon-poster1

I thought about the ocean, but sometimes it is NOT peaceful.  I considered farm animals, but they make a LOT of noise.  Then, I looked around for something at home where I feel most peaceful.  Who should be peacefully resting in my folder, but Mama Kitty?

Mama Kitty is peaceful

Granted Kalev is NOT peaceful.  Every morning she charges out to see Mama Kitty, her body twisting and writhing with excitement.  Amazingly Mama Kitty just stands waiting for her morning kiss from Kalev.

Mama Kitty is Peaceful 2

Scardy could do anything to her without rousing her ire.  Scardy mellowed in adulthood, but as a baby….  Mama had to have the patience of a  … oh yeah – Mama.Mama Kitty is peaceful 4

Even when Kalev first came to live with use, Mama tolerated her advances.Mama Kitty is peaceful 3

Mama Kitty can even bear the burden carrying a tree on her back without getting riled.

Other animals lose their cool from time to time, even me, but Mama Kitty is ALWAYS peaceful.

Featured Blog

I met Richard Tulloch’s Life on the Road just last week when I saw his Reflections post.  Richard writes children’s books, and travel articles so he has to be a new hero of mine, but since he is based out of Sydney and Amsterdam, I hadn’t heard of him.  From him I learned about a famous walk,  El Camino se Santiago, that my friend Leslie wants to take and invited me to join her – and any other brave souls.  I hope you’ll enjoy Richard as much as I have in the short time I’ve followed him.

Leslie's goal I just want to tag along.
Leslie’s goal I just want to tag along.

To participate in Jakesprinter’s Sunday Post:  Peaceful

1. Each week, he will provide a theme for creative inspiration. Show the world based on your interpretation what you have in mind for the theme, and post them on your blog anytime before the following Sunday when the next photo theme will be announced.

2. Subscribe to jakesprinter so that you don’t miss out on weekly challenge announcements. Sign up via the email subscription link in the sidebar or RSS.

So I learned something today.  How about you?

Here are some of the participants I gathered.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Reflections

To all my blog readers!!!
To all my blog readers!!!

As I reflect on my blogging experiment this first day of December, I realize that it has gone from experiment to addictive hobby.  I am thankful to all of you for taking the time to visit my streaming thoughts started in April, 2012.  While not breaking any records, this blog has attracted over 11,000 views, and 2,000 comments.  I was awfully lonely the first couple of months, but on November 29th the site reached a high of 196 views.  THANK YOU!!!

Reflections on December 1st.
Reflections on December 1st.

Back to the topic as I’m sure it was intended, I have almost no reflection pictures in my collection.  I came across this picture that a friend of mine took for me.  She is much more of a professional photographer than I, and I absolutely love Johanna Coyne’s picture of the little lagoon in Mooney Grove Park south of Visalia, CA, and north of Tulare, CA on Mooney Boulevard.1102_Mooney_1285

Early Tulare County settler and saloon owner, Michael Mooney, like most European immigrants worked hard to acquire property in the United States.  Mooney speculated in thousands of acres, and sold many of them at a profit.  However this plot of land didn’t earn Mooney a dime, and it protected the largest native oak grove in the county.  He purchased a 173 acre oak grove from another settler, Benjamin Willis in 1878 for $4,000.  After Mooney’s death in 1881, his heirs sold 100 acres to Tulare County in 1909, thus saving the huge grove of native trees for the people.

Tulare County Supervisor, Bartlett “suggested in 1915 that the park should have a lake.” (Allen. p. 41), although it was not until May of 1933 that the lagoon officially opened.  Stocked with fish to ward off mosquitos, the pond, with its “No Fishing” sign, tempted young poacher Stanley A. Clark, who brought home more than the bacon to his widowed mother and siblings during the World War II when meat was scarce in the market.

Through the years Tulare County residents swam, boated and were baptized in the reflective pond in Mooney Grove Park.  Today the only swimmers are quacks – I mean ducks.  At times photographers would have to Photoshop a reflective picture of this body of water because “goopy algae” scum covers  much of the surface.  Vast numbers of summer visitors feed the ducks, dropping food that decays in the water and feeds the scum.  In the fall, when the weather is cooler photographers can capture pictures of clean water.

Anybody for a picnic in the park?

Bibliography

  • Allen William R.  Mooney’s Oak Grove 1828-1881 Volume I
  • Allen William R.  Michael Mooney 1906-2003 Volume II

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