Tag Archives: history

Supreme Power: 7 Pivotal Supreme Court Decisions (Ted Stewart)

13 Nov

The physical book itself is not very long, but Supreme Power: 7 Pivotal Supreme Court Decisions that Had a Major Impact on America packs a wallop.  Historians, poli-sci students, and lay people alike will find Ted Stewart’s discussion of significant Supreme Court decisions gripping and educational.

 

Supreme Power Squinklethoughts

1.  This book is for you if you want to know how the Supreme Court began and why a Justice once said, “We are not final because we are infallible, but we are infallible only because we are final.”  The intro hooks you in right away.  Stewart discusses the Founding Fathers, their vision for the new country, and even some personal vendettas against one another.  I guess if you want to learn about how the highest court in the land got to be that way, you have to start at the beginning.  I find it really interesting that the number of Justices has fluctuated throughout history.  Also, it’s incredible how many appeals there are every year, and how many are actually heard and decided by the Court.

2.  The divide between prescriptive and descriptive linguists today neatly mirror the two philosophical types of Justices that Stewart describes – the Originalist and the Constitutionalist.  I found this part particularly interesting because I could see how similarly different many tenets of the two political parties are.  As I read through the chapters, I found myself seeing each case from the view of both philosophies, and it’s no wonder they had to go to the Supreme Court for final decisions.

3.  The section on Plessy v. Ferguson, which discusses the onset of the term “Jim Crow” and how the idea of “separate but equal accommodations” led to problems we continue to see today, was a good read.  Stewart recounts the Court’s ruling that the Louisiana Separate Car Act was not in violation of either the Thirteenth or Fourteenth Amendments.  As far as class discussions go, this chapter would make a great springboard for talking about what constitutes “established usages, customs, and traditions” and whether a few years is enough time for a custom to become established.

4.  Another chapter that I liked was “How a Law on Bakers’ Working Hours Led to Abortion Rights”.  I enjoyed learning about Lochner and the belief that part of our birthright is the right to work as long or as hard as we want.  I also like that Stewart poses the question on who defines “liberty” and what “due process” actually (or should actually) means.  I would have liked more of a discussion on the proceedings and consequences of Roe v. Wade.  Stewart discusses Lochner a lot, but he leaves the Court’s decision on Roe v. Wade to a few paragraphs.  I think the pivotal impact of McCorvey’s case shouldn’t have been considered outside the scope of this book.

 

Supreme Power 2  

5.  I didn’t take any poli-sci or history classes in university – at least not ones that explored the Supreme Court and its decisions – so I was happy to learn about the cases Stewart presents.  This book would be great for anyone who wants to know a little bit about them and American political origins.  It would also make a good addition to senior high-school and university courses.  I don’t know if I would assign the entire book, but I’d definitely pick a couple of cases (and the intro) for students to get into.  A caveat, however: Stewart uses jargon that the average person might have heard of but don’t understand.  If I were to give excerpts of this book to non-poli-sci students, I’d have to include a glossary so that they don’t get lost in legalese.

6.  Aside from a glossary that would have helped even me, I would have liked to find an index at the end so that I could find pages related to specific mentions of Justices or cases more easily.  A very extensive bibliography is included though.

 

4 Squinkles

 

Ted Stewart’s Online Corners
US District Court Profile | Chapters/Indigo

 

Thank you, Shadow Mountain, for sending me a copy of Supreme Power: 7 Pivotal Supreme Court Decisions that Had a Major Impact on America in exchange for an honest review.

All Squinklethoughts expressed herein are entirely my own.

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Alex and Eliza: A Love Story (Melissa de la Cruz)

13 Jul

I haven’t splashed around in the Hamilton craze at all, but Alex and Eliza: A Love Story might just do it for me.

 

 

Alex and Eliza

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1.  I love Melissa de la Cruz’s writing style.  It’s as if she were right there in the room with Alex and Eliza, writing down everything they say, recording every blush and secret glance.  It’s not necessarily that she speaks in period language, but there’s an authenticity to her voice that makes you lose yourself in the story rather than in wondering whether the characters are truly talking in 18th-century turns of phrases.  This is the first book I’ve read of de la Cruz’s works, though I did read enough of The Isle of the Lost (Descendants #1) to know that my students would like it, and the first two books of the series are in our school library.  (The third, which has just published, is on its way.)

2.  The setting of this story is 1777 in Albany, New York, which is part of the reason why I was intrigued by it.  I love stories set during times of great tension, and the American Revolution (and subsequent years) has so much tension.  It’s a really great backdrop for the story.

 

Alex and Eliza 2

 

3.  I like that Eliza in this take is neither prudish nor coquettish.  I’ve read essays about her relationship with the General where she’s too easily hooked by him, or she makes Alexander jump through hoops to test him.  De la Cruz’s Eliza is smart, loyal to her family, and completely aware of the constraints of her time.  She doesn’t really play hard to get, but she doesn’t bat her eyelashes unnecessarily at Alexander either.  (At least, I don’t think so.)

4.  You know that I enjoy MG stories than YA, but this particular title can very easily be read by those in elementary and high school alike.  It’s clean enough that teachers and parents don’t have to worry about explaining concepts to children that they may not be ready for.  The great thing about Alex and Eliza, too, is that the romance in it is not one that’s found in other YA stories set in modern times.  Another reason to thank the backdrop of the American Revolution.

5.  I’m the type to care more about a character’s back story than what he or she is doing at the moment.  That being said, I really want to read more of how Alex and Eliza’s marriage and family life work out.  Do they have their own places in society, or do they find adventures as a team?  (Spoiler alert: They both eventually die.  Sorry to break it to ya.)  I’m very excited that de la Cruz will be writing a follow-up called Love & War: An Alex and Eliza Story, due out in the spring of 2018 (OMG, that’s so long from now).

  

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Melissa de la Cruz’s Online Corners
Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Tumblr | Chapters/Indigo

 

Thank you, Penguin Random House, for sending me a copy of Alex and Eliza: A Love Story in exchange for an honest review.

 

 

All Squinklethoughts expressed herein are entirely my own.

 

The Confessions of Young Nero (Margaret George)

23 Jun

I can’t begin to tell you how much I loved this book.  If the only thing you know about Nero is that he blamed Christians for a great fire, then you really need to pick this title up!

 

Confessions of Young Nero Squinklethoughts

1.  I am embarrassed to admit that even I fell under the trap of skating over Nero and relegating him as merely one in a list of inefficient emperors of the Early Roman Empire.  When I teach my favourite course, Classical Civilizations, we give him maybe 15 minutes of airtime, and then we move on.  I just can’t do that anymore after reading this book.

2.  You know my life revolves around middle-grade stories, and that even the YA or adult choices I make are usually historical fiction (like this one) or retellings of old favourites (like Mechanica and Eligible).  The drawback of being immersed in MG is that I don’t find enough good supplementary reading material for my high schoolers.  Teachers/parents, in case you’re wondering, this book is totally appropriate for a senior-level history or English class.  It’s clean and, obviously, written at an adult reading level.  I very well might add it to my Classical Civs course if I can restructure the units somehow.

 

Confessions of Young Nero Lesson

 

3.  This is my first Margaret George book, and I’m keen to try more of her work.  Her prose is gorgeous and polished, making her narrative voice completely unobtrusive to Nero’s story.  I have the unfortunate habit of being able to recognize (and see over and over again) the phrases that denote an author’s voice or style, but in this case, I was just so engrossed in the story that I didn’t even think of analyzing the prose.  Really, Nero’s story is so well told that you might, as I often did, think that Nero, himself, is telling the story.  Also, Locusta is such a great instrument.  I don’t know if she’s real or not, but her chapters really make the plot sizzle.

4.  I rooted for Nero the entire time I was reading this book.  I mean, history has relegated him to the halls of the crazy/evil/useless leaders, but my heart broke time and time again over the sad moments of his life.  (I kept thinking about Crispus until the end of the novel.)  So, now, I keep wondering whether history has completely messed up his story.  He was a product of his time, for sure, but in so many ways, he rose above expectations.  For one thing, he actually cared about what happened to his people.  I don’t know if that’s solely George’s interpretations of events, or if she read historical papers that actually mentioned his kindnesses, but it was a really good feature of the Nero in this book.  You know the saying, “History is told from the perspective of the victors”?  Well, in this case, the victors were Nero’s enemies, so most (all?) of the stories that exist of him reflect their belief that he was a terrible leader and person.  No one tells the story of how beloved he was by the citizens of the Rome that he led.

5.  I imagined Simon Woods as Nero about a quarter of the way into the story.  I’m not sure if that’s because I had just rewatched the TV series Rome or what, and I don’t think he quite fits the traditional images of Nero, but if there’s ever a movie of The Confessions of Young Nero, I think Woods would be a good choice.

6.  The ending was rather abrupt, and I wish I had known that the book wouldn’t cover everything in Nero’s life.  Well, I guess I could have figured that out for myself if I had tried to work out his timeline in comparison to the book length.  Anyway, I was left hanging!  But not in a terrible, terrible way.  Now that I know that this is the first in a duology, I can admit that this one ends in the perfect spot.  The great thing is that it seems like you can read both books as standalones.  But if you enjoy the story and writing as much as I did, you’ll be just like me … eagerly anticipating the follow-up.

7.  This is at the top of my list of best books I’ve read in 2017 so far.  I highly recommend this to all lovers of history, Ancient Rome, character-driven stories, and engaging prose.

 

5 Squinkles

 

Margaret George’s Online Corners
Website | Facebook | Pinterest | Chapters/Indigo

 

Thank you, Berkley and Penguin Random House, for sending me a copy of
The Confessions of Young Nero in exchange for an honest review.

All Squinklethoughts expressed herein are entirely my own.

Kid Artists: True Tales of Childhood from Creative Legends (David Stabler)

12 Oct

I love, love, love the Kid Legends series, and this latest addition is no exception.

 

Kid ArtistsSquinklethoughts

1.  Kid Artists is the third installment, preceded by Kid Presidents and Kid Athletes, which are also terrific.  I love finding series that are so great that they become auto-buys.  I have no doubt I’ll be reading (and buying for our library) the next title in this collection, whatever it might be about.

2.  You’ll enjoy finding out what the childhoods of some very famous people were like.  Well-known names like Andy Warhol (who loved Campbell’s tomato soup as a child) and Dr. Seuss (rhymes with “choice”, ya know) are just some of the people you’ll read about.

3.  Sometimes, illustrious people have privileged beginnings, but many more times, they endure hardship and unsupportive friends and family in their younger years that you have to wonder how they ever produced their art.  This book gives you the good stuff and the bad stuff that made these artists not just unique, but also remarkable.

4.  I have a soft spot for Vincent van Gogh.  (One of my favourite Doctor Who episodes is Vincent and the Doctor … bawled my eyes out at (spoiler alert) the end.  Soooo great.)  Be sure to read about his beginnings.  We might never fully understand people, but we can try to appreciate what might have led them to turning points in their lives.

5.  I hadn’t heard of some of the people covered in Kid Artists, so I’m glad to have this book accessible.  There are so many cool people and events in history that we should all read about.

6. I love Doogie Horner’s people drawings.  They’re wonderful!

7.  Check out the Kid Legends website!

* Teachers/parents, if you’d like a copy of the chapter-by-chapter questions that I give to my students, please feel free to email me!

 

4.5 Squinkles

 

David Stabler’s Online Corners
Website | Twitter | Chapters

 

Thank you, Quirk Books, for sending me a copy of Kid Artists
in exchange for an honest review.

All Squinklethoughts herein are entirely my own.

The Blackthorn Key (Kevin Sands)

7 Oct

I was so pleased to receive a couple of copies of the Blackthorn Key at a blogger event this summer. In fact, the very Monday after the meet-up, I began teaching it because I had already finished reading it, and I knew I just had to share.

 

Blackthorn Key - Poster

 

If you’ve been searching for a book with mystery, heart, and a little bit of history, this is the perfect book for you. I’m happy to say that my students loved this book – and they were very engaged in the culminating tasks I had them do, including a hashtag image (below) and book poster (above). It was the perfect way to end summer school. And now, well, there’s a waitlist for our school copies.

Squinklethoughts

1. I’ve found historical fiction to be hit or miss with younger students, so I was happy that the historical aspect of this novel was not a deterrent for my kids. Personally, I LOVE history and tying dates and events together, so I really enjoyed learning about Oak Apple Day. It became even more interesting to correlate the real feast days with the fictional events to find themes in Sands’ story.

Blackthorn Key - Hashtags

2. I’ve got an unusual affinity for chemistry. Unusual only because I teach humanities and social sciences, and, oh yeah, I hate math. But I LOVE chemistry, so I was particularly drawn to the formulae and concoctions scattered throughout the chapters. And “oil of vitriol” just sounds so old fashioned. I love it! (It also led to a great discussion on vitriolic diatribes …)

3. Speaking of chapters, there are many in this story, and none are too long. It’s got nothing to do with attention span; I think stories are much more exciting with shorter (but more) chapters. It might have to do with the fact that I flip the pages more often.

4. I really admire Christopher’s relationships with both Tom and Master Benedict. The fact that he is loved and respected by both a peer and a superior says a lot about his character, and the banter between the two boys, which only happens when two people are as close as they are, is funny and even enviable.

Blackthorn Key - Quotes 2

5. Christopher is honourable and loyal. He will defend and champion his best friend and master at all costs, and his fealty to them drives many of his choices throughout the novel. He is also exceedingly brave and inquisitive – characteristics that anyone would be lucky to possess. And though his inquisitiveness is what sometimes gets him into trouble, I’d argue that they inform his bravery as well.

Blackthorn Key - Quotes 0

6. I love codes and solving puzzles. Our class had a grand old time trying to solve the clues before reading the answers. It was also a great stepping stone to the various games we ended up playing in class.

Blackthorn Key - Quotes 1

7. There are a great many things that my students and I were able to discuss from this story, including solutions, planets, feast days, history. I can’t help but think that Sands had cross-curricular activities in mind when he wrote it. I love books that can be appreciated across the curricula, so that’s part of what puts this book at the top of my suggestions list. I think this story can be appealing to a wide range of kids.

8. This book seems to be a standalone – and it works well as it is – but my kids and I still wonder what happens after the last chapter. That’s always a sign of a great book.

* Teachers/parents, if you’d like a copy of the chapter-by-chapter reading questions that I give to my students, please feel free to email me!

 

4.5 Squinkles

 

Kevin Sands’ Online Corners
Twitter | Goodreads | Chapters

Thank you, Simon and Schuster Canada, for giving me a copy of the Blackthorn Key in exchange for an honest review.

All Squinklethoughts expressed herein are entirely my own.

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