Archives For Kate Messner

Call me naive. But I just don’t understand why people are so threatened by a book that can expand a child’s understanding of the world. I am talking about the hullabaloo surrounding the magnificent picture book, Golden Domes, Silver Lanterns: A Muslim Book of Colors.  domesWhile I am late to the controversy, I want to add my two cents to the conversation. Mainly because the whole brouhaha is a perfect example of why we MUST give children all sorts of windows and mirrors. If we do not share stories from a range of multiple perspectives, then fear will flourish and people will wage war rather than create connections.

If, like me, you are just discovering that there was both a twitter battle and a parent who returned the book in disgust, you might be imagining a very toxic book. However, Hena Khan’s powerfully simple, rhyming text merely shares with the reader traditions and colors of Islam. The artwork by Mehrdokht Amini bathes the reader in the beauty of this way of being in the world.

Yet certain “gatekeepers” feel like it is their obligation to protect children.

But what could be possibly threatening about a culturally specific example of the universal concept of helping those in need?giveneed

I can only imagine the fear that makes someone react to a recommendation or purchase of the book with the stance that “Islam is dangerous” (part of the twitter battle with author/ former educator Kate Messner) or  “I don’t want this culture around my children,…Learn to read and write before we start teaching (about) the fanaticals.” (Read more: The Marietta Daily Journal – Father upset after child finds Muslim book at school fair.)

While there are individuals in any group who may have extreme views or behaviors if we as the adult “gatekeepers” don’t expose children to multiple stories about multiple ways of being, we are accomplices in perpetuating intolerance and terror.

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If you want to be blown away, keep your radar trained on what  Kate Messner, author of Eye of the Storm has to offer the world. If you can invite her for an author visit. If you aren’t in a school setting, follow her blog. Either way, you’re in for a treat.

After I read Eye of the Storm, I secretly wanted to be Kate when I grew up. Who wouldn’t want to tell such a compelling story while raising the reader’s awareness of sustainability and community issues. (See my previous post if you want to know why I admire the book so much). So I started following her blog and was in awe of her mentorship there. I shared Eye of the Storm with other teachers and suggested we bring her in for a visit. They were equally passionate about her work and so she came to work with the seventh and eighth graders.

Wow what a wonderful whirlwind of wisdom and world building! Students and teachers alike raved about the day. Here are some of their comments so you can judge for yourself.Screen Shot 2013-10-24 at 11.06.33 PM

My own daughter, who’s love of story is of the musical or dramatic kind and not necessarily of  the reading or writing format, said, “Can you ask Ms. Messner for her presentation? I found it so helpful. I want to use it.” Another student said, ” I wasn’t sure I wanted to go, but it was actually really good.  Her suggestions for revision are things I would actually do.”

May we all inspire deep thinkers who are eager to share their stories!

a middle grade dystopian novel where science meets social studies meets terrifying what ifs

If a book stuffed to the seams with big ideas, makes your soul leap, then Eye of the Storm is the book for you.

I can’t think of a better page-turner to help future decision makers grapple with ethical problems than Kate Messner’s novel.

In the near future when massive tornadoes are a daily event and meteorological engineering is possible, Jaden Meggs spends her summer in a community-wide storm shelter created by her father. She also learns that her father is steering storms away from her exclusive neighborhood and toward the organic farms, the competitors of his bio-engineered food company. Jaden has to decide what her obligations are and to whom.

Kate Messner takes the modern day issue of global warming, creates a worst case scenario of daily tornadoes and leaves the reader wrestling with deep questions.

Who has the right to decide how to solve weather problems? The government? The scientists? The individual? Communities with access to power? Everyone?

Who has access to safety? Who doesn’t? Why? Why does it matter who has access? Are there similar situations today? In history? What other issues of access does society have?

What kind of foods do people want to eat? Does everyone have choice to eat the food they want to eat? Should they? How does that impact other people in the community?

These questions are some of what future leaders have to face. So why not use Eye of the Storm as a springboard for discussion. Some of you may dismiss this book because it doesn’t neatly fit into a multiple choice test curricula. But would you rather have a president who’s adept at filling out a standardized test or a president who uses his or her critical thinking skills and ethical compassion to solve problems?

I have so fallen in love with this book that I have convinced my seventh grade Science, Humanities and English teachers to work with me to create a research project. As we design this curriculum, we are looking at the STEM standards and environmental issues. We are focusing on, how individuals can take a stand within the context of society or a government and what skills they need to create change. We are also studying the dystopian genre and examining what the format can teach us about the world and about crafting a story.

All of our work has been inspired by Kate’ Messenr’s skillful dystopian novel. Thank you Kate Messner.