Thursday, May 28, 2009

What the World Eats

My neighbor, Lisa, introduced me to this fascinating book: What the World Eats by Peter Menzel and Faith D'Aluisio. Written for children/young adults, this is a tally of what the world eats. The authors (photographer/writer team) interviewed 25 families in 21 countries; the families are not necessarily typical of every other family in that country, but they do represent a chunk of the population. The countries span the globe and reach from refugee camps through the developing world on into the fully industrialized countries. Islands, mainlands, dessert, mountains--all are included.

The authors are hoping to get all of us to evaluate what we eat across several standards, promoting such websites are Global Footprint and the like (see the book website). Nonetheless, the book is not preachy. Instead, here's what you come away with (in addition to appreciation for the terrific photography):

  • Some people in the world eat so little!!
  • The amount of packaging differs widely between developing and industrialized countries.
  • Much of the world does not have the variety of food we do.
  • Much of the world spends more time preparing food than we do.
  • Some countries spend much more money than we do on food.
  • Some countries spend much, much, much less money on food.
  • Many people must grow their own food.
  • Many people are much more limited by their nation's topography: island types eat fish; arctic types eat things like seal; etc.
  • Some groups eat very little fruits and vegetables; others eat massive amounts.
  • Some countries eat much more meat than others.
  • The countries with the highest health care costs per person also tend to have the highest life expectancy rates.
  • Industrialized nations might eat more processed foods but we also tend to have the highest percentage of safe/sanitary water!
  • The industrialized countries consume vast quantities of sugar! (no surprise)
The families interviewed each get their own section. Every so often, the family narratives are broken up by charts depicting life expectancies for the countries researched, pounds of meat consumed, numbers of obese people, etc. There are also recipes sprinkled throughout. All in all, this is a fascinating book to check out from your local library.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Rescue Boys from Captain Underpants!

(I wrote this post a year ago and forgot to post it!)

World Magazine
puts out an annual "Books Issue" every year; this is my favorite issue of the year, and I always make time to read it. This year's issue just came out, and it coincided with an interesting conversation I've been having with a friend of mine: what do we give boys to read (boys who are good--even excellent--readers)?

World did a small survey of the Accelerated Reader program (AR; a program in which school children read books and then take small comprehension quizzes on them. Most schools have contests/rewards that are based on the number of points each student/class earns. Books are given points based on difficulty level.). They were looking primarily at the different books that seemed popular across the gender line, or were preferred by girls or boys. This was interesting to me because I have two friends who have each bemoaned to me that there is a lack of good reading material for boys who are excellent readers, but need some censorship on the maturity scale. Both of these boys are/were reading chapter books by age 5 or 6 (one boy is age 5 now and is currently reading Lloyd Alexander's Prydain series--The Black Cauldron and so forth).

According to World, boys seemed to prefer primarily the same books/authors year after year while girls read a wider variety of material. Captain Underpants books are among the most popular for boys in several grades (sigh). I have to admit that I've never actually read a Captain Underpants book, but there would have to be a lot of redemptive qualities about the text for me to get over that title. Girls read all sort of things: Anne of Green Gables, The Series of Unfortunate Events, etc.

So, what are some good choices for our young men? Megan and I have been compiling a list of what we think are some good choices--books which provide some challenge academically and contain appropriate content for a young man (think 1st grade here) to read. Of course, these books would interest boys far older than first grade as well. The list contains books of varying academic difficulty and literary merit, but all are "good reads." If you would like to add something to our list (we love new ideas!!), then leave us a comment!

Brian Jacques' Redwall series
The Great Brain
Encyclopedia Brown
Bobbsey Twins
Hardy Boys
Trixie Belden
Horatio Hornblower
Stowaway by Karen Hesse
Series of Unfortunate Events
Katherine Paterson's books
Dear America series
Treasure Island
Jungle Books
Peter Pan
George MacDonald's fairy tales (Princess and the Goblin, etc.)
good translation of Grimm and Andersen fairy tales
Tom Sawyer
Swiss Family Robinson
Roll of Thunder Hear my Cry
Secret Garden
Black Beauty
Wizard of Oz
Wind in the Willows
Lois Lenski's books
Dr. Dolittle
My Father's Dragon
Where the Red Fern Grows
Old Yeller
The Yearling
The Black Stallion books
Marguerite Henry's Horse books