Daily Archives: April 19, 2008

David Macaulay

Recently I was at a lovely lunch for the launch of David Macaulay‘s forthcoming book, The Way We Work. It was pretty amazing to be there as the company was august, including GalleyCat which is where I sto-borrowed–took the above image. You can read their report and more on the two covers here.

It was interesting to return to my 4th graders who were pretty fuzzy as to who this David Macaulay was. A few of them knew The New Way Things Work and had fun pointing out the woolly mammoths sprinkled throughout.

I then pulled out my copy of Black and White and read it to them, delighting and confounding them. We talked about his Motel of the Mysteries which many of them had come across during their archaeology unit the year before.

I’m such a fan! Years ago I used his wonderful books, City, Cathedral, and Castle in my teaching of Rome and the Middle Ages. (My kids “built” a Roman city using Macaulay’s as a guide). And I’ve got to find Unbuilding to read to my class. It is a witty fantasy about the UNbuilding of the Empire State Building. The man absolutely deserves his MacArthur.


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How Comics Helped Me Learn to Read

Comic-Con is on here in NYC and I may go later today so this seems like an apt subject.

I spent 2nd grade in Germany (as I’ve written before I’m the daughter of German-Jewish refugees and have spent a lot time there) while my father had a Fulbright and did research and lectures. I started the year in a city school and ended it in a village school. Now I realize that my experience was pretty similar to new immigrants to the United States. I knew almost no English when I started at the first school and, boy, did I learn it fast!

I also was learning to read in two languages —and didn’t much like it in either. One thing I did like was comic books. And my favorite one in German was Petzi.

Turns out Petzi (that plump bear in polka-dots) was originally a Danish comic strip character, Rasmus Klump, created by Carla and Vilhelm Hansen in 1951. (Most sites I found are not in English; this one is in German, for instance.) Boy, did I love the adventures Petzi had with friends like Pelle and Pingo. I could pretty much follow the stories through the pictures, rarely relying on the text below each box. I’ve scanned in a page from one of my old books, because those I’m finding online seem later and use speech bubbles.

There was something so straightforward about the Petzi stories. All of the books I have involve the pals building something to live in. I think I loved these as they were just like the houses I loved to make. I also loved playing with plush animals (little Steiff ones we bought with our pocket money at the Puppenkoenig toy store in Bonn).

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