Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Happy National Punctuation Day!

It's been a while since we've shared any news, but I couldn't let National Punctuation Day go by without wishing you all a happy National Punctuation Day!

This is the 5th annual day celebrating "the lowly comma, correctly used quotes, and other proper uses of periods, semicolons, and the ever mysterious ellipses."

In the spirit of the day, I'd like to shed light on my favorite controversial punctuation use: the serial semicolon.

I know, semicolons are difficult to use. In fact, I try to avoid using them in almost every circumstance except in this one case.

When creating a serial list in which the items themselves have commas internally, it's sometimes useful to use a semicolon to divide the items of the list. Here's an example from our catalouge that I have to continually defend every year:

"[The Webster's New Explorer Dictionary and Thesaurus] also includes an atlas; foreign phrases; famous names in mythology, the Bible, and history; and a handbook on style and research referencing."

Without this selection using the serial semicolon it's very easy to make the mistake and read that this book includes the entire text of the Bible. I know that to many people it looks awkward, but to me, this is a very appropriate use for the semicolon.

Now, lets see how long it is before someone finds a missing punctuation mark in this post and corrects me. :)

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Art Department Showcase

At the end of the first quarter, the Art Department put together this video for an internal, end-of-quarter report to showcase some of the great work they've done so far this year.

Everyone in-house was so impressed that we thought our customers might enjoy the sneak peek at the books that are coming soon.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo

My head hurts from this one, but apparently this is a complete, grammatically correct sentence:

Buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo.

Mental Floss has a good explanation of this little grammatical mind-twister. It took me a couple times reading through the article to figure it out. If you're teaching parts of speech, your kids may get a kick out of it. I'd love to see a student explain it through a sentence diagram.

Monday, March 3, 2008

Shakespeare Behind Bars

Paul Moliken, our Senior Editor, just alerted me to this movie -- looks like my Netflix queue is going to be full of Shakespeare for a while.

"If you’ve ever wondered about the redemptive power of literature on an individual’s life, then you owe it to yourself to watch “Shakespeare Behind Bars,” a documentary about a group of men in prison, who put on a performance of The Tempest. Their nearly half year of rehearsal (time counts for nothing in jail) is broken up by “Antonio’s” stretch in solitary confinement and by “Ariel’s” leaving for a maximum security prison. However, the rest of the cast, which is made up of a non-inmate volunteer director, plus murderers, thieves, and other extremely bad men, carry on splendidly.

We see them in rehearsal practicing lines, learning how to deliver them with meaning; we also see them speaking directly to the camera about their crimes and how Shakespeare has prepared them for life, both behind bars and after parole. The insights and personal revelations that the lines bring to these inmates is startling—almost all cry at their understanding of how the Bard, dead for four centuries, can relate to their particular individual weaknesses and to humanity in general.

“Caliban,” a huge, formidable, frightening prisoner, tries everything he can to get into the psyche of the monster. “Miranda” is especially touched by the similarities between himself and the character and feels that their pasts are exactly the same! “Prospero,” a veteran of several past productions, seems to be the most accomplished actor. The rest do overact for the most part, but their enthusiasm is necessary for the production to succeed, since the audience is composed primarily of other prisoners.

I found myself hoping that the two men who had their parole board hearings shortly after filming would be released into society. The Board disagreed with my opinion, however, and denied the paroles.

The cast offers some startling comments about their lives, along with some vulgarities, either of which might offend a lower high school class, but if you’re teaching The Tempest, or would like to offer a class a different perspective on Shakespeare’s genius, the movie is highly recommended."

Friday, February 29, 2008

Outside Writer of the Year!

Congratulations and many thanks to Eva Richardson, our inaugural 2007 Writer of the Year!

We have dozens of writers around the country, many who are former English teachers, who help us develop the many different classroom resources that we're able to put out each year.

This year, we're starting a new tradition of nominating the off-site writer who's done some of the best work this year. It's a difficult decision to make but our Sr. Editor and New Product specialist agreed that this year, Ms. Richardson has gone above and beyond in writing products this year, and we have a lot more projects that she's working on for us.


By Eva Richardson this year:

The Rime of the Ancient Mariner - Teaching Unit

Animal Farm - AP Teaching Unit
The Grapes of Wrath - AP Teaching Unit
Animal Farm - Multiple Critical Perspectives Guide
The Grapes of Wrath - Multiple Critical Perspectives Guide
Great Expectations - Multiple Critical Perspectives Guide

Friday, February 22, 2008

Slings and Arrows

Jason just let me know about a Candian TV series that's jumped right to the top of my netflix queue called Slings and Arrows. It's a dark comedy about the struggles of a fictional Shakespeare Company, and now that I've seen episode 1, I can't wait to see the rest.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Reading is Fundamental in Crisis

Many of you may be benefiting from Reading is Fundamental's program of inexpensive book distribution for over 4.6 million children, so I thought you might all be interested in the latest news from RIF.

Since Prestwick House is an authorized distributor of materials for RIF, with our inexpensive Literary Touchstone Classics and other classics, we're kept up to date on the goings-on at RIF headquarters.

We were upset to recently receive an E-mail letting us know that RIF's budget for this program has been completely eliminated by the new Bush budget.

The good news is that RIF and their supporters are fighting to get their money back. See what RIF is doing now to get their budget of $26million re-instated and see how you can help RIF.

A Plea to HS English Teachers (From a College Creative Writing Teacher )

Tayari Jones has a very elegant and readable blog. I found it when I happened on this post about how HS students who read:

1) "The Lottery" by Shirley Jackson
2) "Hills Like White Elephants" by Ernest Hemingway
3) "A Rose for Emily" by William Faulkner

...grow up to be stunted creative writers in college.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

A New (Sub) Mission

I'm on a mission to get people to read this excellent book blog over at enotes.

Jamie has been doing some heroically cool blogging there with little to no praise and a completely unjust deficit of adoring fans.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Happy Valentines-- err. Fredrick Douglass Day

“Once you learn to read, you will be forever free.”

Frederick Douglass

Valentine’s Day isn’t just an excuse to eat chocolates out of a heart-shaped box. For the civic-minded, February 14th* is also a time to honor the life of Frederick Douglass—a well-known abolitionist and a champion of human rights and education.

For English educators in particular, his life’s story is a study in the transformative power of literacy.

As a twelve-year-old boy, Douglass was transformed from a slave into an aspiring human rights activist when he secretly taught himself to read. In fact, his experience with books affected him so profoundly that he would later call education “the pathway from slavery to freedom.”

Within a few years, inspired by what he had read, Douglas would escape slavery and go on to challenge the world with his own words. His numerous abolitionist publications would play a key role in ending slavery in the US.

And that’s precisely why slaves were strictly prohibited from learning to read in the first place. Slave-owners knew that literate people are free people. They won’t be subjugated for long.

You can read more about Douglass’s extraordinary life in his autobiography, Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass .

But keep in mind that Douglass is only one of many African-American writers whose words will inspire your class in February and throughout the year. Here are a few other suggestions from among our favorite novels, poems, plays, and nonfiction works.


African-American Poetry, An Anthology: 1773—1927 (from Phyllis Wheatley to Langston Hughes)

Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl, the autobiography of Harriet Jacobs

The Souls of Black Folk, W.E.B. Du Bois’s legendary treatise

Their Eyes Were Watching God, a novel by Zora Neale Hurston

A Raisin in the Sun, a play by Lorraine Hansberry

Beloved, a novel by Toni Morrison (recommended for mature classes)

Contemporary Young Adult:

Gifted Hands, the autobiography of Ben Carson

The Color of Water, an autobiographical novel by James McBride

Slam!, a novel by Walter Dean Myers

The Rose that Grew from Concrete, a poetry anthology by Tupac Shakur

*Douglass didn’t know for sure the day, or even the year, of his birth. He adopted February 14th as his birthday because his mother called him her “little Valentine.”