Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Get Your Students Involved with Classroom Trivia!

Starting this week, I will be posting some fun trivia for your classroom, so go ahead and get your students and colleagues involved! Post your answers in the comments section and see how many you can answer correctly (without using Google!). I'll be posting the correct answers along with new questions every Tuesday.

  1. Which was the first novel ever to be written on a typewriter?
  2. Where did the name "Oz" come from in L. Frank Baum's Wizard of Oz?
  3. Which famous Greek poet was supposedly killed when a bird flying overhead dropped a tortoise and struck him?
  4. Which celebrated British author and poet was fired from his job as a reporter for the San Francisco Examiner in 1889?
  5. Which character from the works of French poet and dramatist, Edmond Rostand, is based on a real person?
**Missed out on past weeks' trivia? View them all here!

Nominate an Outstanding Student or Teacher!

Everyone loves to be recognized for their efforts, so take a few minutes to nominate a favorite teacher or colleague for the NCTE High School Teachers of Excellence Award.

And teachers, return the favor and give your students a chance to enter the first annual Norman Mailer High School and College Writing Awards Contest. Both contests are sponsored by NCTE and feature some great prizes.

Part VII - A Fight to the Death

Brace yourself for the Tuesday Round I, Part VII picks. It's going to be vicious.

Vote for your favorites in the comments section below...

Heart of Darkness

Julius Caesar

The Catcher in the Rye
The Call of the Wild

Friday, March 27, 2009

Part V -- The Weekend!

I'll be leaving part 5 up here all weekend, so hopefully we'll get lots of votes by the time school starts again on Monday. Yesterday's turnout was a bit disappointing, but we saw Shakespeare win both battles. Today our matchups are:

Adventures of
Huckleberry Finn


A Doll's House

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Round I, Part IV

Part IV of Round One brings us some more interesting match-ups with the great Bard of Avon!

Part III will be closing soon, so get your votes in!

Narrative of the
Life of Frederick

A Midsummer Night's

Animal Farm

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Round I, Part III

We have a winner in Part I with Romeo and Juliet and Oedipus Rex beating out two Dickens classics, A Tale of Two Cities and A Christmas Carol.

Part II will close this afternoon, so get your votes in soon.

And here's Part III of Round One, which introduces our first 20th Century works, let's see how more modern works fare vs. the classics.

Canterbury Tales

The Awakening
The Great Gatsby

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Round I, Part II

There are only a couple more hours to get in your votes on the first round of the Literature Deathmatch Challenge, so get your votes in now before it's too late and your favorite book falls through the cracks.

We had a question yesterday about how we chose the 32 books taking place in this challenge, since many favorites were left off. The 32 books in the bracket are the 32 most popular books over the last 12 months as sold by Prestwick House. I know many of you are disappointed that your favorites are missing. I am, too (maybe next year enough people will teach Cat's Cradle and Catch-22).

Here's the second part of Round Two, with some very different choices.

The Scarlet Letter
The Metamorphosis

Fahrenheit 451

Monday, March 23, 2009

Literature March Madness Deathmatch Challenge

Those of us who are sports inclined are spending all of our time these days working our way through March Madness brackets trying to find out who is the #1 basketball team in the country, and we thought English teachers might like to get into the fun.

At Prestwick House, we have a game we play in the Cafe that we call the Deathmatch Challenge - a single elimination bracket tournament to determine the truly elite in a number of categories, and we'd like to invite all of you blog readers to join us in the latest Deathmatch challenge--
The Literature March Madness Deathmatch Challenge 2009 of Doom!

Every day, we'll release two heads-up matches in the morning and two heads-up matches in the afternoon, and we're inviting teachers, students, employees, and friends of Prestwick House to post your votes in the comments section of the blog. The one with the most votes at the end of the voting period, after 24-hours, will be declared the winner and move on to the next round. So, get out the vote, invite your students to visit, and find out what book is the ultimate book in
The Literature March Madness Deathmatch Challenge 2009 of Doom!

Check out the Complete Bracket to see where your favorite books fall, and who will be facing who in this ultimate challenge.

The first two matches are:

A Tale of Two Cities
Romeo and JulietVS.
A Tale of Two Cities

A Christmas CarolVS.
Oedipus Rex

Post a comment in reply to this thread with your vote for
Romeo and Juliet or A Tale of Two Cities and A Christmas Carol or Oedipus Rex.

Stay tuned-in to the Prestwick Cafe Blog to find out the results and who's up next!

Friday, March 20, 2009

A Literary Magazine Just for High School Students

Here’s a new way to get your students psyched about writing: give them a chance to get published. That’s the idea behind Polyphony H.S.—a national literary magazine written and edited by high school students.

Just five short years ago, Polyphony H.S. was still a glimmer in the eyes of high school English teacher and writer Billy Lombardo. He wanted to establish a platform for young poets and storytellers, and he wanted to do it on a national scale. With this vision in mind, he recruited one of his students, Paige Holtzman, to help him solicit and edit submissions from around the country. In April of 2005, they published the best of these poems, short stories, and essays, and the first edition of Polyphony H.S. was born.

Now, only four editions later, the magazine is in full flight, boasting glowing reviews from bestselling authors and the American Library Association's Booklist magazine. Hundreds of submissions pour in annually from across the US, and a few from as far away as Canada, Indonesia, and Chileclearly, P.H.S is making a name for itself around the world.

But perhaps the most impressive thing about this publication is the fact that it's run by a network of student editors from all over the country. They spend hours reviewing, culling, and polishing manuscripts on a volunteer basis, all for the love of literature.

How can you and your students get involved?

Subscribe to the magazine, and share it with your classes. Reading the published works of their peers is sure to inspire your students with creative ideas of their own.

Submit your students’ poems, essays, and stories. Each submission will automatically be entered to win the Claudia Ann Seaman Award for Young Writers and a $500 cash prize, along with publication in Polyphony H.S. While you're at it, encourage your students to volunteer their services as editors.

Spread the word to fellow English teachers, and help build awareness of this unique opportunity.

Who knows—you might even want to start a literary magazine at your own high school.

For more information, check out Polyphony H.S. on the web.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Fantasy Fiction and The Hero’s Journey

In an age when bookshelves are packed with fantasy novels, and the previews for almost all the summer blockbusters depict teenagers saving the world from the forces of Dark Wizard So-and-So, you might mistakenly believed there are as many “Chosen Ones” as there are winners of the Publisher’s Clearing House Sweepstakes.

It seems as though the favored fantasy-adventure novels and movies of today—while entertaining—follow the same trite, predictable plot line, with little deviation except for a changes in character names. You ask yourself, “Do the similarities between these books and movies show that modern writers have lost all sense of creativity? Or is there some greater phenomenon at work?”

I’m glad you asked (and even happier that I can read your mind).

It was the belief of American mythologist, Joseph Campbell, that the adventure found in almost all myths, stories, and epics follows a preset, underlying plot structure. Not only can this structure be found in the most cherished adventure classics such as The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe and The Lord of the Rings, but also within many of the newer fantasy classics like Harry Potter. Just as Carl Jung suggested that there are archetypal images within the collective human unconscious, Campbell believed that all fictional journeys followed the same essential path, and heroes walk the same steps on the road of adventure.

Just as little Lucy Pevensie enters the wardrobe, Frodo Baggins leaves The Shire, and Harry Potter drags his luggage to platform 9 ¾, let’s journey into the world of the hero’s adventure.


The Call to Adventure

The story begins with the hero* living an ordinary, mundane life in a place relatively isolated from the rest of the world. Accidentally or deliberately, the hero learns that he must leave his home and venture into the outside, unfamiliar world to complete an important task. The task may be to restore peace to his homeland, prevent a catastrophe from occurring, to recover something (or someone) lost or stolen, or discover some hidden truth.

*To avoid awkward sentence construction, I will refer to the hero as “he”; however, the hero of the work may be a heroine and therefore a “she.” In that instance, the other character forms (Supernatural Aid/Goddess/Father) could be the opposite gender.

The Refusal of the Call

While some heroes readily accept their call to adventure, most initially refuse to leave home. The hero may feel that responsibilities and obligations prevent him from leaving, believe his skills are inadequate to complete the task, or fear the dangers that lie ahead. Eventually, the hero changes his mind or is forced onto the journey by an outside force.

Supernatural Aid

At the onset of the journey, the hero encounters a wise person, usually an elderly individual, who is familiar the outside world and wants to protect the hero. The person offers advice and aid, and it is common for the guide to give the hero a talisman or weapon—something that will provide a greater chance for success in completing the adventure.

Crossing the Threshold

In almost every myth, the hero experiences a moment of awareness in which he perceives that he is crossing the boundary, leaving the familiar world behind and passing into the realm of the unknown. Sometimes, the hero encounters a threshold guardian—a person or creature that stops ordinary individuals from crossing the boundary. The guardian directly opposes the hero and prevents him from making an easy passage, testing the hero’s abilities and ensuring that he has the right amount of skill and determination to survive the journey.

The Belly of the Whale

The hero undergoes a mental and spiritual transformation as he moves between worlds. The hero acknowledges that things will never be the same again, and he will have to learn to adapt and survive in an unfamiliar place.


The Road of Trials

Almost immediately upon entering the new world, the hero is presented with tasks he must complete and obstacles he must overcome. Like the threshold guardian, these tasks test the hero’s skills, and while they do pose a danger to the hero, they are minor conflicts compared to the real battle and climax of the work. Traditionally, the hero must complete three tasks, but this is often not the case.

Meeting with the Goddess

The hero encounters an intelligent woman of great power, and he falls in love with her, either romantically or as a child loves a mother. The goddess graciously gives the hero advice and additional aid that will help him on his journey.

Woman as the Temptress

Whether he is seduced by lust, debauchery, melancholy, or his own fear, the hero is lured into abandoning his quest. The temptress may be an actual woman—even the goddess figure— or a figurative temptress, the hero’s doubt.

Atonement with the Father

At the climactic moment of the story, a battle takes place between the hero and his father or between the hero and the primary antagonist of the story. In order for the hero to reach the end of his journey, the antagonist must be killed, and it will take all of the hero’s cunning, strength, and determination to defeat him.


After “the father” is defeated, the hero integrates all of the talents and knowledge he has gained into himself, becoming purified in the process. He experiences enlightenment and enters into a state of perfect peace and harmony with nature. At this stage, the hero also becomes deified and worshipped.

The Ultimate Boon

After the purification of apotheosis, the hero is deemed worthy to claim the treasure or achieve the goal of his quest. The hero victoriously claims his prize.


Refusal of the Return

With the quest completed, the hero must return home. However, he is reluctant go back to the old, familiar world, knowing that he cannot reintegrate himself into society and resume a life of simplicity and ignorance. Despite this, the hero realizes that what he has received or accomplished can benefit all mankind, and he is under an obligation to return home.

The Magic Flight

After the boon is retrieved or the objective met, the hero is opposed once more, and a person or creature chases him, either as he is leaving the place where the treasure was kept or as he is trying to return to the old world.

Rescue from Without

Like the individual who gives the hero supernatural aid at the onset of his journey, a person, usually from the ordinary world, comes to the hero’s rescue. He or she may help the hero in the chase, convince him that he needs to return home, or heal the hero—spiritually or physically—if he is too exhausted from the journey to return home on his own.

The Crossing of the Return Threshold

The journey complete, the hero returns to the ordinary world.

Master of the Two Worlds

The hero learns how to rejoin the civilized world and resume living an ordinary life, aware that he knows and has experienced more than his fellow men. His perspective and understanding has been broadened, and he will use his knowledge for the greater good. Usually he is revered as a hero and admired for his accomplishments; however, if the hero goes unappreciated or his wisdom is unheeded, the hero will die or leave the familiar world forever.

Freedom to Live

The hero bestows the gifts (literal or figurative) he has received on his journey to other men, and he lives out the rest of his life in perfect happiness.


For more information on The Hero’s Journey, explore Joseph Campbell’s book The Hero with a Thousand Faces or the 1988 PBS Special The Power of Myth.

Friday, March 13, 2009

New! Social Networking Buttons at PrestwickHouse.com!

For those of you who follow our blog or receive our monthly Footnotes Newsletter, you already know that we now have a Facebook Page, an NCTE Ning, a Twitter Page, and, of course, the Prestwick Cafe Blog.

Now, we've made all of our social networking sites even easier to access with the addition of buttons in the right hand navigation of our website!

Also, you can now find quick links to all of our pages in the left-hand navigation here at the
Prestwick Cafe Blog page.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Follow Prestwick House on Twitter.com!

Recently, we've joined multitudes of classroom teachers, homeschoolers, and the rest of the educational community at large in "tweeting" updates about what's going on at Prestwick House.

Read more to find out what Twitter is all about, and be sure to create an account and follow us to find out about educational news that's pertinent to you.

Monday, March 9, 2009

The Last Dickens by Matthew Pearl to be Released by Random House, Tuesday, March 17, 2009

by Douglas Grudzina

Charles Dickens, arguably the best-known author in the English language, died on June 9, 1870. The evening before, mere hours before he collapsed with a stroke, he completed the sixth installment of what was to be a twelve-installment novel, The Mystery of Edwin Drood. He left no notes, no outline, no preliminary drafts of the remaining six installments. He confided his plans regarding how he intended to end his mystery to no one.

He did offer to reveal the ending to Queen Victoria, but she declined.

The first five installments had already been published; the sixth would be in print soon; and readers on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean were clamoring to know what had happened to the missing Edwin Drood. Had his uncle, the opium-addicted choirmaster killed him out of jealousy? Had he placed himself in hiding to avoid an unwanted marriage?

No one knew, and literary pirates and plagiarists were more than willing to provide answers and realize hefty profits from “the Chief’s” death.

This is the background against which Matthew Pearl’s third novel, The Last Dickens, is set. Trying to save his business and solve the brutal murder of one of his employees, Dickens’s American publisher travels to England in search of any clue to the “authentic” end of Dickens’s last work. The search takes him deep into London’s underbelly, the world Dickens exposed so graphically in so many of his novels, and the world which he himself was rumored to have explored in his final year while creating his final work.

The Last Dickens comes out in hard cover on Tuesday, March 17. It’s a great read, and I’d recommend it to my students for a number of reasons. First of all, there’s a hard-to-put-it-down story of murder, theft, and intrigue; and characters so vividly drawn that sometimes you want to hug them, and sometimes you want to slap them. Then there’s the rich view of the nineteenth-century world that Pearl’s exhaustive and impeccable research provide. Your students will love scenes of Dickens’s fans lining up days before tickets go on sale for the Christmas Eve reading of A Christmas Carol—almost as if Dickens were the Grateful Dead of his day (which, of course, he was.) There’s the almost-brutally-honest view of Dickens the man, who left his family with so many debts that they had to auction off almost all of their possessions to stay out of prison, who was rumored to have had affairs with two of his wife’s sisters, who’d separated from his wife and taken a much-younger mistress in an age that prided itself on propriety and prudery. And there’s the insider’s view of the publishing world, much more cut-throat than cultural.

To accompany the planned 2010 release of the paperback edition of The Last Dickens, Pearl has prepared a new edition of The Mystery of Edwin Drood, which presents a wealth of possibilities to teachers who really want their students to get into the mind of the author. How did Dickens intend to end this book?

Matthew Pearl’s first novel, The Dante Club, is available from our catalogue and on our web site, as is his edition of the Henry Wadsworth Longfellow translation of The Inferno by Dante Alighieri, which lies at the heart of that blood-chilling serial-murder mystery.

And again, The Last Dickens will be available Tuesday, March 17th. It's well worth your taking a look at.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Prestwick House Launches a New Line of E-Books for “National Read an E-Book Week!”

In conjunction with the release of the 2nd generation of Amazon Kindle and “National Read an E-book Week,” Prestwick House has created a new line of e-books based on their best-selling Literary Touchstone Classic Editions. In recent years, Prestwick House has become a celebrated e-book vendor in the educational field, selling many of their products in convenient, downloadable form.

Although it is still a relatively new concept, e-books are becoming more widely accepted in schools throughout the country, and Prestwick House is doing their part by making sure that all of their most popular Touchstone titles are available to e-book readers via Amazon.com. E-book readers such as the new Kindle 2 are now equipped with new capabilities like taking in-book notes, looking up words in an online dictionary, and viewing web content with new web browser capabilities — making the future of education seems closer than ever.

In the educational arena, digital books pose a variety of benefits. Teachers can:

  • Save time and money by downloading e-books immediately and avoiding shipping costs
  • Create in-book notes for specific classes Display e-books on overheads or Smartboards
  • Allow students to look up background information directly from the web as they read
  • Access their entire library for easy, in-class reference
  • Keep digital files such as class syllabi, online articles, blogs, course packets, and teacher's editions handy

For Prestwick House, creating e-books from their existing line of literary classics is just a first step in the process of joining the e-book community. In the future, Prestwick House plans to create more dynamic products specifically tailored to the e-book arena including elements like a clickable table of contents, more interactivity for use with whiteboards, and creating interrelated bundles of e-books.

Click here to view all of the e-books from Prestwick House’s Literary Touchstone Collection now available at Amazon.com.