Friend or foe?

Brain Pickings, one of my favorite places to find interesting things to read and think about, introduces a children’s book called “Friend or Foe?”

It’s an allegory with a not-so-hidden message about “otherness” — how we see people who are different, as enemies or friends. This Brain Pickings post is also a great example of how you can introduce a book to your classmates: with lots of pictures and selective quotes. Like this:



Whether or not you add a SPOILER ALERT (in this case, what the answer to the “Friend or Foe?” question is, which is NOT revealed in this post), is up to you.

Writing prompt: After reading the description of the story, what do you think the answer to the question is?

Required reading

What were you required to read when you were in high school? Novels? Non-fiction? Just textbooks? Which of those books were memorable?

Here are some of the books that are required reading in schools around the world (from TED Ideas), including:

Faust by Goethe (in Austria) — about a man who sells his soul to the devil — because of its different interpretations and influences on other literature and because it encourages students to think in different ways

The Days by Taha Hussein (in Egypt) — an autobiography of the blind man who became an education minister — because it encourages students to think about “the importance of gathering knowledge, the need to rebel against traditions and the negative effects of ignorance upon individuals in a society”

The Diary of Anne Frank (in Germany) — because “we should never forget what horrors were unleashed by narrow-thinking people”

Rainbow Troops by Andrea Hirata (in Indonesia) — about a group of students and their teachers who are living in poverty but persevere — because “it teaches sacrifice, dedication, hard work, passion, brotherhood, friendship, optimism and perseverance in the face of challenges”

Here’s an excerpt of the movie based on that last book (in Indonesian with English subtitles). Be patient and watch to the end; it’s worth it:

More books to add to my to-read list!

Some of the most memorable books I read in high school were:

  • The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoevsky
  • King Lear by William Shakespeare
  • 1984 by George Orwell
  • Night by Elie Wiesel
  • Inherit the Wind by Jerome Lawrence
  • The Structure of Scientific Revolutions by Thomas Kuhn

These were all required reading except Inherit the Wind, which I read because I did my graduation essay on the debate between evolutionists and creationists.

If you were to tell today’s high school students to read certain books, which would you choose and why?

From comics to graphic novels

Continuing on the theme of comics and cartoons, here’s a short article about a graphic novelist named Gene Luen Yang.


His graphic novel “American Born Chinese” was published in 2006 and was a finalist for the Young People’s Literature category of the National Book Awards that year. Later, it won several other awards.

In the article, he talks about using graphic novels in education, maybe especially for students who may be confused about identity.

One line that made me balk a little: he talked about writing “educational graphic novels VERSUS entertaining ones” (the caps are mine). I don’t think they need to be mutually exclusive!