So how would you like to “meet” Thomas Edison, George Westinghouse, Nikola Tesla, Alexander Graham Bell and J. P. Morgan? Or “see” the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York as it is being built and “visit” the new Metropolitan Opera (it seems the old Opera House wouldn’t accept the likes of Rockefeller and Vanderbilt so they needed a new one…)?
Well, not exactly. But it feels that way!
I treated myself to three audiobooks, and this historical legal thriller is the first. The excellent narrator was able to make each character sound a little differently, which added another dimension to the book. The book is rich with details and background information and in many parts its quite easy to imagine being a fly in the room, with a front row seat to the legal battle.
Make no mistake – while there’s a lot of fascinating history here, this is a legal thriller in the tradition of any of those courtroom dramas series you happen to favor on T.V. It turns out there was a huge dramatic battle over who and how the USA would become a country with electricity. The lawyer (whose eyes you are peering through as the story unfolds) is young and dashing and of course there’s a love story too…
It’s certainly a good choice for an audiobook as the drama makes listening to it rather energizing – I got a great deal of cooking done while listening!
I understand there is going to be a movie version soon. It doesn’t surprise me in the least. I’m glad I read it before the movie comes out!
I picked it up at the “readers-give-readers” corner at our library but it remained on the bookshelf while I read other books first. Not only had I never heard of the South African author, the title and the cover weren’t particularly appealing. It clearly wasn’t what once was called a “10 cent paperback” but the book didn’t appear particularly appealing either.
As they say, appearances are misleading. I’m now ready to read any book by Brink I can find, and I understand he wrote several.
The style of writing had me hooked by page one. The main character is a former librarian and the book is full of references to other books, in addition to moving paragraphs about the degree in which books can make a difference in a person’s life.
The setting is in post-apartheid Cape Town, South Africa, though the story weaves past, distant past (there’s a ghost!) and present. All turbulent times in different ways.
And yes, there is desire, lust, love or lack of it, from different perspectives. Don’t expect any “saccharine coating” here, but there is tenderness along with reality.
Spelling, grammar, vocabulary – it is well known that these skills improve the more students practice their writing. Naturally, when students have an authentic audience to write for, they are markedly more motivated to pay attention to their writing.
In addition to all that goodness, I discover time and again that such a kind of writing leads to many other meaningful things as well. Meaningful for both the students and the teacher.
I just want to share the joy!
My lovely co-teacher just gave birth and I opened a Padlet virtual wall so that the students could write congratulatory notes for her. My teenage students like Padlet’s cool backgrounds and the ease in which they can edit and add pictures. So it’s always a good choice for me. The students were eager to wish their teacher well – no prodding was necessary. It’s good for a teacher to be reminded that the students care!
MOTIVATION – Got that covered! CHECK!
One student wished the teacher “good health and happy” so we talked about happy vs happiness. Another expressed hope that the teacher would come back next year with ” new powers”, which is a direct translation from Hebrew. So we discussed leaving “the powers” for the superheros and went with “lots of energy”. In short, the kind of discussions an English teacher expects to have, you know what I mean. Some mistakes I did not correct or point out – going over each note with a fine tooth comb would have been counter productive.
VOCABULARY – SYNTAX – GRAMMAR – CHECK!
One student started to write his note saying that he hopes the teacher feels better again soon and will come back to class as soon as possible… We had a talk about the fact that having a baby is not like being sick and in any case the teacher won’t come back soon, she’s on maternity leave. I had a similar talk with a girl in a different group who wanted to write a note but claimed she only knows what to say when someone is ill. We mentioned useful phrases for this situation in L1 as well. Other students did not have this problem and even asked for pictures!
PROMOTING SOCIAL SKILLS – CHECK!
One student wrote a particularly long note. Half of the note was devoted to telling the teacher to make sure her husband takes care of the baby too. A sample sentence: “you gave the new baby for the world and father need to do something also.hahah :)”. It was a strong reminder of the student’s own “thorny” fatherhood woes and how it must be an issue close to his heart. I did not point out any errors at all on this student’s note…
INSIGHTS INTO WHAT’S ON STUDENTS’ MINDS – CHECK!
I saw one student having Google translate an entire paragraph typed in L1. I was about to protest strongly (they are not supposed to do that in class!) until I saw what she had written. The kind of “flowery blessing”, which was obviously something she had encountered at home, was important to her. “This is the right thing to say when someone has a baby”, she said with a big smile. The student would not have been able to produce sentences such as the following on her own: “That the sun on you will always shine. And your family will grow and blossom. That they sow endless love”. So I just smiled back and didn’t say a word.
LEARNING ABOUT STUDENTS’ CULTURAL BACKGROUND – CHECK!
In short, wishing someone else well, in written English, did us all good!
Teaching English as a FOREIGN language to Deaf and Hard of Hearing Students