News from the editorial team

We would like to write a few words dedicated to Shel Silverstein in honour of his birthday today! Winner of numerous awards, including two Grammy’s and a Golden Globe Award, he has captured our hearts with his words. Funnily enough, the authour also known as “Uncle Shelby” didn’t plan on writing children’s poetry – but he sure is quite good at it. His matter-of-a-fact, conversational way of writing combined with his humourous illustrations are witty and thought-provoking. His collection, A Light in the Attic, features many short and sweet poems such as What If, Smart and How Many, How Much.

My personal favourite:

“HAPPY ENDING?

There are no happy endings.

Endings are the saddest part,

So just give me a happy middle

And a very happy start.”

Shel Silverstein

Luckily with the amount of poems in his collections, there is no end in sight, so enjoy!

Sarah


Each year the International Day of Peace, which was established by the UN in 1981, reminds us to seek solidarity, non-violence and cooperations across borders.

The vision for peace and devastating reality of war are reflected in some of our recently published works: The historical novel Once, the poem “The Waste Land” and the film Schindler’s List provide us with perspectives of war, trauma and destruction but also offer hope – such as John Lennon’s song “Imagine” (1971) that invites us to reflect upon the vision for peace, freedom and equality:

“You may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one. I hope someday you’ll join us. And the world will live as one.” – John Lennon

We do hope that you found some inspiration in these examples. Also, if you have a text in mind that is suitable for teaching peace in the EFL classroom, make sure to suggest it.

Simon


We would like to wish a very happy birthday to Julia Donaldson today! The accomplished author has received more than 30 awards for her heartwarming children’s books and is best known for The Gruffalo (illustrated by Axel Scheffler), featuring a little mouse and its monstrous friend.

She’s taken our hearts by storm with her life-like characters, whose struggles and dreams aren’t so different from our own. Whether it’s the animals in the Ugly Five learning to embrace their imperfections or the small snail in the Snail and the Whale standing up for its friend, we all can learn something from Julia Donaldson’s stories, regardless of age.

Have fun exploring and getting lost in these magical stories.

“I opened a book and in I strode. Now nobody can find me.” – Julia Donaldson

Sarah


“All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.” – George Orwell

Democratic participation, individual freedom and equality are the basis of many societies. Ironically, this can lead to the assumption to take democratic rights for granted. This is exactly where some of the greatest dystopian-fiction literature can help us to understand what we would be missing if we gave up on democracy: George Orwell’s Animal Farm, William Golding’s Lord of the Flies, Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World, Morton Rhue and Todd Strasser’s The Wave or Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale are stories which have a powerful message to tell about some of our current freedoms, rights and how easily they could be abandoned. If you are looking for a more recent title to explore democracy and the potential loss of it, have a look at Cory Doctorow’s Little Brother, Suzanne Collins’ The Hunger Games or the graphic novel Rosa Parks and the Montgomery Bus Boycott by Connie Colwell Miller. The later one discovers the history of the civil rights movement in the United States and proves that speaking up and demanding one’s rights can lead to political reforms.

We do hope that you find some inspiration in these suggestions. Also, if you have a text in mind that is suitable for democratic and political education in the EFL classroom, make sure to suggest it.

Thank you and have a beautiful week!

Rico and Simon


September 13th: Roald Dahl

English · 13 September 2022

In honour of Roald Dahl’s birthday, we would like to highlight some of our favourites works of his.

For everyone interested in a spin on classic fairytales, Roald Dahl’s novels and poems are the way to go. His novel The Witches perfectly balances dark humour and a touch of wholesomeness. Most of the poems in Revolting Rhymes and Dirty Beasts are a bit more morbid. However, the dark but often humurous twists to these classic fables and fairytales make them captivating to any audience.

We hope you find his stories as bewitching as we do, and most of all, have fun!

“It’s impossible to make your eyes twinkle if you’re not feeling twinkly yourself.” – Roald Dahl

Sarah


“Literacy is the most basic currency of the knowledge economy”
– Barack Obama

Since probably 1999, when I actually developed the ability to think, question, and understand, I enjoyed books. Not reading them at that time, of course, but having them read to me, and my parents read a lot to me. The huge variety of writing styles and all the different stories definitely had a great part in making me the person I am today. The ability to read provided me with access to knowledge and helped me develop diverse thoughts and opinions, the ability to write helped me to learn how to express them. I cannot imagine the universes, the knowledge, and with it the power of mind that I would have missed out on if I had never learned to read. For me, reading was a matter of course, for most of us it probably was. However, roundabout 14% of the world’s population is illiterate and the pandemic only made it worse. So this year’s ILD is about “narrowing the digital divide”. When all of a sudden the world went online, the effects of insufficient access to the internet, electricity, and digital skills in less economically developed countries became more evident and problematic.

Of course, there are many ways to also support the countries in question, but we also need to raise awareness for illiteracy in the classroom and simultaneously emphasise the importance of reading itself. I noticed that remote schooling and learning lead to a decline of the desire and also of the overall ability to read. So it’s definitely necessary to find ways, maybe also new and more creative ones, to discover and motivate the reader in every student because I refuse to believe that reading is character-based.

Therefore, for teachers, parents, and all people in need of a little guidance for motivating listless children and teenagers I recommend The Bookwhisperer: Awakening the Inner Reader in Every Child by Donalyn Miller. Miller is a 6th-grade teacher and provides a practical yet unconventional guideline for leading children to actually enjoy reading. And if you specifically look for books on literacy, you will find loads of useful suggestions and inspirations to spark the interest in reading in your home or classroom again.

Sarah-Sophia


First introduced in 1971, Women’s Equality Day commemorates the adoption of the nineteenth amendment in 1920. This change in the US Constitution granted women the right to vote, marking an important stride in the movement towards gender equality. To this day, equality and women’s rights remain incredibly relevant and important themes that need to be discussed with students. These pieces of literature can help spark the discourse around gender equality and discrimination in the EFL classroom:

  • Top Girls by Caryl Churchill: This empowering play about power, masculinity and femininity explores roles and opportunities for women in modern society. Set in London during the early 1980s, the play follows Marlene, an ambitious, career-driven businesswoman who made irreversible sacrifices for her success. The drama raises the question: Must one ‘pass as a man’ to be successful as a woman?
  • The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood: A dystopian novel on gender, sex, fertility, rebellion, and love. In the near future, most women have become infertile and the USA have transformed into a theocracy where women are either the wives of party officials, in charge of the household, or have to take part in a bizarre ritual. Offred is one of them, a “handmaid”, a woman whose sole purpose is to bear children for the elites in the post-apocalyptic, theocratic society of Gilead. Soon she finds out the true hypocrisy of the religious leaders who control her life.

Do you have a favorite book or film that made you reflect on gender roles and equality? We would love to hear your suggestions!

Happy Women’s Equality Day, and take care!

Sarah


Scorching sun and blistering heat, every now and then a few rain droplets here and there which only make the air muggier – sounds like your summer? This year’s summer is exhaustingly hot again so the grassland looks more like a desert now. So, there often comes a time when you don’t enjoy the warmth as much as in the beginning. And maybe you too have holidays or just less to do than usual and I myself thought about what I could read that wouldn’t serve any specific academic purpose only giving me a good time and leaving me more satisfied than sitting in front of the computer all day and watching movies and series. Although, I must admit, of course, that there are some pretty cool summery things to watch as well. So, I thought I’d share my list with you.

  • Skyward, Brandon Sanderson: Skyward is a dystopian science-fiction novel but I particularly like that the main focus lies on the social system. It follows 17-year-old underdog Spensa, a girl that lives on the planet Detritus in the shadow of her father’s alleged cowardice and treason when he turned against his people and died during an air battle. Yes, dystopian stories need an underdog who shows the faults in society and the political system, and yes, it might be a little exhausting from time to time to sympathize with someone who is always anti-everything and system breaking for the sake of it. However, I really liked the character development of the protagonists and I liked the twist when they suddenly notice that the concept of ‘enemy’ is very subjective and usually not well-reflected. In the end, I think the book is a valuable addition to school and/or university literature because it subtly breaks out of the black and white thinking also forcing the characters to acknowledge that there is more to reality than what they make of it. I would recommend it as school literature but I think it’s simply too long.
  • Book Lovers, Emily Henry: Admittedly, this one is quite cheesy but sometimes cheesy is exactly what you need. I was writing my term paper about a pretty depressing subject and this book was like a vacation. It’s like a Hallmark movie written out and with only slightly more juicy scenes and romantic tension. A classic predictable love story about enemies meeting under different circumstances and simply falling for each other – perfect summer read, love it.
  • Klara and the Sun, Kazuo Ishiguro: This is one of my all-time favourites! It’s set sometime in the future and it’s normal for children to have an Artificial Friend. And I find it most intriguing that the novel is told from the view of one of those instead of a human narrator. Although it is quite absurd at times, it’s about coping with loss, about othering and exclusion, but also about hope, and about love and friendship without being such a feel-good read, and it leaves room for own thoughts and interpretations.
  • The Summer I Turned Pretty, Jenny Han: It is the first novel of a trilogy by Jenny Han but I only know the series which is super cute and gives me a feeling of nostalgia, but I guess I’m also old already. It’s about, well, the rollercoaster of feelings a 15-year-old girl might have when everything is suddenly different and romance is not an abstract faraway construct anymore. I think it’s really cute and would recommend it to anyone, young and old, who feels alone with all the complicated stuff in the world (this series is proof that there are others in the same boat), or who wants to sit back and say “Ah yes, being 16 again”.

Other summer recommendations: Holes by Louis Sacher (on my list every year), The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett, The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafón,

Have a great August!

Sarah-Sophia


Belonging to America’s dark Romanticists, Hawthorne is well-known for his Scarlet Letter and The House of the Seven Gables but also wrote quite popular short stories. Hawthorne was originally spelled without the w but he added it probably to dissociate himself from the family image because his great-great-grandfather was a judge in the Salem witch trials.
Otherwise, he must have had a quite fulfilling life, happy childhood in Maine, a happy marriage with three children, a political and a great writing career even during his lifetime, Herman Melville looked up to him and he was best friends with US President Franklin Pierce whom he during his college years.

I must admit, I’ve only read his short story “Rappaccini’s Daughter” so far but I loved it very much and a collection of short stories as well as The Scarlet Letter are already on my TBR pile. I actually found an edition of The Scarlet Letter in one of these free libraries sometimes installed in old bookcases or shelves or telephone booths. Its cover takes some getting used to because it looks like it unhappily time-traveled here from the nineties but once embraced, it’s actually quite fun to look at the colourful tohubohu.

If you’re uncertain whether this is your genre or style of writing, have a go at one of the short stories, you can find them for free online at americanliterature.com, I think it might be worth it!

HAPPY BIRTHDAY, Hawthorne old man!

Sarah-Sophia


“If liberty means anything at all, it means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear.”
– George Orwell

Born in 1903 as Eric Arthur Blair in British India, George Orwell remains one of the best-known writers of our times. He was an anti-totalitarian author, journalist, and essayist, and you don’t need to have read any of his works to know about his two most famous works Animal Farm and 1984. These still influence popular culture and are part of many school curricula providing the basis for lively discussions about ethics, morality, social criticism, and possible versions of the future. The terms he coined, such as “Big Brother” or “doublethink” and “thoughtcrime”, are also relevant nowadays and accompany us in our daily life. His writings are considered in many current social and political discourses regarding, for example, freedom of thought, expression and press, and privacy rights.

Orwell is definitely one of my favourite writers and thinkers because he articulated highly controversial topics which were relevant then and still are today. And he did so in a way that makes many feel uncomfortable and forces one to reflect on one’s own mindset. Certainly, one doesn’t need to agree with his writings but they provide an impetus that, I think, is very valuable. I’m a big fan of a social and political differentiated discourse and Orwell’s works are a wonderful food for thought.

So today we not only celebrate his birthday but also the freedom and liberties we enjoy in regard to our thoughts and actions, goods that we cannot value enough and shouldn’t take for granted.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY, George!

Sarah-Sophia


By now, the majority of us are aware of the global disaster that is climate change. Global warming has many consequences, some of which are more visible and obvious than others. One devastating invisible effect of global warming is the slow death of our coral reefs. Today’s World Reef Awareness Day aims to raise awareness of this important issue and provoke active change through education.

When it comes to coral reefs dying, the phrase “Out of sight, out of mind” seems fitting. Because of this, making the problem as visible and tangible as possible is key. The documentary Chasing Coral by Jeff Orlowski does just this. It explains that in the past 30 years, half of our coral reefs have died due to coral bleaching from rising water temperatures. To visualize this problem and raise awareness, scientists and photographers use time-lapse cameras to capture this devastating process.

Illustrated stories are a wonderful way to allow younger students to visualize issues more easily. And as today is not just World Reef Awareness Day but also Children’s Day, it’s only fitting to recommend my favorite children’s books on climate change!

  • Saving Tally: An eco-critical story on friendship, survival, and environmental pollution reminding us to keep trash out of the sea. This tale features Tally, a little turtle, and her friend Ara, a red lobster.
  • Somebody Swallowed Stanley: This story on environmental pollution follows Stanley – who is no ordinary jellyfish but a little plastic bag that was thrown into the ocean. Foregrounding the dangers for sea creatures who want to take a bite of Stanley, this story makes clear that plastic bags do not belong in the sea.
  • The Snail and the Whale: A rhyming, eco-critical story about the relativity of prejudices and stereotypes, the importance of friendship, and environmental protection: “This is a tale of a tiny snail and a great big, grey-blue humpback whale…”

Let us know about your favorite eco-critical books or films via the Suggest an entry button on our homepage!

All the best,

Sarah


BookTok

English · 23 May 2022

A few weeks back, I saw something new in my local bookstore. A sticker labeled “The TikTok sensation” graced the covers of various titles. I never associated TikTok with book recommendations but decided I needed to take a look. And so, I promptly fell into a rabbit hole of YouTube “BookTok” compilations.

It makes sense why this is so effective! The creators promoting these books are a lot closer in age to their target audience and seem authentic and relatable. It creates the feeling of a friend telling you “You need to read this book it changed my life!”. The presentation is visually stimulating, each recommendation only being seconds long. However, that begs the question of how much information about the book can really be conveyed in such a short amount of time. Is it about the story, or about the feeling the presentation and cover create? That said, the categorization of books into tropes helps the viewer decide whether a book could be the right fit. There’s no shortage of genres represented on TikTok, from mystery and non-fiction to romance and fantasy. Below, I’ve listed some of the TikTok bestsellers I’ve read recently and loved!

  • We Were Liars by E. Lockhart: This mystery novel allows the reader to get familiar with the concept of unreliable narrators. It opens up room for discussion surrounding topics like mental health, class systems, and privilege.
  • Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo: Set in a fantasy world reminiscent of Amsterdam, five outsiders set out on a journey to stop the spread of a drug lethal to humans and addictive to Grisha, people with magical abilities. If you enjoy morally grey characters, this fantasy adventure novel has a lot to offer!
  • The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller: In the realm of modern retellings of Greek mythology, this one is remarkably fast-paced and captivating. Set in the era of the Trojan war, this novel tells the heartwrenching love story of Achilles and his companion Patroclus. Due to some explicit scenes, this novel is best suited for older readers.

So that leaves the question, are we in a new age of book marketing? What about the New York Times bestseller lists? Or is this just the current version of book bloggers and YouTube recommendations? I think in the world of literature, there’s room for all types of recommendations! Sometimes, stepping out of your comfort zone and exploring a different source of book suggestions is just what you need. Or perhaps social media can provide literary input to students who otherwise wouldn’t be browsing bookstores on a regular basis.

Where do you find inspiration on what book to read next? The bookshop next door? Current bestseller lists? Social media? Maybe TikTok helped you find your current favorite? Let us know what you’ve been loving lately!

All the best,

Sarah


“Freedom of the press is not just important to democracy, it is democracy.”
– Walter Cronkite

World Press Freedom Day promotes the belief that freedom of the press and freedom of speech provide a basis for mutual understanding and sustainable peace. “It serves as an occasion to inform citizens of violations of press freedom – a reminder that in dozens of countries around the world, publications are censored, fined, suspended, and closed down, while journalists, editors, and publishers are harassed, attacked, detained and even murdered.”(unesco.org) And we know, we don’t have to travel to the other side of the earth to experience the oppression of journalism. Only recently, we witnessed what happens with freedom of the press and speech during war. How people were arrested for expressing their opinion and demonstrating on the street. How news agencies were shut down or used for propaganda. And, to be honest, from a completely neutral perspective, this is quite logical when fighting a war. It only makes sense to curtail the very rights democracy is built on: freedom of speech, freedom of the press, and freedom of movement. Allowing those would hinder a tactical approach because information plays a vital role in the war because the success of the next move depends upon what the enemy knows or doesn’t know. The thing is, just because something is logical under certain circumstances, it isn’t necessarily right, especially when the circumstances themselves are so incredibly condemnable. I’m sure many of you were quite confused as well as to which of the news reports to believe since biased or even false reporting was used for propaganda. And it makes me sad and frustrated and feel helpless that democracy and freedom of speech are the first to die in war.

However, I was pretty surprised last week when I learned that the UK is planning to update its Official Secrets Act in a way that, many journalists would say, restricts the press freedom because it creates a chilling effect for journalists and their sources. Basically, it concerns anyone who discloses or spreads secret information. The Home Office claims that the balance between “serious harm” and freedom of the press needs to be found. “It added that officials and journalists are ‘rarely if ever’ in a position to compare the public interest against the potential damage of publication” (BBC Official Secrets Act). I find this strange because I feel this sounds like the job description of a journalist, this seems to be the reason why the press is also called the fourth estate. I don’t want to dive all too deep into this subject here, also because it goes slightly beyond my field of expertise, but if you’re interested have a listen to the corresponding panel of this year’s Festival of Debate Official Secrecy: How Government Plans Threaten Journalists & Whistleblowers.

Last but not least, a few literature or media suggestions:

Of course, George Orwell’s 1984: here even the freedom of thought is abolished. Need I say more?

The Heart Goes Last by Margaret Atwood: It focuses on an enclosed thoroughly regulated system also including illegal and ethically condemnable activities, information is smuggled out and leaked to the press. It might not be the main point of the novel, but still an important aspect.

Permanent Record by Edward Snowden: Since whistleblowing and journalism are closely intertwined, this is a great and valuable book that also gives insights in a process of disclosing secret information.

And believe it or not, Bibi Blocksberg and Benjamin Blümchen: Although they are mainly in German, they serve as a perfect example for explaining press freedom and the role of the press in general to children. It may also be used with older students since it’s unconventional, funny, and very accessible. On a very easy level, it shows the mayor as head of town/government/regime constantly acting selfishly and arbitrarily, more than once upsetting the citizens, and Karla Kolumna the fair and diplomatic reporter keeping him at bay.

Of course, I’m always interested in and open to new suggestions!
Have a wonderful day and care for your freedom of speech by caring for the freedom of speech of others!

Sarah-Sophia


My vanity is surely not in vain,
for I see how I ladies fair affect:
they mark me for my vestments – far from plain,
I am in lynx and leopard print bedeck’d.
They also note my grandiose physique:
a single glance shall speedily apprise
each of the strong and vigorous technique
I must employ whilst I oft exercise.
When entering a room, the heads all turn
to look on me; ’tis what I’ve long observ’d.
My comeliness allows me to adjourn
t’ an inn sans shirt or shoes, yet still be serv’d.
– I’ll wiggle on; ’tis charity to show,
for I am sexy – that, I rightly know.

Sounds like Shakespeare and still seems to be familiar from another context? Maybe you’ll be amused to know that one Eric Didriksen took it upon him to transform some beloved songs from our times into an iambic pentameter delight – an homage to the Bard. Maybe you already recognised the origin of the above sonnet? If not, it’s I’m sexy and I know it by LMFAO and I must say, I quite like this version too!
It’s a fun way to get dive into the sometimes a little dusty topic of Shakespearean sonnets as it definitely shows that there can be a quite modern times turn to it. You may find lots of these pop sonnets online on TUMBLR and for those among us (like myself), there also is a book.

For some extra joy, I also recommend one of the Shakespeare insult generator which you may find online like this one. Scholastic provides a worksheet for combining words from three columns to get one powerful expression of contempt. An yet again, there of course is a printed version to be acquired online or, even better, at your local bookshop. This will definitely make the old playwright look cool again and I like to think that he would take much joy out of being remebered as a sharp and quick-witted guy whose weapon really were his words.

As Shakespeare’s exact birthday is unknown, Shakespeare day is dcelebrated on his death day. Shakespeare was loved in his time already and his popularity only grew, I would say. Today he is still one of the most celebrated and widely read British authors. In general, I don’t think reading Shakespeare’s plays is a very effective way to access the great bard as much of the feelings, wit, and atmosphere simply doesn’t come across. Shakespeare has to be experienced, has to be acted out, and/or watched to get a full grasp of his plays.

Usually, a Shakespeare festival takes place in Mühlheim an der Ruhr once a year with open-air performances of one of his plays delivered by The Lord Chamberlain’s Men. The members are traditionally only male actors which might seem strange at first. A few years ago, I sat in the audience enjoying Romeo and Juliet, and despite even Juliet looking slightly brawny and having a teeny-tiny five o’clock shadow, I cried my eyes out when they parted and in the end died.
For is it not Shakespeare where the most lovely, most sorrowful, ghastly, and witty words are to be found?

Lit4School features some of Shakespeare’s plays and sonnets, adaptations, and related literature as they provide superb insights into the Elizabethan era, especially when looking at them in a more analytic and critical way by comparing the plays with the period itself. Apart from the originals, the occasional easy-reading edition is available as well, making Shakespeare more accessible for a younger audience as well, I, Shakespeare and Mr. William Shakespeare’s Plays being two examples.

The cornucopia of Shakespeare literature and media all around the world shows that the playwright has not lost his relevance, and may, as seen above, still inspire most creative and fruitful ideas.

On that note: “Fair thought and happy hours attend you!” (Merchant of Venice)
Cheers to Shakespeare and his spectacular legacy!

Sarah-Sophia


April 22nd: Earth Day

English · 22 April 2022

Happy World Earth Day! This year’s motto is Invest in Our Planet, an appeal to everyone to preserve and protect our environment. To achieve this, action is crucial. But how? Sometimes it’s incredibly difficult to take action when you don’t even know where to start. The official Earth Day website offers informative live streams as well as an overview of the different events offered globally surrounding Earth Day. Take a look!

Of course, there is also an abundance of literature and films that can help spark the discussion about climate change in the EFL classroom, regardless of age and language level!

  • WALL-E by Andrew Stanton: This animated film follows the life of a small robot called WALL-E. He spends his days collecting garbage on a deserted Earth, made uninhabitable by human behavior. Both a tale of romance and climate change, the film tackles many issues related to over-consumption in modern society.
  • What Happened When We All Stopped by Avi Ofer, Jane Goodall, Tom Rivett-Carnac: This ecocritical, animated short film shares an empowering message: “No time for sorrow, we are building tomorrow.” Following a young girl, the story explores how mankind rediscovers nature during the lockdown of the COVID-19 pandemic, which, hopefully, leads us to a brighter, cleaner, and greener future.
  • The Snail and the Whale by Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler: A rhyming, eco-critical story about the relativity of prejudices and stereotypes, the importance of friendship and environmental protection: “This is a tale of a tiny snail and a great big, grey-blue humpback whale…”
  • Here We Are: Notes for Living on Planet Earth by Oliver Jeffers: This beautifully illustrated book presents Earth as something precious that needs to be protected by all generations. The story shows both the beauty of the world as well as its problems while staying optimistic: “Though we have come a long way, we haven’t quite worked everything out, so there is plenty left for you to do.”

We would love to hear your suggestions for literature about climate change!

Sarah


February 24th: Russia starts military invasion in Ukraine, the Russo-Ukrainian conflict escalates. Most of us are shocked by the war events and especially the possibility of a nuclear attack is terribly frightening. Newspapers all over the world are bursting with horrifying headlines. Social media is swamped with guides on how to recognise propaganda and fake news, with tips for donating money, with explanatory videos and charts about politics and strategies, with info about demonstrations near your location and with so much more. And I think this war is difficult to grasp for us as especially younger generations have never experienced military conflicts, never really had to fight, or even think about fighting for their freedom, it’s just something taken for granted. War always happened somewhere but in order to really feel any of the effects, it was simply too far away. Now there is an ongoing war in close proximity. Think about it, from Berlin to Munich it’s approximately 600 kilometres as well as from Berlin to Warsaw. From Warsaw to the Ukrainian border it’s only a relatively small distance of 250 kilometres. Or putting it into yet another proportion, take Iraque, a relevant battle zone of the recent past: Almost 4000 kilometres lie between Berlin and the border of Iraque, nearly 6000 between Berlin and Afghanistan. That’s how close Ukraine, how close this war is.


On top, the economy is affected in such a way that everyone really notices that something’s afoot. How many German citizens thought about petrol for their cars, about their heating system, about the power supply, about what would happen if shortages of these things would arise at some point. Did you know, to name an important example, that about 55% of the German gas supply comes from Russia? Petrol prices are astronomically high and almost unaffordable and now I think three times about whether I really need the car for a trip. I also tried turning off the heating completely in my flat as an experiment, after all, I thought, winter’s kind of over now. And I tell you, it’s not impossible but it’s really nasty. You are cold, not too cold but unpleasantly cold, always and everywhere with the exception of the comfort of a bed at night. For me, the worst thing when working was getting stiff fingers and having difficulties getting them back to working temperature. I thought about what to do in my spare time without using any electricity, also not so easy (I ended up writing a letter which was very nice indeed).


Last here but certainly not least in general: how many Russian or Ukrainian friends, or acquaintances, or friends and family of friends do you have? I count four with whom I speak on a regular basis. One of them picked up a friend with her two twelve-year-old children from Ukraine a few days ago. They don’t speak English or German and couldn’t take much with them. And I try imagining how that must feel for a twelve-year-old.


Now, I know this post may be slightly dramatic and my point of view on this is not the one and only. However, I still wanted to share some experiences I collected over the last few weeks regarding this current and highly relevant topic.

Of course, a few literature suggestions should also not be missing here. In general, I recommend Cold War texts and media as it also deals with the fear of nuclear weapons and of war itself. It also concerns the same parties and is connected to the events of the current conflict.

  • 1984: Orwell’s famous dystopian novel not only explores surveillance but also a totalitarian state severely punishing anyone opposing or criticising the system.
  • You and the Atom Bomb: An Essay also written by Orwell and published in the Tribune in 1945 concerning the relatively new nuclear weapon. Very insightful and a quite accurate description of our present and the current situation.
  • Everything Sad is Untrue: A coming of age novel by Daniel Nayerie focussing on a middle school refugee boy whom no one believes his stories. Maybe relevant for a peek beyond the black and white.
  • When the Wind Blows: Another graphic novel by Raymond Briggs not to be given to younger audiences. It explores the effects of an atomic bomb explosion taking an elderly couple as an example.
  • What if We Nuke a City? : ‘In a Nutshell’ is a German-English youtube channel that focusses on scientific explanations of a great variety of topics. This specific video looks at the direct aftermath of an atomic bomb explosion. Admittedly kind of devastating but still worth watching.
  • The Arrival: This graphic novel does not need a single written word to tell its story about migrating from one country to another. It depicts the story of a man traveling to a strange country to find a new home for his family, encountering loneliness, strange food, and frightening creatures on the way. It might give people insight into just how lonely a new country can be.

Eventually, it’s important to talk about the current situation with its multiple aspects and also, maybe even especially, about one’s individual fears.

Stay Safe!

Sarah-Sophia


A word after a word after a word is power.” – Margaret Atwood

March 8th marks International Women’s Day, which became an International Day of the United Nations in 1977. Every year, this occasion reminds us to celebrate women’s achievements but also to take action for equal rights and opportunities in challenging stereotypes and bias, forging a gender-equal world. Visualising the data reveals the unequal representation of women in today’s society. Only 53 among the 900 individuals that have been awarded the Noble Prize are women. Only 24,9% of the world’s parliamentarians and only 6,6 % of the global CEO’s are women. Compared to men, women earn 23% less and are thus at a greater risk for social stratification. 

This years motto #GenerationEquality #ChooseToChallenge led me to count the number of entries by female authors on our platform. The truth is, we do feature a great variety of women’s writers and illustrators on Lit4School English – to be correct 109 in total. Equality, however, is not reached yet, when we compare this number to 191 entries by male authors. Our commitment to the future is to focus on a more balanced representation, to reach gender equality on Lit4School. 

If you have a suggestion for a female author, which is not featured on our platform yet and should be taught in school, please, suggest an entry.

Simon


March 2nd: Dr. Seuss

English · 2 March 2022

I am what I am! That’s a great thing to be!
If I say so myself, HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO ME!
” – Dr. Seuss

Today, we celebrate the birthday of the talented political cartoonist, children’s author, illustrator, poet and filmmaker Theodor Seuss Geisel. Probably everyone knows the Grinch, a wonderful Christmas tale in rhymes we featured in our last years’ Christmas Read. But Dr. Seuss also wrote and illustrated many other children’s books like The Cat in the HatThe Lorax, and Horton hears a Who! which are cute, funny at times, and heart-warming but convey a deeper message. He even wrote Beginner Books which are easy to read, use less than 250 different words, and feature beautiful illustrations.

Do you wonder how his pseudonym came into existence? Here is a fun fact from his wild years at university: While studying at Dartmouth College, he wrote for the Dartmouth Jack-O-Lantern as an undergraduate but was caught drinking Gin. As this, of course, was forbidden during prohibition, Theodor Geisel was banned from the journal and, thus, took on the pseudonym Dr. Seuss so he could continue writing for the journal.

Dr. Seuss is probably one of the most beloved illustrators and authors of children’s books, who invented many iconic figures which are still loved and adapted for movies, musicals, series, books, and many more. Recently, however, six books have been stopped being published because of their inherent racist stereotypes. The publisher Dr. Seuss Enterprises outlined in a statement, that “[these] books portray people in ways that are hurtful and wrong.” The ‘cancel culture’ controversy has raised the question which literature deserves to be preserved and which works should be reevaluated and probably canceled from the ‘classic canon’ for young readers. Also, the conflict of making ‘the right’ choice remains a current issue for us, the editors of Lit4School – even though we use selection criteria for our entries.

Sarah-Sophia & Simon