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nerd teacher [books]

Joined 2 years, 1 month ago

Anarchist educator who can be found at where I muse about school and education-related things, and all my links are here. My non-book posts are mostly at, occasionally I hide on, or you can email me at [they/them]

I was a secondary literature and humanities teacher who has swapped to being a tutor, so it's best to expect a ridiculously huge range of books.

And yes, I do spend a lot of time making sure book entries are as complete as I can make them. Please send help.

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nerd teacher [books]'s books

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17 Things I'm Not Allowed to Do Anymore (2011) 1 star

A little girl outlines 17 things that she's not allowed to do anymore, including freezing …

It's meant to be funny, but it's not.

1 star

I would feel uncomfortable giving this to children because it's a book of mixed messaging. The protagonist is a girl who does things that are largely kind of rude (stapling her brother's hair to his pillow, intentionally putting a fly in ice cubes, gluing her brother's slippers to the floor), but it's framed in a way that feels like it's trying to make you feel bad that she can't? Which I don't think was the intention, but the failure to really highlight the negative consequences of the behaviours gives it that feeling.

There are two points where the girl says she's "not allowed to walk backwards (to school/from school) anymore," and besides the sign saying "don't walk"... it doesn't show much about how it can be bad for you. I'm not looking for there to be a scene of the girl getting hit by a car, but it just feels …

Sideways Arithmetic from Wayside School (2010, Bloomsbury Publishing) 3 stars

This is a book of absurdist math and logic puzzles for children based on the …

Can Be Overly Complex for New Learners

3 stars

This book can be quite fun to do with kids, and it's pretty enjoyable as a quasi-story with puzzles in the middle. The logic puzzles are sometimes difficult to understand, especially for kids who may just be learning English or starting to learn to read. They're a bit verbose and can be quite hard to follow, with some aspects not being very clear.

There have been a lot of times where I've had kids just tell me that the answer "could be anything," and I can't quite disagree because I felt the same way. But the maths problems (which are the first four chapters) are where this book really shines. They're not overly complex, and they are possible. There are moments where it feels like the answer could be anything, but if you try to work it out? You'll realise that it's not. That part feels much more solid, while …

Bee-bim Bop! (2005, Clarion Books) 3 stars

A child, eager for a favorite meal, helps with the shopping, food preparation, and table …

Nice, with a recipe.

3 stars

This is another book that my students reminded me about. It's written in a very rhythmic way, ensuring that you try to follow its beat. I think it's pretty good up until the whole "saying grace" part, but that's because I'm personally not a fan of including religion in children's books (and that's largely because of the oversized influence of religion on a person's life before they're even prepared to decide for themselves).

I'm also mentioning that inclusion because I think it's important for people to know before going into the book, since that's also a potential conversation someone might want to have with any kids they read this with.

It's also fun because it includes a quick recipe for bibimbap, along with a mention that the recipe is as unique as either what's available or what each Korean family includes in it. I think that's quite nice. More kids …

Strictly No Elephants (2015, Simon and Schuster Books for Young Readers) 4 stars

A boy is excluded from joining his friends' pet club because of his unusual pet.

A Better Story of Friendship

4 stars

This is a much better story of friendship, particularly as it's solution to making friends isn't that you have to be friends with people who exclude you. It's kind of refreshing in a way that a children's book would say that you can go find other people who've been excluded and befriend them; it's also nice to see them say that, if you can't join a club, you can create your own.

This only goes so far as a lesson, but I do like the ideals of voluntary association being present.

The Name Jar (2003, Dragonfly Books) 3 stars

After Unhei moves from Korea to the United States, her new classmates help her decide …

Cute, but a Few Issues

3 stars

I reread this today to see if it'd work for my English lessons, especially since I work with Korean kids who occasionally like to see books about other Korean people. One of them reminded me that this book exists.

And then I realised I don't like it as much as I previously did. Before, I thought it was a nice way to introduce kids (particularly to the idea of microaggressions and how refusing to pronounce someone's name correctly can hurt them). It's also an exploration of a Korean girl who decides to keep her name, rather than taking an 'American' one (in this instance, as many East Asian people often get pressured into taking European names because of the perceived difficulty of saying their names).

I still like that, but I feel like the author and editor needed to re-read it again. The book is primarily about how non-Korean people …

Weird but True Food (2011, Enslow Elementary) 1 star

"Read about some unusual foods like durian, prickly pear cactus, fried crickets, and others." --Provided …

A Good Reminder of Eurocentrism in Kids Publishing

1 star

This book is terrible, and a good majority of it feels like we're just pointing at non-European cultures and going "Hahaha! This is weird!" I would not include this in a primary school class, and I would not give this to any young child that I know. I would only use it as an exploration in the problems of publishing, particularly in non-fiction literature that kids have been presented with.

First and foremost, there is one singular European culture that's pointed at, and it's because they include Swiss cheese (because bacteria are added to the milk, and the gas they expel creates the holes in the cheese). Two other foods which are made to seem incredibly foreign (by the use of images) but are also used in Europe include rose petals (not sure how those are weird) and seaweed in the form of 'carrageenan' (and could be found in ice …

Breaking Things at Work (2021, Verso Books) 2 stars

"In the nineteenth century, English textile workers responded to the introduction of new technologies on …


2 stars

First an foremost: You're better off reading many of the books that he uses as resources before you are this one because he super-oversimplifies everything in ways that remove context and information. (This includes Automating Inequality by Virginia Eubanks and Weapons of Math Destruction by Cathy O'Neil.)

Second, he intentionally erases a huge chunk of history in order to (attempt to) achieve his stated goal in the introduction, which is to convince people to be Marxists. He completely writes out any time anarchists even participate in something, and it's particularly egregious when talking about the IWW (an organisation that has been very much shaped by interactions with anarchists). He intentionally overlooks people (socialists and anarchists) who could make his point simply because they can't be vaguely referenced as 'communist' and co-opted into Marxist thought. It's really blatantly frustrating.

That said, there are some points where I was made curious. But …

The Democracy Project (2013, Spiegel & Grau) 3 stars

A bold rethinking of the most powerful political idea in the world--democracy--and the story of …

Okay but ahistorical and neglects a lot.

3 stars

People, including anarchists, often hold David Graeber up as some bright light of philosophy. He's not horrible, but he's always got a lot of glaring holes.

In this particular book, he has some really frustrating points where he applies a regional history to an entire movement or moment (e.g., applies a lens of NYC's way of doing OWS while neglecting to recognise how OWS operated in other places). This is something he always does, and it's really to the detriment of whatever he's developed to share. It's pretty ahistorical because it just neglects that many other areas have our own needs, even while stating otherwise. It also acts as if OWS was a primarily anarchist movement, which is something that I feel is very context dependent. Perhaps it was in some places, but others? Not so much. If that were true, I feel like it wouldn't have been very welcoming …

Revolting Prostitutes (2018, Verso Books) 4 stars

You hear that selling sex is degrading; you hear that no one would ever choose …

A Topic More People Need to Explore

4 stars

This book is one of the few that I found that talk about sex workers in a nuanced light. This is largely because it's a book that's by sex workers, and that makes all the difference.

As someone reads through it, they'll start seeing the connections between a lot of different issues and sex work in particular: trans and queer issues, homelessness, misogyny and violence against women, migrant issues, race, and so on. It provides one more link in a chain that highlights the ways in which everything is connected, which is something that more people really need to be cognizant of.

There are a few parts that I take issue with, and it's largely because they try to be... more polite to people than I think they ought to be. There's a part of the text where they say something along the lines that they want to sit down …