Posts from the ‘Biography’ Category

LEARNING TO LEAD

Winston Churchill: The Inspiring Story and Lessons of Winston Churchill

Written by Anthony Taylor

Churchill,pic

This book is an interesting reflection on the life of Winston Churchill. Make no mistake; this book is not a comprehensive biography or a carefully researched historical document, but it does provide insight into a passionate leader who was able to lead Great Britain to victory over the Nazi threat. The focus of the book is to use Churchill as an example in studying the steps and strategies necessary to become a successful leader.

Taylor reveals the challenges faced by Churchill’s lack of support from his wealthy parents who viewed him as a failure as well as his disastrous stint as Lord of the Admiralty and removal from office due to his failed naval strategy during World War I. Over the years, Churchill faced political ups and downs; he did not hesitate to switch political parties when they supported causes to which he was morally opposed. He gained first hand battle experience as a war correspondent and was taken as prisoner. He became a prolific writer, securing the Nobel Prize for Literature after the war in 1953. Churchill realized that knowing oneself was the key to inspiring people. He succeeded in this even though he had to overcome a speech impediment to do so. Winston did not know how to admit defeat; he preferred bloodshed and living with the consequences.

The crux of this book comes in chapter six in which Taylor outlines the ten life lessons to be learned from Winston Churchill. He lists them and provides examples of how Churchill used these attributes to maximum potential. These include: courage, learning from one’s mistakes, faith and persistence, good leadership skills, patience, experience, positive attitude, inspiration, knowing oneself, and patriotism. Taylor urges every reader who sees himself as a potential leader in his field to use Churchill’s life as an inspiration to follow.

I would recommend this book in particular for tweens and teens who are interested in learning more about the period between World War I through World War II. Critics who say that the book is not a carefully researched historical document or a biography in the technical sense are correct, but I believe that this short piece is an excellent supplement for teachers who want children to go beyond studying the facts to understand better the motivations and actions of Churchill during the period.

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COLLATERIAL DAMAGE

The Day Before 911

Written by Tucker Elliot

Day before 911,pic

Powerful, poignant and not soon forgotten! Elliot has done a masterful job of relating a true story of his sojourn as a sixth grade teacher in Department of Defense overseas military schools. At the beginning of the story, Elliot has just begun his position as teacher and head coach in a military school near Seoul, Korea. He is full of hope for his students, yet he is also strangely dour. The reader learns that his father fought in Viet Nam and his uncle died there. His teaching job is Elliot’s way of serving the military in his own way. Like every good teacher, Elliot is deeply concerned with his students; the story revolves around two students named Sami and Angel, and the families they share.

Tucker paints a picture of how the world changes as the terrorist attacks unfold, the school security becomes paramount, and the students whose parents serve live in constant terror of deployment and possible death. The author befriends a nine year old girl named Sami, who loves soccer and becomes the team “stud.” He suffers with her every time her father is called away. After Elliot leaves Korea and moves to teach in Germany, he meets Sami’s best friend from the states. Her name is Angel; she seeks the support of her new teacher and brings with her a multitude of new crises as her family becomes embroiled in emotional and physical terror.

The author attempts to exert the full force of his will to sincerely help these two families, but always seems to fall short when he is needed most. Circumstances seem to conspire to prevent him from fulfilling what he believes to be his obligations. This book is a must read for teens and adults who want to experience how the world indeed changed after 911. As one who lived a few miles from the World Trade Center, I can never adequately relay the feelings of helplessness and loss while waiting to hear the news of survivors. I watched the faces of children who waited to hear if their parents made it home from Manhattan that day; and myself grieved with others who lost friends and family. I would recommend this book to all military families, teachers, and parents who are looking for a way to understand in some small part the sacrifices of all those who serve our country and protect our communities.

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MICKEY’S MAGIC

Walt Disney: Saving America’s Lost Generation

Written by R.H. Farber
WaltDisney,pic

I thought I knew quite a bit about Mickey Mouse and the Mickey Mouse Club TV show that I enjoyed watching on TV while growing up in the fifties. Turns out, the Micky Mouse Club involved a lot more than the TV show, and its origin happened quite by accident.

Back in 1927, the young Walt Disney signed a one year contract with Universal Pictures to do animated films with his new creation, Oswald the Rabbit. After the contract expired, Walt learned that he had been misled. A loophole in the contract gave Universal full ownership of the character. To make matters worse, the studio had stealthily hired Walt’s best animators so they could continue making the cartoon. Walt refused to deal with the studio and developed a new character, a mouse named Mortimer. His wife encouraged him to change the name to Mickey, and so the soon to be famous character was born. When Disney decided to produce his third Mickey cartoon, Steamboat Willie with sound, it met with rave reviews.

Children were flocking to the movies to see the cartoons that preceded the movie. An entrepreneur named Harry Woodin of the Fox Dome Theater had a brilliant idea. He suggested to Disney that they launch a fraternity for children which would focus on the latest Disney cartoon. Walt’s brother, Roy, worked with Woodin to develop the club with Mickey Mouse as its central character. Walt was delighted that these clubs could teach children about values he thought were important: honesty, integrity, compassion and patriotism. He insisted that these clubs be made available to all children regardless of race, creed or sex. Club membership was open for children in grades one through seven; children had to be enrolled in a school. They needed to maintain high grades and moral values. All members were eligible for election to officer positions. The first club opened in September, 1929, and by 1933, three million children were enrolled. The Saturday meeting with entertainment, contests, and child centered activities helped lift the spirits of children and parents during the Depression when there was so little to be hopeful about.

Mickey Mouse became a role model to children and adults. Merchandise and advertising sprung up everywhere. Mickey Mouse and his character friends became associated with every major holiday and event like the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. Mickey became a part of weddings and family vacations. The California Pacific Exposition and the New York World’s Fair featured the cartoon character. Mickey became a symbol of all that is good versus all that is evil in society. By the time World War II came around, the original Mickey Mouse Club members would find his name and image a significant inspiration in war operations.

This book contains pictures of priceless Disney mementos. There are movie posters, flyers, pictures of historical events, touching photos of Disney and his family, as well as Disney merchandise and the adorable children who enjoyed it. Personally, I wish the author would have continued the saga into the later stages in the fifties and beyond with the advent of television and the development of Disneyland. Perhaps too much time was spent on the early years. Unless, of course, the author plans to write another book finishing the story to the end of Disney’s life. If you are in the mood for some nostalgia and an uplifting read, this book is recommended for ages eight through eighty.

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