Sprout – a pencil with a seed

Gifts for teachers/colleagues…

What if instead of throwing your pencil stubs away when they´re too short to use, you could plant them, add some water and watch them grow? Meet Sprout, a pencil with a seed! The high quality pencil features a water activated capsule at its tip, when the pencil is too short to use, you can plant it and have it grow into something delicious, beautiful and fun. Sprout comes in a variety of different flavors, from flowers, to herbs and vegies. A great idea to make writing fun again. watch the video

Funded by a successful kickstarter campaign, the Sprout Pencil is now available for purchase at amazon.




Animated Literary Valentines

Just in time for Valentine’s Day, Adam Ellis has created a set of animated Valentines, based on quotes from famous authors.

I wish there was another one, from John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars: “I fell in love the way you fall asleep: slowly, and then all at once.”

Animated literary valentines - JK Rowling

Your love is spellbinding. – J.K. Rowling

Animated literary valentines - Edgar Allan Poe

Go without your love? Never more! – Edgar Allan Poe

Animated literary valentines - Truman Capote

Denying your love would be criminal! – Truman Capote

Animated literary valentines - Max Brooks

I like you for your brains. – Max Brooks

Animated literary valentines - JRR Tolkien

You are my preciousss. – J.R.R. Tolkien

All images created by Adam Ellis. Via Design Taxi.

Source: http://ebookfriendly.com/gorgeous-animated-literary-valentines-pictures/

Edited for content.

Frankenstein – reinvented

‘I, Frankenstein’: A New Creature Feature and a Selection of Monstrously Good Reads for Teens

By  on January 7, 2014 Leave a Comment

1814frankmovie I, Frankenstein: A New Creature Feature and a Selection of Monstrously Good Reads for TeensOpening in theaters on January 24, 2014, I, Frankenstein (PG-13) provides a fresh take on a classic character set in an alternate modern-day world. Two centuries after his legendary beginnings, Victor Frankenstein’s protégé, Adam (Aaron Eckhart), is not only alive and well, but also in possession of phenomenal physical abilities and apparent immortality. However, other bizarre beings concealed by human guise also walk the Earth: ferocious demons bent on absolute domination and benevolent gargoyle warriors sworn to protect mankind. Finding himself at the center of a heated battle between these supernatural races, Adam is destined to play 1814frankcomic I, Frankenstein: A New Creature Feature and a Selection of Monstrously Good Reads for Teensa vital role in the fate of humanity. Bill Nighy, Yvonne Strahovski, and Miranda Otto round out the cast.

The movie is based on a screen story by Kevin Grevioux, co-writer/creator of the “Underworld” series and author of a not-yet-published graphic novel (Darkstorm Studios), who also plays a role in the film. Teens can visit the official website to check out the super-charged action, and follow a link to view a motion comic prequel.

“It’s alive!”: Re-animating Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein

Help teens make a connection between movie incarnations of this fearsome protagonist and the tale’s early 19th-century literary inspiration with a spine-tingling selection of graphic novels and reimaginings. Filled with gothic atmosphere, eerie and irreverent goings-on, and thought-provoking themes, these page-turners will mystify and satisfy fans of horror, romance, and adventure. Use them in a group or classroom setting to discuss points raised by Shelley’s classic work—vengeance, humanity, hubris, scientific ethics, parental responsibility, alienation, intolerance, and more—and to examine how a modern author “draws on and transforms source material” (Common Core State Standards RL. 9-10.9) and breathes new life into literary characters.

Graphic novels

1814grimly I, Frankenstein: A New Creature Feature and a Selection of Monstrously Good Reads for TeensGris Grimly’s Frankenstein (HarperCollins/Balzer & Bray, 2013; Gr 7 Up) pairs an abridged version of Shelley’s 1818 text with artwork that is haunting and gloriously grotesque. Historical settings, costumes, and locales are souped up with contemporary touches and a steampunk sensibility. Victor, with his side-shaved coiffure and sharply tailored suit coats, is rock-star cool as he excavates raw materials from a graveyard, tools around in a steam-powered tin “chaise,” or wallows in despair over the fatal results of his actions. His beloved Elizabeth sports flowing ink-black locks with a white streak à la Elsa Lanchester’s Bride of Frankenstein. All of the characters have angular and elongated forms, and while the monster is unmistakably stitched together (and occasionally flashes an exposed scar), his appearance is not much more outlandish than that of the humans, underscoring the parallels between Victor and his creation and the true meaning of monster. The finely detailed artwork brilliantly utilizes wordless sequences to convey deep emotion and reflect characters’ motivations and revelations. This edgy, startling, and unforgettable interpretation pays innovative homage to Shelley’s masterpiece.

1814classical I, Frankenstein: A New Creature Feature and a Selection of Monstrously Good Reads for TeensFrankenstein (Classical Comics, 2008; Gr 7 Up), adapted by Jason Cobley, presents a vividly illustrated retelling. Incorporating excerpts from Shelley’s narrative, the “Original Text” version is abridged to keep the action moving swiftly but still provides a heady dose of her descriptive language and dark tone. The “Quick” text uses modern English to embroil teens in the events while showcasing the same important themes. The dramatic illustrations adeptly present details of time and place, soul-revealing characterizations, and volatile encounters. Hanging by chains in Victor’s shadowy lab, the creature looks almost majestic until brought to life, a moment poignantly conveyed with a sequence that focuses on the being’s empty yellow eyes, tear-moistened face, chain-smashing liberation, and then menacing stance as he looms above his creator. Throughout, contrasts between shadowy silhouettes and luminous hues highlight instances of great contentment, tragedy, and terror. Back matter includes a biography of Shelley and summary of her character’s iterations through the years. A Teaching Resource Pack for students (ages 10-17) is available from Classical Comics (2009).

1814dark I, Frankenstein: A New Creature Feature and a Selection of Monstrously Good Reads for TeensPart of the “Dark Graphic Novels” series, Frankenstein (Enslow, 2013; Gr 6-10) features a streamlined retelling, updated language, and atmospheric black-and-white artwork. Looking as though they have been carved from wood with etched lines and sharp angles, the statuesque characters each command a strong sense of presence. Darkness lurks everywhere, and the lack of color greatly enhances the eerie and ominous tone of the narrative. Moments of intense violence are included but not over-emphasized (there are no blood spatters here), keeping the focus on the characters’ motivations and interactions. Whether admiring a butterfly that has landed on his fingertip, fleeing from a club-wielding human, or fiercely confronting his creator, the monster manages to come across as both naïve and nascent. Well-paced, beautifully illustrated, and pleasingly chilling, this accessible version is appropriate for younger and/or reluctant readers.

Reimagined novels: Then

1814thisdark I, Frankenstein: A New Creature Feature and a Selection of Monstrously Good Reads for TeensWhen his twin brother Konrad becomes gravely ill, 16-year-old Victor Frankenstein is determined to search out the ingredients for the forbidden Elixir of Life, even if This Dark Endeavor (2011; Gr 7-10) means dabbling in dangerous alchemy, pushing the very limits of human knowledge, and making startling personal sacrifices. Plumbing the depths of Shelley’s well-known characters, Kenneth Oppel provides a credible and compelling portrait of a young man driven by arrogance and ambition, filial love, and a headstrong determination to “unlock… every secret law of this earth.” Victor is aided in his quest by his good friend Henry Clerval and his cousin Elizabeth, and the teens’ interactions—including a fermenting love triangle—bring the emotional brew to a boil. Fast-paced and intoxicating, this tale is permeated with brooding atmosphere and events that grow ever more sinister. The thrills and chills continue with Such Wicked Intent (2012, both S & S), and both books are available in audio format from Brilliance Audio.

1814daughters I, Frankenstein: A New Creature Feature and a Selection of Monstrously Good Reads for TeensOn the cusp of their 17th birthday, identical twin sisters raised by their maternal grandfather discover that they are Dr. Frankenstein’s Daughters(Scholastic, 2013; Gr 7 Up). With their “lunatic” father’s death in the Arctic confirmed, the girls have come into their inheritance, and immediately set out to claim Victor’s holdings in the remote Orkney Islands. Charismatic and socially ambitious Giselle can’t wait to refurbish Castle Frankenstein and host an extravagant party for Europe’s elite, while the studious Ingrid is elated to have found their enigmatic father’s journals and becomes mesmerized by detailed accounts of his experiments (and the possibility of curing the man with whom she has fallen in love). As dead bodies, hidden secrets, and uncanny occurrences begin to pile up, the girls wonder if they are being stalked by the same mysterious villain who hounded their father. All is revealed during the climatic soiree in a shocking and heart-pounding conclusion. Suzanne Weyn tells this riveting tale through alternating journal entries penned by the two protagonists, effectively limning each girl’s personality, romantic passions, and perils. A gothic treat for a full-moon night.

1814mrcreecher I, Frankenstein: A New Creature Feature and a Selection of Monstrously Good Reads for TeensA pickpocket and petty thief, 15-year-old Billy has long survived the streets of Victorian London, but it looks like his luck has finally run out. Just as he is about to meet his fate at the hands of an evil thug, a terrifying stranger steps in to save him. He and Mister Creecher (Bloomsbury, 2011; Gr 6-9) work out a deal: the gruesome-looking giant will provide protection for Billy, while the boy will keep tabs on the actions and whereabouts of Victor Frankenstein (who has promised Creecher a bride). The uneasy alliance of these two loners gradually deepens into a true bond, one that will be tested in harrowing ways as they follow their quarry north. Though there is unexpected compassion and joy in their relationship, the world they inhabit continues to be a violent and unforgiving place, and readers witness the effects of traumatic experiences on both characters (in one of many cultural and literary allusions, Billy is ultimately revealed as a younger version of Bill Sikes, the brutal criminal from Charles Dickens’ Oliver Twist). A true work of horror, Chris Priestley’s novel is darkly fascinating, unflinchingly gritty, and surprisingly compelling.

Reimagined novels: Now

1814manmade I, Frankenstein: A New Creature Feature and a Selection of Monstrously Good Reads for TeensTeen angst goes high voltage in Man Made Boy (Viking, 2013; Gr 7 Up). At 17, the lovingly stitched-together offspring of Frankenstein’s Monster and the Bride has led a sheltered existence at the Broadway theater cum secret enclave where his family and other monsters have long sequestered themselves from humans. Tech-savvy Boy feels out of place among the magical creatures, who mistrust his predilection for science. Fed up with his home life, he decides to strike out on his own and go live with his audacious computer hacker project, a Viral Intelligence (VI) with the amazing ability to adapt and make choices. However, like Victor Frankenstein before him, Boy is not ready to shoulder the unforeseen responsibilities of being a creator, and VI is soon on the loose and on the rampage network wide. The terrified Boy embarks on a cross-country jaunt that has him sampling the finer points of human culture, traveling with (and falling for) the granddaughter(s) of Jekyll and Hyde, and finally discovering that he must man up to the consequences of his actions and expectations of his family. Laugh-out-loud funny, this coming-of-age adventure is jam-packed with well-fleshed-out fantastical characters and sparks with lively, often off-color dialogue. Boy is a likable hero, and while his narrative voice, sensibilities, and girl worries are solidly 21st-century, the dilemmas and moral issues he faces hark right back to Shelley’s novel. Jon Skovron’s take on the Frankenstein mythos is wildly entertaining, subtly thought-provoking, and unexpectedly beguiling.

Publication Information

SHELLEY, Mary. Gris Grimly’s Frankenstein. adapt. and illus. by Gris Grimly. HarperCollins/Balzer & Bray. 2013. Tr $24.99. ISBN 978-0-06-186297-7; ebook $11.99. ISBN 978006223922-8.

SHELLEY, Mary. Frankenstein: The Graphic Novel. adapt. by Jason Cobley. illus. by Declan Shalvey et al. Classical Comics, dist. by Publishers Group West. 2009.

Original Text: PLB $24.95. ISBN 9781907127397; pap. $16.95. ISBN 9781906332495.

Quick Text: pap. $16.95. ISBN 9781906332501.

Classical Comics Study Guide: Frankenstein. by Neil Bowen. Classical Comics, dist. by Publishers Group West. 2009. spiral $22.95. ISBN 9781906332563.

SHELLEY, Mary. Frankenstein. “Dark Graphic Novels.”  adapt. by Sergio A. Sierra. illus. by Meritxell Ribas. Enslow. 2013. lib. ed. $30.60 ISBN 9780766040847; pap. $9.95. ISBN 9781464401046.

OPPEL, Kenneth. This Dark Endeavor. The Apprenticeship of Victor Frankenstein Series #1. S & S. 2011. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781442403154; pap. $9.99. ISBN 9781442403161; ebook $9.99. ISBN 978144240317-8.

WEYN, Suzanne. Dr. Frankenstein’s Daughters. Scholastic. 2013. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780545425339.

PRIESTLEY, Chris. Mister Creecher. Bloomsbury. 2011. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781599907031; ebook $13.99. ISBN 9781599907338.

SKOVRON, Jon. Man Made Boy. Viking. 2013. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780670786206; ebook $10.99. ISBN 9781101612903.


Books for Middle School students

Fallout 198x300 Must Read Middle School Book Club Novels │ JLG’s Booktalks to Go

STRASSER, Todd. Fallout. Candlewick. 2013. ISBN 9780763655341. JLG Level: C : Advanced Readers (Grades 6–9). It’s 1962. Every day at school you hear rumors of attack by the Russians. Bombs are coming! Your teachers train you to duck under your desk. You learn to cover your face with your arms to protect you from nuclear fallout. Your father prepares for the worst by building a bomb shelter. Food and water, along with emergency supplies, will keep your family protected until it’s safe to come out. People laugh at your doomsday attitude. Then the sirens go off. Your family of four heads for the shelter. The problem is that your family has theonly shelter. Can you really shut everyone out, knowing that outside will surely lead to death? If you let them in, food for four will have to be shared among more. How long can your family last then? Don’t miss Fallout, a what-if tale that asks the really hard questions.

Author Todd Strasser uses his personal experience to create an end-of-the-world historical revision tale about the Cuban Missile Crisis. On his website, he shares his personal pictures of his family fallout shelter. An official Fallout website has great resources including a tab on memories of 1962 (with a link to the Duck and Cover movie). The Candlewick book page features curated links to multiple resources. Be sure to listen to the audiobook sample and check out the ready to use discussion guide. You might also view Jenny Sawyer’s Book of the Week. While it’s not a book trailer, it will surely get your student’s interested in reading the novel. Pair this title with The Fire-Eaters (Delacorte, 2004) by David Almond;Rex Zero and the End of the World (Farrar, 2007) by Tim Wynne-Jones or Countdown (Scholastic, 2010) by Deborah Wiles. Check out Wiles’s Countdown Resources Board on Pinterest.

Brotherhood 196x300 Must Read Middle School Book Club Novels │ JLG’s Booktalks to GoWESTRICK, A. B. Brotherhood. Viking. 2013. ISBN 9780670014392. JLG Level:  C : Advanced Readers (Grades 6–9). It’s been three years since the War Between the States ended, yet the Southerners in Richmond still feel like they’re under siege. The Yankees control the Reconstruction era, keeping law and order. Freed slaves now walk the streets and compete for jobs of white men. A secret group organizes, vowing to protect the elderly and widowed. When Shad trails his older brother Jeremiah one night, he is forced to join the Brotherhood. Little did he know, the secret group is the Richmond KKK. Falling into an opportunity to learn to read at a Negro school?, the young boy decides to take the risk, knowing that going to that school will be dangerous for a white person. Shad begins to agonize over the KKK he swore to follow and what he knows is right. Westrick lives near Richmond, Virginia and walked the streets that led to her wondering about her own Southern ancestors. Readers can find out more about this debut author by reading her website and learn about the craft of writing on  her blog. An excellent historical novel to use in the classroom, there’s also a free discussion guide. Reflecting the attitudes of the period, students will have much absorb on post-war civil rights. Viewing the book trailer also sets the stage for conversation. Be sure to check out the Blendspace page on Brotherhood. It’s an amazing resource in using the title as a collaborative effort.


SAT Reading: Sentence Completions

SAT/ACT Blog – Knowsys Educational Services info@ktprep.com

SAT Reading: Sentence Completions

Posted: 07 Jan 2014 02:00 AM PST

Sentence Completions

Select the word(s) that best fit the meaning of the sentence as a whole.

The salesman offered the woman a lower interest rate to ——- her to purchase the car, but the woman remained ——-, waffling over whether she could commit to such a large purchase without talking to her family first.

A. extol . . vicarious
B. incline . . ineffable
C. induce . . irresolute
D. discern . . prolific
E. baffle . . dubious

Knowsys Method

Start by covering up the answer choices so that they do not distract or bias you.  Then read the sentence and use context clues to determine what the answer should be.  In two-blank sentence completions, start with the easier blank first.  In this case, the second blank is easier because you have more contextual clues to use.  If this woman is waffling (unable to make a decision), then you would describe her as “uncertain.”  Using that as our prediction, we will look at all of the second blanks first.

A. “Vicarious” comes from the Latin “‘vicarius,” which means “substitute.”  The word “vicarious” is used today to indicate that you are experiencing something through someone else.  For instance, if your friend is going on a tour of Europe, you might ask him or her to take lots of pictures so that you can experience the trip vicariously.  This word does not match our prediction, so eliminate this choice.

B. “Ineffable” comes from the Latin “ineffabilis,” which means “unutterable.”  Something “ineffable” is impossible to put into words.  This word does not match our prediction, so eliminate this choice.

C. Did you make any New Year’s resolutions this year?  If so, you are probably “resolute” about achieving them.  “Resolute” means “determined or certain,” so “irresolute” means the opposite, “uncertain.”  This choice matches our prediction, so keep it for now.

D. “Prolific” comes from the Latin word for “offspring,” and it means “fertile or highly productive.”  Think PROlific = PROductive.  This choice does not match our prediction, so eliminate it.

E. “Dubious” is easy to remember because it sounds like what it means.  If you are feeling “dubious,” then you are feeling doubtful.  If something is “dubious,” then it is suspicious and not to be trusted.  This choice matches our prediction fairly well, so keep it for now.

Now look back at the sentence and predict what should belong in the first blank.  A salesman would want his customer to make a purchase, so he is probably offering the lower interest rate to persuade the customer.  Using “persuade” as our prediction, let’s look at the choices we have not yet eliminated.

C. “Induce” comes from the Latin “inducere,” which means “lead in or persuade.”  “Induce” means much the same thing today; it means “to persuade, influence, or cause.”  This choice matches our prediction, so C is most likely the correct answer, but we need to check E to be sure.

E. To “baffle” is “to confuse or to frustrate.”  This is the opposite of what the salesman in the question would want to do, so eliminate this choice.

The correct answer is C.

Words used in this SC:

extol: to praise highly
vicarious: learned, understood, or realized through second-hand experience
incline: 1) to persuade, or 2) to bow or bend
ineffable: indescribable or unspeakable
induce: to persuade, influence, or cause
irresolute: uncertain
discern: 1) to understand,2) to see, or 3) to recognize as different
prolific: fertile or highly productive
baffle: to confuse or to frustrate
dubious: doubtful or uncertain


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88, Or How Telegraphers Coded ‘Love and Kisses’


What humans will do to save themselves from typing a few characters: LOL. ROTFL. TTYL. <3. BRB. Universal sentiments and actions become encoded.

Well, imagine that each character had to be tapped down the line in Morse code. Telegraph operators had even more incentive to cut down on letters than did even the T9 texters of yore.

And so they came up with codes to communicate the things that they needed to say often. These were first codified by Walter P. Phillips into what became known as the Phillips Code in 1879. (It was updated several times, the last I found in 1975.) 

Nearly all of these codes are now obsolete. But there is a small group of hobbyists who keep a few them alive. Amateur radio enthusiasts still use at least a couple of these abbreviations to this day as detailed by Glen Zook, call sign K9STH, in a widely reproduced brief history that relies on a 1934 Navy bulletin on the origins of ’73.’ 

WIRE- Preference over everything except 95                
1- Wait a moment                
2- Important business       
3- What time is it?             
4- Where shall I go ahead?                      
5- Have you businessfor me?                  
6- I am ready                   
7- Are you ready?           
8- Close your key; ckt is busy              
9- Close your key for priority business (wire chief, dspr, etc.)                        
10- Keep this ckt closed                      
12- Do you understand?                  
13- I understand                
14- What is the weather?                    
15- For you and and other to copy           
17- Lightning here          
18- What is the trouble?                
19- Form 19 train order                   
21- Stop for meal               
22- Wire test               
23- All copy                
24- Repeat this back            
25- Busy on anr wire
26- Put on gnd wire
27- Priority, very important
28- Do you get my writing?
29- Private, deliver in sealed envelope.
30- No more -end
31- Form 31 train order
32- I understand that I am to ………
33- Car report (Also, answer is paid for)
34- Msg for all officers
35- You may use my signal to ans this
37- Diversion (Also, inform all interested)
39- Important, with priority on thru wire. (Also, sleep-car report)
44- Answer promptly by wire
73- Best regards
88- Love and kisses
91- Supt’s signal
92- Deliver promptly
93- Vice pres. & gen. mgr’s signals
95- President’s signal
134- Who is at the key?

The list—a decidedly non-sexy counterpart to the telegraph’s sexytime abbreviations—is mostly dedicated to basic traffic direction: stopping, going, clearing wires, assigning importance, etc. But 73 and 88 are different. They are ways of compressing sentiment, and helpful, I’m sure, in sending messages quickly across the wire. 

Put another way: 88 was the fastest possible way to transmit love. It was the emoji heart of its day. (It’s something else today, sadly.) 

Humans now have zillions of ways of abbreviating our emotions for easier transmission along the network.

And way up the evolutionary tree, at the beginning of the electrical era, we find this common ancestor, 88. 



13 Little-Known Punctuation Marks We Should Be Using


by Adrienne Crezo


Because sometimes periods, commas, colons, semi-colons, dashes, hyphens, apostrophes, question marks, exclamation points, quotation marks, brackets, parentheses, braces, and ellipses won’t do.


You probably already know the interrobang, thanks to its excellent moniker and increasing popularity. Though the combination exclamation point and question mark can be replaced by using one of each (You did what!? or You don’t read mental_floss?!), it’s fun to see the single glyph getting a little more love lately.


The backward question mark was proposed by Henry Denham in 1580 as an end to a rhetorical question, and was used until the early 1600s.


It looks a lot like the percontation point, but the irony mark’s location is a bit different, as it is smaller, elevated, and precedes a statement to indicate its intent before it is read. Alcanter de Brahm introduced the idea in the 19th century, and in 1966 French author Hervé Bazin proposed a similar glyph in his book, Plumons l’Oiseau, along with 5 other innovative marks.


Among Bazin’s proposed new punctuation was the love point, made of two question marks, one mirrored, that share a point. The intended use, of course, was to denote a statement of affection or love, as in “Happy anniversary [love point]” or “I have warm fuzzies [love point]” If it were easier to type, I think this one might really take off.


Bazin described this mark as “the stylistic representation of those two little flags that float above the tour bus when a president comes to town.” Acclamation is a “demonstration of goodwill or welcome,” so you could use it to say “I’m so happy to see you [acclamationpoint]” or “Viva Las Vegas [acclamationpoint]”


Need to say something with unwavering conviction? End your declaration with the certitude point, another of Bazin’s designs.


This is the opposite of the certitude point, and thus is used to end a sentence with a note of skepticism.


Bazin’s authority point “shades your sentence” with a note of expertise, “like a parasol over a sultan.” (Well, I was there and that’s what happened.) Likewise, it’s also used to indicate an order or advice that should be taken seriously, as it comes from a voice of authority.


The SarcMark (short for “sarcasm mark”) was invented, copyrighted and trademarked by Paul Sak, and while it hasn’t seen widespread use, Sak markets it as “The official, easy-to-use punctuation mark to emphasize a sarcastic phrase, sentence or message.” Because half the fun of sarcasm is pointing it out [SarcMark].


This, like the copyrighted SarcMark, is used to indicate that a sentence should be understood beyond the literal meaning. Unlike the SarcMark, this one is copyright free and easy to type: it’s just a period followed by a tilde.


This cool-looking but little-used piece of punctuation used to be the divider between subchapters in books or to indicate minor breaks in a long text. It’s almost obsolete, since books typically now use three asterisks in a row to break within chapters (***) or simply skip an extra line. It seems a shame to waste such a great little mark, though. Maybe we should bring this one back.


Now you can be excited or inquisitive without having to end a sentence! A Canadian patent was filed for these in 1992, but it lapsed in 1995, so use them freely, but not too often.

Big thanks to Scarlett and LeAnn for helping translate Bazin’s notes