Sunday, March 21, 2010

The Difference Between Quiet and Unspeakable

I just finished two books with distinctly different vibes. The Quiet Book, written by Deborah Underwood and Renata Liwska, is an adorable picture book. Different animals demonstrate the many kinds of quiet. Some of my favorites on this list of activities are "coloring in the lines quiet," "best friends don't need to talk quiet," and "car ride at night quiet." I like this one because young readers will know the difference between "sleeping sister quiet" and "swimming underwater quiet." I will incorporate this into story hour. It would be a good wind down at the end, but it would work equally well in the middle when some kids are getting a little antsy. It would also be a good one in the classroom and could be used with language arts or science. Students could write there own examples of quiet. They could also arrange the list in order from loudest to softest or vice versa.





On the other hand, An Unspeakable Crime: The Prosecution and Persecution of Leo Frank by Elaine Marie Alphin left me feeling the opposite of warm and fuzzy. I am still disturbed by this story. I knew the basic facts before I read the book: a young female employee at a pencil factory in Atlanta was found murdered. The murder was pinned on a supervisor at the plant, Leo Frank, who was both a Yankee and a Jew. Alphin skillfully weaves through the evidence and cast of characters to show the mood of the time. The newspapers fed the frenzy as the angry cry of "Justice for Mary Phagan" led to the lynching of an innocent man. Alphin used primary source documents, and many of the front-page newspaper articles are included in the book. Almost 50 years after the Civil War, there was still lingering bitterness. Comparing this with some of the more sensational trials of today, it was quite disturbing to see how the theatrics of the prosecution and the energy of the crowd swayed the jury and judge more than the logic and facts of the defense. This one is for grade ten and up - during the trial the prosecution tried to demonstrate that Leo Frank had certain sexual proclivities which are mentioned in the book. This one will stay with me, and I feel sorrow for Frank and his family.




The difference between quiet and unspeakable is a big one. Quiet denotes a certain calm or anticipatory state. Unspeakable is actually disquieting and so bizarre it leaves one at a loss for words.

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