“Imagine Wanting Only This” – Book Review

Kristen Radtke’s graphic novel Imagine Wanting Only This is an enlightening piece, and memorable. She offers a historical perspective that connects the similarities between the ruins of ancient civilizations and modern abandoned cities, buildings, and towns. But that’s just the bones of the book. Interwoven between the reflections on ancient Egypt, the land of the Incas, and contemporary abandoned mining towns is a personal narrative that is not only one of sorrow, but one of introspection and questioning.

Many images of the empty cities, minus pedestrians and rush-hour traffic, will resonate with those who’ve experienced pandemic lockdowns. I could relate to the haunting images of quiet metropolitan landscapes, empty highways and the feeling of alienation that Kristen portrays. (Note: The book was published in 2017, before the pandemic.)

“What is permanence? . . . There are things we know about the lives we make. I painted this room. I bought this table. I washed the sheets and made this bed. We forget that everything will become no longer ours” (272)

Radtke, Kristen. Imagine Wanting Only This. New York City, Pantheon, 2017.

Ratke expertly braids reflections on who we are and how we live and how we dream with those of our ancestors. What is happiness? What is contentment? And how do we connect with others? 

Two things come to mind that make this book unique from most others that I have read.

1. As a graphic novel, it is a perfect primer for those unfamiliar with reading a book in this form.

2. Categorizing this book into a specific writing genre is an impossible task. Those who attempt to box the book into a storytelling genre (see NPR’s Etelka Lehoczky’s Wanting More From ‘Imagine Wanting Only This) will be disappointed. Is it non-fiction? memoir? creative non-fiction? essay? It is all of these, and multi-dimensional. It can not be squeezed into one box.

Scientists tell us the many villages, towns and cities on this earth will one day soon be covered in water. Where will we rebuild? Who will examine our abandoned homes and skyscrapers? What will they think of us?

This book sticks with you like a dream you can’t quite remember. And in the end, the significance of the title — “Imagine Wanting Only This” — is revealed.


Ebooks: Good Books in the Hands of Students

book-imageThe other day a student came into the library looking for a copy of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet.  I pulled a copy off the shelf, excited to get a needed book into the hands of a pupil. She looked at the tiny print and the yellowed pages, handed it back to me and said, “Can I get this as an eBook?”

Fortunately for us all, many works in the public domain (no longer under copyright law) are freely distributed online.   The student had her laptop with her, so I showed her how to find the book at Project Gutenberg, highlight the html text, copy and and save it into a document. The entire play was on her laptop in less than a minute. When she opened it on her laptop, her face lit up. She was happy to see that not only could she change the background color of the page, but she could also adjust the font size and text typography of the work, using the “highlight” and “comment” feature to make notes as she read the book. She also noted how to decrease the light on the computer screen to make it easier on her eyes. Best of all? The book was hers to keep for a lifetime: no need to return it to the library.

Project Gutenberg, which offers more than 50,000 free eBooks for download in Kindle, epub, pdf, or html format offers free eBooks that were previously published by bona fide publishers. Users can find books by Dickens, Dumas, Oscar Wilde, Thoreau, Ibsen, Kipling, Agatha Christie, the Brontë sisters, Sophocles, The Notebooks of Leonardo Da Vinci (without illustrations, unfortunately), the Works of Edgar Allen Poe, the Complete Works of Shakespeare, and even the illustrated version of Beatrix Potter’s “The Tale of Peter Rabbit”. Another free resource, Bibliomaniahas thousands of eBooks, poems, articles, short stories and plays, all of which are absolutely free.  Tumble Book Library,  an interactive online resource that supports younger readers with access to picture books and chapter books, is another resource that enriches our book collection. Our school subscribes to Overdrive, which allows students to access books twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, no matter where they are in the world.

When downloading free ebooks, I suggest making a folder to keep your collection handy, easy-to find, and easy-to-manage. In addition, iPad/iPhone apps such as Kindle, Kobo, and iBooks allow some free ebooks to be read on hand-held devices.

Connecting our students to the wide array of online options is a way of preparing them for the world-wide trend of moving books from print to digital form. E-books don’t replace the traditional library collection of print books. Instead, they enrich the collection, adding a vibrant and dynamic way to encourage young readers to access books in an environment that they are comfortable navigating.

It behooves us all, especially those of us in love with the printed page of a hardbound book, to be open to new options. After all, our job isn’t to educate our students for our past, but to prepare them for their future. Like or not, digital books are not only the future; they are the present.

Connecting with Authors: Snail Mail in the Digital Age

In an age of email, texting and blogging: is there a case for sending a letter?

It all started with my fourth and fifth grade students begging to set up class Skype sessions with some of their favorite authors. In the past, we had arranged teleconferencing with classrooms and students in other countries during World Read-Aloud Day, so why not invite the authors that we love?

“Okay,” I said. “If we’re going to contact authors, how do we reach them?” And thus began the Great Library Scavengimg_3514er Hunt to find contact information of favorite authors.   As a class we searched within author websites, looked in books for publishers, and then paired up for an online search. We discovered that most well-known authors prefer to be contacted by mail, via their publishers.

I set up a quick lesson in letter writing: the envelope, the stamp, the return address. About 25% of my students have sent letters by post, so we listened to their experiences. “I received a letter from my grandmother in India,” said one. “I wrote to my aunt in Colombia,” said another.

The class settled into a quiet hush, when I told them that when I was their age the internet as we know it didn’t exist, and neither did email. By the wide-eyed expressions on their faces, I might as well have said, “I am an alien from another planet.” They tried to imagine a world where a telephone phone call or postal mail was the only way to communicate with someone far away.

Fast forward to our present world: the autumn of 2016. Here we are at a school in Saudi Arabia, engaged and connected in a digital landscape of cell phones, Instagram and Facebook.  Today’s discovery? To reach most of the authors who we love, we must write a good, old-fashioned letter.

ISG Students Make Connections: World Read-Aloud Day

Last week during library class, upper elementary students celebrated World Read-Aloud Day. Six different classes held teleconferences with students all over the world via Skype.

Students in Siberia read to us one of their favorite Ukrainian folktales, “The Old Man’s Mitten” while we read to them Jenny Sue Kostecki-Shaw ’s book “Same, Same But Different”.  ISG students played “Mystery Class” with a fourth-grade class in an unknown part of the world. After many failed attempts to guess where our mystery class might be located, even with their helpful clues, we finally guessed by entering the longitude/latitude coordinates via Google Maps.

The class was in Chennai, India! Students jumped up and down when they finally guessed correctly. As a student in India read to us a chapter from their class favorite book, “Wonder” , the  tens of thousands of miles that separated us  melted away and we were all together in one place, captivated by a story. In exchange,  one of our primary students read to them a section of Michael Morpurgo’s “War Horse”. You could have heard a bookmark drop as the two classes, thousands of miles away from each other, listened.

Then we moved on to Birminghan, UK, where we were surprised to find out that some of our very own DBGS students have hometowns not far away. Even closer to us, across The Kingdom near Jeddah, the energetic students in library class at The KAUST School informed us that they love reading some of the same books, and some of the same authors, as we do.

One of the most important parts of  World Read-Aloud Day is that it demonstrates, in practical, concrete ways, that out there in the big, vast world of schools and desks and books and learning, there are students everywhere who love to read. This love of reading connects us in tangible ways.  Thanks to LitWorld and World Read-Aloud Day , for setting up this forum for connecting our young readers to the world.

For more photos and details of the event, check out our LRC Library in Saudi Arabia: World Read-Aloud Day #WRAD16 padlet.

Happy Reading, everyone,  from the LRC library!

~ Katrina Lehman, Library Media Specialist~

Facebook Book Cover Photo Contest

2130 (1) copyThanks to everyone who participated and voted in our Facebook Book Cover Photo Contest!  DEMS and DBGS students in Grades 4/5 and Years 5/6 participated in a book scavenger hunt and were photographed with their books. Here are the winners!

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Matthew, 4R (Mr. Rider) “Ripley’s Believe It or Not”

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Most Realistic

Thayviana  5D (Ms. Duncan) “Faith: Five Religions and What They Share”



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Best Cover Drawing

Faisal  4J (Ms. Johnson) “Boy 21”

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Best Non-Human Face

David Y5 (Ms. Liptrot) “Sloths”





Best Symmetry: a tie!



Best Symmetry #1 :

Yasmin, 6R (Mr. McMahon) “Shabanu”

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Best Symmetry #2:

Muhammad Ali, 5H (Ms. Haas)” Muhammad Ali: The King of the Ring”




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Honorable Mention

Ahmed and Ahmed, Year 6R (Mr. McMahon)  “Face Relations”



18 Professional Development Ebooks from the LRC

Greetings, teachers. Looking for an inspiring book to read? Check out any of the following ebooks, 24/7, all year long from the LRC digital library. If you have trouble accessing your account, please contact Ms. Lehman at lehma.k.04[at]isg.edu.sa.

Happy Reading! 

bookmappinBook Mapping Lit Trips and Beyond by Terence W. Cavanaugh, Jerome Burg

In Bookmapping: Lit Trips and Beyond, Cavanaugh and Burg show you how this dynamic, interactive activity is a cross-curricular tool that helps students not only develop a better understanding of places, cultures, and the books they are reading, but also make connections among the subjects they learn in school.

Continue reading “18 Professional Development Ebooks from the LRC”

Ebooks Available for Checkout from the LRC

Facebook Cover Photo_Enjoy eBooks Did you know that the LRC offers free eBooks to students and teachers?  We have books in a variety of subjects including classic fiction,  current fiction, and popular nonfiction titles. The LRC Digital Library can be accessed 24/7 from anywhere in the world by visiting the following link: http://dahs.lib.overdrive.com

How to check out an eBook from the DHS Digital Library

Go to the  Digital Library Website http://dahs.lib.overdrive.com/ Continue reading “Ebooks Available for Checkout from the LRC”

New Biographies in the LRC

New Biographies in LRC         If you’re interested in reading about fascinating people in fascinating times, come check out the new, never-been-opened biographies in the library. Read about celebrity Justin Bieber, environmentalist Rachel Carson, composer Leonard Bernstein, President Barack Obama, and female aviator Beryl Markham. Check out the memoirs that include the life story of a woman who hiked, solo, on a 1800 km journey, a man who made his living as an artist, modern-age golfing heroes, a modern archeologist, and a South African writer of the independence era. Check out biographies to read about real people, with real challenges, who influenced the world.