“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.


Teachers Tell Stories PechaKucha-Style

Neno Kwa Neno copy

“Storytelling as the root of community is a culture that we librarians cultivate. Creating a space that allows the sharing of stories— as well as a platform for listening to the tales of others—  builds bridges.”

Wednesday evening’s inaugural “Neno Kwa Neno” event at a local café brought together about forty members of the school community for a fun evening under the stars. The atmosphere was relaxed, with dinner and drinks served by friendly staff:  a delightful way to top off a busy day of teaching and professional workshops.

Kiswahili for word for word, the “Neno Kwa Neno” gathering was a cross-campus challenge to “tell a story- any story” using the PechaKucha– style of presentation.

The format is simple: 20 slides, 20 seconds. Presenters have exactly 6 minutes and 40 seconds to tell their story as the kiosk of slides flip through in 20 second intervals. Touching on a variety of interesting and surprising topics, seven speakers, mainly teachers, shared their stories.  The curious audience was rapt in attention. High in the sky, through the leaves of the bougainvillea, the moon shone bright.  The Q&A session after each talk allowed audience members to interact with the storytellers.

Storytelling as the root of community is a culture that we librarians cultivate. Creating a space that allows the sharing of stories— as well as a platform for listening to the tales of others—  builds bridges. Events like these highlight the fact that there is more to our colleagues than what we see during the work week.  We teach, yes. And we love it. But we also live interesting lives outside of our careers. We’re goal-setting inspirers, ambulance drivers, Dungeon Masters, recycling activists, career jumpers, surfers, and carnival dancers.

Here’s to nurturing a story-telling culture and to the plans we are formulating to set up another Neno Kwa Neno gathering. Most of all? Here’s to celebrating the lives that we live after work hours.


Books & the Creative Process


The Learning Commons recently featured two members of the ISG community in our Author/Illustrator Spotlight. A group of over 100 students and teachers gathered to listen to author León Kevin Clarke and illustrator Abdul-Aziz Ahmad share how they worked together to publish the children’s book Slonkey the Christmas Donkey. The creative duo had a number of fans in the audience, possibly because they hail from DBGS, one of our campus schools. Mr. Clark is a Year 4 teacher and Abdul-Aziz is a Year 5 student. The two shared a reading of the book, photos of their creative process, and stories of how they collaborated to publish. clark readingBy working together as a team, the two designers collaborated to find solutions, publishing a truly original children’s book that has reached not only our campus community, but a global audience.

The Learning Commons is honored to have hosted Mr. Clarke and Abdul-Azziz. Their imaginations and their stories are really what the creative process is all about: being unafraid to make mistakes and being willing share with others. In the process, they enrich the lives of us all.


Creativity & Collaboration in Grade 5

Teacher-librarians aren’t always found in the library. As a matter of fact, they are oftentimes out and about, working with classroom img_5297teachers. DEMS grade five students in Mr. Coleman’s class have been making classroom connections with storytelling by writing personal narratives that reveal creative tension and develop an emotional impact.  Mr. Coleman and I developed the storytelling unit during shared planning  time.

IMG_5281.jpgDesigned to challenge students to compare and contrast memorable stories and to find their own compelling stories to tell, the lessons have offered a way for students to dig deep to find the stories that IMG_5292.jpgoffer meaning and important lessons to share. Based on Bernajean Porter’s Digitales storytelling structure, students are examining the Six Elements of Good Storytelling and using the process to guide their creative work.

After working together as a class to create a story arc using The Paperbag Princess by Robert Munsch as a model, they are designing story arcs for their own personal narratives.

Sitting down to plan as a team takes commitment, hard work and time. As ideas are shared and put on the table, collaboration requires a certain sense of humility, a desire to listen to the other and a willingness to adapt.  Teachers working solo make good lessons, but teachers  working together make mind-boggling, juicy, super-duper lessons.