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Short Takes—Febuary 2015 

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I'M SICK OF THIS ALREADY: AT-RISK LEARNING IN A HIGH SCHOOL CLASS

Ginnah Howard

Illume, 2015, $15

Honest education experts will tell you that poverty is a bigger obstacle than any dogma out there. What does that mean to disenfranchised kids in a rural district and those who struggle to teach them? Accomplished novelist Howard (Rope and Bone trilogy) lets us in on the complicated lives of a classroom full of challenged and challenging teens in a work that blends great storytelling with expert methodology, seasoned with warmth, empathy, and humor.

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YO, MISS! A GRAPHIC LOOK AT HIGH SCHOOL

Lisa Wilde, foreword by Kaycee Eckhardt

Microcosm Publishing, 2015, $12.95

"How many people does it take to change a student so the light bulb goes on?" asks Wilde, who teaches English at Wildcat Academy, a "second chance" New York City high school. Praised by Alison Bechdel, this visually inventive graphic novel follows eight students (composites based on real lives) as they struggle toward graduation. Their journeys—moving, unexpected, and sometimes hilarious—are lovingly drawn by the teacher they've nicknamed "Wild" or "Snowflake," an Ulster County weekender.

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STORYTELLING AT WORK: HOW MOMENTS OF TRUTH ON THE JOB REVEAL THE REAL BUSINESS OF LIFE

Mitch Ditkoff

Idea Champions, 2015, $18

Everyone has stories to tell, and "innovation provocateur" Ditkoff spins 38, starting with his misguided attempt to avoid being labeled a hippie by euphemizing his hometown to German executives ("I'm From Woodstock, Yes I Am!"). Reflections and challenges—So What? and Now What?—follow each story. Part 2 is a toolkit for the storyteller's task: "to create the stage for the human heart to dance." Appearing 4/30 at 1:30pm, Woodstock Story Festival, Woodstockstoryfestival.com.

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THE STORY OF SEEDS: FROM MENDEL'S GARDEN TO YOUR PLATE, AND HOW THERE'S MORE OF LESS TO EAT AROUND THE WORLD

Nancy Castaldo

HMH Books for Young Readers, 2016, $17.99

The author of Sniffer Dogs turns her eye to plants, offering young readers an empowering crash course in the importance of biodiversity and the politics of food production. In clear, lively prose, she introduces geneticist Gregor Mendel, seed bank pioneer Nikolai Vavilov, farm activist Dr. Vandana Shiva and other "Seed Warriors," inspiring teens to get involved with conservation efforts global and local. Appearing 2/27 at 3pm, Oblong Books & Music, Rhinebeck.

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SHADES OF BLUE: WRITERS ON DEPRESSION, SUICIDE, AND FEELING BLUE

edited by Amy Ferris

Seal Press, 2015, $16

This important, remarkably varied anthology breaks the silence around painful topics, shedding new light on darkness. Editor Ferris' knockout introduction "The Balls-Out Truth About Depression" honors the courage of those who share their stories (including Hudson Valley contributors Chloe Caldwell, Beverly Donofrio, and Kitty Sheehan), assuring "the men and women, girls and boys who always—always—wear their scars like stardust" that they are not alone. This book could save lives.

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KISSING JOY AS IT FLIES: A JOURNEY IN SEARCH OF HEALING & WHOLENESS

Jason Elias, foreword by Stephen Larsen, PhD

Five Element Healing Press, 2015, $22

In this luminous memoir, Woodstock acupuncturist and herbalist Elias explores his deep roots (a Greek great-grandmother's herbal ministrations) and far-flung journeys (to Esalen; Philippine psychic surgeons; an ashram in Poona, India; a stupa in Nepal) in his ongoing quest to heal himself and others. He offers inspiring and resonant words for seekers of every persuasion. Appearing 2/5 at 7pm, Inquiring Minds, Saugerties; 2/12 at 7pm, Inquiring Minds, New Paltz.

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