Author James Deem

November 2012
Maine East- English - Rika Ghorbani
Foundation Award: $500

Freshmen English classes at Maine East High School are currently reading The Book Thief by Marcus Zusak. The book, set in Germany during WW-ll  tells the story of a young girl named Lisette who steals books to support her love of reading and whose family hides a Jewish man in their basement. It is a beautiful story of how books can feed your soul during times of unimaginable grief. I heard from other librarians in the area that author James Deem is going to be in Illinois the week of November 26th• Mr. Deem has published two books about the Holocaust that use primary source documents to tell the story of survivors of Kristallnacht (the November 9th, 1938 coordinated attack on Jewish people when tens of thousands were sent to concentration camps) and Auschwitz (the Polish concentration camp). Mr. Deem’s visit would be an excellent tie in with the freshmen reading of The Book Thief. 

A visit by Mr. Deem to our freshmen English classes would be an invaluable tool for our students, both to learn more about the Holocaust and the events that take place in The Book Thief (Kristallnacht plays a prominent a role in the book as do concentration camps) as well as learn about the writing process from an actual published author (in addition to primary source books about the Holocaust, Mr. Deem has also written well reviewed books about bogs, time travel, castles, and Pompeii).
Prior to Mr. Deem’s visit, our students would each one story from one of Mr. Deem’s books, either Kristallnacht: The Nazi Terror that Began the Holocaust or Auschwitz: Voices from the Death Camp (each book contains about 15- 20 oral histories). The students would then, in class, share the stories they have read with one another so each student would have a flavor of all of the survivor stories before hearing Mr. Deem speak. 
Author visits are one of the goals of the Maine East Library during the 2012-2013 school year as requested by the English faculty as well as the Library Advisory Committee, made up of department heads, the school principal, and the assistant principal for instruction. In addition, reading informational texts alongside literary texts is one of the core elements of the common core standards and an excellent way for students to make connections between a fictional text and real life experiences. 

I approached our freshmen English teachers, Cathy Creagh, Leslie Leathem, and Don Miller about the possibility of a visit by Mr. Deem to their classes and they were very receptive to the idea and agreed that a visit would enhance their study of the novel. Mr. Deem would be open to visiting with our freshmen during four periods during the day.