Wednesday, November 26, 2008

For information about Iraq, Al-Qaeda, and the War on Terror

A Historybusters Top Video Recommendation: Frontline

Historybusters would like to recommend the following 23 Frontline episodes about the Middle East, Iran, Iraq, Afganistan, Al Qaeda, and the War on Terror. Spying on the Home Front, Endgame, Cheney’s Law, Showdown with Iran, Rules of Engagement, Bush’s war, Bad Voodoo’s War, The Torture Question, The Insurgency, The Dark Side, Return of the Taliban, The Lost Year in Iraq, The Enemy Within, Gangs of Iraq, Truth War and Consequences, Beyond Baghdad, Son of Al Qaeda, Rumsfeld’s War, New Al Qaeda Front, The Soldier’s Heart, Private Warriors, The Man Who Knew, The War Behind Closed Doors. You may view all of these episode free on-line by clicking on this link. You may also find many of them at your local library, or purchase them from this site. If you download the drop box curriculums for either Turtles Can Fly or The Iraq War, you will find useful background information before watching the programs. Finally, Frontline has a fantastic teacher's center with images, discussion topics, activities, maps, and more. Click here to check it out with your kids.

Three new curriculums for members to download...

Vist your member's drop box to download these curriculums...

Turtles Can Fly Rich with humor, ambition, and courage, this remarkable award-winning film puts a human face on the Iraqi conflict by telling the story of the US invasion of Iraq through the eyes of a young Kurdish boy named Satellite. You will laugh and cry, so be sure to have Kleenex handy. Subtitled, it contains deeply mature content. This curriculum is similar to our Iraq War Curriculum, but includes a special emphasis on Sunni, Shia, and Kurdish history, including a brief explanation of the Ottoman and Safavid Empires. It is designed for Turtles Can Fly, but you will find it useful for any film about Iraq.
Antony and Cleopatra by William Shakespeare An award winning production of a literary classic, which is also based on Plutarch and therefore quite historically accurate. Historybusters recommends this production as a great way to introduce your kids to history and Shakespeare at the same time.
Julius Caesar
by William Shakespeare
A star-studded production of a literary classic, which also happens to be based on Plutarch and quite historically accurate. For those members who are bored by Shakespeare, we can only add, perhaps you were introduced to him incorrectly. He wrote plays not novel. He is meant to be seen, not read. This production may get your kids hooked on him before they have to read his plays in class.

In honor of Thanksgiving...

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving, and across the county, elementary schools have been having children draw pilgrim's hat and tutkeys. In honor of the full story, Historybusters would like to recommend the following:

Although the characters in this History Channel recreation are a bit one dimensional, Desperate Crossing is an effective and entertaining depiction of the journey of the pilgrims, their settlement at Plymouth, and the first Thanksgiving. I did not care for the one sided and overly simplified view of King James, or the politics that first made the Pilgrims flee England. Nor did I care for their cliff note explanation of why the people of the Netherlands developed tolerance. However, they handled the crossing well, and did a find job explaining some of the reasons the Pilgrims were able to develop good relations with the indigenous peoples about to become their new neighbors. I particularly liked their depiction of Squanto and how important he was to the colony’s survival. All in all, I can recommend it for any young person studying the first Thanksgiving. It is very family friendly, and if you happen to have the History Channel, you might want to keep your eye out for it this Thursday with your VCR ready.

A thought about reading

I know that Historybusters is all about getting kids hooked on history through story, but that doesn’t mean kids should not be encouraged to read. Sadly, I work with more and more young people who can read the words, but when I ask them to explain what they just read, that can’t. Reading comprehension is critical, and when your child can’t explain what he or she has just read, you have a serious problem. So here are some tips for turning your kids into avid and effective readers…

1. Start turning you kids into bookworms early. Get them a library pass as soon as they have started school, introduce them to their local children’s librarian, and try to take them there at least once every two weeks. Your local librarian is the best source for recommending age appropriate books that will intrigue your child. Make the library and event and tradition. When I started the seventh grade, my mom began having me walk over to the local library after school. She would pick me up after I had spent an hour finishing up my homework and pouring through their books.

2. Set up a reward system for independent reading. The best age to begin this is approximately ten. By this time, kids read words effectively, but still have difficulty comprehending what they have read. What they need is lots and lots of practice on age appropriate books that they actually find interesting. Give them three months to read five books, and be sure to keep a record of each book as they have finished it. Let them choose the books, but be sure they are age appropriate and just a little challenging. Again, your local children’s librarian should be able to help them chose. If they accomplish their goal of five books, let them have a little family party to celebrate.

3. Keep bed times early, but buy them a bedside light and tell them that they can stay up reading quietly as long as they want.

4. Find a book that is not in the children’s section, which contains a story and character that you think you child will find interesting. Spend some time reading it to them. When you are well into the book and you are pretty sure that your child want to know how it ends, hand them the book ask them to finish it on their own. My mom did this with me. The book was Mary Stewart’s The Crystal Cave, and it is still one of my all time favorites.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

In honor of November 11...

Why do we use November 11 to celebrate our veterans? It was on November 11, 1918 that the Armistice ending WWI officially took effect, beginning on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month. Celebrated as the war to end all wars, WWI was the first global conflict. Nearly a hundred years and several wars later, Historybusters would like to recommend a few Historybusting gems…

In Lawrence of Arabia, Peter O'Toole gives a star-making performance as T.E. Lawrence, the eccentric British officer who united the desert tribes of Arabia against the Ottoman Turks during World War I. Director David Lean delivers sweeping battle sequences and breathtaking images, but the film is really about the adventures and trials that transform one man into a legend. This film is mature, but family friendly.

Set during World War I, this brutally honest movie was co-written by director Peter Weir. It tells the story of two fictionalized best friends who put aside their hopes and dreams to join the war effort. This film eventually follows them as they enlist and are sent to Gallipoli to fight the Turks. The first half of the film is devoted to their lives and their strong friendship. The second half details the doomed war efforts of the Aussies, who are no match for the powerful and aggressive Turkish army. This film is family friendly, but with mature content.

Sergeant York
Produced in 1941, partly as an American call to arms in WWII, Sergeant York is a surprisingly accurate retelling of the life of Sgt. Alvin York, recipient of the Congressional Medal of Honor. Much of the script is taken directly from Sgt. York's diary, and York himself served as an advisor throughout the filming. York even chose Gary Cooper to play his character; Cooper returned the favor by giving one of the strongest performances of his career. The story begins before America’s involvement in the war. We meet York in his home state of Tennessee and quickly learn that this world-class sharpshooter is a pacifist. Drafted to fight, he is blocked from killing by his beliefs. The underlying theme of this memorable film concerns how a self-effacing and peaceful man managed to capture a German position single-handedly and save the lives of his fellow soldiers. It contains some mature content.

Behind the Lines

Based upon Pat Barker’s suburb psychological 1991 war novel Regeneration, this extraordinary World War I film is based on true events. It is set in 1917 at a British Army hospital in Craiglockart, Scotland. There we meet a pioneering psychiatrist named Dr. William Rivers and the many soldiers he must heal and send back to the front. It is a unique story about the invisible wounds of war, two visionary poets, and one visionary physician. Family friendly, but with mature content.

Paths to Glory

Based on the semi-fictional novel by Humphrey Cobb, Paths to Glory stars Kirk Douglas in one of his finest roles—Colonel Dax, commander of a battle-worn regiment of the French army serving along the western front during World War I. Held in their trenches under the threat of German artillery, the regiment is ordered on a suicidal mission to capture an enemy stronghold. This suicidal attack is loosely based upon the battle for Fort Douamont during the Battle of Verdun, where over 300,000 French soldiers lost their lives. When the mission inevitably fails, French generals order the selection of three soldiers to be tried and executed on the charge of cowardice. Colonel Dax is chosen to defend them. Paths to Glory contains moderately mature content.

The lost Battalion

This 2001 A&E production starring Rick Schroder, Jamie Harris, Phil McKey, Jay Rodan and Adam James II, tells the true World War I story of an American unit that was surrounded by German troops and bombarded mercilessly by both sides. It portrays the surreal brutalities of a war where carrier pigeons and machine guns were the tools of victory, and creates memorable characters well worth knowing. This is a wonderful depiction of a horrific time; it contains mature content.

The Life and and Death of Colonel Blimp

If you have never seen Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger's 1943 production of The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp, get ready for a treat. The main character is based on a popular comic strip character of the time, but the amazing performance of Roger Livesey as the General Clive Wynne-Candy is much more than comic. We first meet the imposingly rotund General as a blustering old duffer serving in WWII. He oozes stuffy, pompous, and outmoded values. However, traveling back 40 years to the beginning of Crimean War, we see a different man altogether: a young and dashing officer nicknamed "Sugar" Candy. Through a series of relationships set against the events of three wars, we come to understand how difficult it is for him to adapt his sense of military honor to modern notions of "total war." Incidentally, this is the film that Winston Churchill tried to have banned because of its sympathetic portrayal of a German officer. Charming in every way, the film is family friendly, with mildly mature content.

To see a complete list of our WWI recommendations, visit Historybusters Store of Knowledge

Monday, November 10, 2008

The American Presidents

In honor of the election, and just because we wanted to, Historybusters has put together an e-book on the American Presidents. Official members may download a copy for free from thier drop box at If you want to view a sample, visit the new members center on our main web site .

Thanks and happy historybusters...