Monthly Archives: May 2010

Preparing for Oaxaca


In less than 6 weeks, my husband and I are leaving for Oaxaca, Mexico.  I will be attending an NEH Summer Institute for School Teachers entitled Mesoamerican Cultures and Their Histories.  I am really excited about it and have been reading all that I can about Oaxaca – and I still have reading to do for the course!

I have most of the foundations set for our trip.  I got a tremendous deal on airfare from Atlanta to Oaxaca offered by Continental Airlines.  I am really glad I jumped on that when I did, because airline tickets are running $200 to $250 over what we paid.  I am NOT counting the insanity that is the $900 – $1000 airline ticket prices that I have seen on Travelocity – right now, they are hovering in the $600 – $700 price range.

I had purchased an airline ticket using Travelocity for my Dad which was also a good deal.  That is, until the day before yesterday when I received an ominous e-mail from them with some gibberish about one of the legs of the flight being “no longer available”.  I hate it when that happens…

I immediately called the number given in the e-mail for “alternate routing” and was greeted by a lovely Indian woman – um, maybe in Bangalore?  I didn’t give her much time to use her scripted conversation – launching right into the reason why I was calling.  That made it a little uncomfortable for me when she answered back, “Okay.  And how are you doing today?”  Uh, NOT GOOD.

She explained that she would have to put me on hold while she contacted the airline (AeroMexico, maybe?) for my consolation itinerary.  I put my cell phone on speakerphone while I waited – surfing the net for possible alternatives myself.  My father’s original itinerary was as follows:  New Orleans to Mexico City, then Mexico City to Oaxaca, and the opposite upon return.  The plane arrived at Oaxaca at 10:15 at night, and we were going to have to get him to his return flight by 6:30 AM, but it was do-able.

Here was the counter offer:  New Orleans to Atlanta; Atlanta to Dallas; Dallas to Mexico City… where he would need to spend the night and take another flight from Mexico City to Oaxaca.  When she finished getting me clear on that little gift, I was not happy at all, but I went ahead and asked her what the return trip would be like…  I swear to you-know-who that she had to put me on hold to find that out.  Then she kept getting the order mixed up – not making it really clear how my dad was getting from Oaxaca to Mexico City.  If SHE couldn’t get it straight, then how is my 74-year-old father supposed to?  (of course, he’s sharp as a tack, but still…)

I ended up canceling the flight – I’d better see that refund on my credit card by the end of the month.  I then booked a flight on American Airlines – New Orleans to Houston; Houston to Mexico City then to Oaxaca.  It’s the same itinerary my sister ended up buying for my nephew, who will also be joining us – at a different time.  Whew.  After that, I needed tortilla chips, cheese dip, and a margarita.

I also urged my mother not to delay in her ticket buying.  She also lives in Atlanta, but the great deal I got with Continental was no longer available.  I think that she was finally able to use her Frequent Flier Miles with Delta to get to Mexico City, then she booked a separate Mexicana Airlines flight from D.F. to Oaxaca.

More about where we are staying later!


Time Warp Trio and Magic Treehouse, and one more thing!


Months ago, I decided to organize my ideas on using these books to integrate Social Studies and Language Arts teaching through reading.  I have three more topics to cover, and then I will talk about a new line of books that could also be used!

Destination: Ancient Greece.  Here is another great topic that the two series have in common.  It makes me sad that Ancient Greece is no longer part of the Georgia 6th Grade Social Studies curriculum.

The Magic Tree House has a book called Hour of the Olympics.  Here is a good synopsis from English Campus:

This is the last mission for Jack and Annie as Master Librarians. The Magic Tree House takes them to ancient Greece where the Olympic Games are taking place. With the help of the famous philosopher Plato, they get the book they need to save. He also invites Jack to watch the Olympics. However, females in ancient Greece are of low status. They are not allowed to attend the games. Being a smart and brave girl, Annie disguises herself with a helmet and sneaks into the crowd. However, she gets too excited and her helmet falls off!  The guards at the Olympic Games are now chasing after them. Can they escape and go back home? Will they be stuck in Greece on their last mission?

There are lesson plan ideas at the Random House website (RH publishes Magic Tree House) as well as a Research Guide called The Olympics of Ancient Greece.  There are activities to do on the website as well.

In the Time Warp Trio Version, the book is called It’s All Greek to Me and it is the 8th book in the series.  Here is a synopsis from the School Library Journal:  Joe, Fred, and Sam are transported back in time to Mount Olympus while performing in a school play about ancient Greece. Needless to say, they aren’t much of a threat when they try to use their cardboard thunderbolts on Cerberus. Instead, the boys use their wits, and a Ding Dong in the case of the three-headed dog, as they quickly slip in and out of danger. Children who know Nike is the Greek goddess of victory will double over with laughter when Sam Orpheus, friend of Nike, introduces his chums as Fred Cyclops, follower of Reebok, and Joe Paris, cohort of Fila. Humor continues as the friends help hide a nervous Zeus, who is worried that his wife, Hera, will blab to the other gods if she finds out he lost his thunderbolts. Dionysus wants to party and Ares wants to fight, but the real trouble starts when Zeus challenges Joe to give his golden apple to the fairest of all goddesses.

My Big Fat Greek Olympics is the name given to the episode in the TV series.  It even has a different twist to the synopsis:  A wild warp at the Olympia Diner sends Fred and Samantha to Ancient Greece during the Olympic games (and Sam to another diner on the edge of Time). Can the three of them get it together to avoid historical disaster? Bonus, huh?  That is, if you can get access to the series – I don’t think it is on the DVDs.  Still, the Lesson Plans on the series site can probably be used for the book.

Leonardo DaVinci: the Man and the Code.  Leonardo is not only of interest to adults, obviously.  Both series came out with their Leonardo books later:  I think I had to wait for the Magic Tree House to come out later.

Monday with a Mad Genius:   I don’t know if I mentioned this, or if anyone else has noticed it, but it seems that the Magic Tree House series books got better later in the series.  I mean “better” in that the writing is more engaging, the reading level is higher, and the books on CD are not as mind-numbing as the earlier ones in the series.  This, I think, is important if adults have to also listen to these books while the children do.

Okay, enough editorializing.  Here is the synopsis:  In Monday with a Mad Genius, travel with Jack and Annie to Italy in the Renaissance, a time when every new morning brought with it the promise of artistic and scientific wonder. There, they meet none other than Leonardo da Vinci! – this was added to the information:  Now available in paperback with all-new backmatter full of activities. That’s interesting – I hadn’t checked!

There are activities on the Random House website, including Pre-Reading Questions. Of course, there is also a  research guides to go with the book, because I think that they realized that Added Resources = uh, More Money… It is entitled Research Guide: Leonardo DaVinci and there are additional activities at Random House.

Book Number 14 in the Time Warp Trio series is called Da Wild, Da Crazy, Da Vinci.  Here is a product description from  It was Sam’s bright idea to look for the inventor of The Book. But when the guys land in fifteenth-century Italy, they meet up with Leonardo da Vinci. You probably know that Leonardo da Vinci painted the Mona Lisa. Did you know that he also invented an early version of a helicopter and a tank, and that he planned to execute the Time Warp Trio for spying on his inventions? Now it’s going to take at least three more bright ideas, two magic tricks, and one great invention to get the guys out of hot water and safely back home. . . .

The TV series episode is called Breaking the Codex.  Here is the episode description: Jodie and Freddi unexpectedly grab Joe and warp him to 1503 in Italy at the height of the Renaissance. Their mission? To rescue the brilliant inventor Leonardo da Vinci from Mad Jack who has some how gotten the idea that Da Vinci can help him create his own time traveling book. There a four page PDF document with lesson plan ideas and background history, just like there are for all of the series episodes.

American Revolution Theme:  Finally, I have come the the last common topic for both series (to date).  I haven’t read the books yet, just cataloged them because middle school doesn’t really focus on American history – I don’t think…

Magic Tree House has Revolutionary War on Wednesday and this is the synopsis:  If it’s Wednesday, it must be Revolutionary War day. Jack and Annie, stars of the Magic Tree House series, are in for another adventure in their time- and space-traveling tree house. Mysterious magical librarian Morgan le Fay has set four new tasks for the siblings. Jack and Annie must find four special kinds of writing for Morgan’s library in order to save Camelot, the ancient kingdom of King Arthur. Jack and Annie set aside their apprehension and soon they’re spinning back through time to Christmas Day, 1776, on the banks of the Delaware River in Pennsylvania, where they encounter none other than the man on the dollar bill himself, George Washington! The children accidentally-on-purpose end up embroiled in the famous commander-in-chief’s mission, where they not only play a part in convincing Washington to carry on with his patriotic duty, but also find the second kind of writing for Morgan’s library: “something to send.”

Time Warp Trio has Oh Say, I Can’t See (Book #15 in the series).  This preview is from Booklist: What could be worse than being time-warped away from home on the day before Christmas? Landing in George Washington’s camp on the night before the crossing of the Delaware! In fact, according to Scieszka’s improbable history, the Delaware would never have been crossed if Washington hadn’t been nudged into action by Fred, Sam, and Joe, the hapless young time travelers known as the Time Warp Trio. But once events are set in motion, they stay in motion, with Washington’s men intent on their mission, and Sam intent on finding his cat, which wandered off into the late eighteenth century. With witty dialogue keeping the pace moving along at a good clip, this will entertain readers who like their chapter books short, illustrated, and, if at all possible, funny.

Magic Tree House has a Research Guide on the American Revolution, as well as a Teacher’s Guide on their website.  Time Warp Trio did not do a TV series episode, so they don’t have lesson plans.

BUT, I have good news on that because of a brilliant new series from Great Britain called You Wouldn’t Want to Be… by Salariya Publishing.  More on that later…