Check out Nonfiction Monday at Playing by the Book for a roundup of recommendations of nonfiction children's literature.
“Energy, sincerity, clarity of vision, creativity.”
To explore the unknown and the familiar, distant and near, and to record in detail with the eyes of a child, any beauty, (of flesh or otherwise) horror, irony, traces of utopia or Hell. Select your team with care, but when in doubt, take on some new crew and give them a chance. But avoid at all costs fluctuations of sincerity with your best people.” – Dan Eldon (from: Dan Eldon: Life as a Safari, by Jennifer New, p.181)
Reading about Dan for the first time and seeing some of the graphics that he created and used in his journals was totally engrossing. He was a young man who was immensely creative and didn’t hold back in experiencing life. His collages are mixed-media and remind me of some of Picasso’s works, fragmented images that are rearranged and combined with other elements to express feelings and his understanding of the world. Sometimes dark, sometimes playful.
Growing up in Kenya and traveling as a teen through some of the poorest areas of Africa with his sister and a friend was an eye-opener for him that sparked a desire to make a difference. His personality was such that people would join in his endeavors wanting to participate and contribute. One enterprise, raising money for refugees from Mozambique, resulted in two wells being built with the $17,000 they raised. They gave the money to an aid organization only after Dan and his group visited the refugee camps to see for themselves where the need was greatest.
His creativity led him into photo-journalism and he eventually ended up in Somalia in the early 1990s, photographing the breakdown in government and the ensuing civil war. He was caught with four other journalists in a deadly rampage by locals in Mogadishu after an American bombing killed and injured over 200 people. Dan was killed in 1993. He was 22 years old.
Dan’s family continues with his philosophy, using his life and creativity to inspire other people from around the world to embrace life and experience the opportunity to make a difference. Check out these websites:
Dan Eldon: artist, activist, adventurer
Creative Visions Foundation
So, how would I use this book in a classroom?
First, as an interesting read for high school kids. The graphics are compelling as is Dan’s story.
Secondly, I can see connections with the social studies curriculum in grade 8. I’ve recently been helping a group of Calgary grade 8 teachers building an interdisciplinary unit around the idea of worldviews. From personal stories like that of Dan Eldon, students may see how personal views work with or against a society’s. Dan did not seem to be limited by overarching societal views but instead was driven by his own desire to make a difference. Questioning what already exists and figuring out how to make a difference is often what young people do.
And thirdly, with the above in mind, this book could be tied into current events. Somalia is still in the news. Devastating famine and unstable government are still rampant. Closer to home is the ‘Occupy Wall Street’ movement. What a great example of people questioning and challenging the status quo.
Lots to think about but mostly to enjoy.