Book review: The Elephant and the Bee by Jess de Boer

This is the first book review in a series of six for the KU Big Read @ St George’s Library. Each of the six shortlisted KU Big Read titles will be featured in a weekly review, written by a member of the University and FHSCE community.


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A review of The Elephant and the Bee, written by Natalie Pither, a 2nd year Midwifery student

This is Jess de Boer’s first book. She was born and raised in Nairobi, Kenya, into a privileged Dutch family. She was inspired from an early age to want to bring about change in the world. Following university, she had a wide variety of jobs from chef to office administrator and even as a representative for Kenya in women’s triathlon.

In The Elephant and the Bee we follow Jess’s story, in her own words, covering her extensive travels as she searches for the dream job that will really make a positive impact in the world.

The style is informal and easy to read. Within the serious message that Jess wants to convey about man’s destruction of the planet, there are moments of utter hilarity. This juxtaposition is enthralling and leads the reader on page by page and chapter by chapter, always wondering how the title of the book will eventually fit into the content.

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An example from the book of an illustration and instruction

Each chapter is prefaced by a cartoon and an amusing instruction to herself about what must be achieved ‘today’. On the cover, at the end of each chapter and at the beginning and end of the book, the reader is enticed by the design of the trail of a bee to follow the story further, adding to the attraction of the book design. This certainly encourages the reader to pick the book up and read on.

During the narrative we meet Jess’s family and friends. They provide her with not only moral support but importantly an endless source of contacts offering job opportunities the world over. It is hard not to admire her gung-ho attitude each time she prepares for the first day in a new job, often with no prior experience.

I found Jess’s narration endearing and informative in equal measure and would highly recommend this book to others. I believe it would make an excellent choice for the Big Read as it is so accessible and manages to cover some really important environmental issues.*


*Since this review was written it has been announced that My Name is Leon is the Big Read winner, although we’re sure that our readers will enjoy all of the shortlisted books.


Join the discussion. Tell us what you thought of The Elephant and the Bee, or what your favourite Big Read shortlisted book is. Come by the library to borrow a copy.

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Review: Acland’s Anatomy – Quiz function

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Learning Advocate Kurian George (Second Year Biomedical Science student) has written a review of the Acland’s Anatomy exams function.


What it is:

Acland’s Anatomy is a series of anatomy tutorials presented online using cadavers. Split up into five main sections of the upper and lower extremities, the trunk, the head and neck, and the internal organs, Acland’s anatomy explains each section to a great degree of detail step-by-step, making it clear in understanding the crucial concepts  for all years. It has always been recommended to put learning into practice, which can be done here as well, with exams available at the end of every section.

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How to access it:

Aclands onsite link

Aclands offsite link  Select ‘UK access management‘ for Federation and St George’s, University of London as the institution.

If you can’t remember the link. Simply search for ‘SGUL Acland’s Anatomy‘  and select the link that says “A-Z Databases: acland’s“. Selecting this will take you to the onsite and offsite links.

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Search for SGUL Acland’s anatomy

Review of the Exam section:

I definitely found this very useful, as it puts to test whatever I have learnt and it is just for our own personal reflection of our knowledge of whatever we have learnt in the previous section. The fact that below each answer there is a link to the relevant section of the tutorial makes it a lot easier and convenient to learn from any mistakes made and further develop knowledge in that particular area. This is a great chance to learn if you don’t have time to go to the Dissecting Room outside the scheduled sessions.

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When the answer is revealed, Acland’s displays a link to the relevant section of the tutorial.

You can access the exams (the quiz section) and save your favourites by registering for a personal account.

Conclusion:

Overall, I personally find Acland’s Anatomy a great resource to utilize outside of DR [Dissection Room] sessions and it does go into great detail in all of the areas of Anatomy. Having said that, it is difficult to discern how much one needs to learn as this is open to all years. In order to tackle, definitely use the DR book given in order to make sure you are on track with what is being taught and do not go into a lot more detail than what is required. Even though this is an excellent resource, it can take time to follow everything due to the amount of information given. One way to overcome this could be to learn the overview from the video and attached diagrams and animations, but also take part in some constructive learning with fellow peers, which I find is a great way to learn a lot of the taught content. To conclude, Acland’s Anatomy is an excellent resource and would definitely recommend it.

Kurian George
Second Year Biomedical Science Student


Find out more about what Learning Avocates do on our VLE (SGUL username and password required to log-in)

Book review: Writing Essays by Pictures a workbook by Alke Gröppel-Wegener

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Learning Advocate Grace Pike’s review of Writing Essays by Pictures

ksAlke Gröppel-Wegener aims to make essay-writing fun. The book helps students by using bright colours, metaphors, visual analogies, tasks that include making reusable resources and encouraging exploratory writing. She starts from the beginnings of writing an essay to the end process of using feedback from your tutor. Visual analogies are present in each chapter in order to explain step-by-step the processes of research and writing at university and are especially aimed at those students who have not attended university before and are beginners to academic research.

Strengths

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Example of a visual analogy explaining ‘The Assembly Approach’

This book starts from the very basics of writing essays by breaking the stages of essay writing down, and explains terms along the way. It also explains that you do not have to use the visual analogies; you can use the book more flexibly in your own way. For those who shy away from essay writing or get bored of self-help essay writing guides, this book uses bright text and pictures to keep readers interested. There are tips to keep students focussed on the task at hand and throughout the book these tips and ideas are referred back to. There are clear explanations of what primary and secondary research is which can be a problem for some students during school and transitioning to university. When starting university and throughout their studies, some students can be unsure of how to take effective notes and this book presents innovative tips on note-taking. Group and reflective study is encouraged and this may be good for tutors as a teaching resource. There is also a link to additional tips and tricks on WordPress.

Weaknesses

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Orange and purple text and illustration.

Having shown the book to several academics and then reading the book, we all found the colour scheme and font colour to be lurid and difficult to read. Those who are not starting university and have written essays before may find this to be a patronising book as it is very basic. The visual analogies and metaphors are stretched and sometimes the images can break the text up too much and can be irrelevant.

In my own experience I have found that a scientific essay structure can vary from course to course and year to year so it may not always be suitable to use all the tips from this book. Having read the book in an hour it does make me wonder whether a student writing an essay would have time to do all the tasks along with the essay to make the whole experience effective. One particular chapter has a “sources address book or casefile” to write in for all the sources you might want to use in your bibliography or reference list. This may not be relevant to students at St George’s, as many students now use their devices to take notes and keep a track of sources. Some essay tips are ideas that should have been covered in school or college at GCSE level.

Conclusion

The content of the book may be useful for students who are unfamiliar with essay writing, and it may work as a refresher  as it covers all the essentials. The use of visual analogies, and hands on tasks may appeal to some students. However, it can be visually hard to read due to the colour choice. Students who are familiar with essays, and tutors may find it is aimed at too low a level to be useful.

Review by Grace Pike T year


Writing Essays by Pictures by Groppel-Wegener, Alke  is available in the library collection.
Call number: PE1471 GRO

Help with writing and structuring is available from Rosie MacLachlan in Academic Skills Centre or Marcy Kahan, Royal Literary Fund Fellow. More information on Study+ in Moodle (SGUL login required).

Review: Brilliant Writing Tips for Students

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Learning Advocates Rashmi Saincher and Ele Clancey have written positive reviews of Brilliant Writing Tips for Students by Julia Copus, a new book in the library collection.

Review by Rashmi Saincher

The first thing that attracts me to this book is its size: it’s small and light which fits perfectly into any bag and even a large coat pocket, making it easy to carry around. Each section is based on different aspects of grammar, such as semicolons and paragraph structure. Each section includes a clear explanation regarding the grammar rule, and a short example. The book also contains tables and cartoons which help with the content organisation.

My favourite part of this book are the examples of phrases that can be used in essays (found at the end of the book), as they can help you express yourself more intellectually when writing formal work. I highly recommend this book to students who are writing their SSCs, reports, any formal writing pieces, or students who would like a quick revision on basic English grammar.It is an easy read, and relatively quick to get through. Brilliant Writing Tips for Students is available at the library, and you can take it out for three weeks, which is another bonus.

Review by Ele Clancey

This is a great book if you, like me, have ever struggled with making sense in writing. I found essay writing very difficult during my undergraduate degree, and I would always get feedback from lecturers about my grammar and style. As a result, I spent time trawling through websites to learn a lot of the content covered in this neat pocket guide.

This book covers common areas of grammar and punctuation that people struggle with, including semicolons, sentence structure and paragraphs. What is good about this guide is that it is very clearly written and each concept is explained succinctly. The guide also covers handy techniques to help writers proof read their writing and spot mistakes.

Unlike other books on writing for students, this one doesn’t offer advice about essay writing specifically. This guide is more about getting the basics of writing correct. It is also heavily grammar and style focused, so you would need to read something else for tips on academic writing, planning and how to start writing. Overall, I think this book is most useful for people who struggle to be clear and concise in writing, and to provide helpful grammar tips.


Brilliant Writing Tips for Students by Julia Copus is available in the library collection.
Call number: PE1408 COP

Help with writing and structuring is available from Rosie MacLachlan in Academic Skills Centre or Marcy Kahan, Royal Literary Fund Fellow. More information on Study+ in Moodle (SGUL login required).