The Power of Half

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It all started when fourteen-year-old Hannah Salwen had a eureka moment. Seeing a homeless man in her neighborhood at the same instant she spotted a man driving a glistening Mercedes, she said, "Dad, if that man had a less nice car, that man there could have a meal."

Until that day, the Salwens had been caught up like so many of us in the classic American dream—providing a good life for their children, accumulating more and more stuff, doing their part to help others but not really feeling it. So when Hannah was stopped in her tracks by this glaring disparity, her parents knew they had to act on her urge to do something. As a family, they made the extraordinary decision to sell their Atlanta mansion, buy a house half its size, and give half of the sale price to a worthy charity. At first it seemed outlandish: What, are we crazy? Then it became a challenge: We are totally doing this. Their plan eventually took them across the globe and well out of their comfort zone. In the end they learned that they had the power to change a little corner of the world. And they found themselves changing too.

As Kevin Salwen says, "No one else is nuts enough to sell their house," but what his family discovered along the way will inspire countless others, no matter what their means or resources are. Warm, funny, and deeply moving, The Power of Half is the story of how one family grew closer as they discovered that half could be so much more.

Curriculet Details
43 Questions
51 Annotations
3 Quizzes

Designed for students in 9th and 10th grade, this free digital curriculum contains annotations explaining figurative language, structure and point of view. It also contains interactive videos that support comprehension, such as videos about tone and metaphor. Over the course of the book, students will answer Common Core questions and quizzes related to the subjects of philanthropy, family, and changing perspectives. This free online unit will increase student engagement while building reading comprehension.

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The Power of Half is the true story of the Salwen family who embarked on a philanthropical journey that took them halfway across the world. (This annotation contains an image)
Did you know you can look up any word in the text of the book or the text of the questions and answers? Just click or press on the word you want to define and hold until the blue text selector pops up. When you release, a define option will appear. Since it's so easy to look up words, make sure you use this feature frequently... Is there a word on this page you need to look up?  
Michel de Montaigne was a French essayist who lived during France's Renaissance. His work influenced numerous writers, including René Descartes and Ralph Waldo Emerson. The main focus of his famous essays was on human nature, which is clearly an important element in the quotation "He who does not live in some degree for others, hardly lives for himself." (This annotation contains an image)

1. The Treadmill

As the author mentions, kenkey (pictured below) is a typical Ghanaian food made of fermented corn. Aside from corn, Ghanaian food makes use of cassava, beans, rice, yams, vegetables and meats. (This annotation contains an image)
Which of the following best describes Hannah's attitude towards the ribbon cutting ceremony? 
This phrase is an example of the literary device anastrophe. Anastrophe is when the order of words in a sentence is inverted. Typically, this phrase should read "but they were resolved." However, the author uses anastrophe to make this statement sound more resolute--the debates were unquestionably resolved. The character Yoda from Star Wars often speaks in anastrophe: “Powerful you have become, the dark side I sense in you.” (This annotation contains an image)
What is the main purpose of telling this story about Hannah and her fear of dogs? 
Alexis de Tocqueville (1805-1859) was a French political thinker and writer. As a young man, he moved from France to the United States. He is best known for writing "Democracy in America," a piece that looks extensively at 19th century America and its political system. In particular, de Tocqueville focused on religion, race and class as they pertained to American life and governance of the people. Knowing this, why would a charitable group be called the "Alexis de Tocqueville Society"?  (This annotation contains an image)
Write a description of Hannah Salwen based on what you know thus far. Use textual evidence to support your descriptions. 
Please listen to Julio Diaz's story via the link below. Be prepared to answer a question about what you have heard. (This annotation contains a link)
Why does Salwen include the Diaz anecdote in his book? Compare and contrast Julio Diaz's actions and those of the Salwen family's. 

2. You Don't Know Till You Listen

How does this incident represent a change in the author's perspective? 
The link referenced has been taken down. You can, however, see Sarah McLachlan's video via the link below. (This annotation contains a video)
Shirley Chisholm (1924-2005) was the first African-American Congresswoman. She was also the first black person from a major party to run for president and the first woman to run for president as a Democrat, though she did not win her party's nomination. Before getting into politics Chisholm was a teacher in Brooklyn. She wrote two autobiographies and is credited with paving the way for both African-Americans and women in politics to this day. (This annotation contains an image)
How does this passage represent a change in the author's perspective? 
There are three types of Greek columns: Doric, Ionic and Corinthian. Doric columns are the most basic, Ionic columns have spiral heads and Corinthian are the most ornate. (This annotation contains an image)
What aspects of the Salwen family's plan are well thought out? What aspects are shakier, or could use better reasoning? Use textual evidence to support your response. 
This is an example of figurative language. Figurative language is when an author uses words that are not meant to be taken literally. Hannah is not literally stepping on the accelerator, but rather, this image is figurative; Hannah is moving along quickly with her plan. Authors often use figurative language to evoke powerful imagery or to make their writing more engaging to the reader. To learn more about literal and figurative language, please watch the video below. (This annotation contains a video)
Marcus Tullius Cicero (106-43 BCE) was a Roman philosopher. He wrote in Latin, and is responsible for much of the philosophy-related vocabulary of that language. He also had a political career and believed in the Roman Republic, a government that was an early democracy. (This annotation contains an image)
How does the inclusion of the highlighted exercise effect the tone? 

3. Deal or No Deal

Kahlil Gibran (1883–1931) was a writer and poet from Lebanon. He wrote in both English and Arabic, and his most well known book in English, "The Prophet," became extremely popular in the 1960s and 1970s. "The Prophet" is a series of prose poems that tell the story of a prophet, who is returning home after many years abroad. The poems deal with humanity, focusing on themes like love, reason, prayer, friendship and death. (This annotation contains an image)
According to this paragraph, why do people tend to donate less money to charity than they could? 
What aspect of the mayor's logic is faulty? 
This sentence contains an allusion. An allusion is a literary device in which an author makes a passing reference to a book, historical figure, movie or other subject. It is the reader's job to connect the subject being alluded to with the main idea the author is expressing. In this sentence, the allusion is to an event in the Harry Potter series. Even you haven't read Harry Potter, you can still see that this allusion speaks to the potential danger of the Salwen's decision to buy a house before selling their own. 
What is the purpose of this section of the text, and how does the author get his point across? 
Note the use of figurative language here. A hierarchy is not a physical entity, it is a concept. Thus, it cannot actually be flattened. But, "flattening the hierarchy" paints a vivid picture in the reader's mind. It is easy to visualize this concept of creating a more equal balance of power in the Salwen family. 
What is the author's attitude towards the move now that it is a reality? 
510(c) (3) is another way to describe a nonprofit organization. Nonprofits use money that they raise to endow their future endeavors, as opposed to splitting the extra money amongst workers or shareholders. It would appear that Blair and Lori either run or are a part of a nonprofit that will contribute to the Salwen's charitable donations. Famous nonprofit organizations in the United States include National Public Radio, the Human Rights Campaign and the Sierra Club. 
Quiz One 

4. The Power of Half

Of the eight main goals listed on the United Nations website, which ones have the Salwens touched upon in their discussion at the diner and which ones have they missed? In your opinion, which of the eight goals is the most important and why? 
Read goals 1-8 on the United Nations "We Can End Poverty" website posted here. Be prepared to comment on these goals in the following question. (This annotation contains a link)
Microfinance is a branch of philanthropy that involves making small loans (hence the "micro" part) to individuals in need. The idea is for people to use a small amount of money to start a business or purchase a key piece of equipment that will allow them to make a sustainable living and repay the loan. Many recipients of microloans are women in developing countries who buy mills or looms or refrigerators to provide valuable services to their communities. The woman pictured below used a microloan to buy a sewing machine to make a living as a seamstress. (This annotation contains an image)
How has the author's approach to interacting with his family changed? 
How does this e.e. cummings quotation address and relate to the Salwen family's story? 
e. e. cummings (1895-1962) was a prolific American poet. Many of his poems break from standard grammatical rules, skipping punctuation and excluding capital letters (as his name illustrates). cummings attended Harvard University and fought in World War I. One of cummings's most famous poems is called "[i carry your heart with me(i carry it in]." Please click on the link below to read this poem. (This annotation contains a link)
Passover is a Jewish holiday that celebrates the liberation of the Jews from slavery in Egypt. Part of this celebration includes a seder, which is a dinner. During a seder, Jews eat different foods that symbolize various aspects of their deliverance from slavery, including parsley dipped in salt water (the salt water represents tears) and matzoh. Matzoh is unleavened bread, which tastes kind of like a bland cracker. When the ancient Jews fled Egypt they did not have time to let their bread rise, so eating matzoh reminds modern Jews of the rush their ancestors were in to flee to freedom. Below, you can see the symbolic foods from a seder. After discussing and tasting each one, there is a big dinner with wine and lots of celebration. (This annotation contains an image)
What is the purpose of sharing this incident with the reader? 
As you can see, not everyone thought that the Salwen's idea was such a good one. Please read a review of this book by clicking on the link below, and be prepared to discuss it in the following question. (This annotation contains a link)
What was the tone of Nicholas Kristof's review of The Power of Half? Does Kristof emphasize the same parts of the Salwen's story as the book does, or does he shift focus to other aspects of their actions? Provide examples to support your response. 
You have probably taken a survey like this before. There is a specific name for this particular type of survey: a Likert scale survey. The surveys get their name from their inventor, Rensis Likert, who was a psychologist. Perhaps not surprisingly, Likert-scale surveys are frequently used in psychological studies. (This annotation contains an image)
What is the main idea of this chapter? 

5. If You Don't Know Where You're Going, Any Road Will Take You There

What is the purpose of the anecdote shared in this paragraph? 
An anecdote is a short story that is often funny or interesting. Usually, this literary device is used to relate one idea to another, or to illustrate a larger point. At the moment, the author is sharing an anecdote about some of his sleepless nights as his family continues to ponder its plan. 
There is a distinct tone to the description of Joseph's film for the contest. Tone describes the speaker's attitude towards the subject he or she is talking about. Tone can be neutral, anxious, excited, proud or any other number of emotions or sentiments. To learn more about tone, please watch the video below. (This annotation contains a video)
What is the tone of the section describing Joseph's video-making project? 
It is not clear what Mr. Phelan's (or the author's) intentions are when he refers broadly to Africa. There has been a lot of generalizing about "Africa" in this book. Africa is a gigantic continent. To say that "African women and children" need to lug tanks of water from rivers to their homes suggests that conditions are the same for over one billion people. This is simply untrue. While there are many poor area in Africa, there are also plenty of African women and children who have never had to get water from a river. Americans usually speak about people from other nations with respect to what country they are from; Germans, Italians, Cambodians, etc. Africa seems to be the one place where people are routinely lumped into one large group instead of being described by their different countries of origin; Nigeria, Morocco, Kenya, etc. Be alert to this cultural bias as you continue reading. What are the negative effects of cultural bias? (This annotation contains an image)
What is your opinion of the presentation the people at Action Against Hunger give? Which aspects of the presentation are effective and which are less effective? Would this presentation have convinced you to choose this charity? 
This sentence is an example of hyperbole. Hyperbole is a wildly exaggerated claim. Of course, the Salwens kids were not really in comas, they were just tired and bored. Authors use hyperbole to make their works more interesting to read, and to add vibrant imagery to their stories. To learn more about hyperbole, please watch the video below. (This annotation contains a video)
Which of the following processes do the Salwens use to develop and then finalize their plan? 

6. Outside the Comfort Zone

How does this passage represent a change in the author’s perspective? 
M.C. Escher (1898-1972) was a Dutch graphic artist. His work often dealt with mathematic concepts such as tesseracts, fractals and the concept of infinity. As such, Escher pieces often have a surreal quality. Below is a self portrait entitled "Hand With Reflecting Sphere" drawn in charcoal.  (This annotation contains an image)
The highlighted passage represents 
The phrase "quid pro quo" comes from Latin and means "something for something." In other words, you have to do or give something in order to get what you want. In this case, Joseph has to donate to his college fund in order to spend the rest of his money on music supplies. 
"Preguntas" means "questions" in Spanish. Given that Amy and Kevin are strangers, this suggests they use an informal tone in their correspondence. 
Evaluate the author's opinions on education in the highlighted paragraph. Do you agree or disagree with what he is proposing? Support your response with specific examples. 
Idi Amin (1925-2003) was a dictator who ruled Uganda from 1971-1978. His dictatorship was bloody and cruel, resulting in hundreds of thousands of deaths. After declaring a military state, Amin purged Uganda of many ethnic minorities, severed ties with Western countries and built relationships with Libya's Muammar Gaddafi, the USSR and East Germany. These alliances were not enough to keep Amin in power, and in 1978 he was ousted and had to flee Uganda. Amin's rise to power and violent dictatorship are portrayed in the Hollywood film "The Last King of Scotland." (This annotation contains an image)
What is the purpose of the highlighted passage? How does the author convey its purpose? 
What literary device is present in the highlighted sentence, and what is its purpose? 
In this sentence, the dust and cobwebs are being personified. Personification is a literary device in which non-human things are given human attributes or qualities. Dust and cobwebs can not "leap" out at someone. Like most other forms of figurative language, personification adds imagery to an author's words. To learn more about personification, please watch the video below. (This annotation contains a video)

7. What Do We Do?

This sentence contains a metaphor. A metaphor is a type of figurative language in which two things are compared without using the words "like" or "as". In this case, the Salwens family's trip to Ghana is compared to an incubator. Another example of a metaphor is: Clarence was a block of cement, weighing Patty down. To learn more about metaphors and another literary device, the simile, please watch the video below. (This annotation contains a video)
Based on what you read in Postrel's review, what aspects of "The White Man's Burden" are the Salwens doing well? What aspects do they need to continue to think through? 
Please read Virginia Postrel's review of "The White Man's Burden" by clicking on the link below. Be prepared to answer a question about what you have read! (This annotation contains a link)
This is a made up word that combines "vacation" and "missionaries." Missionaries are people from a religious group who are sent to a foreign place to help the people and, often, to spread their religious ideals. In California, Jesuit missionaries from Spain attempted to convert native peoples, and in the process built the large churches (called missions) that run up and down the state. Mission Santa Barbara is pictured below. The idea of a "vacation-ary" is someone who dedicates just a short period of time to mission work abroad. (This annotation contains an image)
What is the purpose of this anecdote? 
Leo Tolstoy (1828-1910) was one of the most famous Russian authors of modern times. His novels include "War and Peace" and "Anna Karenina." He was a Christian, and believed passionately in non-violence. Many of his novels center around Christian themes and/or themes of pacifism. (This annotation contains an image)
According to this paragraph, what can you infer are John Coonrod's measures of success in Africa? 
By contrast, life expectancy in the United States is 79 years. Check out the average life expectancies for different countries by clicking on the link below. What trends do you notice? Do any of the data surprise you? (This annotation contains a link)
Please watch a short excerpt from John F. Kennedy's inauguration speech from 1961. Please be prepared to compare his message to that of J.K. Rowlings's. (This annotation contains a video)
What ideas are expressed in both speeches? In what ways do the messages of these two speeches differ? 
English is the official language of Ghana. That said, there are over 70 tribal languages spoken in the country today. Eleven of them: Akuapem Twi, Asante Twi, Mfantse, Nzema, Dagaare, Dagbanli, Ewe, Dangme, Ga, Gonja, and Kasem are sponsored by the government, which means that they are often taught in schools, and government materials are printed in them. 
Quiz Two 

8. In the Villages

For visual reference, below are the blueprint plans for an epicenter funded by The Hunger Project. (This annotation contains an image)
What is the purpose of this anecdote about the clamor over the family photos? 
What can you infer is the difference between aid and metamorphosis, given the context of this passage? 
Mark Twain, born Samuel Clemens, (1835-1910) is one of the most famous American novelists of all time. He is notorious for his witty, pithy sayings, like the one quoted here. Some other examples of his aphorisms (a short, original thought) include: "it's not the size of the dog in the fight, but the size of the fight in the dog" and "if you tell the truth, you don't have to remember anything." (This annotation contains an image)
What does this scene represent in the grand scheme of the book? 
This statement is an example of a stereotype. A stereotype is a generalization about a group, be it gender, race, culture or another aspect of human nature. "White people can't dance" is an example of a negative stereotype. "Women are bad drivers" is another. Some stereotypes have positive connotations (at least for some people) such as "Asians are good at math" or "gay men wear the best clothes." Regardless of whether a stereotype is positive or negative, stereotypes are problematic. They over-simplify and fail to recognize that all people within a certain group are not going to have the same talents and/or shortcomings. 
What is the author's attitude towards the realization that he and his family will never really be a part of the action in Ghana? Use textual evidence to support your answer. 
This is an example of a rhetorical question. A rhetorical question is a question that is not meant to be answered. Writers generally use rhetorical questions to emphasize a point. In this case, Salwen is highlighting that his family may have been doing the right thing all along, even though writing checks did not feel like doing enough. Can you think of a time you used a rhetorical question? 
Akan kente cloth is a South Ghanaian cloth made of silk. It is recognizable by its geometric patterns and bright colors. (This annotation contains an image)
Which of the book's themes does Hannah's speech NOT touch upon? 
In this paragraph alone, there are two references to recognizable brands (Nikon, Under Armour). Salwen has continuously made reference to the brands of things his family owns, from cars to clothing to electronics. Why do you think he chose to include these details? What do they add to the story, if anything? 

9. Transformation Observed

What is the purpose of putting Einstein's quotation at the beginning of this chapter? 
You can view the video described in this section of the book in the first 2:53 minutes of the youtube clip linked below. (This annotation contains a video)
The phrase "wasn't unreasonable" is an example of the figure of speech called litotes. Litotes is making a positive statement by using two negatives. For example, you could say your vacation was good by saying it "wasn't bad." Or, you could compare two similar objects by saying they are "not unlike" one another. The purpose of litotes is to create an understatement. Note the difference in tone when one says something "isn't bad" as opposed to saying it's "good." 
Using hateful, violent speech is not an appropriate or effective way to express one's dislikes. However, The Power Of Half was not received positively by all of the people who read it. What are this book's weaknesses? Write a criticism of this book that is respectful and rooted in the text. 
Which character traits of Hannah's does this statement highlight? 
Malaria is a disease caused by a parasite carried by mosquitoes. Mosquitoes only carry malaria in certain parts of the world, which are highlighted in green on the map below. If a person gets malaria, he or she may experience fever, chills and flu-like symptoms. Left untreated, malaria can be fatal. According to the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) there were 219,000,000 cases of malaria in 2010, and almost 700,000 deaths. Of the people who died from malaria, 91% of them lived in Africa. Since the malaria parasite can be transmitted via blood transfusions, people who have traveled to malarious areas are not allowed to donate blood for three years after they return to a non-malarious country. (This annotation contains an image)
Macbeth is one of William Shakespeare's most famous tragic plays. Shakespeare wrote the play in around 1606 and the work deals with the themes of power, greed, madness and death. After three witches tell a Scottish general named Macbeth he will one day become king of Scotland (pictured below), Macbeth murders the current king and usurps the throne. Spurred on by his power-hungry wife, Macbeth resorts to more violent tactics to maintain his power, and ends up going crazy with guilt and paranoia. (This annotation contains an image)
Which of the following statements best represents a flaw in the logic of this idea? 
"Secret Sauce" is an example of alliteration. Alliteration is when the first sound of a word is repeated over several words. In this example, the "s" sound is repeated. Alliteration adds a lyrical quality to written words, and is often used to create a poetic aspect to prose. To learn more about alliteration, please watch the video below. (This annotation contains a video)
What does the author mean by "just normal with a lower case n"? What is the purpose of describing it this way as opposed to "New Normal"? 


Anais Nin (1903-1977) was a French writer, best known for publishing her diaries which included intimate details about her personal life and relationships. Her writings were referenced frequently in the feminist movement of the 1960s, though she did not associate closely with the political actions of the times. (This annotation contains an image)
What is the purpose of including this anecdote here? 
Note the use of figurative language. This metaphor (Rosie's sentence being compared to a thunderbolt) sets the reader up to understand just how important Rosie's words will be. 
How does this paragraph reflect the Salwen family's values? 
Quiz Three