Showing posts with label January 2023. Show all posts
Showing posts with label January 2023. Show all posts

Saturday, January 28, 2023

Student Saturday: Four Days of You and Me by Miranda Kenneally


Student Reviewer: Amati
Genre: Young Adult, Realistic Fiction (some mature themes)

Lulu and Alex are enemies I high school and at the end of each of their high school years they go to a big field trip. In their freshman year they go to a science museum. They get stuck together in a room. Do they work together to get out? In their sophomore year they go to Six Flags and Lulu falls in the water causing her top to come off  and Alex is the only one around. Does he help her or leaver her to save herself? I their junior year they have a choice to go watch a football game or go to an art museum. Lulu goes to the museum and Alex goes to watch the game. The game gets boring so he goes and talks to Lulu. They begin flirting. In their senior year London is their last trip and there is so much going on in both of their lives. Will this brin them closer or will they remain enemies.

Many decisions were made in the book. For example, Lulu was talking about how her ex-boyfriend had moved on so quickly and she said “how can he move on this easily? This quickly?” When she said that it made me wonder, how do people move on so quickly after things end so with the person they supposedly loved? I mean, if you really love someone, how would you be able to move on to a new person so quickly? When Lulu and Alex break up and get back together throughout the book, Lulu can’t get over the fact that he moves on fairly quickly while she is stuck, unable to move on from the heartbreak.

The book is similar to my life because just like Lulu, I learned that fallin in and out of love a a part of life. Not everyone’s perfect. Lulu learned to deal with her feelings for Alex and sometimes I’ve got to deal with my feelings too. Lulu got to travel a lot for school field trips and I’ve always thought that was pretty cool for students to do. I would like to travel as well. This book was similar to other books I’ve read because I enjoy reading enemies to lovers and love  the way the story ended.

Monday, January 23, 2023

Learn to Write by Kidsup Publishing


Genre: children's writing practice
Source: I received a copy to facilitate my review. The opinions expressed here are my own.

As I went through this writing book there were several things that appealed to me. As a grandmother I loved that the theme was dinosaurs. I have two grandsons who are crazy about dinosaurs. The second thing was all of the opportunities for them to practice writing letters and numbers.

As a teacher, I loved the fact that they also have the opportunity to write bigger words. All of the dinosaur words and at the end of the book there are dinosaur jokes and their answers for them to practice writing. I definitely think this is a great book for ages 4-7.

Sunday, January 22, 2023

They Came To The Island by Christopher Francis

Genre: Young Adult, Science Fiction
Source: I own a copy

I loved the way the author ended this story. We have an alien invasion. We have a young boy named Sheldon who fights them with a band of other survivors only to find out he himself is merging with the aliens as he was infected. But not everything is as Rennick, the leader of the area's aliens, would wish it to be. How do you stay human when your brain has an alien trying to merge with you? In this story we are introduced to new characters. The fighting between the two sides heat up. We see perspectives change. For me the greatest thing was watching the human spirit and the message that we need to embrace our differences. 

The story line is great. The descriptions are so well done that I felt I was actually watching a movie. Although the setting is in Canada, where I have never been, it felt like it could be any place in the world. This author is definitely a master of his craft and I highly recommend this book.

Saturday, January 21, 2023

Student Saturday: Awkward by Svetlana Chmakova


Two Reviews by two of my students.

Jahnavi's Review

In the book  Awkward there is something that connects to my life and many other's lives. This story is about this girl named Penelope, Peppi for short. She goes for her first day of school at Berrybrook Middle School. As she opens the front doors, something unexpected happens; she trips. This might not seem too big of a deal, but she did it in front of everyone. This part of the story can connect to people's lives because small things can mean really big things. For example, first appearances on your first day of school. Embarrassing herself on the first day wasn't enough, I guess because the so-called, "school nerd" came to help. Everyone who saw this burst out laughing, saying "nerder found a new girlfriend" or "nerder girlfriend." A lot of people have first days that could go better too, their first day ruined.

The main character in the book, Penelope, has a lot of relatable personality traits to me and most likely other teenagers. I'm similar to this character because she is very, very awkward. She has terrible communication skills, something I should work on too. She is shy and has one friend group she's really close with. She gets really nervous and is really dramatic, sometimes like me. I want to be more like this character because she might be in art, messy, and not that smart, but she's also very compatible to work with, friendly, and just a good person. I want to be more like her.

Penelope has a creative mind and personality. She is so kind that she would do almost anything to help a friend or make someone proud. She's an amazing person as well as an open, helpful, and unique person. I love that about her, and I would like to be more like her.

Alicia's Review

In the book Dork Diaries, Tales from a Not-So-Smart Miss Know-It-All, there is a socially awkward teen with a crush on a boy and she has a diary that she writes every day. She also has a younger sister, Brianna, and her parents. Her best friends Zoey and Chloe, like any other friendship, help her with her confidence and are there for her all the time. Nikki has a unique sense of fashion.

In this book, Nikki and her friends decide to do something rebellious, and they get caught. Mackenzie thinks someone else did it and Nikki, Zoey, and Chloe are relieved. Nikki goes to school the next day and suggests her crush to join the newspaper crew. Once they go to the interview, they sign up for the position they want to be in. Nikki gets excited until something unexpected happens. Nikki did not get the position she signed up for and lost hope. Her best friends encourage her to tell the newspaper teacher and she gets a different position. She gets to be the schools “Miss knows it all” and she gives advice to people. She joined the newspaper crew because she did not want anyone to know something, and Mackenzie would obviously tell everyone by writing it in the newspaper, so Nikki had to pay attention to her.

This book reminds me of the book I recently read, I Know Your Secret, because it holds a subject about secrets. I recommend this book to my best friend Sophia because it reminds me of her a lot. They have similar personalities. They both have bubbly-like personalities, they’re both awkward at times, they’re not too social, and they both seem to be very likeable people. I like this book because it takes me back to 4th

Grade when I read one of the first Dork Diaries. I like it because it has fictional Drama, and I can relate to the main character. This book met my expectations because it entertains me when I finish my work early and in my free time.

Thursday, January 19, 2023

Taking Books Away From Our Students

"Books and ideas are the most effective weapons against intolerance and ignorance." —— Lyndon B Johnson

"I have it that Americans are taught to fear some books and some ideas as though they were diseases..." —— Kurt Vonnegut

This is my favorite:

"You don't have to burn books to destroy a culture, Just get people to stop reading them. -- Ray Bradbury

I promised my principal yesterday I would not post what I am going to say here, on Facebook. I did not say I wouldn't post it on my blog.

The first item on yesterday's Department Chair agenda was to tell us of something new he had learned at his principal's meeting. Due to a State House Bill, as of today, I have to box up and secure my classroom library. My principal is not happy about this, and he did mention the fact that I have worked so hard, like my whole department, to get kids to read. At the beginning of the school year, they would send out a list almost weekly of books that were challenged or banned. We had to pull these from our library. This was ironic because one of those books on the list has an excerpt, one chapter, in our new textbooks. We were told to skip that reading until further notice.
He pointed out he was trying to find boxes for me because not only do I have eleven bookcases in my room, but I also have two cabinets full. Some of these were gifted to me by authors. Between the cabinets and my bookshelves, I have nearly 2,000 books, separated by genre. So let me tell you some reasons I am angry.

Every year I MAKE my students set a goal of at least 15 books from 11 different genres. A lot of these kids would never read if you didn't make them. I also do this to introduce them to different genres. I have helped turn many non-readers into readers. The best compliment I have ever received was from a kid many years ago that came to me on the last day of school. His exact words were, "I want you to know I hate you. You taught me to love reading." Then he hugged me. Students don't always know what to pick, and I can help with that. Many students have no access to books at home or to the public library. These are the reasons why I have so many books. My principal knew I was hurting. He sat beside me and told me he had asked if we could just put curtains over our bookcases, and he was told no. A student might reach around and take one off the shelf. He said he felt we had returned to the days of Hitler and book burnings.

Although this is said to be a temporary thing, it hurts. We were supposed to Buddy-Read with elementary next week. Now my middle school students won't have that joy of sitting and reading with a younger child. We are a 100% choice school, and I tell potential students about my extensive library to hopefully draw them in. We are waiting, for who knows how long, for our district to tell us what we have to do, what hoops we have to jump through to be able to put them back on our shelves. ALL books have to be vetted to be placed back on our shelves. Tell me, who in our downtown offices will have time to read my 2,000 books? How long will my students have to go without reading anything except dry, boring textbooks? Here is what really scares me. We were told that if we violate this it could be considered a 3rd-degree felony. Are we as a society criminalizing reading? For the sake of our world, I sure hope not.


Tuesday, January 17, 2023

Henrietta Hedgehog's Prickly Problem by Carole P. Roman

Genre: Children's Picture Book
Source: I received a copy to facilitate my review. The opinions expressed here are my own.

 I have long been a fan of Carole P.  Roman's Books. I was excited to receive this one in the mail. Henrietta is a hedgehog who is teased at school about her looks. She tries to disguise herself. All this accomplishes is hurting another animal's feelings. Henrietta learns from other animals that they are all different for a reason and being different is okay. This is a lesson that so many children need to hear. Every day I hear kids complaining about what someone said about the way they look. As a teacher it breaks my heart to hear this from any student. Excellent book, a must read.

Monday, January 16, 2023

They Came From the Trees by Christopher Francis


Genre: Young Adult, Science Fiction
Source: I own a copy

We have a great young adult novel with characters from one of the author's previous books. Margaret, Bailey and Sheldon have returned from, "That Thing in the Sky" which was about an invasion where aliens healed a lot of people on earth. They healed Margaret's mother of her cancer and Sheldon's father of his blindness.  In this book the aliens are back, but they aren't like the ones before. We have aliens who decide who is worthy to live and who should die. They want to merge with the healthy humans to create a "perfect" world. For everyone who has ever read dystopian/utopian books such as, "The Giver", we know there is always a flaw in those types of worlds. Sheldon, Bailey, and Margaret join up with a group of other teens who are doing their best to survive. They face some tough life changing situations and have to make some tough questions. I like that Mr. Francis didn't water this down as far as the fight scenes with the aliens. It truly was like watching a movie. I must continue with the next book, "They came to the Island."  This is really a must read for everyone who likes Science Fiction.

Saturday, January 14, 2023

Student Saturday: The Girl Who Was Supposed to Die by April Henry

Student Reviewer: Sophie H.

A 16 year old teenage girl wakes up in a cabin in the middle of the woods. She has no memory of who she is or how she got here. She is tied up, scared and confused. She has obviously been tortured and as she regains consciousness she overhears  two guys talking about killing her. She tries to stay one step ahead of the people after her. Aong the way she meets this guy named Ty. He helps her find a safe place to stay. The teenage girl is very strong and reminds me of the trait of perseverance. She goes 100% at any challenge she faces despite the difficulty or delay in her success. This reminds me of families. You have to trust your family because of how much you love and care for them. She also had to trust her fellow peer, Ty to help her get to a safe place and survive this mess she is in. I would recommend this book to my peers and young adults.


Thursday, January 12, 2023

All American Boys by Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely

Genre: Middle Grade Realistic Fiction
Source: I own a copy

Jason Reynolds has written a powerful book here with a powerful message. Rashad Freeman is a young African American who has stepped into  a local store to buy a snack. His trouble begins when a white lady trips over him. The store owner causes him of trying to steal and the cop in the store takes things a little too far. Rashad is beaten to the point of being hospitalized.

Quinn Collins is a white boy on  his way to a party with friends when he heads to the local store to get some beer.  What Quinn gets is a front row seat to a young boy being beaten. The problem is that it is someone he knows and looks up to. 

What struck me was how the events that happened could have been ripped right out of the headlines today. As a teacher I could read how the teachers were feeling knowing they were told not to talk about it. I've been in their shoes where we've been told not to discuss certain incidents with students in the classroom.  I felt like some of the teachers were told how they were supposed to feel.

I was happy the way the author handled the tensions within the school and community. Awesome book everyone should read.

Monday, January 9, 2023

Kondi's Secret By Sylvia Stewart


Genre: Middle Grade, Christian, Mystery
Source: I own a copy

This is the third book in this trilogy. The author starts us off with a heart-stopping scene. Kondi is trying to cross the street to get to her house. She has just come from school. She sees her young brother in the front yard playing with a stick. She tries to call to him and tell him to go back to the house. Her brother hears her voice and sees her and heads for the ditch. The water filled ditch has a current that whips his feet out from under him. In a panic she darts across the street getting whacked by one car. She dives into the ditch grabbing for her brother. She saves her drowning brother but is injured.  My heart was ready to stop. I was so scared for both Kondi and her baby brother. It was obvious how much she loves her baby brother.

Kondi's best friend from the first book finds herself entangled in the same issue Kondi does. They and their family will need to rely on God when secrets become dangerous.

I love, love, love this series.  I need to see if this author has more.

Sunday, January 8, 2023

Kondi's Joy by Sylvia Stewart


Genre: Middle Grade, Christian, Mystery
Source: I own a copy

This is the second book in this trilogy. Kondi has discovered the artist in her father. She openly embroiders and she and her mother have convinced her father to move to the city where he can set up shop and sell his paintings to tourists.  She is hesitant about leaving her friends behind and her church. Upon arriving at their new house she meets Maria a young girl her age who befriends her. We learn just how evil her uncle is and how God protects his own. A wonderful book that is full of hope. The author didn't sugar coat things. Often people wonder why God allows things to happen. Other people think that becoming a Christian means no more troubles. The author handled both of these ideas in her book with expertise. I can't wait to read the third book. These are quick reads and I highly recommend them.

Saturday, January 7, 2023

Student Saturday: The Girl in the White Van by April Henry


Student Reviewer: Sophia H.

Savannah is a teenage girl who was kidnapped outside her Kung Fu class that she takes weekly. She needs to figure out how to escape herself, but also a girl named Jenny that has been there long before her. This story takes place in a trailer with a bunch of broken down cars around it, almost like a junk yard.

After Savannah has an argument with her mom's weird boyfriend she goes to her King Fu class. When she goes missing, people believe that she ran away because of the argument. They finally realize she was kidnapped. Her kidnapper has a vicious dog named Rex. After she is kidnapped she wakes up to find Jenny. Jenny nearly died trying to escape from the trailer. Will the two girls escape? They will have to work together to escape even if it ends badly.  

This book made me think of my 19-year-old who was being controlled by her boyfriend. She ran away for three months. These two settings are similar because they both are very harsh and sad stories. No matter who it happens to it will always be dramatic. I recommend this book to people who like a good mystery and a plot twist. It is a very good book for when you have time to keep reading because it keeps getting better and better. This book is good for ages 11-100. Maybe have some one read it to your from ages 80-100.

Friday, January 6, 2023

Kondi's Quest by Sylvia Stewart


Genre: Middle Grade, Christian, Realistic Fiction
Source: I own a copy

I actually purchased this book because it was the story of a young girl from Malawi. I have been fascinated with Malawi since I read the book "Laugh With the Moon" by Shana Burg. Her story inspired me to set up pen-pals with a school in Malawi. My students made dresses that were shipped over.  So when I saw this book I knew I had to read it. Once I finished it I found that there were two others and have purchased them. I will be reading them this week as well.

I loved this Christian Fiction book. Kondi is a young Malawian girl. She lives with her Mother and Father. Her father carries around an envelope and is very protective of it. When Kondi accidently spills hot tea on her father and his envelope he becomes enraged and beats her. Kondi believes her father doesn't love her. She keeps praying God will help her father love her. One night he comes in drunk and beats his pregnant wife sending her to the hospital. Kondi shares her feelings about her father with her best friend. She learns she must forgive her father even if she doesn't feel like she truly has. This is a message of hope and God's love for all of us. There are two other books in this series I want to read. Highly recommended.

Thursday, January 5, 2023

The Yellow Star Shines Like a Candle in the Dark by Aaron Seth


Genre: Children, Middle Grade, Historical Fiction
Source: I own a copy

This is definitely an inspiring story. Aharon and his brother are attacked by a group of boys who hate Jews. They hit his brother in the head and throw dirt in his eyes. Someone comes to help them. Someone who is not a Jew. We learn there are consequences for people who stood up for the Jews. This is a simple yet powerful story. This is something I want to read to my students when we  talk about the difference between bystanders and upstanders during World War II. It should read this in class whenever the Holocaust is going to be taught.

Wednesday, January 4, 2023

Say Something by Jennifer Brown

Genre: Young Adult, Realistic Fiction
Source: I purchased a copy.
This novella is a continuation of Jennifer Brown's Book "Hate List".  There have been so many school shootings in the news in recent years. Everyone is always wondering what the shooter's motive was. How many actually look at what happens to those who survived. What happens to those who were friends, girlfriends, boyfriends of those who perpetrate the crime?  In this story we see Val, who was Nick's girlfriend. If you've not read the book Nick was the shooter and he and Val had created a "Hate list". These were people who went out of their way to make life miserable for others. David was a friend to Nick and had a crush on Valerie. He himself carries a lot of guilt. While Valerie is trying to move on, she carries a lot of mixed feelings. Even though she saved someone's life and was shot by her boyfriend, she is blamed and accused of knowing about the shooting. David has mixed feelings because he is carrying information he should have given out earlier and now it is eating him up inside. Jennifer Brown gives us a look at what those who knew the shooter were going through. A must read book for all who have read "Hate List".

Tuesday, January 3, 2023

Autism Goes to School by Dr. Sharon A. Mitchell

Source: Adult, Realistic Fiction
Genre: I purchased a copy

As a teacher I have taught students with varying levels of autism. Most of them were higher functioning. I have not been trained to work with them. However, I have had a couple of parents, and even the students themselves that have helped me understand people with autism a little bit more. This helped when my own grandson was diagnosed with autism. When my daughter would call me frustrated with her son’s meltdowns I thought I recognized the signs so I checked with another parent who told me to have her son tested. He is very high functioning. However, I now know things not to do and how to help him. So let’s get to the book.

This book is fiction. We have Ben a man who learned just three years before that he had a son and that he had autism. Jump forward to present time. Ben receives a call from his son’s mom. She can’t deal with their son Kyle. She is pregnant and engaged; she is dropping Kyle off to live with him. Knowing nothing about autism, Ben does everything wrong. He was under the impression that the therapy he had been paying for over the last three years would cure his son. On the first day of taking his son to school he witnesses the class his son will be put in. He berates the teacher for her methods only to learn that is the class his son will be placed in. Ben truly wants what is best for his son, as does Kyle’s teacher.

I loved that autism was  treated accurately in this book. We saw children of varying levels. We saw what happens to parents who hold their children back out of fear of the world hurting them. I found that this is the first book in a series. I most definitely will get the others to read.

Monday, January 2, 2023

Sled Dog School by Terry Lynn Johnson

Genre: Middle Grade, Adventure
Source: I purchased a copy.

I remember reading “Ice Dogs” by this author and recommending it to my students. When I brought this one in I didn’t get a chance to read it first. It was checked out and passed around my room. I understand why my students loved it so much.

Matt, the main character struggles with math and knows if he can’t get his grades up he will be put in remedial math. My students hate being in remedial class. I too struggled with math, so even I could identify with Matt.

Matt is given the opportunity of an extra credit project to keep out of the remedial class. He must create and start a business plan. What better way to teach math than through real world experiences. He begins the project creating a “Sled Dog School”. He learns how much he will have to juggle.

I think what kids take away from this is that sometimes they have to ask an adult for help. When I get those kids who are in remedial classes and don’t give it their best because they are embarrassed, I let them know that sometimes even adults must get extra help. I tell them that I had to take remedial math in college and even had to repeat a math class. I want them to understand it is okay as long as they are trying and learning.

I am glad I finally got the opportunity to read this book. This is the perfect book to teach kids problem solving. I loved how it showed how it is sometimes difficult to teach something to others. Just understanding yourself doesn’t mean it is always easy to teach.

Sunday, January 1, 2023

Blue Birds by Caroline Starr Rose


Genre: Middle Grade, Historical Fiction, Novel in Verse
Source: I purchased a copy

This is such a powerful book. I love this author's work and the fact that she writes in verse. This is the story of the Roanoke Colony that disappeared. Alis and her family have just landed. She can't wait to meet up with her Uncle, who had sailed away to this strange place. When they arrive, they find the village empty except for some bones and a burned-out building. The natives seem friendly at first. Soon, tensions rise between the two parties.  

This is much more than just a history lesson. This is a story of resilience, of friendship and how sometimes doing the right thing means making hard choices. We meet Kimi, a Roanoak Native, and Alis, one of the settlers. She is the only girl in this group. When she meets Kimi for the first time, a bond is made, and now it will be tested.

I am glad I made this one of my first reads of the new year. It was worth it.