Friday, April 24, 2009

#33: Ms. Zywica, Science Teacher

The Lizard King, by Bryan Christy

I chose to read this book because of the luring declaration on the cover, "The True Crimes and Passions of the World’s Greatest Reptile Smugglers." After reading it I feel that passion is too romantic of a word to use, maybe it should be replaced with ravenousness. The author, Bryan Christy, does an adequate job of keeping the story interesting, but there are definitely moments when I wished he would have just gotten to the point. The book doesn’t focus on one single "Lizard King" rather it chronicles the lives of many smugglers and how the crown was passed through generations. The excitement of the book lies in the tales of how mass amounts of reptiles would pass right under the noses of custom agents and how the smugglers lived on the edge of reason often times risking losing their freedom forever if they were to be caught.
Amongst all the narratives of animal depredation the book does offer a hero, Chip Bepler, a Special Agent for the US Fish and Wildlife Service. Bepler is portrayed as being just as devoted to catching and prosecuting smugglers as the smugglers are about obtaining the most exclusive reptile species. Bepler’s chronicle is bitter sweet and the reader is left aware that our global governing bodies are not protecting reptiles adequately enough. Christy ends the book with a note in which he describes his motivation for writing the book out of wonder. He wonders, as do I, how can someone who is truly passionate about something take that something and exploit it to the point of ruin.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

#31: Mr. Kohler, Data Coach

I recently finished reading "Three Cups of Tea" by Greg Mortensen and David Oliver Relin. I was given this book by my sister for my birthday. I of course accepted the book with grace and gratitude but thought that I was being handed another sappy story ala, "Mr. Holland's Opus" because I was a teacher and this book was about education. What a cynic I was! I love this book! From the first page to the last page I was totally engrossed. This book taught me about the struggle of a people and a culture, I am ashamed to say, I saw as my enemy face.

Three Cups of Tea is about Greg Mortenson a climber who failed to summit K2, the second tallest mountain in the world. On his way down he gets lost and wanders into the town of Korphe, Pakistan. Here he meets the village elder, who opens his house up to him and nurses him back to health. In this small village confronted by the incredible kindness of his hosts, Mortenson develops the idea of building a school for this village. Little did he know that this would become his lifelong mission.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

#30: Mrs. Timmons, Science

When You Are Engulfed in Flames by Dave Sedaris

I posted a review on Dave Sedaris not too long ago, so I apologize if I sound a little redundant. Dave Sedaris writes short stories, and his books carry with them a quirky and quite funny sense of humor. When you read Sedaris's books, it's like you are getting an opportunity to listen to his thoughts. His thoughts can be somewhat demented and the dialog between himself and the characters within his life are many times laugh-out-loud. There are times where his thoughts mirror those of your own, allowing you to say to yourself, "Yeah! I wonder the same things sometimes!" While in other instances, his thoughts/analogies are NOTHING like the ones your personal mind experiences. You can tell that his stories are also taken from his real life. From shenanigans while growing up in Raleigh, North Carolina to living next to this grouchy old woman in his apartment building in New York City. None of his stories seem too far fetched or ridiculous to be true. Mary Newcomb (IB 7/8 Math) can vouch for some of the stories from Raleigh, as her brother actually lives in the house Dave Sedaris grew up in.

If you would like a great book that will literally have you laughing out loud and is convenient (you can read a few chapters and then set it down for a month without losing your place), then this is a book for you. I would recommend his other books as well, as the stories are all intertwined and build off of each other. His other books include Barrel Fever, Me Talk Pretty Someday, Naked, Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim, and a personal favorite, Holidays on Ice.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

#29: From Ms. Rodriques, Media Specialist

I'm am not a scientist by training, usually skip reading the instructions on electronic equipment I buy, and am not all that enthusiastic when Scientific American comes in, but I have found a true gem of a book called E = mc2: a Biography of the World's Most Famous Equation by David Bodanis.

It was not only easy to read but was stock full of really cool information- did you know that their are pieces of German ships on the moon? This is a book we can recommend to those with high reading skills- 1170 lexile- but it is of great interest for those with limited reading skills as well. This writer put the equation into a real world perspective. First, he tells us about the origin of "E". How does the concept we now know as "energy" come to be?

The story winds itself around scientific history from Newton to how Einstein got his job in the patent office through the misunderstood relationship between Otto Hahn and Lise Meitner, physicists who helped to solve the mystery of the equation. Which one got the Nobel Prize? How do we decide the toll we take for the "greater good"? One violinist? The future health of millions of people? Count to 43 seconds- how long it took between the release of the first atomic bombs and the initial impact. How do we treat the scientists from Germany who were developing the same type of explosion? Were they "guilty" of war crimes or just furthering scientific discovery?

There are several biographic representations within the book- Newton, Einstein, Oppenheimer- and a slew of notes that give details about information within the chapters.

It's a great book, is in the media center and is ready to get checked out.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

#'s 27 & 28: From Mrs. Lyons, 8th Grade Language Arts

# 27: The Gate House by Nelson DeMille

This is a continuation of the Gold Coast story. A family on Long Island is hounded by Mob neighbors and this picks up the lives of the husband (who got dragged into being a Mob lawyer) and his wife (who got “involved” with said mobster and ended up shooting and killing him). The mobster’s son wants to re-involve the lawyer in Mob business and get revenge for the murder of his father. Nelson DeMille has a knack for creating wise-guy characters that I really enjoy (does this have something to do with the kids we teach?). Purely for entertainment value – not a brain-stretcher.

#28: The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver

This is the story of a Baptist missionary family that heads to the Congo in 1960 to “save” the locals. It is a tale of how Americans charge in and botch things up without a clue as to the way of life that currently exists in a foreign country. The US government was very involved in the assassination of the elected leader, Lumumba. The American choice for his replacement was Mobuto, who was a cruel thief who built palaces for himself while the African people starved. The missionary children all were deeply affected, in entirely different ways, by their early experience in the Congo. In a way, this is also an environmental tale as well as a good story and commentary on US foreign policy. Thanks to Jen Powell for recommending it during our CAR-PD class!

Monday, January 5, 2009

#26: From Mr. Kohler, Data Coach

The Art of Racing in the Rain, by Garth Stein, is a gem of a book. The story is told from the point of view of the dog. Sounds quirky but it works. The dogs name is Enzo, and he is named after none other than Enzo Ferrari. If you love, dogs, racing, family and tales of redemption this is the book for you. This book if very poignant and at the same time is very funny. I highly recommend it!