Wednesday, December 3, 2008

#25: From Mrs. Pelosi, Reading Teacher

Any Small Goodness A Novel of the Barrio by Tony Johnston is a novel about learning from life experiences and then turning that learning into service for the community. Arturo is a Mexican immigrant to L.A. who is trying to find his way in the world of a not always nice city. From trying to fit in at school where the teacher changes his name to something easier for her to pronounce, to not having books in the library, to gang problems in the neighborhood, this is a story about a young man who chooses to do good after some not so good experiences. When his family is targeted by a local gang, he decided to start his own gang and calls it the "Green Needle Gang". Read this really good story to find the twist in the plot!

I highly recommend this book to anyone working with immigrant students or service learning. It shows the experiences of a child trying to learn his way in a new world and turning what he learns into good for others. Learning and Serving!

Monday, September 22, 2008

#24: Ms. Connery, 7th Grade Language Arts

Please Stop Laughing at Me…, by Jodee Blanco, is a memoir that gives the reader an insightful and frightening view of the effects of bullying. Ms. Blanco’s depiction of the physical, verbal and emotional abuse she endured throughout her school career leaves the reader wondering how and why something so horrific could continue for so long. The author’s perseverance through the bullying at times was admirable yet also self-inflicted.

As I read this memoir, I continued to question how a child could suffer at the hands of other children at school and have no authority witness these acts. My thoughts then led me to question myself – what have I not seen happen to my students in my own classroom. This unknown answer sickens me. Ms. Blanco’s story ends on a very positive note, but to think how she endured the beatings, being spit on and ostracized for so long still makes the rainbow bittersweet.

This is a must read for all educators.

Friday, August 29, 2008

#23: From Mrs. Timmons, Multi-grade Science

Your Inner Fish, By Neil Shubin

"A Journey into the 3.5 Billion Year History of the Human Body" is more than I bargained for. I listened to a podcast, On Point, which we download for free from iTunes, featuring this scientist. He is absolutely amazing to listen to, but even more remarkable to read about. This book details where our major organs originated from, how we as humans came to be.

Neil Shubin is first an anatomist and second, a fish paleontologist, who unearthed Tiktaalik, a 375 million year old fossil fish whose flat skull, limbs with fingers and wrist bones, provided a link between fish and the first land dwelling organism. But, he doesn't just hone in on this fish-like fossil, he finds cellular similarities between our cells and sponges. He links our teeth and ear bones, and identifies the origins of our senses. It is a science book for those who are hesitant to embrace scientific text (because it's usually SO boring!) and he writes in a manner that can be understood by all. This book will open your eyes to the similarities of species and the universal body plan that has changed over time to better fit the environment we live in.

I HIGHLY recommend this book if you have ever wondered where hiccups originated from, how we have gills in the womb and then we don't or if you are just amazed at how perfect organisms are for their time, place and purpose.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

#21 and #22: From Mrs. Pelosi, Reading

Best selling author, Catherine Coulter, takes you back to her FBI Thriller Series in Double Take. Meet up with FBI Special Agents Sherlock and Savich as the story of Special Agent Ruth Warnecki and Sheriff Dix Noble continues with a twist. Dix, a country sheriff from Virginia, is still looking for a reason his loving wife disappeared three years ago abandoning him and their two sons. Just as things are starting to look normal, a call from California of a sighting of his missing wife, Christie, sends his world spinning. The reader is dragged into the world of mediums and psychics as Dix tries to find out why Charlotte in San Francisco is the spitting image of the missing Christie, and why people are being murdered. The series can be read in islolation, but if you are one of those readers who attaches to the characters, this series is the one for you.


2. The Lavender Field, by Jeanette Baker is a love story for the ages. Brought together by the Austrian government, lawyer Whitney Bendict has to convince Gabriel Mendoza to give up the Lipizzan stallions his father rescued during WWII by smuggling them from Austria to the United States. With his father's death, Gabriel had to give up his dreams of being a English Lit professor and came home to help on the family horse farm. With a disease ravaging the horses back in Austria, the Austrian government is pressuring him to sell them all the pure bred Lipizzans he has in his stable. Throw in some twists with an exwife who abandoned her family, a surly teenager, an out-of-control aging mother, a child with Asberger's Syndrome: a form of mild autism, and a huge field of lavender, and someone is sure to fall in love. It was a quick and easy read which brought me into the field of horse breeding and racing. A story that shows that your "dream" life may not be the end all and be all as Whitney learns what she is missing by isolating herself in the corporate world. I recommend this book for anyone with interests in love and and easy read!

#20: From Mr. Kohler, Data Coach

This summer, I’ve been reading a book called Generation Kill, by Evan Wright. Wright was with the First Reconnaissance Battalion Marines when they entered Iraq through Kuwait back in 2003. His account of the war is written at the platoon eye-view. Wright is able to show how the average soldier sees the war and immediately identifies disconnects in the logic of some of the decisions made by commanding officers. For example, Wright tells of how the marines from Camp Pendleton, California did not use the same radio frequency as the marines from Camp Lejeune, North Carolina. This inability to communicate led to several friendly fire casualties. Wright captures the egos of leadership and the snafus they can cause.

I recommend this book to anyone interested in the reality of warfare. The book is A-political, neither promoting nor condemning the war. The language used by the soldiers is gritty and beyond colorful; therefore making this book not suitable for younger readers. As an ex-military person, I instantly felt a connection with the incredible boredom of a soldier’s life. Not having served in a war, I was glad I couldn’t relate to the battle situations these men experienced.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

#19: From Mrs. Pelosi, Reading

Sunrise Over Fallujah, by Walter Dean Myers, usually a young adult author, takes a young man from the Bronx to Iraq just after the fall of Saddam Hussein. Seeing the war from the eyes of a boy who really didn't know what he was getting into was an eye opener to me. As part of the coalition force brought to Iraq in Civilian Affairs, these soldiers are supposed to secure and stabilize Iraq while changing the attitude of the Iraqi people towards the Coalition forces through interacting with locals while never knowing if they are hostile or friendly. He sees the war from both sides as he tries to survive in the war zone including places that are supposed to be safe. I think this book is going to be a great addition to my classroom library.

Editor's Note: The main character in this book is the nephew of the main character in Myers' popular Vietnam War novel, Fallen Angels.

#18: Mrs. Shults, Literacy Coach

I have just read an interesting book entitled, Q.E.D. Beauty in Mathematical Proof, by Burkard Polster. This little book, fifty-eight pages, contains proofs for some of math's most essential concepts. Of course, Pythagoras, Archimedes, and Euler are main characters in this book, but ideas like pi, phi, and the mysterious properties of circles, cones, and right triangles are made understandable to the most novice math mind, and I'm definitely talking about my mind.

I was introduced to this book this summer at a literacy in math session during the Just Read, Florida conference in Orlando. Although the initials, Q.E.D. are an abbreviation for the Latin phrase quod erat demonstrandum, or "what had to be proved," one of the math teachers in the session said it really stands for "Quite Easily Demonstrated." I agree. I highly recommend this book to anyone who is interested in math or wants to keep their whole brain working. And of course, the teacher in me sees many ways this book could be used in the classroom. I hope you'll check it out.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

#17: From Ms. Drackett, Multi-age Math

While visiting my aunt in June, I noticed that every time I left the room she pulled out her book and began reading. She said the book was so good she couldn’t put it down. So, I purchased a copy of Guilt by John Lescroart and began my summer reading adventure that has included Lescroart’s Dead Irish, The Mercy Rule and The First Law. Now well into Hard Evidence, I have come to feel like the characters are part of my family.

Set in San Francisco, these books involve police detective Abe Glitsky and attorney Dismas Hardy. In each one, I have been kept guessing until the last pages about the guilt or innocence of the accused. The characters are interesting and grow and change over time. The plots are complex and satisfying for those who love this genre. I recommend that anyone interested start with Dead Irish, the first Dismas Hardy book, and go from there, although Guilt was great. Enjoy!

Thursday, July 24, 2008

#15 and #16: From Ms. White, Speech, Language, and Hearing

Special Note From the Blog Editor: This post is submitted by Ms. White, but it was written by her new puppy, Rogue.

I have read two books this summer on dog training. The books are: the ASPCA Complete Dog Training Manual by Bruce Fogle, D.V.M. This book has great photo illustrations to make learning easy. The second book is Training Your Dog - The Step by Step Manual by Joachim Volhard and Gail Tamases Fisher.
Both books include a wealth of knowledge regarding the canine species. Lessons are provided in a clear, well organized manner.

The books also address the psychology of the dog so owners can understand how to approach the learning process with their beloved pet. Despite recommending positive rewards and treats for man's best friend, I personally did not find any practical use for the information contained within their pages. I have chosen not to alter my behavior as recommended by the authors.

Rogue White

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

#13 and #14: From Ms. Newell, Grade 8 Language Arts

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
Perhaps my favorite book of all. Jane is an orphan for whom life has not provided. However, she is far from "poor me". Instead, she lives a life if integrity and self reliance. Jane provides for herself, never taking the easy road such as marriage to a particular rich man (he does have a rather spectacular deal-killer of a flaw). Jane guides her own life and forges her own destiny. I just like that.

Life of Pi by Yann Martel
This is an unforgettable book. It tells the story of a young man shipwrecked on a raft with a wild tiger he calls Richard. The book itself is a journey, not just of the young man's tenuous survival, but of one's own religious beliefs. At the heart of the book is the question "Why do we belive what we believe?" and "What is the nature of this thing called Faith?". Heavy subject matter, I agree, but when explored through allegory it becomes accessible.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

#12: From Mr. Winemiller, Grade 7 Math

When I'm not reading about the Gators, I like to read science fiction for enjoyment. As I was looking for a new author at Selby, I stumbled across Douglas Adams (first science fiction author alphabetically). His first in a series of books is titled: A Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. After reading a few chapters with my opinion of it going for a roller coaster ride, I was about to give up on it, until I realized it was full of satire. Adams balances futuristic imagination with humor as the main characters try to find the true meaning of life, the universe, and everything. He particularly enjoys poking fun at human nature. I find myself laughing out loud when I least expect it, which is a new experience for me with science fiction. I've completed the second book as well, The Restaurant at the End of the Universe. There are five books in this series.

# 11: From Ms. Lucas, Grade 6 Language Arts

After years of prodding from my parents I finally read Seabiscuit, by Laura Hillenbrand. Going into it, I had no real interest except my parents' rave reviews, and I'll admit I was skeptical. Horses are great and all, but a whole book??? I was pleasantly surprised!!! It is a nonfiction account of arguably the best and most popular racehorse ever to run. It reads like a novel, and I found myself totally enthralled pulling for the horse and all those involved with him.

Hillenbrand tells the story of the horse and his owners, trainer, and jockeys, giving equal time to all. You learn about the hardships and successes of each, pulling for them in the victories and the defeats. Her depiction of Seabiscuit is especially touching, portraying his personality and how the humans in his life were so touched by him. The book is also quite the history lesson of our country during the Depression. Overall, I found it interesting, informative, and intriguing. I think that's pretty good for a nonfiction book!

Thursday, July 17, 2008

# 10: From Mrs. Drake, Grade 6 Science

I am reading a series of African stories by an English gentleman born in Zimbabwe, Mr. Alexander McCall Smith. The first book is, The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency. There are 8 so far in the series, and I have completed 5 of them.

Precious Ramotswe, at the death of her father, has begun a detective agency in the land of Botswana, Africa. Other characters are her assistant, Mma Makutsi, and her betrothed Mr. J.L.L. Matekoni. Mma Ramotswe is an unusual woman. She has chosen a profession that is uncommon for a lady in Botswana. Her adventures are purely African and you gain insight into the culture of Botswana. Great to read on a rainy day.

#9: From Mrs. Roberts, 8th Grade Science

I have read 5 food mysteries and Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life, by Barbara Kingsolver. (Food is my love.) The book describes the old ways of farming and our pipeline to the food industry. Very Powerful Book - more for adults or mature kids. Check it out.


#8: From Mrs. Timmons, Multi-grade Science

If you enjoy short stories, you have GOT to read Me Talk Pretty One Day, by Dave Sedaris. I absolutely adore the author's somewhat caustic sense of humor, especially in regard to his childhood in North Carolina. I also particularly love the title of the book, because the underlying theme for all of his stories in this book (his 4th on, by the way) is the inability to communicate. For instance, he moves to France and tries to learn 10 new French words a day: exorcism, facial swelling and death penalty were at the top of one day’s list, while slaughterhouse, sea monster and witch doctor topped the following day's list. I find those words to be extremely critical when attempting to have a conversation with an individual of the French persuasion, don't you?

In one of his essays, Dave recalls that while growing up in North Carolina, he had a lisp and therefore had to go to a speech therapist, who, ironically and stereotypically enough, pronounced the word "pen" in 2 syllables. In another, he attempts to be a college professor at the Art Institute in Chicago (which goes horribly wrong as he assigns the students to observe soap operas for homework!) and you literally find yourself laughing out loud at his lack of insight and ability in being an instructor.

I highly recommend this book to everyone because you can read an essay, put the book down for a week, month or a year and pick right back up where you left off. I know Christmas is just around the corner, and his book, Holidays on Ice, is equally as impressive.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

# 6 and # 7: From Ms. Connery, 7th Grade Language Arts

21 Ways to Finding Peace and Happiness, by Joyce Meyer, is an excellent book that offers the reader insight as to how to have peace in the middle of life’s confusion. Meyer shares personal stories that give an in-depth understanding on how to handle people and situations in the middle of stormy situations.

This inspirational book offers those who seek to have peaceful relationships and desires to have the knowledge on how to do so. This book is a quick read and gave me the support that I don’t have to ‘fix’ everyone who comes to me for help. Wow, what a relief! Some people – believe it or not – enjoy being miserable! Mrs. Meyer shares that it is okay NOT to dwell on that type of person. It’s not worth losing my peace!

Reduce Me to Love, by Joyce Meyer, is another excellent source on how to understand the ultimate gift we can give to others. Love. Meyer shares that it is impossible to give something you don’t have, so she proceeds to explain in this book how a person can ‘”unlock the secret to lasting joy”.


I loved this book for two reasons. The first is that I am developing a plotline for a trilogy I’m writing and one of the main character’s major flaws stems on love. The second reason is that this book is based on my life verse, First Corinthians 13, written by the Apostle Paul. The information in this book can be hard to deal with, because it offers the reader to see his or her reflection in the words. Sometimes it is hard to see ourselves in the true Light.

Monday, June 23, 2008

#5: From Mrs. Powel, 7th Grade Science

The Time Traveler's Wife, by Audrey Niffenegger, is a love story between Henry and Clare. It is an unusual love story because Henry has the ability to travel through time. Henry goes into the past and visits Clare during her childhood, meets her in present time and visits her in the future. This makes for an interesting relationship.

I really enjoyed this love story because it was so unusual. The story is told from both Clare's and Henry's point of view so you get an understanding of the person who is forever vanishing into a different time and the person who is forever waiting for him to return. This book speaks to the power of love!

#4: From Ms. Pelosi, Reading Teacher

Fearless Fourteen by Janet Evanovich continues the Stephanie Plum series-- In this story, Plum, a hapless bail bondsman in Trenton, New Jersey, is sucked into a bank robbery gone wrong with people named Bugger, Zook, Mooner, and Stalker Gary. She is also called in to assist Ranger in a security detail for a desperate aging singer named Brenda who decides she wants to become a reality star and follows Plum around filming all of her mishaps and just generally getting in the way.


If you want to laugh out loud, read any of Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum books. Everything that can go wrong does when Stephanie Plum tries to pick up her skips--bombs, naked old men, monkeys, etc. Her sidekick, a character with a colorful background named Lulu, is just as funny. Stephanie’s love interests are a cop named Morelli and a security agent named Ranger who are driven crazy trying to protect her. This book is an easy summer read that will make you laugh out loud. Book numbers 1-13 were even funnier!

Saturday, June 21, 2008

# 3: From Ms. Zywica, 8th Grade Science

The book that I immersed myself in was Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen. It is the story of a man that joins a traveling circus as its veterinarian. The book opens with a prologue that keeps the reader horrified and hopeful as the rest of the story unfolds. It is told in a retrospective manner from a man in a nursing home that is so old he can't remember how old he is. With the majority of the book's setting being a traveling circus the characters, both humans and animals, all have unique and intriguing personalities. The plot is well rounded with aspects of adventure, love, and the hardships of living in the era of prohibition.


I really enjoyed reading this book on the beach here in Sarasota. The book has a variety of pictures that are part of the Ringling Museum collection. The Ringling Brothers circus is only referred to occasionally the book, but it does give a Sarasota reader a sense of pride. I would definitely recommend this to adults, but most of the situations in the book are not the aspects of a circus that a child should see or read about.

Monday, June 2, 2008

#2: from Mrs. Shults, Literacy Coach

Randy Pausch is the author of this unique auto-biography, The Last Lecture. Pausch is a professor at Carnegie-Mellon University who has terminal cancer. As a legacy to his young children, Pausch delivers his “last” lecture to his students. The lecture becomes a guide for living a full and contented life.


I strongly recommend this book. It did not make me cry. Pausch writes about how to live life in a way that will make your childhood dreams come true. His own life pays tribute to this philosophy. This is an inspiring story of a man who knows how to live.

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#1: From Mrs. Andrews - IB 6

The Prize Winner of Defiance Ohio: How My Mother Raised 10 Kids on 25 Words or Less, by Terry Ryan is the true story of her mother’s ability to overcome the challenges of raising ten children and managing life with an alcoholic husband by winning money from jingle writing contests.

This is my all time favorite summer read...having grown up with 5 brothers and 2 sisters, I could relate. Plus, the title is perfect for any LA teacher. This book had me laughing out loud at the beach and also sobbing (much to my children's horror and embarrassment!)