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.